Will a VPN Slow Down Your Internet?

Chyelle Dvorak
Jun 01, 2023
Icon Time To Read3 min read

Most likely, yes: a VPN will slow down your internet. No matter the purpose of your VPN, whether it's for ad blocking or streaming, your speed is likely to slow down a bit. However, the amount your speed is affected depends on the circumstances. How fast your internet was before the VPN, which VPN brand you’re using, and how far away you are from your VPN server can all play a part in your internet speed.

Whether you’ll notice the change in speed is difficult to say. With some VPNs, depending on the situation, you might not even notice the difference.

What slows my internet speed when using a VPN?

There are plenty of variables that affect your internet speed when using a VPN service. The most common factors that contribute to your connection speed are:

  • The distance between you and your server location
  • The type of encryption your VPN uses
  • Whether the server you use has bandwidth limitations

Server location

The location of the server you are connecting to has the greatest impact on your internet speed. If you want to make sure your internet runs as fast as possible while using a VPN connection, try connecting to a server that isn’t too far away from you. Use this rule of thumb: the greater the distance between your location and the server you’re connecting to, the higher the chance your internet will run slow.

How far away should my VPN server be?

Some VPNs automatically connect you to the nearest server. But many will give you an option to choose. Generally, if you pick a server that’s on the other side of the world, you will notice a larger difference in internet speed.

While there are some privacy benefits to choosing a different location from where you are, try picking a server that’s located in a neighboring city or state. If you’re not too concerned about your server location and you prefer fast internet, go with something close by.

Encryption

Most of the time, you won’t notice a difference in your internet speed, but sometimes encryption plays a part. For instance, OpenVPN Protocol is the encryption you’re most likely to notice slowing your internet speed.

On the other hand, PPTP is one of the fastest VPN encryptions. Many VPNs use IKEv2 or L2PT/IPSec, which are known for being reliable both for security and for not slowing down your speed too much.

What determines my internet speed?

One of the biggest factors is your ISP, or internet service provider. Your speed is influenced by your ISP’s internet connection type (sorry, to those of you on satellite) and by your plan’s speed and data limits. Keep in mind, your plan’s bandwidth is shared across all your devices. When more devices connect and start downloading 4K movies, then the speed will degrade quickly.

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Your router also strongly impacts your internet speed. If it’s outdated, your router isn’t going to be able to keep up. Its location in the home also makes a difference; you’ll want your router close so it can get a strong signal to your devices.

Of course, you’ll want to make sure your modem and all your hardware is working as it should.

Is your internet too slow even before adding a VPN?

Before you accept that buffering wheel as your way of life, check out our tips for improving your internet speed.

Can I test my internet speed?

Absolutely. There are a wide variety of speed tests available to check your internet speed. The best way to find out if your VPN connection is affecting your internet is to perform a speed test while you are downloading a file, both with your VPN on and off. You should be able to see right away how much your VPN changes your speed.

Can I do anything to increase my internet speed?

If you’re having trouble with your internet speed, there are some practical things you can try in order to fix the issue before changing your ISP altogether. Remember, a VPN connection will always slow your internet at least a little, but whether you notice the difference depends on a variety of factors. Here’s a list of things you can do to try increasing your internet connection speed while using a VPN.

  1. Restart your modem and/or router .
  2. Restart your device.
  3. Connect to a different VPN server.
  4. Use a wired connection.
  5. Choose a VPN known for its speed.

If you're interested in testing different VPNs without committing to a subscription, here we break down the best VPN free trials. Just keep in mind that, depending on the service, a free VPN can slow your internet more than a paid plan since you'll have access to fewer servers.

FAQs

Yes, it can. A VPN protocol decides how your data moves between your device and the VPN, and not all VPN protocols are created equal. Protocols have different amounts of code as well, which will affect latency and, therefore, your internet speed.

VPN experts at PrivacySharks have ranked five common VPN protocols by speed:

  1. WireGuard
  2. IKEv2
  3. L2TP/IPSec
  4. OpenVPN
  5. PPTP
Now that you know about how your VPN affects your internet speed, here are your next steps.
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If you need faster internet, it might be time to find a new provider.
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Check out our favorite VPNs

Chyelle Dvorak
Written by
Chyelle Dvorak
Chyelle works as a freelance writer for The Daily Beast and edited articles for Forbes, Inc.com, Fox News and other review sites. Chyelle tests, writes, and researches products and services related to internet consumption. She found her passion for public speaking and writing in her childhood when she won the Voice of Democracy speech and essay competition. Chyelle has a degree in International Relations from Crown College, Minnesota. Outside of work, Chyelle loves to spend time reading, kayaking, and running.

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