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Last updated July 2024

Best VPN Software for July 2024

Choose from best VPN software from trusted companies

Our top choice
NordVPN - Virtual Private Network
Excellent 9.2

NordVPN - Enjoy a more private and secure internet, block malicious websites, stop web trackers, and monitor your data leaks — all in one app.

  • Available on all your devices
  • Block malicious websites, stop web trackers, and remove annoying ads.

Get up to 69% off 2-year plans + a Saily eSIM data gift

ExpressVPN - Virtual Private Network Software
Excellent 9.0

ExpressVPN - The VPN that just works

  • 30-day money back guarantee
  • Install the app on all your devices and enjoy up to eight simultaneous connections with one subscription
  • Live, 24-hour customer support

Special Deal: 12 Months + 3 Months FREE

CyberGhost VPN - Virtual Private Network
Very Good 8.8

CyberGhost VPN - Complete Privacy on All Devices

  • 45-day money back guarantee
  • Connect up to 7 devices at once with just 1 subscription
  • Keep your identity and your real location hidden.

Score Big: 84% Off + 4 Months Free - Get started now!

The Ultimate Guide to VPN Software: Ensuring Privacy and Security Online

In today's hyper-connected world, our digital lives are more exposed than ever. From personal data to browsing habits, everything we do online can be tracked, collected, and potentially misused. This is where Virtual Private Network (VPN) software steps in as a guardian of your privacy and security. This comprehensive guide will explore what VPN software is, how it works, the numerous benefits it offers, and how to choose the perfect VPN for your specific needs.

Here's a quick breakdown of each of our top picks:

  • NordVPN: Best for overall privacy and security with strong encryption and a vast server network.
  • ExpressVPN: Best for high-speed connections and ease of use with an extensive global presence.
  • CyberGhost: Best for streaming and user-friendly customization with a focus on privacy.

What is VPN Software?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a service that encrypts your internet connection, ensuring that your online activities remain private and secure. Think of it as a secure tunnel between your device and the internet. By using this tunnel, VPN software masks your IP address, making it difficult for anyone to track your online behavior or steal your data. This not only enhances your privacy but also allows you to access restricted content from anywhere in the world.

How Does VPN Software Work?

Understanding how VPN software works is crucial to appreciating its benefits. Here's a step-by-step breakdown:

  1. Connection to a VPN Server: When you activate your VPN, it connects your device to a remote server operated by the VPN service. This server acts as a middleman between you and the internet.
  2. Data Encryption: Before any data leaves your device, the VPN software encrypts it. Encryption is a process that converts your data into an unreadable format, which can only be decoded with the correct encryption key. This ensures that even if your data is intercepted, it cannot be understood by unauthorized parties.
  3. Data Transmission: The encrypted data is sent to the VPN server, which decrypts it and forwards it to the intended website or online service. The response from the website follows the same path back to your device, ensuring a secure round-trip.
  4. IP Address Masking: By routing your traffic through a VPN server, the software masks your real IP address with the server’s IP address. This makes it appear as though your internet traffic is coming from the VPN server’s location, not your own.

Benefits of Using a VPN

Enhanced Privacy

One of the primary benefits of using a VPN is enhanced privacy. When your IP address is masked, websites, advertisers, and even your internet service provider (ISP) have a much harder time tracking your online activities. This anonymity protects your personal information and browsing habits from being collected and used without your consent. Imagine being able to browse the internet without the constant worry of being monitored or profiled – that’s the peace of mind a VPN provides.

Improved Security

In addition to privacy, VPNs offer significant security benefits. By encrypting your data, VPNs make it much harder for hackers and cybercriminals to intercept and steal your information. This is especially important when using public Wi-Fi networks, which are often unsecured and vulnerable to attacks. With a VPN, you can confidently access sensitive information, such as bank accounts or private emails, knowing that your data is protected.

Access to Restricted Content

Another major advantage of using a VPN is the ability to access restricted content. Many websites and streaming services restrict access based on geographic location. By connecting to a VPN server in a different country, you can bypass these restrictions and access content that would otherwise be unavailable. This is particularly useful for travelers who want to access their home country's streaming services or for anyone looking to enjoy a broader range of content.

Avoid Censorship

In some countries, internet access is heavily censored, with certain websites and services blocked by the government. A VPN allows users to bypass these restrictions and access the free and open internet. By connecting to a server in a country with less restrictive internet policies, users can browse without fear of censorship, ensuring access to information and communication without limitations.

Secure Remote Work

With the rise of remote work, ensuring secure connections for business communications has become paramount. VPNs provide a secure way for employees to access company networks and resources from anywhere in the world. This is particularly important for businesses dealing with sensitive data, as it helps protect against data breaches and cyberattacks.

Choosing the Right VPN

With so many VPN providers on the market, choosing the right one can be overwhelming. Here are some key factors to consider when selecting a VPN:

Security Features

The primary purpose of a VPN is to enhance your online security, so it's crucial to choose a provider that offers robust security features. Look for VPNs that use strong encryption protocols, such as OpenVPN or IKEv2/IPsec, and offer features like a kill switch and DNS leak protection. These features help ensure that your data remains secure even if the VPN connection drops. A kill switch, for example, automatically disconnects your device from the internet if the VPN connection fails, preventing any data from being exposed.

Privacy Policies

Not all VPNs are created equal when it comes to privacy. Some providers log user activity and may share this information with third parties. To ensure your privacy, choose a VPN with a strict no-logs policy. This means that the provider does not collect or store any information about your online activities, ensuring your anonymity. It's also worth checking where the VPN provider is based, as some countries have data retention laws that could impact your privacy.

Server Locations

The number and location of servers offered by a VPN provider can significantly impact your experience. A larger server network provides more options for bypassing geographic restrictions and ensures better performance. Look for a VPN with servers in multiple countries, especially if you need to access content from specific regions. For example, if you frequently travel or need to access content from a particular country, make sure the VPN provider has servers in those locations.

Connection Speeds

While all VPNs may slow down your internet connection to some extent due to the encryption process, the best VPNs minimize this impact. Look for providers that offer high-speed connections and have a reputation for reliable performance. Many VPNs offer free trials or money-back guarantees, allowing you to test their speeds before committing. It's also helpful to read reviews and check for any user feedback on connection speeds.

User-Friendly Interface

A good VPN should be easy to use, even for those who are not tech-savvy. Look for software with a user-friendly interface and simple setup process. Some VPNs offer additional features, such as ad-blocking or malware protection, which can enhance your overall online experience. A clean, intuitive interface makes it easier to navigate the software and adjust settings as needed.

Customer Support

Reliable customer support is essential, especially if you encounter issues with your VPN connection. Choose a provider that offers 24/7 customer support through multiple channels, such as live chat, email, or phone. This ensures that you can get help whenever you need it, whether you're troubleshooting a connection issue or have questions about the service.

Top VPN Providers

To help you get started, here are some of the top VPN providers known for their reliability, security, and performance:

NordVPN

Pros:

  • Strong security features with military-grade encryption and advanced protocols like NordLynx.
  • Extensive server network with over 5,500 servers in 59 countries.
  • Fast and reliable connection speeds, ideal for streaming and gaming.
  • User-friendly apps available for multiple platforms.
  • Strict no-logs policy, backed by independent audits.
  • Excellent 24/7 customer support.

Cons:

  • Some servers can experience slower speeds.
  • No free trial, but offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Key Components:

  • Security Features: AES-256 encryption, Double VPN, CyberSec, kill switch, DNS leak protection.
  • Performance: Consistent high-speed performance, effective for streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.
  • User Experience: Intuitive interface, advanced settings for customization.
  • Pricing: Competitive plans with frequent discounts.

NordVPN is an excellent choice for anyone seeking robust security, extensive server coverage, and reliable performance. It offers comprehensive features and maintains a strong commitment to user privacy.

Our Rating

Overall Score: 9.2/10

Read the full NordVPN review

ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is a leading VPN service known for its robust security, extensive server network, and high-speed performance. Based in the British Virgin Islands, ExpressVPN provides users with strong privacy protection and operates over 3,000 servers in 94 countries. The service is designed to enhance online privacy and security through advanced features like AES-256 encryption, TrustedServer technology, and the Lightway protocol.

Pros:

  • High-speed connections suitable for HD streaming, gaming, and downloading.
  • Strong security features, including TrustedServer technology and AES-256 encryption.
  • User-friendly interface with apps for a wide range of devices and operating systems.
  • Extensive server network with over 3,000 servers in 94 countries.
  • Excellent customer support available 24/7 via live chat and email.

Cons:

  • Higher price point compared to some competitors.
  • Limited to 8 simultaneous connections, which might be restrictive for some users.

ExpressVPN’s high-speed performance makes it ideal for streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, while the Lightway protocol enhances speed and reliability. The extensive server network ensures users can bypass geo-restrictions and access global content with ease. Despite being pricier than some alternatives, the quality of service, strong security features, and excellent customer support justify the cost, making ExpressVPN a worthwhile investment for those seeking top-tier online privacy and security.

Our Rating

Overall Score: 9.0/10

Read the full ExpressVPN review

CyberGhost VPN

Pros:

  • Extensive server network with over 7,000 servers in 91 countries.
  • User-friendly interface with intuitive apps for multiple platforms.
  • Strong security features including AES-256 encryption and a no-logs policy.
  • Dedicated streaming and P2P servers for optimized performance.
  • Ad and malware blocking for enhanced security.
  • 24/7 customer support with responsive live chat.
  • Generous 45-day money-back guarantee.

Cons:

  • Monthly plan is relatively expensive compared to longer-term plans.
  • Not all servers support torrenting.

Key Components:

  • Security Features: AES-256 encryption, automatic kill switch, DNS and IP leak protection, ad and malware blocking, no-logs policy.
  • Server Network: Over 7,000 servers in 91 countries, specialized servers for streaming, P2P, and NoSpy servers.
  • Performance: Consistent and reliable speeds, ideal for streaming and large file downloads.
  • Pricing: Monthly plan at $12.99, with more affordable long-term plans.
  • User Experience: Intuitive design, easy navigation, one-click connect feature, customization options for advanced users.
  • Customer Support: 24/7 live chat, email support, extensive help center with resources and guides.

CyberGhost VPN stands out for its ease of use, robust security features, and excellent performance, making it a solid choice for both casual users and tech-savvy individuals.

Our Rating

Overall Score: 8.8/10

Read the full CyberGhost VPN review

Additional Considerations When Choosing a VPN

Device Compatibility

When selecting a VPN, ensure that it is compatible with all your devices. The best VPN providers offer apps for various operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS. Some even provide browser extensions for quick and easy protection while surfing the web. Make sure the VPN supports simultaneous connections, allowing you to protect multiple devices under a single subscription.

Payment Options

Privacy-conscious users may prefer VPN providers that accept anonymous payment methods, such as cryptocurrencies. This adds an extra layer of privacy, ensuring that your financial information is not linked to your VPN account. Additionally, look for providers that offer flexible payment plans, including monthly, yearly, or multi-year subscriptions, to find the option that best fits your budget.

Free vs. Paid VPNs

While free VPNs can be tempting, they often come with significant drawbacks, such as limited server locations, slower speeds, and potential privacy risks. Some free VPN providers have been known to log user data and sell it to third parties. Paid VPNs, on the other hand, typically offer better performance, more features, and stronger privacy protections. Investing in a reputable paid VPN service is usually worth the cost for the enhanced security and peace of mind.

Setting Up and Using a VPN

Setting up a VPN is generally straightforward, even for those with limited technical knowledge. Here are the basic steps to get started:

  1. Choose a VPN Provider: Select a VPN provider based on the factors discussed earlier, such as security features, privacy policies, server locations, and connection speeds.
  2. Sign Up and Download the Software: Visit the VPN provider’s website, choose a subscription plan, and create an account. Download and install the VPN software or app on your device.
  3. Install and Configure: Follow the installation instructions provided by the VPN service. Most VPN apps are designed to be user-friendly and include a guided setup process. Configure any additional settings, such as enabling the kill switch or selecting preferred servers.
  4. Connect to a Server: Open the VPN app and log in with your account credentials. Choose a server location based on your needs, such as a server in your home country for regular browsing or a server in a different country for accessing geo-restricted content.
  5. Start Browsing Securely: Once connected, your internet traffic is encrypted, and your IP address is masked. You can now browse the internet securely and privately.

Maintaining VPN Security

While using a VPN enhances your online security, it is important to follow best practices to maintain this security:

  • Keep Your VPN Software Updated: Ensure that you are always using the latest version of your VPN software. Updates often include important security patches and performance improvements.
  • Enable the Kill Switch: Always enable the kill switch feature if available. This ensures that your internet connection is automatically severed if the VPN connection drops, preventing any unprotected data from being transmitted.
  • Avoid Free Wi-Fi Networks: Even though a VPN encrypts your data, it is still wise to avoid free Wi-Fi networks when possible, as they can be a hotspot for cyberattacks.
  • Use Strong Passwords: Combine your VPN usage with strong, unique passwords for all your online accounts. Consider using a password manager to keep track of your passwords securely.
  • Be Cautious with Personal Information: While a VPN protects your data in transit, it is still important to be cautious with the personal information you share online. Avoid sharing sensitive information on unsecured websites.

Common Myths About VPNs

Despite the growing popularity of VPNs, several misconceptions still exist. Let’s debunk some common myths:

Myth 1: VPNs Are Only for Tech Experts

Many people believe that VPNs are complicated and only for tech-savvy individuals. In reality, most modern VPN services are designed to be user-friendly and accessible to everyone. With intuitive interfaces and straightforward setup processes, anyone can use a VPN to enhance their online security.

Myth 2: VPNs Make You Completely Anonymous

While VPNs significantly improve your online privacy by masking your IP address and encrypting your data, they do not make you completely anonymous. Your VPN provider can still see your traffic, which is why it is crucial to choose a provider with a strict no-logs policy. Additionally, other online activities, such as logging into social media accounts, can still link back to your identity.

Myth 3: All VPNs Are the Same

Not all VPNs offer the same level of security, privacy, and performance. There are significant differences between providers in terms of encryption protocols, server networks, privacy policies, and additional features. It is important to research and compare VPN services to find the one that best meets your needs.

Myth 4: Using a VPN Is Illegal

In most countries, using a VPN is perfectly legal. However, certain countries with strict internet censorship laws, such as China, Russia, and Iran, have regulations against VPN use. Always check the laws in your country before using a VPN to ensure you are compliant.

Wrapping Up

In today's digital world, protecting your online privacy and security is more important than ever. VPN software offers a reliable solution, providing enhanced privacy, improved security, and access to restricted content. By considering factors such as security features, privacy policies, server locations, connection speeds, user-friendly interfaces, and customer support, you can choose the right VPN to meet your needs. With top providers like ExpressVPN, NordVPN, CyberGhost, Surfshark, and Private Internet Access, you can confidently browse the internet, knowing that your data is protected and your online activities remain private.

Whether you're looking to secure your personal data, bypass geographical restrictions, or ensure safe remote work, a VPN is an essential tool in your digital arsenal. By understanding how VPNs work and selecting the right provider, you can enjoy a safer, more private online experience. Start exploring the world of VPNs today and take control of your online privacy and security.