A hand walking on two fingers, one finger is chained to a ball with VPN on it

A VPN will slow down your internet connection. With a premium VPN (Virtual Private Network), that slowdown should be unnoticeable. But no matter whether it is paid or free, a VPN will slow down your connection because it needs some of that bandwidth for encryption purposes. And without encryption, a VPN is just a VN. So that’s the short version — read the article for a longer answer on why VPN will slow down your internet on your iPhone, laptop, or PC. 

Table of contents

    Does a VPN slow down the internet?

    A VPN does slow down internet speed because it adds extra steps to your connection by routing your traffic through a VPN server — and encrypting your data also needs some bandwidth. That said, if you choose a good VPN provider, the impact will be barely noticeable.

    Let’s say you have a 100Mbps download speed, and connecting to a VPN brings it down to 80Mbps:

    • Regular browsing: you wouldn’t even feel the difference
    • Streaming: you’re still going to do it comfortably; 
    • Downloading: you might notice a change, but not by a lot (the speed may even improve, but we’ll explain that later).

    That’s not always the case, though. If you connect to a VPN server nearby, you might see an even smaller change in your VPN speed.

    So, your internet speed and VPN server proximity matter a lot. Here’s a quick tip: try a wired connection and connect to your closest server.

    Why does a VPN slow down your internet?

    The most common reason is the basic function of the VPN itself. The overhead required by the encryption protocols, the distance to the server, server load — all play a role in slowing down the connection.  

    Let me explain all those reasons for speed drops in more detail:

    Encryption protocols

    To make your connection private, VPNs use encryption protocols. The encryption takes up a bit of bandwidth. The fancier the encryption protocol, the more bandwidth is needed. Premium VPNs like Surfshark use AES 256-bit encryption — the standard in the VPN industry. 

    Let’s imagine you’re flying somewhere. Your travel time would be cut down by a lot if airports didn’t have such strict security protocols. However, this would also put you at risk. So, a VPN service might slow down your internet connection, much like a TSA agent might make your journey longer. Still, in the end, it’s worth it. 

    VPN server location

    Distance is an important factor to consider when changing locations with a VPN. The further away your chosen VPN server is, the lower your VPN speed will be. That’s why Surfshark automatically connects you to the fastest server, which most often turns out to be the closest one as well (either in your country or the closest one geographically).

    Let’s stick with the travel metaphor (though this one’s pretty intuitive). Flying to a destination 2000 miles away will take less time than flying to a destination 5000 miles away. 

    VPN server capacity and load

    Another thing to consider is the server capacity. If you’re connecting to a popular VPN server (like New York or Los Angeles), the server load is higher, which slows down your connection.

    We’re still traveling here. You’ve reached your destination, great! Now all you need to do is to get to your hotel from the airport. You may know the exact way to go, but you’re suddenly stuck in traffic. So your drive to the hotel will take much longer than usual. Annoying, yes, but just one of the truths of traveling — traffic is inevitable.

    For those who like to tinker, we’ve got a support guide on how to troubleshoot slow speed problems.

    9 tips to avoid VPN internet slowdowns 

    A straining snail with two speech bubbles above. One says VPN, and the other one is red and with a Wi-Fi icon.

    There are some ways to avoid VPN slowing down your internet too much. Try them out for the best user experience. 

    1. Switch server location

    This one is the easiest way to do it. As VPN connection speeds are influenced by proximity, try connecting to a server closest to you or any other nearby server. 

    1. Avoid using a free VPN

    Free VPN providers have fewer servers than any paid service and are always overcrowded. In turn, their users often see a decrease in internet connection speed.

    This is because servers cost money to maintain, and a free VPN provider cannot afford that. If they can, they get cash from elsewhere, usually via invasive ads or collecting and selling your data.

    1. Try a different protocol

    Most VPN apps can operate on different encryption protocols, which use different approaches to encryption. For example, OpenVPN is very willing to sacrifice resources to increase security. You can switch to IKEv2 or WireGuard to increase speed without compromising security.

    1. Clean up your browser

    Sometimes it’s not the internet but the browser slowing you down. You can check if that’s the case in our browser clean-up guide: why is my browser so slow?

    1. Reboot your device

    Your PC/phone/tablet or other device you’re running a VPN on may have a software issue. Try restarting it.

    1. Restart your router

    The good ol’ “try turning it off and on again” still works wonders and probably will for a long time. Try doing that with your router.

    1. Ditch some software

    Some software may be using your bandwidth. If it isn’t crucial, see if switching a few programs off will help.

    1.  Update your hardware

    Smartphones, laptops, routers — none are immune to the passage of time. Meanwhile, websites and apps are becoming more and more resource-intensive. So maybe it’s time to upgrade your technical base — by which we mean that you should consider buying a more modern phone or laptop. 

    1. Get wired

    Wi-Fi is convenient. You can take your device wherever you want, and you’ll still get an online connection. However, a Wi-Fi connection has to share multiple channels, which makes it slower. In fact, your internet would be faster if you used a wire. So, if it’s an option, think about taking it.

    For a more in-depth look into these methods, we recommend reading the Surfshark guide on how to boost VPN speed.

    Can a VPN increase your internet speed?

    Yes, there are cases when a VPN can give your internet connection an extra kick and a speed boost.

    Internet Service Providers (ISPs) might stunt (i.e., throttle) your internet speed if you use too much bandwidth. This often happens when you download files or stream content online. As much as we don’t like to admit it, ISPs want to make money from us. So, someone using extra bandwidth will be something they want to stop.

    There is a solution, though. With a VPN, your activity becomes invisible to your ISP. Instead of knowing when you’re using more bandwidth than usual, they cannot see your traffic at all. In turn, they no longer know when to throttle you! And you may experience a VPN speed boost to your connection.

    Watch our video to learn more about the main factors that affect speed. You’ll also get a bonus — the speed test process and its results!

    So, how much does a VPN slow down internet speed?

    Running a test on how a VPN impacts your internet speed is as easy (or easier) as pie and takes less time. 

    1. First of all, you should find an internet speed test website. Everybody uses Ookla, and so can you. Run the first test without a VPN. This is your baseline speed, and it’s unlikely to get any faster;
    Internet speed test results without a VPN

    Speed test before the VPN connection

    1. Now, connect to a VPN server. If you have an app like Surfshark, let it automatically connect to the closest server. Unsurprisingly, this will likely be the nearest server to you geographically;
    2. Rerun the test. You should notice some loss of speed, though it should be barely noticeable;
    Internet speed test results with a VPN

    VPN Speed test after connecting to the closest server

    1. You can now run a few more experiments. Connect to VPN servers that are further and further away. You should notice a pattern where the remoteness of a server causes more speed drops.

    You can now test if your ISP (Internet Service Provider) is throttling your internet. 

    1. First off, try using Netflix’s Fast.com test without a VPN. Then switch the VPN on and see if there’s a difference; 
    2. Want to see if your ISP is blocking other services? Download the free Wehe speed test app, which can run a variety of tests. Wehe is a university-sponsored project. This app helps them with their research into net neutrality violations. 

    In conclusion: there’s more to VPN speed than just speed

    An internet speed drop when using a VPN shouldn’t be significant — in some cases, you may even experience a boost.

    If you want to speed up a VPN connection, you can switch servers or choose a different protocol. Naturally, a VPN with plenty of servers and protocols is the best for such experimentation. Might we recommend Surfshark?

    A premium VPN won’t slow you down
    Paid VPNs are made to have little impact on speed


    Why is my work VPN slow at home? 

    Your VPN might perform slower at home because the internet settings at work are most likely optimized to function with your work VPN. If it’s slow at home, feel free to change the settings or contact your IT department to find out the best settings. 

    If you’re looking at how to fix slow connection issues on Android or the slow connection issues on Windows are getting the best of you, don’t worry — we have a guide for each.

    Which VPN does not slow down your internet connection? 

    A VPN that doesn’t slow down your speed doesn’t exist. A speed drop is inevitable with a VPN. However, investing in a premium VPN like Surfshark will ensure the speed drop isn’t noticeable.

    Does a VPN slow down your internet on your iPhone?

    Yes, a VPN will slow down the internet speed on iPhones. Some more than others, depending on the device’s capabilities. If your device is running slower with a VPN than usual, check out how to fix slow connection issues on iOS.

    How do I speed up the internet connection when using VPN?

    The simple answer is:

    1. Change to WireGuard or switch between transmission protocols (TCP/UDP) when using OpenVPN;
    2. Restart your device and router;
    3. Use a wired connection instead of a wireless one.

    But there’s more you could try if you’re suffering from a slow VPN.

    What is a good VPN speed?

    A good VPN speed is subjective and depends on your specific requirements. It’s better to try out a VPN based on your preferred activities (e.g., streaming, gaming, or general browsing) to determine which VPN offers the best balance of speed and security for your needs. The speed depends on the following:

    • Connection speed;
    • Server locations;
    • Server capacity;
    • Encryption and protocols;
    • Internet service provider.

    Disclaimer: Please note that using Surfshark services for any illegal activities is strictly forbidden and violates our Terms of Service. Make sure that any use of Surfshark services for your particular activities conforms to all relevant laws and regulations, including those of any service providers and websites you access using Surfshark.