When a VPN (Virtual Private Network) works properly, it hides your online traces. It creates a virtual tunnel between your device and the online destination you want to reach. Your data stream is then encrypted, which means your Internet Service Provider (ISP) – or anyone else – can’t read what you’re doing. But how do you know your VPN is actually doing that? With a VPN test, of course!

A reliable VPN service will hide your IP address as well as prevent Domain Name System (DNS) leaks and WebRTC leaks. So if any such thing can be seen online, your VPN may not be working properly.

Table of contents

    4 ways to check if your VPN is working properly 

    Checking whether your Surfshark VPN works is a piece of cake. When your VPN is on, there are several methods you can use to test if it’s working. The simplest one is to check the icons on your dock, toolbar, menu bar, etc.: 

    • If the icon is gray, your VPN is off;
    • If it’s green or blue, it’s on. 

    You can also check your VPN’s status by going to Settings > VPN on any device. However, if you need more proof that your VPN is working, follow any of the methods below: 

    • Check for DNS leaks;
    • Check for IP address leaks; 
    • Check for WebRTC leaks;
    • Check if you can bypass censorship.

    All tests provide equally accurate information about your VPN. You can perform just one test or all of them (for the “just in case” people).

    1. Check for DNS leaks

    The Domain Name System (DNS) is like a translator. It’s in charge of translating a request for a website, www.yourwebsite.com, into a specific IP (Internet Protocol) number, 207.142.131.234. Humans aren’t great at remembering the latter, and computers can’t read the former. But with these DNS requests, we can navigate the internet easily. All we need to do is remember a website’s name. 

    Without a VPN, these requests don’t go through a secure VPN tunnel. Potentially, this may leak your address and the sender’s address to the websites you access. Your ISP will be able to get all this information as well. 

    Here’s how to check for DNS leaks:

    Step 1: Turn off the VPN and perform a DNS leak test

    DNS requests shown as not protected:

    Step 2: Turn on the VPN and perform the test again. 

    DNS requests shown as protected:

    You can repeat this test by connecting to different VPN servers. If one server on the VPN’s network is secure, this doesn’t automatically guarantee that others are safe as well. Double-checking is the way to go. Even on a server that you don’t use, a single leak may indicate trouble down the road.

    1. Check for IP address leaks

    Your IP address is like your home address but online. It’s a lot more personally identifiable than a DNS address. A VPN masks your outgoing information source and the data that’s transferred along from website to website. That’s why it’s recommended to hide your IP with a VPN

    Your real IP versus the IP your VPN provider gives you should always be different. If not, your IP is leaking. You can run this test on any device that has a VPN installed. 

    Here’s how:

    Step 1: Check your real IP address (with VPN off).

    Step 2: Turn on your VPN and choose any country server.

    Step 3: Check your IP address again by refreshing the page (with VPN on).

    Step 4: That’s it. You’re protected. As you can see, the IP address is different, indicating that the VPN is working correctly. 

    Note: Remember to check that the country server you connect to matches the country displayed in the IP address checker. If not, your IP may be leaking

    1. Check for WebRTC leaks

    Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) is a technology that lets web browsers directly communicate with one another. By using JavaScript, the WebRTC enables mobile and web browsers to run smoothly without external plugins. 

    These capabilities decrease the lag for specific applications when transferring files, using communication services like Skype, etc.

    Many browsers use this technology by default. That’s why the devices using WebRTC need to see each other’s IP addresses to communicate. This might permit third-party websites to use WebRTC to find a device’s IP address. 

    Once someone detects an IP, they can identify the user of a device. This may all sound confusing, but checking for these leaks isn’t

    Just follow these steps: 

    Step 1: Perform a WebRTC leak test with the VPN off. 

    Step 2: Perform the test again with the VPN on.

    As you can see, this test indicates any potential WebRTC leaks in red. It also shows that the IP address is different with and without a VPN, meaning it’s working well

    1. Check if you can bypass censorship

    If your reason for buying a VPN was to get around government censorship or the network firewalls put up by your workplace or school, then you can check whether the VPN is working by accessing that content.

    So if you connect to a VPN server and enter a previously unreachable website or service, the VPN is working!

    Surfshark does not encourage using a VPN in any way that would potentially violate the Terms of Service of other service providers.

    How to do a VPN speed test

    If your VPN is functioning, you may feel the desire to carry out a VPN speed test. That way, you can see which VPN servers will give you what speed. Plus, it’s so, so easy to do, oh my God, if you’ve ever done a speed test before, you already know most of the steps. 

    1. Connect to the desired server on your VPN app; 
    2. Open a speed test website:
    • speedtest.net is the speed testing website used by basically everyone;
    • fast.com is an internet speed test site run by Netflix.
    1. Launch the test and wait for the results. 

    Surfshark VPN users may also use Surfshark’s own inbuilt speed test. For more information, refer to our excellent article on VPN speed tests

    How to do a VPN malware test

    You should do a VPN malware test BEFORE you install it. This is especially important if you’re going for a free VPN – they are likely to contain malware. 

    Fortunately, the check is very simple. 

    Step 1: Go to VirusTotal.

    Step 2: Click Choose file and choose the install file for the VPN

    Step 3: Check the test results once it’s done 

    See? That was simplicity itself. Just make sure not to use a VPN that rings any of the alarm bells on the site. 

    What to do if your VPN isn’t working

    Sometimes you may run into situations where your VPN is not working. Often, it isn’t anything serious, but it’s best to check the source of the problem as soon as possible. 

    Here are some VPN troubleshooting tips you can try to:

    Other reasons your VPN is still not working

    So, you’ve tried everything I recommended above, but you still keep getting the “VPN not connecting” problem. A few things might trigger this, but I won’t go into the details in this article. 

    These handy articles will help you research the problem further. They give a more in-depth take on this topic and explain that:

    In conclusion: don’t let a faulty VPN put your data at risk  

    Checking if your VPN works is simple. Choose from any VPN tests mentioned to identify DNS, IP, or WebRTC leaks, or see if you can reach previously unreachable services. If these tests don’t work with your VPN on, something may be wrong.   

    Using a VPN provider like Surfshark guarantees a stable connection. It also helps you avoid data breaches and keeps you far from sneaky ISPs and hackers. I recommend that anybody who uses an electronic device stays protected and safe in the cyber world with a VPN.

    Not convinced yet? Then read an independent Surfshark VPN review.

    A reliable VPN is a safe VPN

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    FAQ

    What’s my VPN test plan?

    A regular plan to test whether a VPN works is to run checks for IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks.

    What are advanced VPN tests?

    Advanced VPN tests check data packages to see how the VPNs handle them. These tests are time-intensive and require some technical skill on the user’s behalf. 

    How to check if my VPN is working on Android?

    Checking VPN on Android isn’t much harder than on a PC. Just run the tests mentioned in this article – since they’re dependent on websites, they don’t even cause device compatibility issues. 

    How do I check if my VPN is working on iPhone?

    Phone VPN tests are easy – just do the same steps outlined up above as they work no matter the platform.