Does VPN Slow Down Your Internet? [Short Answer: Probably Not]
Someone’s mumbling in a conversation, people moving slowly on a busy sidewalk, your Wi-Fi’s moving at a snail’s pace…These may pop up in your head if you think of the word annoying. And the latter will probably win the annoyance contest, since slow internet clogs whatever you may be doing online — work, study, or binge-watching your TV show to chill after the first two.
So, it’s no surprise that many people look for a VPN that doesn’t mess with internet speeds. In this article, we’ll answer questions you’ve most likely been asking yourself — does a VPN slow down your internet and is a fast VPN just a myth? You’ll also learn about how to speed up your VPN. Ready? Let’s make it quick (just like Wi-Fi should be!)
Does VPN affect internet speed?
Slow internet connection is probably the most common stereotype circling around VPNs. And yes, this was the case some time ago before speed wasn’t a priority when VPN protocols were designed.
Note: Determining the level of encryption, a VPN protocol is a mix of transmission protocols and encryption standards. Basically, a key element to VPN’s work is how it encrypts your data and sends it to its destination.
Different protocols provide different speeds. And just a few years back, OpenVPN was the leading VPN protocol. It’s still considered as secure and reliable, with almost every VPN today employing it. However, connection speed was never a priority when it was first introduced. So your internet may have suffered. But is this still the case for newer products?
Fast VPN today: Real or not?
Totally real. Once again, while slow speeds were a reality in the past, serious declines in speed are an exception rather than a rule these days. The truth is that a VPN is bound to slow down your connection a bit since it takes time for a VPN to encrypt and decrypt data. But this slowdown is practically invisible with modern VPNs. So, what’s changed? Let’s discuss.
VPN speed these days: What changed?
The main difference is that VPN protocols got better. Yes, technology doesn’t stay put — other protocols, like WireGuard, appeared designed with greater speed and enhanced privacy in mind. Designed to improve upon existing VPN protocols by being faster and easier to use, WireGuard uses faster encryption methods and is optimized to work on multiple processor cores simultaneously. Released in 2019, it’s already incorporated into many VPN services.
So, with more advanced protocols in place, modern VPNs just can’t afford to offer slow speeds. But…does it concern free VPNs, as well? Let’s find out.
Free VPNs: Need for speed
Are sluggish speeds on free VPNs a myth or reality? Most likely the latter. Why so? The thing is that free VPN providers impose specific limitations on users, largely hoping they’ll upgrade to a paid plan to avoid them. Among major restrictions are:
- Slower connection. Providers often choose to cap speeds on free versions. Let’s take ProtonVPN, for example, which comes in a free and paid version, with the former providing slower speeds compared to that on the paid plans.
- Limits on data usage. With a free VPN, you may also end up with the limited amount of data you can use.
- Small server network. To take ProtonVPN as an example again, its server network on a free and paid plans significantly differ — 147 servers in 3 countries on a free plan against 500+ servers in 40+ countries. The shorter the distance data has to travel, the better. So, if you’re limited to a handful of servers, your connection may suffer.
At the same time, premium (paid) VPNs are mostly uncapped. Let’s compare free and premium VPNs head-to-head to clearly see the difference:
|Free VPN||Paid VPN|
|Speed||Mostly capped||Highest speed|
|Data usage||Mostly limited||Unlimited bandwidth and traffic|
|Server network||Small server networks||Extensive server networks|
How to test VPN connection speed
So, here’s a thing — your VPN often provides different speeds when you’re connected to servers in different locations. Once again, the closer the server is to your real location, the faster your connection is going to be. You can run quick speed tests when connected to different servers to see which one works better for you. Here’s how you can do it with Ookla speed test:
- Turn off your VPN
- Open Ookla speed test and click ‘Go’
- Check your upload and download speeds without your VPN on
- Switch on your VPN and connect to a server
- Note your upload and download speeds with your VPN on
- To compare the difference in speeds of different servers, repeat steps 3, 4, and 5.
You’ll most likely get worse results connecting to servers in geographically distant countries. Still, a top VPN provider won’t slow your internet connection down significantly — this way, you’ll enjoy high-quality encryption without your internet speed suffering much.
How to make VPN faster?
Say you ran a speed test and didn’t like what you saw. Worry not — it doesn’t mean all hope is lost. We’ve compiled some tips for you on how to make your VPN faster. Check out the following.
1. Switch to a different protocol
Once again, different protocols can affect your connection speed differently. So you can try switching between them to see which works better for you. To do so in the VeePN app, for example, go to Settings > VPN Protocol, where you’ll see several options available. Here’s how it looks on Windows app:
2. Check your Internet connection
Although rerouting your traffic via a VPN server may slow down your connection speed a bit, VPN isn’t the bad guy if you have sluggish Wi-Fi in the first place. As we’ve mentioned before, you can run separate tests for a connection with and without VPN to know for sure what’s causing speed decrease. And maybe all you need is just to upgrade your internet subscription.
3. Restart your router (and your device, for that matter)
Ah, the good old “reset the device if it doesn’t work” rule that’s often underestimated by many. Find your router, dust it off and find the “Reset” button. Rebooting your PC or phone surely won’t be a bad idea as well. Maybe your device is just tired and will come to its senses after a quick restart.
4. Change server location
Server location and server load are among the main factors affecting a speed loss. Thus, changing to a different server closer to your location can greatly improve your internet speed.
5. Tell your firewall to put fire off
Firewalls and antiviruses can slow down your connection speed as well, since these applications have to filter through all the data before concluding it’s safe for your device. Some might even conflict with the VPN service, dubbing it a possibly dangerous one. Adding the VPN app to the antivirus or firewall’s exceptions might help with the “conflict” part, but it won’t solve the speed problem. To do so, you need to disable these programs temporarily and see if it helps with the velocity. Be careful though, as this leaves you exposed to viruses and malware threats.
6. Use a wired connection
While certainly great, Wi-Fi can lose you some speed, especially when you have several devices connected to the same network. So, if you really need to dig out the last couple of megabytes your internet service provider (ISP) offers, you could switch to a wired connection. Keeping a few feet of UTP cable at home is always a good idea, anyway.
7. Choose a reliable VPN provider
Free VPNs are surely alluring, but even if you won’t pay in money, it may still cost you in slower speed, poorer security, and even data exposure (free VPN providers have to make profit somehow, you know, so selling your data isn’t out of the picture). At the same time, premium VPNs can afford to develop extensive server networks along with solid encryption protocols.
VeePN can be your go-to solution. It has a useful Optimal Location feature — VeePN recommends the fastest server to connect to before turning your VPN on. Here’s how it looks in the Windows app:
VeePN uses several VPN protocols, namely WireGuard, OpenVPN (TCP and UDP), and IKEv2, top-grade AES-256 encryption and an extensive network of 2,500+ servers across 60 countries, between which you can easily switch.
Is speed on your chosen server sluggish? Switch to the one closer to you or choose another VPN protocol. Keep your data safe and your connection speed fast. Hassle-free.
How much will a VPN slow down my internet?
A VPN is bound to slow down your connection a bit, as it takes time for a VPN to encrypt and decrypt data. However, this slowdown is practically invisible with modern VPNs due to advanced VPN protocols they use.
Does VPN affect Wi-Fi connection?
Yes, a VPN will probably affect your Wi-Fi connection because it encrypts your traffic and provides you with an extra layer of security. Yet, this influence isn’t significant, so you wouldn’t suffer from great speed loss.
Why does VPN slow my Internet?
First, a VPN is going to slow down your internet speed to some extent, since data encryption takes time. But this slowdown practically goes unnoticed with modern VPNs. Nevertheless, if the decrease in speed is pretty much noticeable, it may be due to one of the following reasons: server load, distance to a server, or the internet speed offered by your internet service provider (ISP).