ExpressVPN Lightway: Everything you need to know about the protocol

ExpressVPN Lightway Protocol
(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

When it comes to choosing a VPN, data security and speed connections are the first thing you should look for. And, it's largely the encryption protocol used that defines the overall performance of your security tool.

A VPN protocol is a set of code that regulates everything your software does: from how the app securely connects to its server, to the way it transfers data. There are several types, with each having some distinctive features. However, the fast and secure WireGuard protocol is the newest method around that all the top services have now among their offer.

That said, a few of our favorite providers have gone even further and built their own proprietary protocols, often inspired or based on WireGuard technology. ExpressVPN, for example, has developed its own Lightway protocol to achieve the best combination of security, speed and reliability.

But, how does Lightway work in practice? Here's everything you need to know about ExpressVPN Lightway.

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What is a VPN protocol?

A VPN protocol is a set of instructions that both the VPN app and server use to set up a connection and then communicate with each other. It defines how the data get encrypted as well as how this information moves between servers and devices.

A VPN protocol can then be considered as a secure tunnel where the online traffic travel form one point to another. That's why your protocol choice has a great impact on the speed of your connection and the protection of your privacy. Check our dedicated guide to better understand how VPN tunnels work. 

VPN providers generally offer several types to choose from, each with their advantages and disadvantages. OpenVPN is the most popular, but its original design dates back to 2001 - many changes have occurred in the cybersecurity market since then.

While WireGuard, the newest technology available, boasts a greater simplicity in its codes that translates in higher speeds and better control over its vulnerabilities. 

What is ExpressVPN Lightway?

Lightway is ExpressVPN's own technology aiming to offer its users a faster, more secure and reliable experience. 

Fully developed in-house, Lightway is an open-source software currently available on GitHub. This means that everyone can check its code to ensure is safety. 

As the name suggests, it's a light protocol - comprising only about 2,000 lines of code - meaning that it can run faster and preserve your devices' battery-life. Our testing show that ExpressVPN's Lightway protocol almost doubling OpenVPN performance, topping out at a rapid 630Mbps - OpenVPN only got as high as 385Mbps.

Lightway's sleeker code means that the software is easier to audit and maintain, too. This enables the provider to quickly develop additional features as well as fix any possible vulnerabilities.

ExpressVPN protocols supported in the Windows app

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

Lightway comes with all of ExpressVPN's standard safety features like kill switch, DNS leak protection and even dynamic encryption keys to prevent hackers to infiltrate inside the VPN tunnel. 

The ExpressVPN protocol protects your data at the best with WolfSSL cryptography library and military-grade encryption SSL/TLS protocols. This is the same level of security the NSA uses to protects its database, for example.

Lightway seems to be more reliable than other protocol types, with the provider promising a 40% increase on this regard. This means that users should be protected even when they are switching networks. Connections drops should also be less frequent, especially on mobile.   

How to set up Lightway on your device 

Lightway is now available on ExpressVPN apps for Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux, and routers. The good news is that it's really easy to set it up, too.

In fact, one of the strength that make ExpressVPN our favorite is that its dedicated apps are super easy to use. Just follow this step-by-step guide: 

  1. Download and install ExpressVPN app: Check our guide on how to sign up for ExpressVPN if you need any help to do so.
  2. Open the app and head on the Options menu
  3. Under the Protocol tab, select Lightway: There will be two option - Lightway UDP is the fastest one, but Lightway TCP may help you to stay connected in the most challenging network situations.
  4. Choose your preferred server and connect: You are now ready to enjoy your fast, reliable and secure VPN connection. 
Chiara Castro
Senior Staff Writer

Chiara is a multimedia journalist committed to covering stories to help promote the rights and denounce the abuses of the digital side of life—wherever cybersecurity, markets and politics tangle up. She mainly writes news, interviews and analysis on data privacy, online censorship, digital rights, cybercrime, and security software, with a special focus on VPNs, for TechRadar Pro, TechRadar and Tom’s Guide. Got a story, tip-off or something tech-interesting to say? Reach out to