Does a VPN Slow Down Your Internet?

Explore how a VPN impacts your internet speed, and learn how to measure your VPN's performance and optimize your connection for a seamless online experience.
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If you’re conscious of your privacy online, you might turn to using a virtual private network (VPN). But you may be wondering if VPNs slow down connection speed or how to speed up your internet while using a VPN.

A variety of factors will determine your internet speed while using a VPN. This could be due to the VPN you’re using, an issue with the network provider, your location, or your router settings.

In this article, we'll explain the reasons why your connection speed might be slow while using a VPN and provide solutions for a faster connection.

In this article
Do VPNs slow down internet speed?
How to speed up your internet with a VPN
How to check your VPN speed
FAQs
Bottom line

Do VPNs slow down internet speed?

VPNs provide an additional layer of security when using the internet by routing traffic through a remote server, which ultimately makes your activities a lot harder to track.

Unfortunately, this rerouting process can sometimes affect your internet speed, as your data is no longer taking the shortest and fastest route to its destination. It's now going through a more secure and potentially longer journey.

Latency is another crucial factor that affects internet speed. This refers to the amount of time it takes for data to travel between its source and destination. 

The lower the latency, the quicker the data transfer and the faster the online experience. The higher the latency, the slower the experience, and the more likely you are to experience buffering or lag. 

VPNs can increase latency because they route traffic through remote servers.

VPN factors that impact speed

The following factors can impact your speed while connected to a VPN:

  • Distance to the server: The further you are from your VPN server, the longer it takes for data to travel, increasing latency and potentially slowing down your internet. That's why it's usually recommended to select a server that's close to your actual location.
  • Server load: The number of users connected to the same VPN server can impact your speed. If a server is overloaded with users, it may struggle to keep up, slowing down the internet speed for everyone connected.
  • VPN protocol: VPN protocols offer different speeds and security characteristics. OpenVPN prioritizes security over speed, while IKEv2 and WireGuard strive to balance between the two.
  • Encryption strength: A higher level of encryption provides better security, but it can also slow things down. It takes processing power to encrypt and decrypt data, and this process can reduce speeds, especially on devices with less powerful hardware.
  • ISP speed: Regardless of how good your VPN is, it won’t be able to provide you with better speeds than your original internet service provider (ISP) connection. If your baseline internet speed is slow, the VPN isn't going to improve it.

How to speed up your internet with a VPN

While VPNs can affect your speed due to the additional data encryption and rerouting process, it doesn't mean your connection is doomed to be sluggish. With some strategic tweaks to your VPN settings and internet setup, you can ensure a faster internet experience.

Let's take a deep dive into the various ways to speed up your internet with a VPN.

Adjust your level of encryption

A high level of encryption is great for security but can put extra processing demand on your system, thereby slowing your internet speed. If you're using a VPN primarily for activities where maximum security isn't the top priority, like streaming or gaming, you can consider reducing the encryption level. Do remember, though, that this could make your data less secure.

Choose a different VPN protocol

VPNs use different protocols to create a secure tunnel for your data. Some protocols prioritize security but might slow down your speed, while others strike a balance between security and speed. Consider switching to speedier protocols like IKEv2 or WireGuard if your VPN supports them. However, be aware of the potential trade-offs in security.

Change your server location

The further your data has to travel, the more latency can affect your connection. Selecting a different server that’s closer to your actual location can reduce this travel time and boost your speed. Most VPNs make it easy to change your server location, and some even offer a quick connect feature that automatically selects the best server based on your location.

Use the split tunneling feature

Split tunneling allows you to decide which part of your traffic goes through the VPN and which part goes through your regular internet connection. This can significantly speed up your internet connection by reducing the amount of data that needs to be encrypted and routed through the VPN.

Check your internet connection

Before blaming the VPN for a slow internet connection, you should check your original internet speed. If your ISP is offering a sluggish connection, the VPN will not be able to speed it up. Consider upgrading your internet plan or switching ISPs if necessary.

Close any applications you don't need

Many applications running in the background can eat up your bandwidth without you realizing it. Make sure to close any unnecessary apps and programs on your device to free up bandwidth for a better VPN experience.

Disable your antivirus

Sometimes, antivirus software can interfere with your VPN and slow down your internet speed. Consider temporarily disabling it to see if that affects your speed. However, remember to turn it back on later to keep your device protected from cyberthreats.

Reboot your router or modem

Just like your computer, your modem or router can benefit from a quick reboot. Restarting these devices can resolve speed issues by clearing any existing software glitches or memory caches that could be slowing down your connection.

Switch to a wired connection

Wi-Fi connections are susceptible to various interference and range issues, which can slow down your speed. Switching to a wired connection via an Ethernet cable can offer a more stable and faster internet connection.

Restart your computer

Sometimes, the simplest solutions are the most effective. A quick restart can often resolve many minor issues that might be slowing down your computer and, consequently, your internet speed.

Research new VPN services

If you've tried everything and your VPN is still slow, it might be time to switch services. Some VPNs, including the following, are just faster than others:

  • Surfshark: Surfshark is best for online gaming and streaming, thanks to its WireGuard protocol and split tunneling capabilities.
  • CyberGhost: In our testing, CyberGhost provided low latency across its large server network.
  • IPVanish: IPVanish is the fastest VPN if you’re interested in torrenting since it provides P2P-friendly servers.

It’s important to find a VPN that balances speed, security, and your desired features.

How to check your VPN speed

The best way to check the speed of your VPN is with an internet speed test. It will provide you with your connection’s download speed, upload speed, and latency. To do so, follow these steps:

  1. Disconnect your VPN: First of all, disconnect your VPN so that you can confirm your baseline internet speed.
  2. Go to a speed test website: Navigate your way to a speed test site such as Ookla’s speedtest.net or fast.com by Netflix. When on your preferred site, simply locate and click the Go or Start button.
  3. Check the results: After giving the website a few seconds to a few minutes to complete, you will receive your download speed, upload speed, and latency results. Jot down these numbers so you can compare them with the results from the next steps.
  4. Connect to your VPN: Next, connect to your preferred VPN. If possible, choose the server location that you'd typically use for your day-to-day activities.
  5. Run the speed test again: Run the same speed test again and take note of the results.
  6. Compare the results: Compare the two sets of results. It's normal to see some drop in speed when using a VPN. However, if there's a significant decrease in speed, it may be worth applying some of the troubleshooting steps we covered.

It’s important to remember that many factors can influence a speed test. For this reason, it can be helpful to run the test multiple times at different times of the day and on different VPN servers to get a far more comprehensive picture of your VPN's speed performance.

FAQs


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How do I increase internet speed in router settings?

To increase your speed through your router settings, first try updating the firmware on the device, as this will likely come with enhanced performance. Another method is to change the router’s channel to avoid interference from other devices. 

If it's possible in your settings, enable quality of service (QoS), as this will prioritize certain types of traffic.


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Does a VPN make your internet faster?

No, a VPN doesn’t make your internet faster — it does quite the opposite. Given the fact that a VPN adds an additional layer of security by rerouting your traffic, it’s more likely to slow down your internet speed than make it fast. In some specific situations, it may speed up your internet by bypassing ISP throttling.


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How much does a VPN slow down internet?

The amount by which a VPN slows down your internet will generally depend on a number of factors. This includes your original ISP speed, the server location, and your VPN protocol. You’ll most likely experience a small decrease in speed due to your traffic being rerouted.


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Which VPN has the fastest speed?

The VPN with the fastest speed will depend on many different factors and will vary so often due to the number of users on a server at a time. In addition to the aforementioned VPNs, ExpressVPN and NordVPN are also known for consistently providing high-performing speeds.

Bottom line

Using a VPN is the optimal way to secure your online activities. However, this additional encryption often causes slower speeds due to the necessary rerouting. Whether it's the distance to the VPN server, the load on the server, or your original ISP speed being slow, there are many factors that can impact your internet speed.

Fortunately, there are also many methods for you to speed up your VPN connection. You can adjust encryption levels, change protocols or server locations, use split tunneling, or ensure an optimal internet setup is in place.

If speed is your ultimate goal and the troubleshooting steps aren’t sufficient, maybe it’s time to switch VPN providers. The aim is to strike a perfect balance between speed, security, and features. To help you find the best service for your needs without compromising security, check out our guide to the fastest VPNs

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Author Details
Ryan Clancy is a freelance writer and blogger. With 5+ years of mechanical engineering experience, he's passionate about all things engineering and tech. He loves bringing engineering (especially mechanical) down to a level that everyone can understand.