Bitcatcha's content is reader-supported. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Does a VPN Really Slow Down Your Internet Connection?

June 17, 2024


VPNs are one of those tools that people can’t seem to live without these days. Not only do they help you access geo-restricted content on streaming services like Netflix, but they can keep you safe online.


However, some people may notice that certain tasks like browsing, downloading files or streaming can take a little longer when they have their VPN activated.


So – does a VPN actually slow down your internet connection?



Do VPNs Slow Down Your Internet Connection Speeds (and If So, By How Much)?


If you’re looking for the short answer, then yes, your VPN can slow down your internet connection.


But, there’s more to it that you need to know. Let’s start with the basics of how VPNs work.


A Virtual Private Network (VPN) operates by channeling your traffic through its own servers, effectively acting as a middleman for you and the website you want to access. As a result, your internet traffic will have to travel a greater physical distance, which can be the reason why you’d get a higher ‘ping’.


If this is your first time hearing about ping, it’s basically the amount of time it takes between you doing something and it actually happening. For instance, if it usually takes you less than a second to load a webpage, a high ping can take you longer than that.


While having a very high ping can be very annoying, a very low ping is only really necessary when you’re doing something like gaming, which demands that you react as quickly as possible.


Daily pings of 100 milliseconds are perfectly acceptable, and if you can choose a server close to where you are right now, you can also prevent any significant ping increases.


man stressed out while working

VPNs slow down your internet due to numerous factors.


Another thing that VPNs do is encrypt your data, making them unreadable to anyone who manages to intercept it. This is incredibly helpful when it comes to protecting your information from hackers, but because it takes time to encrypt data, it could also contribute to lower download and upload speeds.


With that said, you’re likely to notice slight drops of around 10-20% in your internet speed. This is completely normal when using a VPN since its main function is privacy and security.


But, also know that VPNs can only be as fast as your internet connection. If you already have slow internet to begin with, you can expect your VPN to also be slow.


Free or badly configured VPNs can slow you down more


If you’ve considered your options and decided you want to use a free VPN, one thing you may expect is a significant or occasional drop in your internet speed.


This is because most of the time, free VPNs limit non-paying users to the number of servers they can access, which creates strains on the limited servers, and slows them down for free users.


What’s more, badly configured VPNs can also slow down your internet, simply because their servers aren’t built with speed in mind. These VPN service providers don’t optimize latency as well as paid ones and people usually only use them to bypass geo-blocking restrictions.


With that said, when it comes to using a free or badly configured VPN, it’s often that you get what you pay for.



5 Main Factors That Affect Your VPN Speed (and How to Avoid Them)


VPNs are great and they give you so many benefits. However, there are some factors that can affect your VPN speed:


1. Your VPN’s server location


vpn speed depends on server location

Your VPN speed would depend on where you’re connecting. (Credit: VPN One Click)


The distance is the main factor for VPN speeds. The farther you are from the location of the VPN server that you’re trying to connect to, the longer it takes to route your activity through their encrypted channel. An intuitive example would be to imagine that you’re flying somewhere 5,000 miles away—it would definitely take less time compared to flying somewhere that’s 7,000 miles away!


Oh, and just a side note, you should also keep in mind that when changing regions and connecting to a server from a foreign country, you might see different languages based on the server you connected to.


2. Server load


Even when using a nearby server, your internet speed may significantly decrease if a lot of users are simultaneously connected to the same server.


Thankfully, a lot of VPN providers such as NordVPN offer real-time speed optimization. This means that if a server is overloaded, they’ll automatically place you in a new location so you can always have the best speed possible. Not to mention they have over 5000+ servers, in 60 countries to choose from.


popular vpns have many servers

Many of the most popular VPNs also have a huge range of servers. (Credit: NordVPN)


3. VPN security features


The security features implemented by your VPN provider also affects your internet speed.


For instance, if your VPN provider is using an Advanced Encryption Standard that runs on 256 bits, that’s already considered a military-grade security level of encryption. The trade-off is that you might experience some slight delays since it involves a more complex encryption process.


A lot of the best VPNs out there such as ExpressVPN, NordVPn, and Surfshark, all offer multiple protocols that you can choose from. And if speed is your top priority, we’ve got a post on the world’s fastest VPNs too.


4. Browser cache


The longer you browse the internet, the more browser cache you’ll gather. These refer to the cookies or files created by the sites you visit. What they do is remember the parts of a page (such as images), which allow them to open faster the next time you visit.


While they make your online experience better by saving your browser data, having too much browser cache will inevitably slow down your VPN speeds.


That being said, deleting your browser cache will make your VPN run faster since it won’t have to load as much data as it used to.


5. Compatibility issues


compatibility issues with lower end devices

Lower end devices will have a harder time encrypting data. (Credit: 2Game)


Due to VPN encryption requiring significant processing power, a slow device will also mean a slow VPN. The reason why this happens is that your device doesn’t have enough resources to keep up with your VPN. You may experience this when you’re trying to stream a video over a VPN.


Luckily, this can easily be solved by simply upgrading your device. You can also do things such as clearing your browser cache, deleting unused software, and removing any viruses or malware. But, if your device is really old and the non-spending options we mentioned don’t work, then perhaps it’s time to purchase a new device.



Can VPNs Increase My Internet Speed?


To put it simply, you can have faster internet speeds under certain circumstances.


You see, a lot of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) throttle internet connections during peak times, which allows for decent internet speeds for all users. Good VPNs won’t allow ISPs to get your location, hence allowing you to have better internet speeds at these times.


So – it’s not all bad news!



So – Don’t Settle for Slow VPN Speeds


Choosing the right VPN service can either make or break your browsing or streaming experience. If you choose the right one, you don’t have to worry about leaking any sensitive information. But best of all, you don’t have to worry about slow and inconsistent internet speeds.


Make sure to consider everything we mentioned for a smooth browsing experience. You can browse Bitcatcha for more tech-related tips!



VPN Guides and Best VPN Services

What is VPN and how does it protect you from online threats? Check out all curated resources below.