In some cases, ISP-specific issues can slow down your connection. If this happens to you, hiding the type of traffic you are sending can work around these issues. So, does a VPN help with internet speed? Generally, no, but there are some notable exceptions.
Key points to remember:
- In most cases, you will notice a slight drop in your internet connection speed when you connect to a VPN.
- If your ISP throttles certain types of traffic or has poor peering with other networks, the reverse may be true.
- If your VPN drastically reduces your bandwidth, try changing servers and protocols before considering a provider with faster VPN speeds.
In this article, we’ll cover instances where VPN connection speeds might exceed normal internet connection speeds. Beyond that, we’ll look at the far more common scenario of slow VPN connection speeds and how you could improve them.
Yes, VPNs will generally slow down your internet speed at least somewhat. However, unless your internet connection is very slow to begin with, the effect usually won’t be too noticeable. There are also rare cases where a VPN can actually improve your connection speed.
The fastest VPNs we’ve tested at Cloudwards are ExpressVPN, Surfshark, StrongVPN, and ProtonVPN.
How Does a VPN Help With Internet Speed?
Most of the time, you won’t get a speed boost from using a VPN. This is because a VPN cannot actually increase the amount of bandwidth you have beyond what your connection is capable of. That said, there are a few exceptions to this.
The main one you might encounter is ISP throttling. In jurisdictions with poor net neutrality legislation, ISPs may decide to throttle certain types of internet traffic (usually things like peer-to-peer downloads or high-definition streaming) in order to limit the amount of bandwidth bandwidth you can use.
If your ISP does this, a VPN can mask the type of traffic you’re sending, making selective throttling impossible.
Another case where a VPN can improve the speed of your internet traffic is if your ISP has bad peering agreements with other networks. We won’t go into too much detail on this, but essentially a peering agreement is a contract between two networks to cooperate and transfer each other’s traffic. If your ISP doesn’t have many, it can hurt your internet speed.
A VPN gets around this problem by hiding the origin of your data, which means other networks can’t tell it’s coming from a network with poorly configured or poorly negotiated peering agreements.
Why Do VPNs Slow Your Internet Connection?
Other than the exceptions mentioned above, using a VPN to access the internet will generally result in increased latency and slower speeds. This is because using a VPN adds a step between you and the website or server you are trying to access.
How to see if your VPN is slowing down your internet speed
Determining if your VPN is slowing you down is simple. First, connect to VPN, go to speedtest.net and run the test. Write down the result when it’s finished, then disconnect from the VPN and run the test again. This should give you a pretty good idea of the speed difference, but if you want as accurate a picture as possible, you can run a few tests and average the results.
How to speed up your virtual private network connection
If your VPN is slowing you down, there are a few things you can try to improve your speed. The first and easiest is to simply connect to another VPN server. Things like server load and physical distance can dramatically alter the speed you get, so be sure to try a few different ones.
If that doesn’t help, you can also try changing the VPN protocol. Most VPNs will default to OpenVPN, which should be fine, but it’s worth trying a few others like WireGuard or IKEv2 to see if your speed improves.
Finally, not all VPNs are created equal. If your VPN is slowing you down, no matter what server and protocol you’re using, you might want to consider switching to a faster VPN.
Ultimately, the slight decrease in internet speeds caused by most VPN providers is usually outweighed by all the security features and access to geo-restricted content you get by using a VPN connection. On top of that, there are even instances where a VPN can give you faster speeds.
If you think this might be the case for you, we recommend checking out our lists of the best VPNs to find a VPN provider that gives you the most bang for your buck while potentially improving your bandwidth.
What do you think of our explanation of why a VPN could potentially provide faster internet speeds and our troubleshooting tips for VPN speed issues? Have you encountered throttling from your ISP or poor peering? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks for the reading.