Among the multitude of benefits of using a VPN lie a few downsides, the most inconvenient of which is reduced internet speeds.
While it’s relatively insignificant when compared with the security and privacy benefits provided by the VPN, slower internet is annoying at best and a hindrance to some of the most common internet activities at its worst.
It’s not difficult to see why your internet would be slower when using a VPN. Routing your connection through a VPN server is undoubtedly going to be slower than directly connecting to the internet, so it may seem as though you’ll just have to learn to live with slower internet when using a VPN.
However, there are several options to boost your internet speed when using a VPN—and we’re going to show you how to try them.
Choose a Different VPN Protocol
Not all VPN protocols are created equal. Some protocols prioritize security at the expense of performance, while others do the opposite. The key is to find a protocol that balances security and speed to keep you protected while also allowing you to browse the internet at a reasonable speed.
A common protocol used by VPN providers is OpenVPN. It is safe, open-source and keeps internet speeds relatively fast without sacrificing security.
Another option is L2TP/IPSec. This protocol can improve the performance of your internet connection through your VPN, but the proper conditions must be achieved in order to see a difference in your speeds.
Another alternative is PPTP, which is the fastest of the three. This speed does come at a cost, however, as PPTP is the least secure protocol of the ones we’ve mentioned.
Modify Your Default Protocol Settings
Changing your VPN protocol is a good option to increase your internet speeds, but you can also change the settings of your current protocol to potentially achieve similar performance.
Some public networks and private internet connections impede VPN traffic in an attempt to decrease the likelihood that the network will be abused. This restriction can cause instability in the network, which greatly reduces internet speeds through a VPN.
On these types of networks, your connection speed may be improved by switching your VPN’s protocol setting from TCP to UDP. TCP and UDP are both protocols that VPNs use to send data across the internet.
By default, your VPN likely uses UDP, which is usually faster than TCP. However, in some cases, especially when the network you’re using is unstable, switching to TCP can improve your speeds.
Another protocol setting you can change is the port. Change the port to 443 because this is the port that encrypted internet traffic uses. This traffic is rarely restricted and will make your internet connection act as normal even though you’re using a VPN.
Change VPN Servers
A common cause of slow internet speeds when using a VPN is that the server is too far away from the user. Traveling longer distances takes more time, so it stands to reason that using a VPN server that is very far away from you will be slower than using one that is closer to you.
While there is likely a long list provided by your VPN service of servers to which you can connect, you should try to choose a server that is relatively close to your physical location.
If you’re already using a VPN server that is fairly close to you, but you’re still experiencing slow internet speeds, it may help to choose another server. The one you’re using may be in use by a lot of other VPN users and may be overloaded by the increased pressure.
It may also just be suffering from one of the dozens of things that can go wrong with electrical devices and may need to be fixed. If this is the case, it is still best to switch to a different VPN server and try the original one at a later time.
Switch to a Wired Connection
While a wireless connection gives you the convenience of working from anywhere in your home or office, it is less stable and slower than a wired connection.
If you’re experiencing slow internet speeds with your VPN while using a wireless connection, try connecting your computer directly to your router with an ethernet cable. Your connection will be faster and will not be susceptible to interference caused by other devices.
Use a Different VPN App
The app for your VPN service comes with preconfigured settings that are designed to give the best experience to the majority of users. However, these settings can occasionally be affected by your device or the software on it, causing your VPN connection speed to be decreased. In this case, you can try using a different VPN app.
Using this solution does require some technical knowledge, but there are instructions available on how to get started with using another VPN app if you are dedicated to trying this approach.
As mentioned earlier, a common VPN protocol is OpenVPN. OpenVPN has their own app that is a good alternative if you’re having problems with your VPN provider’s app. Download the OpenVPN app and then find the instructions for how to set it up for your particular VPN on your VPN provider’s website.
Turn on Split Tunneling
As more and more of our daily activities take place online, the pressure on our internet-enabled devices and services continues to grow. We often use several bandwidth-intensive apps simultaneously, which can negatively affect internet speeds—especially when using a VPN where your connection is being funneled through a VPN server.
An easy fix for this is to shut down some of the apps that you’re using, but this is not always desirable or possible. That’s where split tunneling comes in.
Split tunneling allows you to decide what parts of your internet traffic need to be protected by your VPN and what parts do not. In other words, you can choose which apps can use a direct connection to the internet while requiring others to use your VPN connection.
While this does leave some of your web traffic vulnerable as it’s not protected by your VPN, it can greatly increase your internet speeds when using a VPN.
To set up split tunneling, consult your VPN provider’s website. They should have documentation available to guide you through getting started. You will likely either be given the option to select which traffic to protect or which traffic it is safe to allow direct access to the internet.
Either way, you should notice increased internet speeds once you’re done.
Test the Speed of Your Internet Connection
While your VPN may be to blame for your reduced internet speeds in some situations, it is not always the culprit. It’s possible that your internet speeds are being affected by your internet service provider (ISP).
Your ISP may lower your internet speeds if there is increased web traffic in your area or you’ve exceeded your monthly data limits. They may also be attempting to get you to sign up for a more expensive service with a higher internet speed.
No matter what their reasoning, it is easy to check if your ISP is throttling your internet speeds.
To determine your internet connection speed, disconnect from your VPN and use an internet speed tester. Two options are speedtest.net and speedof.me. Compare the results from these testers to the speeds you are paying for from your ISP. If there is a considerable difference, your ISP may be slowing your connection and your VPN is not at fault for your reduced internet speed.
Check to see if you’re over your monthly data limit. If you are, you will need to wait until the following month to enjoy faster internet or pay for an increased limit with your ISP. If you’re not over your limit, try restarting your modem.
If the problem is still not solved, try directly connecting to your router with an ethernet cord. If this brings your connection up to an acceptable speed, then there may be a problem with the wireless mechanism in your router.
If you’ve tried all these options and are still experiencing a slow internet connection, you will need to get in contact with your ISP. You can ask them for the reasoning behind your slow connection—they may have information that will provide context for the issues you’re experiencing.
Check Your System Resources
Sometimes your VPN internet speeds are slow because one of your apps is using unnecessarily high amounts of bandwidth in the background. To see if this is the problem, check your device’s task manager and look for the problem application.
To do this, choose an option below based on the device you’re using:
- Task Manager for Windows
- Background Apps for Android
- Apple Switcher for iOS
- Activity Monitor for macOS
Change Your VPN Service
If all else fails, the final culprit to turn to is your VPN service. They may be using outdated or underpowered servers or may be neglectful when it comes to performing maintenance on their devices.
Bugs in your VPN provider’s software may be preventing you from connecting through their service as quickly as possible. In reality, there are multiple reasons as to why your VPN service could be responsible for your slow internet speeds, and all of them are out of your control.
In this case, the best option is to find a new VPN provider. Thanks to the increased awareness about the importance of internet privacy and security, plenty of high-quality VPN services are available for you to choose from. Be sure to read reviews and the documentation before signing up with a new service to avoid suffering from similar issues with your new VPN provider.