You can keep your VPN in prime condition by regularly testing for leaks, slow speeds, and malware. Even if you’ve put a lot of money down for the strongest and fastest VPN out there, you won’t get the most out of your VPN without regular checkups.
You should check your VPN for different leaks (DNS, IP address, and WebRTC leaks), make sure it offers decent speeds, and check it for malware. Here’s how you do that:
- Test for IP address leaks with our IP tool. If the test shows your real IP address and location, your IP is leaking.
- Test for DNS leaks by going to dnsleaktest.com and checking whether the IPs listed belong to your VPN and not to you.
- Test for WebRTC leaks with browserleaks.com. If it shows your true IP anywhere, you’re suffering from a WebRTC leak.
- Check your VPN’s speed by running a test on speedtest.net. You’ll want your ping to remain low and your download and upload speeds to be as high as possible.
- Scan for malware with VirusTotal.com. Upload your VPN app to the website to check it for any malicious elements.
For more information on the importance of each of these tests and step-by-step guides on how to conduct them, check out our full article below.
All of the top VPNs in the industry claim to offer features for fast and secure internet usage — but are you really getting the most out of your VPN? As we’ll show in this article, there’s more to getting your VPN’s best possible performance than merely purchasing the “best” VPN.
Regular basic VPN tests for security and speed issues are crucial for ensuring that your VPN is doing its job, just as you would routinely maintain your vehicle. We’ll take a look at some of the different ways you can perform a VPN test for leaks, slow speeds, and malware.
What Kinds of VPN Tests Are There?
Even the best VPNs can slip up on occasion if there’s a problem with configuration or compatibility. Sometimes, a VPN leaks sensitive data without leaving any obvious hints that it’s happening at all. There are several free tools you can use online to test for the most common VPN leaks: DNS leaks, IP address leaks, and WebRTC leaks.
If you think your VPN’s performance isn’t reaching its fullest potential, you can test your VPN’s upload and download speeds to see what’s going on under the hood. VPN services usually have thousands of servers on their network, but not all servers are exactly alike, especially when you take into account variables such as distance, protocol, and server load.
Don’t forget to test your VPN for malware, too, especially if you’re using a free VPN. Free VPNs have acquired a bad reputation for monitoring their users’ online activities and spreading malware, even though there are a few legitimate free providers out there. Whether you’re paying for your VPN or not, there is no shortage of opportunities for malware lurking on the web to infect your device.
To check whether your VPN is performing well on all of the factors mentioned above, try out the VPN tests below:
|IP Address Leak||Tests for exposure of your device’s original IP address. IP address leaks can reveal your device’s location.||ipv6-test.com|
|DNS Leak||Tests for translation requests that leak out of the encryption tunnel. DNS leaks can expose your ISP, IP address, and location.||dnsleaktest.com|
|WebRTC Leak||Tests your browser’s WebRTC plugin for IP address leaks. The WebRTC plugin can expose your IP address even when using a VPN.||browserleaks.com|
|Speed||Gauges your VPN’s upload and download speeds. Distance, protocol, and server load all affect the results of your speed test.||speedtest.net|
|Malware||Detects the presence of malicious software on your device. Free VPNs are more likely to suffer from malware infections than paid services.||virustotal.com|
IP Address Leak Testing
Your IP address is one of the most revealing pieces of information associated with your device. It can reveal your location, be used to track you on the internet, and even eventually be tied to your identity. If you want to anonymize any of your online information, hiding your IP address is the very first step. That’s why doing a VPN test for IP address leaks goes a long way.
How to do a VPN test for IP address leaks
It’s fairly easy to check for IP leaks. You can simply use our IP tool, your VPN’s built-in IP address leak test, or ipv6-test.com. The results will often show right away. The most important thing to check is whether the IP address and location that show in the results are different from your real IP address and location.
If the tests show your original IP address, there are three ways to solve this VPN leak:
- Make sure your VPN is connected.
- Activate the kill switch in your VPN settings.
- Change your VPN server.
After making one of these changes, do the IP test again. If your VPN frequently leaks or doesn’t feature a kill switch, you might want to consider switching to a different, more secure VPN service.
VPNs with IP leak protection
Integrated IPv6 leak protection is standard for most VPNs at the higher end of the market such as NordVPN, and ExpressVPN. Neither VPN provider currently supports IPv6 yet, but they will automatically block IPv6 traffic to prevent the possibility of an IP address leak.
If you’re looking for a VPN with proper IP leak protection, have a look at our top 5 best VPNs. All five of these providers have excellent kill switch capabilities and suffer from very few IP leaks.
What is an IP address?
An internet protocol address is a unique string of digits assigned to every internet-connected device on your network by your ISP (Internet Service Provider). IP addresses identify each device by its connection and location and establish the rules by which devices on the same network can communicate with one another. Without an IP address, you won’t be able to use the internet.
There are two kinds of IP addresses currently being used on the internet:
- IPv4: The fourth version of the internet protocol has been in use since 1983 and remains the standard to this day, although it will eventually run out of numerical combinations for new IP addresses. It’s a 32-bit address. An example would be 126.96.36.199.
- IPv6: The web is slowly transitioning to this successor protocol to generate new IP addresses, which is 128-bit. IPv6 addresses are longer and more complicated than IPv4 to make sure we don’t run out of combinations soon. An example is 2001:0db8:85a3:0000:0000:8a2e:0370:7334.
If you’d like to read more about how IP addresses work and find out what your IP address is, have a look at our article “What is my IP?”.
What happens if your IP address leaks?
VPNs mask your identity by replacing your true IP address with the IP of the VPN server you’ve chosen. This means that your location and identity remain hidden – unless your IP address leaks.
IP address leaks expose your original IP address, and therefore your device’s location, to third parties. They usually occur when you reconnect to the internet after an abrupt loss of connection. Most high-quality VPNs have kill switches that automatically cut your connection to the internet when your VPN malfunctions. This means that the risk of your unencrypted data leaking onto the web is significantly smaller.
DNS Leak Testing
DNS is an acronym for Domain Name System. It allows users to browse the internet with ease. VPNs should make sure your DNS information stays private. Unfortunately, a DNS leak can cause your data to become visible to other parties, even when your VPN is activated.
How to test for DNS leaks
You can do a VPN test to detect DNS leaks by going to dnsleaktest.com. This platform gives you the choice between a standard and an extended test. To run a DNS leak test, follow these steps:
- Choose the test you wish to run: standard or extended. Both will work, but the extended test will give you more in-depth results.
- Wait for the VPN test to finish.
- Check whether any of the IPs listed in the results belong to your Internet Service Provider. If yes, this means your ISP can see your data. If the IPs belong to your VPN provider, there is no DNS leak.
There are several other free tools on the internet you can use instead, which basically work in the same way. As long as the IPs and locations listed do not reveal your own location and ISP, you’re safe.
Whether you’re using a top-of-the-line VPN or a more modestly priced service, we suggest performing a DNS leak test regularly. If you find that your VPN regularly suffers from DNS leaks, it might be wise to switch providers and choose a trustworthy service with DNS leak protection.
VPNs with DNS leak protection
Many VPN services offer in-built DNS leak protection. Each of these providers encrypts your traffic and routes it through DNS servers owned by the companies themselves so you don’t have to rely on your ISP’s insecure infrastructure.
Some of the best VPNs with DNS leak protection are:
Due to the DNS leak protection offered by these VPNs, you shouldn’t ever spot a DNS leak while using their servers. If you do, you can contact their 24/7 customer support and they’ll help you sort out the problem.
If you do suffer a DNS leak while using a secure VPN service, this can also be the result of changes you made to the settings on your VPN or device. Manual VPN configuration increases the possibility that your traffic will be sent either to a third-party DNS server or outside of the VPN tunnel. Regular DNS leak testing will spot these problems before they have a chance to worsen.
What is DNS?
The Domain Name System translates a domain name (e.g. vpnoverview.com) into an IP address so web browsers can access and load the relevant internet resources without making users remember the IP addresses themselves.
Think of the way your phone’s contact list translates the names of your friends and family members into a phone number. Each internet service provider (ISP) assigns a unique IP address to each internet-connected device in order to establish the rules by which different devices on the same network may communicate with one another.
What happens if your DNS info leaks?
VPNs are designed to keep your online activities private by encrypting your internet connection and routing it through an intermediary server located in another part of the world. DNS leaks occur when your translation requests leak out of the encryption tunnel. This means that:
- Your ISP can see every website you visit. They’ll see this in the form of translation requests. ISPs can monitor your online activities and potentially throttle your connection if you engage in activities the company disapproves of, which often includes data-intensive activities such as downloading, streaming, or gaming. In many countries, ISPs are even free to sell your browsing data to third parties without your knowledge or consent, such as marketing agencies, advertisers, and even the government.
- Your IP address, ISP, and location will be visible. This is more than enough information for anyone with an internet connection to uncover your identity.
WebRTC Leak Testing
Your IP address can be exposed even when you’ve activated your VPN if you use real-time multimedia services through your web browser. That’s why we encourage VPN users to routinely conduct a VPN test for WebRTC leaks.
How to do a VPN test for WebRTC leaks
If you decide to protect yourself with a VPN, WebRTC leaks can be identified either through an online test or by conducting a test yourself.
You can find a good WebRTC leak test on browserleaks.com. In the results, make sure that the “Local IP Address” and “Public IP Address” sections don’t show your actual IP. This test also shows you what kind of device-related information can be read from your WebRTC data.
If you’d like to do a manual WebRTC leak test, you can do so by following these steps:
- Make sure your VPN is turned off and look up your IP address. You can do so by checking out our IP tool or searching “What is my IP address” in Google and choosing one of the options there.
- Close the browser.
- Reactivate your VPN and launch your browser.
- Go back to the IP tool and refresh the page to check your IP address again. If you get a different IP address than the one you had before, your WebRTC plugin is not leaking. If it stays the same, then your IP address is being exposed by a WebRTC leak.
VPNs with WebRTC leak protection
Since WebRTC might leak your IP even while your VPN is active, it’s important to do your homework before you invest in a VPN. Some VPNs offer WebRTC leak protection, which will ensure that your IP address doesn’t accidentally leak through WebRTC data. Two great VPNs with WebRTC leak protection are:
- NordVPN: Both Nord’s browser extension and their full VPN service help prevent WebRTC leaks.
- ExpressVPN: Express’s browser extension includes a feature that will block WebRTC functionality once enabled. It also offers its own WebRTC leak test on its website.
What is WebRTC?
WebRTC stands for Web Real-Time Communication. This technology allows us to stream audio and video within our browsers. Along with WebGL (which allows for the use of 3D graphics in your browser) WebRTC plugins are now standard in the most popular web browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.
The WebRTC plugin allows users to make video calls directly through the browser without relying on a separate piece of software such as Skype. It also helps improve other real-time multimedia capabilities such as P2P file sharing, and screen sharing.
If you’d like to learn more about WebRTC and WebGL and the leaks they might cause, you can read our article on these VPN vulnerabilities.
What happens if my WebRTC plugin leaks?
The WebRTC plugin can leak your IP address, even when you’re using a VPN. This means that the convenience of making video calls directly from your web browser comes at the cost of your digital privacy. This security vulnerability is especially present in Firefox and Chrome.
Just like with IP leaks, WebRTC leaks expose the user’s true IP address and location. One method of preventing WebRTC leaks is to disable WebRTC functionality in your browser’s settings or using a VPN with protection against this kind of VPN leak.
VPN Speed Testing
If your VPN leaks information in any way, this compromises your online safety and privacy. Although a VPN’s speed doesn’t necessarily affect this, a slow VPN can seriously impact usability. That’s why it can be useful to test the speed of your internet connection while using a VPN.
How to test your VPN’s speed
It isn’t always obvious to tell exactly how fast your VPN connection is — unless you do a test. You can use speedtest.net to test your most frequently used servers and locations. Simply connect to your VPN, go to the website, and click “GO.”
The speed test will run for a moment and eventually present you with three numbers:
- Ping: This number tells you how many milliseconds (ms) it takes for your connection to respond to a request. This is also called latency. The higher the latency, the slower your connection will be. If your ping is very low, like 3 ms, your speed is doing really well. Ping of 200+ ms, on the contrary, likely means your connection is very slow. In general, a ping lower than 60 ms is recommended. You will find that servers located far away from you will most likely have a higher latency than those that are nearer.
- Download: The download speed measures the rate at which data from the VPN server travels to your device in megabits per second (Mbps). High download speeds indicate fast connections. Download speed is usually the most important factor when using the internet unless you’re streaming HD video or playing online video games. Generally, a download speed of about 10Mbps per person is enough, although this does depend heavily on your online activities. Just like with latency, the fastest servers are usually the ones that are closest to you.
- Upload: The upload speed measures the opposite of the download speed, namely the rate at which data from your device travels to the VPN server in Mbps. High upload speeds indicate fast connections. Your upload speed doesn’t necessarily have to be as high as your download speed. With just 5Mbps per person, you should already be able to stream your favorite streaming services.
If you find that your ping is very high and your upload and download speeds are very low, your VPN might be affecting your speed. To solve this, try these steps:
- Disconnect the VPN and run another speed test. If the results are much better, the slow connection is caused by the VPN. If not, it’s down to your own internet connection.
- Choose a different VPN server that’s closer to your physical location and run another VPN speed test. The results should be much better, allowing you to enjoy your VPN connection without as much lag.
- Change the VPN protocol. You can usually do this in the settings of your VPN software. Try to use Wireguard or OpenVPN to reach the best results without trading in on security. If those don’t give the required result, IKEv2 or PPTP might help (if available).
If your connection is still slow after you’ve tried several VPN servers and protocols, you might need to start looking for a different, faster VPN provider.
The fastest VPNs
Some VPN providers tend to be faster than others. That’s why we tested various top names in the industry as well as some smaller players in our extensive speed tests. We measured a selection of servers for their upload speed, download speed, and ping and compared them to our basic internet connection without a VPN.
Three providers were consistently fast:
- ExpressVPN: This VPN performs well both on its fastest and slowest servers, which is why it’s one of our favorites. We tested ExpressVPN from Indiana in the United States and discovered that servers based in the United States were faster than international servers, but the fastest ones were not always the closest. We tested the slowest server in this speed test (Jurong, Singapore) and hardly noticed any latency while browsing the web and watching HD videos. Even if your VPN connection is too slow while using ExpressVPN, you can easily switch to another one of its 3,000 servers. Read our full ExpressVPN review here for an in-depth analysis.
- Surfshark: This provider is cheaper than its rivals but provides comparable speeds and security features. When we tested Surfshark for speed, we found that it was a fast and stable VPN that works well for general internet use and data-heavy tasks like streaming, downloading, and gaming. Surfshark’s latency was so minimal that it was scarcely noticeable. For more details on Surfshark’s speed and security, you can read our full review here.
- NordVPN: Nord delivers fast enough speeds for most purposes even on slower servers further away from the user. You can count on NordVPN for all of your online activities. On paper, the speed appears to have dropped significantly from our VPN-less internet connection, but in practice, the latency had a negligible impact on our activities. NordVPN features a server network of thousands of servers around the globe, so you should have no problem finding a fast server close to your area. Read our full review of NordVPN here for more information.
Each of these providers followed the typical pattern of being slower with faraway servers than with local servers, but even the distant servers still delivered fast enough speeds for general internet browsing, streaming, downloading, and gaming.
ExpressVPN’s speed test
Aside from being our favorite and fastest VPN, ExpressVPN has its own built-in speed test for its Windows and Mac apps. The VPN test will help you find the fastest server for your connection instead of leaving you to figure it out through trial and error. This is how the test works:
- Click on the menu icon in the upper left corner of the window to find the Speed Test option.
- A second window will appear with a list of servers. Click Run Test.
- The speed test will take a few minutes to run its course. During this time, ExpressVPN will sort each server by its Speed Index, Latency (ping), and Download Speed, as you can see in the screenshot below. The speed index is a combination of latency and download speed. The server with the highest speed index is the one with the best possible speed for your connection.
- Based on the test’s results, you can mark your preferred servers with a star in the final column and connect to one of them.
How does a VPN affect your internet speed?
A VPN encrypts your internet data and reroutes your connection through a different server. This process can affect your device’s performance. Some VPNs drastically lower your internet speed, while others have found ways to affect the speed as little as possible.
There are several factors that might influence your VPN connection speed, including:
- Chosen VPN protocol: VPNs work with different protocols to encrypt your data. Some protocols are safer than others, but they might also slow down your connection. You can read more about the differences between VPN protocols in our article “VPN Protocols Compared.”
- Distance from server: The more distance there is between your physical location and the location of the VPN server you’re using, the higher the chance that this will negatively affect your speed.
- Server load: Many VPN servers are shared among users of a provider. This means that your chosen server and IP address will also be used by others. The more people are using the same server, the slower your connection might become.
As a result of these things, turning on your VPN might cause all sorts of issues. You might have to wait longer for websites to load. Perhaps it takes a while for your YouTube videos to buffer or you might experience lag while gaming online.
VPN Malware Testing
Computer viruses, spyware, worms, ransomware, and other malware can do serious damage to your devices. Some VPNs contain malware in their apps, meaning your phone or computer will be affected the moment you download it. That’s why it’s important to make sure you only use malware-free VPNs.
How to test your VPN for malware
To scan your VPN for malware, go to virustotal.com. VirusTotal is the most popular free malware detection tool. Simply upload your VPN app and the website will perform a quick malware analysis.
- Click on “Choose file” and pick the VPN app from your computer.
- Click on “Open” and then on “Upload“.
- VirusTotal will run its test and show the results in a list. If you see a green tick, that means the software is secure. If there’s a red exclamation mark, you might be dealing with potentially unsafe or even malicious software.
Important note: make sure to only upload the VPN app and never share any personal data or information on VirusTotal or other scanners. This will help you maintain your online privacy.
Although VirusTotal is a useful scanning service, keep in mind that it shouldn’t be treated as a substitute for antivirus software. Aside from doing this test, it’s vital that you have a working, up-to-date antivirus program on your device as well. A good virus scanner will protect you against most malware, both from unsafe VPN services and from any other source on the internet.
Are you looking for a good antivirus program to use? Check out our top five of the best antivirus software of the moment and you’ll find the perfect fit in no time.
The best malware-free VPNs
Although no VPN is 100% malware-proof, there are definitely providers out there that will do everything within their power to keep your device safe. All VPNs we recommend on our website are malware-free at the time of testing. The VPNs in our top 5, especially, have proven to work excellently over multiple rounds of testing and constant use by our team of experts:
As long as you download these VPNs from their official websites (which you can find by clicking the links above), you can be sure that you’ve downloaded malware-free software.
Do keep in mind that VPNs don’t necessarily protect you from malware that reaches your device in a different way. To stop viruses and many other online attacks, you’ll need good antivirus software, like the programs offered by Kaspersky. Malwarebytes, another popular anti-malware company, has also launched their VPN service known as Malwarebytes Privacy VPN.
Free VPNs and malware
Malware is more commonly found in free VPN apps than in premium services. Signing up for a VPN provider free of charge usually comes at the cost of security and speed. After all, these providers often don’t have enough resources to produce an airtight product. Vulnerabilities in the software might be exploited, creating risks for its users.
Additionally, malicious VPNs are insecure by design. Although you can find plenty of legitimate free VPN services online, some malicious VPNs will spread malware or track their users’ online activities in order to sell data records to third-party advertisers. These data-mining practices usually occur without the user’s knowledge or consent. Signing up for a free VPN is all the “consent” these providers need to make money off of your data.
Testing your VPN’s performance, speed, and security may seem intimidating at first, but it’s very easy. Anyone can do it. Take a look at some of our most frequently asked questions on VPN testing for more explanations.
If you’re worried that your VPN might be leaking your private information, there are several tests you can do:
- IP leak test
- DNS leak test
- WebRTC leak test
These tests are easy to perform: all you have to do is click a button. The results will tell you everything you need to know. For more information about these tests, where to find them, and what they mean, read our full article on VPN testing.
Use your VPN’s built-in speed test to get an assessment of each server’s connection speed. If your VPN doesn’t offer its own speed test, you can visit speedtest.net to check your upload and download speeds there. If you want to make sure you choose a VPN with fast connections, have a look at our list of fastest VPNs.
A slower-than-usual connection can be caused by many things:
- Slow base internet connection: If the base internet speed of your Wi-Fi network is already slow and unsteady, the VPN will likely only worsen the situation.
- Crowded or faraway VPN server: If you choose a VPN server that’s either very crowded or physically far away from your location, this could affect your internet speed. Choosing a different VPN server should help solve this issue.
- VPN protocol: Some protocols are slower than others because they make sacrifices on speed to keep you protected. If you want a faster connection, you may want to change to a protocol like WireGuard.
Once you’ve connected to your VPN server, check your public IP address. You can do this by using our IP tool. If the IP and location that show up match your own private IP address and location, your VPN isn’t working. If they match the information from the VPN server, your VPN has changed your IP address and is working.
A simple online search will return plenty of free tools that will show you your IP address, our very own IP tool being one of them. Windows users can also check their IP addresses directly from the Command Prompt.
- Open the Command Prompt.
- Type “ipconfig” into the Command Prompt screen.
- Your IP address and all of your system’s configured network interfaces should appear.
Most major browsers don’t let you disable WebRTC, so you will either have to download a WebRTC-blocking addon or use a VPN. We recommend using a secure VPN instead of taking your chances with third-party addons. Keep in mind that you won’t be able to make video calls from your browser if you disable WebRTC.