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How to Test a VPN Connection
How do you actually know your VPN is running the way it should, that you’re getting the best experience, and that it really protects your data?
Well, if you’re worried about your privacy, you can test your VPN for leaks here to save time. Just make sure to come back here for some useful tips, as well as advice on how to check other parts of your VPN connection.
Test the Speed
A VPN can slow down your original ISP speeds a bit depending on various factors like encryption, how far you are from the server, or how powerful your CPU is.
The easiest tool to use is Fast.com. Just connect to a VPN server and follow that link. It’ll only show your download speeds at first, but click on “Show more info” to find out details about the latency and upload speed.
If you want to use other more in-depth tools, here are some great speed test sites to try.
Dealing With Slow Speeds? Try This
- Connect to a VPN server that’s closer to your country.
- Use a more lightweight encryption protocol like IKEv2, L2TP/IPSec, or SoftEther instead of OpenVPN.
- Use split-tunneling to leave resource-intensive traffic that doesn’t need to be secured out of the VPN tunnel.
- Try using an Ethernet connection instead of WiFi.
- Restart your router or modem. They might suffer from memory leaks.
Test the Encryption
If you use a VPN to protect your online data, you need to be sure the encryption is doing its job. The best way to test that is to use Wireshark – a free network traffic analyzer.
All you need to do is run a VPN connection while Wireshark runs in the background. Start recording traffic and pick the “Protocol” option as “OpenVPN.” If you use a different protocol, pick it instead.
Next, just right-click on an OpenVPN packet, and start following its UDP or TCP stream. If you only see gibberish, the encryption is working as it should.
If you can read the stream, however, the encryption isn’t working. It’s best to switch providers in that case, but you can also try reaching out to customer support to see what the problem is.
Test for IP, DNS, and WebRTC Leaks
Even if the speed and encryption is good, a VPN won’t do anything for your privacy if it leaks your IP address. And, unfortunately, it can leak that info outside the encrypted tunnel if it suffers IPv4, IPv6, DNS, and/or WebRTC leaks.
Here’s a quick summary of what all those issues are:
- An IPv4 leak occurs when there is a miscommunication between your ISP and device, and the VPN provider’s servers.
- IPv6 leaks occur when you have IPv6 enabled on your device, but the VPN doesn’t support it.
- DNS leaks happen when your DNS queries go through your ISP’s DNS servers instead of the VPN provider’s server.
- WebRTC leaks take place when WebRTC functionality within browsers completely bypasses the VPN tunnel.
You can easily test your VPN for leaks here with this simple yet effective tool from ProPrivacy. Just pick your country, connect to the VPN server, and boom – you’ll instantly find out if there are any problems.
The tool will check for all kinds of leaks, and it will give you individual info about each one of them. Also, there is a link to a useful guide on how to protect yourself from IP leaks on the tool’s web page.
I highly recommend using this tool during free trials/money-back guarantee periods, and regularly (like once a month at least) to make sure the VPN is working well.
What to Do If You’re Dealing with Leaks
If you’re in a hurry and can’t go through ProPrivacy’s guide, here are some quick tips:
- Consider switching to a VPN with built-in leak protection like ExpressVPN, Perfect Privacy, or NordVPN.
- Disable IPv6 on your devices (helpful guide + another one) and change the default DNS address to your VPN provider’s DNS address. If they don’t have one, use Google Public DNS (188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206) or OpenDNS (220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168).
- If you’re on Windows, disable Teredo and smart multi-homed name resolution. Consider using this OpenVPN patch for the second issue, too.
- Use uBlock Origin on your browsers since it easily blocks WebRTC leaks. If you want to disable WebRTC, follow this guide.
Test for Torrent IP Leaks
Many of you might use a VPN to download torrents – not necessarily because you’re downloading copyrighted stuff, but simply because you want to make sure other members of the Swarm can’t see your real IP address.
A VPN is supposed to hide it, but not if it suffers a torrent IP leak.
Now, for this we can’t use ProPrivacy’s IP leak test tool because we need one that specifically focuses on torrent IP leaks. DoILeak is a good option – just ignore the weird logo.
Check the “Activate additional Torrent Tests” option and add the magnet link to your torrent client. Run the VPN connection and go ahead with the tests. Your real IP address should not show up at all.
If it does, either change VPN providers, or get in touch with customer support.
Test for Malware
According to research, one in five free VPNs can be a source of malware. Paid VPNs should be alright, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
To test for that, copy a download URL or upload installation files to VirusTotal. It can save you from unknowingly installing malware or spyware on your device.
Also, make sure you run antivirus protection on your device too – like Malwarebytes or ESET.
If you detect malware, it’s obvious you’ll need a different VPN.
The Bottom Line
I hope this testing guide will give you some nice peace of mind, help you evaluate how good your VPN is, and make it easier to weed the faulty services from the really good ones.
If you know other things we should test when using a VPN, feel free to let us all know. Also, please tell us which tools you recommend we use.