Miscellaneous Technology

How to Improve your VPN Speeds

Multiple factors impact your VPN speeds. Some of them depend on you, like the tunneling protocol you’ve chosen or server selection. Others, like server quality and load, rely on your internet service provider (ISP). But sometimes, one VPN simply has a better infrastructure than another, and server or protocol choice will only impact so much.

In this article, I’ll give you some simple tips that can help improve your VPN speeds. Not all of them apply to every VPN provider. Some won’t help much if you have a slow internet connection or the distances to the VPN server are large. However, if you find a way to apply at least a few of them, your VPN’s performance should increase noticeably.

7 ways to improve your VPN’s performance

So what can you do if you already have a VPN product and don’t want to switch to another one, but would also like more speed? Below are some easy tips that you can try right away to see if they bring any results. Not every suggestion has the same effect on your connection speed.

1. Turn off unnecessary features

Some VPNs offer lots of room for customization, and sometimes this might result in worse performance. Here’s what you can check first in the settings:

  • Double VPN. Also known as multi-hop, this feature routes your traffic through two servers instead of one. As a result, you get extra security because none of the servers know everything about you. Unfortunately, it takes a toll on your connection because of double-encryption and the longer distance that your data needs to travel.
  • Tor over VPN. This feature is extremely good at slowing down your connection, especially if you try to pair it with Double VPN. Such is the price of added privacy. 
  • Firewall and/or antivirus. Some VPNs come together with other cybersecurity products or are bundled into an online protection suite themselves. Running every possible security feature is not always the best option because standard VPN protection should be enough for regular browsing, streaming, or torrenting. 

2. Use split tunneling

If your VPN offers this feature, consider using split tunneling to protect only those parts of your traffic that really need it. Split tunneling allows you to choose which apps and websites will go through the VPN tunnel and which ones will use your regular internet connection. 

For example, I want my P2P activities protected, so I switch on the VPN for my torrenting client but keep my Chrome browser free, so I can read the local news and watch some local IPTV.

Of course, you should remember your settings and turn on full protection when using public wifi in an airport or cafe.

3. Avoid overcrowded VPN servers

Just like you need to stay away from crowded places during the COVID-19 pandemic, you should also avoid VPN servers with high load.

Unfortunately, not every VPN service shows server load, so it might be difficult to say if this is the cause of slow speed. In such a case, you should try another server and see if this brings any results.

Some VPNs offer to select the best option in your chosen country automatically. If you have to do it manually, simply look for the least crowded server. Even if it’s a few hundred or thousand miles further than the most popular server, it will likely give you better speeds.

VPNs differ greatly in their server numbers and countries where they operate, so your choice might be limited accordingly.

4. Change tunneling protocol

The automatically selected tunneling protocol is not always the fastest option. Most solid VPNs would rather offer the more secure option by default. However, everything has changed with the advent of WireGuard, the next-gen protocol.

WireGuard has the power to become the most secure and also the fastest tunneling protocol. It already delivers speeds that are multiple times faster than any other protocol. You can clearly see the difference between the WireGuard and other protocols in this VPN speed test tool. All providers that have it implemented are way above the rest.

And even then, there’s a significant difference between first and second place for reasons that go beyond VPN tunneling protocols.

But what if your VPN doesn’t support WireGuard yet? Well, most of the time, you should still have a few options to choose from. If you can, try switching from TCP to UDP when using the OpenVPN protocol. It should give you more Mbps, although such a connection will be less stable (this applies mostly to mobile users ). The IKEv2 protocol can also work better than OpenVPN on some occasions.

I don’t recommend using L2TP, SSTP, and PPTP tunneling protocols, though. While they can be faster than OpenVPN or IKEv2, they are no longer considered secure and should be phased out – the sooner, the better.

5. Make sure your ISP is not using bandwidth throttling

Have you ever noticed that your browsing is as smooth as a baby’s bottom, but whenever you try to watch Netflix in HD, things seem to turn for the worse?

If your answer is yes, that means your Internet Service Provider is throttling your bandwidth. Luckily, this is a case when using a VPN can actually increase your internet speed

Most ISPs do this for torrenting or streaming efforts to save enough lanes on the internet highway for other users. A VPN can hide the nature of your online activities, giving your ISP no reason to throttle your speed.

Unfortunately, some providers might throttle your traffic if they see that you’re using a VPN. In such a scenario, you should use StealthVPN or other features to mask your connection. 

6. Use SmartDNS for streaming

SmartDNS is great when you need a VPN only for unblocking, not encryption. If your ISP sees that you’re watching Sex Education on Netflix, it probably won’t inform the government and won’t even bother. It’s a pity that not all VPNs have this useful function. With SmartDNS, you can stream in HD or even 4K on your smart TVs, game consoles, and other devices that normally don’t support all VPN features.

7. Upgrade your internet connection

If all else fails, consider getting a better internet connection. It’s not an option in every location, and sometimes you’re already using the best plan. Lastly, not everyone is interested in paying extra, especially if the speed boost is questionable. 

But sometimes, this can be the only and most effective way to deal with unbearable slowness. Remember that this probably won’t improve your latency, which is highly dependent on the server location. Therefore, if you’re in the US and want to connect to Australia, the latency will be relatively high no matter what kind of internet connection you have.

Bottom line

Your internet speed and your chosen VPN service are equally important for overall performance. In case you have a poor connection, there’s probably not much you can do except move to South Korea.

If it’s your VPN that causes the slowdown, you can tweak the available settings and hope for the best. Finally, if your provider doesn’t get mentioned among the fastest VPNs, it might be time to move on and get a new one that does.

About the author

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Jan Youngren

Jan Youngren is a cybersecurity and consumer protection specialist at VPNpro focused on investigations that help readers navigate the complex infosecurity sphere. His research and commentary has been featured in Forbes, ComputerWeekly, PC Mag, TechRadar, ZDNet, The Mirror, Entrepreneur, and many other leading publications around the world. https://twitter.com/JanYoungrenhttps://twitter.com/VPNpro