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Use the Best Free and Paid VPNs to Stay Private on the Internet

A virtual private network gives you a private, encrypted path between you and the Internet, but not all are made equal. Let's help you find the right one.

Apps in this Guide

A VPN, or virtual private network, gives you a secure tunnel to the Internet. It can protect your data over public Wi-Fi, help you skirt Internet filtering and geographical content restrictions, andmore

A VPN, or virtual private network, gives you a secure tunnel to the Internet. It can protect your data over public Wi-Fi, help you skirt Internet filtering and geographical content restrictions, and help you avoid being tracked online. Businesses sometimes run a corporate VPN so that employees working remotely can connect securely to the firm's servers and not endanger company data and documents. For more on VPNs, check out CNET's VPN directory guide.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I check a VPN provider's privacy policy?
First, do a search on the VPN's name and "privacy policy," which should get you to a page that discusses how the company handles user logs. A service has plenty of good reasons to monitor network activity. But some companies sell customer activity logs to third parties to cover the expense of the VPN service. Look for whether your provider collects logs, what it logs, and what it does with those logs. If you can't even find a website for the service, that's a tip-off to be careful.
Can I get around geoblocking?
f you want to evade geoblocking, check that the VPN has an exit node in the region you want to visit. And, if you can, check that the VPN hasn't been blacklisted by the service you are trying to access.
Free versus paid VPNs: Which is better?
If you need a VPN infrequently -- say, while waiting for a flight at an airport terminal -- a free service might meet your needs. A handful of VPN providers offer a free version of their service with a monthly data cap or with limited capabilities. A subscription plan would be a better choice if you want a VPN with no data cap, support for multiple devices like Windows PCs and Android phones, or access to servers in multiple regions. Some VPNs, such as Cisco AnyConnect, require a business license before you can use them ( Android, iOS). Either free or paid, you want to make sure you're picking a service that you can trust and that's actually protecting your privacy.
Is an open-source VPN important?
Many VPN services use the open-source OpenVPN software to create a private connection and a respected encryption tool such as AES or Blowfish to encrypt your data. While a VPN provider may have valid reasons for not using industry-standard tools, it can be challenging to gauge how effectively the service is guarding your data when the code is not open. Unless you have a really good reason not to, look for a vendor that uses open-source tools.

Best free VPNs

If you need a VPN infrequently, check out a free VPN service.

TunnelBear VPN puts a friendly face on security, helping you protect your privacy via a bear-themed private network. The solid (and entertaining) free version has a monthly data cap.

Avira Phantom VPN

Avira Phantom VPN

Avira distinguishes itself with a low-key approach, a clean and compact interface, and a wide variety of optional settings.

Best paid VPNs

If plan to use a VPN frequently, subscribe to a trusted service.

Private Tunnel VPN

Private Tunnel VPN

Private Tunnel, from the makers of the open-source OpenVPN protocol, offers an affordable way to keep your Internet traffic safe and private.

VPN by Private Internet Access

VPN by Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access' VPN is a simple-to-use way to secure your Internet traffic. If you want to adjust your level of encryption, it offers a useful collection of security settings.

IVPN

IVPN

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IVPN provides a feature-rich package of security, privacy, customer support, and connection types.