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6 tips for speeding up your VPN connection

Work through these tips until you eventually find the change that will deliver acceptable performance.

woman using vpn service
Image: Unsplash

A virtual private network (VPN) has merits and demerits. A VPN is a trade-off between the compelling advantages such as robust security and access to location-restricted content on the one hand and diminished Internet speeds on the other. Slow speed can be frustrating especially if you were already accustomed to the breathtaking response times that come with navigating the public Internet unrestricted. 

Slow speed has real-world consequences. If you need to upload a large time-sensitive file, for instance, every extra minute it takes could be detrimental to your eventual objective. You know that your VPN is unacceptably slow if you constantly experience buffering when streaming music or videos, excruciatingly slow download speeds and unstable connections to websites. Fortunately, all is not lost. There are things you can do to increase the speed of your VPN connection.

Reboot

The classic solution to every IT problem applies to VPN services as well. Before you take more drastic measures to tackle a temporary problem, close all applications and reboot your device and router.

Rebooting resets system glitches such as application conflicts and background processes preventing the realization of a good VPN connection. It gives your device the opportunity to execute a fresh batch of instructions.

Service Provider Tools

A reputation for high-speed connection is something every VPN service provider aspires to. That’s why many providers offer a range of tools for their customers to not only keep tabs on the connection speeds but also receive pointers on where the bottlenecks could be. Make the most of these tools before you explore other solutions.

Try Different Server Locations

The bigger the geographical distance between your device and a server, the longer it will take to establish a connection and respond to your requests. When you sign up for a VPN service, always select the server that’s closest to you. If you are in Chicago, there’s no reason to use a VPN server in Tokyo. 

It may seem like a minor concern but distance makes a substantial difference in the quality of your connection. Many popular services automatically choose the nearest server though you are free to change the settings. Unless you are trying to spoof your location (e.g. trying to access Wikipedia while in China), stick to the closest server.

Check Your Network Connection

If you change your server location but don’t see any improvement in your VPN, the problem could very well be your Wi-Fi connection or your allotted bandwidth. Whereas your VPN is encrypted to shield it from external infiltration, the VPN traffic still has to use the network infrastructure where you are. 

If your Wi-Fi signal is weak or the bandwidth is severely restricted by the Internet Service Provider, no amount of work on your VPN will make a difference in speed. Where available, replace your Wi-Fi connection with an Ethernet cable.

Opt-Out of Automatic Updates, Backup and Sync

Updates are essential in keeping your device secure. They detect and eliminate malware, resolve system vulnerabilities and counter security threats. Automatic updates can, however, significantly degrade your connection since they take up the very network resources you need to perform your other tasks online. 

You can reduce the competition for network resources by unchecking the automatic update, backup, and sync options. Instead, you can run these processes manually at a time when you don’t have as much need of the Internet such as weekends.

Switch to a Different VPN Service

It goes without saying that VPN services aren’t created equal. Some VPNs score much better on the speed front than their competition (vpngorilla does a great job of comparing different VPN services). More importantly, there’s no guarantee that a VPN service will perform consistently well in perpetuity. 

To hedge your bets, consider subscribing to 2 or more VPN service providers. One can serve as your primary provider while the other is a backup. Even the best performing VPN service will sometimes experience crawling traffic due to seasonal peaks. Also, unless you don’t mind mediocre performance compounded by heightened security risks, steer clear of free VPNs.

Improving your connection speed is, to a large extent, a process of trial and error. Work through these tips until you eventually find the change that will deliver acceptable performance.

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