VPNs are excellent tools to secure your sensitive data, bypass Internet censorship, and unblock a whole new world of online content. Plus, you no longer need to be a tech wiz to use one. That said, it can be daunting to find the right VPN when you're just starting out. What features do you need? Which providers are worth the cost? Well, this guide to the best VPNs for beginners will answer all your questions!
First, a short introduction to how VPNs work, so you know what to expect. Security-wise, VPNs use encryption (complex maths, basically) to scramble your network traffic, making it impossible to decipher by anyone snooping on your connection. VPNs also assign your device a new IP address and route your encrypted data through the provider's servers.
This allows you to change your online location to any country your provider covers, thus allowing access to content exclusive to those regions. Want to watch a show that's only available on Netflix in the UK? Just connect to a UK server, and you're good to go! Of course, there are also additional minor benefits, such as preventing ISPs from slowing down your streaming or bypassing firewalls on public networks (workplaces, hotels, and so on).
But let's not overcomplicate things. Here's a short guide on how to use a VPN.
How to Use a VPN for Beginners
In just a few minutes, your VPN should be up and running - just follow the steps below:
- First, sign up with a VPN provider fit for beginners, such as ExpressVPN.
- Download the VPN app on all your compatible devices.
- Launch the app and log in with your account details.
- Select a server, and initialize your VPN session, and that's it!
Unless you're using a VPN to unblock content from abroad, we suggest connecting to a server close to your physical location. That way, your data doesn't need to travel as far, and you'll see a slight improvement in your connection speeds.
Best VPN for Beginners
First things first, a true beginner-friendly VPN should have a clean interface, with any advanced settings being limited to easy-to-access menus. You wouldn't want to fiddle with protocols when you're just trying to watch the latest season of your favorite show on Netflix. Speaking of which, an extensive server network is essential if you're using a VPN for streaming purposes. Naturally, the VPN should prioritize privacy and security while also providing balanced speeds for browsing, streaming, and other activities.
Taking these criteria into account, we present the 5 best VPNs for beginners available today:
- ExpressVPN - Our #1 Rated VPN for Beginners
- NordVPN - Excellent All-Round VPN with Clean Interface
- CyberGhost VPN - Streaming-Optimized VPN for Beginners
- Surfshark - Best VPN for Beginners with No Device Limits
- Ivacy - Budget-Friendly VPN for Beginners
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ExpressVPN comes with an easy-to-use interface that's perfect for beginners. Just press the large "power button," and the VPN will encrypt your network traffic against eavesdroppers, greedy ISPs, and government surveillance. The server selection interface is easily accessible as well, where you can choose between ExpressVPN's whopping 90+ countries. Pretty useful, considering this VPN is one of the best for bypassing geo-blocks on Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and similar services.
The provider's speeds are excellent across the board, whether you're streaming, gaming, or using VoIP apps for audio and video calls. Nevertheless, ExpressVPN has a practical split tunneling option, so you can exclude such apps from the VPN tunnel and let your ISP do the heavy lifting.
ExpressVPN's no logs policy has been independently audited, and their "TrustedServer" technology ensures that none of your sensitive data sticks around on your network for too long. The VPN service also includes "Threat Manager" at no extra charge, which filters intrusive trackers and prevents ad companies from creating profiles on your browsing habits.
We cover everything else you need to know about the provider in our ExpressVPN review.
- One-click security.
- Super fast servers in 94 countries.
- Threat Manager - filter ads and trackers.
- Unblocks most content out there.
- Verified no logs claims.
- Limited customization.
NordVPN offers a fairly intuitive interface, with a server "map" to make choosing locations faster. Or you can just use the server list on the left, as well as the readily available search function in the top corner to get where you need. The only real drawback (if you can call it that) is that you have to click "Disconnect" twice to actually disconnect. The first click opens a drop-down menu, where you can "pause" the VPN between five minutes to an hour, so at least there's that.
While the provider has much fewer locations than ExpressVPN or CyberGhost VPN, they still cover all the main areas you'd need for streaming content. As expected for the #2 spot, NordVPN is terrific at unblocking streaming content. Their ultra-fast servers ensure that you won't be seeing that pesky buffering wheel any time soon. Even if you do, there's always the useful split tunneling option to take some of the load off and boost performance.
The provider goes beyond the usual functions of a VPN with their all-new "Threat Protection" feature. Block ads, and trackers, filter malicious domains, and even scan downloaded files for potential malware. You can even have it on while the VPN isn't active, which is neat.
Our NordVPN review covers every feature mentioned above in-depth, so go check it out.
- Lightning-fast speeds.
- Excellent for bypassing geo-blocks.
- All-in-one security with Threat Protection.
- Independently audited no logs policy.
- Advanced settings available.
- Average server coverage.
- Requires two clicks to disconnect.
CyberGhost VPN advertises itself as the VPN for streaming, and we don't blame them. They support over 40 streaming services from around the world and have servers specifically optimized for sites like Netflix, Crunchyroll, and more. And with 8,500+ servers in 90+ countries to choose from, they easily rival providers like ExpressVPN.
The provider features a strict no-logs policy regularly reinforced with transparency reports. As always, they remain committed to protecting their users' right to privacy. Their built-in kill switch can't be turned off, so you don't go online with the feature deactivated by accident. Don't like ads? Thankfully, CyberGhost VPN apps come with a built-in ad-blocker that also prevents websites from tracking your behavior.
One massive drawback is that the provider has no obfuscated (or stealth) servers, meaning it doesn't work in countries that restrict VPNs, such as China or the UAE. Hopefully, this changes in the future, and users in those regions will get to use CyberGhost's quality product.
Explore the provider's other features and specs in our CyberGhost VPN review.
- Unblocks over 40 streaming sites.
- Always-on kill switch.
- Strict no logs policy.
- Ad-blocker included.
- 45-day money-back guarantee.
- Requires fast Web connection.
- Doesn't work in China and UAE.
One minor annoyance when it comes to VPNs is that they put a cap on how many devices you can link to a single account. This can be a problem in large households with lots of VPN-capable gadgets - a few smartphones, a couple of PCs or laptops, and there goes your allowance. Luckily, Surfshark has no such limits, making it an excellent VPN for beginners to try out with friends and family.
Good news, too, as Surfshark supports a wide variety of streaming services from all around the world. As a newer provider without super-high-end hardware, connection times can be a bit spotty. Nothing that could be considered a deal-breaker, though.
"Camouflage Mode" and their "NoBorders" feature let you hide your VPN activity and explore the uncensored Web in restrictive countries like China. Meanwhile, their CleanWeb option filters all manner of online threats and phishing domains.
Remember to read our Surfshark review for the full scoop.
- Unlimited devices, one account.
- Works well for streaming.
- Camouflage Mode.
- Threat blocking with CleanWeb.
- Advanced options available.
- Connection times could be improved.
Don't have a large budget for a VPN? Well, Ivacy provides all the industry-standard features of a high-end VPN at a reasonable price. You get a generous 10-device limit, respectable speeds, and over 3,500+ servers in 60+ countries (100+ locations in total). Lower than the competition but perfectly acceptable at the price point.
Despite being a budget VPN, Ivacy is reasonably decent at unblocking major streaming services. A pleasant surprise, considering even the top spots on our list have trouble bypassing VPN filters every now and then.
Otherwise, Ivacy offers something similar to one part of NordVPN's Threat Protection. In this case, their Secure Download component scans and removes malware from any files you download. Unfortunately, the provider loses points for not offering split tunneling or a kill switch on Apple devices and Linux. It's still a solid VPN on these platforms, but we recommend other providers if these features are important to you.
As always, we recommend checking our Ivacy review to get the full details.
- Highly affordable.
- Decent speeds for the price.
- Generous 10-device limit.
- Unblocks multiple streaming sites.
- Secure Download feature.
- Average server coverage.
- No split tunneling or kill switch on iOS, macOS, and Linux.
How to Choose the Best VPN for Beginners
Shopping for the right VPN doesn't have to be a frustrating experience. Here's what you need to consider when looking for the best VPN for beginners:
- Server Locations - The more countries available, the more options you have for unblocking content. That, and you're more likely to have servers close by for the best performance.
- Speeds - Self-explanatory; nobody wants to deal with the dreaded buffering wheel when watching shows online.
- Security - The VPN should offer secure protocols (OpenVPN, WireGuard, etc.); any other security-related features (such as tracker filtering) are a welcome bonus.
- Privacy - Your chosen VPN provider should keep no user logs; look for VPNs with independently audited (or otherwise verified) no-logs policies.
- Device Limits - Consider how many VPN-capable gadgets you have in your household before subscribing to any provider.
- Unblocking Capabilities - See whether the VPN can unblock the streaming sites you regularly use or any other Web content you're interested in.
- Good Price for What You're Getting - A generous money-back guarantee in case the VPN was not what you were looking for.
How to Setup a VPN for Beginners
As mentioned earlier, you don't have to worry about complicated setups with current-gen VPNs. All you have to do is download and install the app from the provider's website after subscribing, select a server from the list, and press the connect button.
If you're feeling adventurous, here are some other beginner settings you can enable:
- The kill switch (e.g. "Network Lock" in ExpressVPN), to prevent data leaks when your VPN disconnects. If this feature isn't enabled by default, you can enable it by visiting your VPN application's settings.
- Split tunneling, a feature that lets you choose which applications and websites use the VPN tunnel (or which ones don't). For example, you can exclude VoIP apps (like Zoom) if you're experiencing poor call quality.
- You can also change VPN protocols (e.g. Lightway, OpenVPN) to improve performance and website-unblocking capabilities, increase security, or find a balance between the two.
Looking to set up a VPN on a specific device? Then check out how to set up a VPN, where we've linked to separate guides for all major operating systems, as well as game consoles, smart TVs, streaming devices, Web browsers, and even routers.
As a beginner, it may seem overwhelming to find the best VPN available. Fortunately, we've included everything you need to know to make your first VPN the only one you'll ever need.
If you need a quick recap, our #1-rated ExpressVPN offers one-click security, user-friendly apps on all devices, 3,000+ ultra-fast servers in 90+ countries, an independently audited no-logs policy, a kill switch, split tunneling, built-in ad-blocking, tracker filtering, as well as the ability to unblock most streaming content out there. Best of all, they have a generous 30-day money-back guarantee.
Still undecided? Then make sure to check out our VPN buyer's guide, where we explore every question you might have about purchasing your first VPN subscription. You can also consult our central guide to the best VPN services to reveal even more options.
What Is a VPN?
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a type of security software that encrypts your network traffic while also assigning your device a different IP address.
This makes your traffic unreadable to your Internet provider, hackers, and other people that may eavesdrop on your connection. Changing your IP also masks your true location, thus offering you a degree of privacy and letting you bypass geo-blocks.
Is It Legal and Safe to Use a VPN?
VPNs are also legal in all but several countries around the world. See where VPNs are illegal by following the link - make sure to check the list if you plan on traveling to any of those regions in the near future.
Is a VPN Easy to Use?
VPNs no longer require advanced technical knowledge to set up and use. Anyone with a working PC, tablet, or smartphone can download a VPN app and enjoy a secure browsing experience + bypass geo-blocks in just a few clicks.
What Should I Know Before Using a VPN?
Before you start using a VPN, know that any VPN will slow down your Web connection a bit. This is highly dependent on which server you connect to, so use those close to your physical location for the best speeds. Also, VPN encryption adds anywhere between 10-15% data usage, so keep that in mind if you plan on using a VPN on a mobile network.
Check out our full guide to VPNs if you'd like to learn more about this technology.
How Much Does a VPN Cost?
A good, beginner-friendly VPN can cost anywhere between $9.95 to $12.95 for a 1-month subscription. Naturally, monthly prices drop considerably for long-term subscriptions.
How Do I Get Started with VPN?
To get started with a VPN, you can need to subscribe to one (such as ExpressVPN, our top pick), download and install it on your device(s), and connect to its server. That's it!
For a step-by-step guide on how to get started with a VPN, please consult our "How to Use a VPN for Beginners" section towards the beginning of this article.
Which VPN Is Best for Beginners?
The #1 VPN for beginners is ExpressVPN. With just one press of a button, your data is secured against hackers and snoopy ISPs, as this VPN lets you change your location to 90+ countries around the world.
Is ExpressVPN Easy to Use for Beginners?
Absolutely. ExpressVPN is very easy to use for beginners, and it features a highly polished, user-friendly interface without any complicated settings getting in the way. Plus, it unblocks most streaming services out there if you're just looking for a good way to expand your content library.
What do you plan on using a VPN for? Just privacy and security, combating Internet censorship, or taking advantage of their powerful unblocking capabilities? Let us know in the comments!