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The best Linux VPN 2021

Linux vpn

Linux is a great option for users concerned with their privacy and security online - mainly due to its open source and transparent nature. If privacy is a main concern then why not take it a step further by adding a VPN. This adds a whole extra layer of security as it ensures your online anonymity and keeps your internet connection private. 

There are plenty of other VPN benefits such as unblocking content or circumventing censorship.

While Linux users routinely draw the short straw in terms of software support for their beloved OS, when it comes to VPNs, the situation isn’t so bad, with a decent amount of providers offering native apps for Linux.

If the VPN doesn’t have a Linux app, you could always tinker with OpenVPN or other DIY methods – although this route requires some technical know-how. And you likely won’t get the full range of features and benefits of a proper native client (like a kill switch, DNS leak prevention and so forth).

Best Linux VPN in 2021

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

1. ExpressVPN

Best all-round VPN for Linux

Number of servers: 3,000+ | Server locations: 160 | IP addresses: 30,000 | Maximum devices supported: 5

Impressive Linux support
Speedy performance
Not as user-friendly as some
Slightly pricier than some rivals

Even though this provider’s app doesn’t offer a desktop GUI (graphical user interface), but rather a command line interface, setting up the service is a breeze – the commands in question are really simple. ExpressVPN boasts support for 64-bit and 32-bit versions of Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, and CentOS.

If you have another distro, you can always manually configure OpenVPN using the Linux setup tutorials. In addition, there’s also a very detailed and clear tutorial for setting up the service on your DD-WRT router.

In performance terms, this British Virgin Islands-based provider delivers fast and fairly consistent speeds over both short and long distances. Server coverage includes over 2000 servers across 148 locations in 94 countries, and you get P2P support. The provider uses OpenVPN exclusively for its Linux app and there is no logging of traffic data or any of your online activity.

ExpressVPN ticks all the boxes in every key area, which is probably why it costs a bit more than most other VPNs. There is no free trial to test the service either, but all plans do come with a 100% money-back guarantee for the initial 30 days of service. Out of the three plans, the 1-year subscription is the most reasonable option. The packages available are:

2. AirVPN

Best for privacy and security

Number of servers: 246 | Server locations: 72 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 5

Highly customizable
Tight privacy and security
Few server locations
Could be more user-friendly

AirVPN runs an OpenVPN-based service, and takes pride in being highly transparent and open about its network. The service is customizable and the native Linux app runs on 64-bit, 32-bit, and ARM/Raspberry Pi architecture. Debian/Ubuntu and openSUSE/Fedora, Portable and Portable Mono, and Arch Linux, are all supported either via the command line or a GUI. Don’t expect any fancy interface here, though, even with the latter.

Another slight weak point is the relatively small number of servers and locations, although that said, in our testing, we still found that AirVPN was pretty nippy when using local servers.

You also get a sterling effort on the privacy and security fronts. That includes a bunch of features such as a kill switch, along with an internal DNS solution. Also, every server directly supports OpenVPN over SSH, OpenVPN over SSL and OpenVPN over Tor. On top of that, there’s no monitoring or logging of your online activities.

Another plus is the affordable pricing. Of all the subscriptions (there are five of them), a 3-day plan is a nice alternative to a full-access trial, while the annual plan, as ever, offers the best value. The packages available are:

3. TorGuard

Best balance of performance and price

Number of servers: 3,000+ | Server locations: 68 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 8

Highly configurable 
Great server selection
Only average performance
Not quite novice-friendly

TorGuard offers a 64-bit and 32-bit Debian/Ubuntu client (also Red Hat and Arch), along with a nifty guide on how to use it. Users have lots of options to fiddle around with, but the performance isn’t on par with this expert-level configurability. Our testing revealed only average performance with a rather high latency. However, there’s a massive server selection in more than 65 locations to choose from, which could well help in finding a better connection, if needed.

The complex level of configurability likely won’t appeal to casual users, but everyone will appreciate the tight security TorGuard offers. In the company’s own words, it is “relentlessly committed to security” which includes Perfect Forward Secrecy (TLS), multiple protocol support, AnyConnect SSL and OpenConnect SSL support, ad and malware blocking, as well as technology to avoid deep packet inspection. TorGuard doesn’t keep any kind of logs on its VPN and proxy servers.

The service is fairly cheap, offering five commercial plans you can further customize with a number of add-ons. Curiously, both the 6-month plan and annual subscription share the same monthly rate, which doesn’t make that year-long plan look particularly compelling. If you want to make more of a saving, you’ll need to commit to 2-years. The packages available are:

4. Mullvad

Most affordable monthly subscription

Number of servers: 556 | Server locations: 59 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 5

Tight security
Impressive in the privacy stakes
Below average speeds
No yearly plan

Mullvad’s open source Debian/Ubuntu client comes with a full GUI and an impressive range of features, including a kill switch, DNS and IPv6 leak protection, IPv6 routing, port forwarding, as well as decent tech support.

The Sweden-based provider puts a heavy focus on security, supporting only OpenVPN along with the lesser known and still developing Wireguard protocol. There’s strong AES-256 encryption at work and tons of security features neatly explained on the firm’s website.

This provider doesn’t keep any logs, and you’re just about as anonymous as you can get using Mullvad, given that the company doesn’t demand any name, physical address, or even an email address when you sign up. You can also pay with Bitcoin or cash to further maximize your anonymity.

If there’s one area in which the service was slightly disappointing, it was in our performance testing, where we found the speeds achieved fell a little short of what we’d normally expect.

Interestingly, the pricing scheme is kept very simple. In fact, there’s just one plan at $6.18 (€5) a month – so if you’re hoping for a discounted yearly rate, you’ll need to look elsewhere. There is a free trial, although it only lasts for three hours, so is only really suitable for a quick test run. However, if you do decide to purchase, Mullvad offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.

5. HideMyAss

Best for novice users

Number of servers: 1,000+ | Server locations: 290+ | IP addresses: 100,000 | Maximum devices supported: 5

Simple client
Great server coverage
Some session logging
Somewhat expensive

There are several methods you can use in order to connect to HideMyAss (HMA), including an OpenVPN client. The client is simple and barebones, which keeps things easy for beginners. The web knowledgebase has a special Linux category which comes in handy for manual configurations.

Owned by security firm Avast, HMA offers impressive global coverage with servers in close to 300 locations. Our performance tests showed above average speeds too, which is obviously good news.

Seeing as this is an Avast offering, you’d expect that HMA would perform well on the security front – and this is indeed the case. However, the privacy policy is a slight let-down, being somewhat confusing, and this provider does maintain some session logs (which are kept for several months).

HMA charges a bit more than your average VPN, although there is a 7-day free trial which basically works like a refund (you'll need to cancel it before 7 days or you'll be charged for the initial 12 months subscription period). Speaking of refund, the 30-day refund that is available, has some conditions attached – you can’t have used more than 10GB of data, or made more than 100 connections. Out of the three available subscriptions, the yearly plan offers the best savings. The packages available are:

How to choose the best Linux VPN

So what are the most important points to look for when it comes to VPN on Linux, aside from having a dedicated Linux software client? Obviously it’s always a priority to have a VPN designed with privacy in mind, with a clear privacy policy that spells everything out.

Performance should ideally be fast, again for obvious reasons, and DD-WRT support (a Linux-based open source firmware for routers) is a boon if you wish to set up the VPN directly on your router. Doing so is handy because you can then cover every device in your home (or office) with the VPN, without having to worry about installing different software clients on all these pieces of hardware.