06 November 2018
With an increase in cyber security threats, government surveillance, geo-restrictions and the end of net neutrality in the US, a VPN is now essential. A good VPN gives us online freedom, protects our privacy and enhances security when online.
However, its a fact that you will notice a drop in speeds when connected to a VPN. This is not abnormal, and it is bound to happen due to a number of factors.
In this guide, I will show you 10 tips on how to make your VPN speeds faster and outline why you should invest in a fast and reliable VPN. First though I will outline what causes VPNs to slow down our speeds.
First you should determine the extent to which your VPN affects your speeds. To do this, you need to conduct a few speed tests. The first speed test should be done without a connected VPN. It should show you the bandwidth that your ISP allocates to you.
You can then connect your VPN. For better analysis, connect it to the server nearest to you. Initiate another speed test and note the difference (VPN speed tests can vary, so take a few). You should notice a difference in speeds between the two types of speed tests. If you have a fast VPN like ExpressVPN or Hotspot shield, you should only experience a 5-15% speed difference.
The main reason why a VPN results in reduced speeds is the encryption used. When we connect to the internet through a VPN, we establish a secure VPN connection. Here, your traffic is first encrypted before it is then tunneled through a secure Network and you are connected to the internet.
The stronger the encryption used, the slower the speeds you get. Apart from encryption, there are other VPN factors that can further slow down your internet speeds:
From the inception of the of the internet, users have always craved faster speeds. There is nothing more frustrating than watching Stranger Things and then your video starts buffering. However, you don’t have to sacrifice your speed for security, there are always ways you can improve your VPN speed. Here are our 10 tips to improve your VPN speeds.
Connecting to a VPN server close to you results in better speeds more often than not. This is because your data packets only need to travel a short distance. Longer distances result to more lost packets hence slower speeds and increased latency.
Further, long-distance connections may experience international bandwidth limitations since some underwater cables may have bandwidth limits.
To help you with this some VPNs have implemented a ‘Quick connect’ feature that automatically chooses the best server for you. The app calculates the distance between you and the server as well as the ping. However, this feature often malfunctions in some VPN clients and they can choose the wrong server for you. We advise that you select a server manually.
Of course, there are a few exceptions to having the best performance from the nearest server. This is when the server nearest to you is overwhelmed by users. In such a case, you need to find another server that is not far away. The server might have poorer latency, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that your download speeds will be poor. By playing a bit with the servers you will be amazed at how much difference this can make.
Even when connecting to servers far away, this is a crucial factor. Since you can’t tell if a server has a lower maximum bandwidth capacity, connect to a server that has few users.
Most VPN client apps show the number of users connected to a server at any particular time.
All VPN’s use a protocol to offer their services. A protocol governs how the connection is established, and also determines the level of encryption to be used. There are various protocols available;
Among these VPN protocols, OpenVPN is the most recommended protocol due to its excellent balance of security and speeds. It is also the most used VPN protocol because of its ease of implementation, flexibility and open source roots. OpenVPN allows a developer to use multiple encryption standards, namely 128-bit encryption and 256-bit encryption. The former is faster and less secure, while the latter is slower but more secure.
If your VPN client uses OpenVPN, you will often get an option to choose between UDP and TCP.
L2TP/IPSec is another secure protocol. It uses 256-bit encryption which can’t be cracked, just like OpenVPN. This protocol is however very slow and therefore its no longer used. It was replaced by OpenVPN which has the same encryption strength but with faster speeds.
PPTP is a lightweight encryption protocol that uses 128-bit encryption. This protocol is very weak and can be easily broken. It is however the FASTEST of all protocols. It can be used in cases where you don’t really need much security. A perfect example of this is when you just want to use your VPN to access BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Hulu and other geo-restricted services.
If your VPN uses proprietary protocols, you can play around with them. Just switch between various protocols and simply choose the best. Keep in mind that if you are doing activities that need strong security, you will need a secure protocol. OpenVPN UDP is what we would recommend here.
We all love the convenience of a wireless connection, but your WiFi may just be the problem with your VPN speeds. Wireless connections typically rely on a shared channel to transmit data between various devices. Using a wired connection improves the rate at which your VPN encrypts your data and transmits data packets. If you want really quick speeds you may have to give up your WiFi connection and plug in an ethernet cable.
If the router you are using is connected to a modem using WiFi, get a connection cable. Wired connections normally provide higher speeds and they are more stable than WiFi connections, especially if you are operating on the 2.4 GHz band.
When it comes to electronics, there’s one magic piece of magic that works as a quick fix to most problems; turning a device off and on. Devices tend to slow down as time goes, and your computer or modem may just be exhausted or having memory leaks. This can be due to some processes that are taking almost all your RAM, making the VPN process slow. The slower your device, the lower the VPN speeds.
After turning the device off, leave it to breathe for about 60 seconds before turning it back on. See if this increases your VPN speeds.
Running a VPN requires high processing power, and so your device may be the problem. Certain devices are just not capable of running a VPN smoothly and providing the required speeds. This is due to the encryption overhead of a VPN tunnel. A good example here is using an Amazon Fire TV and an Amazon Fire TV Stick with a VPN. Due to the Fire TV’s high processing power, you will get much better speeds as compared to the Fire TV Stick.
If you have a device with low processing power, switch devices for a more capable one. You should also make sure that your device is running the latest version of your operating system. Older versions usually have low processing power, and we have seen developers slow down devices with older OS versions. Software obsolesce also slows down devices, so make sure crucial programs like Java or Flash are up to date.
Split tunneling can easily solve your VPN speed problems.
You don’t need to send all your traffic through the VPN’s encrypted tunnel, an option that you don’t get with most VPN clients. Split tunneling works by giving you more control over what data traffic is encrypted an secured. If you are using your VPN to watch Netflix US via the app, you don’t need to encrypt your browser.
Split tunneling becomes even more efficient if you are using a router-based VPN. With the feature, you can encrypt particular devices and leave other unencrypted. If you are in the UK and want to secure your PC & Smartphone while streaming BBC iPlayer with your Smart TV, Split Tunneling will make it possible.
This way, you will stream using your ISP, which is definitely faster than the VPN. ExpressVPN is the best VPN for Split Tunneling.
You should always choose a VPN depending on your needs, and speeds are always a significant factor in choosing. All VPNs are not created the same, and some are just terrible at speeds. You can know this by testing your ISP speed when not connected, then carrying out the test once more with your VPN client connected. A super fast VPN should be able to offer at least 80% of your ISP speeds. With some slow VPNs, your speeds can even go down by 70%!
Before committing to another VPN, you need to make sure that you will buy the right product. Try to see if the VPN offers a free trial for the premium service. If not, you can take advantage of the money-back guarantee offered by most top VPNs. Among VPNs that use proprietary protocols, I have found Hotspot Shield to be the fastest. For OpenVPN (good security + speed), ExpressVPN is the best.
Firewall settings and Antivirus programs do not directly affect your VPN’s performance. However, they can slow your VPN traffic by filtering or scanning outgoing data packets. This results in decreased speeds when you turn on your secure VPN connection. To counter this, check and make sure that your firewall settings are friendly to the VPN. Also, try disabling your Antivirus temporarily and see if your speeds improve.
If you are an advanced user, then here are a few things you can do;
A traceroute is helpful in identifying where the congestion in your network is coming from. In this case, you will need to run it without the VPN, and then with the VPN connected. Once you identify the congestion, you can then avoid it by connecting to other servers.
It is always advisable to use your VPN provider’s DNS. This helps you stay protected and encrypted by avoiding DNS privacy leaks. However, sometimes you may need to test whether this DNS is the cause of your speed troubles. In that case, you can override the DNS using 3rd party DNS servers. After you are done, remember to revert to your VPN DNS for better privacy.
This one will require you to do dig up some info on Google unless you already have. However, selecting the right MTU for your connection has been shown to improve the speed of a connection greatly. The only problem here is that once you change your network, you will also need to adjust your MTU. Nevertheless, it a very helpful solution.
On the off chance that none of the above tips work for you or for some reason you can’t implement them, there’s always the last option, ask for help. Your VPN provider will have support that you can access for help in this matter. What you shouldn’t do is discard your VPN because of decreased speeds. The importance of using a secure VPN connection can’t be overstated, and we hope the above tips improve your connection while maintaining your security, privacy and anonymity.