In this article, we discuss the factors that impact the speed of VPN connections and how you can increase the speed of your connection when using one of our VPN servers. We also cover the differences in speed between the ProtonVPN plans.
Update July 2021: Our unique VPN Accelerator technology can increase speeds by over 400% in certain situations, is free to all ProtonVPN users, and is enabled by default in all our apps. It is particularly effective at mitigating speed loss due to large distances and issues with the internet infrastructure.
All VPNs establish an encrypted tunnel over your existing Internet connection, which means the main factor that determines the speed of your VPN connection is the base speed of your Internet connection. Other factors that might limit VPN speeds include:
- The speed of the connection from your Internet service provider. Generally speaking, the speed of your VPN connection is limited by the amount of data your ISP can handle and the speed with which it can transport it on its network.
- Issues in the Internet infrastructure. If you are connecting to an overseas VPN server, an issue with the network links anywhere between you and that server could lead to performance problems. This could include congestion caused by a failure of an undersea internet cable or maintenance being performed by the network provider upstream to your ISP.
- ISP throttling. Some providers will intentionally throttle VPN connections or throttle your entire connection if you are using a lot of bandwidth. This degrades your VPN speed as your entire connection is now running slower.
Because networks are always changing, VPN speeds can vary depending on where you are, which servers you connect to, and even when you connect. Furthermore, because connecting to a VPN might bypass a problem elsewhere on the Internet, it is even possible to occasionally get a faster connection speed to certain sites with a VPN than without.
How to get faster speeds on a VPN
If you are experiencing slow browsing speeds while connected to a VPN server, there are some tricks that you can try to improve your VPN performance.
- Switch to a different VPN server – If you suspect there are issues in your network, switching to a different server could help you avoid those bottlenecks and slowdowns. To be effective, you should switch to a server with an IP address from a different range. For example, instead of switching from 18.104.22.168 to 22.214.171.124, you should switch to 126.96.36.199. As long as the first two sets of numbers are different, the servers are on different ranges.
- Switch to a server closer to you – The farther away you are from the server you are connected to, the higher the latency of your connection, which hurts your browsing speeds. Connecting to a server that is far away from you also increase the chances of encountering network issues between you and the server.
- Try different protocols – Most ProtonVPN applications support IKEv2 and OpenVPN (UDP/TCP) connection protocols. If you are experiencing slow browsing speeds, we suggest you try connecting with each protocol to see which one provides you with the best speed. IKEv2 is usually the fastest VPN protocol. Out of OpenVPN connection protocols, UDP is faster than TCP. Our Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android apps feature Smart Protocol, but you may still want to manually select different VPN protocols to find the one that offers you the best speed.
Learn more about Smart Protocol and how to change VPN protocols.
- Don’t use servers that are under a heavy load – ProtonVPN applications and our VPN server page display the current usage load of all our servers. Try to pick a server that has a low load.
- Don’t use Secure Core – The extra security provided by Secure Core VPN, unfortunately, comes at the cost of performance since passing through our Secure Core network adds extra latency. If your browsing is bandwidth-intensive and doesn’t require high security (i.e., you are watching Netflix), you can get a faster connection by turning off Secure Core.
- Don’t use Tor VPN servers – ProtonVPN is unique in that we also provide Tor VPN servers that allow you to access the Tor network. However, because the Tor network is often slow, Tor VPN servers can also be slow.
- Temporarily disable your antivirus or firewall – Sometimes, antivirus programs or firewalls can affect VPN connection speed. Try temporarily disabling them and reconnecting to the ProtonVPN server to see if your browsing speed improves.
- Close data-transferring applications – Some data/file-sharing applications that run in the background, such as torrenting apps, can lower your browsing speed. Try closing them and reconnect to measure your speed quality.
- Keep your VPN app up to date – If you are using the ProtonVPN application, make sure you update to the latest version by clicking Update in the menu. If you are using a third-party OpenVPN client, make sure to use one that we recommend and be sure that you are running the latest version. New versions will contain performance optimizations or support faster cipher suites that will improve their overall performance.
The speeds of different ProtonVPN Plans
ProtonVPN maintains very fast connections across our entire global VPN server network by using only high-performance VPN servers on specially selected networks. ProtonVPN is a free VPN service, but our global network is not free to operate. The operating expenses are mostly covered by paid ProtonVPN Plus users. Because of this, we provide higher levels of performance for ProtonVPN Plus and ProtonVPN Basic users.
Because ProtonVPN is a no-logs VPN service, we do not monitor or track user activity. Therefore, we have no bandwidth limits or bandwidth throttles, even for free users. However, speeds differ between Free, Basic, and Plus plans due to varying server loads. Because we offer a limited number of free servers, those servers tend to have many more users on them, which leads to lower performance.
ProtonVPN Basic users benefit from fast connections because they have access to servers that are restricted to free users and connected to higher performance networks. Finally, ProtonVPN Plus users have access to the fastest connections because Plus servers are only accessible to Plus users. Because there are fewer Plus users, and because many of the Plus servers are on 10 Gbps networks, very high performance is possible. Indeed, speeds of up to 300 Mbps are frequently reported. Your actual speeds may vary, however, depending on network conditions.
Still experiencing speed issues?
At ProtonVPN, we strive to not only provide the most secure VPN service, but also the fastest VPN service. To do this, we only use high-performance servers in data centers with the best network connectivity. If you are experiencing poor connection speeds on one of our servers, we would like to know about it. Please tell us which server is performing poorly by contacting us.
The Proton Technologies Team