It’s estimated that over 1.3 billion computers are running Windows. If your computer is one of them and you’re reading this article, you likely understand exactly how vulnerable you are online, and you’d like to bolster your security posture. Good for you — you’re taking a major step in the right direction.
But before you take the plunge, know that not all VPNs are created equal. For every great service out there, there are a dozen that are barely functional. They make claims they can’t confirm, their networks are small and outdated, or their protections are as secure as Swiss cheese.
It can be pretty difficult, and even frustrating, to wade through the bunk to find the best. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of the best VPNs for Windows/PC users.
We’ll be frank: There’s not much to dislike about ExpressVPN. They’re extremely reliable, completely secure, and their privacy protections are among the best we’ve ever seen. They’re easily our favorite VPN for PC users.
With exceptional security, speed, and simplicity — ExpressVPN fires on all cylinders. After testing the product for several days, we can confidently say it’s our top choice for the best VPN for Windows users.
For starters, ExpressVPN is one of the only providers in the industry to offer their own private DNS network, and their servers are all RAM-only. If that alphabet soup doesn’t mean much to you, the main takeaway is that Express is pretty much the gold standard of cybersecurity in the VPN industry today. To learn more about what all that means, check out our ExpressVPN review.
Not only is Express’ security posture second to none, they also boast the best user experience in the game. It’s push-a-button-and-you’re-protected easy. It doesn’t get simpler than that in our experience.
We will say, though, the one negative aspect of ExpressVPN is its price. It’s one of the pricier VPNs on the market today — but more on that in our guide to ExpressVPN’s costs. But from what we’ve seen, it’s well worth the cost.
NordVPN packs a powerful one-two punch. Not only are they one of the most well-designed VPNs in the industry, they’re also one of the most powerful in terms of digital privacy.
When we’re talking about NordVPN, speed and security are the two things that come to mind.
In our tests, we found that they actually increased our performance, which you can read more about in our NordVPN review. We were also impressed by their elevated security posture. They’re one of the few VPNs on the market that comes Tor-ready out of the box, meaning you can browse the internet in almost perfect anonymity.
And these security features aren’t too difficult to work with. Nord is extremely well-designed. Their user interface is sleek and intuitive, and everything is exactly where you’d expect it to be.
The one thing we aren’t wild about is the price. Similar to ExpressVPN, Nord is a little on the pricey side. However, as you’ll see in our guide to NordVPN pricing, if you sign up for a longer-term subscription package, you’ll end up with some pretty significant savings. Honestly though, even if Nord was double the price, we’d still consider using it.
Another excellent case of an almost perfect marriage of design and utility, ProtonVPN is one of the most privacy-forward VPNs on the market today.
There’s a lot to like about ProtonVPN. While you can read about every detail in our ProtonVPN analysis, we’ll hit the high notes for you here.
For starters, the security is second to one. Their Secure Core functionality — which runs all of your traffic through servers in privacy-friendly countries — makes it almost impossible for government agencies or ISPs to track. And Proton’s Perfect Forward Secrecy guarantee ensures that their encryption keys will never be compromised. These two items alone make ProtonVPN well worth it in our opinion.
But that’s not all they bring to the table. Similar to Nord, their map-based UI feels sophisticated and highly functional. It makes you feel a bit like an international spy when you’re using it. We love a great user experience, and ProtonVPN offers that and then some.
That said, one aspect where ProtonVPN misses the mark is in the customizability category. For example, you can’t switch between protocols. Not a huge deal for most folks, but if you want a VPN that you can pop the hood and tinker around on, there may be better choices out there.
We’d answer that question by posing another: Do you need a lock on your front door?
No, you certainly don’t need a VPN for your Windows computer to function properly, but if you’re not taking the proper precautions, you’re going to be extremely vulnerable online.
FYI: VPN use has exploded over the past few years. It’s currently estimated that 31 percent of internet users worldwide connect using a virtual private network.
Hackers, identity thieves, snooping ISPs, and nosy government agencies all want to get their hands on your data, and the best way to thwart their efforts is by running a reputable VPN. By masking your location and encrypting your traffic, a solid VPN will dramatically increase your security posture. If you value privacy online, we absolutely recommend VPN use.
If you’d asked this question five or six years ago, we might have said yes. However, these days, many VPN providers pride themselves on their user-friendliness. Take our top pick for Windows users, for example. ExpressVPN’s functionality is literally “press a button and you’re protected.”
And this is something we’re seeing across the board. VPNs are becoming extremely accessible and easy to use for average consumers. If you’re worried that you’ll need a Ph.D. in computer science to figure this out, rest easy. There’s no reason to be intimidated.
As with most things, you’re going to get what you pay for. VPNs with the most extensive lists of features and highest standards of security are going to cost a little more.
Pro Tip: There’s always a bargain to be found when it comes to shopping for a VPN. To make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck, check out our guide to VPN sales and deals.
The good news, though, is that even the most expensive VPNs on the market are relatively affordable, particularly if you take advantage of the deals offered by long-term subscription plans. If you sign up for a year or more with a top-tier VPN, you’re still only going to be paying pennies a day for your protections. For more information on that, check out our VPN pricing guide.
Simply put, if you’re not using a VPN on your PC, you’re at risk. We’re not saying that to frighten you — it’s just a matter of fact.
In this day and age, where the vast majority of our lives take place in digital spaces, we need to prioritize our security and privacy. Are VPNs a silver bullet? No, of course not. But they will elevate your security posture significantly, and protect you from prying eyes and sticky fingers.
If you’re not convinced the three services we’ve mentioned above are right for you, a great place to continue your search is our list of the top 10 VPNs for 2021. There are plenty of services there to meet every need and every budget.
One of the most frustrating things about using a VPN is that they can slow you down significantly. But if you choose a service with a large network, like ExpressVPN or NordVPN, these decreases are hardly discernible.
If you’re using a VPN to keep you protected while torrenting, or if you’re trying to unlock geo-restricted media content, you’re going to want to find a provider with streaming and P2P file-sharing optimizations.
If you want to ensure your security online, seek out a VPN with a zero-log policy. Make sure that policy is confirmed by third-party auditors, too. There are VPN services that claim to not log your activity, but when push comes to shove, they hand over data to authorities.
Make sure your VPN is headquartered in a privacy-friendly jurisdiction. Certain countries are beholden to specific data-sharing agreements with international law enforcement agencies. If your VPN is located in one of them, you’re likely paying for an illusion of privacy.
You’re most vulnerable to cyber attacks when you’re out and about, connecting to unfamiliar, unsecured wireless networks. For complete protection, make sure you’ve selected a VPN with a strong mobile client.
If your VPN service is ever interrupted, you want your provider to kill your internet connection as well to ensure your data’s security isn’t compromised. We consider a kill switch to be critical functionality for any VPN.