Why Does My Internet Speed Slow Down When Using VPN?

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In recent years, large-scale technological advancement has been a major contributor to the rise of remote work. Consequently, the work-from-home culture has begun to garner mainstream attention. This has spurred the use of technological tools and resources, such as VPNs.

VPNs have consistently proven themselves invaluable in maintaining privacy and security when working remotely.

However, one of the pressing questions remote workers have when faced with slow connection speeds is whether VPNs can slow down their internet.

The answer is more nuanced than a simple yes or no. VPNs can cause speed drops, as their primary purpose is protecting your identity and confidential data rather than improving connection speed.

How to Speed Up Your Internet When Using a VPN

The benefits of using a premium VPN can not be overstated. Unlike free VPNs that impose severe limitations on users, subscription-based VPNs give you total freedom to customize your experience.

Still, if you’re wondering why your internet speed slows down when using a premium VPN, here are some methods you can try to fix it.

1. Test Your internet speed

Before concluding that your VPN is the cause of your low internet speed, you should conduct a speed test. Compare the internet speeds with and without the VPN. Some of the more accurate online internet speed tests you can use include FAST and Speedtest by Ookla.

To perform a speed test using any of these websites:

  1. Disable your VPN.

  2. Navigate to these speed test websites on your browser.

  3. Run an internet speed test and record the download and upload speed as well as the ping.

  4. Activate your VPN and connect to a VPN server.

  5. Repeat step three and compare the results with the previous test.
Run an internet speed test

If your internet speed is drastically reduced when using the VPN, you can proceed to try any of the other methods in this list. On the other hand, if the results are very similar or the VPN test is faster, then the problem is most likely from your internet service provider.

Your internet speed largely depends on your location. The average speed for North America and Europe is 20-35 Mbps, and the average speed worldwide is 5.5 Mbps. For remote work, your target download and upload speeds should be around 5 Mbps and 12 Mbps, respectively.

2. Choose a different VPN server

As stated earlier, VPNs function by routing your internet connection across multiple servers around the world. Consequently, the further the servers are from your location, the longer it takes to send data to your destination.

In addition, most premium VPNs allow you to select the location of your external server. If you choose a server that is geographically distant from your location, you risk a slow VPN connection. As such, changing the server location is one of the first things you can try to fix your slow internet connection.

Сhoose a server that is not overloaded

Even after changing your server to one closer to your physical location, you may still observe that your VPN is slow. In that case, the server in question likely suffers from overloading due to connections from multiple users.

To resolve these speed issues, you can switch to a less congested server regardless of its distance from your location. Aside from improving your internet speed, this method has the added benefit of letting you access geo-restricted content.

3. Change your VPN protocols

A VPN protocol is a system or instruction set that determines how your data is encrypted before it is sent to a VPN server. The protocol you use affects your data’s privacy and security level and, by extension, VPN speeds. Most VPN providers allow you to choose the protocol to encrypt your data.

One of the more popular protocols is OpenVPN. It is an industry-standard VPN protocol, offering one of the highest security levels of any protocol in 2022. In fact, most VPN providers use OpenVPN as their default protocol. Nevertheless, this protection comes at the cost of a slow VPN connection.

Newer protocols that promise excellent connection speeds with uncompromising security are now on the rise. Protocols like IKEv2/IPSec and Wireguard offer the best of both worlds. They are up to three times faster than OpenVPN while offering the same level of protection. Proprietary VPN protocols like NordVPN’s NordLynx and Lightway from ExpressVPN also make the same promises. And, from our testing, they deliver on those promises.

4. Enable Split Tunneling

Most VPN providers indiscriminately tunnel traffic from all apps and services on your device. If you’re running multiple apps that require an internet connection, your internet may become slow due to the increased bandwidth.

The easiest solution to this problem is to restrict the types and amount of apps that use the VPN. This is known as split tunneling. Most VPN providers allow you to choose the apps, websites, and connections that run through a virtual network, leaving the rest to use a direct internet connection.

This method reduces the load on your VPN connection and significantly improves encryption times. We recommend choosing apps and websites related to your remote work as they would benefit from the privacy and security of a VPN.

5. Close unnecessary background apps

Background apps are programs and services that run quietly and unobtrusively on your computer without a graphical user interface. Most background apps are vital for the smooth operation of your computer. However, they do not need to run at all times.

Like any other program on your PC, background apps consume battery power, processing power, and internet bandwidth. If you’re running several of these apps, your internet speed can slow down drastically. Hence, regularly closing unused background apps will improve your VPN’s operating speed.

6. Restart your router and other devices

Whenever you have a problem with your device and consult tech support, they often tell you to restart it. It sounds cliché, but it is a proven method of dealing with device problems.

A reboot helps to resolve any internal problems that could be plaguing your VPN connection. It resets your router, personal computer, and mobile devices to a previously working state.

7. Adjust your encryption level

Reliable VPN providers offer several encryptions that affect the security level of your data when browsing the internet. Stronger and more secure encryption requires more time to encrypt your data, making your work VPN slow at home.

If your work does not require maximum security or if you’re browsing trusted sites, you can reduce the encryption level to improve your VPN’s speed. You should note that changing your encryption level depends on your VPN provider, device, and operating system.

8. Use a wired connection

It may surprise you that using WiFi with a VPN makes your internet slow. This is because WiFi sends your data packets through radio signals, which are susceptible to interference. These disruptions can induce packet loss and negatively impact your connection speed.

Moreover, most WiFi routers allow multiple connections from different devices. The combined load of all these devices are also a possible reason your internet is slow.

Ethernet cables may be regarded as archaic, but they offer a faster and more reliable internet connection. If your device supports ethernet, you should consider using a wired connection.

9. Modify firewall/antivirus rules

Generally, you should never disable your firewall or antivirus as they are your last line of defense against potential malware. Yet, they both slow down your internet because they filter inbound and outgoing data.

VPNs also filter your internet data, but they offer limited protection against malicious software compared to antiviruses or firewalls. If you need to increase your VPN’s speed and you’re sure you’re downloading from a trusted site, you can temporarily disable your antivirus and firewall.

10. Double-check your internet connection

When using the internet, your service provider may automatically switch from a faster network type, so a slower one to maintain reliability. This switch can cause your VPN to perform slower. If your connection speed suddenly dips while browsing, you should check your internet connection.

In most cases, simply restarting the connection should get you up to speed. However, if the problem persists, you should contact your ISP to get it resolved.

11. Choose another VPN provider

If you have tried all the methods listed above and still ask, “why is my VPN so slow?” then it’s time to try another VPN provider. Some VPNs are fundamentally slower than others and may not be able to improve your connection speeds despite all efforts.

You can consult online speed tests to find the VPN with the fastest speeds for your location. Alternatively, a more hands-on approach would be registering for free VPN trials, which you can use to assess their features. Doing so would help you make informed decisions when choosing a new VPN client.