Names always fascinate us. When it comes to company names, we’re especially drawn to those that state, in no uncertain terms, what the company stands for.
Which is why we like the idea of a VPN company being called PrivateVPN (and one of the reasons we wanted to write this review).
But if you’ve read our Ivacy VPN Review, you’ll also know when a VPN company makes that kind of statement with their name, we expect them to live up to it.
By calling yourself PrivateVPN, you’re making a commitment to giving your customers absolute privacy.
Is this the case with PrivateVPN? Keep reading to find out.
PrivateVPN Review Overview
- Works with streaming services
- P2P friendly
- Better than average server speeds
- Small server network
See our full guide on how we rate VPN providers.
How does PrivateVPN Compare to the Competition
Not the Best Location
Location is very important in assessing a VPN company. We always recommend giving those based in a 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, or 14 Eyes country a wide berth, at least as a general rule of thumb.
Unfortunately, PrivateVPN is a Swedish company, and Sweden is one of the 14 Eyes jurisdictions.
This means there are some sketchy privacy laws in place, which can affect just how private PrivateVPN is with your data.
This is problematic for VPN companies. But so far, they aren’t legally required to collect or store user logs.
Every rule has its exception, right? While we will continue to recommend avoiding VPN companies based in a 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, or 14 Eyes jurisdictions, there are some providers for whom we’re willing to make an exception.
PrivateVPN’s is pretty straightforward and relatively easy to understand. The only information they claim to log is your email address and password, which you use to create an anonymous account.
Payment details are subject to the privacy policies of third-parties like PayPal (depending on your choice of payment method).
Essentially, PrivateVPN is mostly a no-logs VPN. Some people have an issue with the fact their site uses session cookies (which don’t track your activity once you leave their site), but this is pretty normal.
What we do have an issue with is the fact they seem to record how much bandwidth you use.
Military-Grade Encryption and the Best VPN Protocols
But the provider also needs to have a lot of security features in place to make sure they protect you from external threats too.
PrivateVPN starts addressing this issue by using military-grade 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) with the 2048-bit Diffie-Hellman (DH) Key on all of their servers.
This is basically just a bunch of jargon that means the data sent via PrivateVPN’s servers is turned into ciphertext (a fancy word for “unreadable gibberish”).
It’s practically impossible to decrypt 256-bit AES, which is exactly why the military, intelligence agencies, and financial institutions use it too.
VPN protocols are a little more difficult to explain, so we suggest reading our Beginner’s Guide to VPN Protocols for the full story. But the gist of it is protocols are the way your device connects to the servers.
PrivateVPN does an outstanding job here too, offering almost every VPN protocol currently in use. If you’re not very familiar with the concept, we suggest using OpenVPN or IKEv2.
You could also let PrivateVPN automatically choose the protocol best suited to your network, but be aware this could mean you end up on a PP2P connection. And that’s something we usually recommend actively avoiding.
Kill Switch and DNS Leak Protection
Encryption is not all there is to security. You also want a Kill Switch and DNS Leak Protection.
The Kill Switch is a feature that will automatically end your internet connection if your device stops communicating with the VPN server.
This is to help protect you against data and IP leaks, as using PrivateVPN will encrypt your data and hide your original IP address.
DNS Leak Protection helps protect you from having a different type of data leak. DNS (“Domain Name Service”) is basically how operating systems and servers understand what you’re looking for when you type a website URL into your browser.
A DNS leak isn’t as bad as a data breach or IP leak, but it still makes your location easier to track.
PrivateVPN clearly states they offer a kill switch on their homepage. However, it’s a bit more difficult finding information on DNS leak protection.
If you dig around their blog, you’ll find a post from 2017 confirming both are available for Windows clients.
They also suggest the kill switch is available for all clients in this post from February 2019 and on their home page.
It took us almost a day to get any confirmation from PrivateVPN (see “Usability and Support” below), but according to their support agent, that suggestion is very misleading.
The kill switch is still only available for Windows clients, though all PrivateVPN apps come with DNS Leak Protection.
For those unfamiliar with TOR, it’s a free browser project that sends your internet traffic through 3 routes to hide your IP address, physical location, and browsing history.
If you’re particularly concerned with online privacy, it’s one of the best tools available. But you’ll still want to use a VPN with it, otherwise your ISP is able to tell you’re using TOR.
We enjoy using TOR, so while testing PrivateVPN for this review, we connected to one of their servers before opening TOR browser. We’re glad to confirm PrivateVPN is still compatible with TOR – post-2017.
Other than the speed reductions (which are inevitable, even when using TOR without a VPN), we had no issues.
Very Few Server Connections
Usually, we try to steer clear of VPNs with less than 2,000 servers. If it’s a relatively new VPN company, we’re okay with 1,000 to 1,500.
Even though those servers are spread between 60 countries (less if you don’t count the virtual ones), that’s an extremely low server count.
This isn’t necessarily a big issue – but it does leave PrivateVPN open to network overload, which happens when a server is handling too much data at once, and can drastically reduce your connection speed.
It’s even more of a problem on virtual servers, which share a physical server with other networks. Even if the VPN’s virtual server isn’t experiencing network congestion itself, if other users on the same physical server are hogging resources, you’ll get the same negative effects.
As something of an aside, PrivateVPN’s low server count might explain why they don’t offer a Double VPN feature.
According to their website, they have “44k satisfied customers,” so even a small percentage of them trying to use 2 PrivateVPN servers at the same time would drastically increase the likelihood of network overload.
We’re always skeptical when any VPN – even one with thousands of servers – claims to be “one of the fastest VPN service providers.” PrivateVPN’s low server count makes us a bit more skeptical.
Before we dive into our results from testing their connection speed, we should explain why doing so can be a little tricky.
We try to be as consistent as possible by always using the same devices, internet connection, and even server locations when reviewing VPNs. All of these affect how fast (or slow) any particular VPN’s service will be.
As for PrivateVPN – well, we definitely weren’t expecting the results we got:
To our unexpected satisfaction, PrivateVPN produced better than average speeds.
Device Compatibility and Connections
We had to do a little digging to get a good idea of what devices PrivateVPN supports. Their Apps page only mentions what we call “The Big 4” – Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS.
That seems to be it, though they also have an SSL version and proxies for HTTPS and SOCK5.
That’s not a bad list. There isn’t any dedicated app for gaming consoles or smart TVs, but it’s typically easier to just set up a VPN on your router in any case. And the fact you can do so with PrivateVPN means you can also cheat on their simultaneous connections limit, too.
Not that most people would need to: PrivateVPN gives you up to 6 simultaneous connections to start with.
This is more than enough for most of us, though if you have a fairly large household with lots of devices you need to protect at the same time, the router trick ought to work just fine for you.
Subscription Plans and Pricing
PrivateVPN is reasonably priced for what they have to offer. If a basic VPN is all you need and budget is your primary concern, you’ll enjoy these prices:
You can also choose whether you want to pay by card, via PayPal, or with Bitcoin.
- You can only be refunded if you’re a new client (no return customers)
- PrivateVPN will only refund you if you’ve used less than 100GB (upload and download combined) during those 30 days
An alternative option is taking advantage of PrivateVPN’s 7 Days Free Trial.
Like most VPN providers, PrivateVPN makes a big deal of their ability to unblock websites.
This is useful for a number of reasons, including:
- Accessing online content that’s been blocked by your school/university or workplace
- Getting around local censorship that bans certain types of online content, such as news sites that are critical of the government, or religious content
- Accessing social media platforms and communication apps like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Skype in countries like China, North Korea, and the UAE
- Unblocking media content on streaming platforms like Netflix, which restrict what you can watch based on where you are
Of course, unblocking Netflix with a VPN is only useful if it actually works.
Thankfully, PrivateVPN is very good at unblocking Netflix (and other streaming services like BBC iPlayer), which isn’t the case for some other VPNs due to proxy detection and VPN blacklists.
And they do work in China too, though you’ll only be able to use the L2TP VPN protocol there.
Along with privacy concerns and streaming, torrenting is one of the most popular reasons for wanting to use a VPN.
But file-sharing through a Peer-to-Peer (P2P) network isn’t supported by all VPNs.
Even though there are perfectly legal ways to use torrenting, some countries – and even some VPNs – take a harsh stance on P2P sharing due to its popularity as a method for illegally downloading copyright material.
PrivateVPN doesn’t endorse illegal torrenting (neither do we), but they won’t stop you from using P2P file-sharing in general. In fact, it’s another one of their selling points, which we’re glad to confirm isn’t false advertising. See our full list of torrenting VPNs.
Usability and Support
Installing the PrivateVPN Windows client was quick and easy.
Within 5 minutes of starting the process, we were able to connect to one of their servers.
PrivateVPN will automatically recommend a server near your physical location.
But if you want to use one in another country, you can easily pick one from their server list.
Switching between servers is also rather fast, which is more than some of their competitors can say.
Unfortunately, PrivateVPN does fail somewhat miserably with their support. Their FAQ section doesn’t offer a lot of information.
We also tried their live chat feature several times, a few hours apart, but there never seemed to be any support agents online.
Instead, you’re asked to fill out a ticket with your name, email address, and message. After hitting send, this notification pops up:
The auto-response email said they’ll try to get back to us within 24 hours with an answer.
PrivateVPN very nearly used that full 24 hours – by which time, if we’d been a client struggling with an issue, we’d have already requested a cancellation and switched to another VPN provider.
On the plus side, if you do manage to get ahold of them, PrivateVPN offers remote control installation assistance via TeamViewer for help with setting up your Windows, Mac, or Linux app.
EDIT: We try our hardest to be fair during VPN reviews. In PrivateVPN’s defense, their live chat feature seems to work for other VPN comparison sites and users in general.
For this reason, we don’t hold this hiccup against the VPN provider and rate reliability and support 4/5.
How to Cancel PrivateVPN and Get Your Money Back
We don’t consider PrivateVPN a highly recommendable VPN service, but we wouldn’t put them on our list of providers to avoid either. This is because, in reality, PrivateVPN excels in many areas – namely streaming.
However, if you find you’re not happy with their service, here’s how you can cancel your subscription and get your money back:
- Click the Live Chat button and send a message saying you would like to cancel
- Respond to the email you’ll be sent with your reason for wanting to cancel and your PayPal email address (if you paid via PayPal)
That’s it, though it might take a few days, and PrivateVPN will more than likely ask you to repeat your reason for wanting to cancel your subscription.
How much does PrivateVPN cost per month?
The 1 Month subscription plan costs $7.67.
Does PrivateVPN work for Netflix?
Yes, PrivateVPN has servers optimized for streaming Netflix.
Is PrivateVPN legitimate?
Yes, although they aren’t upfront about the fact they record your bandwidth usage.
Is PrivateVPN a good VPN?
PrivateVPN isn’t the best, but certainly isn’t the worst either. Although there are a few cons, there are just as many pros.
For example, we recommend PrivateVPN for things like unblocking BBC iPlayer and Netflix.
Does PrivateVPN hide my IP address?
Yes, but some users reported IP leaks while using PrivateVPN, even with the kill switch enabled. That said, during our testing, we detected no leaks.
Does PrivateVPN charge monthly?
Only for the 1 Month subscription. The 3 Months and 12 Months subscriptions are charged accordingly.
Is PrivateVPN a zero-logs VPN?
Other than diagnostics data like bandwidth usage, as well as your contact details, yes.
Can you cancel PrivateVPN anytime?
No. You can, however, request to cancel PrivateVPN at any time, but it might take a few days.
Is PrivateVPN safe in China?
Yes, but there are better VPNs like NordVPN and ExpressVPN that we recommend you use instead.