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The best VPN for Windows: Expert tested

We tested the best VPNs for your Windows PC on everything from speed to server count to security. Here are some of the top VPNs for the Microsoft Windows operating system.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

Why you can trust ZDNET

ZDNET's reviewers perform extensive testing on the VPNs on this list. We test out connections through different countries, and run speed tests using speedtest.net to measure and compare results. We also test whether the VPN has any DNS leaks while connecting, which would potentially provide information to your ISP or other services about what sites you visit or your originating location or IP address. We evaluate how easy each service is to navigate via website and app, how well it works for streaming content, and its customer service offerings. All of these factors give us a view into how well the VPN works, and how secure it is.

What to Consider

+

Performance

+

Simultaneous connections

+

Security

+

Kill switch

+

Geoblocks and streaming

+

Platforms

+

Countries and servers

+

Trial length and price

NordVPN | Best VPN for Windows overall
nordvpn-windows-2
NordVPN
Best VPN for Windows overall
View now View at NordVPN
ExpressVPN | Best Windows VPN for speed
expressvpn-windows-3
ExpressVPN
Best Windows VPN for speed
View now View at ExpressVPN
Surfshark VPN | Best budget Windows VPN
surfshark-windows-2
Surfshark VPN
Best budget Windows VPN
View now View at Surfshark
Proton VPN | Best Windows VPN for security
protonvpn-windows-2
Proton VPN
Best Windows VPN for security
View now View at ProtonVPN
IPVanish VPN | Best Windows VPN for unlimited connections
ip-vanish-install-windows-3
IPVanish VPN
Best Windows VPN for unlimited connections
View now View at IPVanish

What is the best Windows VPN in 2024?

ZDNET's top pick for a Windows VPN in 2024 is NordVPN. Due to recent upgrades to its server network and an increase in the number of simultaneous connections you can have under one account, NordVPN now combines excellent speed, an expansive server choice, and security, making it a great option at $3.69/month.

When you connect to Wi-Fi in an airport, hotel, school, or coffee shop, you don't want your data running over a public hotspot that could be corrupted in any of a thousand different ways. That is why it is important to know your VPN solution can be trusted.

ZDNET has extensively tested VPN software for years. We've conducted hands-on speed tests, checked server availability and connection stability, and examined the most important aspects of VPN clients including user-friendliness, security, and streaming service access.

With that in mind, these are our recommendations for the best VPNs for Windows in 2024. Not only have these all been put to the test in various reviews, but we have considered how they perform on Windows machines, their price points, and how each vendor approaches security.

The best VPNs for Windows in 2024

NordVPN

Best VPN for Windows overall

NordVPN has distinguished itself as one of the fastest VPNs on the market today. 

It also has solid capabilities beyond a basic VPN service. Its P2P sharing functionality makes it an excellent VPN for torrenting. It also has options for a dedicated IP address, double VPN, and Onion over VPN. You can purchase add-on services, including a password manager and encrypted cloud storage, and it's one of the few VPN providers offering identity theft and cyber extortion coverage. 

Also: NordVPN review

Beyond Windows, NordVPN supports all the most popular platforms, making it a good option for securing your various devices. Furthermore, the company recently increased the number of simultaneous devices available under one account to 10 devices, and its server network has expanded to 111 countries, making NordVPN's network one of the most expansive. 

The user interface works well on the Windows OS, and during testing, we found that connections were fast and stable. If you have trouble setting up the VPN, live chat is available, and customers report they appreciate the support. 

Plans begin at $3.69/month with three months of free access added to two-year plans. With a 30-day money-back guarantee, you can test it out yourself for a month and get a full refund if it doesn't work for you.

NordVPN specifications: Windows support: Windows 7 or higher | Simultaneous connections: 10 | Kill switch: Yes | Platforms: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Android TV, Chrome, Firefox | Logging: None, except billing data | Countries: 111 | Money-back guarantee: 30 day

nordvpn-windows-2
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ExpressVPN

Best Windows VPN for speed

ExpressVPN has server locations in 105 countries, which is a considerably larger network than many of the other top VPN providers. 

In ZDNET's speed tests, we found that ExpressVPN for Windows came in just after NordVPN in overall performance, and the performance was predictably consistent with servers located worldwide.

ExpressVPN isn't one of the most widely used VPN providers for no reason. It supports a wide range of platforms and protocols and is easy to set up and use on just about any device, including the Windows platform. 

Also: ExpressVPN review

ExpressVPN is up there with NordVPN in terms of its user interface, and just like its competitor, there is a kill switch that protects your privacy should your connection suddenly drop. It's one of the fastest VPNs, if not the fastest, and it might have taken the top spot on this list if it wasn't for the higher price point. Still, customers say this is an excellent VPN with a fantastic customer support team. 

The best deal at present is for a one-year ExpressVPN plan is $6.67/month with three months of free access. Ignore the promotional material, however, as this pricing has been consistent for a considerable amount of time. 

ExpressVPN specifications: Windows support: Windows 7 or higher | Simultaneous connections: 8 | Kill switch: Yes | Platforms: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, and more | Logging: No browsing logs, some connection logs | Countries: 105 | Money-back guarantee: 30 days

expressvpn-windows-3
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Surfshark VPN

Best budget Windows VPN

Surfshark is one of the most affordable VPNs on the market, providing a solid experience for a range of budgets. 

In addition to great VPN functionality supported by the Wireguard protocol, it offers a clear, attractive user interface and unlimited connections. I particularly like the pause function, which allows you to stop the VPN for five minutes, an hour, or more -- a useful feature if you need to access a service local to you, for example. 

Although download speeds were solid in our testing, we did notice that they tended to be slightly slower than some competitors, and connection times were a bit slower as well. Customers report Surfshark is a trustworthy VPN service with a great support team, although some users have reported billing issues. 

Also: Surfshark VPN review

Plans start at only $2.19/month on two-year plans. You can also opt for one-year or monthly options and additional tiers that include features such as antivirus protection and Incogni data removal.

Surfshark VPN specifications: Windows support: Windows 7 or higher | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited | Kill switch: Yes | Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, Fire TV, Firefox, Chrome | Logging: None, except billing data | Countries: 100 | Money-back guarantee: 30 days

surfshark-windows-2
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Proton VPN

Best Windows VPN for security

Proton VPN is one of the best VPN solutions out there for the privacy-conscious.

Offered by the same developers behind ProtonMail, Proton VPN places security and privacy at the heart of its operations and is protected by Swiss privacy laws. It is also open source, which allows anyone to review and audit its code, and the firm's privacy policy is clear and transparent. A warrant canary is also operating.  

Also: Proton VPN review

Speeds are reasonable, although they are sometimes slower than other VPN servers. Many customers say they like this speedy and secure service, although there are complaints regarding the free service tier (take that how you will).

Regarding pricing, Proton VPN is a mid-tier option at $4.49/month on a two-year contract. One-year subscriptions cost $4.99/month, whereas a month of access is available for $9.99. A free VPN is also on offer, although as you may expect, the plan is limited. 

Proton VPN specifications: Windows support: Windows 7 or higher | Simultaneous connections: 10 | Kill switch: Yes | Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, Fire TV, Firefox, Chrome, Android TV | Logging: None, except billing data | Countries: 91 | Money-back guarantee: 30 days

protonvpn-windows-2
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IPVanish VPN

Best Windows VPN for unlimited connections

IPVanish is a solid, highly flexible product with a useful user interface and fast connection times. It's compatible with Windows 7 and above; however, you might have to use the VPN's legacy app for older versions of the operating system.

Windows users will appreciate how highly configurable IPVanish is. Its app makes choosing the optimal server for your VPN connection a breeze by providing ping times and server load information. As a bonus, this VPN is an excellent choice for Kodi users. 

While connection times were excellent with IPVanish, the transfer speed sometimes lagged behind the other competitors, and the user interface won't appeal to everyone. Despite this, customers say they like the VPN's price point and report an overall positive experience, with many noting that streaming services work well. 

Also: IPVanish review

At present, you can sign up for a two-year plan at $2.19/month, with three months free. Alternatively, a yearly plan will set you back $2.79/month, or a month of access will cost you $10.99.

IPVanish VPN specifications: Windows support: Windows 7 and up | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited | Kill switch: Yes | Platforms: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Fire TV, Android TV, and Kodi | Logging: None, except billing data | Locations: 75 | Money-back guarantee: 30 days

ip-vanish-install-windows-3
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Windows VPNs, compared

Best VPN for Windows

Price

Simultaneous connections

Locations

NordVPN

$3.69/mo w/2-year plan + 3 free months

10

111

ExpressVPN

$6.67/mo w/1-year plan + 3 free months

8

105

Surfshark

$2.19/mo w/2-year plan

Unlimited

100

Proton VPN

$4.49/mo w/2-year plan

10

91

IPVanish VPN

$2.19/mo w/2-year plan + 3 free months

Unlimited

75

Note: The information presented in this table is accurate as of our last publish date, and prices, ratings, and other details may have changed since then.

What is a Windows VPN service and why should you use one?

A Windows VPN service is a virtual private network solution that encrypts your internet traffic, hides your IP address, and provides you with a relatively anonymous and secure connection while you're online. 

With the right VPN, you can browse the internet without being tracked and access geo-restricted content and streaming services while you're away from home. VPNs are not a silver bullet for security, but rather a valuable layer that can protect your sensitive data and mask your online activities.

Also: What is a VPN and why do you need one?

A bar graph showing tested speed loss data for the best VPNs for Windows
Allison Murray/ZDNET

How to set up a VPN on Windows

ip-vanish-home-page
Charlie Osborne/ZDNET

When you're ready to try a new VPN on your Windows machine, you will first need to download the service you want from your VPN provider's website or other official sources.

When you have downloaded your software, run through the installer. For this example, I am installing IPVanish on a Windows-based Lenovo laptop. You may need to provide permission for the installation software to finish.

ip-vanish-install-windows-2
Charlie Osborne/ZDNET

And that's it! You must then sign in using your VPN account credentials or a device authorization code. Your VPN will now be active, and you can select the country server you want, change any further settings, and more.

ip-vanish-install-windows
Charlie Osborne/ZDNET

How we test Windows VPNs

Many providers recommended in this list have been subject to in-depth testing and reviews by members of our ZDNET team. We've been reviewing VPNs for years, have spoken with their management and their users, and have developed a generally favorable impression.

ZDNET does test VPN services from multiple locations, but we can't test from all locations. Every home, every community, every local ISP, and every nation has a different infrastructure. 

We analyzed the best VPNs for Windows below using the following criteria that were most important in helping you make an informed decision:

  • Performance: Our top VPNs must have a minimum level of performance. After all, there's no point in using a VPN while streaming if your connection continually drops or lags, making it intolerable.
  • Simultaneous connections: Many VPNs limit how many devices you can connect to a service at the same time. If you have a phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, and possibly even a smart TV you want to connect to a VPN, you'd need a service that allows at least five or six simultaneous connections.
  • Security: There's no point using a VPN unless its security protocols and encryption levels are up to scratch. We also ensured the development team behind each recommended VPN cared about making security improvements over time and patching reported bugs.
  • Kill switch: A kill switch prevents you from having an unprotected connection. It is an important feature for a VPN to have, as it protects by preventing a return to a default Wi-Fi connection should your internet connection unexpectedly drop.
  • Geoblocks and streaming: We know VPNs can be key to accessing local content and services while you're away from home. We ensured that our top recommendations performed well in these factors and are unlikely to slow down your connection while you are streaming. 
  • Platforms: What systems and devices can you run the VPN on? Our VPN recommendations, naturally, have to offer easy-to-use and intuitive mobile apps. 
  • Countries & servers: In how many different countries does the VPN have servers? This can include physical and virtual servers and whether or not there are enough -- at least 50 or so -- to provide variety.
  • Trial length & price: Each VPN we recommend has a solid money-back guarantee and many will offer mobile users a seven-day trial. 

For a more extensive breakdown, check out our comprehensive VPN testing methodology page.

Choosing the right Windows VPN

Choose this VPN for Windows

If you want...

NordVPN

The best Windows VPN overall. NordVPN combines great speeds and stability with an expensive server network and plenty of additional options to bolster your online security. 

ExpressVPN

A speed-driven VPN. While expensive, ExpressVPN has some of the best speed test results in our reviews and is a solid VPN service with an easy-to-use user interface. 

Surfshark

An affordable VPN. Surfshark isn't always as quick as its competitors, but it does offer reasonable speeds across a decent server network and at a price point suitable for most users. 

Proton VPN

A security-first VPN. Proton VPN is our only open source option and its developers heavily emphasize security and user privacy. Its network and speed is what we consider reasonable. 

IPVanish

Unlimited connections. IPVanish does not limit how many devices you can connect to the VPN at the same time and it is also highly configurable.

What are the factors to consider when choosing a Windows VPN?

When you are selecting your new Windows VPN, you should consider:

  • Compatibility: You will need a VPN that works with the Microsoft Windows operating system. Thankfully, the majority of VPNs will support Windows, one of the most popular operating systems, by default.
  • Cost: You need to consider the overall cost of your new VPN plan. Try to take advantage of promotions, but ignore countdown timers -- they typically are just marketing tools. While top-notch VPNs can cost upwards of $10/month, many are available for only a few dollars. We generally recommend that free VPNs are avoided -- with several exceptions -- as they may sell your data.
  • Streaming and geoblocking: If you intend to use your Windows VPN for streaming content, ensure that the VPN can accommodate your favorite services, especially if they are located in another location. It can be a cat-and-mouse game, especially if you're away from home, so it is worth researching whether or not your VPN has issues with accessing specific streaming services. Also, keep in mind that streaming with a VPN legally is a gray area.
  • Device connections: When you're paying for a Windows VPN, you might also want to use the service across multiple devices, such as on an Android smartphone or Mac. We recommend you sign up for a plan with support for at least six devices. Thankfully, many paid VPN plans now offer unlimited connections and are compatible with the most popular operating systems. 
  • Contract length: You also need to decide how long you want a VPN. If you opt for a two-year term (or longer, with some VPN providers offering up to five years) you tend to secure the best prices, but there are other options available. After you've made a selection, you typically have a 30-day money-back guarantee. 
  • Apps and extensions: When selecting a VPN, you might want to try out its accompanying mobile apps and extensions to ensure you're getting the most out of your subscription. Some VPNs, for example, have great desktop software but lack in the mobile app department, which may not be as intuitive or easy to use. 

Frequently asked questions

Does Windows 11 come with a VPN?

Yes, and no. Windows 11 includes a VPN client, but it isn't suitable for the average user. 

To run your data through the internet, you need an endpoint. If you're connecting to your corporate VPN server, then you can use Windows' built-in client. But if you want to connect elsewhere, you need a separate VPN service. Microsoft has provided a guide for setting up the inbuilt VPN client, but we recommend that most users should opt for a standalone VPN which will save you the legwork and will generally provide you with more features.

If I run these Windows VPNs on my laptop, can I also run them on my phone?

Yes -- as long as you're running iOS or Android on your phone. All of the VPNs we recommend support multiple simultaneous connections for just this reason. Once you sign up for a service, you can generally run the VPN client multiple devices at once, and we prefer to showcase VPNs that provide at least five simultaneous connections, or more.

Is there a free VPN for Windows?

There are several vendors who provide free VPN plans. You can opt for a free VPN for Windows before signing up for a paid service as this will give you the opportunity to learn about VPN software and potentially test out a VPN before making the leap. 

However, we do not recommend downloading free VPNs that harvest your information or are ad-supported, as this negates the whole point of using a VPN to improve your privacy and security. At present, we suggest that you try out Proton VPN or Windscribe if you want a free plan -- but keep in mind that while they are supported by paid users, these services are limited. 

Are there alternative VPNs for Windows worth considering?

If the services we've profiled in our best Windows VPNs list don't quite do it for you, no problem. There are a number of other services with a level of security and performance to meet your needs.

View at CyberGhostView at Windscribe
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