Should you leave your VPN on all the time?

How long should you have your VPN running to make sure you're secure online? It's better to be safe than sorry...

vpn turned on
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You may already have gone through our list of the best VPNs and found one for you, but the question is how often do you need it? Should you keep your VPN on all the time? Since a VPN can use system resources and make performance less fast, perhaps always on isn't for you.

A VPN gives you a masked IP and bounces your signal through secure servers to keep you anonymous, safe and secure when online. It also lets you appear to be somewhere else making it ideal for geo-restricted content like US Netflix when away in the UK, say. But should you leave it on all the time?

The short answer, is yes. Leaving your VPN on all the time is the safest way to operate. Of course if speed takes precedence over safety, then you may feel otherwise. But with the incremental effect many decent VPNs have on performance we'd still recommend caution by using a VPN as often as possible.

When should I turn off my VPN?

You may have some instances where a VPN feels more like a hindrance than a help. As we mentioned, that's usually a speed related situation. Since a VPN bounces your signal through other servers, sometimes in far flung locations, it can mean a slight delay in delivery of data. 

So if you're gaming and don't want even the slightest bit of latency to get between you and a total pwn of the competition, then a VPN might not be ideal. Or perhaps you're uploading a really, really big file and want it done as soon as possible.

For things like streaming Netflix in 4K and HDR we'd say leave the VPN on as it really doesn't slow it down that much - especially if you opt for one of the best Netflix VPN.

When is it not safe to turn off my VPN?

Whenever you're potentially at risk, the VPN is invaluable. So if you're connecting to a public Wi-Fi connection like at a coffee shop, hotel or airport – this is an ideal time to be protected from potentially harmful intruders to the open network.

If you want to use P2P platforms to torrent files then you might want to remain anonymous. We don't condone illegal torrenting but if you're unsure about the content then it's best to play it safe. 

When abroad, if you still want to get access to your local shows, say if you're leaving the UK and want BBC iPlayer, then a VPN will keep you logged in despite geo-restrictions. 

If you're sending any sensitive information over the connection, like critical emails, and want to be sure you're secure, then leaving your VPN on is a great idea.

Which is the best VPN to leave on?

If you want to leave your VPN on all the time then you want a service that's consistent and fast – meaning you won't really notice the difference in performance with this on or off. That means security all the time without any compromises. 

In our extensive reviewing experience the one that always seems to come out on top is ExpressVPN which offers great speeds, top security and really helpful 24/7 customer live chat support. Not only that, but you'll also get 3 months free if you sign up for an annual plan using this link, and can quit within 30 days with its complete quibble-free money back guarantee.

Luke Edwards

Luke is a former freelance writer for T3 with over two decades of experience covering tech, science and health. Among many others Luke wrote about health tech, software and apps, VPNs, TV, audio, smart home, antivirus, broadband, smartphones, cars and plenty more. In his free time, Luke used to climb mountains, swim outside and contort his body into silly positions while breathing as calmly as possible.