Let’s face it, using a virtual private network slows down your internet—often by 50% or more. It’s the nature of, and there really is no getting around it. However, there are a few things you can try to give your VPN connection a significant speed boost.
VPNs add ato your Internet connection while routing your traffic through a server in a remote location. This is the process that is mainly responsible for the loss of speed. It takes time to encrypt and decrypt your traffic and transmit your data to the VPN server and back. Other factors such as the VPN protocol used or the load on the VPN server you are connecting through can also negatively impact your connection speed.
The drop in speed can be almost imperceptible to normal internet usage when using a, but you want all the speeds you can get for data-intensive activities like gaming, streaming, or video conferencing. A delay of just a few milliseconds can mean the difference between glory and failure in your online game, and slow VPN speeds can result in a ruined video streaming experience spoiled by constant buffering and a heaping dose of pixelation. And if you’re using a VPN during a Zoom call, you should do everything you can to maximize your VPN speeds to ensure the call goes smoothly and doesn’t drop.
If your VPN isn’t as fast as you need it to be, here’s what you can do to speed up your VPN connection.
7 ways to improve your VPN speed
Connect to a server that is closer to your physical location
In general, the closer the VPN server is to your physical location, the faster your connection speeds should be. Your traffic has to travel a shorter physical distance when it’s routed through a nearby VPN server rather than one located on the other side of the world. If you are in Boston, your VPN connection should be much faster if you connect to a VPN server in New York City or Montreal, for example, than one in Sydney or Tokyo.
This isn’t always practical if, for example, you want to stream content from a specific country or access a gaming server from a specific location. However, if you need a faster connection, try connecting to a few different VPN servers near your physical location and see which get the fastest speeds. Some VPNs have a speed test feature built into their apps, but you can always use a speed test website like Ookla Speedtest to check your connection speed.
If you’re looking for a VPN with tons of server locations, try ExpressVPN, which offers servers in 160 locations in 94 countries – so you’re bound to find some relatively close to your location.
Connect to a server that is not overloaded
If too many people are using a single VPN server, the server can become overloaded and your connection speed can suffer. Some VPN providers show the current server load on their servers either in the app itself or on the website. If you choose one with a lighter load, you’ll generally get faster speeds. If your VPN provider doesn’t show the current load on their servers, try connecting to a few others to see which one gives you the fastest speeds. Sometimes it just takes a little trial and error.
Try connecting using a different VPN protocol
A VPN protocol is a set of instructions between the VPN app on your device and the VPN server that determine how the secure connection is established. There are different VPN protocols and most providers give you a few different options to choose from. Different protocols have different advantages and disadvantages in terms of speed and security. So if you connect using one VPN protocol instead of another, you might be able to increase the speed of your VPN.
Today, OpenVPN is the gold standard VPN protocol. It’s the most battle-tested protocol and offers a nice combination of speed, stability, and security — which is why many VPNs use OpenVPN as their default protocol. More and more VPN providers are now also offering newer VPN protocols such as IKEv2 and WireGuard, which promise excellent security and faster speeds. And some have even developed proprietary VPN protocols like ExpressVPN’s Lightway and NordVPN’s NordLynx that claim to offer the best of both worlds.
If you switch to one of these other protocols, if offered by your VPN provider, you can get faster connection speeds through your VPN. Note, however, that while their security appears to be solid, these protocols have not been tested in the wild as thoroughly as OpenVPN, so they should not be your first choice for critical VPN use.
If you prefer to use OpenVPN exclusively, use UDP instead of TCP for the best speeds. While TCP is usually the more stable option, it tends to be slower than UDP because it needs to send data packets in order and waits for the recipient’s acknowledgment of receipt before sending the next packet. UDP doesn’t care about the order in which it sends data packets or getting an acknowledgment of receipt, so it tends to be much faster and more efficient, but less stable.
Most VPN apps let you change the protocol you connect through in their settings panel, so try playing around with the protocol settings to see which ones get you the fastest speeds.
Enable split tunneling if available
If your VPN provider offers a split tunneling feature, try enabling it to see if you can increase your VPN speeds. Split tunneling allows you to send only the traffic you want over your VPN connection, while the rest is sent unencrypted over your regular internet connection.
For example, if you use your VPN to stream, you can only assign your streaming traffic to go through the VPN, which won’t slow down your online gaming. This can help optimize your VPN speeds for specific activities, since all the excess traffic you don’t need running through your VPN won’t hog your bandwidth.
Use a wired connection
Using a wired connection is usually faster than using your Wi-Fi. Chances are you have multiple devices connected to your home Wi-Fi network at the same time—devices that share all resources and compete for resources on the same wireless channel. This can lead to an unstable internet connection and slower speeds. If you have the right equipment, try a wired connection by plugging your computer directly into your router with an Ethernet cable and then connecting to your VPN.
Close unnecessary apps running in the background
If you have apps running in the background that you don’t use, they could take up resources on your computer and slow down your connection. Take a minute to check if there is anything running in the background that you are not using and close those processes. By removing potential bottlenecks like this, you might notice a faster connection.
Reboot your router and other devices
When was the last time you restarted your devices? Just like anything else, technology like your computer and router occasionally needs a little R&R. When you restart your computer, you give it a needed update, free up some RAM, and keep it running at its best. So, as cliche as it sounds, try turning it off and on again, and then see how it improves your VPN speeds.
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