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Does a VPN decrease internet speed? Let’s test it

To answer the question – yes. But if you’re using a legitimate virtual private network (VPN), you probably won’t notice. The amount by which your connection is slowed down should be so small that it doesn’t impact your online activity. There are also some situations where using a VPN can actually improve your overall speed. Read on to find out more.

Does a VPN decrease internet speed? Let’s test it

What causes latency?

Does a VPN make your internet speed slower and cause latency? Simply put, a VPN will slow your internet connection down, because your internet traffic is going through the VPN server. It’s an extra step in the process. However, a premium VPN like NordVPN is so fast that you won’t normally notice any increased latency. The slowdown is usually invisible to the user. And as you’ll see in this article, if you’re using a trusted VPN brand, the service can offer various benefits, some of which may even prevent ISP throttling and speed up your overall internet experience.

There are several reasons why you might experience latency.

Distance to a server

Shorter distances between you and the VPN server improve internet speeds. For example, if you’re in the UK and connecting to server in Australia, it is a substantial distance for a data packet to travel. So the nearer a server is located, the faster the internet speed will be.

Unless you need to connect to a server in a specific location, choosing VPN servers in nearby countries. The one you’re in is even better. To help reduce VPN latency as much as possible, search for a high speed VPN service provider with a broad country coverage and a large number of servers, like NordVPN, which offers 5,200+ servers in over 60 countries.

Distance can affect VPN performance

Server load

When too many users are connected to one server, the VPN connection speed drops. Overload issues are common among free and slow VPNs that cram too many users into too few servers in the hope that being “free” will be enough. Users of premium VPNs with extensive servers should rarely face latency and can always rely on faster VPN speeds. NordVPN’s Quick Connect button comes in handy here because it automatically picks the best server to give you the fastest speeds possible.

VPN server load can affect connection speed

Quality of encryption

Encryption is the key feature of VPNs. It makes your online traffic inaccessible to hackers and snoopers, letting you browse in privacy. However, the way encryption is handled depends on the VPN provider. Poor maintenance of a VPN service may cause network latency and disruption.

Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is the block cipher algorithm used as the current encryption standard. It may come in different strength levels, such as 128-bit, 192-bit, and 256-bit encryption. The higher the encryption level, the more reliable your data protection is.

PRO TIP: The strongest type of AES is what you should look for in a VPN. However, you have to make a small tradeoff: the security and privacy supported by the strongest available encryption can produce latency and lower internet speeds.

So it’s a matter of preference: do you prioritize maximum speed, or is data protection against snoopers more important? In terms of NordVPN security, next-generation AES-256 encryption implemented into the OpenVPN security protocol gives users incredibly powerful data protection.

VPN encryption power can make a difference

Internet speed offered by your ISP

If your internet speed is low to begin with, a VPN won’t be the only culprit of sluggish speeds. Sometimes, internet service providers (ISPs) throttle bandwidth on purpose, which slows down your online experience and may disrupt your daily activities, such as streaming or downloading content.

In this situation, a VPN is a true lifesaver – by routing your internet traffic through a VPN, you can bypass any content- or user-specific speed limitations imposed by your ISP. This, combined with our other tips, can actually increase internet bandwidth on your device.

How can a VPN affect internet speed?

What affects internet speed?

A VPN’s job is to encrypt your connection and send it through a secure VPN server. Because a VPN adds extra steps between you and the internet, it’s bound to somewhat slow down your connection. However, there are tips you can use to reduce the impact, and we’ll even see cases later where a premium service like NordVPN can make your connection faster!

Here’s a further reading on how to fix slow internet speeds if you need some additional guidance.

Does a VPN make your internet faster?

Under some circumstances, a VPN can make your internet faster. This happens when your ISP uses bandwidth throttling to target you, artificially slowing down your connection to release pressure in the broader network. For those looking for the best VPN for gaming, NordVPN can help avoid any high-traffic times when you may need to play at peak performance.

With a VPN shielding your activity, your ISP can’t monitor your behavior and target you with bandwidth throttling based on your activity. If they target the entire network, of course you won’t be able to get around the bandwidth throttling, but a VPN will stop them from throttling your speeds specifically.

9 tips to make your VPN faster

In most cases, you can expect your internet speed to take a minor hit when using a VPN. That’s because your traffic is routed through a VPN server, creating one extra step in the data transfer process. However, depending on the VPN connection speeds, you probably won’t experience any noticeable slowdown. But you can achieve the best VPN speed by using the right tools, techniques, and settings. Check out these nine tips:

1. Check your internet speed

If your connection is slow to begin with, your VPN isn’t the bad guy here. Run a quick test and check your internet speed with and without a VPN. This will help you determine whether your VPN is responsible for the slowdown or if you simply need to upgrade your internet plan or hardware.

2. Tinker with your protocol settings

Premium VPNs like NordVPN come with extra security settings and other features that can change your VPN speed. Go to Advanced Settings on the NordVPN app and try switching to a different internet protocol if available. Choose UDP for a faster connection, but be ready to accept the risk of possible connection instability. If you’d rather have a slower but more stable connection, go for TCP.

Either way, you can switch between these two as many times as you want. Keep in mind that “slower” and “faster” are relative – you probably won’t notice any difference until you’re pushing the limits of your connection. NordVPN also offers NordLynx, a lightning-fast protocol that balances powerful encryption with rapid speeds.

3. Adjust your encryption level

Depending on your device, platform, and VPN, you may be able to change the type of encryption you’re using. But before playing with protocols, study their differences and find out about any possible risks associated with them (read about different protocols here). For increased security, pick the OpenVPN and NordLynx protocols used on the NordVPN apps.

4. Restart your router/modem

This one is as simple as it sounds. If your router/modem is running slower because of memory leaks or other issues, an old-fashioned restart will probably help. Also, remember that a VPN connection on your router will likely be slower than connecting to the VPN from your device (unless you have a very powerful router). If you’ve set up your VPN on your router and the speed is too slow, you may want to use the VPN primarily on your computer/phone only. Never use both simultaneously, as this will make your connection even slower!

5. Change your server location

If you chose a server far from your actual location, it could slow down your internet speed. Connecting to a closer server may help increase your VPN speed. Try it yourself – NordVPN’s simple interface makes globetrotting with your connection a breeze.

6. Use a wired connection

Wi-Fi is awesome, but it can cost you some speed, especially if you connect multiple devices to the same network. Wireless connections use a shared channel to transmit data to many computers and phones in your home, which can slow down your speeds. If possible, consider switching to a wired connection to enjoy faster connectivity.

7. Turn off firewall and other local security software

Firewalls and antivirus software can slow your VPN velocity because it filters through outgoing data. If you temporarily disable these tools, you can see whether they are causing your VPN speed issues. However, do so at your own risk. We recommend losing some speed but keeping your data secure by leaving your VPN, firewall, and antivirus on at all times.

8. Restart your devices

Your computer or smartphone may just be “tired.” Give it a fresh start by turning it off and on. This is another old-fashioned trick, but it could help you get the best VPN speed.

9. Don’t use a free VPN

Free VPNs can be tempting, but there’s always a cost, even if it’s not money. Most free VPNs find other ways to make a profit, often selling your data to cover their costs. They’re also more likely to provide slower speed, less stability, and (most importantly) poor security.

Meanwhile, premium VPNs can afford to maintain proper server networks with strong encryption protocols, giving you a much better user experience. Their business model also relies on customers being genuinely satisfied, so they’re usually much more focused on providing privacy and security.

These tricks should help make your VPN connection run faster. Try them all and see which one works best for you.

Will a VPN stop buffering?

Buffering issues are often a result of ISP throttling. If your ISP can see that you’ve been streaming a lot or consuming a large amount of bandwidth, they are more likely to throttle your speed. Since a VPN hides what you’re doing from your ISP, it can’t throttle your speed, which means you’ll have fewer buffering issues.

What is a good speed for the internet?

Your optimal internet speed is defined by the activities you use it for. While 25-30 Mbps can be considered pretty good for an average home user, it’s not really a one size fits all kind of answer.

Think about the amount of internet-connected devices in your household. How many users will be online simultaneously? While sending an email won’t take up a lot of bandwidth, activities like gaming have higher and more specific internet speed requirements.

Which country has the fastest connection?

According to the worldwide broadband speed league 2022, Macau, a small, special administrative region (SAR) of China, has the fastest internet speed at 262.74 Mbps. Only slightly behind, Jersey ranks second at 256.59 Mbps, followed by Iceland (216.56 Mbps), Liechtenstein (166.22 Mbps), and Gibraltar (159.90 Mbps).

Taiwan has the fastest internet of all the countries with a population of more than 1 million – 135.88 Mbps. Japan comes second at 122.33 Mbps, followed closely by France (120.01 Mbps), the US (118.01 Mbps), and Singapore (116.62 Mbps).

How to check your VPN speed

To see how internet speed differs when connected to servers in different locations, run a speed test and look at the ping time. It shows the length of delays in connecting your device and the server it’s communicating with. This will give you some clue of how much latency you’re likely to experience.

Here’s a quick and easy way to perform a VPN speed test:

    1. Turn your VPN off.
    2. Search your browser for “Internet speed test.”
    3. Make a note of your upload and download speeds.
    4. Now, turn your VPN on and connect to a server of your choice.
    5. Repeat steps 3 and 4, and compare your speed results. You should now see the difference in speed when using a VPN compared to when you’re not using a VPN.

To run a VPN speed test for NordVPN, we used the NordVPN speed comparison tool while connected to Wi-Fi. Without a VPN, using a local speed test server, the internet speed looked like this:

Speed No VPN

When connected to a recommended server via the auto-connect functionality, which picks an optimized server based on its load and geographical proximity, we noticed a slight decrease in the download and upload speed.

Speed Ukraine

When continuing to experiment by connecting to servers in geographically distant countries, we got varying results depending on the server location. Generally, the closer the server, the less the internet speed drops. That being said, some countries have faster internet speeds which can make your VPN faster.

Speed Estonia

Overall, these experiments point to one thing: a good quality service like NordVPN won’t slow your internet connection down by a perceptible amount. You can enjoy all the benefits of high-quality encryption without compromising on speed.

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VPNs offer both speed and security

So, as you can see, the server location plays one of the main roles in speed performance and latency. If you use a VPN for simply browsing the web, you will experience little to no latency. If you use a VPN for watching video content securely, you might want to explore ways to make streaming faster. We recommend connecting to special servers optimized for secure streaming.

A VPN won’t significantly increase your data usage, but this depends on the provider and protocol used. The usage usually increases by around 5-10% due to the encryption process. In terms of speed, your VPN can only be as fast as your internet connection. In fact, slight drops of around 10-20% in speed are absolutely normal when using a VPN since their main priority should always be security and privacy.

If you want to see for yourself how fast NordVPN is, you can download the app today. Make sure to use a NordVPN coupon to get the best deal available.

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