Short on time? Here’s the best VPN for Windows in 2021:
- 🥇 ExpressVPN: Easy-to-use Windows app with excellent security features, blazing-fast internet speeds, and a strict no-logs policy (independently audited and verified). Allows 5 simultaneous connections, has flexible payment plans, and backs each purchase with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Get the best VPN for Windows in 2021 here.
I tested the top 49 VPNs on the market to find the best ones for Windows in 2021.
But it wasn’t easy. Most VPNs have unintuitive Windows apps, lack necessary security features, don’t have strong privacy policies, or are overpriced. A lot of VPN brands also can’t be used with streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer, and most of them slowed down my internet speeds way too much.
But the VPNs that made it to this list have user-friendly Windows apps, come with high-level security features, protect user privacy, are able to access many different streaming apps, and all maintain fast connection speeds.
Quick summary of the best VPNs for Windows:
- 1.🥇 ExpressVPN — Best overall VPN for Windows users in 2021.
- 2.🥈 CyberGhost VPN — Secure, reliable, fast, and inexpensive.
- 3.🥉 ProtonVPN — Excellent privacy features with a good free plan.
- 4. Private Internet Access — Customizable Windows app (and large server network).
- 5. PrivateVPN — User-friendly and simple Windows app.
- Frequently Asked Questions about VPNs for Windows.
How I Rated the Best VPNs for Windows in 2021
- Great security. All of the VPNs on this list include industry-standard security features like 256-bit AES encryption, a kill switch (shuts down your internet access if the VPN connection is interrupted), and a no-logs policy (to prevent the VPN company from recording your internet traffic). The Windows apps I recommend also come with high-security protocols like WireGuard, OpenVPN, and/or IKEv2.
- Fast speeds. All VPNs will slow down your internet connection because of the encryption process, but the best VPNs maintain fast speeds so you can browse the internet, stream TV shows and movies, and download files as if you’re not connected to a VPN. The VPNs on this list reduced my overall speeds by an average of no more than 42%, which is really good. And all of these VPNs had blazing-fast speeds when I connected to local servers.
- Ease of use. I only recommend VPNs that have a Windows app that is simple to use. The VPNs on this list allow you to connect to a server with just one click, have intuitive features, and provide an overall smooth and easy user experience.
- Extra features. All of the VPNs listed here come with additional features — some of them have obfuscation tools that help bypass internet restrictions in censor-heavy countries like China, split-tunneling to exclude some of your internet traffic from the VPN server, and ad blockers to remove ads and trackers from various websites and online platforms.
- Good value. I only recommend VPNs that are reasonably priced, have flexible payment plans, accept multiple forms of payment, and back each purchase with at least a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Top Brands That Didn’t Make the Cut:
- PureVPN. PureVPN has pretty good speeds, unblocks most streaming sites, and supports P2P traffic. But PureVPN assisted law enforcement during an investigation that helped identify a user’s IP address. While this happened a few years ago and PureVPN has since stopped logging user IP addresses, I still can’t recommend this provider due to its past logging practices.
- HMA (formerly HideMyAss!). HMA has servers located in 210+ countries, fast speeds, and is good at unblocking Netflix and other popular streaming services. But like PureVPN, HMA has a history of recording users’ online activity and handing it over to the authorities. Although HMA now also has a strict no-logs policy, I still can’t recommend this VPN.
🥇 1. ExpressVPN — Best VPN for Windows in 2021
ExpressVPN has high-security features, is the fastest VPN on this list, and has an intuitive Windows app. During my speed tests using ExpressVPN’s proprietary Lightway protocol (which is more secure and faster than other popular protocols like IKEv2 and OpenVPN), ExpressVPN only decreased my download speeds by an average of 18%.
Thanks to ExpressVPN’s fast speeds, I was able to stream content on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and many other apps in high definition and without any buffering. Plus, I downloaded large files quickly — it took me an average of 10 minutes to download a 1 GB file from BitTorrent.
ExpressVPN’s Windows app also offers extra security features, such as:
- Perfect forward secrecy — Changes your encryption key each time you connect to a server to prevent a third-party from compromising your transferred data.
- TrustedServer Technology — ExpressVPN stores all server metadata on memory (RAM) instead of on its hard drives, and all of the data is wiped clean after each server gets rebooted.
- Split-tunneling — Allows you to choose which apps to route through the VPN tunnel and which apps to route through your local network.
I really love how ExpressVPN makes it simple to connect to a fast server from your Windows laptop or desktop computer — just click on the Smart Location feature to find the most optimal server for your location, or you can select a server from ExpressVPN’s list of recommended servers.
I also like that ExpressVPN automatically disables IPv6 traffic and WebRTC leaks, and I found it very easy to enable/disable configurations like automatically launching ExpressVPN upon turning on a Windows device.
ExpressVPN offers 3 payment plans, including a 1-month, 6-month, and 15-month payment plan (this plan includes 3 free months), allows 5 connections, and backs each plan by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
ExpressVPN is my favorite Windows VPN on the market — it includes excellent security features, is extremely fast, and is very easy to use. In addition to essential privacy features, you get advanced server technology, perfect forward secrecy, and split-tunneling. ExpressVPN unblocks all of the major streaming services, is P2P friendly, allows 5 connections, and backs all of its payment plans with a 30-day-money back guarantee.
🥈 2. CyberGhost VPN — Best-Value VPN for Windows
CyberGhost VPN’s Windows app is simple, intuitive, and really fast — and it comes inside one of the best-value VPN packages on the market.
CyberGhost performed well in my speed tests — it only reduced my average speed by 32%, which is great. I really like how CyberGhost’s Windows app displays the server load percentage for every server (how many active users are connected to a server) so users can easily find the fastest one.
CyberGhost’s Windows app comes with extra security features, such as:
- NoSpy servers — These servers are built by CyberGhost and operated only by CyberGhost staff, so they provide extra security and faster speeds than regular servers.
- Smart Rules — This is a really convenient tool that allows you to customize your security and privacy preferences.
- ID Guard — This alerts you if your email and passwords have been leaked on the dark web.
- Specialized servers — CyberGhost tells you specifically which servers are optimized for streaming, torrenting, and gaming.
One of CyberGhost’s drawbacks is that it doesn’t work in restrictive countries that censor the internet (like China). If you’re looking for a VPN that will consistently bypass government firewalls, I recommend ExpressVPN.
CyberGhost VPN allows 7 simultaneous connections and offers 4 flexible payment plans (the 2-year plan is one of the cheapest deals on the market). CyberGhost has a 45-day money-back guarantee on its annual plans and a 14-day money-back guarantee on the 1-month plan.
CyberGhost VPN’s Windows app is secure, fast, and affordable. It provides good security features inside an intuitive dashboard, comes with pre-optimized dedicated servers for streaming, torrenting, and gaming, and includes extras like dark web monitoring. During my tests, CyberGhost only reduced my average speeds by 32%, so I could browse the web and watch video without lag or interruptions. But unfortunately, CyberGhost VPN doesn’t work in China, so it’s not the best at overcoming government restrictions. CyberGhost VPN offers a generous 45-day money-back guarantee on its 1-year, 2-year, and 3-year payment plans.
🥉 3. ProtonVPN — High-Privacy Features + Good Free VPN for Windows
ProtonVPN is really secure, has excellent speeds, a simple Windows dashboard, and it offers the best free plan out there. In addition to standard privacy features (kill switch, no-logs policy, etc.), ProtonVPN’s Windows app offers extra features like perfect forward secrecy, split-tunneling, ad blocking, and Secure Core servers (routes your internet traffic through multiple ultra-secure servers).
I also think it’s great that ProtonVPN’s Windows app is open-source (so anyone can inspect its source code), and it’s also been independently audited for security risks — which identified mostly minor vulnerabilities that ProtonVPN immediately fixed.
One thing I really like is how easy it is to use ProtonVPN. The load percentage for each ProtonVPN server in the Windows app is indicated by a green (good), yellow (medium), or red (bad) circle so you can quickly find the fastest server. In my tests, my internet speeds were reduced by an average of 34% — which is good, but slower than ExpressVPN.
ProtonVPN’s free plan is pretty decent. It comes with unlimited data and access to 3 VPN servers, but you can only connect the VPN to 1 device at a time. Some other drawbacks with ProtonVPN’s free plan are that it provides “medium” speed and it doesn’t include access to servers that support streaming and torrenting.
Upgrading to ProtonVPN Basic brings you 2 connections, access to servers located in 55 countries, “high” speed, torrenting support, and NetShield (ad blocker). ProtonVPN Plus adds 5 connections, the “highest” speed, access to streaming servers, Tor over VPN, and Secure Core servers. ProtonVPN Visionary allows 10 simultaneous connections and a ProtonMail account. ProtonVPN backs each plan with a prorated 30-day money-back guarantee.
ProtonVPN is a high-privacy VPN that offers a pretty good free plan. ProtonVPN’s Windows app is open-source, it comes with extras like perfect forward secrecy, and has great speeds. ProtonVPN’s free plan has unlimited bandwidth and decent speeds, but you can use it on only one Windows device at a time and you can’t access streaming or torrenting servers. ProtonVPN has 3 tier-based paid plans that come with a prorated 30-day money-back guarantee.
4. Private Internet Access (PIA) — Customizable Windows App + Huge Server Network
Private Internet Access (PIA) has 35,000+ servers located in 78 countries, provides decent speeds, is fully open-source, and comes with a highly customizable Windows app. PIA’s massive number of servers helps prevent overcrowding and provides you with faster speeds. PIA had an average speed drop of about 42% in my speed tests, but it provided me with a really fast connection speed on local servers.
One of the things I love the most about PIA is how flexible its security settings are. The Settings tab in the Windows app is neatly organized into 7 different categories where you can enable/disable a wide range of features (like the kill switch and split-tunneling) and change advanced settings (like port forwarding and data authentication). While most users won’t need to change a lot of these settings — PIA sets all of the features to recommended defaults — PIA is one of the few VPNs that gives you a lot of control over various VPN settings and configurations.
PIA is a pretty good choice for torrenting, as it allows P2P traffic on all of its servers. However, PIA’s ability to unblock streaming sites is hit-and-miss — I was able to access Netflix and Amazon Prime, but Hulu and BBC iPlayer didn’t work (I recommend ExpressVPN or CyberGhost VPN for unblocking streaming services).
Private Internet Access allows 10 simultaneous connections, offers 3 payment plans, and covers each purchase with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Private Internet Access has a huge server network, really good speeds, and provides a very intuitive, highly customizable, and fully open-source Windows app. It supports P2P traffic but is unable to access Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and a few other streaming services. Private Internet Access is very affordable, it allows 10 simultaneous connections, and each plan comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
5. PrivateVPN — Easy-To-Use VPN with Good Security
PrivateVPN has a very user-friendly Windows app, good security, and fast speeds for streaming and torrenting. I really like that PrivateVPN offers two different viewing modes on Windows — Simple View and Advanced View.
The Simple View keeps things very simple. The only decision you need to make is which server to connect to (you can click the large power button for instant connection or manually select a location by hitting the Change button). The only other option available in Simple View is to contact customer support.
The Advanced View adds the options to choose your protocol and encryption levels (256-bit AES or 128-bit AES), enable leak protection, activate the kill switch, turn on Application Guard to prevent specific programs from accessing the internet if you are disconnected from the VPN, and activate Stealth VPN (PrivateVPN’s obfuscation feature that bypasses government firewalls in China and Iran).
PrivateVPN performed well in my speed tests — my speeds dropped about 40%, which is comparable to ProtonVPN and Private Internet Access. PrivateVPN’s good speeds allowed me to stream Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, and many other streaming apps without any buffering. PrivateVPN also supports P2P traffic on all of its 150+ servers.
PrivateVPN allows 6 simultaneous connections and has flexible payment options. All of PrivateVPN’s payment plans include a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.
PrivateVPN provides a very simple Windows app, fast speeds, and good security. PrivateVPN has a Simple View that’s ideal for beginners looking for a minimalistic VPN and an Advanced View that provides access to all of PrivateVPN’s features and functions. PrivateVPN is a good VPN for streaming and torrenting, it works in China, and all of its payment plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Best VPNs for Windows (2021) — Final Score:
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Best VPNs for Windows — Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best VPN for Windows?
ExpressVPN is my favorite VPN for Windows in 2021. It’s easy to use, has excellent security, is one of the fastest VPNs on the market, unblocks Netflix and other geo-restricted content, supports torrenting, and backs each payment plan with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
While ExpressVPN is my top VPN for Windows, there are a lot of other great options available. CyberGhost VPN is secure, fast, and very cheap, and ProtonVPN comes with great privacy features (and also has the best free plan for Windows users). Private Internet Access (PIA) allows Windows users to customize the VPN in a lot of different ways, and PrivateVPN has a very user-friendly Windows app with a Simple View for beginner users and an Advanced View for tech-savvy users.
Are there any free VPNs for Windows?
Yes, there are free VPNs available for Windows. But free VPNs usually lack standard security features, have slow speeds, may log your personal data, and set a limit on the amount of data you can use.
But if you’re looking for a reliable free VPN, ProtonVPN is my top choice — you can use it on one device at a time, you get unlimited data and access to 3 VPN servers (located in the US, Japan, and the Netherlands), and its Windows app is very easy to use.
That said, I still recommend purchasing a reasonably-priced VPN like ExpressVPN, CyberGhost VPN, or one of ProtonVPN’s premium tier-based payment plans. They’re all secure, fast, good for streaming and torrenting, and come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Is it safe to use a VPN on my Windows device?
Yes, it’s very safe to use a VPN on your Windows desktop computer, laptop, or tablet. All of the VPNs on this list protect your data with 256-bit AES encryption, a kill switch, secure protocols, and a strict no-logs policy. Most of them also include extra features like split-tunneling, ad blocking, and specialized servers for streaming, torrenting, and bypassing firewalls in restrictive countries.
Does Windows have a built-in VPN?
Yes, Windows has a built-in VPN desktop client, but it’s not the same thing as a VPN service provider like ExpressVPN or CyberGhost VPN. The Windows VPN client is designed to use your device as a VPN server, but setting it up is a very technical process (and you still need to subscribe to a third-party VPN provider for the Windows VPN client to work).
I recommend that you keep things simple and purchase a trustworthy VPN service to be able to connect to one of their multiple VPN servers.