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Understanding and increasing VPN connection speeds

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 Proton VPN plans.

Update July 2021: Our unique VPN Accelerator technology can increase speeds by over 400% in certain situations, is free to all Proton VPN 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.

Learn more about VPN Accelerator

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 number (#) at least ten servers away from the existing server (preferably more). For example, switching from CH#1 to CH#21.
  • 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 Proton VPN apps support the WireGuard and OpenVPN VPN 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. WireGuard is usually the fastest VPN protocol. For both WireGuard and OpenVPN, 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 Proton VPN 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 Proton VPN 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 Proton VPN 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 Proton VPN 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 Proton VPN Plans

Proton VPN maintains very fast connections across our entire global VPN server network by using only high-performance VPN servers on specially selected networks. Proton VPN is a free VPN service, but our global network is not free to operate. The operating expenses are mostly covered by paid Proton users. Because of this, we provide higher levels of performance for anyone with a paid Proton VPN plan.

Because Proton VPN 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 and paid 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.

If you have  Proton VPN Plus,  Unlimited, or Visionary (legacy users only) plan, you have have access to the fastest connections. Because there are fewer paid users, and because many of our 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 Proton VPN, 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.

Best Regards,
The Proton Team

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