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It’s no secret that choosing the best VPN service is an important task in 2022.
Whether you want to use public Wi-Fi without risk, watch geo-restricted content on Netflix, or simply stay anonymous online – you’ll need a good VPN for maximum security.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) encrypts your traffic and hides your IP address and makes using insecure networks safer. It can also help you change your server locations and access location specific content from anywhere in the world. On top of that, VPNs are compatible with most operating systems and devices such as PCs, mobile devices, tablets, gaming consoles and routers.
However, choosing the best VPN for you may not always be easy, as there are so many options these days. But we are here to help!
Having tested and reviewed dozens of the top VPNs on the market, we bring you our list of the best VPN services for this year.
Why do We need a VPN?
Like antiviruses, VPNs are a cybersecurity tool aimed to provide better protection against various cyberthreats. Your digital footprints are scattered all around the web, and it's really easy to find – and possibly interrupt – your browsing, download and upload activities. VPNs are a staple in the cybersecurity world by now.
Marketers and cybercriminals can even go as far as to use the data they collect against you, so a VPN tool helps a lot. It hides your IP address and makes you virtually untraceable and invisible on the internet. Additionally, connecting to a VPN while using public networks helps to ensure the safety of your passwords and credit card details while banking and shopping, and doing anything else that requires your private information.
If your ISP likes to snoop around your browsing information or throttle speed when you're torrenting, a VPN can help avoid this. Additionally, connecting to a VPN server in another location can help you bypass geo-restrictions, including but not limited to accessing geo-specific streaming libraries and other content.
What Are the Best VPNs?
When choosing the VPN service that’s best for you, it is important to stop and think a little about the reasons why you need a VPN in the first place.
A decent VPN that unblocks streaming sites might not be sufficient for a tech-savvy user with exotic needs, or someone in a sensitive position, like a political activist.
The following list of the best VPNs of 2022 includes VPN services that cater to different needs and are 100% secure and reliable.
What is a VPN?
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a service that secures your connection over the internet. It does so by encrypting your traffic and hiding your Internet Protocol (IP) address from third parties, such as your government or your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
As a user, your interaction with a VPN isn't going to be difficult. Every step of the connection process is automated and is controlled via an app. Once you install it on your device, the service creates an encrypted “tunnel,” which it uses to exchange with a VPN server. It acts as an intermediary in your connection displaying an IP address assigned by your service provider.
Companies use VPNs to secure remote access of company data, but lots of individuals also need this type of service. I’m talking about journalists who work with sensitive information and want to remain anonymous, or those who live under authoritarian regimes and want to unblock access to various internet resources.
Some people are using VPN to protect their privacy or to access geographically restricted sites. This can happen due to censorship or because the website is available only to a limited number of visitors from a particular country.
How does a VPN work?
Generally, when you're connecting to some website, your device sends a query to your ISPs DNS server asking for its IP address. Then, your ISP routes your request to the website's server. When your device crunches the data, it displays a website with videos and pictures once it fully loads. This is fast, but it leaves a lot of traces of what you were doing online. So, over time ISPs can harness quite a lot of information about their users.
When you subscribe to a VPN service, you're entering an agreement to borrow their infrastructure. Such services own a large volume of servers, so your connection is no longer routed via your ISP when you connect to them. The VPN uses a tunneling protocol to connect to your selected remote server. However, this time you're not connecting directly.
The end website receives a different IP address than your own, and your ISP can only tell that you're using a VPN, but it doesn't know what you're doing. That way, your privacy becomes protected by a veil of shadow.
Benefits of using a VPN
Those new to this field may ask: “What can you do with a VPN?” It turns out, there are quite a few ways these tools can help you on a daily basis. Here's what you can do with a VPN:
- Protect your data. All reputable VPNs use military-grade encryption, which means that the information you’re sending over the Internet becomes inaccessible to decipher to third parties. For example, people living in restrictive countries use it to protect their identities. As such, VPN for China is a must.
- Hide your online activities from your ISP. A VPN hides your browsing activity from your Internet Service Provider. A VPN can even help you if you’re using Comcast Xfinity, one of the least privacy respectful providers in the US.
- Protect your identity. If you absolutely need to disappear off the grid when you’re surfing the web, use a VPN for anonymity. They will effectively remove any ties between your browsing habits and your real identity. It doesn't matter whether you use Windows, Mac, or Linux – a good VPN will work on any device. There are even specialized add-ons for Chrome and Firefox.
- Secure your wifi connection. Hotels and airports offer free but often unsecured wifi. Therefore, hackers might be snooping on your traffic. Luckily, thanks to the VPN's encryption, that is no longer a problem. It's an especially good pairing with Android or iOS phones.
- Beating geo-blocking. I bet you've seen a message “This content is unavailable in your country” at least once. Due to geo-blocking, you may not see the same Netflix shows that are available in the US or another country. However, the best VPN services can unblock Netflix, Hulu and support other popular streaming platforms and devices, such as Amazon Firestick and HBO, no matter where you are.
- Have better connections for gaming. Some ISPs are notorious for throttling gaming traffic. You can solve this by using a VPN with your PlayStation, Xbox, Nvidia Shield, or any other gaming device.
- Safe torrenting. P2P is legal in most countries, but that doesn’t mean downloading copyrighted content is. Using a VPN for torrenting will protect your identity and your location from both the ISP and the government. A VPN will even allow you to stream Kodi.
These are only a few ways of using a Virtual Private Network. Others may include avoiding bandwidth throttling, defending against malware, or finding the lowest prices when doing online shopping.
What are the limitations of a VPN?
Although VPN is a good tool to make your connection safer, this doesn't protect you from all possible dangers. Your connection will indeed be much safer with them, but if you enter your personal information on some sketchy website, your data will still end up in someone's hands.
You can still download malware when using a VPN, as they aren't intended to check your files. So, it still matters to exercise proper cyber-hygiene when visiting websites, even when using a VPN.
How do I get a VPN?
If you prefer a DIY approach, you can rent a server somewhere far away and then self-host a VPN for yourself. You'd need a could-hosting provider and some technical know-how. For everyone else, there are VPN service providers.
These are businesses that are lending their server fleet for a monthly fee. When you pay them, they give access to their global networks. Once you're their subscriber, you can just head to their website, download, and install their client. Once you log in, you get the list of all available countries where you're able to connect.
You can minimize the VPN to the background so it doesn't interfere with your browsing. However, if you head online to check your IP address, it would display a different one if you actually were teleported to a foreign country.
Can VPN services be trusted?
All VPN providers claim to have no-logs policies, but this isn't often the truth. There are many reports of a no-logs VPN service, which leaked private its users' information after a major data breach. So, even if you're not paranoid, it may be a bit hard to trust such claims.
However, there are ways to filter out untrustworthy VPN services. Here's what you should look for:
- Court cases. There's no better method to prove its privacy-policy claims than their response to the law requests. If a VPN service collaborates with law enforcement and shows up in court with a list of logs, don't think that it would be different in your case.
- Ownership. You should always take into account the owners of a VPN service. Chances are they manage several other products and look into how they are managed. Were there any data breaches or privacy scandals? This may also help to form a perspective on how your data will be treated.
Free vs. Paid VPNs: which is the best for you?
In general, paid VPNs are better than the free ones. The latter have to rely on ads and selling your data (which is not always anonymized), unless they are offered by a premium VPN provider. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a good free VPN – it’s just that they will have one or more limitations that often are a deal-breaker.
The most common free VPN limitations are as follows:
- Speed. Most free services are slower than paid ones. While you might be able to stream in full HD using some VPNs, expect a serious drop-off in speeds.
- Servers. Free VPNs usually offer only a few servers in the US, the Netherlands, and some other countries. Also, those servers tend to be overloaded and have high latency, which is bad for gaming and VoIP calls.
- Data limit. Freemium VPN services will often give you a certain amount of GBs per month or MBs per day. Therefore, downloading large files or streaming high quality videos will soon leave you blocked until next month.
- Number of devices. Expect to get only one connection per account. This means that you won’t be able to use a free VPN on both your computer and your smartphone.
- Geo-blocking and P2P. You won’t be able to use Netflix and other streaming platforms with most VPNs. What’s more, some of them also prohibit torrenting, especially if they don’t have a data limit.
If you choose a solid paid VPN, you won’t have to deal with the issues listed above. You won’t see any ads either and your data won’t be sold to third-parties. Also, you can expect priority customer support which will solve most of the problems right away.
Are free VPNs safe?
Whether a free VPN is safe will entirely depend on the context. Even on the Google Play store, you can find many of them, though the most popular option isn't always the safest one. Free VPNs are a notoriously muddy segment.
Always be suspicious of free VPN that serve you ads, as they're most likely contenders that are collecting your data. This completely invalidates the purpose of a VPN in the first place, so you should not install them on your devices.
A much better option is using reputable VPN providers. Some of them have free versions of their premium products. It often acts as a bait for you to buy their service later, but there are ones that have no caps and can be used for free forever.
Don't forget that most premium VPNs offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, so if you refund it before your trial ends, you essentially get a free service.
What's the fastest VPN?
When we're talking about the VPN speeds, we're actually factoring in several different things.
- The distance from your location to a VPN server to your device
- The used tunneling protocol
- The VPN server's load
- Your baseline Internet speed
Even time of the day could also be an important factor. All of this makes the evaluation for the fastest VPN that much more challenging.
We usually calculate the drop-off speeds in our reviews and comparisons compared to the baseline speed test results. So, the faster VPN is the one that reduces your baseline speed less. Among such services are NordVPN, Surfshark, Hotspot Shield, and ExpressVPN.
Can you be tracked if you use VPN?
In theory, you can be tracked even if you use a VPN. However, only governments hold such power and they likely won’t spend the necessary resources to get you.
But doing that won’t be easy if you use an anonymous payment and a throwaway email to create your account. The tracking also becomes much harder if you use Tor over VPN and your chosen provider doesn’t keep any logs.
What is the best VPN in 2022?
The best VPN in 2022 is NordVPN. It excels in many different areas like speed, features, and security. It also works with Netflix and is inexpensive.
What is the best free VPN?
Currently, ProtonVPN is the best indefinite free VPN. It gives you unlimited bandwidth and data, access to three countries, and military-grade encryption.
Is it worth paying for VPN?
Yes. Most of the time, free VPNs have data limits and don’t offer all the features you might need.
Are VPNs legal to use?
Yes. It is completely legal to use a VPN if you’re not using it to perform illegal actions.
Is a VPN good for gaming?
Specifically, when looking for a VPN for gaming, you should look into the introduced latency. If it's too high, it's a good chance that your online gaming session won't be very enjoyable. To make it a bit better, you can connect to whichever server is closest to you. This may help to strike a balance between privacy and performance.