Internet privacy isn’t just for cybercriminals and people who wear a tinfoil hat on their heads. With governments spying on their citizens, corporations willingly handing over user data to the highest bidder, and malicious hackers trying to get their hands on sensitive information, it’s understandable that even regular internet users are researching ways how they can protect their online privacy.
A virtual private network (VPN) extends a private network across a public network, essentially creating a private tunnel through which data packets can be transmitted securely and without any possibility of anyone capturing them.
In 2018, there is a number of best free VPN services as well as best paid VPN services available for all popular operating systems. Most VPN services, both free and paid, can be used without any technical knowledge as their providers have created easy-to-use mobile and desktop apps that hide all the technical complexity of establishing an encrypted, private tunnel behind a modern user interface. But just because most VPN services are very easy to use doesn’t mean they all perform equally well. Some VPN services offer a higher degree of privacy than others, and paid VPN services are not always better than their free counterparts.
In the first section of this article, we introduce top 5 best VPN software solutions that you can download and use right now, and, in the second section, we explain how to choose the best VPN service for your needs.
Top 5 Best VPN Software Solutions
Best VPN for Mac: NordVPN
Mac users are used to a certain degree of polish and ease of use, and NordVPN meets the high standards of Mac users better than any other VPN service.
Besides Mac, NordVPN also works on Android and Windows and iOS. NordVPN has servers in every continent except Antarctica, and the total number of servers that you can connect to through NordVPN is over 3,300.
Price: Prices start at just $3.29 a month when billed every 24 months, but you can also purchase a single month of service for $11.95, which is still an excellent price considering what NordVPN offers.
Best VPN for Windows: ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN is the best free VPN for Windows. With ExpressVPN, you can anonymously access the internet from anywhere thanks to a large network of ultra-fast VPN servers in 94 countries and all major geographical regions. Unlike many other free VPN services, ExpressVPN has nearly 2,000 servers and is based in the British Virgin Islands for the best possible offshore privacy protection.
ExpressVPN apps are available on Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, and several supported routers. Other supported devices include Apple TV, Fire TV, Smart TV, PlayStation, Android TV box, and many more, including Kodi streaming boxes. Convenient web browser extensions are available for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
Price: If you like the free version of ExpressVPN, we highly recommend you try ExpressVPN Premium (12.95 per month), which comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Best VPN for Android: TunnelBear
TunnelBear is an approachable VPN service with a simple app that makes private browsing effortless. TunnelBear is the only VPN service in the world that has been independently audited, and you can see the results of the audit here. Besides transparency, TunnelBear also offers attractive prices, excellent performance, and impeccable customer support.
Price: You can use TunnelBear for free if you’re okay with only 500 MB of free data every month, or you can purchase TunnelBear’s unlimited plan for either $9.99 a month when billed every month or $4.99 when billed annually.
Best VPN for Torrenting: TorGuard
TorGuard was named the best VPN 2017 service by several prestigious tech magazines because it offers excellent value and a 7-day money back guarantee.
TorGuard even sells its own router that comes pre-flashed with its software for maximum privacy. You can use TorGuard on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. Many people consider TorGuard to be the best VPN service for torrenting because of its fantastic speeds and complete transparency.
Price: For just $9.99, TorGuard can give you unlimited speeds, unlimited bandwidth, five simultaneous connections, supports for OpenVPN/SSTP/L2TP/IPsec, access to over 3000 servers in 55 countries around the world, and around the clock technical support.
Best VPN for Kodi: IPVanish
Of all VPN services that we’ve tested with Kodi, a free and open-source media player software application developed by the XBMC Foundation, IPVanish turned out to be the most reliable. IPVanish has 40,000+ shared IPs and 1,000+ VPN servers in 60+ countries, making it great even for high-definition streaming, and has no limits on P2P traffic or bandwidth in general.
Price: Billed $8.00 first month, 7-day money-back guarantee. You will receive 20% off the first billing cycle of the IPVanish VPN account of your choice. Normal rates will apply starting on your second billing cycle.
How to Choose the Best VPN Service
There are several reasons why you might want to use a VPN service, but privacy is usually the number one. You should always verify that your VPN provider doesn’t collect or share your personal information and doesn’t keep track of your activity. Keep in mind that just because a VPN provider promises absolute privacy doesn’t necessarily mean that the provider also lives up to its promises, as several high-profile cases have illustrated during the past few years. For maximum privacy, choose a VPN provider headquartered in a country that doesn’t cooperate with major governments.
Best VPN services protect your privacy but allow you to continue doing whatever it is that you like to do online, including watching high-definition videos, playing online games, or browsing the web. We highly recommend you don’t judge VPN providers only by the speeds they advertise. Always verify the claims of VPN providers by reading online reviews and doing your own tests. When testing the speeds of a VPN service, conduct several tests at different times of the day. VPN services are used by people from around the world, so it’s usually difficult to anticipate when peak demand occurs.
When you access the internet using a VPN service, all data packets coming from a remote server to your computer or mobile device must go through an extra stop: the servers of your VPN provider. To enjoy the best performance possible, you should choose a VPN provider with servers around the globe. Of course, just because a VPN provider has global coverage doesn’t guarantee great performance, but it’s an important sign that the provider’s infrastructure is mature and capable of providing dependable performance.
To use the best VPN services available, you should be prepared to spend some money. Free VPN services are often fine for occasional use, but they leave a lot to be desired when you use them on a daily basis. Mobile VPN services that are available for free are often supported by intrusive ads that constantly get in the way, and free VPN services for Windows and Mac computers tend to have strict data or speed limits. Only paid VPN services are without any restrictions and with plenty of useful perks and features unavailable to free users. The good news is that most VPN providers let you try their service for free, allowing you to evaluate its performance without committing with your money.
User and professional reviews can be tremendously helpful when deciding between several seemingly equal VPN services. Some of the most important things that determine whether a VPN service is good or bad only become obvious after weeks and months of use, including how helpful and responsive the customer support is, or how available the service is during peak hours. Just be aware that there are many sponsored reviews online whose purpose is to sell you the service instead of providing you with objective information about it. Such reviews are often virtually indistinguishable from real reviews, apart from the fact that they are always positive.
VPN services come with various extra features, some of which are more useful than others. For starters, you should ensure that a VPN service is available on all the devices you use to access the internet. If you like to watch Netflix and want to continue doing so over VPN, make sure that Netflix is allowed because many VPN providers block it for various reasons. The same applies for torrenting.
Most free VPN services come with data limits. Depending on your needs, 500 MB of free data may sound like a lot to you, or it may sound like nothing. For most people, free VPN services with data limits are good enough for occasional web browsing or instant messaging. They are also great for avoiding geo-restrictions employed by some websites to prevent people from certain parts of the world from accessing their content. But if you would like to use a VPN service around the clock to protect your privacy, we highly recommend you pay a monthly subscription fee for a premium VPN service.