Private Internet Access Overview
Private Internet Access has quickly become one of the world’s most popular VPN services. They offer an impressive combination of features, security and anonymity at a price that few competitors are willing to match.
- No Logs
- USA Based
- 256-Bit AES Encryption (very strong)
- 4096-bit RSA Keys (very strong)
- VPN Kill-Switch
- DNS Leak Protection
- Port Forwarding
- Torrents allowed
- Mobile App for iOS and Android
- Servers in 11 countries
- Proxy server included free!
- Pricing as low as $3.33/month
- 7 Day money-back guarantee
Let’s take a more in-depth look at Private Internet Access’s features and functionality. Feel free to skip ahead to the sections that are most important to you.
In our review we’ll cover:
- Setup and Installation
- Server Locations
- Security & Encryption
- Privacy & Logging Policy
- Speed Test
Private Internet Access is very easy to set up. PIA includes an easy-to-use desktop VPN client with all subscriptions so there is no manual setup required. Connecting to the VPN is as easy as:
- Sign up
- Download the Private Internet Access software
- Enter username/password
- Select a server location
- Click connect
That’s it! You can be online in 5 quick steps. Once you sign up on their website, your login info will be emailed to you immediately (make sure you use a valid email address). It took us less than 2 minutes from signup to signing on to the VPN network.
Private Internet Access’s desktop software is very easy to use, but quite powerful. It gives you easy access to all server locations as well as manual configuration options for more advanced control over you security options if you want them.
Advanced Settings View
As you can see, there are a number of configuration options available to you. You can choose:
Connection Type – Choose from TCP/UDP depending on what you’re using the VPN for. UDP is generally better for high-bandwidth media streaming, TCP is better for everything else.
Remote Port – You can choose from a range of port numbers to use for VPN traffic or you can choose auto and the software will pick the best one for you.
Port Forwarding – Choose whether you want to forward ports through the VPN tunnel. This is very useful for Bittorrent users, and will help make sure the external ports match the ports you have specified in your router/torrent client settings. Enabling port forwarding can help if you’re having unexplained slow speeds.
VPN Kill Switch – We’ll talk about this in more detail later in the review, but you can choose to enable/disable the kill switch which will kill your internet access (if enabled) in the event that you disconnect from the VPN server (prevents your IP address from leaking).
DNS Leak Protection – Ensures that all DNS lookups are routed through the VPN tunnel and not outside it. Keep this enabled!
IPv6 Leak Protection – Ensures you do not leak your IP address publicly via the IPv6 protocol.
If you click the encryption button in the bottom-left of the advanced settings, you can manually adjust the encryption settings used by the VPN client. The settings available are:
- AES 128-Bit
- AES 256-Bit
- Blowfish Encryption
RSA Handshake Key Length
Adjust the RSA key strength (how hard it is to discover the private decryption key) all the way up to 4096 bit.
Note: For maximum security, PIA recommends the following combination of encryption settings
- 256-Bit AES
Server selections with PIA are quick and easy. To connect or switch servers, you simple right click the PIA system tray icon, bringing up the full list of server locations. Once you select a server the software will connect automatically.
As with most VPN’s, you can’t switch servers on the fly. You must disconnect, and then reconnect to a different server.
Private Internet Access does a great job of visual displaying your VPN connection status, even when the software is minimized to the system tray. The PIA system tray icon changes color depending on the current status of your VPN connection. The corresponding color/status combos are:
- Red = not connected
- Grey = trying to connect
- Green = connected
all three statuses can be seen below:
Update: New features added in 2016 – 2017
The look and feel of PIA’s software is still very much the same, but they’ve added a couple new features:
PIA MaceTM: PIA built this all-in-one privacy solution into their latest software reliace. MaceTM is an adblocker, malware filter, and private browser in one package. And it’s totally automatic.
Use Small Packets: This is a new option in the ‘advanced’ settings tab of the software. If you were getting poor speed performance with an older router, enabling this setting may dramatically improve your speeds and stability.
Private Internet Access has 30+ different server locations in 20 different countries:
- USA – Midwest (Illinois)
- USA – East Coast
- USA – NYC
- USA – West
- USA – California
- USA – Silicon Valley
- USA – Florida
- USA – Texas
- USA – Seattle
- Canada – Toronto
- Canada – North York
- UK – London
- UK – Southampton
- Hong Kong
- Russia (added 2015)
- Japan (added 2015)
- Australia – Melbourne (added 2015)
- Australia – Sydney (added 2015)
- Turkey (added 2015)
- Ireland (added 2015)
- Singapore (added 2015)
- Italy (added 2015)
With servers in only 20 countries, Private Internet Access isn’t the industry leader (Hidemyass has over 60) but they’ve got all the major locations that 95% of their clientele would want. You have USA and UK servers for media streaming, Netherlands, Romania, and Germany for torrents, and Hong Kong and Israel as local servers for customers located closer to those areas of the world.
Security and Encryption (A+)
Private Internet Access comes with access to all 3 major VPN protocols: PPTP, L2TP/IPsec and OpenVPN.
PPTP and L2TP connections must be set up manually (but we don’t recommend them unless you need to connect a router because OpenVPN is far superior in strength and efficiency.
The Private Internet Access desktop software only connects using the OpenVPN protocol.
PIA offers encryption strength up to 256-Bit AES encryption, which is the same protocol used by the U.S. government and military for ‘Top-Secret’ data transfers. It is considered unbreakable by brute-force attacks.
Other Security Features:
PIA was one of the first VPN providers to offer a kill-switch (now a bunch of others are starting to copy them). The kill-switch, if enabled, will instantly kill your entire internet connection if your VPN connection fails. This prevents your IP address from being accidentally exposed without your knowledge.
This feature is optional, but is highly recommended for users transferring sensitive data including: Financial data, business data, or torrent files.
DNS Leak Protection and IPv6 Leak Protection
There are 3 types of IP leaks that can happen when using a VPN: DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC. Only the first two can actually be solved by your VPN service, and PIA allows you to prevent both.
Keep these features enabled to make sure your real IP address is never visible to the websites/services you’re using.
Learn More: How to fix VPN IP address leaks
Overall Security Rating: 10/10
Private Internet Access has virtually every feature you’d want from a security standpoint. They use 256-bit encryption with extremely strong RSA key encryption (up to 4096-bit). When you add in the kill-switch feature, integrated DNS Leak Protection, and their legendary no logs policy, PIA is an excellent choice for the users requiring maximum security/privacy.
Privacy & Logging Policy (A+)
We give Private Internet Access high marks for privacy and anonymity. The only information they require in order to sign up for their VPN service is an email address and a form of payment (and they do accept anonymous payments via Bitcoin).
Private Internet Access Logging Policy = ‘No Logs. Period.’
PIA doesn’t keep any logs regarding your activity on their network. This means they don’t track what websites you visit, what files you download, or even which VPN servers you connect to. Their philosophy is: the less information they have on their customers, the less they could be compelled by a legal authority to violate their users’ privacy.
PIA was one of the first VPN providers to adopt a zero logging policy, and now many other providers are trying to match it. In reality, however, only a few VPNs are able to do so, because the vast majority of countries have data retention laws that require their ISP’s (and often VPNs) to keep connection logs at a bare minimum, and sometimes even more invasive logs
2016 Update: PIA’s logging policy verified in court!
Most VPN provider’s logging policies are just claims that we’re forced to trust. PIA got the opportunity to prove their zero-log policy in court when they were subpoenaed by the FBI to turn over information regarding an investigation. Apparently a PIA subscriber used their service to anonymously make a fake bomb threat (don’t do this).
To everyone’s surprise, PIA stood firm and basically said we’d like to help, but we’ve got nothing for ya. No logs means no logs.
So there you have it, PIA is the only VPN service (to our knowledge) that has successfully validated their logging policy vs. a government agency. Ready to sign up?
Speed and Speed Tests (A+)
Private Internet Access really impressed us with their speed. In most server locations they outperformed VPNs 3 times the price! PIA is perfectly suited for any high-bandwidth activity including HD video streaming, Skype, torrenting, or preventing throttling by your internet provider.
Feast your eyes on these impressive speed test results.
Note: These tests were conducted from a 100Mbps connection near New York City
USA Speed Tests
International Speed Tests
Impressively, we were able to nearly max out our 100mbps, even on international servers. The only slow spot at all was Australia, which is too be expected because the server is halfway around the world, and must travel under the ocean on a data cable with limited available bandwidth. And even so, 18mbps is more than 3x the speed required to stream HD content on Netflix.
Speeds will vary based on time of day and how crowded a specific server at the moment, but in general I was extremely impressed with PIA’s performance. They are definitely among the fastest VPN providers in the world.
Best (and worst) uses for PIA
Each VPN provider has its own strengths and weaknesses. Some can get through the Netflix VPN-blockade. Others are great for torrents. There are very few providers that are 100% amazing at everything (though PIA is pretty close).
These are our ‘best usage’ recommendations for PIA
General Security: PIA is an excellent all-around provider. If you simply want a VPN for secure connections on public wifi, during travel, or at school then PIA will work well. It is also the perfect choice for unblocking websites, even in countries with internet censorship.
Torrents / Filesharing / P2P: Private Internet Access is the ‘original’ logless VPN service, and one of the first to open it’s arms to the Bittorrent commnity. If you’re looking for a good, cheap VPN for torrenting, well… PIA is as good as it gets. We’ve got a PIA Socks5 proxy setup guide for ya too!
Streaming (Netflix/Hulu): In 2016, Private Internet Access announced they would no longer be compatible with Netflix. For several years, Netflix has battled to block VPN services altogether, though a select few are still 100% compatible. Our best guess is Paypal (a major payment processor) put the squeeze on PIA and they decided it wasn’t worth the headache.
Personally we think this is a bad move for the industry (punishing users who are paying for content to choose between security and access), but hollywood has always taken a shortsighted view on these things.
Hulu is also working to block VPNs, though not as aggressively as Netflix. Private Internet Access should remain compatible with most other streaming services, including Pandora, Spotify, and Youtube.
How does PIA compare to other VPNs?
You already know that Private Internet Access is a good value… but how do they compare to other top providers when it comes to performance?
Private Internet Access is in the top 10% for speed among all VPN providers, and currently #2 among VPN’s we’ve tested (behind IPVanish). Speeds within the USA are excellent, as are European server speeds. Even ExpressVPN (more than twice the price) didn’t perform as well.
Software & Features
Private Internet Access’s software is fast and stable, but also feels a bit dated. It doesn’t have some of the advanced functionality offered by other providers, including:
- Auto-connect on unprotected wifi (VyprVPN)
- Favorite Servers list (many)
- Built-in SmartDNS/Streaming (NordVPN, StrongVPN)
These aren’t dealbreakers, and PIA’s software is still well-above average, but not cutting edge. At half the cost of these other providers, this shouldn’t be a huge surprise.
Value (Performance vs. Price)
This chart shows the average of four ratings for 5 of our top-ranked VPN services. We then calculate Value, which is equal to rating / price.
We excluded the ‘price’ rating factor for each VPN for these calculations so it wouldn’t be double-counted.
As you can see, PIA absolutely CRUSHES the competition when it comes to getting the most for your money.
Convinced yet? Download Private Internet Access!
Private Internet Access is an excellent value and an industry leader when it comes to speed, security, and privacy. I recommend most users try PIA before other VPNs because it’s so much more affordable than most other companies out there. It’s going to meet the needs of 90% of VPN users out there.
Private Internet Access is the best choice for:
- Bittorrent Users (no logging policy, torrent friendly)
- Value Seekers (lots of features, low price)
- General VPN use (Fast speeds, good security)
- Logging Policy (they keep no logs whatsoever)
- Speed – we were able to get speeds over 80mbps on international servers
- Price – at $3.33/month (with 1 year purchase) PIA is the best VPN deal I’ve found
- Torrent Friendly – PIA allows torrents and doesn’t cancel accounts for excessive usage or warnings
- Security – 256-bit OpenVPN encryption, 4096-bit keys and advanced encryption algorithms means PIA is one of the most secure VPN providers available.
- Less server locations than some VPNs
- Tech support can take a while
- Shared IP address (while good for privacy) can have cause some websites you block specific IP addresses
- No Netflix support. Try these VPNs instead.
Our Verdict: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
|Custom VPN Apps?||Windows, Mac, Android, iOS|
|VPN Protocols Supported||OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSEC, PPTP|
|Server Locations (Countries)||31+ (20 countries)|
|Encryption Strength||256-bit Tunnel, 4096-bit keys. (Very Good)|
|DNS Leak Protection||Yes. Built in to software. Private DNS Servers.|
|VPN Speed||Very Fast|
|Logging Policy||No Logs. Period.|
|Torrents/P2P allowed?||Yes. All servers, but preferably non-US/UK.|
|Customer Support||24/7 - Live chat, Email, Forums.|
Private Internet Access offers 1 all-inclusive VPN package in 3 subscription lengths: 1 month, 6 months, and 1 year.
All plans include unlimited speeds/transfer
- 1 month – $6.95/month
- 6 months – $5.99/month
- 1 year – $3.33/month (best value)
Save over 50% on 1 year of PIA*
* (compared to 12 months at $6.95/month)
Frequently Asked Questions
We find that people tend to have the same questions and concerns when looking for a VPN provider. Here are some of the most common questions, and how Private Internet Access measures up.
If you have additional questions, please Tweet Us @VPNUniversity or leave a comment on this review!
Does PIA really keep no logs?
Does Private Internet Access work with Netflix?
Private Internet Access is blocked by Netflix and you will get a ‘Proxy Error’ on their website. If your main reason for buying a VPN is to access USA (or other) Netflix from a different country, choose on of these providers.
Can I use PIA for all my devices?
Private Internet Access has their own custom VPN application for all major platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS & Android. It also works with most OpenVPN-capable routers. Best of all, they allow 5 simultaneous connections to protect all your devices on one subscription.
These apps are all included free with your paid subscription, and can be downloaded here.
How fast is Private Internet Access? What speeds can I expect?
Private Internet Access is quite fast, despite being low-priced. Your real-world speeds will vary based on factors like: your internet speed, server location, encryption strength, protocol, etc… Learn more about VPN speed factors.
Is Private Internet Access good for Torrents/P2P?
Yes. Definitely yes. Private Internet Access has largely embraced the p2p community, and tailored several of their software features to the privacy needs of filesharing. Their Socks5 Proxy (included in VPN subscription) works great for torrenting and be configured with uTorrent, Vuze, QBittorrent, Flud, and many other torrent clients. The ‘Torrent’ section of this review has more details.