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Private Internet Access VPN Review

When you switch it on, a VPN encrypts all your internet traffic and pipes it off to a server controlled by the VPN company. This ensures no one, not even your ISP, can spy on your traffic and makes it harder for snoops and advertisers to track you across the web. While it’s one of the oldest surviving contenders in the field, Private Internet Access is still a contender for the title of best VPN. Its numerous simultaneous connections provide a great value, it boasts strong speed test scores, it sports an excellent interface, and its advanced network settings let tinkerers tinker. However, it lacks privacy protections beyond a standard VPN connection, and it needs to be more transparent about its privacy policies. 

How Much Does Private Internet Access VPN Cost?

Private Internet Access has three billing options, starting at $9.95 per month. That’s below the $10.11 per month average we’ve seen across the VPNs we review. While affordable, it’s a little too rich for our list of the best cheap VPNs—its previous price of $6.95 would have easily made the cut. Comparable top VPNs do more for less. Editors’ Choice winner Mullvad VPN costs a mere $5.46 (converted from €5).

Like most VPNs, Private Internet Access incentivizes longer subscriptions with steep discounts. A one-year plan costs $39.95, which is significantly less than the $70.06 average we’ve seen across the VPNs we’ve reviewed. Private Internet Access also has a three-year plan for $79. The company changes up its discounted subscriptions frequently, but you should expect most of the deals to hover around those price points. Still, we caution against starting out with a long-term subscription. Instead, start with a short-term plan so you can test the service in your home and see if the VPN meets your needs.

Private Internet Access is affordable, but it’s worth noting that there are also some worthy free VPN services to choose from. Hotspot Shield and Editors’ Choice winner TunnelBear offer free subscriptions with data limitations—500MB per month and per day, respectively. ProtonVPN, however, is the best free VPN we’ve yet tested, in large part because it places no data restrictions on free users.

For purchasing a subscription, Private Internet Access accepts Amazon payments, credit cards, cryptocurrencies, and PayPal. Private Internet Access also accepts gift cards from various retailers. Buy one of these cards with cash, and your payment becomes reasonably anonymous. Editors’ Choice winners IVPN and Mullvad VPN offer more choices for anonymous payments, accepting cash paid directly to their HQ.

What Do You Get For Your Money?

You can connect up to 10 devices simultaneously with a single Private Internet Access subscription, which is double the average we’ve seen across the market. The industry, however, might be moving away from this model entirely. Avira Phantom VPN, VPN, Ghostery Midnight, IPVanish VPN, Surfshark VPN, and Windscribe VPN all place no limit on the number of simultaneous connections.

(Editors’ Note: and IPVanish VPN are owned by J2 Global, which also owns PCMag’s publisher, Ziff Media.)

In addition to ample simultaneous connections, Private Internet Access has client apps for Android, iPhone, Linux, macOS, and Windows. The company also offers routers preconfigured to work with Private Internet Access, extending VPN coverage to every device on your network.

Private Internet Access also provides split-tunneling, letting you designate which apps send data through the VPN and which send data in the clear. This can be handy for high-bandwidth, low-risk activities, like streaming video. That’s it for additional features for Private Internet Access, however. The company does not provide access to the Tor anonymization network via VPN, nor does it support multi-hop connections. Editors’ Choice winners ProtonVPN and NordVPN both offer access to Tor, multi-hop connections, and split-tunneling. 

Many VPN companies layer on additional privacy and security features in order to entice consumers. To that end, Private Internet Access includes its own ad- and tracker-blocking tool called MACE. When we last reviewed this product, the company informed us that Google’s rules meant this feature had to be removed from Private Internet Access Android VPN app, but we’ve been told it has since been restored. We look forward to testing it soon. Private Internet Access also offers a free email breach monitoring service similar to HaveIBeenPwned.

Private Internet Access also supports port forwarding on some servers. This is an advanced setting, and while not necessary for a VPN it’s surely going to be appreciated by network tinkerers.

Since our last review, Private Internet Access has started offering dedicated IP addresses to customers. This means that you have the same public IP address every time you connect to the VPN. This should, in theory, be less suspicious looking than a constantly shifting or known VPN IP address and may therefore not be blocked by sites that limit VPN access—such as banks and streaming services. An IP address in Australia, Canada, Germany, the UK, and the US. You pay $5 per month for each address, or the equivalent amount up-front for longer subscriptions (so, $60 for one year). That’s in addition to the base Private Internet Access subscription. Existing customers can select a duration for dedicated IP address billing.

While VPNs are useful tools for improving your privacy online, they cannot protect against every threat. We highly recommend using standalone antivirus to protect your computer, engaging a password manager to create unique and complex passwords for each site and service, and enabling multi-factor authentication, wherever it’s available.

What VPN Protocols Does Private Internet Access Support?

VPN technology comes in a handful of flavors, with different protocols used to create the encrypted connection. We prefer OpenVPN, which is open-source and therefore examined by volunteers for potential vulnerabilities. The open-source VPN heir apparent is WireGuard, which has newer technology and the potential for even better performance. WireGuard is still new, and it hasn’t been as widely embraced as OpenVPN.

Private Internet Access supports OpenVPN and WireGuard on all platforms. Additionally, the iOS app supports the IKEv2 protocol, which is also excellent.

OpenVPN settings in Private Internet Access

Servers and Server Locations

The availability of numerous server locations gives you more choices for spoofing your location and increases the chances of finding a server near wherever you are. Private Internet Access has a good mix of locations, with servers in 78 countries. That’s well above average, coming close to rivaling ExpressVPN’s stellar collection of 94 countries. Especially notable is that Private Internet Access boasts multiple servers in Africa and South America, two regions frequently ignored by other VPN services.

Until recently, Private Internet Access had a server fleet of some 3,000 servers. When we spoke with Private Internet Access representatives about the current size of the company’s network, we received conflicting information with figures as high as 29,000 servers—an eye-popping figure, considering it’s five times the server fleet of the next largest VPN. We have reached out to verify the state of the company’s network and will update this review when we learn more. Keep in mind that the total number of servers is not an indicator of performance, since a VPN will probably spin servers up and down as needed.

Private Internet Access server locations

Some VPN services make use of virtual locations, which may appear to be servers in a specified country but may actually be located somewhere else. To its credit, Private Internet Access has clearly marked which locations are virtual and revealed the servers’ actual location in a blog post. This shows that nearly half of the company’s locations are virtual. While virtual locations are not inherently problematic, we generally like to see VPN services be less reliant on them. ExpressVPN’s server fleet, for example, is less than 3% virtual.

After the passage of a new national security law affecting Hong Kong, Private Internet Access announced that it was removing its server presence from the city. Instead, Private Internet Access is arranging for virtual servers physically located outside of China to provide VPN service to Hong Kong. This is a good use of virtual locations since it covers a potentially dangerous region while keeping the server in a secure place. Private Internet Access has virtual locations for other countries with repressive internet policies, such as Turkey and Vietnam. The company does not have any servers, virtual or otherwise, in Russia.

VPN providers may also use virtual servers, which is where a single hardware machine plays host to several software defined servers. A company representative tells me that Private Internet Access does not own its server infrastructure, which is not unusual, but only uses dedicated hardware servers. The company says it has worked to secure its infrastructure against remote and direct attacks. Other companies like NordVPN and SurfShark are taking their servers diskless, making it far more difficult for the hardware to be seized by nefarious forces.

Your Privacy With Private Internet Access VPN

It’s important to understand the efforts a VPN company undertakes to protect your information. Unfortunately, the lengthy privacy policy from Private Internet Access has precious little to say about what information is gathered during the use of its product, on top of being enormously difficult to read. The company’s Terms of Service are more readable, using helpful plain-English text in green to explain lawyerly jargon, but it too lacks information on how the product operates. Mullvad VPN is radically transparent about its service and operation, going into such depth that it becomes educational, while TunnelBear VPN focuses on its policies as being easy to read and understand. Private Internet Access must make it clear to users what it gathers and why.

A company representative explained that Private Internet Access does not keep logs of user activity and does not profit from user data. Its privacy policy also says that personal data will not be sold or rented. That’s what we want to see.

The policy also does not elaborate on how and why information is gathered from VPN users. When we reviewed the product in 2020, a company representative said that Private Internet Access gathers, “username, IP address, and data usage,” and deletes that information as soon as you disconnect from the service. We have reached out to Private Internet Access to verify that this is still the case but haven’t heard back yet.

Private Internet Access when connected

Private Internet Access is based in Colorado and operates under US legal jurisdiction. Like all companies, it says it will respond to legal subpoenas but assures customers that it will push back when possible. The company’s twice-yearly transparency report confirms that the company has provided no data in response to warrants, subpoenas, and court orders.

Private Internet Access VPN is owned by Private Internet Access, Inc, which is in turn owned by KAPE Technologies. This purchase raised some eyebrows because a previous incarnation of KAPE peddled aggressive browser toolbars. But until something nefarious comes to light, this is just a historical footnote. KAPE also owns CyberGhost VPN and Zenmate. When we last spoke with Private Internet Access in May 2021, we were told that Private Internet Access infrastructure would remain separate from other properties. We reached out to verify that this was still the case, but have not yet heard back.

Private Internet Access has not released the results of any independent audits. While audits are far from a guarantee of security excellence, they can help shed light on VPN’s behind-the-scenes operations. TunnelBear, for example, has issued annual audits for the last three years. A representative for Private Internet Access told us an audit was planned for 2021.

I encourage everyone to read a VPN company’s privacy policy for themselves. If you feel uncomfortable, look elsewhere. Trust, after all, is paramount when it comes to security companies.

Hands On With Private Internet Access VPN for Windows

We had some trouble installing Private Internet Access on an Intel NUC Kit NUC8i7BEH (Bean Canyon) desktop running the latest version of Windows 10, but solved the problem with a system restore. This happens to our test machine sometimes and is likely due to VPNs constantly being installed and removed. 

Private Internet Access issues you login credentials in the purchase confirmation email. We’re never thrilled about passwords being sent in plaintext through emails since this could be intercepted. While you can change your password (which we suggest you do immediately) your company-issued username cannot be changed, a practice intended to provide extra anonymity but one that may be confusing for novices. IVPN and Mullvad VPN have a better, if stranger, system that requires no personal information from customers. These companies assign random account numbers to customers that serve as their sole login credential—no passwords, no usernames.

Private Internet Access login screen

The app received a badly needed facelift a few years ago, and it’s still looking and feeling great. If you miss the bad old days, you can still control the entire app from within the system tray. Annoyingly, the app cannot be moved from its spot above the system tray and fades away whenever you click outside the app. This, thankfully, can be changed in the Settings menu before you even login.

The app is built around a single window colored in a warm grey tone and centered around a large, yellow Connect button. Click it, and the app immediately connects to the best server available. This is exactly what the average user needs: a straightforward path to getting secure immediately. The button also switches to green on connection, making it easy to tell the VPN is active, and your public and actual IP address are displayed close to the bottom of the window.

Clicking the location box below the connect button lets you jump to a different VPN server with ease. You can choose either a country or a city within that country, but not a specific server. If there’s a particular region you need to use, you can add it to a Favorites list.

Clicking the caret at the bottom of the app expands the window, revealing seven other tiles that control different features. Click the bookmark icon to add a tile to your default view, and grab the three-line icon to move tiles around. This level of customization is unheard of among VPNs and lets the app be extremely complicated, or nothing more than an on/off button. But while it’s easy to grasp, it lacks the friendliness and off-beat warmth of TunnelBear VPN.

Private Internet Access showing all customization tiles

While impressive, the tiles are of mixed utility. Some offer quick access to deep settings, and others display graphs and stats. The least useful tile shows your current subscription duration.

One handy little tool is the VPN Snooze tile. This disconnects you from the VPN and then reconnects you after the preset amount of time. It’s useful for when you might find yourself blocked by a website and need to disconnect from the VPN. The Snooze feature ensures that you’ll be automatically reconnected and won’t unknowingly continue browsing the web unprotected.

Private Internet Access while snoozed

The main Settings window goes into greater detail. Some particularly useful features are the option to allow LAN traffic—which lets you communicate with other devices on your network, a kill switch that breaks your connection if the VPN disconnects, and the aforementioned MACE. The Split Tunnel panel lets you route apps and IP addresses in or out of the VPN, which worked perfectly in our testing.

From here you can make changes to your account and activate the app’s impressive dark mode. There’s real depth here, letting you change DNS servers, allow access to other devices on your local network, and fine-tune the VPN protocol configuration. The Automation tab can configure the app to connect or disconnect the VPN for specific networks or broader categories, like wired or unprotected Wi-Fi networks. Only TorGuard has a similar degree of control, but most users will (and should) leave these settings alone.

Private Internet Access Split Tunneling and DNS

One general concern with VPNs is that they might leak identifiable information, either in the form of DNS requests or your real IP address. We used the DNS Leak Test Tool in our testing and found that the server we used did not leak our information.

Many streaming video services block VPNs, because they have geographically limited licenses for streaming content. We had no trouble streaming Netflix over a US-based Private Internet Access server. Keep in mind that this could change at any time.

Speed and Performance

Regardless of the VPN you use, it will affect your web browsing speeds. To gauge the level of that impact, we measure latency, download speeds, and upload speeds using the Ookla speed test app with and without a VPN and then find a percent change between the two. For more on our testing and its limitations, do read the aptly titled article How We Test VPNs

(Editors’ Note: Ookla is owned by PCMag’s publisher, Ziff Davis.)

Private Internet Access performed remarkably well in our testing, reducing download and upload speeds by just 10.9% and 19.4%, respectively. As of writing, those are the best scores for those two categories. Its latency results were less impressive but still better than average: we found the VPN increased latency by 30%.

Because the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has limited our access to the PCMag Labs, we’ve moved to a rolling testing model and now report speed test results as we get them. The table below has all the latest information.

Keep in mind that your results will assuredly differ from ours, and speed is too finicky to put too much emphasis on. Overall value, privacy features, and ease of use are far more important.

Simple Security

With its refined interface and powerful network settings, Private Internet Access is a formidable product. It can be a simple set-and-forget app, or you can dive into its myriad settings and configure the VPN to suit your needs exactly. Its large collection of server locations and excellent speed test scores make it a strong competitor, and 10 simultaneous connections mean your entire household is easily covered.

There’s still room for improvement, however. Whereas other companies offer multi-hop connections and push-button access to Tor, among other privacy and security bonus features, Private Internet Access offers little beyond basic VPN functionality. Most importantly, Private Internet Access should strive for clarity and transparency in its privacy policy and prove its commitment to customers with a third-party audit.

Private Internet Access VPN


  • Well designed app

  • 10 simultaneous connections

  • Numerous server locations

  • Advanced network settings

  • Excellent speed test scores

View More


  • Unclear privacy policy

  • No multi-hop connections

  • Unusual login system

  • No free version

View More

The Bottom Line

Private Internet Access offers a robust VPN service with advanced network settings, an excellent app interface, and strong speed test scores. It doesn’t offer much beyond VPN protection, however, and it needs to better communicate its privacy policies.

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