As the most widely accessible operating system available on desktop, it’s unsurprising that - when it comes to pinning down the best VPN - perhaps the most sought after client is its Windows VPN. Whether for work or for leisure, many will be running Windows’ latest operating system on their laptop, from Dell to Lenovo or Chromebook.
Thankfully, as the default device, you’ll usually get the best experience of a VPN on its Windows client with all the bells and whistles - features, that is - running on this version. You may even say a VPN is made for Windows first - but the question is which has been made the very best?
First things first, what even is VPN? A piece of software you can install and configure onto your device, VPN stands for ‘virtual private network’, offering a middleman between you and your chosen network and instilling better security for those networks that prove less trustworthy and stable.
The VPN does this a number of ways, including encrypting your information so it is unreadable to any prying eyes, concealing your IP address and even swapping it to appear as if you’re in another region or country, as well as utilising a variety of protocols to better fit the kind of connection you need. With these tools, as well as upping security, a VPN can also boost connection speed, and allow you access to a more wide library of online content with the ability to bypass geo-restrictions.
Considering your Windows machine likely functions as a bit of an all-rounder when it comes to the kinds of tasks you ask of it, from working to online shopping, streaming and so on, you’ll want the best PC VPN to fit that bill. In terms of security and performance, unblocking content and a user-friendly interface, at the top of that list for Windows users is a feature-packed experience with plenty of options to control it right down to the bone, as well as ensuring in all areas it can do a competent job.
With that in mind, here are the best Windows VPNs to run on your machine.
1. ExpressVPN – the best Windows VPN today
In our testing, ExpressVPN simply blew the competition out the water, with its powerful in-depth features plus a super simple interface. If you want the best Windows VPN on the market, Express should be your choice – plus T3 readers can now claim three months free on any annual plan.View Deal
2. Surfshark - the most affordable Windows VPN out there
Get a fantastic performance with a selection of great features for a more affordable rate. Surfshark offers some of the best value for money with its offer of unlimited simultaneous connections across any and all devices, linking you up to 3,200+ servers across over 110 locations.View Deal
3. NordVPN – the biggest name is still one of the best
Our third pick is NordVPN, and it delivers a powerful PC VPN experience. With a seriously security-focused experience, it delivers great speeds on over 5,000 servers. Plus, you'll be able to stream whatever you want – all for just £3.71 a month.View Deal
The 5 best Windows VPNs in 2021:
It’s no surprise to anyone that ExpressVPN finds itself at the top of our best Windows VPN chart. With excellent clients across a variety of devices, it’s certainly at its best as a PC VPN with its clean, straight-forward interface, allowing you to easily join one of its 3,000 servers across 94 countries. Below your current location selection, it even offers shortcuts to the likes of Google Chrome and Windows Mail, allowing you to customize the screen and add your own to take you where you need to be next once you’re safely connected and ready to go.
Clicking around, you’ll find the ability to carry out a speed test within the Windows Client, meaning you can zero in on a server offering the best speeds. This is especially applicable if you plan to stream content or game, where you’ll want to avoid lag even more so than usual.
When hopping into Options, you’ll find a range of settings you can toggle between, including choosing between its array of protocols. From OpenVPN UDP/TCP to IKEv2 and L2TP/IPsec, you can even opt for ExpressVPN’s new Lightway protocol, which offers exceptional speed, alongside security and stability. Usefully, each protocol has a bit of an explainer beneath it, allowing you to find the best one for you and any given task, whether you need the very best from ExpressVPN’s security barriers, or you want speed above all else.
Able to unblock even the sometimes more difficult BBC iPlayer, ExpressVPN also gains you access to geo-restricted services like Netflix, Prime Video, and Disney Plus.
Complete with a 30-day money back guarantee, you can give this excellent VPN a try - all your money back if it’s not for you.
If you want a feature-packed VPN service without paying the higher than average prices of ExpressVPN, Surfshark might just tick all your boxes as one of the most affordable providers around. The misconceptions of a budget-friendly VPN might be that you get a less fully-fledged experience, however Surfshark more than rebukes that reputation. Not only does it allow you to have unlimited simultaneous connections, it’s also got a ton of features that make it a really nifty tool to have in your back pocket.
With over 3,200 servers across 110+ locations, Surfshark also boasts a wealth of features including CleanWeb, which allows you to block ads, trackers and malware. Whitelister is also a handy tool where you can add any apps or websites you want to use separately outside of your VPN connection - otherwise known as split-tunneling.
Other features on the Surfshark Windows VPN client include real-time alerts when you’re at risk, as well as the ability to search incognito within the app for any searches you don’t want documented in your Internet history. Within the app you’ll also be able to go into Settings and toggle on and off Dark mode, as well as turning off Auto-connect functionality and its dedicated Kill Switch. Under Advanced you’ll find its NoBorders feature for bypassing geo-restrictions, Speed Test, and more, gaining a lot of control over your Internet activity for your money.
NordVPN is an excellent VPN service and one of the most well known providers out there. With a reputation that precedes it, NordVPN is a dab hand at boosting security and stability in your Internet connection, as well as expertly giving you access to the likes of Netflix and BBC iPlayer when you’re abroad. With over 5,500 servers across 59 locations, you can appear to be just about anywhere around the world, no problem.
Security is at the forefront of NordVPN’s priorities, offering its very own protocol NordLynx, on top of obfuscated OpenVPN, LAN, and the ability to set a custom DNS. You’ll also find a dedicated Kill Switch with the ability to kill the Internet when VPN connection is lost, as well as curating a list of apps to kill when connection drops, too.
On top of split tunneling and auto-connect functionality, NordVPN offers a more unique approach to its interface, able to choose your server from its interactive map. Definitely an element that sets it apart from its competitors whose interfaces may appear fairly similar, its not without its drawback. Zooming in on areas like Europe of course pull up a number of servers you can connect to, with markers all clustered together. The map also isn’t labelled, so you’ll have to scrub up on your geography. That being said, there is the option of a more bog-standard list format on the right, allowing you to even search your desired location.
With so many excellent features and a fantastic overall performance, NordVPN has a reputation - and for good reason.
This is one of the best Windows VPN clients for high speed connections, so if you want speed on a budget then Hotspot Shield is a great option.
It's so quick to get started with Hotspot on Windows 10. There's a big, tempting on/off button that will have you connected to your chosen server in seconds. And you can pick an option that gets Hotspot running automatically if you connect your Windows 10 laptop to an unknown, public network. Nice.
A 45-day money-back guarantee lets you effectively try before you commit to the frankly affordable multi-year plan option. But we do wish there was a better support set up, especially if you're not really used to using VPNs.
CyberGhost VPN is backed by a huge number of servers spread across one of the largest number of locations for any VPN. A good start for any VPN for PC.
The result is a consistent, decent performance with great security from the Romanian-based company that offers speedy live chat support. Excellent for unblocking, it features software that will allow you to pick your service, say Netflix, and it will apply the best settings to get you up and running at speed. The software can seem complicated but that's thanks to a great selection of options that makes this ideal for seasoned VPN users.
The 45-day money-back guarantee is one of the longest so this is well worth a try before you commit to any of the decent deal options.
What’s the best free VPN for Windows 10?
If you’re in search of the best free VPN, there is certainly some choice out there. However, it’s worth noting your experience of a VPN when it comes to a free service will be limited in terms of getting the full potential from a VPN. Why not try out Surfshark, which is one of the best cheap VPNs on offer, runs like a dream on Windows 10, and comes with unlimited connections? An ideal choice if you’re on a budget.
If you simply don’t want to part with your cash on something you’re completely new to and unsure of, our top picks, including ExpressVPN and NordVPN both offer 30-day money back guarantee periods, allowing you to give their service a whirl and cancel if it’s really not for you.
Are free PC VPNs safe?
Free VPNs aren’t necessarily as safe as paid-for providers, simply because it costs money to put secure infrastructure in place to provide that layer of security to your sensitive information, something which a free VPN won’t have with no one paying for its service - in that sense, does a free VPN actually exist where you're getting a fully fledged VPN experience?
However, as briefly mentioned before, the capabilities of a free VPN as opposed to its full fat counterpart are far more limited. Many free VPN services implement caps on how much data you can use. The servers available to you may also be a fairly sparse list with not as many global locations covered and an effect on overall speed and performance.
With VPNs out there that come in at a budget friendly price, as well as many offering trial periods, it’s certainly worth more of your time and money to go for a paid-for service. However, if you simply want to test the waters to begin with, maybe a the best free VPN that comes at no cost at all is for you.
Does Windows 10 have a built-in VPN?
In a manner of speaking, Windows 10 does have a built-in VPN. It allows you to manually configure your VPN provider of choice rather than downloading the service’s own client. You’ll still need to sign up to the best Windows VPN to be able to benefit from this built-in functionality. However, it’s ideal if you’re the type who want a better understanding of the system itself and the specific server you’re joining, as well as type of encryption and protocol.
To set up go to Start > Settings > Network and Internet > VPN. Then click on ‘Add a VPN connection’ to set-up your chosen provider. To actually connect to one of the VPN’s many servers, you’ll also need to make a note and enter the URL address for servers, essentially creating a preset for every time you want to connect to your VPN.
The drawback is you’ll either have to configure numerous profiles to have any kind of choice, especially as servers don't always offer the most consistent performance every time. Alternatively, downloading a VPN client allows you to pull up all the servers available, as well as toggling any settings in one place.
How do I find my IP address on Windows 10?
Every time you connect to a VPN, it will conceal your IP address and outwardly alter it to appear differently. While you don’t need to know your IP address to do any of this, it may be handy to know where to find your IP address so you can ensure your VPN is doing its job correctly.
On a Windows 10 desktop, then, you can locate your IP address by clicking on Wi-Fi network at the bottom right of your taskbar. Click on the network you’re connected to, then Properties. Here scroll down to the list of Properties and look for IPv4 address for your IP address.
If you’re connected via Ethernet follow the same steps, but simply click on your Ethernet network.
Which VPN is best for PC?
When it comes down to the VPN that is the best for PC, we think ExpressVPN ticks all the boxes for the full Windows VPN experience. With a clean interface that looks great on Windows, as well as a number of other devices - allowing you to take your VPN anywhere - ExpressVPN has a great selection of features, all able to alter within the Windows 10 client.
It unlocks our favorite streaming services with ease and offers exceptional 24/7 support, as well as providing online tutorials specifically for its Windows 10 client. Still not happy? You can try ExpressVPN without being concerned for your bank account, covered by its 30-day money back guarantee policy.