Microsoft Windows is by far the most popular operating system on the market, and it would seem like it will stay that way for the foreseeable future. Windows is constantly getting better in terms of functionality, speed, and features, not to mention the fact that Microsoft now allows users to get an ISO of Windows for free from their website, with minimal limitations.
Because Windows is so popular and widespread, it is also the platform most plagued by malware and trojans, because it is far easier to infect a lot of computers by targeting Windows vulnerabilities. This issue was largely fixed a couple of years ago with the introduction of UAC and various other security features, but that doesn’t mean users are perfectly safe from threats.
On top of that, the online medium has gotten a lot more hostile lately as well, which means that every website is trying to track you, target you with ads, or simply gather information about your browsing habits. Unfortunately, Windows is not really able to fight these issues, which is why a specialized solution is needed if you want to remain hidden or cover your tracks while using the Internet.
Naturally, one of the best solutions to this problem is using a VPN. As you might expect, almost every VPN on the market offers a Windows version of its app, and in many cases, it is the main development platform as well. It means that VPN apps on Windows get access to all the features, as well as great integration with the Windows UI, which includes notifications, and a variety of other things.
However, when it comes to choosing the best VPN for Windows, other factors come into play as well, such as the VPNs ability to maintain a stable connection or if it allows you to access blocked content from heavily-censored countries. Furthermore, high speeds are also important, since nothing is more frustrating than having a great Internet connection and seeing low speeds when the VPN is active.
What makes a VPN good for Windows
Since Windows is usually the main development platform, there are no excuses when it comes to not having access to certain features and functions. While this is understandable in the case of mobile devices or routers, you should be getting the full experience on Windows, unless of course, the VPN provider decides to focus on another platform.
Not only that, but a good Windows VPN should also be compatible with older versions (Windows XP/7/8) of the operating system, since not everyone is able to run Windows 10 on their machines. This also applies in terms of CPU architecture, which is why a good VPN should offer support for both 32 and 64-bit CPUs. Thankfully, most VPNs offer 32-bit versions of their apps as well, although there are a few that do not, so keep that in mind.
After that, it’s also mandatory that the VPN comes with an automatic kill switch option, which allows the app to automatically disable your Internet connection in case the VPN server goes down while you are using it. This prevents your real location from being leaked in the process, and there’s really no excuse for not having this feature as a part of the app, given the fact that server failures can happen at any time.
Lastly, a good Windows VPN should include a split-tunneling feature as well, although that may not be important to all users. However, if you are a gamer who needs very low latencies in order to remain competitive, being able to disable the VPN selectively is incredibly helpful. This also applies for a variety of other apps that do not necessarily expose your identity, so it’s great to be able to white-list them in your VPN app and allow them to bypass the rerouting.
How to choose a VPN for Windows
There are multiple factors that should influence your decision when it comes to choosing a Windows VPN, and it mostly depends on what your requirements are in terms of features. However, there’s no denying that everyone wants high-speed servers and great download speeds, which is why it’s always a good idea to go with popular VPNs that offer the most servers and locations, because they also spend a lot on quality servers as well.
After that, Windows integration is also good to have. This relates to how the app behaves while it is in the background and whether it can send you notifications using the Windows API. The user interface should also be easy-to-use with a mouse, since many developers forget to adapt their UIs and provide you with a mobile-like experience. Hotkey support is also nice to have, just in case you want to quickly access certain functions using your keyboard.
If you want to watch movies on streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime, then you need to keep that in mind while making your choice as well, since not all VPNs are able to unblock regional content. The same applies to P2P traffic and torrents, given the fact that not all VPN providers allow you to use their services for torrent downloads. On the other hand, there are VPNs that encourage both location spoofing and P2P traffic, which is why they offer specialized servers for those purposes.
Lastly, don’t forget that the best VPNs are not free, which means that you have to pay a monthly fee in order to get access to their services. This should also influence your final decision, because you may not want to pay a premium price if you are not interested in all the extra features you won’t be using. Thus, it’s wise to protect your wallet from unnecessary spending if you can help it.
Best VPNs for Windows in 2020
With all that out of the way, it is time to unveil our picks for the best VPNs for Windows in 2020. Keep in mind that we recommend all of the VPNs on our list, so you can’t go wrong with any of them, regardless of which one you choose. However, some of them offer more bang for the buck, so it all depends on what you are looking for and how much you are willing to spend on a subscription. You can also use the links below in order to navigate straight to the item you are most interested in.
Additionally, you can also analyze the VPNs side-by-side by using the handy table down below.
ExpressVPN is an excellent all-rounder on almost every platform out there, but it certainly takes the cake on Windows as well, given the fact that the app is full of features and settings. Not only that, but you also get access to the full list of servers, which spans over every continent and includes a wide variety of locations all over the world. In addition, you can also count on it for any purpose, regardless of whether you want to unblock streaming services, download torrents, or protect your identity on the web.
To begin with, the Windows app is very sleek and modern-looking, while also being extremely easy-to-use even for novice computer users. All you need to do in order to connect is to select a server and press a button, while the app takes care of everything for you. It is also easy to navigate through the list of available servers, given the fact that they are arranged in separate categories based on the continent. On the other hand, you can also let ExpressVPN select the best server for your location, which automates this entire process.
As you can expect, the app includes a kill switch option, which means that you are not at risk when it comes to IP leaks in case the VPN server experiences issues. Obviously, we recommend keeping this option enabled, since there is no reason to disable it, given the fact that it doesn’t affect your experience negatively in any way.
In terms of protocol support, ExpressVPN doesn’t leave anything on the table, which is why you get to switch between all the major protocols out there. This includes basics like TCP and UDP, but also slightly more advanced options like IPsec and PPTP. Keep in mind that not all of these protocols are secure since some of them are optimized for speed instead of security. It is also possible to let the app automatically choose it for you, which is definitely advisable in most circumstances.
You also get to make use of split-tunneling while using ExpressVPN, which is very helpful in a variety of situations. In essence, split-tunneling allows you to select apps that can bypass the VPN rerouting, which comes in handy if you are targeting low latency in certain situations. While this is a great thing to have, it’s also worth mentioning that you need to be careful while using this feature, since you can expose your computer to security leaks in the process.
Lastly, ExpressVPN is also very reliable when it comes to unblocking content on various streaming services, and this is not limited to Netflix either. Hence, you can enjoy your favorite shows and movies on Hulu, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, and a variety of others. Naturally, the server quality is top-notch as well, which means that you won’t be experiencing buffering issues or connection drops.
+ Excellent server quality, and more than enough locations
+ Successfully unblocks a wide variety of streaming platforms
+ Includes a split-tunneling feature
+ Intuitive user interface and great Windows integration
+ Multiple protocols to choose from
– High subscription fees
As we’ve come to expect by now, NordVPN excels on Windows as well, while not compromising anything in terms of features and functionality. In fact, the Windows app is perhaps the most well-equipped version of NordVPN, especially if you compare it with its mobile counterparts. On top of that, you also get access to thousands of servers all over the world, which is something not many services can provide you with.
A kill switch is available and enabled by default since it is one of the most important and relevant features one could ask for. However, the app also comes with a variety of specialized servers to choose from, which includes things like P2P servers and Onion over VPN servers. As the names imply, these help you with torrent downloads and anonymity, given the fact that the Onion servers make it exceedingly difficult for anyone to track you.
Speaking of which, NordVPN also features a Double VPN option. This allows you to reroute your traffic through two different countries, which in turn makes it very difficult for anyone to keep tabs on you. However, keep in mind the fact that this option takes a significant toll on your connection, and it severely limits your download and upload speeds. Thus, only use this if you are not planning on downloading files, streaming high-resolution videos, or playing online video games.
One extra thing that’s part of the NordVPN bundle is the CyberSec feature. This is designed to act as a firewall and anti-malware solution, which should keep you safe from all sorts of online threats. Not only that, but this also prevents intrusive ads from messing with your web browsing experience, which should make your ad-blocker extension irrelevant, although truth be told it is not quite as good as a specialized solution like uBlock Origin. However, it’s still a good enough solution if you don’t have anything else.
Lastly, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that you are also able to unblock all sorts of streaming services using NordVPN, including Netflix and HBO Go. While there are no dedicated servers for streaming, all you have to do in order to remove region restrictions is to pick a country and connect, and NordVPN does everything else for you.
+ Huge selection of servers and locations
+ Includes an anti-malware component thanks to the CyberSec feature
+ Impressive upload and download speeds
+ Unblocks a variety of streaming platforms
+ Features specialty servers for P2P
– Higher monthly subscription price than other services
– No split-tunneling feature
With over 7,000 servers in more than 90 countries, CyberGhost is definitely one of the most reliable solutions when it comes to coverage and download speeds. Not only that, but the app itself is also brimming with interesting features, as well as a variety of specialty servers that help you get unrestricted access to streaming websites, download torrents through P2P, as well as get access to restricted websites.
To begin with, CyberGhost definitely excels in terms of specialty servers, and even more so when it comes to streaming. Hence, unlike many other VPN providers out there, CyberGhost offers location spoofing features. This allows you to watch Netflix content from a variety of countries, including the United States, France, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Not only that, but there are also many options for Hulu, YouTube Red, Spotify, and many other platforms as well.
P2P traffic is not only permitted, but even encouraged, thanks to the dedicated servers available for this purpose. Naturally, these servers are designed to maximize download speeds, which means that you do not have to worry about losing too much of your bandwidth while the VPN is active. Granted, you still don’t get 100% of your regular speeds, but that’s the price of a VPN connection if you want anonymity.
In terms of features, a kill switch is part of the deal, but that’s not the only thing on the menu. The Smart Rules section of the app allows you to manually pick which websites are allowed to bypass the VPN connection, which is, in fact, a kind of split-tunneling feature. You don’t need to be too tech-savvy in order to make use of it, since anyone can get the job done with just a few simple clicks.
Finally, you also get some advanced features and settings if you are a more advanced user. In essence, this relates to protocol selection and various DNS settings that can be altered to improve your security. However, make sure that you know what you are doing before messing with these settings since disabling or enabling the wrong thing can put you in danger when it comes to IP leaks.
+ One of the biggest server networks in the world
+ Great upload and download speeds
+ Dedicated servers for streaming and P2P
+ Location spoofing for unblocking streaming content in multiple countries, not just the US
+ Allows you to white list websites
– Not too many options in terms of obfuscation
Private Internet Access is yet another big name on the VPN market, especially when it comes to brand recognition and server count. Hence, the service is definitely up there when it comes to location coverage, and you can also count on thousands of servers at any given time. Furthermore, there are also plenty of customization options, not to mention the plethora of features that help you get a better experience.
To begin with, the list of available locations can be sorted alphabetically or by latency, which is definitely helpful in order to figure out which location offers the faster loading times. After that, there is also a status screen that provides you with information about various connection parameters, such as upload/download speed, how long ago the connection was initiated, as well as usage statistics to let you know how much bandwidth you have been using.
If you want to unlock streaming services, Private Internet Access can help you with this as well. In essence, almost any streaming platform can be unblocked by choosing the right server, since the service uses great obfuscation methods to fool any website, including giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime. Unfortunately, however, there is no dedicated list for streaming-specific servers, so you have to manually search for them by browsing the server locations list instead.
If you are a more advanced user, there are some settings for you as well, including things like protocol selection and preferred encryption algorithms. Additionally, you can also manually insert the local and remote ports you want to use, as well as select one of the available proxy solutions. Thanks to these settings, it should be easy to customize your experience if you have more specific needs from your Windows VPN.
Finally, there is also a feature called “PIA Mace”, which acts an anti-malware feature designed to protect your system from malicious websites. Not only that, but you can also use it to block known ads domains, which comes in handy if you want to stop relying on your browser extension. As a bonus, this feature works outside the browser as well, just in case you have to deal with apps in other apps too.
+ Great location coverage and plenty of servers
+ A variety of advanced settings and features for power users
+ Simple user interface with great shortcuts for various features
+ An built-in ad-blocker and anti-malware solution
+ Includes a split-tunneling feature
– No dedicated servers of any kind
If you want a stable Windows VPN with a few bonus features as well, then you can’t go wrong with Surfshark. The app comes bundled with quite a few added bonuses, not to mention the fact that the interface is also very lightweight and streamlined, making it incredibly easy to use. While it may not offer quite as many servers as other big names on the list, the palette of available locations is more than decent for every need, so you don’t lose too much in this regard either.
To begin with, the app allows you to pick from a variety of locations, which can then be added to your Favorites list with a simple click. This makes it easy to access the same server when you close and open the app, while also helping you remember which servers work the best for your connection. Alternatively, you can also let Surfshark automatically pick the best server for your location.
The MultiHop feature functions as a double VPN solution, which means that it allows you to bounce your traffic between multiple locations in order to prevent anyone from unraveling your browsing patterns. As you can expect, the MultiHop feature is not suitable for streaming or downloading files, given the fact that you lose quite a bit of speed in the process. However, it’s definitely the way to go if your focus is privacy and security.
There is also a Dedicated IP section, which is not something you see in many other VPN apps. In essence, this allows you to use a static IP address whenever you connect to the VPN. If you are wondering when and why this could be useful, you should know that this is exactly the feature you need if you plan on hosting websites, or if you are hosting any kind of server that needs a static IP address in order to allow other people to access it. Hence, it’s definitely useful to quite a few people.
In addition, you can also enable the CleanWeb feature to get rid of ads while browsing the web. This works like a regular ad-blocker extension in your browser, which means that you do not have to encumber your system with additional extensions if Surfshark takes care of this for you. Your mileage may vary in terms of effectiveness, however, so it’s better to test it for yourself and see whether it manages to outperform the more specialized solutions out there.
Finally, it’s also worth mentioning that Surfshark is the only VPN on this list that allows unlimited simultaneous connections with just one subscription. Hence, you can connect as many devices as you want and never run into limitations or bandwidth issues, which is definitely a huge bonus, especially if you also want to share the app with your family.
+ Unlimited simultaneous connections with a single subscription
+ The CleanWeb feature blocks ads in your web browser
+ Decent speeds, and the ability to unblock streaming services
+ The Whitelister feature acts as a split-tunneling component
– No dedicated servers for streaming
– Not as many locations as other services on the market
As you can clearly see, there is no shortage of good Windows VPNs, especially since Windows is the main development platform for many of the most popular VPN solutions out there. Hence, there are no weird incompatibility issues like you may find on mobile devices or other operating systems, not to mention the fact that you get access to the most advanced features and gimmicks.
Given all that, making a decision is almost a matter of budget in most cases, because some services may come with high monthly subscription prices. On the other hand, you also need to make sure that the VPN you pick has the right features for your particular needs, regardless of whether that means streaming, unblocking restricted websites, or hiding your P2P traffic from your ISP.