PrivateVPN is the upcoming contender on our list of VPN services that need to be put to work and reviewed by our team since its name caught our attention. Not that its name is redundant (the ‘P’ in ‘VPN’ already stands for ‘Private’) or anything, we were just impressed that the team behind this project really emphasized the most important aspect of their product: privacy.
We’re about to show you a bunch of data regarding the company that supports PrivateVPN, take their product on a testdrive, talk about its main features and keep you posted with our findings. As usual, tests will be done with widely-accessible tools so that you can replicate them and even discuss your results with us. Alright, let’s get to work.
Behind the curtains
Not much can be discussed about the people who made PrivateVPN possible and are currently supporting this project, since the information on their website is pretty rudimentary. However, experience taught us that this is not necessarily a bad sign, since these companies usually protect some of their info in order to be able to secure yours against the prying eyes of law-enforcement agencies or Government institutions, you get the picture.
The company’s birth took place in Stockholm, Sweden, in the year of 2009. The company’s full name is Privat Kommunikation Sverige AB. Right on top of their homepage you’ll be prompted with a “ZERO Data Logging Policy” note that promotes PrivateVPN as a product that doesn’t log their users’ online activity:
“Our Swedish privacy laws mean there’s NO traffic logs kept to be seized by governments.
Unlike many other VPN providers, even WE don’t know what you’re doing online.”
14 Eyes Alliance
As you may or may not know, Sweden is part of an alliance called the 14 Eyes, which includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden and Spain.
To keep things short, this alliance represents various international surveillance agencies from these countries mentioned above that work together in order to collect various mass-surveillance data and share it with one another. Long story short, they act as one global surveillance agency that aims to know everything about your online activity.
The situation in Sweden
As you may or may not be aware of, there’s been a constant struggle in Sweden over the past few years regarding data retention laws. In other words, many attempts have been made to pass laws that enforce data retention rules for ISPs and VPN services, so that their users can be monitored in a more convenient fashion.
However, this battle has been going on and off for several years, as the laws have been deemed as privacy infringements, legislations were declared illegal or invalid and some chose to ignore ECJ’s decision. Sweden’s government claimed that Sweden’s law is written better than the EU directive and, combined with the fact that the directive hasn’t been successfully implemented in other states, they had leverage to ignore the ECJ decision from 2014.
Finally, ten EU countries either refused to implement data retention directives or did implement them but the applicable legislation was overturned in the respective country’s constitutional court. (Take a look at this Link)
According to the team behind the PrivateVPN, currently, in Sweden there are even ISPs who refuse to collect data from their customers and won the right to protect their customers’ privacy in court. That’s good news.
Well, it’s important to mention that these data retention laws that have been creeping around weren’t only for ISPs. The supporters of this directive attempted to tighten the noose around VPN providers in such a fashion that it’d be impossible for them to refuse to cooperate with law enforcement agencies or even the government whenever the need arose.
However, PrivateVPN did their homework, kept their cool about the whole situation and, even more, they were entirely transparent with their users by posting updates regarding the directives and how the law can affect their users. Here’s hoping they will maintain this level of transparency if things suddenly go downhill at some point.
So far, no traffic data is collected or logged by PrivateVPN or any data regarding the usage of its services. More so, merely browsing their website doesn’t disclose any personal information about yourself, as you can see by accessing the “Cookies” section.
Usage of collected data
When you register for an account, you probably want to know how PrivateVPN manages the data that you willingly provide to them, which we’ll discuss right away. First and foremost, you need to understand that the collected data is used mainly for PrivateVPN to be able to keep in touch with you, “primarily for customer support,” as mentioned in the PP.
Some data can also be used for identity verification procedures (e.g. using the service or logging on the website), orders, site improvement and internal record keeping, promotional emails for services you might be interested in and site usage analysis. Another important aspect of PrivateVPN is that, given the situation that third-parties start analyzing data from PrivateVPN’s website, they only receive non-identifiable information.
PrivateVPN: a few words first
As you probably figured out for yourselves, PrivateVPN is a VPN service that, by its very nature, can help you maintain an anonymous connection to the Internet and keep your whole online activity to yourself as much as you possibly can and away from prying eyes of third-party companies, institutions or even malevolent computer users.
Of course, VPNs come with additional functionality. That means that not only can PrivateVPN hide your online identity and keep it safe, but it can also unlock a wide variety of web contents that would be otherwise unavailable to you.
More so, speed shouldn’t be an issue, since this service provides you with more than 80 server locations in 59 countries, so that you can benefit from its capabilities regardless of your current location: home or abroad.
Generally, there’s no limitation, so it’s possible to connect from anywhere you like, but you can encounter restrictions in some countries, such as China, making it possible to connect exclussively through L2TP VPN, since their firewalls block access to PrivateVPN’s services.
Security protocols they use
Like every pizza parlor in your city, all VPN providers brag about their “highest speed” and “most efficient, air-tight connections.” However, while pizza is subjected to each individual’s taste, online security isn’t, so it shouldn’t be taken easily.
As stated on their website, PrivateVPN makes use of “military-grade AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) 256-bit encryption code with 2048-bit DH key.” This makes sure that your connection’s chances of getting compromised are kept to a minimum. Furthermore, the PrivateVPN team claims that these means of securing your Internet connection won’t even slow down your connection or interrupt it. Impressive.
Quick rundown on protocols
If you’re a seasoned VPN user, you probably know all about these codes and combinations, AES, 256, and so on, or you at least heard about them at least once before. But novices users who are interested in this kind of stuff are about to receive a clarification.
The AES-256 encryption code means that in order for anyone to break into your data, they would need to try an outstanding amount of distinct combinations (2 to the 256th power). This level of security is also used by the U.S. Government and its military as well, so you can probably paint a picture of how exactly strong it is.
Supports several devices
PrivateVPN embraced a wide variety of devices and optimized their services so that they can be run from Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android and Linux devices, as well as routers, proxy, Kodi and OpenVPN. So no matter what device you like spending your time on browsing, PrivateVPN most likely has got you covered.
If you’re having trouble configuring your device to run PrivateVPN or if you’re a novice computer user who would rather skip messing with advanced configuration settings or complicated steps by trial and error, you can access an installation guide here.
As for the maximum number of connections from multiple devices, the amount is 6. You can connect to and use PrivateVPN simultaneously, on the same account, from six different devices, which is not a small number.
Setting up PrivateVPN on your device
First thing’s first, we had to deploy this VPN service app on our computer, which is a Windows 10 laptop. For the sake of accuracy and not over-complicating things, all our reviews and tests refer to Windows 10 devices, since we believe it’s the most widely-used type of device when talking about VPN.
As you can see for yourself, installing this application on our computer proved to be a painless operation that was done in a timely manner. All we had to do was follow the on-screen instructions provided by the integrated wizard interface and it was done in no time. The version we installed was 2.2.7.
Quite difficult to find
Although the installation process itself is quite simplistic, actually finding the setup package on PrivateVPN’s website can be a bit tricky, even for full members with a paid subscription.
The homepage greets you with a large, red, tempting “Get PrivateVPN” button, so, naturally, you’d assume that once you’re logged in and click this button, the download would start. But instead, you’re transferred to the price list, where you can see the available plans and purchase a subscription package.
After we explored their website for a while, we stumbled on the download page in the “View our Software” section, under the “Why PrivateVPN?” category. Finally! However, just scrolling to the bottom of the website and clicking the “Download” hyperlink also does the trick. Alternatively, you could access the download page by using this shortcut. You’re welcome.
If you’re among the ones who run PrivateVPN for the first time on their computers, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to notice that the main window is not complicated, but actually simple enough to be used by virtually anyone who has basic experience with operating computers.
Aside from logging into your account (which you have to do in order to make use of this app’s capabilities), choosing a favorite server from the list and hitting the “Connect” button, there’s not much that needs to be done.
However, if you’re the curious type that likes to tamper with settings and take advantage of all this service has got to offer, PrivateVPN has something in store for you, too.
Simple vs Advanced
As stated above, PrivateVPN comes in two flavors, depending on whether you like getting your hands dirty or not. All you have to do is hit the “Advanced” button to switch to the more comprehensive interface, or click the “Simple” button in the main window if you somehow ended in a window with more than just a bunch of options (we’re talking about the Advanced section of the app, of course).
In the “Simple” version, you can browse a list of servers, connect to the one you chose, view your connection status, check the version of the app, view the number of days remaining on your subscription, log out of the service, access live support and toggle the advanced view.
Here’s where things get pretty: the advanced view of the app is no more complicated than, say, shutting down your computer or accessing the “Control Panel.” However, the options here are more numerous and allow you to perform complex, in-depth operations that affect the app’s overall usability.
Complex settings for seasoned users
Let’s begin with the main window, which gets divided into four different sections that you can navigate through by simply clicking the tabs on the left side of the screen. You can access the dashboard, the “Settings” category, the “Connection Guard” as well as the “Stealth VPN” sections from here.
Let’s explain each one. The dashboard is where you view the connection status, choose your location, view the connection time, it’s pretty much the same thing like the main window in “Simple” view, only that this Advanced mode lets you choose the connection type you prefer as well as the encryption mode. Connection types include OpenVPN (TUN + UDP + 1194), OpenVPN (TUN + UDP + 443), OpenVPN (TAP + UDP), PPTP and L2TP, while the encryption modes menu lets you choose from AES-128-CBC, AES-256-CBC, AES-128-GCM and AES-256-GCM.
Moving on to the “Settings” category (which is pretty self-explanatory), where I assume most of you tinkerers generally spend most of your time, tweaking and making the service more to your taste. I believe you won’t be too excited when you see that only a bunch of options can be customized, and they’re not risky at all (such as ones that make the service unusable after messing around with them). Although advanced users might be slightly disappointed, the fact that these “Advanced” settings can be understood and configured even by novices grants PrivateVPN a ton of bonus points.
I almost forgot; the settings that you CAN change in this section are toggling the app to be launched on system startup, connect automatically on startup, reconnect automatically on connection failure, enable Windows notifications, choose the language, open the “Logs” folder and install or repair the Windows TAP adapter (which automatically disconnects you from the VPN server if selected).
Two proprietary sections
The following categories have specific names, so we dedicated an entire subtitle to them. The “Connection Guard” doesn’t actually bring anything new to the table, but it provides you with some features that can improve your connection even more by stapling additional layers of protection on top of it. Here you can activate the IPv6 Leak Protection, the DNS Leak Protection, the Kill Switch that prevents reconnecting to the Internet whenever there’s a connection failure, as well as the Application Guard, which automatically terminates user-defined processes when you disconnect from the VPN server. Pretty cool!
Last, but not least, the “Stealth VPN” section is actually a simple feature that can be enabled or disabled to your liking in a quick and easy manner. This feature attempts to bypass VPN blocks and DPI firewalls, but, as you might notice in the feature’s main screen, enabling this function might slow down your network.
Finally, the server list
As we always do, here’s the much-expected list of servers that PrivateVPN offers you. Notice that aside from the server’s location, you can also view its address, which can come in really handy if you need to connect manually.
Isle of Man
Ho Chi Minh City
Using PrivateVPN with Netflix
As stated at the beginning of the article, aside from letting you fly under the radar on the Internet, the VPN also plays a major role in unlocking online content for you that is otherwise not available.
Take one of the most popular services for example, Netflix, which still has a ton of content for the non-US user, but some important shows are exclusively available for US Netflix users (Futurama, 30 Rock, The Walking Dead and many more).
A few years ago, Netflix stated that they will remove Netflix access to overseas VPN users, which they did for a while (and still do, mind you), but nowadays, Netflix has widened its range of countries that can benefit of its services. While this is good news for Netflix fans, some important content is still unavailable for certain regions.
PrivateVPN claims that you can unlock the contents you long for by simply selecting a US-based location from the list of servers, and Netflix will think that you are on US territory, therefore won’t cut your access. Furthermore, even though the risk that your account can be compromised still exists, PrivateVPN claims that their “military-grade encryption has NEVER been compromised since we launched in 2008” and “In short, yes, your account is safe”.
We have also tested to check if there’s no interruptions during our time on Netflix, while we were connected to PrivateVPN servers. There were no interruptions or drops in streaming quality whatsoever.
Torrenting with PrivateVPN
Another important aspect is that of torrenting. If you’ve made it this far, you probably know a thing or two about torrenting, and how online anonymity is crucial whenever you’re using this P2P file sharing service (or many other P2P file sharing services, to be honest).
Some ISPs (Internet Service Providers) have this habit of spying on almost everything you do online, especially when it comes to file sharing or other kind of activity that might be even considered sketchy. However, people you torrent from or engage in P2P file sharing with can also see your real IP and unwillingly reveal sensitive data about you.
PrivateVPN lets you mask your real IP address whenever you’re torrenting, so that you can protect yourself from users who might want more from you than just “leech” from you and hide your activity from nosy ISPs. Thus, you’ll be able to dodge blackmailing or interception, while still engaging in P2P file sharing in a safe environment.
Although torrenting is more often than not used for sharing illegal contents, it doesn’t mean that by providing you with a safe environment for torrenting, PrivateVPN endorses this kind of behavior. And neither do we.
Customer support experience
At the time we wrote this review, we couldn’t for the lives of us locate any form of live chat on the PrivateVPN website. Clicking the chat bubble at the bottom of the screen brought us to a form where an email, name and message could be typed (every field is mandatory), while using the “Live Support” button/hyperlink from the app’s main window lead us to a dead end: a page with a large red button which read “Offline – Contact Us.”
A bit confused at this point, we did click it, only to be greeted by the same form as before. So at this point, essentially there’s a single way to contact them, which is through email. We hope they get their Live Support back on track before long, since they claim they provide 24/7 live support and even remote assistance to customers who are not too tech-savvy and right now that’s not exactly accurate. Identifying the remote assistance option was, as well, impossible, but we believe it’s offered as part of their live support system.
We’ve actually stumbled upon a page that offered us some information about this remote assistance process. In order to use it, you have to install a third-party software solution called TeamViewer and communicate your username and password to the PrivateVPN support team so that they could help you.
On the bright side, it seems that they’re quite active on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, which you can use to contact them, especially if you’re a frequent user of these platforms. We’ve wandered around through their tweets and we couldn’t find much of a reply there. One particular user attempted to confront them about a tweet regarding how to get Hulu in Canada, but was left without a reply (Link). Yikes.
Although receiving an instant reply to your queries from the live chat service, the email support system is not to be ignored or underestimated. We’ve tried contacting the team and received a reply in 2-3 hours, which, honestly, is not bad at all.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to receive real-time assistance, or one with a bit of delay, but would prefer to solve things on your own, you can rely on the knowledge base on the website. Just reach to the support section on the website and use the “Getting Started” or “FAQ” sections.
The “Getting Started” category will provide you with enough information to configure and run the service on several devices and in various ways, depending on your needs. For instance, reaching the “Windows” category lets you choose from “Windows 10,” “Windows 8.1,” “Windows 7” and “Windows XP” operating systems, each of which providing you with subdivisions such as “IKEv2,” “L2TP,” “PPTP” and “PrivateVPN APP,” the last of which is the recommended choice.
If you still didn’t find what you were looking for, check the “FAQ” sections, which encompasses a bunch of information sorted in various categories, such as “General,” data regarding “PrivateVPN,” “Subscriptions” but also “Issues” that you might encounter on the road.
Time for some tests
We’ve covered just about everything that we could in terms of how to use the program and whether it’s easy enough to use, but now, as usual, it’s time to stress-test it and see if it cracks. I mean running our standard set of tests and bringing the results back to you.
We’re still using the IP X service to determine whether PrivateVPN has any chinks in its armor or is completely air-tight and checking speed values for our connections will be done, as usual, with Netflix’s fast.com service.
It goes without saying that, when talking about VPN providers, privacy comes first and speed doesn’t really matter if the service you chose can’t give you a security level that’s as close to 100% as possible. That’s why we always prioritize security/leak tests over speed ones and we can’t stress this enough that if you’re looking for a fast VPN and don’t care about privacy too much, then you probably shouldn’t be using a VPN service in the first place.
Promising security results
Well, the tests results are back and they look promising. For those of you who are impatient to see them before we get to discuss them thoroughly, you can access them here.
First things first, the IP address looks good, it’s been masked so that it matches the one displayed in the main window of the application. The PTR pointed to the same IP address, so no issue there. The country, city and latitude/longitude values were detected as the ones we chose from the list of servers.
The ASN (autonomous system number), ISP and domain name pointed to M247 Ltd, respectively m247.com, which is a service located in Manchester, United Kingdom. The IP type was detected as Non-Residential (Data Center). So far, so good.
IPv6 geolocation was not available, while the DNS pointed to some values mentioned above (IP, country, ASN). WebRTC data was not compromised, Flash IP details were not available, and the only data that was displayed 100% accurate (no spoofing) was values related to our laptop’s battery and our user agents, which is not nearly enough data for identifying any user.
So, that’s it. No leaks, no major data reveals, everything is tidy, whatever needs to be spoofed has been successfully hidden. From that point of view, we can agree that PrivateVPN doesn’t disappoint.
Now for the speed tests
Once we’ve passed the security checkpoint, we can sigh relieved knowing that this VPN service won’t let anything out while you’re using it and start giving our undivided attention to speed, the next best thing that PrivateVPN claims to be offering to its users.
We’ve performed a series of tests by choosing a bunch of random servers from random locations (we chose one server from each continent and ran our speed tests on each and every single one of our lucky contenders) and the results are as follows:
- Germany – 47 Mbps;
- USA – 19 Mbps;
- Hong Kong – 16 Mbps;
- Brazil – 18 Mbps;
- South Africa – 21 Mbps;
- Australia – 4.6 Mbps;
The results were definitely surprising (in a good way), since the speed values were higher than we expected, as a matter of fact, they’re among the highest values we’ve encountered so far. More so, areas who usually have lower speeds had surprisingly high values, which scores PrivateVPN some bonus points for focusing on high-quality services even in areas with underdeveloped Internet infrastructures.
It is worth mentioning that if you experience difficulties with your current connection, you can always toggle the “Advanced” view and change the connection type or choose another server for the location you want (if available). More so, some locations also offer dedicated Netflix servers, so you should keep your eyes peeled for them, if you’re interested.
The results of our speed tests can be also viewed in the screenshot posted below:
Now that security and speed testing procedures are out of the way, we can start talking about money. Although not in a traditional manner, PrivateVPN does offer you a 7-day trial version that can help you decide whether this service is adequate for your needs or not.
However, it’s not one of those trials where you simply download a client that expires after a while. You have to contact them to receive a “gift code” and your trial period starts after you register your account, as stated here:
“To test PrivateVPN risk-free for 7 days, email us at [email protected] to receive a gift code. Your trial time starts as soon as you register your account.”
While it’s a bit inconvenient that activating the trial doesn’t happen instantly, it’s still a generous gesture from PrivateVPN, considering that other services, more expensive ones, offer no trial.
Multiple subscription plans
PrivateVPN offers you several subscription plans that you can apply for, depending on your needs. On the main page of the plans you can notice there are three main offers, each one of them also backed by a generous discount. These are:
- 1 Month plan; you save 30% by paying 7.67$ per month;
- 3 Months plan; you save 55% by paying 4.88$ per month; the whole amount of 14.63$ is billed at once;
- 13 Months plan; originally a 12 Months plan, lets you save 65% by paying 3.82$ per month; the whole amount of 49.68$ is billed at once.
You should also be aware of the fact that this VPN provider also comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. So if you’re not satisfied with the product during the first 30 days after your subscription plan starts, you can ask for a refund.
Referring a friend
If you’re a social person and know for a fact that some of your peers would be glad to have such a service in their lives, you might want to consider referring them, which can earn you some rewards.
The system works like this: you refer your buddies, they register an account and the moment they make a payment, your account receives some points that you can redeem for free days of using PrivateVPN.
Furthermore, when your friends purchase additional plans or add to their existing ones, your account is also rewarded with points, as follows: 1 month plan purchases grant you 100 points, 3 month plans are worth 250 points, while the biggest bounty of 1000 points can be yours if your buddies purchase 1-year plans.
Security looks good from our point of view, as we’ve run various tests against several scenarios and the outcome was nothing short of great. More so, we were pleasantly surprised to see that speed-wise, PrivateVPN scored very high by boasting high connection speed values, even in areas that are not exactly popular for their great Internet connections.
You can run their product on 6 devices at the same time (support for various device types), can request a 7-day trial by contacting them directly and even get a refund if you’re not convinced that this is a fit choice for your needs during a 30-day period.
+ Offers 7-day trial; (3.5)
+ 30-day money-back guarantee; (5)
+ Not too pricey; (4)
+ Good security; (4.5)
+ High overall speed; (4.5)
– Sweden is a member of 14 Eyes Alliance; (2)
– Live customer support not always available; (2.5)
– Fewer servers than other competitors; (4)
– Non-user-friendly download option; (3)
– No extensions available. (3)
PrivateVPN gets a 3.6/5 rating.