9 Effective Ways to Speed Up Your Internet When Using a VPN

Laptop flying and pulling VPN shield icon with detached weight
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Summary: The 9 Best Methods to Speed Up Your Internet When Using a VPN

Have you noticed that your internet speed is a little slower when using a virtual private network? That’s actually the result of your data being encrypted and rerouted to a different server by the VPN.

While a slight decrease is normal, some users may experience significantly slower connections. If you’re one such user, then try the following methods to increase the speed of your internet connection when using a VPN:

  1. Choose a different VPN server
  2. Change your VPN protocols
  3. Enable Split Tunneling
  4. Opt for a different VPN provider
  5. Change from a wireless connection to a wired connection
  6. Close unnecessary background apps
  7. Temporarily disable your antivirus and firewall
  8. Reboot your device
  9. Double check your internet connection

If you’re looking for the fastest VPN on the market, then Surshark’s your best bet. You can experience the blazing speeds Surfshark offers for free by using its 30-day money-back guarantee.

The rest of this article provides an elaborate explanation for each of the above methods, so be sure to give the whole thing a read before you try them out!

Virtual private networks (VPNs) are one of the best ways to protect your identity and information on the web. A VPN can hide your IP address, encrypt your online activity, and unblock geo-restricted content. This provides you with more freedom, privacy, and autonomy when online.

However, there are certain drawbacks to using a VPN. One of the most common issues faced by users is that their internet speed becomes slower when connected to a VPN server. A slow internet connection can increase the time videos take to buffer or torrents take to download, which is not ideal.

We’ve found 9 methods that our users can adopt to increase their internet speed when using a VPN connection. Before we get to the ways in which you can improve your VPN connection speeds, let’s first understand why your internet speeds might be slower when using a VPN server.

Why Does Using a VPN Slow Down Internet Speeds?

A VPN works by tunneling your internet activity through an encrypted tunnel to an external server. Rerouting your internet traffic through an external VPN server increases security and privacy by preventing other parties, such as your internet service provider (ISP) or the government, from snooping on your online activity or exposing your IP address.

How Does a VPN Work Illustration

However, the process of encryption and rerouting also increases the time taken for internet packets to travel from your device to the destination. As a result, you are likely to experience a slowdown in your internet connection when using a VPN.

Usually, the reduction in your internet speed should not be significant. But, if you’re experiencing a constantly slow VPN connection, then it may be time to try out some of the methods listed below to make your VPN faster:

How to Increase Your Internet Speed While Using a VPN

The methods listed below should help improve slow VPN connection speeds for most users. In some cases, you may have to try out a combination of two or more methods to improve your VPN speed.

Infographic showing the various methods with which you can improve your internet connection speed using a VPN

1. Choose a different VPN server

As we’ve explained above, a VPN sends your encrypted data to an external server from where it is forwarded to the destination address. The further away the server is from your location, the longer it’ll take to transmit data to the external VPN server.

Hence, an easy way to increase your VPN speed is to switch servers and opt for one that’s closest to your geographic location. Choosing the closest server reduces the distance your data has to travel and should improve your internet speed.

Most premium VPNs, like ExpressVPN and NordVPN, usually select the fastest VPN servers available for your coordinates. You should really only change the VPN server if you’re looking to access content that’s unavailable in your location or available only in a specific region.

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Sometimes your speed may not improve despite selecting the server located closest to you. This can happen because of the high server load. In such situations, choose a different server that’s less congested to get a faster connection. A server in another country also lets you access geo-restricted content.

2. Change your VPN protocols

A VPN protocol simply refers to the system which is responsible for encrypting your data before forwarding it to an external server. The protocol you’re using impacts the level of security and privacy as well as the VPN speed. We’ve compared the different VPN protocols in a previous article. Be sure to check it out before playing around with VPN protocol settings.

The OpenVPN protocol is the most commonly used protocol by VPN providers. It offers high-level encryption to safeguard your online activity. However, such strong encryption usually takes away from your VPN speed.

However, other protocols, like PPTP and WireGuard, prioritize VPN connection speeds, with a lesser focus on security. The WireGuard protocol, which is future-proof, combines security and increased speed, offering the best of both worlds.

So, another way to boost your internet speed when using a VPN is to change your protocol settings. Almost all of the VPN providers that feature on our rankings of the best VPNs for 2021 offer the ability to change between different protocols. If you’re looking for a VPN provider that supports the WireGuard protocol, then NordVPN should be your pick.

However, NordVPN also supports multiple protocols, so you need to know how to change it for maximum speeds.

Follow the steps listed below to switch to WireGuard on NordVPN:

  1. Click the settings icon in the NordVPN app. On a computer, the icon is usually located in the top right corner. On mobile devices, it should be at the bottom left of your screen.
  2. Navigate to the “Auto-connect” tab on your laptop and the “VPN Connection” tab on your mobile device.
  3. Disable automatic selection of the VPN protocol and server.
  4. Select NordLynx from the drop-down menu.

NordProtocol Auto Connect screenshot

You can also try changing certain settings within each individual protocol. This includes, for instance, changing the port your VPN service uses by default. Port 443 is recommended as it’s used for encrypted web traffic and rarely faces bandwidth throttling by your ISP.

3. Enable Split tunneling

Most VPN services tunnel and encrypt internet traffic from all apps and software installed on your device by default. If you happen to be running multiple apps that use a lot of bandwidth, your connection speed will usually be slow.

Luckily, most VPN providers provide an in-built solution that lets you pick which sites, apps, and networks you want to run through the VPN, and which ones you’d like to access directly.  This is known as split tunneling. Here’s a graphical understanding of how split tunneling works:

Split Tunneling With VPN Infographic

By choosing to tunnel traffic only from apps with privacy implications, such as your Mail app, you can increase VPN speed without compromising on security. Follow the steps below to enable split-tunneling on Surfshark:

  1. Open the Surfshark app and click on Features.
  2. Select Whitelist from the menu, which should be on the left of your screen.
  3. You’ll be presented with two options: “Route via VPN” and “Bypass VPN”. Toggling the former allows you to select which apps will be routed through the VPN. The latter enables inverse split tunneling, which means you can restrict certain apps from running through the VPN.
  4. You can also use the “Bypass VPN” option under Website/IP address to enable inverse split tunneling for URLs.

4. Opt for a different VPN provider

Some VPN providers may be unable to deliver fast speeds in your location even after changing servers and protocols. In such cases, you may need to change the VPN service you’re using.

We’ve put some of the best VPNs through a speed test to identify the fastest ones. Surfshark emerged as the VPN with the best speeds for servers located nearby and far away. In fact, Surshark offered faster VPN speeds for some foreign servers in comparison to local ones. This is truly remarkable!

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The other two VPNs which offer relatively fast internet speeds are ExpressVPN and NordVPN. Both also happen to be our highest-rated VPNs too. So you can comfortably choose either without worrying too much about any VPN speed issues. You could even try out Surshark, ExpressVPN, and NordVPN using their money-back guarantee without committing to a full subscription. Find one that best works for you, and go for it!

At this stage, we’ve broadly covered all the changes you can make to your VPN settings to get faster speeds. If none of these worked for you, then it’s perhaps time to consider making changes to settings on your device or router.

5. Change from a wireless connection to a wired connection

There’s no doubt that WiFi is the most preferred form of connecting to the internet today. You can access the web from anywhere in your house without the hassle of wires and cables. But, did you know that the speeds you get on wireless connections are usually slower than a wired connection?

This is because data packets travel between your device and the router through radio signals, which are prone to interference and disruption. Packet loss will impact connection speeds. Moreover, wireless connections use a shared channel to transmit data to multiple devices at the same time, which makes your internet slow.

If your device has ethernet ports and you have an ethernet cable lying at home, then it’s probably a good idea to use a wired connection for faster internet speeds.

6. Close unnecessary background apps

At any given time, there’s probably a bunch of apps and programs running quietly in the background on your device. While these apps aren’t shown in the user interface, they still consume processing power and bandwidth.

If you have several such apps running in the background, your connection speed will be quite slow. This is why it’s important to occasionally check your background apps and close the ones that aren’t required. Doing this on a regular basis should help increase VPN speed.

You can usually close background apps and processes using the Task Manager on Windows and Activity Monitor on a Mac. But be careful when doing this, as some processes are essential to keep your system running. We’ve provided detailed steps for closing background apps on Windows below:

  1. Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc to bring up the Task Manager.
  2. You’ll be presented with a list of apps and background processes running on your laptop (see the image below)
  3. Choose the app or process that you want to close and click on End Task.
  4. Be careful when closing background processes as this could affect your device’s functionality. Do not close any Windows processes!

Windows Task Manager processes screenshot

7. Temporarily disable your antivirus and firewall

Now we don’t generally recommend that our readers disable their antivirus and firewall. Both are crucial to keeping your system secure. Turning them off makes you more vulnerable to being affected by malicious elements, like viruses, worms, keyloggers, and trojans.

But if you’re downloading something from a trusted source and need to increase your VPN connection speed by a bit, then you could consider temporarily disabling your antivirus and firewall. All traffic passing through your computer is filtered by the antivirus to detect malicious elements. This can have an impact on your connection speed. Follow the steps below to turn off the Windows Defender firewall on your Windows laptop.

  1. Search for “Windows Defender” using the search icon in the taskbar.
  2. Open the Defender app and select “Firewall & network protection”
  3. Here you’ll see the status of your firewall on Public Networks, Private Networks, and Domain Networks.
  4. You can click on each to disable the firewall. Do bear in mind that you’ll have to provide User Account Control permission to disable your firewall.

Windows Security panel, Firewall and network protection screenshot

In any other situation, please do not turn off your antivirus. It’s better to sacrifice higher speeds for enhanced security and safety.

8. Reboot your device

Restarting or rebooting a device when it’s malfunctioning is probably one of the most popular fixes out there. I’m sure you’ve simply hit the restart button on your laptop or mobile device to resolve any problems it was facing.

Well, there’s no reason that the same trick can’t be used to speed up your VPN connection as well. A reboot helps resolve internal system errors that could be slowing down your VPN connection. 

You could also consider rebooting your router, in addition to your computer or mobile device, to see if that makes a difference.

9. Double check your internet connection

If none of the above steps have helped improve your VPN connection speed, then maybe the problem is with your internet connection itself. Even a premium VPN can’t give you high speeds on a slow internet connection.

You can ascertain whether the problem lies with your internet connection by running a speed test. If the speeds are below what you usually get or what your ISP has promised, then it’s a clear sign that your network connection is performing sub-optimally.

Rebooting your router can sometimes resolve underlying connectivity issues and get your speed back up. But if the problem persists, then you may need to take it up with your ISP or switch to an internet plan with higher bandwidth.

Final Thoughts

Digital privacy and security are now more important than ever. A VPN is one of the best and most convenient ways to secure yourself when online. At the same time, no one wants to wait for ages for web pages, videos, and apps to load. You can even build your own VPN if you want. The nine tips we’ve provided above will allow most users to protect their identity and security online without compromising on the speed of their connection.

For more information on staying safe online, check out some of the following articles:

  1. How to Browse the Internet Anonymously
  2. What is Phishing? Be Wary of Fake Emails and Other Scams!
  3. How To Keep Your Children Safe Online: The Definitive Guide!
FAQ: How to Speed Up Your Internet When Using a VPN

Nowadays using a VPN is critical to staying safe and secure online. But it can sometimes affect your internet connection speed. Our FAQ section provides some quick tips and solutions that you can use to speed up your VPN connection speed.

A VPN works by encrypting your traffic and rerouting it through an external server. This process takes a little time which can slow down your internet connection.

Usually, the reduction speed is not significant and shouldn’t affect common activities like browsing or streaming. But if you’re experiencing very slow speeds, then you should check out the top 9 methods to increase your internet speed when connected to a VPN. 

When it comes to connection speeds, no VPN performs better than Surfshark. We put some of the top VPNs through a speed test and Surfshark emerged as a pretty clear winner for servers that are nearby and far away.

You don’t have to take our word for it, check out Sursfshark’s speed for yourself by using its 30-day money-back guarantee.

There are a few things that you can try to increase your internet speed when connected to a VPN:

  1. Switch to a different VPN server location
  2. Try a different VPN protocol
  3. Turn on split tunneling
  4. Change your VPN service provider
  5. Close any unnecessary background apps
  6. Use a wired ethernet connection
  7. Temporarily disable your antivirus and firewall
  8. Reboot your devices
  9. Double-check your internet speed without a VPN
Tech journalist
Mohit is a legal and public policy researcher whose work focuses largely on technology regulation. At VPNOverview, he writes about cybersecurity, cryptocurrencies and sports events.