All the Best VPN Protocols Tested, Explained, and Compared for 2023

The best VPN protocol will help you establish a secure and speedy connection between your device and your chosen VPN provider’s server. VPN protocols form the basis of your VPN connection and employ leading encryption algorithms, lightweight infrastructure, and rock-solid security features to make sure you’re well protected from the dangers of the internet.

With so many protocols going around, though, pinpointing the best one for your particular use case can be difficult. In this guide, we’ll explore the most common types of VPN protocols, their strengths and weaknesses, and the VPN protocol that’s best for each use case to help you make an informed decision and ensure your online activities remain secure and private. Let’s get started.

Introduction to VPN Protocols

VPN protocols are core components of Virtual Private Networks and govern how data is transmitted from your device to your chosen VPN server. They define the rules and encryption methods ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity of your data.

The basic functioning of all VPN protocols is more or less the same – they work by creating an encrypted tunnel inside which data is transmitted. This tunnel acts as a shield for your data, protecting you from prying eyes and cyber security threats, including hackers, ISPs, and government entities.

VPN protocol

When choosing a VPN service, it’s crucial to understand the significance of selecting the best VPN protocol for your needs. Different protocols offer varying levels of security, speed, and compatibility, making it important to align your choice with your priorities, whether for robust security, fast streaming, or reliable connectivity.

An Overview of Different VPN Protocols

Whether you’re interested in the robustness of OpenVPN, the efficiency of WireGuard, or the compatibility of PPTP, we’ve got you covered for insights and practical setup instructions.

Let’s explore the different types of VPN protocols, how they work, and the scenarios in which they shine and where they fall short. We’ll also offer step-by-step guidance on how to set up these different types of VPN connections.

PPTP – Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol

PPTP, developed by Microsoft, is one of the oldest VPN protocols and is known for its simplicity and ease of setup – so much so that it’s probably the easiest VPN protocol to set up out there. To give you an idea of how old it is, it first came out when Windows 95 was dominating the market.

It’s also super fast, meaning it’s tailor-made for sluggish, old devices with weak processors to run heavy applications for audio or video streaming.

Given how insecure PPTP’s protocols are, with the MS-CHAP protocol-v1/v2, it’s been discontinued by most of the major VPN providers, including ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and Proton VPN. It can only really be used where security isn’t a priority, and, simply put, that will hardly ever be the case if you’re turning towards a VPN.

How PPTP Works

PPTP establishes a tunnel your data can travel through, encrypting it to protect it from potential eavesdroppers. With the connection established, PPTP covers all data packets in an IP envelope and sends it to another router or machine. At the destination, it’ll then be decrypted.

It combines the Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP) and the Generic Routing Encapsulation (GRE) protocol to encapsulate and encrypt data packets. Encryption is made possible using Microsoft Point-to-Point Encryption (MPPE) that relies on an RSA RC4 stream cipher.

The responsibility for authentication lies with the MS-CHAP protocol, which could be replaced by the more secure AEP-TLS – but that would strip PPTP of its many advantages.

Pros of PPTP

  • Exceptionally easy to set up, making it ideal for beginners or as a quick solution
  • Fast connection speeds based on lightweight infrastructure
  • Conserves battery on mobile devices, unlike OpenVPN
  • Supported by many devices and operating systems
  • Low CPU and memory usage, making it ideal for routers and older devices with limited resources
  • Some legacy systems and devices only support PPTP, making it a necessity

Cons of PPTP

  • Outdated encryption is vulnerable to attacks
  • Not recommended for securing sensitive data
  • Lacks advanced security features offered by OpenVPN and IKEv2
  • May be blocked or restricted in countries with stringent internet censorship
  • Often fails firewall restrictions as it lacks standardized VPN port numbers

Setting Up PPTP

Here’s how you can set it up:

  • Sign in to your VPN account. Note that a lot of frontline VPN providers don’t support PPTP, so you’ll have to find one that does.
  • Download the VPN app or find PPTP settings on their website.
  • Launch the app or configure your device’s PPTP settings.
  • Enter your VPN username and password.
  • Choose a server location and connect.

L2TP/IPSec – Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol

L2TP first came into the picture in 1999 as a better and more secure option than PPTP and L2F (the Layer 2 Forwarding Protocol).

L2TP is often used with IPsec for added security. This is because L2TP, on its own, isn’t very strong on the encryption and authentication fronts. It’s primarily a tunneling protocol and creates secure tunnels for the transportation of data packets.

IPSec is a flexible security protocol and offers more features than L2TP – it can both create a VPN tunnel and keep it secure. However, the tunneling part of the process is carried out via L2TP, and IPSec looks after the data’s security.

This ensures data confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity during transmission as, essentially, your data will be bundled twice – by L2TP and then by IPSec.

How L2TP/IPSec Works

L2TP creates a tunnel to transmit your data. This happens after the data is broken down into packets, which are then encrypted by IPSec.

These are then turned into L2TP packets, ready for transmission. At the receiving end of the VPN server, IPSec decrypts the data to complete the process.


Simply put, when you connect to a VPN server using L2TP/IPsec, your device establishes a connection with the server, and all data passing between your device and the server is encrypted and encapsulated within the L2TP/IPSec tunnel.

Pros of L2TP/IPSec

  • L2TP/IPSec is more secure than PPTP, with dual encapsulation and robust encryption and authentication mechanisms
  • Straightforward setup
  • Comprehensive compatibility with many device types
  • Known for its stability and reliability
  • Ideal for consistent VPN connections

Cons of L2TP/IPsec

  • Connection speeds are poor as encapsulation is carried out twice
  • Uses bandwidth and resources for security, leaving little for connections
  • Some firewalls can easily block traffic
  • Not the best for streaming or bandwidth-intensive activities where speed or evading geo-blocks matter

Setting Up L2TP/IPsec

  • Sign in to your VPN account.
  • Download the VPN app for your device or configure it manually.
  • Launch the app and log in.
  • Connect to a server using L2TP/IPsec as the protocol.
  • Enter your VPN username and password.
  • Connect, and you’re protected with L2TP/IPsec.


OpenVPN is one of the best protocols for VPN, which first entered the market back in 2001. Although it faces stiff competition from the much younger WireGuard, it has been able to successfully court users for over two decades and remains as popular as ever.

It’s a highly configurable and widely used VPN protocol, and given that it’s fully open source, programmers worldwide frequently update it, making it one of the most secure protocols around and a go-to choice for privacy purists.

ExpressVPN OpenVPN

OpenVPN is known for its flexibility, compatibility with various platforms, and adaptability to different use cases, from securing public WiFi connections and bypassing censorship to establishing secure remote access for businesses.

One of its key advantages is its configuration options, which come from its ability to run over both TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) and UDP (User Dataprogram Protocol). TCP is better for reliability and compromises on speed, while UDP is the opposite, prioritizing speed over anything else.

How OpenVPN Works

OpenVPN relies on a custom security protocol that employs SSL/TLS for key exchange. This combination of encryption and authentication methods ensures your data remains confidential and secure during transmission.

The basic workings of OpenVPN are as simple as you’d expect – it establishes a secure connection, known as a VPN tunnel, between your device and the VPN server, then routes your internet traffic through this encrypted tunnel, shielding it from prying eyes, including hackers, ISPs, and government surveillance.

What’s noteworthy is that OpenVPN uses 256-bit AES encryption, which changes your data 14 times before sending it through a VPN server, ensuring your data doesn’t get into the wrong hands.

That said, OpenVPN is significantly slower than other protocols, such as WireGuard. This is because of how long its codes are – even the shorter ones are 70,000 lines long – and it has scalability issues because of how frequently it has to adjust to infrastructure updates.

Pros of OpenVPN

  • Renowned for its open-source model and class-leading encryption
  • Highly secure for protecting sensitive data and communications
  • Large and active community of users and developers, enhancing its reliability and security
  • Highly configurable, allowing users and providers to tailor security settings and protocols
  • Compatible with various operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS, and there’s an OpenVPN GUI (graphical user interface) app
  • Can operate over both TCP and UDP protocols
  • Go-to choice for streamers and gaming enthusiasts wanting access to content restricted in their region

Cons of OpenVPN

  • Configuring OpenVPN can be challenging for beginners due to its extensive customization options
  • Encryption can impact internet speeds, particularly on older devices – Surfshark runs at 950 Mbps on WireGuard, compared to 200 Mbps on OpenVPN
  • May consume more system resources than other VPN protocols, affecting device performance

Setting up OpenVPN With ExpressVPN

Here’s the simplest and most uncomplicated way to get started with OpenVPN:

  • Subscribe to a VPN service that supports OpenVPN, such as ExpressVPN, NordVPN, or Surfshark.
  • Download the OpenVPN client software from the VPN provider’s website for your specific operating system.
  • Install the software and launch the OpenVPN client.
  • Import the OpenVPN configuration file provided by your VPN provider. ExpressVPN, for instance, provides these files.
  • Enter your VPN credentials and click Connect to establish a secure VPN connection. You can choose from various server locations offered by your provider.

SSTP – Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol

SSTP provides a secure and encrypted connection for data transmission over the internet with the help of SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), which is an encryption technology that keeps hackers at bay. It’s best explained as a PPTP tunnel wrapped in SSL.

SSTP was released by Microsoft when it first launched Windows Vista. It has always been a Windows-specific VPN protocol as it failed to gain as much popularity as other protocols like OpenVPN.

This VPN protocol is known for its ability to pass through firewalls and Network Address Translation (NAT) devices, making it a great choice for maintaining privacy and security.

How SSTP Works

SSTP establishes a secure tunnel between your device and the VPN server. It uses SSL encryption to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of your data.

The protocol encapsulates network traffic within SSL packets, making it extremely difficult for unauthorized parties to intercept or decipher the transmitted data. SSTP, because of its use of an SSL/TLS channel, is a much safer bet for Windows users than PPTP and L2TP/IPSec protocols.

Pros of SSTP

  • Highly secure with its SSL encryption – great for online banking or confidential work communications
  • Can bypass many firewalls and NAT devices, making it a good choice for users in restrictive network environments
  • Stable and reliable, providing consistent connections without disruptions

Cons of SSTP

  • Widely supported on Windows devices but not as readily available on other operating systems
  • May not be the best choice for activities requiring ultra-fast speeds, such as high-definition video streaming or online gaming

How to Set Up SSTP

Here’s how to get going with SSTP:

  • Log in to your VPN account.
  • Download the VPN app for your device.
  • Install and launch the app.
  • Connect to a server.
  • The VPN provider will automatically use SSTP for secure and private browsing.

IKEv2 – Internet Key Exchange version 2

IKEv2 is known for its strong security, reliability, and efficient performance. It was developed through the joint efforts of Microsoft and Cisco and was originally intended to be a part of the IPSec suite of VPN protocols.

ExpressVPN IKEv2

It’s much better than IKEv1, thanks to its ability to use less bandwidth and check whether connections are still active.

Although OpenVPN is newer than IKEv2, the latter manages to hold its own when it comes to connection speeds. In our testing, it clocked over 600 Mbps, whereas OpenVPN is at least 250-300 Mbps slower, if not more. For all-out speed, though, WireGuard is a no-brainer with top rates of over 900 Mbps.

How IKEv2 Works

IKEv2 operates by establishing a secure channel through “key exchange.” It uses a combination of cryptographic algorithms to negotiate a secure connection between your device and the VPN server.

One of its notable features is its ability to quickly re-establish a connection if it’s temporarily interrupted, making it ideal for mobile devices that frequently switch between networks.

Pros of IKEv2

  • Known for its speed and efficiency, making it ideal for streaming and gaming
  • Can handle network changes without dropping connections, ensuring stability
  • Supported by various platforms, unlike SSTP, including Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android
  • NAT traversal is built into the protocol, allowing it to work where devices are behind NAT routers or firewalls

Cons of IKEv2

  • May not provide the same level of anonymity as protocols like OpenVPN
  • Setting it up can be complex, especially for novice users
  • Lack of native support for Linux is a limitation

How to Set Up IKEv2 with ExpressVPN

Almost every VPN offers support for IKEv2, including our #1 choice, ExpressVPN.

  • Log in to your ExpressVPN account, navigate to the setup page, and choose the IKEv2 protocol.
  • Download the configuration files provided by ExpressVPN.
  • Follow the step-by-step instructions provided by ExpressVPN for your specific device and operating system. This typically involves importing the configuration files and adjusting settings.
  • Once configured, launch the ExpressVPN app and connect to a server of your choice. Your device will establish a secure IKEv2 connection, and you can browse the internet with enhanced privacy and security.


WireGuard is an innovative, modern VPN protocol known for its simplicity, speed, and security. It was designed to address some of the shortcomings of traditional VPN protocols like OpenVPN and IPSec.

Its lightweight infrastructure consumes fewer system resources, resulting in improved speed and efficiency compared to its rivals.

If you want to connect to a VPN server as quickly as possible, there’s no protocol better than WireGuard – with top VPN providers like ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and Proton VPN, it’ll take less than a second, especially on Android and iOS devices.

On the security front, WireGuard is neck-and-neck with OpenVPN, although it’d be fair to consider it slightly better given that besides being open source, it has just 4,000 lines of code, meaning auditing it is much easier, and the results of these audits are more reliable.

How WireGuard works

WireGuard creates a secure point-to-point connection between two devices, typically a client and a server, through a virtual network interface.

It uses state-of-the-art cryptography techniques to establish this secure tunnel, ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity of data exchanged. One of its standout features is its ability to maintain a stable connection even when switching between different networks, such as WiFi and cellular data.

Pros of WireGuard

  • Known for its exceptional speeds, making it a top choice when prioritizing performance
  • Clean and minimalistic codebase makes it easy to audit and maintain, reducing the chance of vulnerabilities
  • Employs strong encryption methods, such as ChaCha20 and SipHash
  • Consumes less CPU and battery power than other VPN protocols
  • Widely available protocol, compatible with various operating systems, including Linux, Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and more

Cons of WireGuard

  • Not all VPN services or devices support it yet, limiting its availability.
  • Lacks obfuscation, so Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will know you’re using it – though this can be defeated with obfuscated servers from ExpressVPN or NordVPN

Setting it up WireGuard with NordVPN

  • Sign in to your NordVPN account.
  • Download and install the NordVPN app for your device.
  • Launch the app and log in.
  • Under “Specialty servers,” select “WireGuard” from NordVPN’s protocol options.
  • Choose a server location and click “Quick Connect,” or select a specific server.
  • You’re now securely connected with WireGuard.

What is a Proprietary VPN Protocol?

A proprietary VPN protocol is a custom-developed VPN communication method created and owned by a specific VPN provider. These unique protocols are designed to meet the particular needs and requirements of the VPN service and make the overall experience of a VPN better for its users.

They are exclusive to the VPN service that developed them, offering a unique selling point that sets them apart from competitors.

Market leaders like ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer widely recognized VPN protocols like PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, OpenVPN, SSTP, IKEv2, and WireGuard, and they’ve also introduced proprietary protocols – ExpressVPN’s Lightway and Nord VPN’s NordLynx.

ExpressVPN’s Lightway

Lightway is designed to be exceptionally lightweight and efficient, providing a faster and more reliable VPN connection. ExpressVPN users on Reddit say they’re able to establish a connection in less than a second when using the Lightway protocol.

It’s safer and more private than the standard WireGuard protocol. Unlike WireGuard, Lightway supports both UDP and TCP. Having TCP is better for scenarios like when you want to connect to an airport WiFi or a corporate network – places where security, not speed, is the priority.

WireGuard doesn’t obfuscate your traffic, which is possible with Lightway, making it all the better for privacy purists. You don’t need any patches for Lightway, either, to stop it from storing IP addresses on the server, unlike WireGuard.

ExpressVPN Lightway

Besides being the easiest VPN protocol to audit, with only 2,000 lines of code, it’s also super efficient and uses less battery than any other major protocol.

If you’re a speed fanatic, you might be better off with WireGuard than Lightway. When we tested both of them on a 1 Gbps line, Lightway was able to hit a top speed of around 630 Mbps against WireGuard’s 950 Mbps.

It’s worth noting you may not see any difference between the two in everyday life since the speed you ultimately enjoy depends on your domestic connection.

NordVPN’s NordLynx

NordLynx is based on the WireGuard protocol but has been optimized by NordVPN to offer even higher speeds and improved security. It retains the simplicity and efficiency of WireGuard while adding additional layers of privacy and protection.


For instance, WireGuard cannot assign dynamic IP addresses to its users to make it impossible for anyone to identify you on the internet. NordLynx achieves this with its double NAT (Network Address Translation) system, and while it isn’t open source, security is top-notch.

NordLynx uses ChaCha20 for encryption, while Lightway uses AES-256. Both bank on 256-bit encryption keys, but ChaCha20 boasts a simpler design, making it faster, though Lightway’s AES-256 has been on the market for some time and has been stress-tested for vulnerabilities.

Speaking of speed, NordLynx is a little better than Lightway and other protocols, and the fact that NordVPN is one of the fastest VPNs in the industry is proof of that.

While it features around 4,000 lines of code – more than Lightway – it’s still pretty streamlined and is comparatively very easy to troubleshoot compared to other protocols out there.

Read our full ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN guide.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a VPN Protocol

Selecting the right VPN protocol is a critical decision when it comes to safeguarding your online activities.

With various protocols available, each with unique features and capabilities, it’s essential to consider a range of factors before making your choice. Let’s dive into these key factors for zeroing in on a VPN protocol for your needs:

Use Case

Different VPN protocols offer varying levels of security, speed, and functionality, making them better suited for specific use cases. For instance, if your primary goal is to enhance online privacy and security while bypassing geo-restrictions, a protocol like OpenVPN or WireGuard might be a solid choice.

On the other hand, if you require a VPN for streaming, gaming, or torrenting, you might prioritize protocols optimized for speed, such as Lightway or NordLynx – proprietary VPN protocols offered by top providers.

Understanding your specific VPN needs will help you select the protocol that aligns best with your objectives, ensuring you get the desired performance and security for your online activities.

Level of Security 

Assessing your security requirements is crucial to selecting the most suitable VPN protocol. If you want the highest level of security, you might opt for protocols like OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPsec, or WireGuard, known for being the best VPN encryption protocols with strong security measures.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a balance between security and speed, we recommend opting for a protocol like IKEv2 or Lightway.

Matching the protocol’s security features with your needs is essential. A more secure protocol is recommended for sensitive activities such as online banking or accessing confidential business documents.

A protocol with slightly less security might provide the desired performance without compromising on safety for everyday web browsing or streaming.

Device and Operating System Compatibility

Not all protocols enjoy the same degree of support on every device and platform. Some protocols, like PPTP and L2TP, may have broader compatibility but are considered less secure and have been discontinued by providers like ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and Surfshark.

Others, like WireGuard or OpenVPN, may offer higher security but require specific software or apps. It’s essential to select a protocol that’s available and compatible with your devices, whether you use Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, or other operating systems.

If you primarily use mobile devices, you’ll want a protocol that works seamlessly on iOS and Android. A VPN protocol that offers broad compatibility ensures you can secure all your devices, regardless of your device type.

Internet Speed and Performance Requirements

If you prioritize fast download and upload speeds, especially for streaming, gaming, or large file transfers, lightweight protocols like WireGuard or proprietary options like ExpressVPN’s Lightway or NordVPN’s NordLynx are excellent choices.

They are designed to minimize latency and offer optimal performance. However, if you want security over speed, you might opt for a protocol like OpenVPN or IKEv2, which provide robust encryption but may be slightly slower.

Assess your internet speed and performance needs to match with the ideal VPN protocol, ensuring a smooth and lag-free online experience while safeguarding your data and privacy.

Easy Setup and Use

A VPN protocol that offers a straightforward setup process and a user-friendly interface can make a significant difference, especially for those new to VPNs.

The ability to set up and connect to the VPN quickly, without the need for advanced technical skills, ensures a hassle-free experience. This will come in particularly handy when you’re out and about traveling and want a quick connection.

It’s essential to consider your comfort level with technology and whether you prefer a protocol that offers easy one-click connections or more configuration options for advanced users.

Leading VPN providers on our list excel at providing intuitive apps and straightforward setup guides, no matter the protocol you’re looking at, making it easy to enjoy a VPN’s benefits without unnecessary complexity.

Best VPN Protocols for Different Purposes

Each VPN protocol has unique strengths and weaknesses, so it’s important to match your choice to your needs. Here, we’ll explore the best VPN protocols for different purposes, providing you with insights into which best suits your online activities.

Fastest Protocol for Streaming and Gaming

If you’re looking for the best VPN protocol for gaming or streaming, having a VPN protocol optimized for speed and low ping is crucial to ensure a seamless and lag-free experience. Among standard VPN protocols, WireGuard is often considered the best VPN protocol for streaming and gaming, and here’s why:

  • Consistent speeds: WireGuard consistently delivers high-speed performance, going as high as 950 Mbps, as opposed to OpenVPN’s 200 Mbps, making it ideal for streaming HD or 4K content without buffering and for online gaming without lagging.
  • Community support: WireGuard has a strong user community and a wealth of resources, including forums and guides, making it easier to troubleshoot issues and optimize your setup for streaming and gaming.
  • Trustworthiness: WireGuard is an open-source protocol, which means its code is open to public scrutiny, contributing to its reputation as a reliable and transparent choice for online activities like gaming and streaming.
  • Wide compatibility: WireGuard enjoys broad support across various platforms and devices, making it accessible for most users without requiring advanced technical skills.
It’s generally important that you choose a VPN provider capable of bypassing geo-blocks on streaming channels and gaming libraries, and there’s none better at this than ExpressVPN and its high-speed Lightway protocol.

On the plus side, Lightway is more secure and easy to use – it comes built into ExpressVPN apps for routers, making it extremely easy to use on devices like Xbox and smart TVs that people typically use for gaming and streaming.

The Most Secure Protocol for Data and Privacy Protection

OpenVPN is easily one of the best VPN security protocols. Its design prioritizes robust encryption and efficient key management, ensuring your data remains confidential. Its efficiency and speed further enhance security by reducing exposure to potential threats.

The fact that it’s trusted and used by entities such as the military and NASA is proof enough of how secure and reliable it is. It supports both UDP and TCP, unlike WireGuard, allowing you to use TCP Port 443, which is top-tier for being able to bypass firewalls and censorship.

This gives OpenVPN unrivaled customizability, and it’s suited for use in a wide range of scenarios, including in privacy-invasive countries like China and Russia.

Speaking of versatility, OpenVPN is open source, unlike protocols like NordLynx and IKEv2, meaning it’s constantly being updated and patched by cybersecurity experts around the world.

It’s also compatible with both old and new cryptographic algorithms, including ChaCha20 and AES, whereas WireGuard only supports the former.

The only area where OpenVPN is perhaps not the best for security is auditing – it sports over 70,000 lines of code, whereas WireGuard, NordLynx, and Lightway are all well under the 5,000 mark.

This means that OpenVPN is more difficult to audit for vulnerabilities. That said, it’s been around for over 20 years, and there are no known vulnerabilities, so you should be good to go if you opt for the ever-available OpenVPN.

The Best Protocol for Torrenting and P2P File Sharing

When it comes to the best VPN protocol for torrenting and P2P file sharing, ExpressVPN stands out as an exceptional choice with its proprietary Lightway protocol.

This renowned VPN provider offers a P2P-friendly environment on all servers worldwide, making it an ideal solution for those seeking a secure and high-speed experience while torrenting.

ExpressVPN allows users to configure it on routers, which can extend P2P support to all devices on your network, enhancing convenience and privacy. Here are a few reasons why it’s considered the best:

  • Safety measures: ExpressVPN’s Lightway employs industry-standard AES-256 encryption, bolstered by a reliable kill switch and IP and DNS leak protection. Its audited no-logs policy and British Virgin Islands location ensure your online activities remain confidential.
  • Server fleet: ExpressVPN’s 3,000+ servers span some 94 countries. Its exclusive use of RAM-only servers sets it apart, guaranteeing user data confidentiality at all times.
  • Speed: Lightway is fast, retaining an average of around 77% of the upload speed during testing – tailor-made for P2P performance.
  • TrustedServer technology: ExpressVPN’s TrustedServer technology, which runs exclusively on RAM and not on hard drives, further enhances security by eliminating any risk of data being stored.
  • Additional features: With additional features like split tunneling, bypassing firewalls, and protection against Deep Packet Inspection (DPI), ExpressVPN ensures a seamless and secure torrenting and P2P file-sharing experience.

Comparison of the Best VPNs and Their Protocols

Let’s go into a comprehensive VPN protocol comparison across the best VPN services available today.

Whether you’re looking for top-tier security, blazing-fast speeds, or optimal compatibility, we’ll now compare VPN protocols to help you make an informed decision to safeguard your online privacy and enhance your internet experience.

Protocol  Speed & Performance Security & Encryption Compatibility Ease of Setup Best For
PPTP Fast Weak Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Routers Very easy Old devices
L2TP/IPSec Moderate Strong Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Routers Moderate Privacy-focused users
OpenVPN Good Excellent Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Routers Moderate Unblocking geo-restricted content, privacy
SSTP Good Strong Windows, Android, Routers Moderate Windows users
IKEv2/IPSec Excellent Excellent Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Routers Easy Mobile devices, speed, and privacy
WireGuard Excellent Excellent Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Routers Easy Class-leading speeds and security

Having talked in detail about the best VPN protocols on the market, it’s about time we shed light on what’s ultimately the best VPN provider that will match your requirements for the ideal VPN protocol. Our table here aims to do just that:

Top VPN Services Protocols on Offer Starting Price Free Version Money-Back Guarantee Server Count Average Speed
ExpressVPN Lightway, IPSec, OpenVPN, WireGuard, IKEv2 $8.32/month — annual plan with 3 months free No 30 days 3,000+ in 94 countries 750 Mbps
PureVPN OpenVPN, WireGuard, IKEv2/IPSec $3.99/month — 2-year plan with 4 months free 7-day free trial 30 days 6,500+ in 78 countries 640 Mbps
IvacyVPN IPSec, OpenVPN, WireGuard, IKEv2 $1/month — 5-year plan Free-forever plan, but limited speeds at 35Mbps 30 days 5,700+ in 100 countries 630 Mbps
NordVPN NordLynx, IPSec, OpenVPN, WireGuard, IKEv2 $3.99/month — 2-year plan with 3 months free No 30 days 5,500+ in 60 countries 950 Mbps
AtlasVPN IPSec/IKEv2, WireGuard $1.83/month — 3-year plan with 3 months free 7-day free trial 30 days 1,000+ in 42 countries 650 Mbps
Surfshark VPN OpenVPN, WireGuard, IKEv2 $3.49/month — 2-year plan 7-day free trial 30 days 3,200+ in 100 countries 950 Mbps
CyberGhost VPN IKEv2/IPSec, OpenVPN, WireGuard $2.19/month — 2-year plan with 2 months free No 45 days 9,100+ in 91 countries 630 Mbps

You can rest assured that we’ve tested, analyzed, compared, and reviewed countless leading VPNs, and these are easily the best on the market for various needs and budgets.

Whether you want a cheap option with decent power under the hood or a premium provider that’s best-in-class on all fronts, we have something for you. However, if you want a more in-depth review and comparison of each VPN, here’s our guide to the best VPN service providers.

Why ExpressVPN is Our Number One Recommendation

ExpressVPN’s Lightway is super fast, secure, and able to get around geo-restrictions with ease. It supports both UDP and TCP, allowing you to configure your VPN connection the way you want. What’s more, it sports only 2,000 lines of code, meaning it’s extremely easy to audit and super lightweight on your system, too.


Besides that, ExpressVPN offers every major VPN protocol, whether that’s OpenVPN, WireGuard, or IKEv2/IPSec.

ExpressVPN also boasts one of the widest networks of servers – it’s present in a staggering 94 countries and 160 locations, so no matter where you are, you’ll be able to connect to a secure VPN server nearby. Read our full ExpressVPN review.

In terms of ease of use, there’s hardly a VPN that comes close to ExpressVPN. It offers plug-and-play apps on every single platform, and beginners will benefit immensely from its friendly 24/7 support and in-depth knowledge hub.

Regardless of your use case – streaming, gaming, torrenting, or general privacy – ExpressVPN shines through as a top choice.

It boasts P2P servers, excellent unblocking capabilities, rock-solid encryption, and an independently audited no-logs policy, along with RAM-only servers for foolproof security. Plus, with a 30-day money-back guarantee in place, you can try it out risk-free.

Our Other Core VPN Guides

Check out our other VPN guides, which cater to specific use cases and can help you find the best VPN for your requirements:

Why You Can Trust Our Analysis of VPN Protocols

Our analysis of VPN protocols is rooted in a rigorous and comprehensive testing process, ensuring our insights are based on real-world performance and user feedback.

With an extensive history of evaluating VPN types, we’ve honed our expertise to understand what truly matters in this field, from user interfaces across apps to the speed and security features that make or break a VPN’s reputation.

Our testing methodology encompasses many criteria, including user-friendliness, compatibility with various devices and platforms, speed and performance, and, most importantly, security and privacy features.

By putting VPN protocols through their paces in controlled environments, we can make accurate comparisons and pinpoint where each one excels and where it may need improvement. But we don’t stop there.

To provide a well-rounded overview, we integrate our testing results with user feedback from various sources, such as Reddit and TrustPilot. This allows us to capture long-term experiences and potential issues that may not surface during our limited testing period.

Our commitment to transparency and trustworthiness means you can rely on our assessments, knowing the process we follow. We don’t simply take VPN protocols at face value – instead, we dive deep, test thoroughly, analyze user feedback, and draw conclusions based on real-world performance and experiences.

This dedication ensures that the VPN protocols we recommend are the ones we believe in and trust for your online privacy and security.

Conclusion – What’s The Best VPN Protocol Available Today?

Our guide has thoroughly covered all the major VPN protocols, including their strengths and weaknesses, with detailed discussions about whether they make the cut with regard to particular use cases. We’re confident that we’ve given you the required toolkit to be able to zero in on the best VPN protocol for your needs.

That said, ExpressVPN’s Lightway is a one-stop solution, regardless of your needs. It’s perfect for streaming, gaming, and torrenting and is rock-solid when it comes to security. Given that it’s ExpressVPN’s proprietary VPN protocol, it comes built into all ExpressVPN apps and is, therefore, super easy to set up and use.

ExpressVPN has dominated all our VPN guides and is easily the best VPN we’ve laid our hands on. With a wide network of servers, class-leading security, easy-to-use apps, and unparalleled access to geo-blocked content around the world, there’s no better service as far as all-purpose VPNs are concerned.

And you can try it risk-free with a 30-day money-back guarantee.


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Krishi Chowdhary

Krishi is an experienced B2B and B2C content writer who reviews and compares different software to help both individuals and businesses find the right programs for their needs. Krishi's specialized writing educational material on customer relationship management (CRM) software and project management tools, but he also covers many other software topics for Techopedia, including antivirus programs.