The Internet is a large and dynamic network routing data packets between billions of devices. When the computers routing this data fail certain routes become unavailable and traffic has to be temporarily routed over an alternate path causing congestion on the new route (much like a road traffic system). Speed issues are therefore often temporary and will resolve themselves automatically as new routes are added, repaired and optimized.

A VPN is dependent on the speed of your connection to the Internet. Whatever the speed of the connection is, the VPN cannot be faster. In fact, you should expect a small loss in speed when connecting to any VPN service due to the software having to encrypt every packet of data. This loss should be small, usually 10-20% when compared with your connection without a VPN.

Using a VPN is a great way to unlock websites and maintain your online privacy, but even the very best services are likely to reduce your internet speeds. Some level of performance hit is to be expected. A VPN is routing your traffic through an extra server, maybe half way around the world, and encrypting and decrypting it along the journey. That's very likely to slow you down.

Individual services might have additional problems of their own. If you sign up for a budget VPN with a huge number of users, overloaded servers and no spare bandwidth, speeds are going to suffer. You don't have to simply live with this state of affairs, though, and there are ways to boost the initial performance levels you might see with a VPN. And to that end, we've put together ideas that could help you squeeze out a little extra speed from your VPN connection.

Switch Protocols

VPN clients and servers communicate using a protocol which defines how the devices connect, and the level and type of encryption used.

Most servers use the OpenVPN protocol for its strong security and high performance, and this should be your first choice in most situations. Check your client settings and if you can select a protocol, choose OpenVPN.

OpenVPN may be restricted or throttled on some networks, and if that's the case, switching to an alternative may solve the problem.

L2TP/IPSec is probably your second-best option. Its 256-bit encryption does a reasonable job of keeping you safe, although it does have some potential security issues. SSTP is a highly secure protocol developed by Microsoft. It's closer to OpenVPN in security terms and unlikely to be much faster, but if it's an option with your client (and it usually isn't) you might want to give it a try.

PPTP is your simplest choice, but it's also extremely insecure, with a host of security issues leaving it vulnerable to hackers. The protocol might help with simple tasks, like streaming YouTube on the library Wi-Fi, but don't use it for online banking, shopping or anything where there's any need for security or privacy.

Choose Another Server

Connecting to your nearest server will usually offer the best performance, but there are occasional exceptions. If your server is in a popular location, such as London, it could be overwhelmed by traffic from other users, so you may get better speeds from other locations.

Don't trust your client to choose the fastest server, either. Many VPN apps have 'Quick Connect' buttons which claim to pick the best server for you, but we've seen these make spectacularly bad decisions, including connecting our UK test location to the US rather than Europe.

The best approach is to test servers in your current location and several neighboring countries. Don't be put off by your client showing higher ping times or latency – that doesn't necessarily mean download speeds will be lower.

For example, we've found that cities in the Netherlands or France will typically show twice the latency of our closest UK locations, yet download speeds can be almost identical, and occasionally faster. Even Swedish servers have been good alternatives to the UK with some providers. There are no fixed rules and your experience may be different, but try a few nearby servers anyway. You might be surprised at the results.

Tweak Protocol Settings

If your chosen protocol isn't delivering the speeds you need, tweaking its settings could help. OpenVPN can run over the TCP or UDP protocols. UDP is the simplest and would be our choice for performance. But TCP's built-in error correction improves reliability. If you're having connection problems, switching to TCP could make sense.

By default, your OpenVPN client will connect to a server using port 1194. That normally works without any issues, but some networks might block or throttle that port, reducing performance. If your client allows it, try switching to port 443. That's relatively safe as it's the default port for HTTPS, and most networks will leave it alone.

Some VPNs try to address these issues with their own protocols. VyprVPN says its Chameleon protocol "scrambles OpenVPN packet metadata to ensure it’s not recognizable via deep packet inspection" and that it's "ideal for users worldwide experiencing VPN blocking and speed issues related to bandwidth throttling."

These technologies are often complex, adding extra layers to OpenVPN's 256-bit protocol and reducing performance for most users. But they can make a huge difference for users on networks that are attempting to block or throttle VPN use, and they're well worth trying.

Try Split Tunneling

Most VPN clients send all network traffic through an encrypted tunnel. That's simple and ensures there's no chance of any identity leaks, but it could also be an unnecessary drain on your VPN bandwidth. If you only need a VPN to unblock a video streaming site, for instance, why route your browsing, email and everything else through the same connection?

Split tunneling gives more control over the applications that use the VPN tunnel. At its simplest, you could pipe your browser traffic through the VPN to facilitate site unblocking, while allowing everything else to use your regular connection. Reducing VPN traffic may improve speeds, while allowing other apps to work outside the tunnel reduces the chance of conflicts (you won't have local network access blocked while the VPN is active, for instance).

If you're interested, check your VPN client to see if there's split tunneling support. ExpressVPN, ibVPN, PureVPN, Ivacy and a few others all allow the feature, although they implement it in very different ways.

Try another VPN

Stuck with poor performance, no matter what you do? Maybe the problem isn't your current VPN, but your device, network, ISP or something similar. One way to test this is to try another VPN. This won't always tell you much, especially if the new VPN is already slower than the first, but if you're suffering with extreme problems – can't connect here, sluggish speeds there – it may give you a clue as to the cause.

Ideally you should choose one of our highlighted best VPN services, as that will give you the best idea of how your current service compares to the quality competition. Check any trial and refund details, though – you may have to pay for the service initially, then claim your money back later once your tests are complete.

Some VPNs make life simpler by allowing users to sign up without any credit card details at all. CactusVPN gives you 24 hours for free, ideal for some quick testing. If you need more time, consider a service like ProtonVPN Free. Speeds can be decent for a free service, and if nothing else, it's handy to have around as a free backup.

Just one warning here: some VPN clients can become confused if you install multiple VPNs on your system. Sometimes VPN providers include a repair option to reinstall their drivers, but if that doesn't work you may have to reinstall the full client to get it working.

Changing Devices

Sometimes, changing the device you use for VPN-based web access can improve speed. Some older Android and Apple devices, as well as routers, are not suitable for coping with deep encryption of VPN services. Switching to a new device may invoke better results. Kind of like watching incredible movies like Chappie, Blackhat, and Sicario can offer you some supreme entertainment.

Turning Off Firewall

If you are using a firewall switching it off may improve VPN speed. This is owing to the fact firewall filters every bit of data passing through it, and that causes a slowdown in web access speed. However, disabling your firewall could be risky in the long run.

Changing Your Location

When you are using Wi-Fi network, changing the location may be helpful to improve VPN performance and speed. As you know, wireless signal strength varies and obstacles like walls or large objects can slow down signal strength. Try to get closer to the router when you use Wi-Fi network at home or office so that your device or PC can receive a strong signal for web access.

How to Measure VPN Speed?

Follow the steps below to measure how fast a VPN server.

  1. Before you connect to a VPN server, head over to Speedtest.net and test your ping, download, and upload speeds.
  2. Note the results down.
  3. Now, connect to a VPN server and conduct a speed test again.
  4. Compare the two results.
  5. Generally speaking, if the drop in Internet speed is around 10%, it means that the VPN server you are connected to is fast.
  6. If you notice that connecting to a VPN server is dragging your Internet speed down, try connecting to a VPN server closer to your location.
  7. If that does not help, try changing protocols.
  8. In case neither of these tips help, you might want to consider changing your VPN provider.

VPN performance boost is no magical stuff. With careful setting changes, you can achieve your desired results. At times, changing web access devices and service is all you need to do. Keep in mind that you might never get satisfying VPN speeds if you are using a free VPN service. That’s because such services are almost always overloaded. In the end, if you are a frequent VPN user, shelling out 10 dollars a month for a decent service is well worth it.