Does a VPN slow down your Internet connection?
A virtual private network, or VPN, hides your public IP address, effectively encrypts all your online activity, and helps to bypass geo-limitations. This allows access to more privacy, anonymity, and security online. However, the most frequent claim about VPNs is that they slow down internet connection speed. Let’s dive in and clarify whether VPNs really affect Internet speed, why you might have slow Internet even without a VPN, and how to have both good speed connection and protection.
Why is my Internet speed so slow?
Internet connection speed might be decreased due to different reasons, and often using a VPN is not the main one. Even more, sometimes VPN can be a solution for the slow Internet connection speed, and using a VPN can make the Internet faster. Let’s look at the main reasons of a low connection speed:
Internet plan with slow speed
Your Internet plan might be outdated and offer the speed that doesn't fit your needs anymore. For example, if you've lately started working remotely, or your children are playing online video games more often, it might be a good reason to choose another plan. Also, keep in mind that all devices connected to your router share the plan's bandwidth. Your Internet speed might be lower if somebody in your household actively uses Internet traffic to download large files, for example, ultra-high-definition movies.
ISP slows down your Internet connection
Depending on where you live, your ISP may be allowed to legally throttle bandwidth, for example, if you stream more TV than they want you to, or to provide slower connections to competitors' websites. Using a VPN helps solve this problem.
A Wi-fi connection allows you to get access to the Web from anywhere in your house, but the speed you get through Wi-Fi is often lower than the speed via wire. Data packets move between the device and the router through unstable radio signals, which are prone to error and easy to interfere. Consider connecting your TVs and other stationary devices via a network cable if possible.
It’s important to find the right place for your router so all devices can receive a strong signal. Since the router sends signals out in all directions, a central location for the router is the best option. Keep in mind that signals become weaker when passing through walls, so it’s optimal to have the router visible from all points where the connected devices can be located. Also, your router has to be powerful enough to provide consistent coverage.
A budget router which gets flooded and stuck by traffic surges
Under the hood routers do quite a bit of work: they “repack” every data packet as it is sent across the network. This is CPU intensive, so cheap devices may not have enough computational capacity to digest the required amount of traffic. So if your Internet suddenly slows down when you start actively consuming traffic, it’s a good reason to test an alternative device.
An older version of Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi is evolving, just like other technologies. If you use a 10-year-old Wi-Fi hotspot, chances are it performs worse than modern ones.
At the very minimum, it’s good to have a dual-band Wi-Fi router (2.4 and 5 GHz), because the 5 GHz frequency range is less flooded with neighbors’ radio signals. And an even better option is to upgrade it to a model that supports Wi-Fi 6. This latest generation of Wi-Fi technology offers the fastest wireless connection speeds and the best overall coverage.
Your devices need to be rebooted
If some internal system error affects the Internet connection, only restarting your device can fix this problem. If the connection gets slow on all devices connected to the Wi-Fi, try restarting both your devices and your router.
Unnecessary background apps and programs
Running background programs might consume bandwidth and processing power. It's a good habit to check background apps from time to time, especially when you notice a decrease in connection speed.
Spyware on your computer
Spyware can interfere with your network traffic, monopolize your Internet connection, and dramatically decrease Internet speed. Your device might be infected by various spyware programs and compound the problem up to a total loss of connection. To prevent this, regularly check your computer with antispyware.
Does a VPN affect the Internet speed?
Yes, VPN affects your Internet speed. However, how noticeable this affection might be depends on various circumstances: the Internet speed provided by your ISP, the quality of your Internet connection (presence or absence of packet loss), the chosen VPN protocol, and the distance to the chosen VPN server. The connection speed of free and paid VPN services also differs: usually, a paid VPN is faster due to more server locations available and no artificial speed restrictions.
Here’s how you can check if a VPN affects your Internet connection:
- Run a speed test with the VPN on and off.
- Compare the results.
- Repeat the test several times during the day to get a more accurate picture.
How does a VPN slow down the Internet?
There are several potential reasons why VPNs decrease Internet speed:
VPN server location
It’s the most frequent cause why VPNs decrease Internet speed. After you turn on a VPN, all your data goes through a VPN server which is physically located in another country. The distance between your device and a VPN server determines how long it takes to transfer your data. To minimize the impact of a VPN on Internet speed, choose a VPN server closer to you. In this case, your data packets require less time to reach the destination point and return back to you. Usually, it’s not a problem for premium VPN customers who can choose VPN servers from a comprehensive list of locations all over the world. For example, AdGuard VPN provides VPN servers in more than 40 countries around the world. As a general rule, free VPN service providers do not offer a good choice of VPN locations to their users.
VPN protocol encryption
VPN creates an encrypted tunnel for all your traffic and makes it inconspicuous to snoopers and hackers. And the process of encryption needs some additional time. High-quality VPNs use modern industry-standard cryptographic protocols, which can leverage hardware acceleration to minimize CPU and battery consumption and ensure a strong encryption of your data. To make sure your VPN uses the right type of encryption, select AES-128 or AES-256.
Another property of a VPN protocol is its sustainability to packet loss (which is commonplace on mobile devices when they are connected to the Internet via a cellular network). Data packet loss dramatically reduces the quality of a tunneled Internet connection. AdGuard VPN provides a VPN-over-QUIC option, which can mitigate the negative influence of packet loss.
VPN server load
The connection speed drops when too many users connect to the same VPN server. This is a common situation for free VPNs which don’t provide enough VPN servers for their customers. Premium VPN users don’t usually face VPN server overload and can be sure that their VPN connection speed will stay high.
Does a VPN make the Internet faster?
As we mentioned, it’s possible that your VPN slows down your VPN connection. But this is by no means a certainty. On the contrary, a right VPN provider like AdGuard VPN can help you Internet connection get faster:
1. Providers that don’t adhere to the network neutrality principle can shape media/gaming traffic or route it via longer and slower routes. VPN hides the traffic from them by encrypting it and increases the chances to bypass these “discriminatory” rules.
2. With some ISPs, you may encounter the problem of inefficient traffic routing. Providers reduce the speed of your connection for a variety of reasons. Enabling a VPN can reduce this problem by “straightening” the route of your traffic to remote websites and networks.
3. AdGuard VPN provides a QUIC tunneling option, which encapsulates all your traffic into a QUIC-based tunnel. QUIC is a transport protocol invented by Google as a faster and more reliable replacement for TCP in non-ideal networks (such as mobile networks). This option allows you to increase connection speed on mobile devices when the quality of signal is low.
As you can see, apart from encrypting your traffic and protecting privacy, a VPN can enhance your connection too, especially if you approach the choice of the VPN provider wisely.
Why AdGuard VPN
Nobody wants to pay for slowing down the Internet speed. Fortunately, there are VPNs that offer users both anonymity and high VPN connection speed. Check out other benefits that AdGuard VPN provides for their customers:
Unique VPN protocol. AdGuard VPN refuses ready-made solutions and uses an in-house developed protocol that is more difficult to detect and is faster than its analogs.
Website exclusions. With AdGuard VPN, you can choose on which websites you want your VPN to be off. And vice versa: you can turn AdGuard VPN off for all websites by default, leaving it to work only on those you manually exclude.
App exclusions. Carrying a fancy name of “Split tunneling”, this is a feature similar to the previous one. Basically this is an exclusions list, but for apps rather than websites.
DNS server of your choice. AdGuard VPN users don’t have to rely on the DNS server provided by their ISP. They can choose a DNS server from the list of known providers or configure their own DNS server.
Locations with the highest speeds. AdGuard VPN shows you ping times for every server location. Usually, the server with the lowest ping is the fastest one — get the highest possible speed by choosing the right location.
VPN servers in 40+ countries. A wide range of VPN servers to choose from assures a fast and stable connection no matter where you are.
QUIC support. AdGuard VPN provides a better connection quality in non-ideal conditions: for example, when you’re connected through a mobile network.
Kill Switch. It’s an essential VPN feature which automatically disconnects you from the Internet if your connection suddenly drops.
Auto-protection. This feature automatically turns on AdGuard VPN when you connect to unsecured Wi-Fi networks.
Simultaneous connections. Users of AdGuard VPN Unlimited can simultaneously connect up to five devices to the VPN and log in to an unlimited number of devices.
Strict no-logging policy. AdGuard is a privacy-oriented company that does not collect or store users’ activity logs.
This section will cover any questions you may still have after reading the article.
Does a VPN affect Internet speed?
Yes, a VPN might make your Internet speed slower. However, the severity of the speed drop may vary depending on different factors: the distance to a VPN server, the load of a VPN server, the VPN protocol, and even speed restrictions by your VPN provider. Usually, paid VPN plans don’t have speed restrictions, so premium users don’t see a significant drop of Internet speed while using VPN.
How do I stop my VPN from slowing down my Internet?
Avoid slow unreliable free VPNs. To make sure your VPN connection speed is the highest possible, choose the VPN server that is closer to your location. Some VPN providers, like AdGuard, can rank VPN servers by their ping times. Based on this information, you can choose a VPN server with the fastest speed.
To what extent does a VPN slow down the Internet?
The Internet speed while using VPN can vary significantly, from an almost imperceptible slowing down to a dramatic drop in speed.
How can I boost my Internet speed?
Here are a few useful tips that can help:
Connect your stationary devices (such as smart TVs) to a network cable, not a Wi-Fi router. Getting away from a wireless connection, although associated with some inconveniences, can have a positive effect on Internet speed.
Replace your router with a more up-to-date one from a mid-to-high price segment. Low-cost routers, however lucrative they can be, may not be able to handle high traffic volumes.
Find the right location for your router. Wi-Fi functions best when there is a clear line of sight between the router and the connected device.
Try to use the 5GHz frequency band instead of 2.4GHz.