There’s actually quite a lot to consider when looking for the best VPN for downloading. It’s not as simple as finding the ‘fastest’ VPN tunnel for blazing fast downloads, though the upload and download bandwidth of your tunnel’s connection is certainly an important factor. Other crucial factors include the number of simultaneous connections permitted per account, quantity and location of servers, and tunnel options (e.g. PPTP, OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, etc.).
You also need to consider where your files are hosted geographically. Sometimes, you’ll find that your current location blocks downloadable content for a variety of reasons, such as licensing, regulatory issues, cultural differences, and political motives. The good news is that a VPN tunnel will not only unlock restricted content for download, but it will even hide your traffic – making it impossible for governmental organizations and hackers to see.
There is one massive caveat, however. When using any VPN service, your download requests will be in an unencrypted format as it reaches the VPN server and is then forwarded on the destination server. That’s why it’s absolutely critical to make sure you terminate your VPN connection as close as possible to where the content is physically hosted.
Though you don’t always know where a file may be stored, you can make an educated guess. All you have to do is resolve the DNS name of the download link. In windows, all you have to do is issue a ping command from the command prompt, and the resolved IP address will be displayed. Then, you can use the IP locater tool to see where that IP address is physically leased. It would be a good idea to connect to a VPN server as close to that location as possible (at the very least, within the same country) because it will minimize the amount of time that your download data is unencrypted.
Also, make sure that you always connect to a foreign server if you’re downloading sensitive content that you don’t want your nation’s government to have access to. I need to clearly state that I’m not advocating illicit online activities, but you do have a right to privacy. As long as your VPN server is in a foreign country, after the tunnel has been established, your data won’t cross international borders in an unencrypted format.
Nevertheless, you can rest assured that your identity remains anonymous – even if someone snoops through it while it’s unencrypted. VPN servers mask your true public IP address, so as long as your provider doesn’t keep any logs, it won’t be possible to trace the download request back to your computer.
Concerning Bit Torrent
I would also like to strongly advise anyone who downloads content via Bit Torrent to zealously and religiously use a VPN tunnel every time you are downloading files. Bit Torrent is rife with massive security threats, and you hardly ever know which strangers are in your P2P cloud. It’s actually pretty scary to think that hundreds of strangers can see your real IP address when you’re downloading a file on Bit Torrent.
It is very easy for them to target your IP address to launch an attack, but there are other security reasons to hide your IP address. Copyright infrigement and enforcement law is utterly complicated, to put it lightly. What’s permitted in one country may be illegal in another, and you could merit some unwanted attention if an enforcement agency started recording IP addresses from seeders and leachers.
And even though there are many providers (especially those based in the US) who block P2P and Bit Torrent traffic on their servers, there are many who will allow Bit Torrent downloads.
Download Speed and Security Tradeoffs
I’d also like to warn you about slower download speeds. With VPN tunnels, there is a certain amount of overhead due to the encryption process, as well as increased latency since data first needs to travel through the VPN server instead of taking the most direct route through the Internet. Even if you’re using one of the fastest VPN providers, you’ll likely notice slower speeds.
It’s just a necessary evil and an inherent tradeoff between speed and security. But note that how much the overhead affects the speed of your download isn’t always caused by your VPN provider. There are a myriad of factors at play including the speed of your hardware (memory, CPU, etc.), which VPN server you connected to, the bandwidth of the server hosting your file, and which VPN protocol you select.
As a side note, remember that you can use PPTP for data that is inconsequential. PPTP is one of the most lightweight VPN protocols that is readily available, and it may help you download files faster than OpenVPN or L2TP/IPSec. Just remember that PPTP can be cracked with inexpensive software, so you’re better off not using it for any personal or sensitive data. With that said, let’s take a closer look at the best VPNs for downloading.
PureVPN is our first pick as the best VPN for downloading, because it includes some advanced download features that most other providers lack. First of all, the software client includes a per-application tunnel routing feature, which will help you decide which downloads and other traffic you want to exclude from the VPN tunnel. Furthermore, it has an automatic VPN kill-switch built right into the software, so you won’t need to spend time manually setting up your own.
They’re also a great fit for family members or people who simply have a lot of devices to secure. Right now they permit up to 5 simultaneous connections per account, though it’s more common for the average service to only permit 2 or 3. PureVPN also has one of the most expansive networks of VPN servers in the industry, and currently have servers located in 140 countries scattered around the planet. Also, note that PureVPN does allow Bit Torrent traffic on some of their service, but adhere to copyright infringement policies in select countries where there’s and issue with P2P downloads. Last but not least, it’s worth mentioning that PureVPN is based out of Hong Kong, so you won’t need to worry about coercion from the US government.
CyberGhost VPN is a great alternative to PureVPN, though they don’t have servers in nearly as many countries. To date they have over 650 servers in 26 countries. Furthermore, they’re not based in the United States. They’re based out of Romania, which has more favorable data collection and retention laws than the US. Like PureVPN, CyberGhost will also permit up to 5 simultaneous connections per account, and they too allow P2P traffic on their servers.
ExpressVPN is another clear leader in the VPN industry. They claim to have the ‘fastest VPN tunnel’ out of all the providers, though many others make that claim as well. Still, they do have above average server speeds, a 99.99% uptime guarantee, and offer plenty of connection options such as OpenVPN, PPTP, and L2TP/IPSec. Right now they have servers in 87 countries, which is more than most people would ever need.
And though they don’t offer 5 simultaneous connections, they do allow up to 3 per account, which should accommodate most users’ needs. However, in lieu of a free trial, ExpressVPN has a lengthy 30-day money back guarantee, which gives you an entire month to test out their service. I do wish their service was a little cheaper, but you can get it for as little as $8.32 per month, which is still subjectively reasonable.
Private Internet Access VPN
PIA VPN takes a different approach to building their network than any other provider I’ve seen. Instead of spreading themselves thin, they concentrate servers in a few select countries (which is the complete opposite of PureVPN). Right now they operate approximately 3,100 servers in 26 countries, and they host servers in all the most popular locations such as the US, UK, Europe, Hong Kong, South America, and other select areas.
Not only do they permit up to 5 simultaneous connections per account, but they’re one of the least expensive VPN options available. You can get their service for as little as $3.33 per month with an annual subscription, though the software is lacking a little. The client is extremely basic, but it’s simple to use from the icon tray in Windows. They don’t have a free trial or free version, either, but they do have a 7-day money back guarantee.
VyprVPN is our last pick for users who are focused on downloading, and they are based out of Switzerland. They offer a moderate amount of global coverage with over 700 servers in 50 countries. Oddly enough, however, they don’t follow the typical VPN pricing model. Instead of simply discounting subscriptions the longer they are, VyprVPN packages their service into different subscription tiers.
Nevertheless, you can get the Pro version of their service for only $6.25 per month. And they too have per-application tunnel routing and VPN kill-switch features. Furthermore, their parent company, Golden Frog, packages some ancillary services with their VPN tunnel solution. For instance, some packages come with Dump Truck cloud storage to help prevent your local drive from filling up.
Though VPN tunnels can slow down your downloads, the decrease in performance is nominal if you opt for a quality provider. I’d highly recommend using a service with a kill-switch. But if you’ve already got a VPN provider, you can simply create own in a matter of minutes using Comodo Firewall. If you’re on a budget or just want to find the cheapest provider, I’d recommend looking into PIA VPN. Lastly, remember that you can try these services risk free by either taking advantage of a free trial or the money back guarantee.