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The best VPN services in 2024, as tested by experts

Woman using notebook with VPN app
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The internet was once a much friendlier place. Sure, you can still game with anyone in the world and go shopping whenever you want, but there's a lot more risk involved these days. It's more important than ever to realize that you're never truly anonymous when you go online

VPN, or Virtual Private Network, serves as your personal bodyguard while you go about your business online. It keeps your activity safe from prying eyes and makes sure you have smooth passage, no matter whether you're checking out TMZ or maxing out your card at Bloomingdale's. It can also grant you access to content that might be geographically fenced in, all while acting as a barricade against online threats. 

Before you decide which one to use, you want to look for excellent encryption, a kill switch to cut your internet access should your VPN drop, and leak protection to make sure your data doesn't make its way into the hands of bad actors. 

Of course, no one likes sluggish internet. Make sure the VPN you're eyeing won't act like a bottleneck, slowing your browsing or streaming speed. Ideally, there should be only a negligible difference between your regular internet speed and the one with the VPN active.

Privacy matters too. A "no-logs" policy by a VPN provider means they're not recording or storing your online activities. Such policies, among other user-centric provisions, underscore the credibility of a VPN service and are super important as part of your decision-making process.

Below are our picks for the best VPN services of 2024.

What are the best VPNs in 2024?



ExpressVPN is the best among the VPN services we tested. It offers more than 3,000 servers that operate in 94 countries, with speedy and dependable connectivity. The company takes security seriously and boasts strong encryption as well as technology that doesn't allow its servers to store any user data, meaning the company is log-free. There's also also a kill switch feature for iOS users for added security.

ExpressVPN is simple to install and use across multiple platforms, including PC, Mac, iPhone, and Android. One subscription allows for connections on up to eight devices simultaneously. That means the entire family can jump on the VPN at the same time without any slowdown or operational issues. Some of its standout features include its ability to unlock geo-restricted content, which opens up access to various streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ worldwide.

Although ExpressVPN is pricier than some other VPNs, its offerings make it worth considering for many users. It offers a good balance of speed, security, and accessibility, and can appeal to both new and experienced VPN users. 


  • Over 3,000 servers in 94 countries
  • Robust security features
  • User-friendly on multiple platforms
  • Supports eight simultaneous connections
  • Unlocks geo-restricted content


  • Pricier than some other VPN services
  • Does not offer dedicated IP or port forwarding

ExpressVPN, starting at $6.67 monthly 



NordVPN is more than just one of the most popular options in the VPN market. There's a reason it's so widely used: it's a great all-around choice. Offering not only security but also great streaming capabilities, it's quick and delivers consistently reliable speeds. There are rarely drops when you're successfully connected, and overall it feels close to surfing the regular net with little latency. However, some users may find they need to switch servers occasionally due to connectivity hiccups, which is something to keep in mind before subscribing.

This VPN is also packed with useful features going beyond the typical basics you normally see with competitors, like peer-to-peer sharing. There's even an additional layer of encryption thanks to the Double VPN feature, included at no extra charge. For more computer-savvy users, NordVPN also offers the option to adopt a dedicated IP address for a VPN that can act as a server. NordVPN is also compatible with major platforms and includes Meshnet, a feature that lets you connect directly to other devices to bypass certain VPN restrictions.

However, NordVPN isn't without its shortcomings. The user interface leaves a little to be desired. Its pricing tiers can also get expensive quickly, though there are cheaper plans starting at just $3.99 per month without additional bells and whistles, such as the password manager, cloud storage, and data breach scanner. Still, with these hiccups, NordVPN remains more than worth signing up for, especially if this is one of your first experiences using a VPN. 


  • Solid security features
  • Reliable, zippy browsing speeds
  • Added layer of encryption with Double VPN
  • Additional features for computer-savvy users
  • Affordable monthly subscription fee


  • User interface could use some improvement
  • Higher tiered subscription fees add up

NordVPN, starting at $3.99 monthly 



Surfshark is an affordable yet premium VPN that's great for users of all stripes. Known for its comprehensive privacy and security features, Surfshark is easy to use while keeping user activity confidential. That's all thanks to its secure AES-256 encryption, automatic kill switch, and split tunneling. It also boasts cutting-edge additions like MultiHop and Nexus. MultiHop adds another layer of encryption and "chains" another server to your VPN for a security boost. Nexus is a proprietary Surfshark feature that connects you to a server network and routes you to the location of your choice. It's still being developed, but it's available and an interesting innovation.

Surfshark is great for its simultaneous connections policy. If you have several devices to protect, or if you want to share the VPN with your household, this will be a big draw. This, combined with its remarkable affordability, makes Surfshark an exceptional choice for consumers seeking a cost-effective VPN solution. This VPN also boasts fantastic speed and reliable connectivity, meaning you won't be stuck tapping your toes when you navigate to a destination.

However, some of its features are a bit glitchy, namely its kill switch, which is meant to pull you from a VPN connection immediately to protect your anonymity. It can also end up dropping connections, which we observed later in the day. Still, for the price, it's an unmatched budget VPN that's well worth signing up for.


  • Budget price but still very nice
  • Extremely fast browsing speeds
  • MultiHop adds an extra layer of encryption
  • Beta Nexus feature innovates VPN tech
  • Plenty of simultaneous connections


  • Connections do occasionally drop
  • Glitchy kill switch feature

Surfshark, starting at $2.19 monthly 

What is a VPN?

A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is like your personal hidden tunnel on the internet. Usually, when you surf the web, all your internet activity -- which websites you visit, what you download, and the locations you access the web from -- can be tracked by internet service providers, websites, or potential hackers. This information can be used to sell your data to advertisers, or worse, steal your personal information.

Now, here's where a VPN steps in. Imagine you're sending a postcard through the mail. Anyone who handles it can see what's written on it. A VPN is like an envelope, it hides your 'postcard' from prying eyes.

When you use a VPN, it cloaks your online activities in a 'secret tunnel,' encrypting (or scrambling) your data so that others can't read it. So even if someone manages to get hold of your information, all they'll see is gibberish.

Also, a VPN allows you to appear as if you're browsing from a different location than you actually are. It's like a magical door to anywhere in the world. This can come in handy if you want to access content (like a movie or a website) that is only available in certain countries.

So, in a nutshell, a VPN helps to protect your privacy and security online. It's like your personal bodyguard on the internet, keeping your activities private and helping you access content from around the world.

Why should you use a VPN?

One reason: secrecy. If you're sending sensitive information over the internet, such as banking details or passwords, a VPN encrypts your data, making it harder for hackers, your internet service provider, or even the government to see what you're up to. And even if you're doing mundane things like reading emails or shopping online, it's good to have extra peace of mind. Plus, you can stay reasonably anonymous with a VPN, which is incredibly useful. A VPN masks your internet protocol (IP) address, and your device's unique ID on the internet, so you can't be tracked.

A VPN also helps make content that was previously inaccessible to you, either by way of where you live or another reason, available. Want to see what another country has available on your favorite streaming service? A VPN can help you get around these restrictions by making it look like your internet connection is coming from another country.

But VPNs aren't all about making things accessible - sometimes they're about keeping you safe, first and foremost. Using public Wi-Fi at places like a coffee shop or an airport can be risky because hackers or other bad actors may try to intercept your data. A VPN protects your information on these open networks and helps keep your logins, passwords, and data safe.

So, whether you want to keep your online activities private, get around geographic restrictions, protect your data on public Wi-Fi, or avoid bandwidth throttling, a VPN can be a handy tool to have.

What should a good VPN service provide?

Not all VPN services are made equally. If you're just starting to shop around, there are a few things to seek out in the service you go with. First and foremost, a good VPN should be user-friendly, with easy-to-use apps for all your devices. It should also come offering great customer service resources. If something goes wrong, you'll want to be able to get help quickly.

You should be paying a reasonable price. Free VPNs can be tempting, but they often have slower speeds, fewer servers, and may sell your data to advertisers. Worse, you may end up finding that your own connection could end up being used as a server for others, and that's a bad situation you don't want to be in. Good, reliable VPN services usually require a subscription fee.

Perhaps most importantly, you should ensure the service you're using offers strong encryption. A good VPN should use tried-and-true encryption methods to keep your data secure. This makes it harder for anyone to see your online activities, so you get the privacy you deserve -- and the privacy you're paying for. 

You should also seek out a no-logs policy. You want a VPN that doesn't keep track of what you do online. Some VPNs might keep logs, or records, of your activities. So if the VPN provider gets hacked or compelled by government authorities, your data could be exposed. 

Seek out a service that has an abundance of servers and locations. The more servers a VPN has, and the more countries those servers are in, the more options you have when you want to connect to a VPN server. This also helps you avoid crowded servers, ensuring better performance.

And since you'll be cruising around the internet, you'll want a fast connection. A VPN can slow your internet because your data has to travel farther to reach the VPN server, and because encrypting and decrypting data takes time. But a good VPN service should minimize this slowdown.

Are VPNs legal to use?

Short answer: yes. It's totally legal in most countries, including the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australia to use a VPN to protect your privacy online. These tools simply provide a secure way to surf the web and protect your privacy. It's just like sending a letter in an envelope instead of a postcard.

But just like with anything else, what you do while using a VPN matters. If you're using it for illegal activities, like pirating, those activities are still illegal, even if you're using a VPN. So it's not a free pass to do whatever you want online.

Also, a few countries, including China, Russia, and North Korea, heavily regulate or ban the use of VPNs. So if you live in, or are traveling to, one of those countries, you'll want to be careful about using a VPN.

In short, as long as you're using a VPN for legal activities and you're not in a country where they're banned, you should be in the clear. 

How do I know if my VPN is working?

Most VPNs let you check to see if they're working properly. But beyond that, there are plenty of ways to ensure you're protected.

First off, check your IP address. A VPN changes your IP address, so you can use free online tools to check if it's different when you're connected to your VPN. Just search "What's my IP?" on Google and write down the IP address you see. Then, turn on your VPN and refresh the same page. If the number changes, your VPN is doing its job.

Another method is to test for DNS leaks. Think of your DNS (Domain Name System) as the internet's address book. It matches up domain names like "" with their respective IP addresses. Your VPN should be handling these matches, not your internet service provider. You can use online tools to check this. Run a test and see if the results match up with your VPN's location and IP address.

You can also take a test run on a geo-restricted website, one that you know you typically can't access from your location. If you can get past the region block with your VPN turned on, then it's a thumbs-up for your VPN. Lastly, your VPN might have its own built-in tests for your connection. You can usually find these in the app's settings or help section.

Do I need a VPN for every device I own?

There's no right or wrong answer here, but it's always good to err on the side of caution. If you think about your internet connection like a series of doors between you and the online world, a VPN is like a fancy lock that keeps prying eyes out. So, do you need one of these locks for every door, or in this case, every device? Well, it depends.

If you're using a device to access the internet, there's potential for your online activities and personal data to be seen. So, using a VPN on all your devices that connect to the internet can help ensure that everything you do online is private and secure.

But remember, a VPN is not a one-size-fits-all solution. For example, your smartphone might need different security measures than your desktop or laptop. And not all VPNs will work with all devices. So you'll want to do research on which VPN works best with your equipment before subscribing with that in mind.

That said, it's also worth considering convenience. Having a VPN on your smartphone might be handy if you often connect to public Wi-Fi, like at a coffee shop or airport. But if your device mostly stays at home connected to your secure home network, it might not be as necessary.

Using a VPN on each device you connect to the internet with is a good idea. But it isn't always practical or feasible. You'll want to determine whether it's worth it for you on a case-by-case basis. 

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