What is a VPN? How Does it Work and Why Do You Need One?

VPN Explained - VPN icon on laptop
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A Short Summary: What is a VPN?

A VPN creates a secure connection between your devices and the internet. When you connect to the internet through a VPN, all your data traffic is sent through an encrypted virtual tunnel. This has multiple advantages:

  • You’ll be more anonymous on the internet: your real IP address and location will be hidden.
  • You’ll be safer on the internet: the encrypted tunnel will keep away hackers and cybercriminals, and your device won’t be as vulnerable to attacks.
  • You’ll be freer on the internet: by using different IP addresses, you’ll be able to access websites and online services that would otherwise be blocked.

Do you want to start using a VPN? We recommend NordVPN. This VPN has a lot of options, offers strong security, and has performed well in our tests. It even managed to take the number one spot!

You can find out how to set up a VPN connection and what a VPN can do for you in the full article below.

A virtual private network, better known as a VPN, protects your online activity and privacy by hiding your true IP address and creating a secure, encrypted tunnel to access the internet. No snoops, trackers, or other interested third parties will be able to trace your online activity back to you.

Moreover, you can reach a new level of internet freedom by using servers across different countries to unblock restricted content. While you could use this ability to open unlimited libraries of Netflix content, it also allows you to access international news or media that might be censored under oppressive regimes. Once you’ve downloaded the VPN software, you can secure a device and access global content safely and freely with a simple click.

But what is a VPN, and how exactly does it protect you and keep your activity anonymous? While they’re extremely easy to use, the tech behind VPNs can be a little tricky to grasp. We’ve broken it down in simple terms below and have some VPN recommendations so you can try them out yourself.

VPN Explained: What is a VPN?

VPN connectionWhen you’re using the internet, your device is constantly exchanging data with other parties on the web. Without even realizing it, you’re often giving websites and other prying eyes access to your real IP address (which gives away your true location), browsing history, operating system info, device identifiers, and plenty else.

A VPN assigns you a new anonymous IP address, reroutes your internet connection through a server in its network, and encrypts your data. This creates a secure tunnel between your device (e.g. smartphone or laptop) and the internet. It also masks your identity and online traffic from your internet service provider (ISP), government authorities, hackers, and other third parties.

A good VPN ensures that this sensitive data and online activity stays hidden. Because you can choose where your server is located, it also helps you use the internet more freely by bypassing censorship or unblocking geo-restricted services such as Netflix, DisneyPlus, HBOMax, and more.

Here’s a video we put together as a visual explainer:

How Does a VPN Work?

Connecting to a VPN is generally quite simple. After subscribing to a VPN provider, you download and install the VPN software. You then select a server you want to connect to, and the VPN will do the rest.

Want to know the ins and outs? Once the connection has been established, here’s how your data is transmitted through an encrypted tunnel.

  1. The VPN client software on your computer encrypts your data traffic and sends it to the VPN server through a secure connection. The data goes through your ISP, but it’s become so scrambled due to the encryption they can no longer decipher it on their end.
  2. The encrypted data from your computer is decrypted by the VPN server.
  3. Your data is then sent to the internet and receives a reply that’s meant for you, the user.
  4. The traffic is then encrypted again by the VPN server and is sent back to you.
  5. The VPN client on your device will decrypt the data so you can actually understand and use it.

How Does a VPN Work Illustration
VPN apps run in the background on your device and do not interfere with anything else. They simply add an essential layer of security to your Wi-Fi network.

VPN Advantages: Why Use a VPN service?

There are plenty of advantages to using a VPN. While some are more security and privacy-geared — like encrypting all your online browsing and downloading history — others are just useful and can help you pull off cool tricks like unblocking a streaming service’s entire international catalog.

Below are some big VPN advantages:

Advantage 1: Anonymity online

Anonymity Smartphone
Without a VPN, your location and identity can be easily traced using your IP address. Your IP address is unique to your internet connection and can pinpoint your exact location. It’s your digital address, and websites, ISPs, trackers, and hackers can know if you’re at home, work, or at a particular cafe. It also connects your online behavior and activity back to you.

A VPN hides your IP address and, therefore, your real location. When you use a VPN, your internet traffic is rerouted through an encrypted virtual tunnel, and your online activities can only be traced back to the IP of the VPN server, but no longer to you and your real IP address. Reliable VPN providers have strict no-log policies as well — meaning they don’t keep any record of your activity or browsing history, so it’s like your session never existed.

By using a VPN, you ensure that websites, marketeers, streaming services, governments, and cybercriminals can no longer identify you, your real location, or your online activity. Connect to a VPN server in the Bahamas, and for all they know, that’s where you’d be.

Advantage 2: Protection against hackers and governments

Black Hat HackerA VPN scrambles your data traffic through strong encryption protocols, which make intercepting and reading your data almost impossible. Why is this important? Well, in this day and age, there are a lot of parties that want to listen in or take a look at what you are doing online.

There are many different parties that are interested in your internet traffic, among them are governments and cybercriminals.

The security offered by a VPN makes it a lot harder for them to look at your data. However, we must mention that a VPN isn’t the ultimate solution to all things cybercrime. We always recommend combining a VPN with a good antivirus solution so that you’re covered on all bases. A VPN can’t protect your device against malware-injecting malicious links, for example.

Advantage 3: Secure browsing on public networks

Smartphone with Wi-Fi IconUsing a public Wi-Fi network, like at an airport, hotel or cafe, can be risky. Other users on the same network (for example, those hackers and cybercriminals we mentioned) can easily tap into your data and personal information. Since you don’t want others to have access to, for instance, your email login, images/files, or credit card information, it’s wise to use a VPN connection on these hotspots.

The VPN encrypts all of your data while you use the public Wi-Fi network. A hacker will only see encrypted matter and won’t be able to see or use your personal information.

Advantage 4: Fight online censorship

Censored eye on laptop screenIn a lot of countries (we’ve compiled full guides on navigating censorship in China and Russia as just two examples), governments heavily censor the internet. Countries that impose strict censorship block access to certain internet services and websites. Examples of apps and websites that are often blocked are WhatsApp, Google, Instagram, YouTube, Skype, Spotify and Facebook.

Moreover, news websites and journalist platforms are often blocked because they are seen as a threat to the sitting government. In these countries, this censorship heavily impacts the freedom of speech of their citizens.

In some Western countries, there are also online restrictions.  For example, many regions block the Pirate Bay website because they do not want their citizens to download illegal content.

A VPN can help you bypass censorship and restrictions by allowing you to connect to a server in a different country. By doing this, you can go online as if you were in that other country. This way, you can gain access to websites, services, and apps that are not available in your own country.

Advantage 5: Bypass geographical restrictions

A person connects to the internet and bypasses an online restriction wall due to the VPN

It’s not just countries that impose restrictions on the internet. Some online services also restrict access to their content in certain regions. This happens with streaming services that only have broadcasting or licensing rights in certain countries and not in others.

If you are on holiday or you moved to a different country, you might be unable to view your usual streams. A VPN will also enable you to connect to the internet via servers in your home country, so you can watch your favorite show or access blocked websites again. It also works the other way around: if you want to gain access to websites or streaming services from a different country (for example to watch a different version of Netflix), you can do so with a VPN.

Advantage 6: Anonymous downloading

Laptop Download

Downloading certain torrents is illegal in some countries, and downloaders are tracked down and sometimes even prosecuted.

Of course, we are not advocating any illegal actions. However, we do understand people want online privacy and anonymity, not just when browsing the internet, but also when uploading and downloading files.

To make sure nobody knows what you are downloading or uploading, you can use a VPN. Because of the encrypted traffic and the rerouted IP address, a VPN helps you download anonymously.

Advantage 7: Secure access to your company’s network

If there’s any lingering effect from the pandemic, we’ve seen more and more companies giving people the possibility to work from home or wherever they like. In such instances, a remote access VPN can be very beneficial to let employees connect to a company’s internal network from anywhere, safely and efficiently.

There are many VPNs built especially for business use. While they might not serve to unblock streaming services abroad, they are certainly useful in protecting private and sensitive company data. Of course, some people may work for smaller companies without strong cybersecurity measures. Connecting to their company’s internal system with a VPN like NordVPN or Surfshark would offer the layer of protection needed to protect sensitive company data from malicious outsiders.

Advantage 8: Prevent a digital file

Advertising networks are constantly collecting information about you through your online traffic. You might be shocked to find out what Facebook knows about you, not to mention Google and Twitter. With this information, they can show you tailored ads, but more importantly, they are free to sell this information to a third party.

By encrypting your data using a VPN, these networks will have a harder time collecting information on you. Which means they will also have less influence on what you see online.

VPN Limitations: Are There Any Risks?

Privacy risks iconA virtual private network has a lot to offer when it comes to privacy and security. However, it’s not the end all be all of cybersecurity and privacy. To browse the web safely and anonymously, you’ll need to observe some extra privacy measures. For instance, you’ll still have to clear your cookies regularly. Moreover, there are also things a VPN simply can’t do.

Say you’re logged in to your Google account, you can be connected to a VPN on the other side of the world, Google will still be able to create a profile of you as an internet user. After all, they’ll simply correlate your search history with your account information, regardless of whether you change your IP address or not. The same is true for services like Facebook.

There are more ways in which online entities can determine your identity, which a VPN doesn’t protect you from. When using Google Maps, for instance, you’re often required to turn on GPS. This means Google Maps can see exactly where you are. There are also more advanced ways that are used to identify internet users, such as browser fingerprinting. This method uses your browser’s and device’s settings to distinguish you from other internet users.

Moreover, a VPN can slow down your internet. Your data has to be sent through the VPN server, which means it can take slightly longer to end up where it needs to be. However, there are several effective ways to increase internet speeds while connected to a VPN.

And then there’s the fact that VPN users are sometimes actively thwarted. VPNs are banned in some countries. There are also websites, apps and services that will deny you access if they detect you are using a VPN.

Additionally, you should be especially cautious about free VPNs. These are notorious for compromising your security and selling your data to third parties, which can be even worse than not using a VPN at all.

In other words, a VPN does significantly improve your online privacy and safety and is a vital part of your privacy and security precautions. However, it’s important to be aware of the limitations that VPNs have and the additional measures required to compensate for these limitations. Fortunately, we have an article that highlights these measures and helps you to be anonymous online.

Is a VPN Safe?

VPN safety is an important factor to consider. Your internet traffic is redirected and runs through the servers of your chosen VPN provider. So, the VPN provider company could see everything you do if it wanted to. Therefore, it’s crucial to choose a trusted VPN that does not keep logs of user data that can be shared with third parties

Many VPN providers indulge in shady privacy practices and sell your data to advertisers, for example. This is especially the case with free VPNs. These are often not safe, because they don’t have the right security options (like Tuxler VPN, for example) or abuse your IP address by assigning it to someone else (like Hola VPN).

Therefore, it’s important to do your research about a VPN before using it. We’ll give you a few recommendations for good and secure VPN services later in this article.

Does a VPN Slow Down Your Internet Connection?

You might have heard that a VPN can slow down your internet connection. It’s true that some VPN services do have this effect. After all, a VPN provides an encrypted connection wherein your data is routed through a remote server. This takes longer, so it could slow down your internet connection. However, this isn’t always the case.

There are many VPNs that do everything in their power to make your internet connection as fast as it can be (and sometimes even faster than you’re used to). If you want to make sure you end up with a fast VPN, check out our research on the fastest VPNs of this moment.

All the VPNs we recommend are proven to work perfectly and cause little to no delays. Streaming, gaming, and browsing will go as fast as normal, only with increased freedom, security, and privacy.

Further, if your internet speed is artificially restricted by your internet service provider or another party, a VPN can actually make your connection faster. The VPN ensures this limit no longer applies to you, so you can use the full potential of your connection.

Lady Justice

Some people wonder whether VPNs are legal or not. After all, the service enables you to become more anonymous online, which can be quite useful for hackers and online criminals. If those people can’t be traced online, it’s much harder to punish them for their crimes. Even so, this doesn’t necessarily mean a VPN is illegal.

On the contrary: many official companies and businesses work with VPNs and recommend their use. The European Union, too, supports internet freedom, which a VPN can give you.

Many countries consider the use of a VPN completely legal. Routine activities such as browsing, gaming, Netflix, and YouTube, are not a problem at all. Of course, conducting illegal activities via a VPN remains unlawful and punishable. For instance, if you are caught using a VPN to download illegal files such as unofficial copies of movies and music, you could get in trouble with the law. While the VPN gives you more anonymity online and makes it a lot harder for officials to trace you down, the downloading in and of itself is still illegal.

There are a couple of countries that do consider the use of a VPN illegal. If you’d like to know more about these countries and the legal and illegal use of VPNs in general, we’ve compiled a full guide about VPN legality. Using a VPN in most of the (Western) world won’t get you into trouble. On the contrary: we’d recommend it.

What is a VPN Connection?

VPN connections use an encrypted tunnel to transmit your data. These secure tunnels are created through VPN protocols that ensure a safe and secure connection. A VPN protocol is like a set of rules or instructions that determine how your data is routed between your device and the VPN server.

We have created a detailed guide to VPN protocols, but here’s a quick summary of the different protocols offered by a VPN service:

  • OpenVPN: OpenVPN is a widely used protocol. It’s an open-source protocol that uses encryption based on the OpenSSL and SSLv3/TLSv1 protocols. Most VPN services support OpenVPN and it’s available for a lot of different platforms (e.g. Windows, Android, Linux, routers). Most consider OpenVPN to be the best choice.
  • IPsec/L2TP: This protocol combines IPsec for the encryption of data with L2TP for establishing a secure connection. Most operating systems include IPsec/L2TP, which is a good choice when OpenVPN isn’t available.
  • IKEv2/IPsec: IKEv2 is a protocol based on IPSec. This protocol can quickly connect to and switch between networks. This makes it an ideal choice for smartphones because these devices tend to switch between Wi-Fi networks and public Wi-Fi networks regularly. According to some sources, IKEv2 is faster than OpenVPN. Nevertheless, OpenVPN is seen as the better protocol.
  • PPTP: PPTP (Point to Point Tunneling Protocol) is one of the first widely used protocols. This protocol contains a few (potential) leaks. For this reason, its use is only advisable if speed is more important to you than safety. This could be the case if you want to bypass restrictions set up by streaming services.
  • Softether: Softether, unlike other VPN protocols mentioned so far, is not a stand-alone protocol, but an open-source application that works across different platforms and offers support to VPN protocols such as SSL VPN, L2TP/IPsec, OpenVPN, and Microsoft Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol.
  • WireGuard: WireGuard is a relatively new protocol that has been gaining in popularity. It runs on a Linux kernel and is aimed at performing even better than OpenVPN and IPsec. It’s still in development, so you’re better off using OpenVPN for now.

How to Set Up Your VPN

VPN on mobile

Setting up a virtual private network is simpler than it might seem. Well, some VPNs are more user-friendly than others. Once you’ve found those (which we’ll recommend later), all it requires is signing up for a VPN provider of your choice, installing its VPN apps on your devices, establishing a secure VPN connection, and then using the internet as usual.

The VPN encrypts your data and prevents your internet service provider or other third parties from snooping on your online activities, without you having to do anything but click a button.

Most VPNs offer software for all types of devices and operating systems. You can download a VPN client for all major operating systems, including, Windows, Mac, iPhone, Android, and Linux.

There’s also the option to install a VPN on your Wi-Fi router, which means all devices connecting to the VPN will automatically be routed through a secure VPN connection.

Here’s a quick guide to signing up for and using a VPN service:

Install VPN Step by Step Desktop

Step 1. Subscribe to a trustworthy VPN service

It’s vital to choose a good VPN provider that’s safe, reliable, fast and user-friendly. We have tested most major VPN providers of this moment on their performance and usability. Most good VPN providers offer trials so you can check out their service free of charge. If you’d like to get started with a safe, effective, and affordable VPN, we recommend SurfShark, NordVPN, or ExpressVPN.

We tested these providers extensively and found them to be very suitable for beginners, as they are easy to understand and set up, while also being very fast. Moreover, these two VPNs allow you to secure multiple devices with a single subscription and offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. This way you can try them for a month without being stuck to a long-term subscription. Furthermore, using the links and buttons on our website will get you a discount with these providers.

Alternatively, there are some free VPN providers that offer a secure VPN connection with a few limitations such as restricted features, speed caps, and data limits. Our top recommendations are Proton VPN and PrivadoVPN. Just like with paid VPNs, you need to go to their website and sign up for an account to begin using the service.

Step 2. Download the VPN app

Now that you’ve signed up to your preferred VPN provider, you simply need to download the VPN app of this provider on your Android, iOS, Windows, Mac or other device. Visit the website of your VPN provider to find the necessary software. Don’t download from a different source, as these downloads might contain malware. Once you’ve successfully downloaded and installed the software, you’ll be able to log in.

If you want to learn how to install a VPN on a specific device, such as a smartphone or smart TV, the installation may vary, depending on your device and operating system. Here are just a few popular guides we’ve compiled in our VPN Setup section section:

Step 3. Activate the VPN app and start browsing the internet safely and freely

In your VPN client app, click or tap the “Connect” or “On” switch to establish a VPN connection. Your IP address (and digital location) will be swapped with an anonymous IP address of your choosing, and your data and traffic will be encrypted and protected.

You can also select a specific server location that can help you bypass censorship and geo-blocks. For instance, if you are an American on holiday in the Netherlands, you can still watch American Netflix by connecting to a US server on your VPN.

Three Top VPNs

We’ve already made a list of the best VPN providers that are trustworthy and value for money. Below, we’ll give a brief summary of our top three picks that will work on all the above operating systems.

1. NordVPN

NordVPN is the best VPN provider we’ve tested. It offers great security and privacy without compromising on speed. It has apps for all your devices and allows up to six simultaneous connections on a single subscription. NordVPN apps are incredibly user-friendly and offer advanced options like dedicated IP addresses and obfuscated servers, which make it easier to circumvent geo-restrictions, such as those enforced by Netflix. Therefore, this VPN service works seamlessly to unblock Netflix and all other major streaming services such as DinseyPlus, Hulu, HBO, BBC iPlayer, and more.

On top of that, it offers a 30-day money-back guarantee which means you can try out the service and get a refund if you’re not satisfied. It also has very affordable deals, especially on its long-term subscriptions. If you’re interested, you can check out their discounts by clicking the button below.

NordVPN
Our pick
Our pick
Deal:
Only $2.99 a month for a two-year subscription with a 30-day money-back guarantee!
From
$2.99
9.3
  • Excellent protection and a large network of servers
  • Nice and pleasing application
  • No logs
Visit NordVPN

2. Surfshark

Just like NordVPN, Surfshark is another of the best VPNs we’ve tested so far. It’s fast, secure, and offers 3200+ servers in 65 countries. It’s also available on all major devices and is easy to use. It works seamlessly with Netflix and allows torrenting too.

Furthermore, Surfshark offers plenty of additional features like ad blocking and GPS spoofing. All in all, it’s a great choice for both beginners and experienced users. The best part is that it is incredibly affordable, particularly if you go with the offer we have. If you’d like to try it out, click the button in the box below to visit their website. You can also give it a trial run using their 30-day money-back guarantee.

Surfshark
Deal:
Safe and anonymous internet for only $2.05 a month
From
$2.05
9.0
  • Very user-friendly and works with Netflix and torrents
  • 30-day money-back guarantee. No questions asked!
  • Cheap with many extra options
Visit Surfshark

3. ExpressVPN

Although pricier than NordVPN and Surfshark, ExpressVPN is one of the largest and most popular VPN services in the world. It offers almost everything you could want in a VPN provider such as 3000+ stable servers in 94 countries, great speeds, and top-notch security. It supports streaming and torrenting anonymously and works on all devices, including Android, Windows, iPhone, Mac, and Linux. A major plus point is that the app is available in over ten languages.

However, you should be aware that this VPN service has been involved in controversy due to a revelation involving their CIO Daniel Gericke. It came to light that he previously worked as a hacker-for-hire at DarkMatter, a UAE-based cybersecurity firm involved in “Project Raven,” a secretive operation that helped the UAE monarchy surveil and track critics of its regime, including American journalists and activists.

ExpressVPN’s response to this situation made people skeptical of its privacy practices. Nonetheless, after extensive research, it’s safe to say that ExpressVPN can still be counted as one of the most reliable premium VPN services out there. It offers a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can test the service before committing to it. If you’d like to give it a try, click the button in the box below.

ExpressVPN
Deal:
Great discount on annual subscription + 30-day money-back guarantee!
From
$6.67
8.9
  • Very easy to use VPN
  • Perfect for anonymous browsing, downloading, and streaming (i.e. Netflix)
  • 3000+ servers in 94 countries
Visit ExpressVPN

What VPN Providers Are There?

Above, we’ve shown you three good VPN providers, but there are hundreds of companies that offer commercial VPNs. Just type “VPN” in the App Store or Play Store, and you’ll see a dizzying amount of VPN apps, most of which are free to download. On top of that, there are also quite a few companies that offer business VPN packages.

To make sure you dont accidentally use a bad VPN, we’ve personally tested many VPN providers. You can find everything you need to know about our testing and the results in our VPN review section.

Want to know if a particular service is worth your time? Below you’ll find a selection of VPN providers to give you an impression of the amount of services out there, including links to our reviews.

We also state under which jurisdiction each VPN provider falls and whether the VPN provider is located in a 5, 9 or 14 eyes country. The jurisdiction may have implications for the privacy of VPN users, as each country has different privacy laws. In practice, this affects the kind of user data VPN providers can store and for how long they need to store it.

With privacy in mind, you ideally want to use a VPN that doesn’t log or track anything about your internet activities.

VPN ProviderJurisdiction (Country)Jurisdiction (Intelligence Alliance)
AirVPNItaly14 eyes
Atlas VPNUnited States5 eyes
Avast Secureline VPNCzech RepublicNo
Bitdefender VPNRomaniaNo
BolehVPNItaly14 eyes
CactusVPNCanada5 eyes
CyberGhostRomaniaNo
Encrypt.meUnited States5 eyes
ExpressVPNBritish Virgin IslandsNo
FastestVPNCayman IslandsNo
FrootVPNSeychellesNo
F-Secure FREEDOME VPNFinlandNo
GOOSE VPNthe Netherlands9 eyes
Hide.meMalaysiaNo
HMA VPNUnited Kingdom5 eyes
Hola VPNIsraelNo
Hotspot ShieldUnited States5 eyes
IPVanishUnited States5 eyes
IronsocketHong KongNo
IvacyHong KongNo
IVPNGibraltarNo
Le VPNHong KongNo
MullvadSweden14 eyes
NordVPNPanamaNo
Opera VPNNorway9 eyes
Perfect Privacy VPNSwitzerlandNo
Planet VPN (RusVPN)DominicaNo
PrivadoVPNSwitzerlandNo
Private Internet AccessUnited States5 eyes
PrivateVPNSweden14 eyes
ProtonVPNSwitzerlandNo
PureVPNHong KongNo
SaferVPNIsraelNo
StrongVPNUnited States5 eyes
SurfEasyCanada5 eyes
SurfsharkBritish Virgin IslandsNo
TorGuardUnited States5 eyes
TunnelBearCanada5 eyes
Urban VPNUnited States5 eyes
VeePNPanamaNo
VPN.acRomaniaNo
VPNSecureAustralia5 eyes
VyprVPNSwitzerlandNo
WindscribeCanada5 eyes
ZenMate VPNGermany14 eyes
ZoogVPNGreeceNo

This is just a small selection of all available VPN providers. There are some really good VPNs on the market, a lot of mediocre VPNs, and even more bad, misleading, or even dangerous VPNs.

At VPNOverview.com we analyze developments in the VPN industry, read independent audit reports and monitor lawsuits involving VPN providers.

Unfortunately, quite a few VPN providers have fallen off their pedestal over the years. This might be because lawsuits showed that they secretly kept logs of users (HMA, PureVPN and IPVanish to mention a few). In addition, there are also some VPNs that are linked to questionable governments.

Therefore, choosing a reliable VPN is a must. After all, you redirect all your internet traffic via this party. You have to be able to rely 100% on the good intentions and integrity of the VPN provider you choose.

VPN providers for the business market

In addition to VPNs for consumers, there are also VPN solutions for businesses. Large companies and governments can use these VPN solutions to allow employees and other authorized people to access the network remotely.

Below is a small selection of business VPN providers:

  • Perimeter81
  • NordVPN Teams
  • Cisco AnyConnect
  • FortiClient
  • Pulse Connect Secure
  • Citrix
  • GlobalProtect
  • Sentry
  • Zscaler
  • Netmotion
  • Twingate

Why is Online Security Important?

Maybe you’re wondering if the use of a VPN is really necessary. Well, a VPN offers more anonymity, safety and freedom online. This is more important than ever before, because an increasing part of our lives takes place online. We do our banking, keep in touch with friends, check our medical records, and work online.

It’s important that all this information about you stays safe. You wouldn’t just leave your bank invoices lying around on the street, so you’ll have to take that same kind of caution when it comes to your online data.

If you do not secure your internet connection, you run the risk that hackers, governments, your internet provider, websites, your employer, and others will find out more about you than you would like. A VPN shields your data from all of these groups.

Encrypted VPN Tunnel protecting you from various groups

Most people will know that the things you share online, for instance on Facebook or Instagram, can haunt you for the rest of your life. In the same way, everything you do online can have a lasting effect. What if a hacker can see where you do your finances online? Or what if your employer knows you spend your time on social media during work hours?

A VPN might not offer complete guaranties that you’ll never be hacked. However, a VPN will considerably lessen the chance that anyone can see your personal data, browser history, and other online activities.

Final Thoughts: What is a VPN?

A VPN, or virtual private network, is a secure connection between you and the internet. It hides your identity and online activity from your internet service provider, governments, and the websites you visit. This ensures greater online privacy and security. In addition, VPNs help to circumvent censorship and geographical blocks to ensure a freer internet, no matter where you are in the world.

For the most part, VPN usage is safe and legal. However, sometimes certain websites and apps may not be accessible via VPN connections. Moreover, some countries ban VPN usage and you may get in trouble if found to be using one.

At the same time, you should be cautious about choosing a VPN because there are many shady companies out there that compromise your privacy under the guise of providing you with their service. Therefore, it’s important to do your research before signing up for any VPN.

Some premium services we highly recommend are NordVPN, Surfshark, and ExpressVPN. These offer all the features you need for just a few dollars a month. You can even take advantage of their 30-day money-back guarantees to try out the service before committing to it.

If money is an issue, there are also some reliable free providers, like the free versions of ProtonVPN and PrivadoVPN. However, they come with limited features compared to paid services.

For the technically inclined, it’s even possible to build your own VPN.

Want to learn more about VPNs and why you should use one? Check out our other articles:

VPNs and VPN Use: Frequently Asked Questions

If you have a burning question about VPNs, we might be able to help you out. Simply click one of the queries below to see the answer. Do you have a question that isn’t answered in this list? Feel free to place a comment underneath this article, and we’ll help you out as soon as we can!

There is a large price difference between the various VPN providers. This makes it difficult to give a a clear answer to this question. That said, looking ath the better VPN providers, most VPNs will cost between $2 and $7 per month if you subscribe for a longer period of time. If you choose to take out a subscription for a shorter period of time, you have more control over the cancellation, but you often pay around $12 per month for the more well-known VPN providers.

There are also free VPNs. You don’t pay for these, but limits on data or speed may apply. There is also a large number of free VPN providers that abuse your data or resell it to others. Always read reviews of VPNs to see if they are suitable for you.

There are many free VPNs to be found on the internet. However, not all of those VPNs can be trusted. Some free apps don’t secure your connection very well, while others might even install malware onto your device. Unfortunately, even good free VPNs often have speed or data limits. We have tested free VPNs to see which ones can be trusted. Take a look at out best free VPNs article.

If you want to start using a VPN, you’ll first need a VPN account. Choose a trustworthy VPN service and get a subscription with them. Install the software on your device and turn the VPN application on. In most cases, you’ll only have to click the big power button that’s shown in the app or on the dashboard to initiate the VPN connection.

A VPN is a secure connection between you and the internet. This connection is sent through an external VPN server, meaning your IP address, location, and data traffic remain hidden. Moreover, you’ll often be able to choose from different server locations, allowing you to access the web as if you were in a different country. This way, a VPN provides you with increased online privacy, safety, and freedom, which comes with all sorts of new possibilities.

A VPN creates an encrypted VPN tunnel between your device and the internet. All your online traffic is sent through this tunnel, meaning no one on the outside will be able to see what you’re doing online. The VPN also alters your IP address by changing it into the IP address of the VPN server you’re using. Therefore, your location will no longer be visible to everyone on the internet. The encrypted VPN tunnel is able to keep your data secure because it uses high-level encryption protocols.

A good VPN will allow you to watch Netflix movies and series that would normally only be available in different countries. The American version of Netflix, for example, has a bigger library than the versions in many other countries, including Spain, The Netherlands, and the UK. With the right American server provided by the right VPN, you’ll be able to access thousands of series and movies on Netflix.

Cybersecurity analyst
David is a cybersecurity analyst and one of the founders of VPNoverview.com. Since 2014 he has been gaining international experience working with governments, NGOs, and the private sector as a cybersecurity and VPN expert and advisor.
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  1. Ok, so I activate my VPN with my cell phone. How do I use VPN for my desktop, smart TV, wi-fi extenders, routers, Ethernet devices? You make it sound simple but I suspect to the novice (think 5 yr old) will have problems and questions.
    JimM

    • Hi! Installing a VPN on desktop is relatively easy: you go to the provider’s official website, download the software, install it, then switch it on. For Smart TV and routers, the process can be slightly different. We have all sorts of useful installation guides on our website, like these ones for Windows, MacOS, Smart TV and routers. We hope this helps!

  2. I live in USA and have a friend who lives in China. She has a VPN and profile on Facebook. Would I need a VPN for her to receive a message there ?

    • No, you don’t. If your friend uses a VPN to access Facebook, she’ll be able to use it the same way you would without a VPN. If you send her a message on the right account, she should be able to read it as long as she has access to that account.

  3. NetBlock is an Android App that uses a VPN, would you know which VPN this App uses and is it secure?

    • Apps like NetBlock don’t use any branded VPNs to work. Instead, they use settings of your Android’s built-in VPN client. On newer versions of Android, you can set up a VPN profile manually (name it, choose a protocol, and enter server addresses). Apps like NetBlock simply configure this local Android VPN client and provide a handy user interface to block the apps. The traffic within the tunnel will be encrypted, but Android’s native VPN only supports PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, and solo IPsec, so it’s not the safest. Moreover, the destination itself is not in the tunnel, so you pretty much can’t count on these apps for protection. They use Android VPN to function but they are not VPNs themselves. On top of that, you won’t be able to use a regular VPN on top of this app.
      NetBlock doesn’t inspire much confidence, to be honest. Based on this short research, I would recommend going with something like NetGuard instead. It offers better features and doesn’t throw a ton of ads at its users (NetBlock does, apparently).

  4. Fantastic article my question: currently I don’t have VPN installed, I’m using ADSL connection on my Router but want to install VPN and also change to VDSL to increase download speeds.
    I assume the VPN software will operate effectively on either.

    • Yes, it will. It should work like a charm. ADSL and VDSL are basically the same type of connection as far as VPNs are concerned, so you’ll just get faster speeds!

  5. This is an excellent resource and features a brilliantly simple explainer video. However, the article contains one important error. It states that OpenVPN doesn’t work on macOS. That’s not correct. The OpenVPN client is available for macOS from the OpenVPN website and the OpenVPN client is available for iOS on the App Store.

    • Thank you for taking the time to point this out, rogerdodger! We rectified the error and updated our article.

  6. Recently and most unusually I tried to make contact with European sites…..all not available. Days later, I attempted again to contact the European sites……all available. Struggling to understand this development, I happened to notice that my VPN was off. Exploring further I noticed that when I turned on the VPN, the internet thru my provider was not connected. How can that be….I have to connect to my wifi and my provider for the VPN to be turned on initially? Is is possible that the internet is available via only one at a time…..my provider….or my VPN? It makes some sense that the VPN would protect me by routing everything thru it only. Tried US, Canadian and Mexican sites with VPN on….all available. European sites not available via VPN but are via my provider with VPN off. Is this normal, does any of this make sense?

    • Did you use the correct VPN server locations? Your VPN will usually allow you to choose from a list of locations. If you want to reach European websites, your best bet is to use a European server, for example one in Germany. If you’re trying to reach a website in Mexico, a Mexican server will be able to help you out. All these different servers are available with just one subscription – at least for the VPNs mentioned in this article. You can change from one server to another with a simple click. Hopefully, this information will help you access different websites with your VPN. Good luck!

  7. I use Avast but it continually blocks my connection. It’s possible that I’ve set it up incorrectly, but it’s annoying when you click on a link and can’t access it. I then have to manually turn the VPN off to get through.

    • Some VPNs seem to do that, which turns out to be a problem for some VPN users. A solution might be to use the VPN’s “whitelister” or “split-tunneling” function. This allows you to select which sites or apps you want to open through the VPN, and which ones you want to open with your regular connection.

  8. Hi David, I recently purchased a VPN for gaming specifically to reduce ping as I heard it can do that when routing me through the USA where the server is, however it makes the ping slightly worse! Do you have any advice for using a VPN for this purpose

    • Although it’s true that a VPN might not reduce your speed or ping, it will also not increase your speed or ping unless there’s some kind of throttling in place. A lot of sites state that a VPN will increase your connection speed and ping, while the opposite is usually true. In most cases, if your internet speed and ping aren’t throttled by your ISP, a VPN will not increase your connection speed or ping. You can, however, use a VPN to access content in a game that’s ordinarily geo-restricted.

  9. Where do they get the new IP addresses? I’ve heard that when you give the VPN companies your IP address that they will use it for their other clients is this true? If it is, doesn’t this defeat the entire purpose of having a VPN?

    • Genuine VPN providers usually work with data centers all over the world to make sure they get new IP addresses. Most of them don’t use the connection of their users. However, there are some malicious VPNs that do use their users’ devices as endpoints for their connections, such as Hola VPN. We would advise you to stay as far away from these types of VPN providers.

  10. Hi David. Many thanks for a great, well researched and informative review. The software side of vpn makes sense, but do you have any thoughts on vpn hardware that could be used between the wall and the router for home WiFi? The reason I ask is mainly because we don’t have a smart TV, and use add-ons like chromecast. Then presumably all laptops, phones and tablets using WiFi from that router would be covered? My additional dilemma is that my network signal at the office is extremely poor and annoying, so am considering a mobile router on another network, and wondered if this could perhaps be incorporated with a vpn?
    Many thanks,
    Nigel

    • If you install a VPN on your WiFi router, then all devices connected to that router should be connected via VPN. This may improve the security (because everything is connected to the VPN), but also gives you less control over the connection on each individual device. It depends on your preferences what the best call to make is in this case. About the mobile router, it depends on the router itself whether it supports VPN or not. You could check out our ‘Installing a VPN on your router‘ article, maybe that will answer some of your questions.

  11. what should it look like when I hover over the wifi?

    mine shows :

    ARRIS4285
    Internet access

    Unidentified network
    Internet access

    Is this normal?

  12. Hi – I have a couple of questions here because this is all new to me. Is it best to use the VPN on all devices or just some? Should it be used all the time or some of the time – I have heard mixed feedback on this. And, I was told that when banking online it’s not a good idea, not sure why. thank you for a very thorough article.

    • Hello Bea,

      I’ll do my best to answer your questions to the best of my ability. When you sign up for a VPN, you generally get to connect multiple devices with a single subscription. If you use a VPN for safety and privacy purposes, I’d just use it on all your internet-connected devices and all the time. It’s a comforting thought that all your internet traffic is secured and private as standard by having your VPN connections enabled. If you use a VPN for unblocking purposes, you might only have to use the VPN on the device you want to access content with though. And you can generally safely use a VPN when banking online, I don’t know why people have told you otherwise. I’m happy to hear the article was able to help you!

  13. Nice website – do you have a little more detail of exactly what happens after the packets are decrypted at the VPN server? Like between the VPN server and the final website on the internet.
    Thank you!

    • After the packet is decrypted it should act like any non-encrypted packet. The traffic between the VPN-server and the server it’s communicating with should be similar to that of a device without a VPN to the same server. The difference being that the server the VPN server is communicating with sees the VPN server as the point of origin, and not your device.

  14. If you are connected to work via VPN, but use your home browser to go online can your work track what your doing on your home browser?

    • If all the internet traffic goes through your work VPN, then, in theory, it is possible. However, in most cases, workplaces will not have this kind of monitoring active. On top of that, they’re probably not allowed to track your activity on a non-work computer.

  15. I guess I’m sort of a geek as I don’t understand your following statement:

    “When you use a VPN, your online actions can only be traced back to the VPN server, but no longer to you (unless, of course, you’re logged into a certain website such as YouTube or Google). Many VPN providers won’t disclose or even monitor what you do via their servers. You’ve thus become much more anonymous on the internet, since you can’t be identified or traced through your IP address.”

    I say this because YouTube and Google are two websites that I would most prefer to be anonymous with and protected from. I also don’t understand how I can have a VPN on my smartphone or computer and NOT be protected – in other words how can I log into either one of these websites DIRECTLY and not being going thru my VPN? Thank you, Brad

    • If you use Google and YouTube while using a VPN you should be anonymous, unless you log in. That’s the gist of it. When you log in, your IP doesn’t matter as much anymore, they can just link your activity to your account instead of your IP-address.

  16. If the pc is connected to VPN by software, does the data traffic on the hdd connected(usb) to the router also pass through VPN, or need a separate VPN setting for the router?

    • If the HDD is connected to the PC, it should pass through the VPN of the PC, no extra steps required. If it is connected to the router, you have to set up the VPN on your router if you want its data to be protected.

    • I downloaded NordVPN on my Apple iPad. I found I couldn’t open my App Store with the VPN on. It said “the server cannot be found”. When I disconnected the VPN I was able to open my App Store?

      • Hmm, this is a problem we haven’t encountered ourselves. It’s best to contact NordVPN’s customer support in this case. They should be able to help you fix this.

        • So is it totally impossible to trace the origin of an email that was sent via VPN or are there means to trace the author? If possible any suggested programs

          • Emails are a bit of a different story because you have to log in to an email service provider in order to send one. We’re working on an article about sending email anonymously, but the easiest step to send an anonymous email is by using a burner email account and a secure email service provider such as ProtonMail. Also, be sure not to use any of your personal information when making the email or sending one. For extra IP address privacy, you can use a VPN when making and logging into your burner email.

  17. My question is when a VPN asks whether it can make changes to your device do you say yes or no?

    • Usually yes is the right answer. A VPN needs to modify your network settings so it can set up the tunnel properly. However, we don’t know which VPN you’re using and there are a lot of malicious VPNs out there. If you’re using a well known VPN such as Surfshark, NordVPN, ExpressVPN or others it should be fine to allow them to make changes.

  18. When I am connected to my VPN, it says I am connected through Dallas. I sometimes get stopped when logging onto various websites I’ve used successfully before the VPN; I am asked for authentification and often am told my IP address is in the Washington DC area. Is my VPN running correctly? Does this just mean the VPN server is in Dallas and the website sees me as in DC rather than my real location?

    • The extra step to authenticate yourself when using a VPN is common. We sometimes get these as well, though this usually lasts only a little while and depends on the VPN-server. With regards to the Dallas/DC question. Websites use different ways of seeing where you’re coming from. This can be IP (which is referenced to a certain database). It could be that the site you’re trying to visit is using an outdated IP address databse. Looking up someone’s location purely based on IP address is not flawless, so it could be a problem with the site. If you want to check the location of your VPN’s IP, you could use our IP address tool.

  19. When using a VPN, can someone tell what time zone I’m in? For example, if send an email from New York but my VPN is connected through a server in London, does the time stamp on the email show New York time or London time?

    • A VPN doesn’t change the timezone settings on your computer, nor does it change the timezone settings in your email provider. If you have your time set to New York time, then the timestamp should read the New York time. Though if someone else has their email set to a different time zone, they will ee the time they received your email according to their time zone. A VPN doesn’t influence your timezone settings or that of the person you’re mailing.

  20. I have a VPN, but if I go to another country like China who doesn’t let most IP addresses from around the world through, and I email somebody in the United States, do they have to have a VPN to email me back?

    • You use a VPN to unblock a site such as Gmail. As long as you gain access to a site, you can use it to send and receive emails. The other person doesn’t have to have a VPN in order to send or receive any of your emails. For example: if you are in China and I am in the US, I can just send you emails and these will be sent to your inbox. You can’t access them in China without a VPN, but they are delivered to your inbox. You only need VPN to gain access to your email provider in order to open your inbox and read and send emails. So in short: no, the person sending you emails doesn’t need a VPN in order to send or receive your emails.

  21. Very informative, Thanks!
    I use a point-to-point VPN client (Pulse Secure), installed on the laptop to connect to the company network – I have no other option for work from home. I want to upgrade the old router with something I can install a VPN on.
    Should I expect problems running the point-to-point tunnel through a VPN on the router?

    • Assuming you want to install a VPN different from Pulse Secure on your router, this could cause some problems. Your laptop will be using a double VPN, which doesn’t always work well, especially when using different providers. Chances are that this double VPN connection will keep your laptop from getting access to the internet at all. The best thing would be to run your laptop’s internet through the old router when you’re using Plus Secure, and use the new router for private use, where all your data traffic will be protected by the private VPN you use.

  22. As you listed, there are unlimited benefits of VPNs. Most of the business VPN providers offer discounts as well. My question is, despite of so many benefits, why is it banned in many countries?

    • Some governments across the world limit internet freedom and want to block certain parts of the internet, such as social media platforms and news websites. These governments could turn to a VPN ban as well, in an attempt to further control the information available inside the country’s borders. You can read more about the legality of VPNs across the world right here.

      • Thank you so much. I got the point.

      • If I have a VPN on my I phone will my other devices also be protected or do I need to connect the iPad, PC, and Roku separately? And if so how do I do that.

        • IF you have the VPN installed on your phone, only your phone’s connection is protected via VPN. If you want to protect your other devices, you should install it on those devices seperately. Usually you can just download a VPN app on iPad and PC. So for example, if you have ExpressVPN, you can download ExpressVPN’s software on your PC and iPad via ExpressVPN’s website. We have guides for installing a VPN on iPad here and on PC here. As far as I know there’s no VPN app for Roku, so you would have to connect it to a router or virtual router that has a VPN on it. We have a guide for setting up a virtual router here.

  23. Thank you for article!
    But I missed newcomers. I mean there are a lot of shady free VPNs in the market right now, but recently I found Atlas and it seems to be quite alright. I used it for a couple of days and still do not have any issues. Works good with streaming services. Did you heard about them? They are saying they don’t do any tracking or data collecting. I think it deserves a try, would appreciate if any experts could review Atlas in near future to check whether it’s safe to use?

    • We’ve recently tested Atlas VPN and will be adding our review to our platform as soon as possible, so keep an eye out for that! In the meantime, we can tell you that, sadly, Atlas does log information, namely your IP address among other data. We’ve also found that it doesn’t work very well with Netflix, so you might not be able to watch that specific service when using Atlas. If you’re looking for free VPNs that don’t collect your data and still work well, you can always have a look at our top 5 free VPNs.

  24. I actually wanted to know more technical details, like does the VPN software overwrite the customer network settings? Does it define additional interfaces? Why don’t some of them have an exception for local addresses? I’m using e.g. pihole, a local DNS server that prevents connections on a DNS basis, depending on blacklists. If the VPN software overwrites my settings, I can’t use my local DNS to protect myself against malicious web sites. Thanks

    • Thank you for your interesting questions! Whether a VPN allows you to set up custom DNS, depends on the provider. One VPN that does allow this, and will therefore make it possible to work with both your local DNS server and the safety of the VPN, is ExpressVPN. If you want to do this, you’ll have to follow the step-by-step guide they’ve provided on their website to manually configure these settings.

  25. Good afternoon

    I would like to know information about everything that is necessary to implement a VPN network in the company

    • We have some information about security for businesses on this page. When it comes to VPNs that work well for corporate networks, there are many options. Both NordVPN and VyperVPN offer business accounts, and aside from that, there are specialised corporate VPNs such as Perimeter81 that you could choose. If you wish to set up a VPN on your router, so everyone in the office can use it, you can check out this article. We are constantly working to update our content and add new information to the business section of our website, so make sure to keep an eye on that, as well!

  26. If I understand correctly, my communication with the VPN server is encrypted. But the communication is decrypted by the VPN server before being sent to the target website, minus of course my IP address. That means that the communication can’t be directly attributed to my machine. However, anyone intercepting the decrypted communication might be able to deduce who I am and what some of the information is, I think. Is correcting the vulnerability of decrypted communication from user machine to website the role of the https protocol?

    Do I understand correctly?

    • This is quite right. A VPN protects you by hiding your IP address and encrypting your data between your computer and the VPN server. However, if you, for example, log in on a website that doesn’t use a secure HTTPS connection, your login details could still be vulnerable. A VPN secures your internet connection and make it anonymous, but that stops when you willingly send personal information, such as login details or an email address onto the internet. This is why it’s so hard to stay completely anonymous online while using platforms such as email and social media. However, if you use a VPN, make sure the websites you visit are valid, and don’t give out personal information on any page that doesn’t use HTTPS, you should at least be secure and safe from many prying eyes.

  27. How useful is VPN if you are traveling to Ethiopia?

    • We would definitely advise you to use a VPN. Ethiopia is known to block internet access as well as access to specific apps (WhatsApp, Telegram) at times. Therefore, a VPN might be useful when travelling to Ethiopia. It might help you unblock certain web pages and social media. Even if there isn’t any (relevant) internet censorship at the time of your trip, a VPN will still help you protect your online identity and privacy.

    • I connect to my employer through a VPN using my Windstream internet service. I constantly get dropped. (Message says connection was disrupted.) Any troubleshooting ideas? I can’t figure out if it’s the provider (they seem to constantly have issues in my area) or my employer. Any guidance is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

      • Firstly, we’d advise you to check whether this problem is caused by your internet connection. Does the internet work properly when you aren’t connected to the VPN? If so, you’ve already ruled out your internet service. Secondly, try to browse the internet through the VPN, without trying to reach any job-related pages or documents. If this works, the problem isn’t with the VPN provider, but with your employer. If it doesn’t, the VPN itself isn’t working. Depending on your situation (which VPN you’re using, how you and your employer arranged the VPN connection) we’d advise you to either contact the VPN’s support team directly or talk to your employer so they can help you. Good luck!

  28. Can I use email (gmail) anonymously with a VPN?

    • Using a VPN while emailing won’t make you anonymous. After all, you’ll be logging into your Gmail-account, which is likely connected to your name and other personal information. However, a VPN can still be useful during emailing. Some countries won’t give you access to Gmail. Using a VPN in those countries will allow you to log in to Gmail, even when your access should be blocked. If you want to email anonymously, it’s best to create a new, anonymous email address that can’t be traced back to you. A good email provider to use for this purpose is ProtonMail.

  29. Hi, nice share, how do you think for this vpn product: VPNGO, is it also working in China?

    • We have not (yet) tested out VPNGO for ourselves. Seeing as it’s a VPN that comes with a free version, we expect there to be quite a few limitations. Looking at their privacy policy, it appears they make their money from (third party) advertisements, which is something to be wary of. Their official website also doesn’t appear to work for us. If you’re looking for a good VPN to use in China, we’ve got an article written about exactly that topic. NordVPN, for example, is quite cheap and has obfuscated servers that can help you get around China’s firewall.

  30. My husband has jst left to work in China can he set up a vpn acc whilst there? Sorry, a not v tech savvy wife ?

    • Sadly, it’s going to be quite hard for your husband to set up a VPN account once he’s already in China. The Chinese government blocks most VPN websites, making it almost impossible to get a VPN if you don’t already have a VPN account to get around those restrictions. If he already has a VPN, however, he can likely use that to easily get around any censorship. IF you want some more information about online restrictions in China, you can read this article. Hopefully this helps!

      • I would like to improve my overall streaming speed.
        Just curious, will a VPN improve my streaming speed? Or would I have to buy a wifi booster? Also how do I connect a VPN to my current router? Would I need special equipment?

        • A VPN could potentially increase your internet speed, if this speed is being throttled by your ISP or purposefully restricted in another way. If this isn’t the case, however, a VPN will not increase your speed and could even slow it down somewhat. But don’t worry: if you pick a good, fast VPN (for example ExpressVPN), the chances of your streaming speed dropping dramatically are slim. To connect a VPN to your router, you’ll need DD-WRT. You can read all about this here: Installing a VPN on Your Router – a Simple Guide for DD-WRT.

  31. why isnt there a mention of pure? you guys should check out their halloween deal, its as good as those mentioned above

  32. What about using the VPN provided by Lts say Bitdefender or Webroot, Does it do the same job as explained above.

    • Yes, the VPNs by Bitdefender and Webroot both work in the same way as explained in this article. Each VPN has its own strengths and weaknesses, even though they all try to do the same thing, namely making your internet experience safer, more anonymous and more free. This means that some VPNs could be better for you to use than others. In order to help you figure out the difference, we review VPNs on our platform. You can have a look at the different reviews we’ve done so far on this page.

    • Is there a VPN that works in Morocco?

      • Yes, there is. Many decent VPN providers will work in Morocco and allow you to unblock services and websites. You’ll find a list of the very best ones right here. If you want a VPN that specifically has servers in Morocco as well, we recommend CyberGhost.

  33. My brother got a vpn and was kind of making fun out of me that I didn’t know what it was and why it was needed, I thought that I should read about this matter a bit more so that next time I reply something with expertise and take him by surprise. This was the first website that I stumbled upon and it had great explanations (many thank you’s to the author)! Thanks, for the insights they were great, I might get a vpn myself (or just use my brothers Surfshark account)!

    • We’re glad we could help! Good luck with your VPN!

  34. thank you did not know what a VPN was. Is the one that windows has built in good for a free one

    • The built-in VPN that Windows offers via PPTP can help you up to a point, but is not as safe and secure as a normal, premium VPN. That’s why we generally advise to use a VPN from a third party, for example ExpressVPN or Surfshark. With these VPNs, you can be absolutely sure that the service you’re getting is decent, secure, and makes you anonymous. If you want to have a look at the free options, you can check out our article on the best free VPNs of this moment.

      • I’m traveling to China on Monday and have Express VPN. Currently I’m connected in the US but when I’m in China do I stay connected to US or connect to Hong Kong or Japan? I’m not clear as to how that works

        • You can do either. If you stay connected to a US server when you’re in China, you’ll have access to the same websites and services as you usually would. A server in Hong Kong or Japan could give you a quicker connection (since the distance between China and these servers is smaller than that between China and the US), but might not give you the same access. However, the most important thing to realise is that China can clamp down hard on VPN connections. If your VPN doesn’t seem to work while you’re there, you can try using different servers and different VPN protocols. Also make sure your ExpressVPN software is updated before you go, so you have the latest technologies to help you. Good luck!

  35. Thanks, informative but still I’m not that savvy. Will ask nerdy friend for more explanation !!

    • Wow what a great lesson this has been.
      Thank you

      • I am using ExpressVPN.
        When I connect uploading and downloading is showing on the app.
        Does it upload my personal image and videos too?

        • No, these mentions of uploading and downloading simply mean that ExpressVPN is sending your data onto the internet through a secure connection and receiving data it can show you. This is how you get a functioning and safe internet connection. Unless you choose to upload a personal picture of video of yourself onto the internet, ExpressVPN won’t touch any of that information, so you don’t need to worry.

      • Great article, thanks. I do have something I don’t understand. If I install vpn app on iPhone or iPad that are accessing internet through cell data, is this vpn protected or only when they are hooked up to wifi?

        • The VPN will protect both your iPhone and iPad no matter how you go online. It works both when you’re using cell data and when you’re using Wi-Fi, as long as you’ve got the VPN switched on.

    • Can the IT dept of your employer track your location through their provided VPN

      • If you are using a VPN connection set up by your employer or the IT department, they could be able to see your real IP address even when you’re using that VPN. With that information, they will also know your location. However, if you’re using a VPN provided by another company (such as NordVPN or another external provider), your employer will (very likely) be unable to see this information.

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