Best VPN for Windows

Updated on: 7 June 2019

Windows machines are the de-facto working stations of most internet users today, and they are also among the most vulnerable to hackers. Data can be stolen, information can be destroyed, your device can be hijacked.

Many such attacks take place on the internet, where your personal data is in no way safe or protected. Even when visiting SSL-protected websites. What’s more, most of the streaming services today block out access to certain parts of their program. If you’re not from the US, for example, you can kiss the US Netflix goodbye.

The same goes for users who live under an oppressive regime, and they can’t rightly manifest their freedom of speech. They find it next to impossible to use the internet or access most of it either way.

For these kinds of Windows users and not only, but the solution is also simple – VPN services that offer assistance in any of the three cases:

  • Proactive defence against hackers and data theft
  • Bypassing geo-blocking mechanisms
  • Offering unrestricted access to users living in restrictive countries

Let’s get on with it and talk about the best VPNs for Windows.

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN

See what they’re saying there? The number 1 trusted leader in VPN. Whether that’s true or not, we’ll be seeing in a few moments. All in all, our experiences with ExpressVPN have been more than satisfactory.

Pros:

  • 24/7 live chat support
  • Servers in 94 countries, with a very wide coverage
  • Fastest speeds across the border
  • Higher-end encryption and security
  • Positive user reviews for the most part
  • No logs kept, strict privacy policy
  • No DNS blocking

Cons:

  • Only 3 simultaneous connections allowed
  • Expensive subscriptions, especially the one-month plan
  • Some users reported problems while connecting to the US Netflix and BBC iPlayer

ExpressVPN Windows App

On Windows, the ExpressVPN app looks like this:

The on/off button in the middle is self-explanatory, while the locations list on the right show you all the servers that you can connect to.

You have a recommended list of servers that is based on certain algorithms working to find the most suitable servers for you.

It takes no time to boot it, search for a server, and connect to it. The interface is simplistic enough and intuitive so you will not have to use any guides in this sense. Moreover, the settings are very accessible and simple to understand.

You will become a master of this app in no time.

Server speed and tests

After a couple of tests made on some of the servers, we can say that ExpressVPN has the most constant and reliable speeds out of all the VPNs we have tested until now.

These were the control benchmark results before using the VPN:

  • Ping – 7ms
  • Download speed – 89.34 Mbps
  • Upload speed – 91.22 Mbps

Let’s have a look at a server from the US:

  • Ping – 150ms
  • Download speed – 72.01 Mbps
  • Upload speed – 82.23 Mbps

Now, one from the UK:

  • Ping – 43ms
  • Download speed – 75.53 Mbps
  • Upload speed – 84.12 Mbps

The last one is a German server in Frankfurt:

  • Ping – 60ms
  • Download speed – 83.54 Mbps
  • Upload speed – 81.99 Mbps

This is simply what we expect from premium brand VPNs with high standards, and ExpressVPN delivered splendidly. It had the best overall speed results of all three VPNs on this list.

Logging and privacy policies

On the official website, ExpressVPN clearly states that they will never collect:

  • IP addresses
  • Browsing history
  • Traffic destination and metadata
  • DNS queries

We have all reasons to believe that they have always upheld this zero-logging policy because there are no bad reviews on this front.

As for the privacy policy, it states that they do collect some information regarding the use of the service:

  • The server location that you connect to
  • The total amount of data transferred per day
  • The dates when you connect to the VPN service (not the time)
  • The apps and app versions that are successfully activated

As for further reasons and assurances were given to support their privacy and logging policies, take a look at the official claims:

The company itself is based in the British Virgin Isles, a remote location outside the clutches of the 14-Eyes, where no data-retention laws are in place. Moreover, ExpressVPN has always been fighting for digital rights, and they’re also supporting various non-profit, privacy advocate groups around the world.

Encryption and security

All in all, the most important aspect of a premium VPN is its level of encryption. That is what ultimately dictates its worth.

So, how secure is ExpressVPN?

One sentence – absolutely reliable and trustworthy. Encryption level – phenomenal.

Just like NordVPN, ExpressVPN makes brilliant use of the AES cryptographic technology alongside OpenVPN with TCP and UDP, using an SSL encryption on the website, an HMAC authentication, and both their control and data channels are secured by the AES protocols.

The Network lock is a nifty nice trick that guarantees you will never lose your VPN connection because it locks your internet connection to only function when the VPN is on.

What’s more, they also implement Perfect Forward Secrecy that acts as a safety net just in case someone manages to bypass all that encryption. If they do, they will only have access to a 60-minute worth of traffic from your connection.

The rest goes down the drain into oblivion because ExpressVPN changes the access keys every 60 minutes.

They also work with TrustedServer technology, an innovative method to store data on a volatile memory, RAM. This ensures that there will be no residual data left on the servers for hackers to steal, if and when they manage to hack through.

Every time the server is powered on or off, the data on the server is eliminated completely, with nothing left.

In fact, TrustedServer is one of the biggest reasons why ExpressVPN’s security is much above most other VPNs in the industry. It is truly a deal-breaker and a game-changer in the industry.

Prices and subscription plans

Now take a look at how much you’re going to pay for the protection and ultimate server speeds of ExpressVPN:

  • 1-month subscription – $12.95 per month
  • 6-month subscription – $9.99 per month for a total of $59.95
  • 12-month subscription – $8.32 per month for a total of $99.95 (35% discount)

For all three subscriptions, you are allowed to ask for a refund for the first 30 days, no questions asked. We personally tested things out, and there was no issue with the refund policy.

As for payment methods, they are the usual plus Bitcoin, so you can step up the anonymity game by paying with cryptocurrencies. It feels a little bit safer now.

2. NordVPN

NordVPN

NordVPN offers to provide its users with “The internet with no borders”, and based on all the positive reviews they’ve received over the years, we’re inclined to believe them. There are advantages and downsides to this online security provider, so let’s see what they are.

Pros:

  • Overall best security and encryption system in the VPN industry
  • Above the norm internet speeds, even more so with the specialized P2P servers
  • Accessible subscriptions protected by a 30-day money-back guarantee, no questions asked
  • SmartDNS feature – successfully unlocks Netflix and other popular streaming services + offering a way out of censorship and online restrictions
  • Zero-logging policy that is further strengthened by the Panama jurisdiction – no data-logging laws present in that location
  • Outside the 14-Eyes, hence NordVPN is under no obligation to collect or provide user-identifiable information to the authorities
  • Supports anonymous cryptocurrencies

Cons:

  • Internet speeds will fluctuate in general
  • Only the 3-year plan is eligible for a 75% discount
  • Various user reviews complaining about the need to constantly switch servers in order to connect to the US Netflix

NordVPN Windows App

After subscribing and downloading the app itself from the official website, you’ll be prompted by this screen.

As you can see, the Windows NordVPN interface is simple enough for anyone to understand.

You have a list of normal servers cataloged based on countries as well as a mini-map with the geographical spread of the server locations. You can use both functions to choose and connect to a server.

There are also the specialty servers which are equally, if not more important:

  • P2P servers – these are handcrafted for P2P activities. They put everything aside and focus on maximum internet speed. The one in the Netherlands is the fastest and most responsive one, to let you in on a little secret
  • Dedicated IP servers – with these ones, you get your own IP address that only you possess. No other user can utilize it as it happens with the common IP addresses
  • DoubleVPN servers – your traffic is bounced off through two servers, thus doubling your security and encryption protocol. A hacker has to put in double the effort to cause a dent in your shield
  • Onion over VPN – these servers allow the concomitant use of the Tor Network, which grants you extra privacy and anonymity

In the settings menu, you can and should activate the kill-switch. Moreover, you can switch between the TCP and UDP protocols, change the encryption level, and much more. It’s varied enough to allow you some manner of control but also not complex enough to confuse you.

Overall performance of the servers

Unarguably, speed is among the top three most important aspects when it comes to VPN providers. That’s how it should be, after all.

With NordVPN, we tested a number of servers just to make sure that the results are relevant and informative.

The control benchmark we started from was this one:

  • Ping – 7ms
  • Download speed – 84.45 Mbps
  • Upload speed – 77.87 Mbps

First, we went ahead and tested a US server, the one in Chicago to be more precise:

  • Ping – 129ms
  • Download speed – 35.12 Mbps
  • Upload speed – 23.99 Mbps

Secondly, we gave the UK server in London a shot:

  • Ping – 55ms
  • Download speed – 29.79 Mbps
  • Upload speed – 33 Mbps

Thirdly, the Netherlands server was our last testing experiment:

  • Ping – 40ms
  • Download speed – 70.01 Mbps
  • Upload speed – 62.77 Mbps

As you can see, the results are fluctuating between servers, with the Netherlands one being the fastest out of all of them.

All things considered, you will have no issues watching movies in HD or 4K, no stutters, no freezes, no glitches at all.

Privacy and logging policies

There isn’t much to be said here other than quoting what the official NordVPN Terms of Service page says.

About the logging policy, this is what they say:

As for the privacy policy, they are just as clear and concise, and the only data they do collect appears to be minimal, and unrelated to a user’s identity:

From what we’ve noticed after using NordVPN, the logging policy holds true to its words, while the privacy policy does the same. There are no leaks of any kind, thus no problems.

Encryption and security

NordVPN’s cybersecurity systems are varied and multifaceted, with many methods of countermanding any external infiltration attempt.

By military-grade encryption, they refer to the AES-256-bit protocol that protects against the all-time trifecta that wants to infiltrate your system – hackers, Internet Service Providers, and the government itself.

As for VPN protocols, they use two:

  • IKEv2/IPsec
  • OpenVPN

The latter is actually recognized for how tough it is to crack, being protected by a 2048-bit DH key. That is literally the golden standard in cryptography today.

CyberSec is a tool that blocks any ads, malware, adware, and all intrusive online gizmos that might interfere with your activities.

Pricing

If you plan on testing things out with a 1-month subscription, bear in mind that you have a 30-day money-back guarantee that you can fall back on should the need arise.

In any case, let’s go over the four subscription plans:

  • 1-month plan – $11.95 per month
  • 1-year plan – $6.99 per month for a total of $83.88 per year (41% discount)
  • 2-year plan – $3.99 per month for a total of $95.75 every 2 years (66% discount)
  • 3-year plan and the most advantageous – $2.99 per month for a total of $107.55 every 3 years (75% discount)

The longer you subscribe for, the lesser you pay per month, overall speaking. Excluding that, the 1-month subscription is a bit expensive, truth be told.

3. SurfShark

SurfShark

Our number 3 best VPN for Windows, SurfShark is a new player in the industry, and yet it’s already in the big boys league. This quick ascension in ranks doesn’t come from nothing.

There are plenty of good tricks that it does perfectly, and many innovative features we can talk about.

Pros:

  • A plethora of security and privacy features that are quite handy
  • Above-average security system, and superior encryption
  • Good server speeds, though constancy is an issue
  • Very affordable
  • Strict zero-logging policy, good jurisdiction in the British Virgin Isles, and a very good kill-switch
  • MultiHop feature
  • Unlimited devices can be used simultaneously
  • No leaks

Cons:

  • No free trial
  • Many user complaints about the unresponsiveness of the email support system. The 24/7 live chat more than makes up for this though
  • Speed fluctuates

SurfShark Windows App

Incredibly easy to download and install. Once you have it on your computer, it’s time to see what it’s all about.


This is the main interface:

Connect to any server using the list provided, and disconnect at any time using the button at the bottom-right corner of the screen.

Using the optimal location option, the app will choose the most appropriate server for you based on geographical data.

As for the options on the right, they are:

  • CleanWeb – the in-built AdBlocker that eliminates any ads, malware, trackers, and phishing attempts on your browser, regardless of their aggressiveness. Just like the official website says it, with its help, you can “Surf in a clean cyber ocean.”
  • Whitelister – a feature that lets you add any app or website to the exceptions list of the VPN. They will automatically bypass the encryption and security check-ups once you give them the green light
  • Multihop – this feature bounces your traffic through multiple countries so the added encryption and ID protection stack on top of each other, resulting in an extremely hard to crack algorithm

Other interesting options that you should know of are:

  • Camouflage Mode – basically the feature that NordVPN and ExpressVPN use to hide the VPN activity. ISPs and censorship authorities won’t be able to identify the encryptions.
  • NoBorders Mode – this is the option that you need to always have on if you live under oppressive regimes that restrict access to the internet.

Server performance and speed tests

SurfShark might be in third place on our list but this doesn’t mean that its speeds are on the level of the common VPN. It has premium standards in this department, just as we’d expect.

Let’s take a look at the few speed tests we conducted on a couple of servers. This is the benchmark speed:

Ping – 14ms

Download speed – 91.44 Mbps

Upload speed – 93.54 Mbps

First, a server from the US, New York:

  • Ping – 126ms
  • Download speed – 13.87 Mbps
  • Upload speed – 7.34 Mbps

Seeing as though we got off on the wrong foot, let’s get this show on the road with one of the servers in Germany:

  • Ping – 41ms
  • Download speed – 80.05 Mbps
  • Upload speed – 84.78 Mbps

The server from Turkey was another wild shot:

  • Ping – 170ms
  • Download speed – 21.83 Mbps
  • Upload speed – 7.65 Mbps

While the speed might be fluctuating between servers, there is still no problem with running Netflix, the US one. From what we experimented with, two servers in the US, one in the UK, one in Canada, and two, each in South Africa, and one in South Korea can access Netflix.

Privacy and logging policies

They are both contained within the Privacy Policy section of the official SurfShark website:

They clearly state that they collect no information related to a user’s identity or traffic, his or her activities on the internet or other types of privacy-related information.

As for the data they do collect, it’s mainly related to the subscription itself, as well as the email address and the encrypted password.

Those are not in any way tied to your identity of confidential information.

There have currently been no user complaints about problems with the authorities resulted from leaked data from SurfShark’s servers. This is further supported by the Warrant Canary they keep on the website, detailing all the major issues that they’ve had with the authorities.

Currently, they have had zero issues so far.

Security and encryption protocols

The main security features we previously talked about are: NoBorders, CleanWeb, Whitelister, and MultiHop. The kill-switch is something you always want to have turned on.

After checking the app itself through a complete virus screening, there were no alarms at all, which was to be expected from a premium VPN.

We also checked for leaks on the following websites:

  • https://ipleak.net/ (none found)
  • https://www.perfect-privacy.com/check-ip/ (none found)
  • https://ipx.ac/run (none found)
  • https://www.perfect-privacy.com/dns-leaktest/ (none found)
  • http://dnsleak.com/ (none found)

The Windows app functions with the IKEv2 by default but you can switch to OpenVPN whenever you want to, both TCP or UDP.

Freely use the Tor Network combined with the VPN server to dish out even more encryption power and privacy insurances.

The last ace in the hole is the independent security audit conducted by Cure53 on SurfSharks’s security systems. The results were more than satisfactory. They gave their thumbs up on this VPN.

All in all, after trying it ourselves, we can safely say that SurfShark meets the standards of a premium online security provider in terms of security. Moreover, they have plans for other privacy features to implement this year, in June.

Subscription prices

Like we said before, SurfShark has incredible prices for such premium services. We’re talking about discounts up to 83% for the 2-year plan that goes up to $47.76 charged every 2 years. That’s only $1.99 per month.

With the 1-year plan, you have a 50% discount, paying $71.88 for the whole subscription, equal to $5.99 per month.

Last but not least, the 1-month subscription is $11.95 per month, just like NordVPN’s 1-month plan.

Mind you, all of these plans include the CleanWeb, Whitelister, MultiHop, and Kill-Switch features.

Plus, you are eligible for a 30-day refund on all subscriptions, no questions asked.

There is no free trial for Windows. Those are only available for iOS, macOS, and Android users.

As for payment methods, you can use all the common ones plus cryptocurrencies, just because SurfShark wants you to be as anonymous as possible.

Overall user reviews on SurfShark and its services

Taken from Trustpilot.com, these reviews reflect just why this VPN fully deserves its spot on this list, and the premium quality we have attributed to it.

Here’s another one:

And another one:

Most of the reviews are 5-star ones but there are also 1-star ones and other problematic reviews like this one.

Or like this one:

4. How do we choose the Best VPNs for Windows?

There are a couple of principles we are adamant about, which we believe are the golden standards in the VPN industry.

They are:

  • Overall security system and encryption algorithms – this area is the most important area where a VPN must show its mettle. There are no screw-ups allowed. ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and SurfShark have more than demonstrated they are up to the task from this point of view
  • Privacy, anonymity and logic policy – the second most important aspect of a VPN is its privacy policy. How does it ensure that the users stay anonymous using their services? Do they collect any logs that could lead to a user being confronted with legal repercussions? And do they strive to always keep your confidential data safe? Answer these questions and you have your best VPNs for Windows
  • Server performance, overall stability, and constancy – in this case, we are dealing with download and upload speed. Are the speeds high enough? How much do they fluctuate, and are they good for P2P? All three VPNs we tested passed with flying colors, ExpressVPN more than the other two
  • Structural and aesthetic presentation of the VPN app – in this case, the Windows client needs to be robust, simple enough to operate, intuitive, and, last but not least, eye-pleasing. As vain as the last point sounds, it does matter in the end.

To conclude, these are our top three picks for Best VPNs for Windows. For any suggestions or experiences with any of these online security providers, we are more than welcome to receive them.

Written by: Bogdan Patru

Author, creative writer, and tech-geek. Bogdan has followed his passion for the digital world ever since he got his hands of his first pc. After years of accumulating knowledge and experience, the good Samaritan in him whispered him one day about the virtue of sharing that knowledge with those who needed it. It was 2014 when that idea would grow into a life-defining passion. One that keeps driving him to this day.