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What is a VPN?

VPN stands for “virtual private network” – a service that protects your internet connection and privacy online. It creates an encrypted tunnel for your data, protects your online identity by hiding your IP address, and allows you to use public Wi-Fi hotspots safely.

man reading what is a VPN connection in cafe

Why do you need a VPN?

No one likes to be watched and tracked – even if they have nothing to hide. That’s why you need to step up your privacy game. Here are a few more reasons why you need a VPN:

woman using VPN while connected to free public wi-fi

You use public Wi-Fi regularly

By definition, VPN is your best friend when using public Wi-Fi. Hackers have many methods to steal your data on public hotspots, but using a VPN means that you can stop worrying about that. Therefore, people who want to browse in full privacy should use a VPN to secure their connection.

man hiding his IP and location by using VPN

You need to mask your location

People working in countries with limited freedom of speech rely on private internet connection for their work. Sometimes, their lives might depend on it. Someone who lives under an authoritarian regime should use a VPN to hide their IP address and ensure extra security for their sensitive messages.

access blocked content with a VPN service

You want to access blocked content

One of the most popular things a VPN is used for is content access. If using streaming services and social networks while abroad is important to you, a VPN can help. It changes your IP address and redirects your connection to the internet through a remote server.

woman browsing internet with VPN to protect against surveillance

You want to avoid tracking and surveillance

Government agencies track and collect your browsing activity, messages, social posts, and other private data. A VPN protects you from that by encrypting your traffic and hiding your IP address. Use it at home, at work, and on the go to enjoy non-stop protection.

man is using a VPN connection for a secure game

You’re an avid gamer

People who like gaming online have to deal with DDoS attacks, bandwidth throttling, and content restrictions. Luckily, you can forget about all of these problems with NordVPN. If you’re serious about gaming and want to enjoy a stable and safe connection, you should use a VPN.

woman using laptop with encrypted data

You want to encrypt your data

Using a VPN is a good idea even when browsing from your home. VPN encryption is important when you want to protect your internet traffic and minimize your online footprint. This way, your internet service provider won’t be able to sell your entire browsing history to the highest bidder.

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How does a VPN work?

When you download VPN software to your device, it does most of the work for you — you only need to log in and connect.

How does a VPN work
However, it's useful to know how a VPN works to understand the service better. Here’s what’s going on behind the scenes:
  1. When you connect to a virtual private network service, it authenticates your client with a VPN server.
  2. The server then applies an encryption protocol to all data you send and receive.
  3. The VPN service creates an encrypted “tunnel” over the internet. That secures the data traveling between you and your destination.
  4. To ensure each data packet stays secure, a VPN wraps it in an outer packet, which is then encrypted through encapsulation. That is the core element of the VPN tunnel, keeping the data safe during transfer.
  5. When the data arrives at the server, the outer packet is removed through a decryption process.

While the technology behind a secure and private VPN is complicated, using it doesn’t have to be. Read on to learn how to set up a VPN on your PC, Android phone, or Apple device.

Setting up a VPN connection

While more and more internet users join the VPN protection trend, many people still believe that using a VPN service is somewhat close to rocket science. While some digital security tools can be confusing, top VPN service providers design their apps to be easy to use.

This means that with NordVPN, you can start a VPN connection with just one click. Once you set up your NordVPN account and download an app for your device, all you have to do is:

1

Open NordVPN

Launch the NordVPN app you have downloaded on your PC, Mac, or smartphone.

2

Log in

Use the same login credentials you used to sign up for the NordVPN service.

3

Connect

Click the Quick Connect button, which will automatically select the best server for you. Don’t like it? Pick a new location from the map.

That’s it – you can now enjoy a fully encrypted VPN connection! To have more control over your VPN experience, you can explore the servers’ list and the Settings section.

It doesn’t matter if you use a Mac, an Android tablet, or a Windows laptop. We strongly believe that people shouldn’t struggle to protect their home network and mobile devices. However, if you prefer to configure your VPN manually, you can. We have multiple manual set-up tutorials in our Help Center.

VPN encryption protocols

What is VPN without encryption? Just a surefire way to slow your connection down. When people use a VPN, privacy and speed are their main concerns. That’s why we offer several different VPN protocols — you can choose one that’s best for your particular needs.

OpenVPN protocol

OpenVPN

If you wonder which protocol your VPN connections are using, the most likely answer is OpenVPN. It is the most popular encryption standard, currently used by the majority of VPN providers in the world.

One of OpenVPN’s biggest strengths is that it is highly configurable. It also offers a nice balance between speed and security, as you can use it on both TCP and UDP ports. While the TCP port is a more secure option, UDP is faster, and many users prefer it for a seamless online gaming and live streaming experience.

IKEv2/IPSec VPN protocol

IKEv2/IPSec

IKEv2 is a tunneling protocol, which is usually paired with IPSec for encryption. It has many advantages, such as the capacity to restore a secure connection after the internet drops. It also adapts well to changing networks. That makes it a great choice for phone users who often switch between home Wi-Fi and mobile connections or move between hotspots.

fastest NordLynx WireGuard protocol

NordLynx

If you're looking for both privacy and speed, NordLynx is the way to go. It’s our newest technology built around WireGuard — the fastest tunneling protocol out there. What makes WireGuard so fast? The secret lies in its code — all 4000 lines of it. Compare that to the tens of thousands of lines in other VPN protocols, and you’ll see why it’s so mind-blowingly quick.

To make it as secure as possible, we combined WireGuard with our custom double NAT system. It allows users to enjoy fast internet connection without compromising their security.

Frequently asked questions

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