Best VPN for Windows

Windows VPN

While mobile and tablet use has exploded over the years, there's still one type of system we still use a lot of.

That's our desktop and laptop computers.

If you're a computer user, the likelihood is that you're one of the 81% who is using Windows.

Because Windows is so popular, it's the system you need to secure the most and that means VPN software is now an essential tool in that security arsenal.

Finding good VPN providers for Windows is a somewhat more difficult task. With well over 500 VPN providers out there it's tough to weed out the bad from the good.

In our personal experience a lot of time and more importantly, money can be wasted if you end up signing up for a poor service.

That's why we've done the research you need and in this guide you'll learn not only which is the best VPN for Windows but also the most reliable.

So which Virtual Private Network should you choose for Windows?

It's a difficult question to answer and one we've been heavily testing and researching.

Below we've rounded up the top 7 VPNs for Windows that you should be using to enhance your online security.

Top 7 Windows VPN apps

These are just some features you should look out for when choosing a VPN for Windows.

Now let's take a look at the top 7 VPN services for Windows.

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN apps on multiple types of devices

Pros
  • Easy to use Windows app
  • Registered off-shore
  • Audited no log policy
  • Servers in 90+ countries
  • 30-day money back guarantee
  • Superb download speeds
Cons
  • Monthly package expensive

ExpressVPN couples one of the best all-round premium VPN services with a feature-rich Windows app alongside an extensive range of VPN clients making them our top choice.

Connection on the Windows client is quick and effortless. By merely pressing their ‘Selected Location' option, you're presented with a whole range of VPN servers in more than 94 countries. A quick click and you're connected to their server network and secure.

We like the simplicity from opening the ExpressVPN apps to making a connection which took just seconds and provided fast speeds.

If you're looking for added features then the Kill Switch, split tunneling, IPv6 and DNS leak protection options plus the ability to choose between multiple VPN protocols will keep you busy. It works in places like China and can unblock Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and other streaming services too.

The service stands out for it's strict ‘no-log policy' which means what you do while connected and your user data stays secure and this has been audited to prove it's true.

If you need further reassurance, then the fact this was tested in a high-profile court case should put your mind at rest and if you get stuck they have live chat to get you sorted.

Our #1 Recommended Windows VPN

30-Day money back guarantee

2. IPVanish

IPVanish Deal

Pros
  • Straightforward Windows app
  • Free cloud storage
  • 30-day money back guarantee
  • Reliable connections
  • Servers in 75+ regions
Cons
  • Registered in the US
  • Unaudited no log policy

IPVanish has offered a Windows app for as long as we can remember and after some redesigns, they've made protecting Windows users a breeze.

Countries, Cities and even specific server locations can be selected from the main screen of the app and with the tap of the Connect button, you're protected within seconds. No messing about.

If you're a beginner, then that's all you need to do. If you're after more options then their Kill Switch, DNS and IPv6 leak protection help to protect you if your VPN connection fails.

They offer the OpenVPN protocol as standard alongside a range of other protocols and obfuscate traffic option and more features that help to deliver a secure connection can be found tucked away in the Settings area.

Download speeds are some of the best we've seen and connections through the Windows operating system are reliable with no random disconnects experienced. If you want to access a streaming service like Netflix, IPVanish is not great however.

One of the standout features is you can have unlimited simultaneous connections. This can be a combination of other device types and there are other great apps such as the iOS app that you can use alongside your Windows systems.

There's also a 30-day money back guarantee.

3. NordVPN

NordVPN Deal

Pros
  • Easy to use Windows app
  • Wireguard protocol
  • Registered off-shore
  • Audited no log policy
  • 30-day money back guarantee
Cons
  • Not the fastest

NordVPN is a superb VPN and offers up some of the best VPN software for Windows we've seen. If simplicity is what you're after as well as a huge range of VPN options, then you'll find it here.

Connection can be made from the main app window using a world map. Simply click on the country you want to connect to and the app does the rest.

If you need a little more customisation then you can choose specific servers or some ‘Speciality Servers' and there are unlimited server switches available too.

Connections on NordVPN are consistent and connection speeds are good. It's a great VPN if you want to access Netflix, BBC iPlayer or other streaming services.

NordVPN provides servers for P2P, Onion over VPN, Double VPN and Dedicated IP which all help to hide your real IP Address. There's also a Kill Switch built in and their proprietary ‘CyberSec' feature that protects you from malware, phishing and other online threats on top of their robust VPN encryption.

The service is one of the cheapest VPN services on this list and has a lengthy 30-day money back guarantee which gives you plenty of time to test it on your Windows device.

You can also use the one service on up to 6 devices at the same time across any device type and they have regular VPN offers ideal for grabbing a bargain.

4. CyberGhost VPN

Cyberghost Website

Pros
  • Great for Streaming
  • Good download speeds
  • 45-day money back guarantee
  • Registered in Romania
Cons
  • Windows app a little big
  • Unaudited no-log policy
  • Parent company owns ‘VPN review' websites

CyberGhost VPN is the go-to service if the idea of virtual private networks scares you. It is ideal for VPN newbies.

With their recently updated app for Windows, you can either use it in a basic mode which you can simply click to connect or expand the window and get a little more help.

The Windows application has server suggestions in groups ‘for Torrenting‘, ‘for Streaming‘ plus ‘Connection features‘.

In the ‘Streaming' section, for example, it tells you what server to connect to for what service making it easy to pick the correct VPN server and get the fastest IP addresses. There is a really good number of servers to choose from.

If you need to unblock BBC iPlayer or Netflix, for example, it points you in the right direction. There are loads of other options too.

Behind the scenes you can choose a VPN protocol, enable DNS and IPv6 leak protection and a whole host of other features. The service even offers an unbeaten 45-day money back guarantee and customer support is on hand to resolve any issues.

5. VyprVPN

VyprVPN

Pros
  • Very good Windows app
  • Registered in Switzerland
  • Audited no-log policy
  • Reliable connections
Cons
  • Not the best for streaming
  • Little server expansion in years

VyprVPN is one of the oldest names in the VPN industry and their Windows application has been one of the best for the longest time.

They recently launched a brand new interface across their app range including Windows and although it wasn't needed it again looks as sweet as its predecessor.

Advanced features include a Kill Switch, DNS Leak protection and the option to switch between VPN protocol. This includes their special Chameleon mode which can smash through even the most restrictive internet firewalls (such as in China).

This VPN company recently became a fully audited no-log provider so what you do while connected remains private. VyprVPN allows you to transfer unlimited data and they have a high number of servers across more than 60 countries meaning they are also great for unblocking streaming services like BBC iPlayer.

Sadly, there is no more free trial but there is a 30-day money back guarantee to give you plenty of time to try the service and see if this is the VPN for PC you need.

6. Surfshark

Surfshark Website screengrab

Pros
  • Very good prices
  • Suitable Windows app
  • 30-day money back guarantee
  • Excellent for streaming
  • Registered off-shore
Cons
  • Unaudited no-log policy
  • Expensive monthly price

Another VPN worthy of a place on the list of best VPN for PC is Surfshark VPN.

Based in the British Virgin Islands, Surfshark does not record its users' browsing activities or other data and offers an exceptional combination of fast connection speeds and secure features to help you stay safe online and protect you from things like DNS leaks.

Surfshark offers a strict privacy policy, double VPN servers, split tunneling, a kill switch, strong encryption and security protocols, whitelister, and much more.

Those connection speeds and the number of servers they offer make Surfshark perfect for unblocking any streaming service including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, and more.

Good Windows VPNs are hard to come by but Surfshark is an ideal VPN for Windows. It will secure your internet connection and the unlimited simultaneous connections and combination of terrific apps, browser extensions, and an exceptional Windows client make Surfshark another great option.

7. Private Internet Access

PrivateInternetAccess Website

Pros
  • Good prices
  • Download speeds good
  • Lots of servers
  • Plenty of server locations
  • 30-day money back guarantee
Cons
  • Registered in the US
  • Parent company owns ‘VPN Review' websites

Private Internet Access's Windows client is not one for beginners but it does still offer decent online security.

Private Internet Access boasts lots of features such as selecting the remote port to connect to, which DNS servers and data encryption to use, what authentication, handshaking, unlimited bandwidth, and more. You can get a static IP address, a kill switch, split tunneling, and there is a decent Private Internet Access privacy policy too.

Private Internet Access comes with a good number of servers on offer in a wide range of server locations, it is not bad at unblocking streaming services like the BBC iPlayer, and there are hundreds of different IP Addresses available too.

Connection speeds are impressive but obviously this will depend on your own internet speed too.

Prices for Private Internet Access start from just $2.49 per month – a small price compared to many VPN companies for a very solid VPN for PC.

How we selected the above options

When we chose the mentioned providers, we made sure to do so based on a list of important criteria.

These were:

1. Windows app

Obviously, the VPN has to offer a dedicated app for Windows. Thankfully the majority do, although there are still some that don't.

Without a dedicated app you would need to manually set up your connection. This isn't a problem if you're tech-savvy, but if you're a beginner it could be outside of your ability.

However, since user-friendliness is one of the main goals of pretty much all VPNs, they've been produced for this very reason.

As a result, all of the mentioned services have an app for Windows OS.

2. Ease-of-use

As mentioned, user-friendliness is of great importance, so even if you're a user that doesn't automatically recognise how the app works you can still received the added protection.

Being safe online is the number one priority in this day and age, so an app that is easy to understand, navigate, and use, in general, is critical.

3. Leak protection

Next, you need a dedicated app that will be able to guarantee your safety.

Otherwise, there would not be much point to using one in the first place.

While basic VPN features, such as security protocols, are important, they can sometimes leak data.

Systems like Windows especially often have quirks that could let some of your data leak outside the connection or give away identifying information.

Errors happen, and you don't want to have your data exposed, which is why leak protections, such as DNS Leak Protection and a Kill Switch, are features that we considered a must-have for any app that we recommend.

4. No-log policy

Of course, it was also important for us to recommend a service that would respect user privacy on its own end.

This is why services that don't keep logs of users' browsing activity are the only ones that entered the top choices. You can be sure that none of the mentioned ones will do such a thing.

Many of the five options have also been audited by third parties to prove this to be true.

5. Price

Lastly, we considered the price of services we would recommend.

Now, this is a lesser consideration, especially since the best services are pretty much all within the same price range, but we still didn't want to recommend something that is more expensive, if there is a reasonable price for the same quality of service elsewhere.

How to choose a VPN service

Using a VPN on a Windows computer has its own considerations.

What's suitable for a mobile VPN may not be great for a Windows VPN, for example.

When choosing a VPN for Windows, you should consider these four factors. Considering these will ensure you get the best VPN for your desktop.

  • Dedicated Windows app: To make set-up quick and painless you should ensure the service actually has a Windows app. Most do but there are some that only cater for mobile. In this day and age, there's no need to be setting any VPN up manually – well, not unless you really want to.
  • Advanced features: Looking for features such as a kill switch, DNS leak protection and IPv6 leak protection can enhance your online security. While some apps are thin on features, others add critical security options that come as an added benefit, not an added cost.
  • Money back guarantee: It's not Windows-specific, but it's well worth having. VPN use can be affected by so many different things. Ensuring you can get your money back if it doesn't live up to your expectations is critical.
  • Suitable for your usage: It's no good having a VPN if it doesn't do what you need it to. If you're simply after unblocking Netflix, for example, then ensure this is possible. If security is your primary need then make sure they have a high level of encryption.

Which Windows VPN is right for you?

Even though we've whittled down the choice to just 5 different providers it can often be hard deciding between them. With a raft of different sounding features, it's easy to be confused.

If you still can't make your mind up then we've listed the most common uses for a VPN on Windows to help you make a decision.

If you want to protect your privacy, choose ExpressVPN. Privacy protection is a critical purpose of VPN usage, grab ExpressVPN and make use of their high-level encryption and added features to keep yourself safe and private online whether you're transferring p2p traffic or simply browsing the web.

If you want the easiest to use Windows VPN app, get NordVPN. With a straightforward VPN client and a 1-click connection, even the newest VPN users will be able to connect easily.

If you want to try before you buy, opt for CyberGhost VPN. CyberGhost VPN offers a 45-day money back guarantee allowing you to test without risk.

If you want to unblock and stream media, take ExpressVPN. They work with more services than most, including all the popular services like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, Sky and more. If streaming content from overseas is your main use then they have you covered.

If you want to use on many devices, choose IPVanish. The service allows you to use it on ten devices at the same time. This isn't just limited to Windows but includes Mac OS, Android, iOS and even the Amazon Fire TV Stick devices.

Does Windows version make a difference?

VPN applications are extremely backwards compatible and while you should definitely be using Windows 10 by now it won't make much difference if you're using Windows 8 or some of the earlier editions of the operating system.

Windows style logo

Of course, if you're using something like Windows 95 or XP you'll probably run into compatibility issues and you really should be thinking about upgrading before anything else.

Are there any free VPN apps?

We, like most others highly recommend against using a ‘free' VPN such as Hotspot Shield and others.

Not only are they slow but a free VPN for Windows devices is also extremely dangerous.

‘Free' VPNs have been proven time and again to put your device at risk. This can be from injecting sketchy adverts into your browsing session or even utilising your network to power their paid service.

David Gewirtz of ZDNet says free services fund themselves through “advertising, data gathering, or some nastier reason”, scary indeed! [1]

It has even been discovered that many free VPN services use zero encryption which puts the data you transfer when using them at even greater risk.

In other words, there is no such thing as a best free VPN. The best Windows VPNs are providers such as ExpressVPN, NordVPN or CyberGhost VPN which offer you 30, 30 and 45 day money back guarantees. If you dislike the service, then you can get a full refund.

How to manually set up a VPN

While it's much easier to use one of the dedicated Windows apps provided by the above services, there may be instances where you prefer or need to do a manual set up.

To set up your protections manually, you will need to follow a few short steps. Below we've listed instructions for the three most common VPN protocols.

1. OpenVPN

OpenVPN is one of the best security protocols on the market right now, and in order to set it up you need to:

  1. Download the most recent version of the OpenVPN installer from the OpenVPN community downloads page.
  2. Install OpenVPN.
  3. Go to your VPN of choice and download the OpenVPN configuration files. If you cannot find them, ask the customer support to help you out.
  4. Extract the zip file that you just downloaded and copy the extracted contents to the configuration folder in the OpenVPN installation directory.
  5. After that, go to your desktop and find the OpenVPN shortcut. Right-click on it and choose Properties. Then, go to Compatibility, and check the ‘Run this program as Administrator' box, and click OK.
  6. Launch OpenVPN GUI by double-clicking on the desktop shortcut, and once you are in, you will see an OpenVPN system tray icon in the bottom-right corner. Right-click on that, select a server to connect to and hit Connect.
  7. If the tray icon is green at this point, you have connected successfully to one of the many new IP Addresses available and you are ready to browse the web.

2. IKEv2

To set up IKEv2, you need to follow these steps:

  1. On your Windows desktop, click the Start button and press the Settings cog on the left-hand side.
  2. Select Network & Internet in the newly-opened window
  3. On the left sidebar, select the option called ‘VPN.'
  4. Click on the Add a VPN connection.
  5. You will now have to fill out a form. For VPN provider, select Windows (built-in). For Connection name, call it whatever you want. For Server name or address, enter the address of a server that you wish to connect to. You can get it from your provider. Lastly, for VPN type, select IKEv2.
  6. You will also have to enter Username and Password for your VPN.
  7. Check the ‘Remember my sign-in info' and hit Save.
  8. At this point, your connection to one of your VPNs new IP Addresses should be created. Click on it, click Connect, and once it connects, you are done.

Windows IKEv2 connection settings

3. L2TP

First follow steps 1-4 from IKEv2 above as they're the same. Then continue with the following steps:

  1. VPN provider select Windows (built-in). Connection name give a name that you will remember. For Server name or address enter the address of the VPN server you're connecting to.
  2. For VPN type choose ‘L2TP/IPSec with pre-shared key‘.
  3. Get the key from your VPN provider and enter it in the Pre-shared key box.
  4. Fill in your username and password as required.
  5. Press Save.
  6. Click Connect from the connections area.

How to disable IPv6 on Windows

You may wish to disable IPv6 and in many cases it would be recommended.

The reason for this is that it has been troublesome in the past, and it can cause numerous issues, with leaks being one of them.

To do this, you need to follow these steps:

  1. Start by right-clicking on your Wi-Fi icon on the bottom-right side of the screen.
  2. Select ‘Open Network and Internet Settings‘.
  3. Within, once again go to ‘Change Adapter Options‘. Once the list of adapters opens, right-click on the active network adapter (Wi-Fi or Ethernet), and select Properties.
  4. In the newly-opened window, you will see a list. Scrow down the list until you find Internet Protocol Version 6 (TCP/IPv6).
  5. Uncheck the box next to this, and save the change by clicking OK.
  6. Restart your PC, and you're done.

IPv6 setting being disabled

In Summary

Without question after much testing and deliberation, ExpressVPN is our favourite VPN service for use with Windows in 2021 for protecting your internet traffic.

They offer more features than most, such as split tunneling, hundreds of server locations, and a superb Windows client.

Couple that with their proven no-log policy, 5 simultaneous connections, secure and private VPN connections, and the massive 30-day money back guarantee and you've certainly got an all-round great VPN service here.

If you do have some spare time then it's worth taking a look at all seven providers recommended above because while they all work well on any Windows device and do virtually the same job you may find some small differences which benefit you greater.

After all, the seven listed above are our top choices and you can't go wrong no matter which you choose.

Our #1 Recommended Windows VPN

30-Day money back guarantee

References

  1. ZDNet | How to find the best VPN service

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Illustration © haris mustofa | Dreamstime.com

Author: Christopher Seward

After 25 years of using the internet, Christopher launched one of the very first VPN comparison websites in 2013. An expert in the field his reviews, testing and knowledge have helped thousands of users get the correct VPN for their needs.

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