The best VPN service 2024

Laptop with a VPN running on the screen, on a desk with shelving in the background
(Image credit: Future / Getty)

Protecting your online privacy and security is more important now than it ever has been. To keep your sensitive information private, stay anonymous online, or bypass geo-restrictions to access blocked content – whether that's for streaming or censorship reasons – using a trustworthy VPN (virtual private network) is crucial for all your digital devices.

That's where TechRadar can help. We've rigorously tested every major VPN service out there to bring you this comprehensive guide to the best VPNs available today. On this page, you'll find quick recommendations, in-depth analyses of the top options, and detailed speed test comparisons.

Scroll down to discover the best VPN for your needs, and understand why we recommend these specific services over many others in what is now an incredibly crowded market.

5 best VPNs: quick overview

If you're looking for quick answers, we've put together this brief overview of our top five VPN picks. You'll find in-depth analysis of each one directly below.

1. NordVPNThe best VPN for most people

1. NordVPN - from $3.39 per month
The best VPN for most people
NordVPN is our top recommendation as the best VPN for most people. With easy-to-use apps, bullet-proof security, loads of features and some of the fastest speeds available, it covers all the bases – and it also unblocks pretty much any streaming service you care to try. Nord also offers fantastic value for money at $3.39 per month if you're happy to sign up for two years, making it significantly cheaper than its nearest competitor ExpressVPN (see below). Alternatively, you can try it out risk-free with a 30-day money-back guarantee if you're not ready to commit. Learn more below ▼

2. ExpressVPNThe best VPN for beginners

2. ExpressVPN - from $6.67 per month
The best VPN for beginners
ExpressVPN excels in simplicity and ease of use. It does everything for you, so it's perfect for anyone who's worried that VPNs might be a bit complicated to use. However, that extra slick simplicity comes at a price: it's double the cost of NordVPN, starting at $6.67 per month on the 12-month plan. As with Nord and Surfshark, though, you can take advantage of a 30-day money-back guarantee to give it a demo. Learn more below ▼

3. SurfsharkThe best cheap (and fastest) VPN

3. Surfshark - from $2.19 per month
The best cheap (and fastest) VPN
If you want a VPN that's as budget-friendly as it is high-quality, Surfshark is your ideal option and we highly recommend it. It's consistently been the fastest service out there over the last 12 months, and it unblocks every leading streaming service we reviewed. It's also extremely user-friendly and, crucially, it's available from just $2.19 per month on the two-year plan. The cheap price doesn't shed any of the security either, making it a no-brainer if you want something budget-friendly and easy but also reliable. And like the options above, Surfshark offers a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can try before you buy. Learn more below ▼

4. Private Internet Access
The best VPN for Linux

4. Private Internet Access - from $2.03 per month
The best VPN for Linux
PIA is one of the oldest and most respected names in VPN and we recommend it as the best option for certain, specific circumstances. If you're a Linux user, PIA comes with a dedicated GUI for most distros, making it the best option if you don't want to use a command-line interface with the options above. PIA is also excellent at torrenting and P2P sharing, and is packed full of features to make that stuff super easy. It's available for $2.03 per month but to get that price you do have to sign up for two years. Learn more below ▼

5. PrivadoVPN The best free VPN

5. PrivadoVPN - paid version from $1.48 per month
The best free VPN
We don't recommend that most people opt for a free VPN, mainly because there are so many drawbacks. For a start, they don't reliably unblock streaming services, there are fewer server locations to choose from and they usually only allow one device to connect at a time. They also have strict data limits, and are almost always less secure and trustworthy with your data. However, if you're only planning to use a VPN sparingly, or one time for something trivial, Privado is the best of the free options. Learn more below ▼

VPN reviews

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Recent updates

We've overhauled this guide to make it easier to use, and have included VPNs to avoid, as well as our top choice for a free VPN here for the first time. Generally, we don't recommend using a free VPN – they're just not as good, secure, or reliable – but if you only need a VPN occasionally, it might be worth considering. If you want to see our latest VPN test results, we'll show you all the data from the hundreds of tests we conduct for each VPN service.

The best VPN overall

NordVPN apps working on mobile, PC, tablet, and other devicesTechRadar Editor's Choice award logo

1. NordVPN

Reliable and cheap, with an enormous array of features

App support: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, web browsers, and more | Server locations: 140 | Server countries: 111 | Customer support: 24/7 email support, live chat, and knowledge hub | Simultaneous connections: 10 | Refund period: 30 days

Accesses every streaming site
Super-fast VPN speeds
Tailored pricing plans
Dedicated torrenting servers
Packed with features
Apps aren't as easy to use as ExpressVPN or Surfshark

NordVPN tops our VPN rankings by offering an unmatched blend of features, speed, unblocking, and value for money. Not only is it half the price of ExpressVPN, it also has more features compared to Surfshark. They're its two nearest rivals, making Nord a no-brainer for most people.

OK, it's not quite the fastest VPN or cheapest VPN (in our testing those awards go to Surfshark), and it doesn't have the absolute best apps (see Express). But as an all-round package, we wholeheartedly view Nord as the best balance of everything.

Features

NordVPN offers all the industry-standard features you'd expect from a modern, top-tier VPN service. Log into the app, select a location, and you can connect to servers all over the world instantly – encrypting all your web traffic and changing your IP address in the simple click of a button. It's easy to use, even for beginners, and has all the advanced features you'd expect if you're more experienced.

With a kill switch and an auto-connect function, you'll automatically connect to a VPN server when you boot it up, and if the connection drops, Nord will automatically quarantine your internet traffic. That's essential if you don't want your location or identity leaking out by accident.

You can even choose what you don't want going through the VPN, thanks to split tunneling. For example, in our testing, we found that it's great for using Android Auto and Apple Car Play without having to turn your VPN off.

But there's so much more than just a fast and reliable connection – NordVPN sports an impressive suite of additional privacy, security, and usability features. There's Threat Protection, which protects you by blocking malicious websites and scanning downloads for malware. Threat Protection has now been split into Pro and Lite, with Pro offering even more features that go well beyond the standard DNS-based blocking. However, bear in mind that while this is a great tool, if you get a virus on your device you'll need a dedicated antivirus to remove it. Nord's core DNS-based blocker is only preventative, not curative.

Alongside this is NordVPN's dark web monitoring, which scans the dark web for your credentials and email address to ensure they haven't been compromised. There are obfuscated servers that can disguise your VPN usage, and a feature called SmartPlay to help you access streaming content when you're not in your home country.

If you want to upgrade to a more expensive plan, you'll get even more features and tools to play with, such as:

Expert Verdict: NordVPN
Andreas Theodorou Editor-in-Chief Tech Software
Expert Verdict: NordVPN
Andreas Theodorou

NordVPN, for most people, will not disappoint. With its potent combination of pricing, features, speed, and reliability, it's the best all-rounder out there and performs consistently well in our regular testing. There might be specific requirements you have that could lead you to one of the other recommendations on our page, but if you're a standard user and unsure which VPN to get, my advice is to trust Nord. ★★★★½

Read more: NordVPN review

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FeaturesIn briefScores
UsabilityGreat for new users, but more work is needed to make it easier to set up advanced configurations★★★★
SpeedOne of the fastest VPNs on the market, maxing out my testing line★★★★★
StreamingUnblocked everything we threw at it, every time we tried★★★★★
TechnicalA privacy-first approach that's supported with clear investment in improving the security of its apps★★★★★
SupportFriendly, supportive and professional★★★★★
ValueIt's the best VPN at one of the best prices★★★★

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The best VPN for beginners

ExpressVPN working on several devices including Apple TV

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

2. ExpressVPN

Does all the hard work for you, no matter what

App support: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, web browsers, and more | Server locations: 163 | Server countries: 105 | Customer support: 24/7 email support, live chat, and knowledge hub | Simultaneous connections: 8 | Refund period: 30 days

Super simple apps
Great for streaming
Automatically configures everything
Leading the industry for security
More server locations than other VPNs
Lets parents block adult sites
Double the cost of NordVPN
Light on additional features
Half the speed of NordVPN and Surfshark

A significantly higher monthly subscription price and a more limited feature set compared to NordVPN hold ExpressVPN back from the top of our list, but it's got plenty to offer anyone in the market for a VPN.

It's a strong choice if you're concerned about keeping your data safe online, with a widespread selection of servers to pick from, robust security tools and protocols, and excellent speed results. But the main reason we love it so much is because it undoubtedly has the most user-friendly apps of any other service, so it's a brilliant option if you're new to VPNs or confused about the technology.

For the more security-minded user, its hard to argue with ExpressVPN's offering. Not only does Express have its own bespoke VPN protocol in Lightway, it also offers all the main features provided by Nord, including auto-connect and a safety net-providing kill switch. 

ExpressVPN calls its kill switch tech Network Lock. It ensures you can only access the internet via the VPN's secure connection, and blocks all traffic should the VPN connection drop for any reason, preventing any of your data from being leaked online.

Features

ExpressVPN comes with more than just strictly privacy-focused features. There are plenty of additional tools to make your internet experience just that bit more streamlined.

It comes with a built in ad-blocker, which can tame some of the more annoying aspects of the internet, and help you save precious mobile data that would otherwise be wasted loading video and banner ads.

There's also an optional password manager called ExpressVPN Keys that you can use if you don't already have one (here's why you might want to). These days, where everyone has a hundred different accounts, a password manager is an essential tool – making it easier to log into each different site, while keeping your details secret and safe at the same time.

Expert Verdict: ExpressVPN
Andreas Theodorou Editor-in-Chief Tech Software
Expert Verdict: ExpressVPN
Andreas Theodorou

With the easiest-to-use apps and a hyper-focus on user privacy and security, we think ExpressVPN is the best choice for anyone primarily looking for a privacy-focused VPN service, and who is happy to pay a little extra. It's also an ideal VPN if you're a beginner and just want things made that extra 10 percent easier. For everyone else, you might be better off choosing either Nord or Surfshark, both of which cost less than half the price. ★★★★½

Read more: ExpressVPN review

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FeaturesIn briefScores
FeaturesAn automated one-click connect means you get the safest, fastest protection possible - without having to configure it yourself★★★★★
SpeedFast enough for streaming, online gaming, and torrenting, with a big focus on low-latency bandwidth★★★★
StreamingConsistently unblocks every site and region we test★★★★★
TechnicalExpressVPN's teams are constantly improving the industry, but a recent DNS leak (now fixed) caused a stir★★★★
SupportAlways available, friendly, and helpful★★★★★
ValueAn expensive option, but if you want something you can stake your life on, it's worth every penny★★

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The best cheap VPN service

Surfshark VPN app running on several devices

3. Surfshark

As effective as it is cheap - and it's very cheap

App support: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, web browsers, and more | Server locations: 143 | Server countries: 100 | Customer support: 24/7 email support, live chat, and knowledge hub | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited | Refund period: 30 days

The fastest VPN around
Unlimited device coverage
Packed with features
Offers a real antivirus
Perfect streaming scores
The kill switch isn't reliable
Unclear virtual server locations
No notification if your connection drops

Surfshark isn't just our pick as the best cheap VPN, it's also a one-stop security suite. It has built-in ad-blocking, antivirus, tracker-free web browsing, and a data breach notifier built-in – not to mention a tool called Alternative ID, which generates a brand new identity and email address to use online to protect you from spam or having your details harvested. It's premium protection without the price. 

With one of the cheapest subscriptions in our list, Surfshark suits budget-conscious internet users who have a lot of devices they wish to protect and don't want to compromise on features, or try using one of the many free VPNs out there due to the restrictions they have on bandwidth and number of simultaneous connections.

Features

One of the crown jewels of Surfshark's features list is Incogni. This is a service that automates the process of requesting the deletion of personal data stored by data brokers and advertising companies. This gives users a chance to push back and reclaim at least some of their digital privacy from increasingly common and invasive data-tracking practices. 

Surfshark also offers other security features, such as Camouflage Mode, its implementation of obfuscated servers; and CleanWeb, its ad/tracker/malware blocking solution. It also offers unlimited simultaneous connections for busy households with lots of devices.

Expert Verdict: Surfshark
Andreas Theodorou Editor-in-Chief Tech Software
Expert Verdict: Surfshark
Andreas Theodorou

Surfshark has a low monthly subscription cost, super-fast download speeds, and an impressive array of privacy-related tools: it shows that a budget price doesn't have to mean budget features. The majority of people will find that Surfshark fully meets their expectations, and at this price it's hard to argue with its position at number 3 in our rankings. ★★★★½

Read more: Surfshark review

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FeaturesIn briefScores
UsabilityA comfortable middle-ground between NordVPN and ExpressVPN★★★★
SpeedOne of the fastest providers around★★★★★
StreamingAnother full house - Surfshark keeps getting perfect scores in our unblocking tests★★★★★
TechnicalA much-improved antivirus tool, but the Windows kill switch can fail under very extreme circumstances★★★★
SupportSupport site has come a long way★★★★
ValueSo much for so little - no one else can match the value★★★★★

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The best VPN for Linux

Private Internet Access VPN apps running on Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, and other platforms.

4. Private Internet Access (PIA)

Great for torrenting, and even has a GUI for Linux users

App support: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, web browsers, and more | Server locations: 100 | Server countries: 91 | Customer support: 24/7 email support, live chat, and knowledge hub | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited | Refund period: 30 days

Port forwarding makes for easy torrenting
No logs policy proven in court (twice)
Open source for anyone to scrutinize
Lots of control for power users
Overwhelming for beginners
Below-average speeds
Some large gaps between updates

It can be difficult to get a VPN client set up on Linux. The process often requires confidence with the command line interface (and if you don't know what that is, no need to read further).

This is why PIA is our top pick for Linux users, especially those who might be new to the platform. With an easy installation process and a full-featured GUI app, PIA makes using a VPN on Linux a breeze.

PIA is also excellent for power users who need a high degree of flexibility when it comes to installation and configuration. Getting into the settings can be a bit overwhelming for new users – there's a huge number of features on offer, more on that below. But if you don't need all that additional functionality, there's a nice, simple connect button to get you online.

Features

So, as well as an impressive GUI experience for Linux users, PIA offers a more-than-respectable array of additional features. There's support for an unlimited number of devices, split-tunneling to allow you to choose which apps use the VPN and which don't, and PIA Mace which is an ad/tracker/malware blocking tool. There's also multi-hop connections for additional security, obfuscated servers to hide your VPN usage completely, support for port-forwarding to optimize your torrent downloads, and more.

It's a good service, and one that has plenty of loyal, long-term customers, which is always a good sign. But for most users, we think this VPN is simply outmatched by the more appropriate options higher in our guide.

Expert Verdict: PIA
Andreas Theodorou Editor-in-Chief Tech Software
Expert Verdict: PIA
Andreas Theodorou

While PIA's speeds are nothing to write home about, it still shines as the best VPN for Linux users and has gone to great lengths to ensure that. PIA also has an impressive set of tools and features, including a GUI client for less experienced users, coupled with strong unblocking capabilities. I'd recommend the VPNs higher in this list for most people – but it's a great option for Linux users, as well as for anyone who's already signed up and happy with the service. ★★★★

Read more: Private Internet Access (PIA) review

Swipe to scroll horizontally
FeaturesIn briefScores
UsabilityNot the best for beginners, but great for advanced users★★★
SpeedGood speeds, but generally average compared to industry leaders★★★
StreamingDedicated streaming servers and an enormous global network help you unblock anything and everything★★★★★
TechnicalThe latest and greatest in VPN tech, and a proven no-logging policy★★★★★
SupportA mass of knowledge online and expert support on-hand at all times★★★★★
ValueBudget-friendly and offering plenty of features that would normally cost you twice as much★★★★★