What is Meshnet?

NordVPN graphic of Meshnet connections
(Image credit: NordVPN)

Back in 2022, NordVPN released a shiny new feature called Meshnet. While it was initially only available to premium subscribers, it became part of NordVPN's standard subscription a year later in 2023, boosting the services' already impressive toolkit.

The fact that you can check out Meshnet for free is just one reason why NordVPN tops our best VPN rankings – but what is Meshnet? Well, in a nutshell, it allows you to create your own private network and invite other folks to it, so you can share files and create secure online gaming sessions. Plus, the people you invite don't need to have NordVPN subscriptions.

Keep reading, and I'll walk you through how Meshnet works and what you can use it for. All this talk of networks and meshes might seem a little technical at first glance, but I've cut away the jargon to make it all a lot easier to digest. 

What is Meshnet?

Meshnet lets you create a virtual network that devices can join and use to communicate with one another – regardless of whether they're in the same building (or even the same country). The network is like an invite-only club linking these devices together.

Currently, NordVPN users can link up to 60 different devices at any one time. This includes 10 internal devices and 50 external devices – and just about every gadget is Meshnet compatible, from laptops and mobile phones to Raspberry Pis.

Want to learn more?

If you want all the details, head on over to the Meshnet section of NordVPN's site.

An internal device is a device registered to the same NordVPN account used to create the Meshnet network. External devices, on the other hand, are devices registered to a different NordVPN account. So, you can invite friends to join your Meshnet network, but they'll need to sign up for a NordVPN account first (though they won't need an active subscription).

The idea of Meshnet might sound very similar to how a VPN works, allowing you to remotely access devices while being protected by an encrypted connection, but it's very different. Meshnet is more like a Local Area Network (LAN) that you'd find in a home or a business. Unlike a VPN where users connect to a single point (like a VPN server), mesh networks use peer-to-peer (P2P) technology to connect the different devices in a network to each other. Think of it like a relay made up of trusted gadgets, all connected via the same encrypted tunnel.

On the subject of encryption, Meshnet uses the super-fast NordLynx protocol to keep connections quick and provide reliable access to your files. It’s also secured by the same robust end-to-end encryption that NordVPN uses for all its VPN connections.

Meshnet is available on Windows, Mac, and Android devices, too, meaning you can use it at home or on the go. Your friends will be able to tap into the network regardless of what device they're using, too, making it a versatile security tool.

What can you do with Meshnet?

If you're still wondering why you'd want to use Meshnet in the first place – don't worry. There are plenty of reasons why you might opt for Meshnet over a regular VPN.

Essentially, Meshnet focuses on helping you complete digital tasks that require speed (like streaming movies and music), low latency (which is critical for online gaming), and a super secure connection (a must-have if you plan on sharing files).

Here are a handful of things you can do with Meshnet:

  • File sharing: with Meshnet, you can share files without relying on (potentially dodgy) third parties without sacrificing security. Meshnet doesn’t impose any file size or storage limits, so users can share an unlimited number of music files, photos, videos, and more, without a loss in quality or worrying if they're about to hit their storage limit.
  • Remote access: access your PC or laptop even if you're not at home. This is handy if you're on vacation or traveling abroad for work and don't want to deal with pesky geo-restrictions or censorship in the country you've landed in – or if you realize that you need to grab important files from a device you've left at home.
  • Sharing your VPN connection: Meshnet turns pretty much any device into a VPN server, letting you share your secure NordVPN connection with friends and family. Better still, they won't need to purchase their own subscriptions.
  • Gaming: because Meshnet works a lot like a LAN, you can create secure networks to link up with friends overseas and hop into multiplayer games without needing a paid third-party service like Xbox or Playstation, or a set of very, very long network cables.
  • Work collaboration: remote work teams can use Meshnet to stay connected across massive distances – meaning you can share files and company resources without worrying about unauthorized users taking a peek.

How to get started with Meshnet

The best thing about Meshnet is that there's no complicated configuration or setup process.

All you need to do is open up the NordVPN app and head to the Meshnet section, which is usually on the toolbar to the left. You'll get some info about Meshnet and a warning about the risks of connecting other devices to your own. Once you've read through those, the app will switch your VPN protocol to NordLynx if you're not already using it.

Then, once Meshnet is switched on, you'll see a screen displaying your personal URL, which is specific to the device you're using, and the Meshnet IP address. You can then link your other devices to your account, or invite your friends to come and join your network.

Going into specific details of just how to set up multiplayer game sessions or share files is a bit out of the scope of this article, but if you'd like to know more then you can check out NordVPN's extensive documentation about the Meshnet feature. Visit the How to start using Meshnet page of the knowledgebase for greater detail about specific games and use cases.

Shaun Rockwood
VPN Expert

After graduating from Stirling University with a qualification in Education, Shaun accidentally fell into the technology sector in the late 1990's and has stayed there ever since, working for companies such as PSINet, IBM and ProPrivacy in a variety of roles from Systems Administration to Technical Writer. Being around since the birth of the modern internet, he's seen the way that technology has expanded to become an integral part of everyday life, and how people's understanding and ability to retain any kind of privacy has lagged behind.

Shaun is a strong believer in the rights of the individual to have their personal data protected and their privacy respected – a belief made all the stronger in an age of surveillance from both governmental bodies and private companies all around the world.

He spends his spare time cooking, riding his motorbike and spending far too many hours in Star Trek Online hunting Klingons and Borg.