Picture the scene—you're finally booting up the Xbox you got for Christmas, you're planning to spend the last few days of 2023 plugged into it, and it's going to be the best Christmas you've had since you were a kid. The last thing you want is for some dodgy hacker or a PO'd cheater to ruin the fun. Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can keep your shiny new Xbox safe.
I've been putting VPNs to the test for years and have plenty of hands-on experience—and I'm an avid gamer, too. So, you can rest assured that you're getting real tips from a real person (who has been playing way too much Baldur's Gate.)
Check out one of the best VPNs in the business, and you'll have everything you need to keep your Xbox safe from hacking attempts, disruptive DDoS attacks, and even bandwidth throttling that can impact your online gaming experience—and that's just the tip of the iceberg. In this handy guide, I'll share my top Xbox VPN picks, and what features to look for when making up your mind.
The best VPN for Xbox in 2024
Anyone who's spent time on the web (or is chronically online, as the kids say) will know that it's not always the safest place to be. Hackers, cybercriminals, and nosy Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are all hungry for your data, and oppressive governments can even restrict your access to certain sites and services by censoring them entirely.
That's where a VPN can help. Virtual private networks (VPNs) create a secure tunnel between your device and a remote server. Any data that travels through this tunnel is encrypted and unreadable, and you'll also look as though you’re in the same location as the VPN server. As a result, you'll have boosted your digital security, protected yourself from threats that would otherwise cause havoc on your console, and be able to access geo-restricted content. It's a win/win/win.
Encryption is also how a VPN puts a stop to DDoS attacks. Cyber criminals (and sore losers) initiate these attacks by flooding your IP address with junk traffic that clogs up the network, slowing it to a crawl and preventing it from operating as it should. A VPN gives you a new, temporary IP address, however, making it much harder for anyone to disrupt your gaming session.
1. ExpressVPN: my #1 pick for your Xbox
ExpressVPN is the industry's top dog. Why? It's super-fast, has sleek apps for all your devices, and even has handy guides to help you secure your Xbox with a minimum of stress. Check out ExpressVPN, without risking a cent, with its 30-day money-back guarantee, and see what all the fuss is about.
2. Surfshark: a budget-friendly provider packed with value
Looking for a bargain? Surfshark has you covered. It's a great value service that balances security, unblocking power, and speed, and even boasts unlimited simultaneous connections. Be sure to put its 30-day money-back guarantee to the test, and try the best cheap VPN for yourself, in your own time.
3. NordVPN: lightning-fast and privacy-oriented
NordVPN is a favorite of YouTubers and gamers alike, thanks to its absolutely ridiculous speeds. It's the fastest VPN I've ever tested, and an all-in-one security solution that'll block ads and put a stop to malware that could devastate your console. Take NordVPN for a test drive with a handy 30-day money-back guarantee.
How to pick a VPN for your new Xbox
There are hundreds of VPNs on the market, and nobody has time to sift through them all. To help you out, I've put together a list of the most important factors to keep in mind when shopping for a winner.
Speed: this one's a no-brainer, seeing as the last thing any gamer wants is for a VPN to slow their connection to a crawl. A fast VPN will keep latency to a minimum, provide a stable performance, and ensure that whether you're going at it in competitive team games or raiding with friends, you don’t have to worry about lag.
Server locations: most VPNs have servers dotted across the globe, which is great for gamers who want to grab the best bargains on today's (massively expensive) AAA releases, or even pick up titles that aren't available in your region. You can also connect to a VPN server near the game's server to crack down on ping.
Security: VPNs come jam-packed with tools designed to keep your personal information secure from hackers and crafty cybercriminals. Look for OpenVPN and WireGuard encryption to defend against DDoS attacks and a strong no-logs policy, as well as a kill switch that'll ensure that you don't accidentally leak information in the event of a VPN dropout.
With a VPN, you'll have everything you need to stop cheaters from targeting you with DDoS attacks—all while putting a stop to lag spikes, packet loss, and bandwidth throttling.
Ease of use: nobody wants to spend more time configuring their VPN than actually playing their games (especially if you're like me and have a "to-play" list as long as your arm.) Quick and easy setup is a must, and you'll need to make sure your VPN pick is compatible with the devices you own, whether that includes a PC, mobile phone, console, or router.
Price: everyone is feeling the pinch at the moment, thanks to the cost of living crisis, and it's important to get your money’s worth. Your ideal VPN will depend on your budget, but there are awesome options for every price range. Free VPNs can be handy in an emergency, but they generally lack the features you need to keep your Xbox safe—like multiple simultaneous connections, a broad network of servers, and a kill switch.
Customer support: things go wrong—it's inevitable. So, you'll need a VPN with a reliable support team who can handle even the most techy of questions (and handle them quickly.) Check out whether your chosen VPN offers live chat support, and whether it's manned by humans or robot overlords, and take a look at the support materials available on the provider site that might help you do some troubleshooting yourself.
How we test VPNs
Putting VPNs under the microscope is what we do here at Tom's Guide, and we run through a comprehensive analysis of the best 30 VPNs every 6 months to ensure that we're working with the most up-to-date information.
Then, we download and install the VPN, and we'll put each app to the test. This lets us know how well the VPN performs, across all platforms, and helps us spot whether any apps are missing key features. We'll move on to testing those features, then, and that includes things like the kill switch and split tunneling. Basically, we're making sure that everything works the way the VPN says it will.
We get the hammers out, next to stress test the VPN’s encryption. Throwing malware and other nasties at the provider helps us spot potential problems—and we'll report them straight to the VPN itself if we spot any. However, we'll also let you know what happened, too.
Speed comes next, and we test each service's performance at least 120 times over the course of two sessions. We use a US home connection and a 1 Gbps UK data center to get a clear picture of how the VPN works in the real world. We'll switch up protocols, check out different sites and services, and try connecting at peak times. This is also when we'll see which streaming platforms the service can reliably unblock—and whether it's a standout Netflix VPN.
If you'd like all the details about how we put VPNs through their paces, you can head on over to the VPN testing methodology page for the full run-through.
Xbox VPN FAQs
Which is the best VPN for Xbox?
ExpressVPN is my #1 pick for Xbox—and my personal favorite. Admittedly, it's on the pricey side, but you're getting a premium product for a premium price tag. ExpressVPN is lightning-fast and has servers in 94 countries, which is great news if you're playing with international friends online or hunting down the best deals in other regions, and has easy-to-use apps for just about every device you can imagine.
How do I use a VPN on my Xbox?
Getting a VPN installed on your Xbox can be a somewhat fiddly process—but don't worry, it’s not impossible. Life would be so much easier if you could download a VPN directly to your Xbox via the Microsoft Store, just like you do with a PC or a mobile phone, but sadly, that's not the case. Why? Well, technically, your Xbox isn't designed to work with a VPN.
First things first, you'll need to pick an awesomely reliable gaming VPN and subscribe to whichever plan suits you best. Different providers have different ways of connecting to your Xbox, but the most common methods are:
Setting up Smart DNS on your Xbox
Sharing your VPN connection via another device
Installing the VPN on your router
No matter which option you choose, your VPN provider should be able to help you out—either with support materials, community threads, or 24/7 live chat support.
We test and review VPN services in the context of legal recreational uses. For example: 1. Accessing a service from another country (subject to the terms and conditions of that service). 2. Protecting your online security and strengthening your online privacy when abroad. We do not support or condone the illegal or malicious use of VPN services. Consuming pirated content that is paid-for is neither endorsed nor approved by Future Publishing.
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River is a Tech Software Editor and VPN expert at TechRadar. They’re on-hand to keep VPN and cybersecurity content up-to-date and accurate. When they’re not helping readers find the best VPNs around (and the best deals), River can be found in close proximity to their PS5 or being pushed about the countryside by the lovely Welsh weather.
- Olivia PowellTech Software Commissioning Editor