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TorGuard VPN review

A highly configurable VPN client, crammed with expert-level features

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(Image: © TorGuard)

Our Verdict

TorGuard is hugely configurable and has some uniquely powerful options, but it's not built for ease of use, and you'll need to be an expert to really take advantage of the service.

For

  • Expert-level configurability
  • Unblocks Netflix
  • Above-average US speeds
  • Live chat support

Against

  • Intimidating for beginners
  • Awkward (but effective) kill switch
  • Poor support website
  • No free plan or trial

Despite the name and the privacy angle, TorGuard has nothing to do with the Tor Project. Instead it's a company which offers a range of privacy-related products, including an anonymous VPN plan for protecting your privacy while using torrents (which is where the "tor" comes from).

Product specifications are good, with a choice of 3000+ servers in 50+ countries, OpenVPN/SSTP/L2TP/IPsec protocol support with multiple stealth options to avoid VPN blocking (OpenVPN obfuscation, Stunnel, OpenConnect, and Shadowsocks), custom apps for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS, and setup instructions for Linux, routers and more.

New features include WireGuard support on some servers, support for connecting up to 8 devices simultaneously (up from 5 in our last review) and a new iOS app with landscape mode support, a map display of locations, and a favorites system to simplify reconnecting to commonly used locations.

Prices are reasonable at $9.99 a month, $5 per month paid annually, or $4.17 over two years. That's cheaper than some - ExpressVPN's annual plan is $8.32, for instance - but if you're willing to subscribe for two or more years, you can pay under $3 a month with providers like CyberGhost, VPN Unlimited and Surfshark.

TorGuard excels at add-ons, with options including streaming and residential IPs for multiple countries and US states, potentially allowing you to unblock just about anything in your destination country, for an extra $7.99 a month. 

An upgrade to TorGuard's 10Gbit 'Premium Network' is also available for $7.99 a month.

The website claims there's a '7-day free trial', but that's a little misleading. You have to pay to try the service, and TorGuard simply offers a brief 7-day refund period (most providers offer at least 30 days, CyberGhost and Hotspot Shield offer 45).

If you do decide to sign up, there's support for paying via card, PayPal, Bitcoin, and many other payment types via Paymentwall.

TorGuard's extensive settings make it difficult for first-time users to configure this VPN to be both private and secure

TorGuard's extensive settings make it difficult for first-time users to configure this VPN to be both private and secure

(Image credit: TorGuard)

Privacy and logging

Most VPN providers use their privacy policy to spell out any logging issues in detail, but TorGuard's privacy page restricts itself to a single sentence: 'TorGuard does not collect or log any data from its Virtual Private Network (VPN) or Proxy services.' This is just about as basic as any privacy policy can get, but at least it's easy to read.

The technical side of the service is more interesting, at least for experienced users who can figure out how to use the more advanced features. Multiple stealth and obfuscation technologies aim to get you connected, even in countries which detect and block regular VPNs. You're able to take manual control of your encryption algorithm, port and authentication method (SHA1, SHA256, SHA512.) Built-in blocking of WebRTC and IPv6 leaks prevents you giving away clues to your identity, and a kill switch blocks internet access if the VPN drops.

There are plenty of other options which could help, if you're willing to spend time setting them up. The Windows client can automatically launch a program when the VPN connects, for instance, and close it when it disconnects, ensuring everything it does online is always protected.

The key here is probably the user's knowledge and experience. If you understand everything TorGuard has to offer, you'll be able to set it up to deliver excellent privacy and security. The service won't help you much by default, though, so network novices might get better results from much simpler apps with a very few settings they might actually understand (global kill switch, DNS leak protection, auto-connect when accessing insecure networks.)

Apps 1

TorGuard allows you to change its VPN protocol and the encryption used even before you connect

(Image credit: TorGuard)

Apps

We began our TorGuard experience by signing up for the monthly plan. This was surprisingly difficult, as the website refused to accept our login until we switched from our regular Chrome browser and tried Edge. (Yes, that was our reaction, too.)

After paying, the website redirected us to an account page with a major privacy surprise: a map, with a marker displaying our current IP address, correctly highlighting our home city. If you're hoping for extreme anonymity, that may not be what you want to see.

A Download page gave us links and setup instructions for the Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android apps, as well as browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox.

We took the Windows option, downloading, installing and launching the client in a few seconds.

TorGuard puzzled us immediately by choosing Chile as our default location, even though we were in the UK. It's easy to choose your preferred country, but life would be even simpler if the client could connect to our nearest server automatically.

The cluttered interface might confuse newbies, too, with all kinds of intimidating options displayed up front: Tunnel Type, Port/ Auth, Cipher, an 'STunnel enabled' switch and more.

For all this apparent power, the client didn't always give us the features we expected. TorGuard's website claims support for OpenVPN, SSTP and L2TP/IPsec protocols, for instance, but the client only offers OpenVPN and OpenConnect (an SSL VPN stealth option.)

Tapping Connect prompts for your password, connects to the nearest server, and displays even more technical details (HMAC, PFS/ TLS, protocol, cipher, and both local and remote IPs.) VPN novices will be left wondering, and even experts may feel they don't need to see all this information, all of the time.

TorGuard's location picker is better designed, with some neat and unusual touches. Although it looks like a regular list of countries, you can filter it by continent, for instance, or sort it by distance from you, or how often you've used each location, a simple and effective way to view your favorite servers.

Getting connected didn't work quite as we expected. Double-clicking a server in most VPN apps will connect you immediately, but here you're just taken back to the main console, where you must click a Connect button. And once you are using one location, you can't switch to another until you've manually disconnected. This isn't difficult to figure out - you'll understand within seconds - but it's still not as comfortable to use as the average VPN app.

For all its interface shortcomings, the TorGuard client does have one major compensation, for experts at least: a hugely comprehensive Settings dialog with more low-level tweaks, options and customizations than we've seen anywhere else.

DNS settings

TorGuard gives you a great deal of control over its DNS settings

(Image credit: TorGuard)

Many VPN apps will automatically assign their own DNS servers when they connect, for instance, but TorGuard gives you so much more control. You're able to use multiple other DNS providers (OpenDNS, Level3, Google, Quad9) while you're connected, change them at other points (when the application starts, while the VPN connects), add custom nameservers as required, refresh the local DNS cache when connected, save and recover the DNS state of your VPN session.

The client can run scripts before and after connecting, and after disconnecting. This could be handy for launching programs you only want to run when the VPN is active, or perhaps to clean up after it's closed (delete cookies or your internet history.)

Advanced settings

Experienced users will be able to tweak TorGuard's settings to their liking

The advanced features continue, with WebRTC and IPv6 leak prevention, and the ability to choose the network interface TorGuard will block as part of its kill switch (very useful if you've more than one.) Experienced users are likely to be impressed by the possibilities, although everyone else will struggle to know what many of these options do.

Would TorGuard's Android app be easier to use, we wondered? No, not really. The interface looks much the same. It also has a lot of expert technical tweaks, yet leaves out more common features regular users might need more often (Favorites system, automatic protection when you access untrusted networks.) Usability doesn't appear to be TorGuard's top priority.

TestMy.net

We used TestMy.net to measure TorGuard's real-world performance

(Image credit: TestMy.net)

Performance

Our in-depth TorGuard testing began with a look at the Windows client kill switch. Or, at least, that was the idea. It turned out to be much more difficult than we expected.

Should we check the 'arm killswitches after first successful connection' setting, we wondered? An 'App Kill' tab enables specifying processes to kill if the connection drops - is that what we need? 

The best option turned out to be a 'Manage Interface State' option which allowed users to choose the network interfaces they'd like blocked if the VPN drops. That's flexible, but can be confusing, as there may be multiple interfaces and it's not easy to identify the ones you need.

You can tell the client to connect or disconnect all interfaces, but this took a long time, and the client regularly asked us to enable or disable interfaces manually. (Fortunately, that was never necessary. We just waited and the client sorted itself out eventually.)

Once we connected, the kill switch was effective, blocking our internet access whenever we closed the connection. But the client was slow to react, taking 15-20 seconds to warn us that it had kicked in, and overall we've seen far more straightforward kill switches elsewhere.

We measured TorGuard performance from two places, using a 75Mbps connection in the UK, and a super-fast 475Mbps line in the US.

Connecting to our nearest server from the UK gave us download speeds of a capable 62-63Mbps, around 7 to 8% down on our regular rate. Some VPNs might scrape 2-3Mbps more, but essentially TorGuard performed as well as we could expect.

TorGuard's US results were variable, with our four tests returning median download speeds of 100Mbps, 163Mbps, 176Mbps and 403Mbps.

While that's inconsistent, we're really not surprised; when you're operating at these speeds, a tiny glitch anywhere can have a huge effect. What matters here is that TorGuard's connection was capable of speeds over 400Mbps, and even its very slowest speed was very, very fast. (Some weaker VPNs never even reached 100Mbps at any time.)

Your results will vary depending on your location, of course, and the servers you're trying to access. But TorGuard's performance for us suggests there's a capable network behind the service, and we would recommend you test the service to see how it works for you.

Netflix

TorGuard did successfully allow us to unblock Netflix in the US

(Image credit: Netflix)

Netflix

The TorGuard VPN website is very confident about its unblocking abilities, claiming that it allows you to 'any location in the world and experience content without any restrictions.' Reality, or marketing spin? We wanted to check.

YouTube is probably the easiest service to access, so we weren't surprised to see TorGuard enable streaming of US-only YouTube content.

BBC iPlayer is always more of a challenge, and its VPN detection blocked all our viewing attempts. Experience content without 'any' restrictions? Not quite.

Netflix success is the real prize, though, and TorGuard enabled viewing US Netflix content with a handful of its servers.

If you need access to iPlayer or some other service, upgrading to one of TorGuard's dedicated US residential IPs should resolve the problem, hopefully forever (no-one else will use the IP, so it's unlikely it'll be spotted.) It's an effective solution, but also an expensive one at $7.99 a month - you could buy another VPN service for less.

Support

TorGuard offers several levels of support for users experiencing issues

(Image credit: TorGuard)

Support

If you're baffled by TorGuard's complexities then you could head off to the support site, where you'll find a knowledgebase, video guides, a user forum, and more. 

Explore these sections, though, and you'll find they don't match the level of help you might see elsewhere. The knowledgebase is more about technical how-to's than general VPN guidance (the most popular article is apparently 'How to setup a SOCKS Proxy in uTorrent/BitTorrent On Windows'), forum questions might not be answered for days, the Video Guides section has seen only three additions in the past two years, and even they were more about marketing than helping you use the service.

Fortunately, you can contact support agents directly via tickets, live chat and even a toll-free phone number in the US. That's better than many competitors, but it's probably not the best way to master TorGuard's features and functionality, and we'd also like to see a much better knowledgebase to help users find their way around.

Final verdict

TorGuard has more low-level VPN tweaks and options than just about anyone else, but the awkward interface and limited online help means most users won't find it easy to use. Still, well worth a look for power users who need way more than the VPN basics.

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