Surfing the web unprotected is dangerous. Even on a trusted network, websites you visit will track your session, serving you tailored and often annoying adverts, and collecting data about the sites you visit.
If you’re a regular traveler who works on the go, connecting to public networks is even more dangerous. As a result, many Windows users choose to protect themselves using a virtual private network, or VPN, which encrypts your browsing data when you’re connected to the web.
VPNs route your Windows computer’s traffic through a third-party data center, often located abroad, to obfuscate key elements of your traffic – such as IP address, DNS address, and other critical information.
Here, we’re going to discover the very best VPNs for Windows in 2020. But before we dive in, let’s explore in better detail why you might choose to protect your Windows device with a VPN.
Why Would You Use a VPN?
If you surf the web without a VPN, you’re being tracked. Even if you use browser extensions like AdBlock, it’s highly likely that websites are tracking your IP – an address which reveals your approximate location – and other data, and using it to show you relevant adverts.
You might think that this isn’t a problem – you’re not using the web for anything nefarious after all. But, some websites will sell data about their users to advertising agencies or data aggregation companies, who may use it to build a consumer profile about you.
Likewise, if you regularly connect to unsecured public networks, such as airport WiFi or your local cafe, then there’s a high chance that the data you send over these networks can be intercepted by hackers.
Say for instance you need to do some last-minute internet banking before you jet off on holiday. If you use the airport WiFi to access your account, then hackers might be able to lift information like your email, passwords, and even card or payment information.
Instead, if you used a VPN client for Windows, all the data going in and out of your computer would be passed through an external server, encrypted, and protected from prying eyes.
Using VPNs For Streaming and Other Services
For example, if you live in Europe but you want to catch the latest shows on Netflix USA, you can use a VPN service to trick streaming sites into thinking you’re based in another country.
Good VPN services will have multiple servers to enable their customers to by-pass geo-restrictions, and not compromise too heavily on bandwidth and speed. Many users buy a VPN subscription specifically to access geo-restricted content, so that’s one of the areas we’ll be looking at throughout this guide.
Best VPN For Windows Users in 2020
Now you know why it’s essential to browse the web with the protection of a VPN. So, without further ado, let’s find out what the best VPN for Windows in 2020 is!
Based in the British Virgin Islands, ExpressVPN is one of the largest VPN services in the world, serving millions of customers worldwide. Established in 2009, the ExpressVPN team has over a decade of experience in delivering leading VPN solutions.
There are no restrictions on device type, if you’re a Windows user with one of the supported operating systems then ExpressVPN will work. Downloading and installing the Windows client takes just a few minutes, and the client connects automatically each time you start Windows.
The ExpressVPN team is committed to maintaining the privacy of their users, keeping strictly to their ‘no-logs’ policy, and holding no user data on file.
ExpressVPN has been rated by the Trustpilot community at 4.5 stars, or ‘Excellent’.
Read our full ExpressVPN review for a more detailed write-up.
ExpressVPN Server Features
ExpressVPN are known for their large range of servers, which provide a stable and reliable VPN service for their users. There is also a large range of special server options, such as TrustedServer, which makes ExpressVPN an exceptional choice for security.
Some of the best features of ExpressVPN include:
- Over 3,000 servers – With servers based in 94 countries around the world, ExpressVPN encrypts users’ traffic through hundreds of data centers and over 3,000 servers to keep data private.
- AES-256 encryption – Using the latest military-grade encryption, ExpressVPN ensures that any traffic passing through their servers is encrypted to the highest level. This prevents IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks.
- TrustedServer – A proprietary feature of ExpressVPN, TrustedServer technology ensures that data is wiped every time servers are rebooted, and never writes data to a hard disk. Each TrustedServer is run by ExpressVPN and only uses RAM.
- Zero-Knowledge DNS – Domain name systems can still leak your data even when you’re connected to a VPN tunnel. ExpressVPN uses a separate DNS server to ensure that no activity logs are held and DNS data isn’t leaked.
- Split-tunneling – If you regularly visit sites that you know are secure, or you would rather save your login credentials for, then ExpressVPN lets you use ‘split-tunneling’. This connects you to a VPN for a portion of your traffic, but other traffic remains un-encrypted as you choose.
As one of the most feature-rich VPNs for Windows, there’s a whole range of other interesting options available for ExpressVPN users, including:
- Speed optimization – ExpressVPN has consistently ranked as one of the fastest VPN services in the world, so much so that the service even includes a ‘speed test’ for Windows and Mac users to test their latency and download speed.
- Reliability – ExpressVPN style themselves as the industry leader of VPN connection reliability, with very few instances of VPN downtime or connection issues.
- Network Lock Killswitch – In the rare event that your VPN connection drops out, ExpressVPN will instantly block your internet traffic automatically.
ExpressVPN advertises compatibility with a huge number of streaming services and other online apps on its website, including popular video channels like Prime Video, Disney +, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and HBO.
Users can bypass geo-restrictions for these services using ExpressVPN, and gain access to shows and channels that wouldn’t normally be available in their country.
Additionally, ExpressVPN provides secure logins for popular social media sites, such as Facebook and Instagram, so you can connect risk-free over public WiFi networks.
ExpressVPN offers a 30-day money back guarantee, so if for any reason your favourite website or app isn’t accessible through ExpressVPN, you can get your money back.
Does ExpressVPN Work On Windows?
You can access ExpressVPN on all major devices, regardless of OS, which is perfect for those who have both Mac and Windows devices. ExpressVPN supports Microsoft, Linux, macOS, iOS, and Android, as well as most major router brands and leading games consoles.
For Windows users, the following clients are available for download:
- Windows 7
- Windows 8
- Windows 10
It’s possible that you can get ExpressVPN to work on an earlier version of Windows with some modification, but we wouldn’t recommend this as you may not be adequately protected.
How Much Does ExpressVPN Cost?
It has to be said that ExpressVPN is one of the priciest VPN services, at $12.95 per month when you pay on a month-by-month basis. It’s slightly cheaper to subscribe in one lump sum for a year, at $99.95, an average price of $8.32 per month.
There are no cheaper subscription options currently available for ExpressVPN even if you sign-up for a long-term plan, unlike some of the other VPN providers we’ll be looking at in this guide.
You can use ExpressVPN on up to 5 different devices in the same household, so if you consider the subscription cost spread over multiple devices, it’s really quite reasonable.
Overall, ExpressVPN is one of the most robust and trusted providers in the world. With military-grade traffic encryption, TrustedServer technology, and access to thousands of server locations, your browsing data will be highly secure through ExpressVPN.
The full-clients for Windows users are easy to download and provide protection for your entire machine – encrypting all of the traffic coming and going through your device, rather than just your browsing session.
However, ExpressVPN is a fairly expensive service. At a minimum of $8.32 per month, it’s the most expensive VPN service we’ll be reviewing here. Nevertheless, we think it’s worth it – no matter what kind of user you are.
For the premium price tag, users get guaranteed access to a range of streaming services, which many other VPN providers can’t promise you’ll be able to get. This is great news for those looking to bypass geo-restrictions, and it makes ExpressVPN a very attractive product.
Launched in 2012 in Panama, NordVPN is a major challenger to ExpressVPN, and one of the most subscribed to VPN services. Their success has grown in recent years due to a popular advertising campaign aimed at everyday users, and a very affordable subscription cost.
As NordVPN is based in Panama, the service is under no legal obligation to store data on its users, which makes it a reliable service for those concerned with protecting their privacy.
NordVPN’s desktop application, which is available to Windows users, is incredibly easy to use, and it’s full of privacy-enhancing features which some other VPNs don’t currently offer.
Read more here: NordVPN review
NordVPN Server Features
NordVPN is well known for their huge variety of special servers, which provide extra layers of security for privacy-conscious users. These include:
- Onion over VPN – Onion Routers, or ‘Tor’, obfuscates traffic and protects user’s identity more rigorously than a normal VPN connection. NordVPN’s ‘Onion over VPN’ server routes traffic through a third-party server before routing through the tor network to prevent people from tracking your data.
- Obfuscated servers – Obfuscated servers bypass network firewalls and internet restrictions at a national level – so if you live somewhere that restricts certain sites, you should be able to access them as normal with NordVPN, especially useful for Westerners working in China for example.
- Double VPN – Route your traffic through not one, but two separate VPN servers for double the protection. NordVPN is one of the few providers to offer this server type, and it’s a great option for those who need to protect their privacy.
- Dedicated IP Servers – If you frequently need to login to a work or school account, you may want a fixed IP address. NordVPN offers fixed IPs for $70, which provide a single dedicated IP address.
- 5,500+ servers – Out of the large VPN operators, NordVPN has one of the largest range of servers, with almost 6,000 in total. This allows NordVPN to offer a stable and secure VPN connection to users around the world.
NordVPN Extra Features
In addition to their special servers and advanced privacy features, NordVPN also have a number of extra features which make their VPN service one of the best on the market.
- Built-in Killswitch – Killswitches are essential to protect your communications in the rare event that your VPN loses service. If this happens, NordVPN will automatically stop your device from accessing the internet.
- SmartPlay – As we’ll examine in detail later, NordVPN’s SmartPlay enables streaming without restrictions worldwide.
- CyberSec – Websites known for hosting malware and spam are blocked by NordVPN’s CyberSec feature, which users can turn on using the Windows app.
Can You Stream On NordVPN?
According to their website, NordVPN supports access to a wide range of streaming services, and other geo-restricted services, through their huge range of servers in multiple jurisdictions.
They achieve this through their own leading technology called ‘SmartPlay’, which lets users access geo-restricted content without having to manually configure your connection or DNS.
Instead, SmartPlay configures both your IP and DNS location for you when you open a NordVPN connection. All users have to do is connect to a server in the right location – e.g. American servers for USA shows and services.
For average users who want a VPN just for streaming, this is one of the killer features of NordVPN, as other VPN providers require a long and complicated manually set-up to bypass geo-restrictions.
SmartPlay is available through NordVPN’s Windows app. So, NordVPN is a strong contender for streaming services!
Does NordVPN Work on Windows?
NordVPN supports all major operating systems and has a full-client desktop app for Windows users.
The native NordVPN app – the recommended way to access a NordVPN server – is available to users of Windows 7 and newer, although you can connect manually on older operating systems.
Windows users don’t need to manually connect to NordVPN, if your VPN connection was live when you shut down, it will automatically reestablish on startup – handy for making sure you’re always protected.
NordVPN does not support Windows XP or Vista users, but it may be possible to connect to the OpenVPN protocol through NordVPN if you’re using these operating systems.
How Much Does NordVPN Cost?
One of the most affordable VPNs, NordVPN offers membership options from just $3.49 a month, paid in a single installment of $125.64 – providing you with three years of cover!
They also offer monthly subscriptions for $11.95 per month, although it makes far more sense to pay for three years, which will save you 70% on the monthly subscription cost.
Students get up to 15% off subscription fees, and all users can have a 30-day money-back guarantee if they don’t like the service.
NordVPN covers up to six devices at once, which equals great value for money if you’re looking to cover devices for all the family or multiple computers.
For Windows users, NordVPN delivers a cost-effective and comprehensive VPN service, with a dedicated and easy to use full-client.
The desktop app makes connecting to any server across the globe incredibly fast and intuitive, and it’s also easy to connect to NordVPN’s huge range of special servers. The ease of access to robust and private servers has earned NordVPN a respected place among technical users.
Subscription costs for NordVPN are incredibly affordable, especially given the level of service that’s offered, which has been a major factor in the VPN provider’s success in recent years.
If you’re looking for a VPN that supports streaming services, then NordVPN is one of the best choices on the market. Their SmartPlay technology, paired with their low subscription costs, make NordVPN a perfect choice for the average user.
Established in 2016, it’s a fairly new addition to the VPN scene, but in its short history it’s attracted a large and dedicated user base, and has received excellent reviews both from its community and VPN experts alike.
In 2019 SurfShark won the best newcomer VPN award, and was also nominated for the Best Overall VPN award and the Best Value VPN award.
At the time of writing, SurfShark has almost 4,000 Excellent reviews on Trustpilot and a score of almost 5 stars.
SurfShark VPN Server Details
Despite being relatively young as far as VPN providers go, SurfShark has hit the ground running, offering highly secure servers that rival that of more established brands. Some of their best features include:
- Thousands of servers – SurfShark provides access to over 1,700 servers in 63 countries. This is significantly more than some of the smaller VPN operators, providing uninterrupted protection for your traffic.
- Private DNS & Leak Protection – Each SurfShark server has its own private DNS, so this common flaw in VPN security is secured. When using IPv4 stacks, SurfShark ensures that there are no leaks, giving user complete encryption.
- MultiHop – Similar to NordVPN’s Double VPN feature, MultiHop routes your traffic through separate VPN servers in multiple countries to fully obfuscate your digital footprint.
- AES-256-GCM Encryption – Like other provides, SurfShark guarantee military-grade traffic encryption for all users, regardless of which VPN server they connect to.
SurfShark Extra Features
Alongside their robust server technology, SurfShark has also been busy developing multiple extra features, some of which can’t be found with any other VPN provider. These include:
- Camouflage mode – A unique feature to SurfShark, camouflage mode masks the fact that you’re connecting to a VPN, so even your ISP doesn’t know that your traffic is being encrypted.
- Unlimited Devices – Not only is SurfShark very affordable as we’ll discover later, but it’s also one of the only VPN providers to extend VPN coverage to unlimited devices! One account can cover a whole household’s devices without slowing down your connection.
- Kill Switch – Protect your traffic against VPN server outages. If your VPN connection is dropped for any reason, SurfShark will ‘kill’ all traffic leaving your device.
Does SurfShark Work With Streaming Services?
Yes, SurfShark offers access to streaming services through their VPN, enabled by the large range of servers they have access to.
SurfShark guarantees their users will be able to access Netflix, although they don’t detail any other paid streaming services that definitely work with their VPN. However, they do support Amazon Fire TV stick and Android TV devices.
According to their website, users streaming content via the SurfShark VPN can be sure that they won’t have to wait for buffering videos, and their VPN connections are ‘optimized for streaming’ offering top download speeds.
Does SurfShark Work With Windows?
If you’re running Windows 7 or up, SurfShark has a full client available to download.
Their Windows client is easy to download and installs with one click. Once installed, the client will launch at start-up and connect to whichever VPN server you last used. This is a great feature as it makes sure you’re always protected.
Windows client users also get access to SurfShark CleanWeb, safe-browsing software that protects users from trackers, malware, phishing attempts, and blocks ad tracking.
How Much Does SurfShark VPN Cost?
One of the cheapest VPN services in the world, SurfShark has some enticing subscription offers which make it competitive with larger providers.
For a 24-month subscription, users pay just $47.76 – equivalent to just $1.99 per month! If you opt for a shorter subscription length, you can buy a year’s plan for $71.88, or $5.99 a month, or buy a month by month subscription for $11.95.
You can buy a 2-year plan for less than a 1-year plan, so it truly is better value for money to go for a longer subscription.
Users can pay for their subscription in Bitcoin, Ethereum, or Ripple – which is the largest range of crypto payments of any provider we’ve reviewed here!
As a newcomer to the VPN industry, SurfShark has had to work harder than most – and that’s exactly what they’ve been doing. Their highly competitive pricing and their unique range of features make SurfShark an attractive and interesting VPN service.
Although they’ve got fewer severs than ExpressVPN or NordVPN, they still allow users to access thousands of servers in multiple locations, and they maintain enough servers to make streaming and torrenting fast and secure.
We really liked the ability to pay in a range of cryptocurrencies, which will no doubt appeal to users who take their privacy seriously. It also makes SurfShark a great choice for blockchain company teams, who likely work regularly on the go and can pay in common cryptocurrencies.
It’s also the most affordable VPN we’ve reviewed on this list, which makes it a great option for casual users who simply want protection while connecting over public WiFi networks.
PrivateVPN was established in 2009 in Sweden, and it claims to be one of the fastest-growing VPN networks in the world.
The service has a good track record, with a 99.98% server up-time, over 15,000 TB of total data protected, and almost 45,000 customers. PrivateVPN offers fairly fast download speeds and unlimited bandwidth at an affordable price, which has contributed to its early success.
PrivateVPN have full-clients for Windows, Mac, Android, iPhone, and Kodi, but how to they stack up against the larger VPN operators like NordVPN and ExpressVPN? Let’s find out!
PrivateVPN has a Trustpilot score of 4.5 stars, which is an ‘Excellent’ rating.
See our detailed PrivateVPN review for even more information on it.
PrivateVPN Server Features
Generally, PrivateVPN is lacking compared to larger VPN providers when it comes to server locations and the number of servers available. However, it still has some great features for its price, including:
- 100 Servers – PrivateVPN has servers in 60 countries, including the USA, Canada, multiple countries in the Asia Pacific, and European, African, and Middle Eastern nations.
- Multiple encryption protocols – Some VPN providers only offer connections to a couple of VPN protocols, however, PrivateVPN lets users connect to OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP, IKEv2, and IPSec – this is one of the largest selections of any provider.
- Peer-2-Peer protocols – Users can connect to P2P traffic servers and anonymously torrent without fear. PrivateVPN buys network capacity from IP transit providers.
- 2048-bit Encryption – PrivateVPN uses AES-256 and 2048-bit military-grade encryption for users traffic.
PrivateVPN Extra Features
There’s not a whole load of extra features offered by PrivateVPN that truly make it stand out against its competitors, but there are a few extra features it offers which are similar to other providers, including:
- Zero Logs – Swedish privacy laws don’t require PrivateVPN to keep traffic logs, so there’s no user data ever stored on file. The service claims even they don’t know what you access through their servers.
- Pay in Bitcoin – If you’re concerned about the privacy of your payment information, you can pay for your subscription in Bitcoin.
- Unlimited Bandwidth – PrivateVPN promises their users fast downloading speeds and no buffering on streaming sites, and there’s no limit on data use over their VPN connections.
Does PrivateVPN Work with Streaming Services?
PrivateVPN claims that their services work with major streaming services, including Netflix. The service has a purpose-built server to allow users to bypass Netflix geo-restrictions, with unlimited bandwidth to maintain quality.
The service also supports Kodi, the open-source home theatre software.
However, we’re not so sure that PrivateVPN could deliver unrestricted access to the same range of streaming services as ExpressVPN or NordVPN, as they simply don’t have the same amount of servers or country locations.
Likewise, they don’t guarantee access to a large range of streaming services, so we have to assume PrivateVPN can’t always deliver access to any streaming channel.
Does PrivateVPN Work With Windows?
PrivateVPN have a full client for Windows users, and they also support a decent range of Windows operating systems.
- Windows 10
- Windows 8.1
- Windows 7
- Windows XP
This is a fuller range of Windows OS’ than other VPN providers, which is good for users running older systems of Windows for things like retro gaming or downloading abandonware.
One feature we thought was particularly interesting about PrivateVPN was their remote control help for users. If you have the Windows client on your device, and anything stops working, a live member of the team will be there to help you in minutes.
Likewise, the PrivateVPN team can also help users set up their client on their device remotely. Other VPN providers have live chat help, but they can’t see exactly what problem you’re having like PrivateVPN.
How Much Does PrivateVPN Cost?
One of the more affordable VPN providers, PrivateVPN offers plans from just $3.82 per month when paid upfront for 12 months – and at the time of writing you get a free month thrown in with this deal too.
A month by month subscription will cost you $7.67, and paying upfront for 3 months is $14.63, or $4.88 per month. Every plan comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, which is great for trying out the service before you commit to a full ongoing plan.
Users can also pay in Bitcoin. This isn’t processed through a payment provider, so you will need to have your own Bitcoin wallet and some knowledge of how to buy and send crypto to pay this way.
An all-round affordable and fairly robust VPN, we think PrivateVPN is a ‘fair’ VPN overall. There’s no reason to think that user’s traffic would be compromised over this VPN connection, and through their strict no-logs policy, PrivateVPN protects their customers’ data.
However, compared to NordVPN, ExpressVPN or SurfShark, there’s not the same range of special servers, which is disappointing if you’re a pro-user or using the service to protect your business.
Nevertheless, PrivateVPN does allow connection to a more diverse range of VPN protocols than others on our list, which is a feature some users may want to experiment with to see which protocol offers the best protection.
The ability to pay in Bitcoin is an attractive feature for users concerned about their privacy, and as it’s not processed through a third-party payment provider, there’s absolutely no need to divulge any sensitive personal data through your payment methods, so PrivateVPN is a great option if this is a concern.
The Best VPN Provider for Windows Users
Taking home the top spot as the best VPN for Windows users in 2020, it’s got to be NordVPN.
Their affordable service is among the cheapest of any VPN provider, and their Windows desktop app is incredibly easy to download, install, and use straight out of the box – even for beginners.
We particularly liked that the NordVPN Windows client automatically opens at startup, and connects to a VPN network before your PC starts sending and receiving data and traffic. This ensures that every single bit of data you send is encrypted at all times.
In terms of speed, NordVPN is easily one of the fastest VPN providers, and most times users won’t notice they are browsing through a VPN tunnel at all. They achieve this through their large network of servers in almost 60 countries.
Professional and tech-savvy users will find plenty to love about NordVPN too. Their special servers, leading privacy technology, and no-logs policy make it a great choice when privacy is a must.
But the main reason NordVPN takes the 2020 top-spot is that it has all of the features that other VPN providers pride themselves on – high amount of servers, streaming services, and affordability – in a single, easy to use Windows app.
However, we also highly recommend both SurfShark and ExpressVPN. While ExpressVPN is the most expensive VPN we’ve reviewed here, it’s undoubtedly a robust and highly-secure VPN service with plenty of industry-leading features.
We especially like the wide range of streaming services and websites that you can access through ExpressVPN and NordVPN, which smaller VPN providers like PrivateVPN simply can’t guarantee their users access to.
SurfShark’s highly affordable monthly price, at just $1.99 per month, and the ability to pay in a range of cryptocurrencies, will suit cryptocurrency advocates and those looking to protect their payment information. We also liked that both NordVPN and PrivateVPN offer the opportunity to pay in Bitcoin too.
For most Windows users though, NordVPN will certainly go above and beyond expectations, and provide a consistently reliable, fast, and trustworthy VPN service – that’s why NordVPN is the best VPN for Windows users in 2020.