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Does Using a VPN Slow Down Your Internet?

A VPN (virtual private network) is a software program that protects users’ online privacy and security. A VPN hides users’ IP addresses and sends data through a secure connection to a VPN server. Users can surf the web safely, anonymously and efficiently with a VPN.

Even with the security and privacy that VPNs offer, many people still hesitate to use the software. There is a general conception that using a VPN slows down browsing speed. But critical analysis of VPNs reveals that factors like the distance of the server, VPN protocol and the encryption process can affect the browsing speed. Another fact is that a VPN might slow down the network negligibly, but the network will eventually pick up speed after some time. Moving data across multiple servers and encrypting and decrypting data might further slow down consumers. Users should be aware, however, that each VPN has its speed capabilities.
VPN effects on Internet Speed

How Can a VPN Affect Internet Speed?

Slower speeds are common when using a VPN, although this is not always the case. For example, the average internet user will experience 10-20% slower speeds while using a VPN. Network providers may limit users’ bandwidth at times, but connecting to a VPN server allows users to avoid such limits. Some factors that can affect a VPN’s speed are given below.

An image featuring internet speed VPN concept
  • The VPN protocol: Some security protocols, particularly older protocols, have an impact on internet performance. Users can experience fast speeds by using the OpenVPN protocol.
  • Internet set up: The user’s internet configuration might have a significant impact on the VPN experience. Users should consider the distance between the user’s WiFi hub and the device. Additionally, connecting to a cabled ethernet boosts speeds better than WiFi.
  • The VPN server: VPNs with a small number of servers can affect browsing speeds because the rate of traffic on each server can slow down users’ connections. Users should also choose servers that are close to their location.
  • The VPN service: Choosing the best VPN provider is another important factor determining what consumers will experience. Some free VPNs and small VPNs may not provide the optimal speed that a user requires.

Can a VPN Speed Up My Internet Connection?

An image featuring internet speed VPN concept

Yes, a VPN can speed up your internet connection. Using a fast VPN can enhance users’ speed experience. Also, VPNs are bypassing bandwidth throttling. When a user’s ISP (internet service provider) limits or slows some traffic, this is known as bandwidth throttling. ISPs are subjected to bandwidth throttling for a variety of reasons. ISPs can ensure that all users have a favorable experience on average.

Similarly, ISPs can prevent network congestion for a while. As a result, a VPN hides users’ online activities from ISPs when browsing. Whenever a user connects to a VPN while gaming, the VPN hides the user’s identity and activity from their ISP, thereby preventing the user’s internet connection from being throttled.

What Are the Situations Where a VPN Slows Down the Internet?

When using a VPN as a gateway that routes all users’ traffic, a VPN will inevitably slow down users’ internet speed. In addition, the VPN encryption method used to overcome ISP throttling can reduce users’ internet speed by a small amount. Server loads can also impact the speed of one’s internet when connected to a VPN service. Joining a server that’s nearby—in the user’s home country, state or city—or is not overloaded can help resolve connection speed issues.

Will a VPN Stop Buffering for Videos?

Yes, a well-encrypted VPN will stop buffering for videos. Buffering is the process of watching or listening to a video or media file while still loading. The purpose of a buffer is to save data before usage. Buffers are used by computer programs to store data during processing.

How to Check Your VPN Speed

Conducting a VPN test is the best approach to determining a VPN’s speed. Users’ conventional internet connection is compared to the VPN speed in a VPN speed test. The bandwidth of the internet is commonly measured in megabits per second (Mbps). To test VPN speeds, the user should first know the typical speed without a VPN. To begin, disconnect from the VPN and perform a speed test.

Visit one of the best internet speed test sites. You’ll notice a large round button on the web page that says “Go.” Below that, on the right, the user will see the server used for the connection. Users can adjust the server or simply disregard this option.

An image featuring Security Gladiators internet speed test tool

After pressing the large button, hold on for the 30 to 60 seconds needed to test download and upload speeds. The test result will be displayed after the computations are complete. These are the download and upload speeds, as well as the ping (latency) of the connection.

An image featuring Security Gladiators internet speed test tool

Note:

The speed test result is useful in determining several online activities. For users who wish to play online games while utilizing a VPN, the ping is crucial. Latency, or how fast the changes are delivered across the user’s connection, is determined by ping. The download speed is perhaps the most crucial for everyone else, as this factor influences how quickly one can browse the web and stream. On the other hand, the upload speed is important to consider for professionals who want to work while using a VPN because this factor affects file sharing and uploads.

To see the difference when using a VPN, one must first connect to a VPN. Security Gladiators is using ProtonVPN, a good VPN service, for this article. The screenshot below shows the connection to a server in the United Arab Emirates first, around 5,058 kilometers (3,143 miles) away.

An image featuring Security Gladiators internet speed test tool

The latency increases as upload while download speeds decrease. Now, let’s try again and see what happens.

When connecting to a server in the United States that’s 10,642 km (6,624 miles) away, the latency will skyrocket while the upload speed will eventually reduce. However, the download speed will be slower than the United Arab Emirates server.

An image featuring Security Gladiators internet speed test tool

How Can I Make My VPN Faster than Before?

The following troubleshooting steps can help make your VPN faster than before.

An image featuring WireGuard
  • Select a different set of servers.
  • Choose a VPN that makes use of WireGuard.
  • Alter your gadgets.
  • Restart your computer.
  • Change the VPN protocol or port.
  • Make use of a hardwired connection.
  • Restart your modem/router.
  • Disable local security software for some time.
  • Update your device with the most recent version of the operating system.
  • Connect from a different location.

All of these tips should work to increase VPN speeds, but the first two options are the most critical, as explained below.

1. Pick a Different Server

Every VPN has numerous servers that users can choose from. Users can check for server locations on the VPN app and change to another server. The point of doing this is to explore the speed of other servers. Choosing a server that is closer to one’s location will improve speed. Furthermore, depending on how near the congestion is to the user’s location, switching to a server in another region may allow the user to avoid any congestion concerns.

2. Select a VPN that Uses WireGuard

On some networks, connections to OpenVPN may be limited or throttled. WireGuard could make one’s connection go faster. A VPN protocol specifies how data is sent from a user’s device to the VPN server. The speed, privacy and reliability of your connection are all affected by the VPN protocol. Because WireGuard is more secure, modern, and efficient, several service providers have converted from OpenVPN to the WireGuard protocol.

What Are the Best VPNs for a Faster Internet Connection?

Speed is as important as security and privacy. The fastest VPNs for internet connection are listed below.

An image featuring internet speed VPN concept

Which Country Should You Connect Your VPN to for Faster Internet?

European countries such as Sweden, Switzerland and Denmark are among the fastest countries to connect to in terms of average internet speeds. Speed is also a strength in Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and the United Kingdom.

An image featuring internet speed VPN concept

The VPN’s speed is determined by the server chosen. As a result, users should exercise caution when picking servers. Connecting to a server near the user’s physical location will provide the greatest performance. It’s best to avoid servers far away from the user’s current location to reduce latency and enhance performance. When choosing countries that have the fastest internet connection, consider the following factors.

  • Number of the internet service providers in a country
  • The country’s content restriction policies
  • Violation of user privacy rights

How Free VPNs Affect Your Internet Connection

A free VPN’s speed will be slow due to the limited number of servers available. A user may just need to connect to any available server. Also, by displaying advertisements and selling user bandwidth, free VPNs slow down users’ internet speeds.

What Other Things Affect Internet Speed?

Users must be aware of a variety of factors that influence internet speed. Knowing this will help users figure out what is causing the poor speed and how to fix it. Therefore, the relevant internet speed factors are outlined below.

  1. Distance to server
  2. Server load
  3. Internet speed offered by the ISP
  4. Quality of encryption

1. Distance to a Server

An image featuring server distance concept

A server is one of the determinants of a VPN’s functionality. The distance of a server to the user’s location can greatly affect the speed of browsing. The farther the traffic must travel to reach a VPN provider’s servers, the slower the VPN will be, as more data packets will be dropped, resulting in slower speeds. The VPN speed will be faster if the distance between the server and the user’s location is smaller. To get the most out of a VPN, users should select a server from a nearby region.

2. Server Load

The number of users connected to a server at any given time is referred to as server load. Also, people’s activities on the internet have an impact on the load of a server. Most VPNs with a small number of servers will have sluggish VPN speeds. Even free VPNs with limited server networks cannot guarantee consumers will have fast browsing speeds.

3. Internet Speed Offered by the ISP

Most ISPs throttle users’ internet speeds during browsing. Even if a VPN hides users’ activities from the internet service provider and prevents customers’ internet from being slow, the experience might still be restricted. The only way to avoid this is to ensure that the internet provider supplies enough bandwidth.

4. Quality of Encryption

An image featuring encryption concept

The mechanism through which a VPN generates a safe and encrypted path is known as the VPN encryption protocol. This encryption protects the data within the VPN client–VPN server tunnel, ensuring no one can access it. The amount of encryption used by a VPN for users’ traffic affects the speed of the connection. For example, if the VPN uses 128-bit encryption, the speed will be faster than 256-bit encryption.

Isa Oyekunle Isa is a seasoned writer and a cybersecurity expert with about 7 years of experience under his belt. He has worked with a number of prominent cybersecurity websites worldwide, where he has produced hundreds of authoritative articles regarding the broad subject of internet security. He’s always been enthusiastic about digital security, and now, he’s committed to enlightening people around the world about it.
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