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Best VPN for PC 2024: Which provider has the best PC experience?

Verified by Molly Dyson

A VPN for your PC can strengthen your online security and privacy. Most of us spend a lot of time on the web, and most PCs don’t come with robust security measures as standard. However, most PC VPN apps offer a robust level of security and a large cohort of security tools to protect your device. 

Though there are a large number of PC VPNs available, the right one for you can depend on your usage. Our best overall VPN for PC is NordVPN, as it provides a robust level of security and speed. If you’re interested in unlocking geo-restricted content while abroad, ExpressVPN is our best at unblocking content. Surfshark is a great choice for beginners, as it’s easy to use, secure and affordable.  

In our guide, we’ve researched, reviewed and tested the best VPNs for PCs. We’ve compared several of the top providers, covering security features, download speeds, latency results, and privacy protocols.

Our top three VPNs for PC

There are three great VPN options for PC, but picking the right one depends on your priorities. If speed and privacy is your main concern, you should consider NordVPN. If you’re a VPN novice and want something that’s plug and play at a low price, then Surfshark (ranked our best value for money VPN) could be the way to go. If you want to bypass geo-restrictions and stream content, albeit at a premium price, ExpressVPN is worth a look. Whichever VPN you choose from these three, our researchers think it’s unlikely you’ll be disappointed.

The best VPNs for PC compared

The defining feature of any VPN for your PC is its commitment to security and privacy, backed by robust encryption, stringent privacy features, and advanced protective features. 

AES-256 encryption is currently recognised as the most impregnable option available, and all of our reviewed VPNs use this. There should also be a stringent, independently audited no-logs policy. Again, this is something our top five best VPNs for PC have published, reassuring users they retain no records of their online activity. 

Advanced features, such as split tunnelling, kill switches and a broad range of optimised servers, are also important attributes to look for, as are connection reliability and download speeds. A good VPN service for your PC should provide steady connectivity, enabling browsing, streaming, and downloading without significant latency issues.

Price From £2.49/m From £6.77/m From £1.79/m From £1.78/m From £4.27/m
Free version No No No No Yes
Max number of connected devices 6 5 Unlimited 7 10
Number of servers 5500+ 3000+ 3200+ 9000+ 2700+
AES-256 encryption Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Audited no-log policy Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Where to buy

NordVPN: Best overall VPN for PC

nordvpn logo

Lowest price: £2.49 per month for a 24-month subscription | Free version: No | Maximum number of connected devices: 6 | Number of servers: 5,700+ in 60 countries | Encryption: AES-256 | VPN protocols: IKEv2/IPsec, OpenVPN, and NordLynx (WireGuard protocol) | No-log policy: Does not log user activity | Audited: Yes, by PwC and Deloitte | Headquarters: Panama

Pros and cons

Pros

Specialist servers Audited no-logs policy Robust security protocols

Cons

Automatic subscription renewal enabled by default No free plan option

The cornerstone of NordVPN’s appeal is its superior security attributes. It employs robust encryption protocols to shield your data from unwanted scrutiny, presenting itself as a dependable defence against cyber threats. A stringent no-logs policy substantiated by independent audits underscores its commitment to user privacy.  

NordVPN’s Threat Protection feature blocks dangerous websites known for hosting malware or phishing scams, further protecting your PC from cyber threats. It also scans any files while they’re downloading, identifying threats and blocking them before they can harm your PC. Other features include a scanner that sends alerts if your data has been leaked onto the Dark Web, MeshNet for secure file sharing, and a robust kill switch.  

NordVPN also boasts a number of optimised servers, including Double VPNs, which direct traffic via two servers for an extra layer of encryption, and Onion Over VPN, facilitating access to the Onion network without the need for Tor installation. 

NordVPN is designed for most internet users, from individuals who prioritise online privacy to businesses that can leverage the benefits of NordLayer – a business-focused security solution providing employees with secure remote access. 

Cost

NordVPN has three payment tiers – Standard, Plus and Complete, with each available as a monthly, yearly, or two-year plan. The monthly subscription is billed every month, while the other two plans require payment up front. NordVPN’s current birthday promotion comes with a 67 per cent discount, working out to just £2.49 per month. The provider is also offering three extra months free for anyone who signs up for a two-year plan by 20 March. It’s our recommendation as one of the best VPN deals on the market right now.

There is also a 30-day money-back guarantee across all the tiers.

Subscription Term Standard plan Plus plan Complete plan
Monthly £10.39 ($13.26) / month £11.19 ($14.28) / month £13.09 ($16.71) / month
12 months (+3 months free) £3.59 ($4.58) / month (£53.85/$68.74 up front for 15 months) £4.39 ($5.60) / month (£65.85/$84.06 up front for 15 months) £6.39 ($8.16) / month (£95.85/$122.36 up front for 15 months)
24 months (+3 months free) £2.49 ($3.18) / month (£67.23/$85.82 up front for 27 months) £3.19 ($4.07) / month (£86.13/$109.95 up front for 27 months) £5.19 ($6.63) / month (£140.13/$178.89 up front for 27 months)

Security

NordVPN uses AES-256 encryption, the most secure encryption standard, to ensure your data is safely transmitted over the internet. This high level of encryption makes it practically impossible for anyone to access or decipher your data, offering top-tier protection against cyber threats.

The provider also has a strict no-logs policy, meaning it doesn’t collect or retain your activity logs. This has been confirmed with independent audits by two Big Four auditing firms, ensuring you can trust its commitment to your privacy.

User experience

Best VPN for PC Nord home screen
NordVPN’s PC app features a map interface for choosing a server to connect to (NordVPN)

NordVPN’s PC app includes an innovative, interactive onboarding guide that introduces its features and demonstrates how to customise the settings and automation; for example, determining the conditions under which NordVPN will automatically connect or what process triggers the kill switch. 

The PC app is designed to be user-friendly, uncluttered, and easy to navigate, with an aesthetically pleasing map-based interface. It allows users to connect seamlessly to a VPN server by tapping on a country’s pin or choosing a server from the available list. For those seeking an immediate, automated selection, a Quick Connect button is also provided.

However, while the PC app is simple and quick, some users have reported difficulties accessing geo-blocked content. NordVPN is also rated our best VPN for iPhones and also best for Andriod devices so all of your decides will be secured. 

Performance

NordVPN performed impressively in our speed tests on PC. Although local connections within the UK saw a decrease in the upload speed, which maintained half of the no-VPN level, the service retained most of the download speed. These speeds are sufficient to support seamless online experiences.

Testing the transatlantic connection to a US server revealed robust download speeds at 89 per cent of the baseline, but uploads plummeted to 15 per cent of the reference levels, potentially slowing down file-sharing and video uploading. The long-distance connection to Australia retained a strong three-quarters of the base download speed, with uploads mirroring the US scenario at 14 per cent of the baseline. Irrespective of these decreases in upload speeds, NordVPN delivers a robust performance, making it the right option for the majority of users, including streamers and gamers.

Speed test results

Speed test result without activating NordVPN. This is the baseline against which we measure the impact of the VPN on speed and latency. Below the readings of the download and the upload speeds are the ping (latency) in milliseconds and the amount of data downloaded (green) and uploaded (purple) during the test (in megabytes).
Download speed (Mbps) Upload speed (Mbps) Latency (ping) Percentage of base download speed Percentage of base upload speed
No VPN 453.38 355.43 6
UK to UK 455.72 127.88 33 101% 50%
UK to US 403.26 37.04 119 89% 15%
UK to Aus 324 34.71 235 72% 14%

Date tested: 29/10/23

Customer service

Users can reach out to NordVPN’s customer support team either through the in-app chat feature or by email. However, customer feedback regarding the service has been varied.

NordVPN’s ratings across different platforms demonstrate its overall good performance, with a score of 4.4 on Trustpilot, 4.7 on the Apple App Store, and 4.5 on Google Play. Some users commented on the rapid and helpful support they received, while others expressed dissatisfaction over refunds and connection problems.

“[I had] issues logging in with the Windows 10 app solved within minutes. My app refused to let me log in. The support agent took the case on the chat and found the reason for the problem within a few moments. His help was polite, concise and to the point. Very happy with this!”

“The iOS and Windows applications are very easy to use, and the server reliability is much better than other services I’ve used, such as Surfshark and PIA – no more lag when streaming. However, after a couple days, the Windows app stopped working, so I chatted with support and was very impressed with how efficient the process is and how kind their service rep Jarvis was. I ran the diagnostics tool using the Windows app, which generated a ticket number, which I gave to the service rep (Jarvis), and they were able to figure out what was wrong and got my VPN working again in five minutes.”

Verdict 

NordVPN delivers a comprehensive suite of features, strong online privacy standards, and rigorous, verified security protocols. Its commitment to innovative technology, as demonstrated by the introduction of NordLayer, Meshnet, and Dark Web Scanning, and a user-friendly design, broadens its appeal to diverse users.

While it might be considered a higher-cost option in certain scenarios, the value offered by its high-quality app justifies the expense and makes it one of the best VPNs for PC on the market. NordVPN makes a compelling case as a choice for both novices to VPN services and experienced users seeking a holistic solution for online privacy and security.

Score: ★★★★½

Read our full NordVPN review.

Today’s best NordVPN deals
NordVPN 2 year £2.49 /Month
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NordVPN 1 year £3.59 /Month
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Surfshark: Best PC VPN for novices

surfshark logo white on blue

Lowest price: From £1.79 per month for a 24-month plan (plus two months free) | Free version: No | Maximum number of connected devices: Unlimited | Number of servers: 3,200+ | Encryption: AES-256 | VPN protocols: WireGuard, IKEv2, and OpenVPN | No-log policy: Yes | Audited: Yes | Headquarters: Netherlands

Pros and cons

Pros

Unlimited simultaneous device connections Broad global server network IP Rotator feature

Cons

Price hike upon renewal Confusing privacy policy

Surfshark, with its broad global server network, incorporates a suite of security features, including high-grade encryption, a kill switch, and protection against IP/DNS leaks. It also features CleanWeb, an ad, tracker, and malware-blocking tool, and Bypasser for split tunnelling. Some servers offer MultiHop or double VPN connections, routing traffic via two servers for enhanced security. 

Despite its feature-rich offerings, Surfshark maintains an intuitive interface with its PC app, catering to both VPN beginners and seasoned users. 

Cost

Although Surfshark’s pricing is competitive, particularly for long-term plans, the hike in cost at the time of renewal might catch some users off guard. Surfshark provides a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Subscription Term Price
Monthly £12.23 ($15.45) / month
12 months £2.29 ($2.90) / month (£32.06/$40.66 up front)
24 months (+2 months free) £1.79 ($2.27) / month (£46.54/$59.03 up front for 26 months)

Security

Surfshark uses industry-standard AES-256 encryption to secure your data, operates its own private, zero-knowledge DNS on each server to prevent DNS leaks, and offers an extra layer of security by routing your traffic through two servers instead of one with its MulitHop feature. 

Surfshark has an overly complex privacy policy; however, Deloitte has verified its no-logs policy. 

User experience

Best VPN for PC Surfshark MultiHop
The Surfshark PC app is user-friendly and easily customised (Surfshark)

Surfshark’s PC app is intuitive and flexible, offering aesthetic options for either light or dark themes. Its many features present clear, user-friendly pathways for navigation and single-click connection. Surfshark’s simplicity caters well to most users; however, those with technical expertise seeking advanced customisation may find their options somewhat limited.

Our researchers felt Surfshark performed better than ExpressVPN at maintaining a steady connection, placing the latter in third position. 

Performance

In our speed tests, Surfshark delivered a relatively robust performance in the UK, with negligible speed loss. We registered substantial speed retention in both downloads and uploads, maintaining 90 and 82 per cent of the no-VPN rates, respectively, suggesting robust local server efficiency. 

Transatlantic connections to the US showed a slight drop in download speeds and a considerable degradation in upload performance, which could impact data-intensive tasks. The connection to Australia exhibited a steep decline to 25 per cent of the reference download speed, coupled with 7 per cent upload retention, indicating the possibility of facing significant slowdowns. High latency figures, particularly with Australian servers, might deter those requiring real-time responsiveness. Overall, Surfshark remains a viable budget-friendly option with strong local speeds but not so stable performance over long distances.

Speed test results

Speed test result without activating Surfshark. This is the baseline against which we measure the impact of the VPN on speed and latency. Below the readings of the download and the upload speeds are the ping (latency) in milliseconds and the amount of data downloaded (green) and uploaded (purple) during the test (in megabytes).
Download speed (Mbps) Upload speed (Mbps) Latency (ping) Percentage of base download speed Percentage of base upload speed
No VPN 501.36 378.9 4
UK to UK 453.63 311.24 11 90% 82%
UK to US 420.6 40.85 131 84% 11%
UK to Aus 123.06 25.14 236 25% 7%

Date tested: 29/10/23

Customer service

Surfshark boasts a Trustpilot rating of 4.5, a 4.8 score on the Apple App Store, and 4.5 on Google Play, indicating that large numbers of customers are happy with its service. However, a few users have voiced concerns regarding the provider’s auto-renewal process. 

Its customer service team can be contacted via the in-app chat, which is quick and responsive, or email.  

“Surfshark is amazing. Simply fast, worked on all my devices (for me a 2021 iPad and my Windows 11 laptop) and support was just really easy to talk to and work with. I asked for a refund (due to my student budget) and as it fell within the money-back guarantee they didn’t hesitate, so thank you so much. Christopher especially was quite kind, thanks a bunch!”

“I purchased a subscription a couple of years ago, and generally liked using the service. However, as I was not using it much lately, I did not intend to renew my subscription. However, Surfshark turned on subscription auto-renewal by default, and I was not aware of this. At the end of the initial subscription period, I was charged for an additional year. I only realised that I had been charged after the initial 30-day period had lapsed. Despite multiple emails to their customer service team, Surfshark refused to refund me although I have been a loyal customer.”

Verdict

Surfshark’s PC app is user-friendly and easily navigated. Perfect for those new to VPNs, the optional instructional pop-ups give detailed information on each feature, allowing users to select the best one for their requirements. It also has features for more experienced users to get their teeth into. 

Score: ★★★★½

Read our full Surfshark review.

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Surfshark 24 month £1.79 /Month
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ExpressVPN: Best PC VPN for accessing geo-restricted content

ExpressVPN logo

Lowest price: From £6.77 for a 12-month subscription | Free version: No | Maximum number of connected devices: 8 | Number of servers: 3,000+ | Encryption: AES-256 | VPN protocols: Lightway, IKEv2 | No-log policy: Yes | Audited: Yes | Headquarters: British Virgin Islands

Pros and cons

Pros

Tracker and malicious website blocker included Auto-reconnect option Wide server network spanning 105 countries

Cons

Subscription cost is higher than NordVPN and Surfshark Owner Kape Technologies has a poor former reputation

ExpressVPN boasts a vast global server network, beneficial for users wanting to bypass geo-restrictions. The broad server coverage supports reliable, high-speed connections vital for downloads or gaming. Regarding security, ExpressVPN uses strong AES-256 encryption protocols and offers features like a kill switch and split tunnelling, which has three options – all activity is tunnelled, certain apps are isolated from the tunnel, or specified apps are always tunnelled. 

ExpressVPN enables users to customise their online journey by choosing from various protocols, including the company’s proprietary Lightway protocol, to provide quicker speeds and more dependable connections. Its applications are generally user-friendly and accommodate both tech-savvy individuals and beginners in the VPN landscape. 

On the downside, ExpressVPN ranks among the pricier options in the VPN market, which may deter some users. Additionally, it offers fewer connected devices than some of its competitors.

In 2021, ExpressVPN disclosed its acquisition by Kape Technologies, the owner of several privacy and security companies, including CyberGhost and Private Internet Access. Kape, formerly an adware company named Crossrider, has assured that ExpressVPN will continue to operate independently without sharing its infrastructure with Kape’s other subsidiaries.

Cost

ExpressVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee and three subscription terms.

Subscription Term Price
Monthly £10.53 ($13.36) / month
6 months £8.12 ($10.30) / month (£48.75/$61.84 up front)
12 months £6.77 ($8.59) / month (£81.29/$103.11 up front)

Security 

ExpressVPN employs numerous sophisticated security protocols to safeguard user data and uphold privacy. Notably, it uses its own Lightway protocol, engineered to be agile and fast while maintaining robust security.

ExpressVPN has a strict no-logs policy, independently audited by KPMG in 2022. It has also passed more recent security audits, including one for the Lightway protocol.

User experience

Best VPN for PC Express server selection
Our reviewer found ExpressVPN’s PC app to be clean and uncluttered (ExpressVPN)

ExpressVPN’s PC interface is clean and uncluttered. Alongside the big On/Off button, a clear status display shows you the current server, a Choose Location button enables picking something else, and a menu button in the top-left gives speedy access to extra features, such as the Threat Manager, which blocks trackers and malicious websites. 

While many users appreciate ExpressVPN’s easy-to-navigate apps, some advanced users have voiced dissatisfaction with the lack of comprehensive configuration options. ExpressVPN ranked top in our best VPN for macs article. 

Performance

Along with extensive privacy features, ExpressVPN delivered a relatively strong performance in our speed tests. The results were particularly consistent in the local connections. Connecting to  UK servers, we registered a solid 65 and 73 per cent of base download and upload speeds, respectively. These figures indicated a reasonable compromise between speed and security for local use. 

The performance dropped noticeably when connected to the US, with downloads retaining more than half of the reference rate, while the upload speed plummeted dramatically to only 6 per cent of the baseline upload speed, potentially impairing massive data transfers and real-time communications online. Australian server connections revealed further speed degradation to 40 and 14 per cent of the download and upload baseline, coupled with a latency increase. While ExpressVPN shows some limitations over distance, it maintains acceptable speeds, positioning it as a reliable choice for general use with average performance for more demanding applications.

Speed test results

Speed test result without activating ExpressVPN. This is the baseline against which we measure the impact of the VPN on speed and latency. Below the readings of the download and the upload speeds are the ping (latency) in milliseconds and the amount of data downloaded (green) and uploaded (purple) during the test (in megabytes).
Download speed (Mbps) Upload speed (Mbps) Latency (ping) Percentage of base download speed Percentage of base upload speed
No VPN 330.16 195.09 5
UK to UK 213.28 141.92 12 65% 73%
UK to US 186.18 11.48 135 56% 6%
UK to Aus 132.41 27.6 293 40% 14%

Date tested: 29/10/23

Customer service

Trustpilot users have awarded ExpressVPN an ‘excellent’ 4.7. On Google Play and the Apple App Store, it earns 4.3 and 4.5, respectively, with users generally appearing satisfied with the provider. 

Customers can contact support via the in-app chat feature.

“[I’ve] been using it for a few years. It’s easy to set up and use on different platforms (Linux, Windows, Android, and iOS). [There is a] large selection of countries and servers. [It delivers] fast bandwidth.”

“If you want a VPN that is consistent and reliable, does not affect connection speed and has a very user-friendly interface, ExpressVPN is it. It is installed on my Android phone and my Windows PC – it is equally excellent with smooth, no-nonsense operation on both. By far the best VPN I have ever used.”

Verdict

ExpressVPN’s PC app delivers a good all round performance – despite connectivity issues for one researcher. Its interface is clean and simple, and the features are easy to navigate. However, the breadth of features present in NordVPN’s app, and the strong connectivity displayed by Surfshark, put ExpressVPN behind.

While ExpressVPN possesses an ‘excellent’ rating on Trustpilot, it’s important to remember this score encompasses all of its services, not just its PC app. 

Score: ★★★★½

Read our full ExpressVPN review.

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ExpressVPN 12 month £6.77 /Month
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CyberGhost: Best PC VPN app for streaming and gaming

cyberghost logo

Lowest price: From £1.78 per month for a 24-month plan (plus three months free) | Free version: No | Maximum number of connected devices: 7 | Number of servers: 9,500+ | Encryption: AES-256 | VPN protocols: OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard | No-log policy: Yes | Audited: Yes | Headquarters: Bucharest, Romania

Pros and cons

Pros

Large, well-distributed server network Specialised servers 45-day money-back guarantee

Cons

Parent company has poor former reputation Lacks some alerts in PC app

If you’re in the market for a budget-friendly, easy-to-use VPN that provides robust AES-256 encryption and boasts a vast global server network, CyberGhost should be on your radar. It offers servers specifically optimised for gaming and sports streaming.

CyberGhost’s Smart Rules feature allows you to customise its behaviour to your liking. You can configure it to connect automatically upon startup, determine its action when it detects a new wifi network, and more. If you desire a truly hands-off experience, tweaking these settings will be beneficial.

While it may not match its rivals regarding feature breadth, CyberGhost still delivers efficient unblocking capability and reliable wifi protection. Key features, including an automatic kill switch, split tunnelling, and dedicated IPs, enhance its performance. 

Cost

CyberGhost offers a generous 45-day money-back guarantee with its six- and 24-month subscriptions and a more typical 14 days with a monthly subscription.

Subscription Term Price
Monthly £10.89 ($13.81) / month
6 months £6.19 ($7.85) / month (£37.14/$47.11 up front)
24 months (+2 months free) £1.78 ($2.26) / month (£49.92/$63.32 up front for 28 months)

Security

In 2022, Deloitte Romania verified CyberGhost’s no-logs policy during an audit. However, some concerns exist regarding its parent company, Kape Technologies, previously recognised as Crossrider. Known for its past involvement in adware creation, Kape Technologies has asserted it has abandoned these old practices and is wholly dedicated to respecting user privacy. Despite these assurances, some privacy enthusiasts remain cautious due to the company’s history.

User experience

Best VPN for PC Cyberghost privacy level
CyberGhost’s PC app makes it easy to decide on the level of privacy that’s right for you (CyberGhost)

CyberGhost’s PC app is clean, crisp and uncluttered. It features a prominently placed button, encouraging you to click and connect to what it considers to be the most suitable server. Tapping on the arrow on the app’s left side uncovers a comprehensive server selector and an array of settings, which are easy and intuitive to navigate.

Our researchers found the app fails to provide alerts when the connection is interrupted and the kill switch is engaged. Consequently, you could be left confused about sudden internet disruptions unless you’re actively monitoring its console.

Performance

CyberGhost demonstrated moderate performance in our tests, with the download speeds maintaining relatively strong levels, positioning the service as a viable option for browsing purposes. For instance, UK connections delivered 61 per cent of the base download speed. However, uploads were significantly reduced, indicating potential slowdowns in content sharing. 

Transatlantic connections to the US exhibited a further slight decrease in download speed, while upload speeds plummeted to 7 per cent of the upload baseline, a factor that could impact real-time tasks. The connection to Australia showed relatively strong download speeds, retaining close to half of the no-VPN level. However, the 4 per cent upload speed retention, coupled with substantial latency, suggested a limited suitability for high-bandwidth activities. Overall, CyberGhost may cater well to users prioritising download over upload speeds, especially in closer geographical server ranges.

Speed test results

Speed test result without activating CyberGhost. This is the baseline against which we measure the impact of the VPN on speed and latency. Below the readings of the download and the upload speeds are the ping (latency) in milliseconds and the amount of data downloaded (green) and uploaded (purple) during the test (in megabytes).
Download speed (Mbps) Upload speed (Mbps) Latency (ping) Percentage of base download speed Percentage of base upload speed
No VPN 400.99 187.29 7
UK to UK 242.63 65.61 12 61% 35%
UK to US 224.21 13.23 128 56% 7%
UK to Aus 189.05 7.66 308 47% 4%

Date tested: 29/10/23

Customer service 

CyberGhost enjoys a favourable reputation, earning a 4.3 rating on Trustpilot and 4.2 on both Google Play and the Apple App Store. Customers typically express satisfaction with the assistance offered through the online chat feature. However, a few have noted the PC app can require several sign-in attempts, depending on your network – our researchers didn’t experience this issue. 

The platform also boasts a comprehensive and regularly refreshed online help section, enhancing user support.

“Affordable, great features such as split tunneling, affordable dedicated VPN, a great software suite for Windows. Does what it says and it does it well. Had no issues with it at all. Highly recommended.”

“If you attempt to start the app on Windows and you are on a blocked network, which you are trying to use a VPN to bypass the block, the application won’t start. It appears that the application attempts to sign in to the CyberGhost servers every time it starts, making it pretty much useless against the network blocks it is advertised to beat. [It’s] very frustrating to have to tether a phone to get the application to start.”

Verdict

While CyberGhost does have a few drawbacks, such as concerns regarding its parent company and the lack of dropped connection alerts, it still is a worthy VPN contender, particularly if you’re a gamer or sports enthusiast. 

Score: ★★★★

Read our full CyberGhost review.

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CyberGhost 2 year £1.78 /Month
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Proton VPN: Best PC VPN for file sharing

Proton VPN logo featured thumbnail

Lowest price: From £4.27 per month for a two-year plan| Free version: Yes | Maximum number of connected devices: 10 | Number of servers: 2,900+ | Encryption: AES-256 | VPN protocols: IKEv2, OpenVPN, and WireGuard | No-log policy: Yes | Audited: Yes | Headquarters: Switzerland

Pros and cons

Pros

Free version available Open-source apps Advanced privacy features

Cons

Live chat only available 9am to 5pm weekdays No-logs policy not verified by “big four” firm Connection times can be slow on Windows

Proton VPN stands out as one of the few providers offering a free version, although this only allows access to servers in three countries. The provider places a premium on user security, employing high-level encryption and a built-in feature dubbed NetShield. This feature helps shield users from malware, intrusive ads, and tracking. 

Cost

Proton VPN offers monthly, yearly, and two-year subscription terms. It also provides a 30-day money-back guarantee and there is a free version available. 

Subscription Term Price
Monthly €9.99 (£8.55) / month
12 months €5.99 (£5.13) / month (€71.88/£61.51 up front)
24 months €4.99 (£4.27) / month (€119.76/£102.48 up front)

Security

Proton VPN employs AES-256 encryption for enhanced security, and its Secure Core feature adds an extra layer of protection by directing traffic through several servers located in privacy-conscious countries. 

While the provider asserts it has a strong no-logs policy, which European security audit firm Securitum has confirmed, it’s worth noting that other VPNs we’ve assessed typically engage one of the Big Four auditing companies for policy verification. We believe a Big Four audit lends more credibility and reassurance to users. 

User experience

Best VPN for PC Proton profile setup
Proton VPN’s PC app allows you to set your preferences in separate profiles (Proton VPN)

Our researchers found the PC app interface to be busy, with the default map screen giving a crowded appearance. However, users can collapse it down to a standard list of locations.

Proton VPN uses custom profiles to set specific preferences for your connection. For example, you might connect exclusively to Tor servers, regardless of their location, and by tailoring your profile, you have that option. Although profiles offer an easy way to personalise your VPN connection, they may not suit every user.

Performance

In our speed tests, ProtonVPN impressed with its UK-to-UK connection, retaining a stellar 99 per cent of the base download speed, ensuring an insignificant impact on browsing and streaming activities. The upload speed remained high at 93 per cent, indicative of robust performance for massive data transfer and uploads. 

When connecting from the UK to the US, download speeds were still robust at 90 per cent of the no-VPN scenario, although upload speeds see a significant drop to 18 per cent, suggesting potential constraints for uploading content overseas. However, UK-to-Australia connections showed noticeable performance degradation, with download speeds plummeting to 4 per cent, which could impede any bandwidth-intensive operations. The 10 per cent upload speed maintained acceptable functionality, but the high latency underscores a limited application for real-time interactions. Overall, ProtonVPN excels in local connections but may challenge users requiring stable long-distance VPN speeds.

Speed test results

Speed test result without activating Proton VPN. This is the baseline against which we measure the impact of the VPN on speed and latency. Below the readings of the download and the upload speeds are the ping (latency) in milliseconds and the amount of data downloaded (green) and uploaded (purple) during the test (in megabytes).
Download speed (Mbps) Upload speed (Mbps) Latency (ping) Percentage of base download speed Percentage of base upload speed
No VPN 366.21 205.69 4
UK to UK 362.25 190.9 15 99% 93%
UK to US 330.61 37.22 129 90% 18%
UK to Aus 15.52 20.49 239 4% 10%

Date tested: 29/10/23

Customer service

On Trustpilot, Proton VPN holds a relatively low rating of 2.4, with many users complaining about performance issues. Conversely, the provider receives better scores on mobile app platforms, with a 4.4 rating on Google Play and a 4.6 on the Apple App Store.

Customer support can be reached via the in-app chat feature, email, or an online form. 

“I must say I am pretty disappointed [with] Proton VPN for WIndows. I am a user of Proton Mail and I love it, so I tried this VPN service. However, I faced many issues. Some of them are:

  1. It slows down/crashes my PC
  2. When I connect to a Japan server, I actually get a Hong Kong server
  3. Not useful for Netflix
  4. Average UI
  5. Very few free servers available.”

“[A] very good VPN. Speeds are brilliant (I know the further you go away from your physical location, it will decrease speed due to latency, but not much). [I’ve] been with them for ages. [I] hope they release the stealth [feature] with the Windows version sometime soon. Keep up the good work, it’s all done for your security’s interest, if you want to be protected and [get] no logs.”

Verdict

Proton VPN seems to be a suitable option for those prioritising online privacy and security, though its interface might not appeal to users preferring an easy-to-navigate layout. However, it stands out by offering a limited free version – a rarity in the VPN market – and boasts a comprehensive suite of features for PC users. 

Score: ★★★★

Read our full Proton VPN review.

Today’s best Proton VPN deals
Proton 2 year £4.27 /Month
£4.27 /Month
Proton 1 year £5.13 /Month
£5.13 /Month
Proton 1 month £8.55 /Month
£8.55 /Month

Which VPN is the fastest for PC?

Below, we’ve displayed the download and upload speeds we achieved with each VPN on various servers on a PC.

No VPN Download speed (Mbps) No VPN Upload speed (Mbps) UK to UK Download speed (Mbps) UK to UK Upload speed (Mbps) UK to US Download speed (Mbps) UK to US Upload speed (Mbps) UK to Aus Download speed (Mbps) UK to Aus Upload speed (Mbps)
NordVPN 453.38 355.43 455.72 127.88 403.26 37.04 324 34.71
Surfshark 501.36 378.9 453.63 311.24 420.6 40.85 123.06 25.14
ExpressVPN 330.16 195.09 213.28 141.92 186.18 11.48 132.41 27.6
CyberGhost 400.99 187.29 242.63 65.61 224.21 13.23 189.05 7.66
ProtonVPN 366.21 205.69 362.25 190.9 330.61 37.22 15.52 20.49

Download and upload speed degradation per cent compared

No VPN Download speed (Mbps) No VPN Upload speed (Mbps) Retained UK to UK Download speed Retained UK to UK Upload speed Retained UK to US Download speed Retained UK to US Upload speed Retained UK to Aus Download speed Retained UK to Aus Upload speed
NordVPN 453.38 355.43 101% 50% 89% 15% 72% 14%
Surfshark 501.36 378.9 90% 82% 84% 11% 25% 7%
ExpressVPN 330.16 195.09 65% 73% 56% 6% 40% 14%
CyberGhost 400.99 187.29 61% 35% 56% 7% 47% 4%
ProtonVPN 366.21 205.69 99% 93% 90% 18% 4% 10%

Why do you need a VPN for your PC?

When you use a VPN on your PC, you essentially construct a private and secure channel for your online activities, which is especially important when using public wifi networks. Public networks are often unsecured and a prime target for cybercriminals, who can potentially eavesdrop on your online activity. With a VPN, your information is encrypted and thus, even if intercepted, would be unintelligible to the infiltrator.

Certain applications, such as banking apps, can benefit significantly from VPN use. When performing online banking, sensitive information like account details, transaction details, and passwords are exchanged. Using a VPN helps mask your identity and secures your data, providing an added layer of protection against potential breaches.

A VPN also hides your IP address, offering benefits when using online platforms, such as social media and forums, where you might want your activities to be untraceable. The ability to hide your digital footprint helps uphold your right to privacy, which can be crucial in the age of targeted advertising and heightened cybersecurity threats.

How to set up a VPN on your PC

Setting up a VPN on your PC typically involves several steps; however, these may vary depending on the VPN service provider you choose:

  • Choose a VPN service: Select a VPN service that suits your needs by comparing various VPNs for security, speed, price, server locations, and whether they keep logs of your activity
  • Create an account: You’ll need to create an account, which typically involves providing an email address and choosing a subscription plan
  • Download and install the VPN app: VPN services generally have dedicated applications for different operating systems. Download the application suitable for your PC’s OS, such as Windows or Linux. Then, install the application following the instructions provided
  • Set up the app: Open the app and sign in using the account you created earlier. Some apps have a setup or onboarding process that helps you understand its features and settings
  • Connect to a VPN server: Most VPN applications provide a list of servers in different countries. Click on one to establish a connection. You might want to choose a server that’s closer to your physical location for faster speed, or in a specific country to access geographically restricted content
  • Verify the connection: After connecting, verify whether the VPN connection is active. This can usually be done within the app. Some VPN services also have an IP checker on their website, where you can check if your IP address matches the connected server’s location
  • Adjust the settings: Depending on your needs, you might want to adjust the VPN settings. For example, you might want the app to launch and connect automatically when your PC starts, or to use a specific protocol.

What to look for when buying the best VPN for PC

When selecting a VPN for your PC, there are several key factors to consider.

Security and privacy features

A good VPN should offer robust security measures, such as strong encryption standards (AES-256 is currently top of the line) and secure VPN protocols, which include OpenVPN or IKEv2. A kill switch feature, which automatically cuts your internet connection if the VPN drops, is also desirable. For privacy, ensure the VPN has a strict no-logs policy, meaning it doesn’t store records of your online activity. Ideally, this policy should be verified through a third-party audit.

Server locations and network size

The number and location of servers can significantly impact your VPN experience. More servers mean less crowding, likely resulting in better speeds. The geographical spread is essential to appear as if browsing from a specific country.

Performance and speed

A VPN that provides fast and reliable connections is vital, especially for streaming, gaming, or large downloads. Remember that VPNs will likely slow your internet speed somewhat due to the encryption process, but some providers perform better than others.

Ease of use

Look for a VPN with user-friendly software that’s easy to install and navigate, especially if you’re new to using VPNs.

Price

VPN services can range from free to quite expensive. While free VPNs can be tempting, they usually come with limitations and are often not as secure. Consider your budget and what you’re willing to pay for the features you need.

Customer support

Look for VPNs with helpful and responsive support, whether that’s through live chat, email, or a robust online help centre.

Policies and reputation

Research the VPN’s reputation and read up on its privacy policy. Some companies have been caught misrepresenting their policies, so it’s worth checking independent reviews and news about the company.

Frequently asked questions about the best VPN for PC

A VPN creates an encrypted tunnel between your PC and a remote server operated by the provider. When you browse the internet, your data is encrypted and sent through this tunnel, making it unreadable to anyone who intercepts it. The data then reaches the VPN server, is decrypted, and sent to its original destination with a new IP address – the server’s, not yours. This process secures your data from prying eyes and hides your IP address, enhancing your online privacy.

Using a VPN on your PC is highly recommended. 

It offers enhanced online privacy by masking your IP address and encrypting your data, which is particularly important on unsecured public networks, or when using applications involving personal or financial information. 

However, be sure to choose a reputable VPN provider that adheres to a strict no-logs policy and uses robust encryption methods to ensure your online activities remain private and secure.

Whenever we use the internet on our PC, we could be at risk from cybercrime. A VPN for PC can help protect you by concealing your real IP address and encrypting your data. It is especially useful if your PC is connected to a public wifi network, where your data could be at risk from third parties. Using a VPN service masks your online activity and means no one, not even your ISP, can see which content you’re accessing or the location you’re accessing it from.

The best VPN for your PC depends on your own individual requirements and cybersecurity needs. Our overall best VPN for PC is NordVPN, which has some of the best-in-class security features compared to its competitors. It provides a stable and fast connection and has premium features, such as double VPN, which encrypts users’ data twice.

Round up of today’s best VPN deals
NordVPN 2 year £2.49 /Month
£2.49 /Month
Surfshark 24 month £1.79 /Month
£1.79 /Month
ExpressVPN 12 month £6.77 /Month
£6.77 /Month
CyberGhost 2 year £1.78 /Month
£1.78 /Month
Proton 2 year £4.27 /Month
£4.27 /Month
PIA 2 year £1.57 /Month
£1.57 /Month
Atlas 2 year £1.34 /Month
£1.34 /Month
PrivadoVPN 2 year £1.99 /Month
£1.99 /Month
Windscribe 12 month £4.53 /Month
£4.53 /Month
IPVanish 2 year £3.58 /Month
£3.58 /Month

How we research and rate VPNs for PC

Independent Advisor’s researchers are dedicated to helping you make an informed decision when it comes to buying the best VPN for your PC. We make our recommendations based on the most accurate and up-to-date information. Every VPN we review undergoes hours of testing and head-to-head feature comparisons, and we take into account verified customer feedback and the opinions of industry experts.

Our review scores are determined the following categories:

  • Privacy and performance (30 per cent)
  • Features and functionality (30 per cent)
  • Reputation and credibility (25 per cent)
  • Plans and pricing/value (10 per cent)
  • Customer experience (5 per cent)

We research and test a total of 25 elements within these categories including:

  • Number and location of servers
  • Streaming service accessibility
  • Security features such as AES-256
  • Performance (upload, download, latency)
  • Value for money, guarantees, and customer service
  • Independent server-site security audits

All of our VPN articles are fact-checked by our in-house team of experts, so you can be assured our content is as accurate and up-to-date as possible. To find out more, read our article on how we review VPNs.

The data in this review is reported from a neutral stance and should be used for informational purposes only. We review VPN services from the perspective of:

  • The quality of the product based on the security it affords the user
  • User experience of the application(s)
  • Level and quality of customer service

Independent Advisor does not endorse the streaming of content from regions other than where the subscription is held, nor does it endorse the downloading or consumption of illegally pirated content.

Overall Score: 4.5/5
Overall Score: 4.5/5

We’ve chosen NordVPN as best overall VPN for PC thanks to its intuitive app and great privacy features. If you’re looking to protect your privacy over everything else, then NordVPN is the best option, bar none, with its best-in-class security. It’s one of the longest-running VPN providers around and has great experience in the market. Its double VPN encryption adds more privacy to your browsing, while private DNS protection means no threat of hijacking and no logging of your online activities. Performance is top-notch too, and it boasts a huge number of servers located in pretty much any country you’d need.

Surfshark: Best for novices
Overall Score: 4.5/5
Surfshark: Best for novices
Overall Score: 4.5/5

Our choice of the best value VPN for PC has a slight but notable advantage over the competition in terms of price – it offers the lowest subscription costs across all term lengths of all the providers in this guide. Surfshark’s security is also top-notch with AES 256-bit encryption, an audited no-log policy, and automatic kill switch.

ExpressVPN: Best at unblocking content
Overall Score: 4.5/5
ExpressVPN: Best at unblocking content
Overall Score: 4.5/5

If you’re looking for a great all-round option that’s very easy to use, then this could be the VPN for you. ExpressVPN has all the market-leading features you could want: top security, a fast, stable connection, and it’s a great option for streaming from the internet. It also has some great, user-friendly apps, for every platform you could wish for. The only real downside is that ExpressVPN is more expensive than its rivals, so better value can be found elsewhere.

Katharine Allison

Energy Saving Writer

As Independent Advisor’s energy saving expert, Katharine, a keen advocate for sustainability, is an authority on solar panels, double glazing, and cutting-edge renewable energy technologies. Her dedication merges with a commitment to enlighten and steer readers toward embracing eco-friendly solutions and the latest trends in sustainability.

With over 10 years of experience, she has worked with some of the UK’s leading companies and publications, including the Federation of Master Builders, Architectural Digest, and Denon Construction. 

Katharine is particularly passionate about consumer causes and animal welfare and has art, philosophy, and psychology degrees. She lives with her sled dogs in East Sussex.

Molly Dyson

Editor

After growing up with a passion for writing, Molly studied journalism and creative writing at university in her home country of the United States.

She has written for a variety of print and online publications, from small town newspapers to international magazines. Most of her 10-year career since relocating to the UK has been spent in business journalism, writing and editing for admin professionals at PA Life magazine and business travel managers at Business Travel News Europe and representing those titles at conferences around the world.

Now an Editor at the Independent Advisor, Molly is an expert in a broad range of consumer topics, that include solar panels and renewables, home improvements and home insurance, and consumer technology such as home security and VPNs.

In her free time, Molly can usually be found exploring the outdoors with her husband and their young son or gardening.