Fast, secure, and easy to use
A US-based VPN service, Private Internet Access has established pedigree for maintaining the privacy of its users. Low in price, it’s a popular choice for many thanks to its extensive encryption, solid torrenting support, and its compatibility with Netflix.
What We Like
- Over 3,000 servers in 32 different countries
- Works well with Netflix streaming
- Quick Connect button for easy server switching
- Works on all major operating systems and mobile platforms
- Fast performance
- Can pay via multiple different methods
What We Don’t Like
- No third-party audit for privacy logs
- Quite expensive for month by month subscribers
- There’s no free trial available – only a seven-day money back guarantee
Private Internet Access VPN bypasses restrictions imposed by governments and streaming services to grant you access to any content around the world. It uses strong encryption ciphers, 128-bit and 256-bit AES, and powerful protocols, including OpenVPN and WireGuard, to deliver the flexibility and protection you need. Also, the VPN’s high-speed NextGen server network makes browsing and streaming easy, with its fast connection and unlimited bandwidth.
Private Internet Access VPN runs on a 100% no-usage-logs policy that prevents the company from recording your data. Features such as kill switch protection and ad blocking also block malicious websites and prevent data exposure.
You can connect up to ten devices and even add more for a fee. And if you need any help, Private Internet Access VPN’s support team is available 24/7.
We tested Private Internet Access extensively to see if its popularity is well-founded and whether its wealth of features work as well as it sounds. We looked at how easy it was to set up and use, how speedy it is in action, and how secure your data is while you’re using it. Turns out that it went pretty well for the straightforwardly named VPN provider.
A virtual private network (VPN) is a cybersecurity tool that provides users with an extra layer of protection from prying eyes and attackers. A VPN hides your actual IP address and helps you access blocked content by routing your data through a secure and encrypted VPN tunnel to any of its several servers.
Setup Process: Straightforward and easy
We found the setup process for Private Internet Access almost as easy as buying something on Amazon. Simply click the download button on the top right corner of the website, and Private Internet Access immediately suggests the correct app for the system you’re browsing from.
This VPN works right out of the virtual box, with no need for additional tweaking from you. Just sign up to a subscription and begin using it. It’s great for newcomers to VPN services.
Design: Simple and logical
Private Internet Access’s Windows and Mac clients are incredibly simple to use. Clearly designed in a way that will appeal to less tech-savvy users, while still having advanced options included, the desktop interface is very intuitive. You simply open the app, choose the country you want to connect to, then click on the large power button to join.
If you have a particular server or country in mind, clicking on a country opens up a list of servers with the best one automatically listed at the top. It’s easy to see countries listed via their flag, as well as the current ping from your location to each server.
Unlike other VPN clients, Private Internet Access keeps things simple by specifying just the name of the country or the region, meaning you don’t need to consider city names or obscure server names like USA: West Coast (server #7) which other clients often favor. If you prefer that level of granular control, you won’t find it here.
Once you’re connected, the app icon goes green, and you can always click on it to double-check that you’re still connected.
Further options like usage stats or performance figures are available by clicking on an arrow at the bottom of the app. This displays how much incoming and outgoing data there is, as well as a bar of quick settings to flick on or off.
Private Internet Access works with many different devices, so it’s simple to use no matter what device you own. There are separate apps for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS, with additional extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.
Private Internet Access also offers up OpenVPN configurations which are great if you need to complete more advanced setup, such as using it via your router settings.
It works right out of the virtual box, with no need for additional tweaking from you.
Performance: Mostly excellent, with some brief issues
With Private Internet Access, we found the connection and surfing speed to be pretty great. When tested with our 1Gbps connection, we were able to achieve connection speeds as high as 209.68 Mbps.
We did notice a tiny hint of lag when opening a new website on some devices, but it’s almost imperceptible after a little while of using the service. When it comes to loading embedded videos such as those on YouTube, there was no noticeable buffering or freezing issues. It all simply just works.
We spent considerable time browsing numerous major sites from around the world including the BBC News site, CNN, Amazon, Facebook, as well as streaming services such as Netflix.
Transfer speeds when downloading files didn’t feel sufficiently different from regular browsing, except for when we deliberately picked a distant location such as Australia which reported back with a very high ping. The speed was lower here, but not substantially, and was still perfectly manageable.
Streaming: Unblocks Netflix sometimes
Streaming services like Netflix work hard to detect when you’re using a VPN, and they block such connections whenever possible. In the case of Private Internet Access, we were able to connect to Netflix through some servers, opening up additional libraries and vastly increasing our streaming options.
We did find that Netflix was able to detect some of this VPNs servers, so it is a bit of trial and error to find one that works. We also weren’t able to stream any services other than Netflix. When attempting to stream Amazon Prime through US servers, and BBC iPlayer through UK servers, the VPN was detected in each case.
Private Internet Access is based in the United States, which sounds discouraging when it comes to potential legal ramifications. However, this no-log VPN has actually stood the test in court. When subpoenaed by the FBI, Private Internet Access was unable to turn over any log information because they simply didn’t have any.
PIA’s priority is enhancing your digital privacy and securing your online freedom. You don’t even need your email address to sign up or pay since the company accepts gift cards and cryptocurrencies. Upon signing up, PIA VPN connects you to a new IP address that you can choose from any of the 35,000 servers anywhere in the world. Internet service providers (ISPs) and network administrators won’t see your activities online.
This VPN operates open source customization and a no-usage-logs policy assuring users that there’s no record of their browsing history or bandwidth consumption. Its strict no-logs policy has been confirmed both by the court and PIA VPN’s semiannually published transparency reports.
In recent times, Private Internet Access has released transparency reports every six months, which detail how many court orders, subpoenas, and warrants have been issued to the firm. In the past year, none of these legal processes have led to any data being produced by the company.
Bear in mind though, Private Internet Access doesn’t have third-party audits of its system like some other VPNs, so you are reliant on trusting their word. Operating in the United States also opens the company up to potential demands to comply with law enforcement in the future.
Security Features: Plenty of options
Private Internet Access has a decent range of security features that mean it can be as complex or as simple as you need it to be.
Private Internet Access’s security features include:
- Default AES-128 encryption: Private Internet Access’s default options aren’t quite as high-end as the AES-256 encryption favored by other VPN apps, but it’s possible to adjust your encryption options to the superior military-grade level of protection. You can also choose alternative authentication and handshaking alternatives via the settings.
- VPN kill switch: If your VPN is disconnected for some reason, your connection to the internet is disabled until you choose to reconnect.
- IPv6 leak protection: This temporarily disables IPv6 to prevent unwanted identifying data from being accidentally transmitted to another source.
- DNS leak protection: Private Internet Access’s directs all DNS requests through a non-logging DNS service so there’s no comeback to your original location.
- MACE: Private Internet Access allows you to block domains used for ads, trackers, and malware. At its simplest, you avoid ads but it also means you can dodge tracking cookies and potentially nefarious malware threats.
Torrenting: Supported and includes a kill switch
Private Internet Access is a great option for regular users of Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file sharing software such as torrenting. It’s permissible on all of Private Internet Access’s servers with no limits in terms of speed or bandwidth.
For advanced users, Private Internet Access provides support for port forwarding which means you can redirect incoming connections to bypass a NAT firewall. In some cases, this can improve P2P download speeds. Even without that advanced tweak, speeds are generally highly respectable.
In the event of a sudden disconnect from the VPN, Private Internet Access also features a kill switch. This feature ensures that your real identity won’t leak out through your torrents.
The high levels of privacy and the fact that the company doesn’t keep any data logs make it an even more appealing option for avid torrenters.
Ad Blocking: Hit those ads with MACE
Ads can be a great source of annoyance when you’re surfing the internet, but they pose a more sinister threat when you’re trying to protect yourself with a VPN. In some cases, an ad network may be able to obtain information about your system, browser, or even connection.
Private Internet Access uses a DNS-based ad blocking system called MACE that cuts web advertising off at the knees. Requests never even go through, as they are routed back to the local machine. Ads don’t display, and your web browser never makes successful requests to ad tracking sites.
Customer Service: Email-based ticket system
Private Internet Access doesn’t offer a whole lot in the way of customer service support. The only option they provide you with is a ticket based system that you access through email. If you prefer to interact with a support agent in real time over the phone, or through web chat, those options aren’t present here.
Price: Good for long term subscribers
Private Internet Access isn’t the cheapest VPN out there, but it is very reasonably priced. Subscribe month by month, and expect to pay $6.95. However, that price drops dramatically to $3.33 per month if you commit to a two-year plan.
Private Internet Access offers one of the cheapest VPN services—number two on Forbes Advisor’s list of the Best Cheap VPN services. For $11.95 per month, you can use the VPN on ten devices, including smartphones, computers and routers. You’ll also save more on its three-year plan, paying only $2.03 per month.
Each PIA VPN payment plan has lightning-fast connection speeds and 24/7 customer support. You’ll also enjoy dedicated apps for all major operating systems and a free email breach monitor to alert you of security breaches. Private Internet Access VPN also provides add-ons such as Dedicated IP Address and Antivirus by PIA for a higher level of privacy and security.
A middling option of the equivalent of $5.99 per month for a yearly plan is also available. Given the features and options available, it’s fairly reasonable.
Bonuses you’ll get for choosing Private Internet Access include:
Dedicated IP Address
Private Internet Access users can use the VPN over an IP address peculiar to them, for an additional fee. The IP address, which also changes each time the user logs on, is suitable for those working from home or running small businesses. That’s because it prevents users from being blocked due to someone else’s actions. You can switch between shared and dedicated IPs.
Private Internet Access also allows users to route specific traffic through the VPN or directly through the internet, even with the VPN in use. You can thus access selected content through the VPN while still having the ability to use local network devices.
VPN Router/Corporate VPN
PIA VPN makes this feature available for small businesses looking to configure their entire office network. Using advanced split tunneling, you can also exclude one or more specific devices from your organization’s VPN connection. That way, you’re in control of the routing for all connected traffic. Users can use the VPN’s advanced split tunneling feature to configure different devices.
Does Private Internet Access Have A Kill Switch?
A kill switch, otherwise known as a “network lock feature” or “disconnect protection” means that any software or website will shut down automatically if you lose your connection to the VPN. Thus, it stops your internet access from switching to public networks, which would result in your internet service provider (ISP) seeing your entire browsing history.
For example, if you’re torrenting using a VPN and then your VPN suddenly disconnects mid-download, your ISP will see what you’re doing. That could get you in trouble. With a kill switch, your torrent session will stop as soon as your VPN disconnects. We’re pleased to say that Private Internet Access does provide a kill switch with its software.
Does PIA Offer Split Tunneling?
The Private Internet Access VPN can use split-tunneling on Windows, Mac, and Linux, as well as on Android under the name Per-App Settings. Split tunneling allows us to use the VPN’s encrypted tunnel while letting some traffic go through public, unencrypted networks.
How is that useful? Well, for instance, we like to listen to top local hits while doing research. We use PIA’s encrypted tunnel on our browsers to hide our online activities, while simultaneously, we connect Spotify to the unencrypted tunnel so it can detect the top hits where we are.
Split tunneling can also be useful for:
- Apps, such as some online games that block VPN IP addresses
- Online banking websites that block certain IP address regions
- Streaming services that don’t allow VPNs
What stands out about Private Internet Access’ split-tunneling feature is how customizable it is. The VPN offers standard and inverse split tunneling, for example. With standard split tunneling, all traffic passes through the VPN tunnel except those you allow to use the regular internet. Inverse split tunneling, on the other hand, uses networks outside the VPN by default, except for apps and websites you specify to use the VPN tunnel.
You can also use split tunneling to make exceptions for specific apps, website IP addresses, docker or virtual machines for Linux, and DNS requests.
Can I Use Netflix with Private Internet Access?
This isn’t actually privacy-related, but it’s no secret that a lot of folks use VPNs to unlock Netflix libraries outside their region of origin. That means if you’re in the U.S., you could possibly access Netflix U.K. Of course, Netflix doesn’t want that, and that’s why it has been working to block IP addresses from VPNs since 2017. Its blocking algorithm is becoming smarter too, making it progressively harder to find a VPN that works with Netflix (and other streaming platforms).
We tested PIA with Netflix, and fortunately, we were able to access Netflix. That doesn’t mean it will work every time, but for a VPN that doesn’t openly advertise Netflix unblocking capabilities, Private Internet Access works quite well.
Competition: Private Internet Access vs NordVPN
Frequently seen as the go-to VPN service, NordVPN is the one for Private Internet Access to beat. Both services are quite similar, but there are a few differences. Private Internet Access is cheaper when it comes to plans of under two years, while NordVPN has a three-year deal that costs a mere $2.99 per month.
Features wise, NordVPN has unique tools such as Double VPN, which effectively doubles your level of encryption, allowing your data to flow through two VPN servers rather than just one. This isn’t the kind of service that most people require, but it’s a neat bonus if your browsing is that private.
There’s also Onion over VPN which gives you the advantages of The Onion Router (Tor) combined with the security of a VPN tunnel. Again, if you need advanced tools, NordVPN is the one to beat.
One of the best options out there.
Private Internet Access is fast, highly secure, and has a very easy to use client. It takes seconds to set up and doesn’t require expert knowledge, while not skimping on advanced options.
Our Private Internet Access (PIA) review will help you decide if this popular VPN is the best option for your needs and budget. We’ll take a close look at PIA’s features, pricing, pros and cons so you can make an informed decision.
It might lack some important features offered by competitors like NordVPN, and the United States jurisdiction leaves a lot to be desired, but its high-performance level means it’ll still suit the majority of users. Its wide range of payment options is particularly appealing also.
- Product Name: Private Internet Access
- Price: $3.49
- Speed (Fastest Observed): 209.68Mbps (Tested on a 1Gbps connection)
- Operating Systems: Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS
- Devices: 10 devices at a time
- Server Locations: 32 Countries
- Number of Servers: 3,375
- Streaming: Netflix (some servers trigger a proxy warning)
- Torrenting: Yes, including a kill switch
- Encryption: AES-256 OpenVPN and IKEv2,
- Logging: No (regular transparency reports)
- Jurisdiction: United States
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is Private Internet Access safe?
Yes, Private Internet Access VPN is super safe. It does not stop at blocking unwanted intrusion into your online activities. Its strict 100% no-logs policy disallows even the company from storing user information, so you can be sure that you’re genuinely safe from prying eyes.
Where is Private Internet Access based?
Private Internet Access is based in the United States. However, it serves 84 countries with its still-growing 35,000 servers scattered worldwide.
Is Private Internet Access any good?
Yes, PIA VPN is suitable for anyone who wants the utmost privacy over the internet. You’ll access geo-restricted content and keep off unwanted content on up to ten devices running on Windows, macOS, Linux, Android and others at a reasonable price. PIA VPN uses the strongest encryption protocols to keep you protected.
Can I be tracked while using Private Internet Access?
Yes, but it depends on your activity and your awareness. A VPN, such as Private Internet Access, protects active data transfers while you’re online. If you’ve enabled cookies on websites you visit, advertisers can track your activity (but with a VPN they won’t be able to connect your activity to your IP). Malware is another risk, but a VPN can’t protect you from installing malware.
How do I connect to a VPN?
The process for connecting to a VPN varies, depending on your device and operating system. Generally, you need to download the VPN’s app or software, enter your username and password and select a server. For more detailed instructions, check out the VPN’s website or contact customer service.
What can I access with a VPN?
VPNs can allow you to access geo-restricted content in other countries. Many customers use them to access international content on streaming services that are not available in their home country. They can also be used to bypass any government restrictions you may have in your region.