The VPN market is a tough one, with a lot of competition around, but ExpressVPN knows exactly how to stand out from the crowd: it piles on the professional features, delivering way more than just about anybody else.
Top-notch platform support includes apps for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux and other operating systems, not to mention custom firmware for many routers, as well as detailed manual setup guides for Apple TV, Fire TV, PlayStation, Chromebooks, Kindle Fire and more.
A strong set of core features provide multiple layers of protection. ExpressVPN protects your internet traffic by using its own DNS servers, for instance. High-end encryption technologies prevent even the most advanced attackers from snooping on your activities. Even if the VPN drops, no problem: a top-quality kill switch activates immediately to block your internet connection and keep you safe.
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The company offers a vast network of more than 3,000 servers spread across 160 cities in 94 countries. Europe and the US have the best coverage, but ExpressVPN also has many locations in Asia and several countries that rarely appear elsewhere. There are 27 Asia Pacific countries alone, for instance – Mozilla VPN only has around 30 countries in its entire network.
ExpressVPN doesn't just beat the competition on standard features, though: it has unique technologies of its own. Lightway is ExpressVPN's superfast and secure VPN protocol, for instance. And the MediaStreamer smart DNS system enables unblocking some websites without having to connect to the VPN.
The real standout feature could be support, though, where ExpressVPN has agents available 24/7 on live chat. This isn't the very basic, outsourced, first-line support you'll often get with other services: they're experts who can walk you through just about any technical issue. If you run into trouble, then, you won't be waiting a day (or potentially longer) for a support response. In our experience, there's always someone available on ExpressVPN's live chat, and you could be getting quality help within a couple of minutes.
ExpressVPN has been hard at work since our last review, and are there are some interesting new features to explore.
Threat Manager is a privacy tool which blocks access to ads, trackers and malware-related sites. It's currently available on iOS, Mac and Linux, and apparently will be rolled out to other platforms soon.
A Parallel Connections feature aims to speed up connecting to the VPN in difficult environments. Previously, apps would try connection method #1, and wait; method #2, and wait; method #3, and wait. With Parallel Connections, the app tries all methods simultaneously and goes with whichever responds first. ExpressVPN reports great results, but as the feature is only available on iOS right now, users on other platforms will have to wait until it's rolled out to them.
The apps have seen many smaller updates. The most notable Windows change is the end of the speed test, and the dropping of IKEv2 and L2TP protocol support. And you can now delete your ExpressVPN account direct from the iOS app, a welcome usability plus. (Certainly beats those companies who make it as difficult as possible to cancel their accounts.)
Even if you're not interested in app tweaks, it's worth looking at just how often ExpressVPN releases updates. Many companies leave months between iOS updates, for instance – indeed, a few take more than a year – but ExpressVPN releases something every 10 days or so (check the iOS Release Notes for yourself). Even if you run into a problem, that's a sign that you may not have to live with it for long, because fixes are never far away.
That's not cheap, but CyberGhost, Hotspot Shield and Surfshark all charge around $13 for their monthly plans, and it's not far from the $9-$10 charged by most big-name VPNs.
Sign up for ExpressVPN's 6-month plan and the price drops to $9.99 per month. That's a reasonable discount, and it also gives you more flexibility than you'll get with some competitors, who don't offer a 6-month plan at all.
The annual plan cuts the cost further to a monthly equivalent of $8.32, a chunky 35% discount on the monthly subscription. But it's still substantially more than some of the competition (Private Internet Access asks $3.33 on its annual plan, Windscribe is $4.08), especially if you're willing to sign up for long periods. Private Internet Access has a three-year plan which costs only $2.03 a month in its first term, for instance, while Ivacy currently charges just $1.19 a month on its five-year plan.
When you're comparing headline prices, though, be sure to check the small print, because ExpressVPN is closer to many competitors than you might realize. For example, many vendors have low prices which increase later. IPVanish looks good value at $3.75 a month in year one, but jumps on renewal to $7.50. And NordVPN starts at $4.99, but renews at a costly $8.29.
There's more to a VPN than price, of course. Anyone can offer low headline rates; it's offering a decent service, too, that's the tricky part.
There are ways to save some cash, as well. Signing up with our exclusive deal adds three free months to the annual ExpressVPN subscription, giving you 15 months of service for an effective $6.67 per month.
If you decide to sign up you'll discover a wide range of payment methods, including cards, PayPal, Bitcoin, and a host of other players (AliPay, Yandex Money, WebMoney and more).
If you're not quite convinced, installing the Android or iOS app gets you a 7-day trial. And even after handing over your cash, ExpressVPN's 30-day money-back guarantee allows you to safely check out the service for yourself.
If you decide you want to cancel, that process is also very straightforward. There are no small print clauses to catch you out, and you don't have to justify your decision to the company. You can use the service, in full, for 30 days, and if you're unhappy, or simply change your mind, just tell ExpressVPN and you'll get your money back. That has to be a reassuring sign of just how confident ExpressVPN is in its service.
ExpressVPN's privacy protection begins with its industrial strength encryption. Diffie-Helman key exchange enables securely establishing a link with the remote server, while AES-256-GCM support shields your data from even the most well-equipped attacker, and strong HMAC authentication protects against data being altered in real-time.
DNS support is another highlight. ExpressVPN doesn't just offer DNS leak protection to prevent data about your online activities leaking out of the VPN tunnel, but it also runs its own private, zero-knowledge, 256-bit encrypted DNS on each of its servers.
That's a major advantage over some lesser providers, which in the worst-case scenario might redirect your DNS traffic to OpenDNS or some other third-party service. Apart from the risk of logging at the DNS server, using unencrypted DNS gives attackers the chance to intercept your requests, filter them, block or even alter them – all issues which largely disappear using ExpressVPN's method.
We didn't test the DNS server in-depth, but multiple test websites confirmed that ExpressVPN servers were using their own DNS service, and none of these had any DNS or traffic leaks.
ExpressVPN has put itself through various audits and certifications in the past year or two, and these add a little extra privacy reassurance.
ExpressVPN's ioXt Alliance certification covered all kinds of low-level technical details, for instance: cryptography, network security, the software building process, automatic updates and more. For example, it checks that the app stores its private keys in the secure operating keystore rather than via some custom scheme of its own, an indicator of a secure design and something that would take a lot of time and expertise to check for yourself.
Even if you don't have the background knowledge to interpret these details (that's okay, we struggle with some of them too), it's reassuring to see the company expose itself to this kind of technical scrutiny.
ExpressVPN does things a little differently. The front page of the website doesn't have any 'zero log' boasting, for instance, and you have to head off to a 'What Is VPN' page to get a first look at the company's position: 'Privacy is a fundamental right. We don’t keep connection or activity logs, and we never share your details with anyone.'
If you need more, the company doesn't force you to go hunting for the relevant details amongst 2,000 words of jargon-packed small print. Just clicking a link within the 'no log' statement takes you to a clearly written 'Policy towards logs' page which explains what ExpressVPN collects, what it doesn't, why the service works this way, and what it means for users.
The page states that the service doesn't keep any logs of your IP address when you connect to ExpressVPN, or of the time you've logged in, the VPN IP address you're assigned, or any information on the websites or pages you're visiting (including via DNS requests), or any of your traffic.
There is some minimal logging. The company records each date of when you connect to the service, and your choice of server. But as it doesn't store the connection time, or the IP address you’re allocated, there's no way anyone can use this data to definitively link an internet action back to a specific ExpressVPN account.
The company also records the version number of any software clients you've installed, along with the total amount of data you've transferred each day. This data also doesn't constitute any kind of privacy risk, and we've no doubt that other VPNs do similar things: they just don't admit it.
ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands. Despite its small size, the BVI regulates its own affairs, and the UK and US don't have jurisdiction to automatically compel ExpressVPN to release any data.
The BVI isn't a part of '14 Eyes', the intelligence sharing agreement also known as SIGINT Seniors Europe (SSEUR), and is not known to be a party to any of its intelligence sharing arrangements.
In short, any would-be complainant would have to raise their issue in the BVI High Court, show that the records related to a serious crime (one punishable by a year or more in prison if it happened in the BVI), and explain how those records would provide relevant evidence to that case. It's hard to see how the minimal ExpressVPN records could provide useful evidence of anything.
There's a lot to like here. It's clear that ExpressVPN understands the issues to hand and is making considerable efforts to explain them, properly and in full, to its customers. That in itself is reassuring, and a huge improvement on the detail-free privacy policies of many VPNs.
You don't simply have to take what ExpressVPN says on trust, though. The company has had its TrustedServer technology and backend systems audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers to confirm that it's living up to its privacy promises.
Legal restrictions mean we can't quote from the summary report, but it's freely available for customers to download and read. If you're not yet a customer, check out this blog post for background on the audit, in particular the 'full details of what was covered in the audit' (this is a PDF) link. That document includes a vast amount of info on how ExpressVPN's systems work, what it collects and what it doesn't – all the details PwC verified. This is interesting all on its own, even without the report, as a technical guide to how ExpressVPN works internally.
Speed is an important factor when choosing a VPN, and we use some intensive tests to find out how a service performs.
We check speeds from a US residential location and a UK data center, both with 1Gbps connections. We used the standard ExpressVPN Windows app to connect to our nearest location, then checked the download speeds reported by multiple speed test sites and services (SpeedTest's website and command line app, nPerf, SpeedOf.me and more). We fetched at least five results from each site, using two protocols (OpenVPN and ExpressVPN's own Lightway), and ran the entire test set in both morning and evening sessions to look for variations over time.
ExpressVPN's peak OpenVPN speeds were fractionally above average at 385Mbps. That outperforms Surfshark (150Mbps), IVPN (240Mbps), Windscribe (270Mbps), NordVPN (350Mbps) and others, although some did significantly better. Hide.me's OpenVPN connections soared to 440-450Mbps, for instance, and Mullvad did even better at 480-490Mbps.
The real star is ExpressVPN's Lightway protocol, though, which lifted download speeds to 420-630Mbps. That shot past competitors like VyprVPN (340-360Mbps), HideMyAss! (380-400Mbps) and Windscribe (200-490Mbps). That said, some providers go faster still, and Atlas VPN, Hide.me, IVPN, Surfshark and TorGuard all reached 700Mbps and higher in recent tests.
Netflix and streaming
Unlike most of the competition, ExpressVPN doesn't just make vague claims about its unblocking abilities, the company actually specifies which platforms are supported: Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, Google, Wikipedia, YouTube and others (more than 25 services in total). It's good to see a provider being upfront about what it's claiming to do.
To get a feel for ExpressVPN's unblocking abilities, we ran several tests, checking whether we could access US Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer and Disney Plus from a selection of ExpressVPN servers.
Netflix has been fighting VPNs even harder than usual, recently, and it now blocks many providers. ExpressVPN isn't beaten yet, though, and the service got us into Netflix with two out of five test locations.
Amazon Prime Video was relatively straightforward. We tried connecting to three ExpressVPN servers, and were able to stream US content each time.
It was the same story with BBC iPlayer, where we got access from all four of ExpressVPN's UK locations.
ExpressVPN ended on a strong note, too, instantly bypassing Disney Plus protection with the first location we tried (the second and third worked, too).
These are great results, but a quality VPN isn't just about getting you access right now – it's also what happens if a platform blocks a new range of IPs, and your favorite server doesn't work anymore.
Complain to many VPNs and they'll just reply that 'we don't guarantee access to any streaming platforms', leaving you on your own.
ExpressVPN proactively monitors its own unblocking performance, giving it a chance to detect and fix any problems before you've even noticed.
On the rare occasions we've had unblocking issues with ExpressVPN, we've opened a live chat session, been talking to an agent within a couple of minutes, and either had recommendations on locations to try, other troubleshooting advice, or been told it's a known issue that'll be fixed soon (which has always been true). Now that's what we call helpful.
ExpressVPN's website doesn't advertise its P2P support, but we dug into the details, ran a few tests, and found it's far more torrent-friendly than most of the competition.
P2P users aren't forced onto a small number of overloaded servers, for instance. You can access torrents from the full set of ExpressVPN locations.
There are no bandwidth or transfer-related catches, either. The company says it will never throttle your connection.
Performance testing with torrents is a challenge as there are many factors which might affect speeds, but we tried downloading using three locations (US, UK, Netherlands), had no connection or other issues, and saw broadly the performance we'd expect in each case.
Factor in other key features of the service – no activity logs, lots of locations, apps for everything, Bitcoin support, the 30-day money-back guarantee – and ExpressVPN looks like a great choice of VPN for all your torrenting needs.
Getting a VPN client installed and working properly can sometimes be a challenge, but the well-designed ExpressVPN website has clearly been set up to keep hassles to an absolute minimum.
Log in to your account dashboard, for instance, and you don't have to hunt for a Download link. The website detects the type of device you're using, displays a Download button for that client, and enables grabbing a copy with one click.
If you need something for another platform, clicking 'Set up on all your devices' takes you to a huge list of options, including Windows, iOS, Amazon Fire, Mac, Android, Linux and more. Tapping any of these displays more download links and instructions.
Even these are far more helpful than you would expect. Tap the 'Android' link with most VPNs and you'll probably just be redirected to Google Play. ExpressVPN has a Play Store link, but it also gives you a QR code, a button to email yourself a setup link (ideal if you need to install it on another device), and even an option for experts to directly download the APK file.
In a neat setup touch, ExpressVPN doesn't force you to find and manually enter your username and password. Instead, all you have to do is copy the unique activation code displayed on your download page, and paste it into the client when you're asked. The software then automatically sets up your login credentials, and you won't have to think about usernames and passwords, at all. (Very handy if, say, you're using a password manager and don't even know what your passwords are.)
Your other option is to set up a third-party OpenVPN client. ExpressVPN makes this much easier by providing sensibly named OVPN configuration files (my_expressvpn_argentina_udp.ovpn, as opposed to something like NordVPN's ar1.nordvpn.com.udp1194.ovpn), and we had the OpenVPN Connect client up and running within minutes.
The ExpressVPN Windows app has a comfortable and familiar interface which immediately makes you feel at home. A big On/Off button allows you to activate the service when required, a clear status display shows you the current server, a Choose Location button enables picking something else, and a menu button top-left gives speedy access to other features.
There are a host of ways to choose the best server. A Smart Location feature picks your closest option. You can double-click a country to access its best location, or browse every location within a country and choose one manually. A Search box allows you to find locations by keyword, you can add individual locations to a Favorites list, and your last location is always just a click away.
The app makes smart use of its system tray icon, too. Right-clicking displays a menu which includes your last three locations, and choosing one of those will get you connected immediately, without having to open the full app.
A capable Settings dialog allowed us to choose from six protocol variations: ExpressVPN's Lightway in UDP or TCP forms, OpenVPN UDP or TCP, L2TP - IPSec and IKEv2. (ExpressVPN has announced that L2TP and IKEv2 are to be dropped, though, so you'll soon have a straight Lightway or OpenVPN choice.)
Elsewhere, a kill switch blocks all internet traffic if the VPN connection drops, reducing the chance of any data leaks. There's no setup involved with this, it's enabled by default, and always ready to protect your privacy.
It works, too. We used multiple tricks to forcibly close both OpenVPN and IKEv2 connections, but the client handled everything perfectly, blocking internet traffic, keeping us informed with a desktop notification, and reconnecting in seconds.
Low-level technical touches include basic IPv6 leak protection, and the ability to access devices on the local network when you're connected to the VPN.
One highlight of the app is its support for split tunneling, a smart technology which enables defining which apps use the VPN, and which use your regular internet connection. If an application won't work when your VPN is up (an email client, say), you can make it use your normal internet connection instead. And if you're gaming, redirecting game traffic out of the VPN tunnel should improve performance.
ExpressVPN's Mac app looks much like the Windows app, at least initially: it shows the current location, a Settings icon, a big Connect button and nothing else to get in the way. Even newbies will figure out what to do immediately.
There are some small interface differences, and they're mostly improvements. The Windows app only displays your last two locations in its Recent list, for instance, but the Mac app has a separate Recent tab where it lists many more.
The Mac Settings box is presented a little differently, but the options are organized in exactly the same way. And if you're used to Mac VPN apps which leave out most of the more advanced Windows features, good news: this one has the kill switch, WireGuard and OpenVPN support, IPv6 leak protection and more.
There is one significant omission: there's no split tunneling on the Mac. But the app makes up for that with ExpressVPN's tracker and malware-blocking Threat Protection (not yet available on Windows). We didn't test this in depth and can't give a definitive verdict on how effective it is, but any extra layer of protection is welcome. (And if it causes you any issues, you can always turn it off.)
Put it all together and this is a likeable Mac app, a well-designed mix of power and ease of use. Well worth a try.
Installing the Android app was easy, and the process worked much like any other. We grabbed a copy from the Play Store, entered our credentials and were ready to go immediately.
The app looks good, with portrait and tablet-friendly landscape interfaces. An excellent Location Picker makes it quick and easy to find and reconnect to particular servers, you can connect and disconnect with a click, and useful status details allow you to check the connection status and virtual location at a glance.
A Privacy and Security Tools menu adds some useful features to help check your connection, with options to display your current IP address and location, check for DNS and WebRTC leaks, and generate secure passwords.
A Protection Summary box displays details of your current VPN location, IP address, and how much time you've used the service recently. We don't see any great need for a chart showing us that we use the VPN mostly on Wednesdays (for instance), but the location and IP information is handy, and if you don't like the Protection Summary then you can turn it off with a tap.
The Settings section doesn't give you any control over DNS, but more than makes up for that with an integrated kill switch, and support for ExpressVPN's own Lightway protocol, as well as OpenVPN UDP and TCP.
Elsewhere, split tunneling, a handy bonus addition, enables defining which apps should or shouldn't use the VPN. If you're only interested in Netflix, for instance, you could set up ExpressVPN to channel your Netflix app traffic through the VPN tunnel, while allowing everything else to go through your regular connection, perhaps improving performance.
The auto-connect feature is particularly welcome, optionally connecting you to the VPN whenever you join untrusted networks (like public Wi-Fi).
The 'App and Website Shortcuts' feature provides a configurable toolbar on the connection window which can hold up to five shortcuts for your favorite apps. It's a very simple idea, but a useful one, which facilitates launching commonly used apps with a tap just as soon as you're connected.
If you're having problems, there's in-app help which gives you speedy access to support documents without having to head off to the website, while an 'Email us' link should give you more hands-on assistance when required.
It doesn't have quite as many expert-level features as you'll get with some apps – you can't set your preferred DNS servers, for instance – but ExpressVPN's Android offering has more than enough functionality for most people, while remaining easy to use. Even better, install the app and you can try the service for free for seven days, an offer you won't get if you sign up on the website. If you're at all interested in Android VPN apps, ExpressVPN needs to be on your shortlist.
ExpressVPN's iOS app opens with much the same clean and straightforward interface that you'll see on other platforms: it displays a recommended location, a big Connect button to get online, and a menu button to explore further.
The well-designed Location Picker offers multiple ways to find specific cities or countries, as well as maintaining a Recent Connection list and allowing you to add commonly used locations to your Favorites.
As with the Android app, the iOS edition allows you to switch servers without manually closing the current connection first. This only saves you a single tap, but if you regularly switch servers, it's a welcome usability plus.
The choice of protocol is limited to IKEv2, Lightway UDP and TCP; there's no OpenVPN any more. We're never entirely happy to see options disappear, but Lightway and IKEv2 performed well for us, and it's likely they'll provide everything you need.
There's no kill switch, but the app's auto-reconnect option quickly re-establishes the VPN tunnel if your connection drops.
Like its Android cousin, the iOS app has a Privacy and Security Tools menu where you'll find ways to confirm that your IP address has changed, and that it's from your selected country, and the VPN doesn't have any DNS or WebRTC leaks.
We've seen more feature-packed VPN apps, but on balance ExpressVPN's iOS offering is likeable, easy to use and delivers the functionality most folks are likely to need. And if you'd like to check out the service for yourself, good news: as with Android, there's a risk-free 7-day trial available.
The ExpressVPN clients are generally very polished and user-friendly, but they're not the only way to work with the VPN. The company also offers Chrome and Firefox extensions which allow you to control the client and service directly from your browser.
Unlike just about every VPN provider, ExpressVPN's browser extensions aren't simple proxies. They are browser-based interfaces for your Windows, Mac or Linux client, but obviously enough, this means you need to have the client app installed. That's inconvenient, but there are some major benefits, too.
Launch ExpressVPN's browser extension, for instance, and it's able to communicate with the desktop client and read its state. The default location will be set to the same as the client – and if the client is currently connected, your extension will reflect that.
You can control the desktop client from the browser, too. If you want to unblock a single website, you can choose a VPN location from within your browser, connect to it, do whatever browsing you need, and disconnect ExpressVPN when you're done. It's all very quick and convenient, with no need at all to switch backwards and forwards between your browser and the ExpressVPN client.
This works well at a simple level. The browser extension interface looks much like the regular clients and apps, with a similar system for browsing and selecting locations.
As it is just a basic frontend for the desktop engine, it's no surprise that the extension has some limitations. There's no Favorites system, for instance, and only two significant options: 'Connect on browser launch' and 'Show desktop notifications.'
There's also some good news, though, with some bonus privacy tools. Both the Chrome and Firefox extension include settings to prevent HTML5 geolocation from revealing your real location while you're connected to the VPN, as well as blocking WebRTC leaks at the browser level, and using HTTPS Everywhere to automatically force connections to the HTTPS versions of websites whenever they're available.
Extensive localization means the extensions are available in 17 languages: Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Thai and Turkish.
The browser extension won't be for everyone, especially as you must have the ExpressVPN app installed to use it. But the ability to control the app from your browser is a genuinely useful feature that you won't find with the competition, and overall, it's a very worthwhile addition to the package.
Much like any other networking technology, a VPN can misbehave in many ways, and figuring out exactly what's going on can be a real challenge. That's why even the most experienced user can benefit from quality VPN support.
ExpressVPN's support site gets off to a good start with its lengthy list of troubleshooting guides. Whether you're trying to diagnose slow speeds or dropped connections, understand error messages, change your password or cancel your account, there's useful information to hand.
Most articles are well-written and deliver in all the key areas. They don't assume technical knowledge, instead taking the time to explain the background, offering multiple suggestions to resolve most problems, and linking to other relevant articles. For example, where other VPNs might have a single line suggesting you "try another server" to help diagnose speed problems, ExpressVPN also links to a detailed article explaining how to find the best location for you.
The setup articles are even more impressive. You don't just get one generic installation tutorial per platform, for instance. There are guides covering how to install the app, how to set up manual connections, or use third-party apps such as OpenVPN GUI. And this isn't just about Windows. You'll find tutorials for Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Chromebooks, eBooks, BlackBerry, Smart TV, routers, and... well, you get the idea.
An accurate search engine scans more than 250 of these articles to find whatever fits your requirements. It's hugely refreshing to enter keywords on a VPN support site and actually view a lot of useful content. OpenVPN has 39 hits, DNS 48, there are 64 for Android, 12 for Ubuntu, 7 for DD-WRT, and the list goes on.
If the website can't help, ExpressVPN's support team is available 24/7 via email and live chat.
ExpressVPN recommends live chat for the fastest results, but we sent a test email question anyway to check response times. Although the company suggests it can take up to 24 hours to reply, we got a friendly, detailed and helpful message in under an hour. That's much faster than we expected, and the reply contained everything we needed to diagnose and resolve our issue.
Live chat also performed very well. We ran several checks on the service, there were always agents available, and typically we had a first genuine response (a real comment on our issues, not just an automated 'I'm Steve and I'm here to help you' bot-type reply) within two or three minutes.
The quality of chat support was well above average, too, with agents willing to spend a very long time patiently walking us through some well-chosen diagnostic steps.
If you're a networking expert, it's tempting to assume this doesn't really matter. You know what you're doing, so there's no need to pay a premium for this kind of handholding, right?
Well, maybe, but keep in mind that there's more to VPN support than explaining the low-level geeky technicalities. We've also asked about system status issues like temporary connection problems, or the best server to use for US Netflix or Amazon Prime. Unlike some providers, there's no waiting for a day to get an email response – we've always had useful advice within minutes of asking, and that ability to get speedy help makes a huge difference to the overall service experience.
ExpressVPN review: Final verdict
This is a top-quality VPN which exceeded our expectations in everything from platform coverage and privacy, to ease of use, unblocking abilities and its excellent support. ExpressVPN is more expensive than most, but you can see why: this is a polished, powerful and professional service.
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