Does A VPN Affect Internet Speed? (The Reasons and How To Reduce Impact)

VPNs are a great way of making sure that you are protected online. But you don’t want anything that will negatively affect your internet speed. So, how big of an impact does using a VPN have on your speed? 

A VPN will often lower your internet speed. This is because the data needs to go to a remote server and be encrypted. How your speed will be affected can vary. But in most cases, it will only be lowered by a small amount, around five percent. 

How much your internet speed will be affected will depend on a range of factors like the type of VPN you are using and how strong your connection is. Keep reading to learn some of the ways you can minimize the impact it will have. 

does a vpn affect internet speed

Why Does a VPN Affect Internet Speed?

To understand why using a VPN can affect internet speed, we need to look at how they work. A VPN creates a secure connection between your computer and the private server. This allows you to browse through their internet, without giving your own IP address. The information will be encrypted, making it even harder for people to see what you are doing online. 

However, this can also cause a few problems. The process of creating a connection to the server and the encryption process can slow down your internet speeds. It also means that a VPN will use more internet data. 

There are a few things that can affect how much your VPN will impact your internet speed. These are: 

  • Strength of your connection. If you have a relatively strong, stable connection you should be able to mitigate a lot of these impacts. But if your signal is already weak, the effects of using a VPN will become more pronounced. 
  • Distance between the sever. When you use a VPN, you’ll be able to decide what server you want to connect to. The further away the server is from your home, the slower your speed will be. 
  • The number of servers or VPNs you are using. Sometimes, people will use multiple VPNs or go through two servers. This increases the security of your movements online. However, it can also slow down your speeds, as there will be more layers of encryption to filter through. 
  • How many people are using the server. Sometimes, you will be on a very popular server. The more users that on the server, the more requests it will need to process. This is a common problem amongst free VPNs, as they only have a limited number of servers to choose from. 
  • Level of encryption. The more encrypted you want your data to be, the slower the internet will become. 

Can a VPN Speed up Your Internet? 

It should be noted that, in some circumstances, a VPN might be able to help you increase your internet speed. This is because the Internet Service Provider (ISP) can sometimes put restrictions in place. This is designed to help them manage the demand for their services. 

There are a few signs that this is happening. Though one of the most common will be buffering. It’s most common to see these restrictions applying to streaming services like Netflix. Though you might also experience it when you are playing a video game. In this case, it will manifest as lag. 

These restrictions are why you might start to see the quality of streams start to dip at night, despite working perfectly during the day. When you use a VPN, you will be able to get around these restrictions. Because of this, you might find that you are increasing your internet speeds during these times. 

How to Reduce the Impact on Your Internet Speed

There are a few ways that you can reduce the impact that the VPN is having on your internet speeds. Some options that you can explore include:

  • Using less busy servers. Most paid VPN services will do this for you. You’ll just need to select the default and they will take you to the server that will give you the best speeds. 
  • Avoid free services. While it can be tempting to save a few dollars, these will have the biggest impact on your speeds. There are only a limited number of servers, with everyone using them. 
  • Vary encryption levels. Most VPNs will let you do this in the settings section. 
  • Change where the Wi-Fi router is. It can sometimes help to change the position of the Wi-Fi router. Ideally, it should be in the middle of the house. This will ensure you get a good signal in every room. If you have a large house you might need to use Wi-Fi boosters, to increase signal strength. 
  • Clear your browsing cache. As you are browsing you will gather more cookies and internet history. Deleting your browsing cache gets rid of this clutter. 
  • Use an ethernet cable. Rather than going through the Wi-Fi, this will allow you to connect directly to the router. 
  • Change ISP. If you are still struggling with internet speeds, you might have to change ISP. When you are doing this, look at the internet speeds they will be able to offer you. 

Testing How Much Speed You Lost

The good news is that most VPNs will only have a negligible impact on the speed of your internet connection. In most cases, they will lower your internet speeds by less than five percent. 

There is an easy way to find out how significant the impact of the VPN will be. You can do two internet speed tests. Do one without activating the VPN and the other with the VPN. Then you can compare the differences between these results. 

You’ll need around 25 Mbps for downloads. This should be enough to stream videos without too much difficulty. You’ll need a minimum of 3 Mbps for uploads. However, these requirements can change a little, depending on the type of activities you perform. For example, if you are a gamer, you’ll need a faster internet speed. 

How Does a VPN Affect the Internet on Your Phone? 

In most modern phones, using a VPN on the phone will have the same impact as using it on the computer. It will get a slightly lower internet speed, but it shouldn’t be anything too dramatic. If it is starting to become a problem, you can adjust the settings.  

The bigger issue will often be the way that it affects the battery on your phone. You can expect it to drain 15 percent faster. While this can seem like a big number, it isn’t set in stone. Multiple factors will affect how the VPN affects your battery. These factors can include: 

  • Strength of the signal. This is one of the most important elements to bear in mind. The stronger and more stable the signal is, the less the VPN will drain your battery. 
  • How much encryption you are using. The more encrypted the signal is the more battery you’ll be using.
  • How long the VPN is used. If you are concerned about a VPN ruining your battery, you should turn it off when you aren’t using it, rather than leaving it running in the background. 

If you are using a tablet, there might be a small difference in battery life, but it’s unlikely that you will notice it. 

Final Thoughts

A VPN can have an impact on your internet speed. However, it often won’t be as dramatic as you may have thought. Usually, you will only lose around five percent of your internet speed. With a few simple steps, you should be able to reduce this impact even further. Plus, if your ISP has been throttling your speeds, you might find that using a VPN can actually increase your internet speed, eliminating lag and buffering issues.