How to Boost Your VPN’s Efficiency
by Larry Alton

If you’ve started using a virtual private network (VPN), you might notice that your internet speed is slower than usual—or at least, slower than you’d like it to be. This is sometimes an unfortunate byproduct of a VPN’s most important features, but it doesn’t have to negatively impact your online experience. With the right strategies, you can easily speed up your VPN, and get the best possible performance while you handle your most important online tasks.

How a VPN Works

First, it’s helpful to understand how VPNs work, so you can understand the root causes of your potential slowdown or performance drops. Basically, a VPN serves as a private network that connects two areas or two users together, encrypting traffic and/or bouncing it to a private server so it can’t be tracked. Just as adding a third point to your running route increases the distance you travel, adding another link in the chain of your online traffic can make processes like uploading and downloading take longer, and could negatively affect your ping.

Note that this isn’t always the case. A VPN can hypothetically run without latency issues, matching the speed you’d naturally get from your ISP. It just takes some extra attention to your setup to get there.

Boosting Your VPN’s Efficiency

So what can you do to boost your VPN’s performance?

  • Make sure your VPN is the source of the problem. If you’re currently using a VPN and you’re dissatisfied with your connection speed or ping, run some tests to make sure your VPN is actually the problem. If your internet connection is shoddy or if you’re dealing with a lackluster ISP, even the best VPN setup in the world isn’t going to be able to help you. You might also want to look at your current firewall settings, and see if your firewall may be interfering with your VPN’s performance or with your overall online traffic. Your antivirus program may also be an issue. As a simple test, evaluate your connection speed with and without your VPN enabled; if there’s a significant difference between the two, it’s likely due to the VPN.
  • Choose the right VPN provider. Not all VPNs are created equal. Some were created with preservation of high speeds in mind, while others are more focused on security and privacy. Some have hundreds of servers all around the world, while others specialize in only one area. In general, you get what you pay for, so don’t be afraid to pay a bit more for quality service, and make sure you’re working with a provider whose area of specialty matches your goals. You may also want to experiment with multiple providers to get a firsthand perspective on how they perform.
  • Change the server you’re using. Most VPN services allow you to change which server you’re using. As a general rule, the closer the server is to your geographic location, the higher speeds you’re going to see. For example, if you’re in the Eastern United States, try changing to a server in Maine instead of bouncing all your traffic through Australia. You’ll notice a marked difference in your ping and other metrics.
  • Tweak your VPN settings. Most VPNs come with default settings that should work well for most practical purposes. However, if you’re experiencing a significant slowdown, you may want to tweak these settings. Be careful with configuration setups if you don’t know what you’re doing, but consider changing your designated traffic priorities in-app, or disabling the VPN when you’re using certain programs.
  • Switch to a wired connection. Connections tend to have much more latency when relying on Wi-Fi, so consider switching to a fully wired connection. It may be a bit less convenient, especially if you’re relying on a device that’s meant to be mobile, but you’ll almost certainly see higher speeds.
  • Restart everything, one by one. Restarting has the potential to fix an inordinate number of problems, with both hardware and software, that might be affecting your internet speeds. A boost in any single area could be enough to help you reach your internet speed targets, and it might help you narrow down the true root cause of the slowdown (if there’s still any doubt). Reboot every component of your setup, including your router, your VPN client, and your computer overall. During this process, see if there are any pending updates for these components, and install them if necessary.

With these strategies, you should be able to get your VPN running up to par with your normal internet speeds. You might need to run some experiments, or switch your VPN provider or ISP, but the extra effort will result in you maintaining a secure, private, and fast connection for your most important online activities.