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Does Using a VPN Slow Down Your Internet

Last updated: 21.09.2022
Author: Marija

While the role of a virtual private network (VPN) in making your connection more private and secure is undisputed, not everything about VPNs is great. The most important concern that people have for this type of service is this — does VPN slow down the internet? That’s exactly what we’ll explore so that you know whether you will be sacrificing speed for anonymity by using a VPN. Read on!  

Does Using a VPN Slow Down Internet Speed?

As anyone who has used this type of service before knows, one of the trade-offs of connecting to the internet through a private network is the VPN slowing down the internet.

This is because your traffic is taking an extra step by going through the VPN server before it reaches its destination. How much the VPN slows down your internet connection, however, often depends on the service, and might be just barely noticeable with premium VPN providers that rely on high quality and quantity of servers to offset the impact of increased latency. 

If we ask the opposite question — does VPN make the internet faster — the answer might be surprising to some. A good VPN service can actually offer a number of benefits that might even improve your overall internet experience by preventing ISP throttling and increasing your connection speed.

Why Does My Internet Speed Slow Down When Using a VPN?

Still, since a VPN is likely to slow your internet speed down, let’s look into the most common reasons why that happens. 

Server Distance 

Shorter distances between you and the VPN server improve internet speeds because it doesn’t take as long for the data packet to travel. So, unless you need to connect to a server in a specific location, it’s better to choose VPN servers in nearby countries or ideally, the one you’re in. 

Internet Speed

Your own internet connection can affect how quickly you receive a response since data packets have to travel through your ISP before reaching the VPN server. So, if your own connection is subpar, that would make for subpar VPN internet speed too.

Number of Users

When too many users are connected to a single server, it can’t keep up with demand, and speeds slow down for everyone significantly. That’s because each user is competing for a limited amount of bandwidth. So, the VPN will slow down the internet speed less if the provider has plenty of servers. 

Encryption

Encrypting the data asks for extra data, which can lead to latency and slow VPN connection speed.

In fact, the stronger the encryption, the slower the VPN connection will be. That means that 128-bit encryption is in fact faster than 256-bit encryption, but the former is way safer.

The level of encryption you need, however, depends on the sensitivity of the information you are trying to protect. For example, if you are just trying to keep your browsing history private, 128-bit AES encryption may be sufficient. However, if you are handling sensitive data like financial information or medical records, you will want to use a higher level of encryption, such as 256-bit AES. 

Slow VPN Troubleshooting Tips

If you’re noticing a decrease in your internet speed while connected to a VPN, there are a few things you can try to troubleshoot the issue. 

  • Switch to a different VPN server location — one closer to you would be better. Also, if the server has fewer users, your speed might get better.  
  • Try changing the VPN protocol. Some protocols are faster than others. Another option is to turn on split tunneling, which allows some of your traffic to bypass the VPN. 
  • Double-check your internet speed without a VPN to see if the issue is with the VPN or with your internet connection.
  • Try closing any unnecessary background apps and rebooting your device since there might be some other issue altogether making your device slower and by implication, affecting speed. 

If all else fails, you could also consider changing VPN providers. If you are using a free one, a paid subscription will do wonders for your VPN speed as will a more specialized service, such as VPN for gaming, where speed is a top priority.  

The Takeaway 

Does VPN slow down the internet? In many cases yes. But it doesn’t have to be so. By doing your research and choosing the right VPN for your needs, you can enjoy the benefits of a secure connection without sacrificing too much of your browsing speed.