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Does a VPN affect internet speed?

If you’re using a legitimate virtual private network (VPN), you probably won’t notice changes in internet speed. The amount by which your connection slows down should be so small that it doesn’t impact your online activity. In some situations, using a VPN can actually improve your overall speed. Read on to find out more.

Does a VPN affect internet speed?

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Does a VPN slow down your internet?

Yes, using a VPN can indeed slow down your internet connection and increase latency because your internet traffic goes through the VPN server. Other factors affecting internet speed when connected to a VPN include distance to a server, the server’s current load, the encryption quality, and the internet speed offered by your internet service provider (ISP). Now let’s see how these factors shape your online experience.

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 a VPN 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.

Choose VPN servers in nearby countries unless you need to connect to a server in a specific location. 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 6,200+ servers in over 100 countries.

Server location

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, hoping 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.

Server overload

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.

Quality of encryption

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.

VPN affect internet speed

Can a VPN increase your internet speed?

Under some circumstances, a VPN can increase your internet speed. This happens when your ISP uses bandwidth throttling to target you, artificially slowing down your connection to release pressure in the broader network. However, connecting to a VPN may help you avoid ISP bandwidth throttling and make your internet respond a little bit faster.

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

Nine tips to make your VPN faster

If your internet connection is not as snappy and smooth as you’d like, try the following 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 come with extra security settings and other features that can change your VPN speed. Try switching to a different internet protocol if available. For example, User Datagram Protocol (UDP) can make your connection faster, but be ready to accept the risk of possible connection instability. If you’d rather have a slower but more stable connection, go for Transmission Control Protocol (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.

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 discover any possible risks associated with them (compare different VPN protocols). If you’re using NordVPN, pick the OpenVPN and NordLynx protocols for increased security.

4. Restart your router/modem

This tip 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 choose a server far from your actual location, it could slow down your internet speed. This happens because your data has to travel longer distances, which causes slower internet speed. Connecting to a server closer to either you or the website you’re accessing may help increase your VPN speed.

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 your 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 that 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 a financial one. Most free VPNs find other ways to profit, often selling your data to cover expenses. 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 robust 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. Here’s further reading on fixing slow internet speeds if you need additional guidance.

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 might throttle your speed. Since a VPN hides what you’re doing from your ISP, it can’t throttle your speed based on activities, so you’ll have fewer buffering issues.

VPNs offer both speed and security

The server location plays one of the leading roles in speed performance and latency. If you use a VPN to browse the web, you will experience little to no latency. If you use a VPN to watch 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 its main priority should always be security and privacy.

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

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