What Is WireGuard? (And Why Your VPN Experience Isn’t the Same Without It)

We’re deep diving into the many benefits and (a couple drawbacks) of today’s most popular VPN protocol, WireGuard.
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Today, virtual private networks (VPNs) have taken off, gaining popularity with those looking for extra security, privacy, and flexibility. VPN software masks your device's IP address, encrypts your most sensitive information, and allows you to "relocate," maintaining internet access and anonymity from anywhere you choose.

Pretty convenient, right? It's not hard to understand why VPNs are so popular — but what drives these next-level internet connection pathways?

VPNs rely on VPN protocols which are sets of rules governing communication and how data moves between our devices and a network's servers. Until recently, VPNs relied on older, slower, and less secure protocols based on outdated cryptography. WireGuard's VPN protocol is changing that: making headlines, winning fans, and positioning to dominate the market by connecting users to VPN servers with superior speed, simplicity, and security.

In this article
What is WireGuard?
WireGuard advantages
WireGuard disadvantages
WireGuard compared
VPNs that support WireGuard
WireGuard FAQ
Bottom line

What is WireGuard?

WireGuard is a new, open-source VPN protocol designed with state-of-the-art cryptography, which is the practice of coding sensitive information so only the intended recipients can interpret its meaning. It provides faster, easier-to-use, and more secure pathways for user devices to connect with VPN servers worldwide.

Developer Jason A. Donenfeld created the WireGuard VPN protocol in 2015, specifically for the Linux kernel. WireGuard's VPN protocol is currently available across desktop or mobile applications for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS deployments.

Many view WireGuard's VPN protocol as the long-awaited next-gen solution capable of replacing the older, slower, less secure protocols like OpenVPN with its outdated 2001 cryptography.

Why you should use WireGuard

WireGuard's VPN protocol is undoubtedly making a splash and collecting fans in the VPN universe for several legitimate reasons. The advantages you can expect from WireGuard's VPN protocol include the following:

Increased speed

If you need speed, then WireGuard could become your go-to VPN protocol. WireGuard is faster than older VPN protocols for a few reasons — starting with the fact that the protocol's components reside within the Linux kernel, which allows for faster speeds. Also, WireGuard only supports User Datagram Protocol (UDP) and doesn't employ the handshake protocols used by OpenVPN, which can slow down the process due to the need for frequent checks.

Most importantly, advanced cryptography solutions like Curve 25519, ChaCha20, Poly 1305, and BLAKE2s help boost WireGuard's increased rate of speed.

Ease of use

Working with WireGuard couldn't be easier. Users start by locating the WireGuard application in an online storefront, then follow simple download and installation steps. The WireGuard app is available for desktop and mobile devices for added convenience.

WireGuard keeps it simple by operating with fewer than 4,000 lines of code compared to older VPN protocols that typically use thousands more. Fewer lines of code make the protocol's connection, use, and troubleshooting easier, especially for lower-capacity routers and mobile devices.

Once connected, WireGuard continues to please with reliability. The protocol's fast and seamless connection works across networks while maintaining connectivity under conditions that can often cause other VPN protocols to fail.

Enhanced efficiency

The high speeds and data transmission capacity you can expect with WireGuard is real. And the numbers back it up.

WireGuard transmits more data in megabits per second according to recent testing — up to 20% more than IPSec protocols and significantly more than OpenVPN, which transports only about a quarter of WireGuard's data transmission load.

What does this mean for you? In a given amount of time WireGuard can transmit three times more megabits of data per second than OpenVPN protocols. The end result is your device moving significantly more volume and accomplishing more work in the same amount of time.

WireGuard works quicker than traditional protocols, demonstrating a faster ping time in recent testing. Ping time is the time it takes for data to leave your device, reach a server, and bounce back to your device again. WireGuard’s ping time in milliseconds proved slightly faster than IPSec and roughly three times faster than OpenVPN.

Stronger security

Last on this list, but certainly not last in our minds, is security. WireGuard sets the industry bar high regarding security with the use of state-of-the-art cryptography. Today’s next-gen cryptography solutions arrive with advanced default security settings, providing a security boost right out of the box.

Also, WireGuard's simplified design translates into more security benefits. The protocol's simple, less-is-more configuration presents a smaller attack surface for cybercriminals to target and fewer lines of code come with fewer bugs and potential vulnerabilities.

What's the most secure VPN encryption?

Find out how a VPN secures your personal info, as well as the most secure encryption keys in our VPN encryption guide.

Why you shouldn't use WireGuard

WireGuard prioritizes speed, ease of use, and network security, but, some might say, at the expense of privacy. WireGuard does lack some standard features and practices many other protocols offer to enhance user privacy protection, such as:

  • Dynamic IP addresses
  • Auto-deletion of user IP addresses upon disconnection
  • Traffic obfuscation to combat deep packet inspections (DPI)
  • Changing default encryption keys periodically to prevent hackers from breaking the code

WireGuard works best with Linux but does support other platforms. Unfortunately, most platforms (besides some Linux models) will require added software to operate WireGuard, and currently the protocol isn't an option for devices unable to install applications.

WireGuard compared

WireGuard has a widening fan base, and most view it as a significant upgrade over the many older VPN protocols that still rely on outdated technology and design.

But is WireGuard the best VPN protocol today?

Like many questions, it boils down to the priorities of those you ask.

WireGuard certainly could be a top choice for the lovers of speed and ease, but not so much for users prioritizing online privacy, where it falls short.

WireGuard is generally considered one of the safest protocols today with its simple design, less code, and fewer possible bugs. This, coupled with its faster, state-of-the-art cryptography running within the Linux kernel, delivers a very easy-to-use VPN protocol that's tough to beat for speed, volume, and safety.

WireGuard vs. OpenVPN

Both protocols are open-source, have relatively few vulnerabilities, and need additional configuration files to install on most devices.

The similarities end there, as WireGuard's advanced cryptography transfers more data faster, which becomes more evident when handling larger data downloads. Also, WireGuard allows your computer battery a longer life, where OpenVPN seems to consistently drain computer batteries faster.

WireGuard vs. IKEv2

Again, the WireGuard protocol proves superior by transferring more data at a consistently quicker speed than the IPSec protocol. There is a notable exception: IKEv2 switches between Wi-Fi and mobile networks easily, which makes it a great option for cell phones.

An important note for those not wanting to download extra software: Remember that most devices support IPSec protocols by default, while almost every device will require you to download additional software to install and operate WireGuard.

VPNs that support WireGuard

As WireGuard becomes more popular, more mainstream VPNs are beginning to offer the protocol. If you have a favorite VPN provider, there's a strong possibility they already offer WireGuard's VPN protocol or will very soon.


One of the most popular VPN services, NordVPN, was the first of the larger VPNs to offer WireGuard's protocol. NordVPN thought so highly of WireGuard that it took things further and modified the open-source offering to create NordLynx, its customized protocol that offers one of the fastest VPN connections.

Learn More
On NordVPN's website

  • Loads of servers for more connection options
  • Works with popular streaming services, including Netflix
  • Too many confusing plans


Surfshark, another prominent player in the VPN universe known to favor state-of-the-art security solutions, currently offers WireGuard to connect users with its global fleet of network servers while maintaining fast connection speeds. Pairing Surfshark and WireGuard is an excellent choice for users seeking more internet privacy, as Surfshark provides users with dynamic IP addresses.

Learn More
On Surfshark's website

  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • Works with Netflix and other streaming services
  • Headquarters in Nine Eyes Alliance


CyberGhost is a third VPN with an extensive worldwide server fleet that chose to team up with WireGuard in an affiliation beginning back in 2020. WireGuard is currently available on the Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android versions of the CyberGhost VPN app.

Learn More
On CyberGhost's website

  • Cheaper than ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and Surfshark
  • Optimized servers for regional streaming
  • No split tunneling feature

WireGuard FAQ


Is WireGuard secure?

WireGuard is considered by many to be one of the safest, most secure VPN protocol options available today. Simplified design using less code equals fewer bugs and security vulnerabilities, while WireGuard's faster state-of-the-art cryptography employs superior default security settings.


What are the most common VPN protocols?

Common VPN protocols besides WireGuard include:

  • OpenVPN
  • Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP)
  • Internet Key Exchange Version 2 (IKEv2)
  • Point to Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP)
  • Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP).


Is WireGuard free?

Yes, WireGuard is a free, open-source software application.

Bottom line

VPNs provide an excellent option for individuals and organizations looking for a safer, more private connection to the internet. Whether transmitting sensitive data, using public Wi-Fi, enjoying entertainment options, or relocating with a remote server, VPNs can be just the ticket to add convenience with an extra layer of security to your internet experience.

Unfortunately, many current VPN protocols are slow, outdated, and not exactly secure. That's where WireGuard comes in. Though not perfect, as many privacy sticklers point out, it undoubtedly provides a significant upgrade with advanced, state-of-the-art cryptography able to transmit more data at faster speeds.

Better yet, odds are the free app will be offered by your favorite VPN sooner rather than later — in fact, most of the best VPNs already offer WireGuard. So get ready to enjoy the next-gen speed, simplicity, and security WireGuard can bring to your VPN experience.

Author Details
Mark Knowles is a freelance tech content writer specializing in cybersecurity. His expertise includes DevSecOps, cyber risk management, and Zero Trust model security. Mark has completed numerous case studies, blog articles, and e-books for leading technology companies over the last eight years, with a focus on the cybersecurity vertical over the last five years. When not interviewing experts in the field or creating fresh cybersecurity content for organizations, Mark enjoys pushing the limits of fitness and personal growth while planning his next traveling adventure.