Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN Review 2023

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Private Internet Access (known as PIA) is a capable VPN provider now owned by Private Internet (formerly known as KAPE), which also owns CyberGhost and ZenMate.

The company immediately stands out with its “NextGen VPN network,” now a massive 35,400+ servers in 78 countries (that’s double the number of servers we saw in our last review.)

It’s not just about the numbers, says PIA. NextGen servers “use better hardware components,” “10Gbps network cards instead of 1Gbps,” use RAM disks to ensure “all sensitive information is lost as soon as the server loses power,” and now support WireGuard and OpenVPN.

You can access this network through apps for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and Linux, browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Opera, and there are detailed tutorials for setting up routers and many other types of devices.

PIA supports connecting up to 10 devices simultaneously. That’s twice the allowance you’ll get with most VPNs, although Windscribe, Surfshark and a few others have no cap at all.

Extras range from the simple and straightforward (built-in blocking of ads, trackers and known malicious websites) to the low-level and technical: SOCKS5 proxy for extra speed, port forwarding support, ability to choose your preferred encryption, authentication and handshake methods and others.

Key additions since our last review include dedicated IP addresses, 24/7 live chat support, and a bonus Identity Guard system (free with all plans) that alerts you if your email address appears online.

Welcome app tweaks include encryption improvements (SHA-4096 is always used for authentication handshaking, OpenVPN CBC always uses SHA-256 for data authentication), a highly flexible automation rules system allows for automatic connection or disconnection when accessing certain networks and a number of low-level fixes and improvements (check the PIA changelog if you want to learn more.)

(PIA deprecated the old handshake and authentication options as part of the encryption changes. Losing features is always disappointing, but since they were implemented by messed up OpenVPN custom patches, the loss should speed up development and reduce the likelihood of problems. There’s more stuff for the change here.)

Transparency is important for VPNs, so we’re glad to see that almost all of PIA’s apps are open source. Developers can check out the source code for Windows clients, browser extensions, iOS and Android apps, and more on GitHub.

There are also surprising app-related goodies. For example, a capable command-line application for Windows, Linux, and Mac allows automation of VPN operations from scripts. At its simplest, you can use this to create a shortcut that automatically connects to a VPN and then launches an app, but it can do a lot more (we’ll talk about that later).

Private Internet Access supports a wide variety of payment methods, including PayPal and even Bitcoin.

Private Internet Access: Plans and Prices
The monthly private internet access plan is priced at an average of $9.95. You’ll pay something close to that with most providers—Hotspot Shield, IPVanish, and Ivacy charge around $10 for monthly billing—but some ask for more (CyberGhost, ExpressVPN, and Hide.me are priced around $13).

The real value starts to add up with the annual plan at a very low $3.33 per month. Most top providers only come close to this with special introductory offers (Hide.me is only $3 a month for the first year, but $3.75 upon renewal.)

The two-year plan is even cheaper – $2.65 per month for the first term (with two months free), $2.91 on renewal.

The plan also includes a free one-year license to BoxCryptor, a powerful cloud file encryption service from almost any provider (OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.) This is already available in the basic free-for-personal-use version, but what you get here, is a license for the more capable Personal plan. This supports unlimited devices (the free version limits you to two) and cloud providers and includes email support and costs $48 per year if you bought it separately.

Even if you don’t have the slightest interest in BoxCryptor, the two-year plan seems like an excellent value to us. That’s significantly cheaper than NordVPN’s two-year deal, for example ($3.71 per month), and while you can save a bit with Surfshark ($2.49 per month for its own two-year plan), that’s just the introductory price — it doubles upon renewal.

PIA can now provide dedicated IP addresses in five locations: Australia, Canada, Germany, UK and USA. This gives you the same IP address every time you log in, and since no one shares it, you’re less likely to find yourself blacklisted due to someone else’s sneaky activities. But using the same IP also means you’re more likely to be recognized by websites, so it’s not an option for everyone.

Pricing is fair at $5 per month, with no discounts for longer terms. NordVPN is slightly more expensive at $5.83 on its annual plan, but CyberGhost undercuts everyone at just $2.25 per month on its three-year plan.

If you’re tempted to sign up for one of these plans, a wide selection of payment methods includes support for cards, PayPal, Bitcoin, gift cards, and more.

There is no free trial, but PIA gives you a 30-day money-back guarantee.

PIA’s terms and services have one more surprise (and unusually for the fine print, it’s a good one.) Many VPNs say customers are only entitled to one refund. Private Internet Access says that if you buy a new account more than three months after your last refund, you’re entitled to another one. That’s unusually generous, but it seems fair to us. If you try a VPN and the service doesn’t work for you, it wouldn’t matter if you had a refund three years ago – you should have the same refund rights as everyone else.

PIA Mace protects your privacy by blocking ad trackers and malware.

All VPNs claim to provide great privacy, but Private Internet Access combines an unusual combination of features that goes further than most.

PIA applications mostly use only the latest and most secure protocols, for example in OpenVPN and WireGuard.

OpenVPN security defaults to AES-128, but with a click or two you can switch it to AES-256 CBC or GCM, set local or remote ports, or switch to WireGuard.

Private Internet Access provides its own DNS to reduce the chance of DNS leaks. However, the applications are flexible – the Windows client can be set to use your default DNS or any custom DNS of your choice.

There is also a kill switch to disable your internet access if the VPN goes down. Unlike some of the competition, this isn’t just available on desktop — iOS and Android clients get it, too.

Connect with the Chrome extension and you’ll find a bunch of bonus privacy features (location blocking, third-party cookies, website recommenders, and more). You can set them up separately and for free, but extensions make it easier and add useful extra layers of protection.

PIA’s MACE feature blocks access to domains used by ads, trackers and malware, further limiting the ways companies can follow you around the web.

As mentioned above, and perhaps best of all, Private Internet Access is open source for its desktop clients, mobile apps, and many other components and libraries. This allows other developers to freely examine the source code, evaluate its quality, report bugs, and perhaps check if it’s doing something that might compromise user privacy.

Registration
While most VPNs claim they don’t log client activity or traffic, there’s rarely anything to back it up. You are expected to cross your fingers and trust that they are honest.

Private Internet Access is far more confident, claiming to be “verified” as “the only proven no-logs VPN service.”

The company appears to be citing lawsuits where PIA was served with subpoenas demanding account information, but the only data provided was the general location of the server’s IP addresses. Absolutely no user-related data was given up.

Private Internet Access also publishes a Transparency Report detailing all official requests for information and user data submitted. The report, covering the first four months of the 21st, recorded two warrants, three warrants and 12 subpoenas received, with not a single log for any of these requests.

The privacy policy is usually the best place to look for more details about what a VPN does, but the PIA is mostly about the website and says almost nothing about the VPN.

We ended up finding a support article, “Do you log your users’ traffic?” which says that Private Internet Access “keeps absolutely no logs of any period.” It explains that the logs that otherwise could be maintained are redirected to the null drive instead of being written to the hard disk, meaning they simply disappear.

The article also includes this paragraph that specifically states that the company does not log session data or your online activities:

“We can state unequivocally that our company does not and still does not maintain metadata logs about when a subscriber accesses the VPN service, how long a subscriber has been using it, and what IP address a subscriber originates from.” In addition, the encryption system does not allow us to view and thus register what IP addresses a subscriber visits or has visited. “

While this all sounds great, we’re left to take most of it on trust. Even the PIA lawsuits say they prove it’s a 2018 no-log service date, so they can’t tell us much about what’s happening now. Top VPN names, including TunnelBear, NordVPN, ExpressVPN and more, have allowed third-party audits of their systems, and it’s time for PIA to do the same.

Productivity
Every VPN promises a high-speed, ultra-reliable network, but the reality can be very different. That’s why we ignore the hype and put every VPN we review through our own intensive tests.

This starts with installing PIA’s latest Windows 10 VPN app on systems in a UK data center and a US location, each with a 1Gbps connection. We used the app to connect to our nearest location, then measured download performance using several speed testing sites and services (SpeedTest’s website and command-line app, TestMy.net, Netflix’ Fast.com etc.) WireGuard and OpenVPN connections, then did it all again in an evening session.

US OpenVPN speeds were competitive at 250-270Mbps. Some providers were slightly faster – ExpressVPN hit 270-280Mbps, ProtonVPN 280-290Mbps, HideMyAss! 300-330Mbps – but PIA did well overall, outperforming most of the competition.

US WireGuard performance was extremely disappointing compared to only 35-40Mbps.

UK OpenVPN speeds were close to the US at 240-320Mbps, but the UK WireGuard results bumped that up a bit to 280-350Mbps.

PIA seems capable of decent speeds, especially with OpenVPN, and that’s important if you’re hoping to set it up on a router. Consistency may be an issue, but peak performance doesn’t begin to match the best of the competition. In the US, for example, CyberGhost manages 350-450Mbps, StrongVPN reaches 590-600Mbps, ExpressVPN 490-630Mbps, so PIA has a lot of room for improvement.

Netflix and streaming
Connecting to a VPN for use with Netflix and other streaming services can give you access to all kinds of blocked websites, hopefully avoiding those pesky “not available in your region” error messages.

To test the unblocking capabilities of Private Internet Access, we attempted to access US-only Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, and Disney+ content from three test locations.

Accessing Netflix is ​​a big test for unblocking a website, and PIA did well in getting us into US Netflix with our three test servers.

BBC iPlayer also has solid VPN protections and these proved to be more of a challenge. Private Internet Access didn’t get us into the service during our last review, and unfortunately it didn’t work this time either.

There was also better news with US Amazon Prime and Disney +. They gave us some problems last time, but PIA has clearly upped their game and we have had success with each of our three test locations.

Three out of four isn’t bad, and we’ve seen plenty of VPNs do worse. Others do better, however, and ExpressVPN, Hotspot Shield, Ivacy, and NordVPN all unblocked sites in their recent tests.

Torrents
Private Internet access supports P2P, and we don’t mean just a few dedicated servers hidden away somewhere. You can torrent from anywhere, with no bandwidth or other restrictions to limit your activities.

We tested this by connecting to three sample locations and downloaded torrents successfully, with no connection or other issues.

There is an unusual bonus in supporting private internet access for port forwarding. This allows redirection of incoming connections to bypass a NAT firewall, and in some cases can help improve P2P download speeds.

You shouldn’t expect much help with any of this, at least from the website. Searching for “P2P” or “torrent” in the knowledge base mostly led us to not-so-relevant articles like “My ping / latency is really high”.

Even the port forwarding document only mentions in passing that the technology can “potentially optimize torrent performance” without offering any further clues.

Still, the company scores well on the basics — a large network, no logs, Bitcoin support — and ultimately makes a fair torrenting choice.

Client setup
Sign up for private internet access and the company does its best to streamline the setup procedure. We were immediately redirected to the download page where there were direct downloads for Windows, macOS, Linux and links to the Android and iOS apps and various browser extensions (Chrome, Firefox, Opera).

These aren’t just file links. We clicked on the Windows client and in addition to directing us to the installer, the website redirected to a page showing a setup guide.

There are some unusually thoughtful touches. Instead of having a single download link for Windows, for example, you can choose between 32-bit and 64-bit builds. If for some reason a recent update causes problems, you can download a previous version and the site lists the changes for each new build.

These are also detailed changelogs. While most vendors just use the same generic “fixed a few bugs” text for each build, PIA actually explains what’s been done: “Fixed a macOS crash caused by a screen layout change,” “Fixed a few issues related to installation or uninstall Windows in safe mode” or whatever. Not only does this tell you that PIA is doing a useful job, but if you recognize the problem as something you’ve encountered before, it may encourage you to try a function of the application again.

Experts will appreciate the option to download the Android APK file, which allows you to manually install it on devices where needed.

Private Internet Access does a particularly good job with OpenVPN configuration files, which are necessary if you’re setting up a lot of third-party applications.

These are sensibly named with the country and region or city, such as “US Chicago.ovpn” (as opposed to NordVPN’s “hr16.nordvpn.com.udp1194.ovpn”).

You don’t have to live with the default settings for OpenVPN either. Separate downloads are available for different encryption settings, for switching to TCP connections, and more. There is also an OpenVPN configuration generator on the website where you can create different settings for individual groups of servers, which can save you a lot of trouble.

We saw marginally better setup support—ExpressVPN’s activation code activation system lets clients set up without manually entering usernames and passwords, plus its tutorials are more numerous and detailed—but Private Internet Access offers more help than most and chances are you’ll have your devices up and running with minimal hassle.

Windows client

The Private Internet Access client is easy to install and opens with a simple and very clear client window. Tap the large Connect button to connect to the nearest server, tap again to disconnect, and the status areas tell you when you’re connected and show the original and new IP addresses.

Excellent and feature-packed customer location selection is just a click away. It lists countries and city locations where they are available, and the ping time shows which one is closest. You can sort the list by location name or ping time, and the search box and favorites system help you quickly find and access any server you need.

The Settings dialog gives you a high level of control over how the VPN works. Choose, for example, OpenVPN rather than WireGuard, and you can choose UDP or TCP connection types and encryption (AES-128/256-CBC / GCM), as well as choose a custom remote port (53, 1194, 8080, 9021) and define your local port.

Some locations support port forwarding, which makes it easier to set up and accept incoming connections to your system.

There is an unusual technical plus in the Use Small Packets feature, which sets the client to use a lower MTU setting to improve the reliability of some connections. If you can’t connect or stay connected, this might work, and the Private Internet Access client makes it quick and easy to try. (Other vendors usually hide this idea in their support website and force you to work through various Windows dialog boxes to find and change the relevant setting.)

Elsewhere, a kill switch disables internet access if the VPN goes down, reducing the chance of your real IP being leaked. You get the option to use Private Internet Access DNS servers, your own, or other servers of your choice. And the MACE system for blocking domains used for ads, trackers and malware can be enabled or disabled with one click.

VPN kill keys don’t always deliver (some are almost completely useless), so we wanted to run some in-depth tests. But whether we gently closed a few TCP connections or simply terminated PIA’s entire OpenVPN-based connection manager, the client didn’t care. Each time it displayed a notification on the desktop to warn us of the problem, then quickly reconnected without ever exposing our real IP.

It was the same story with the WireGuard connections. No matter how brutally we disconnected, from shutting down PIA’s WireGuard Windows service to turning our router off and on, the client successfully blocked our internet access, alerted us with a notification, and reconnected at speed.

Then PIA’s Windows VPN client for PC might seem a bit small at first, but spend a few minutes playing and you’ll find it easy to use with some interesting, advanced features.

Using the command line
PIA desktop clients now include piactl, a simple command-line tool that allows using VPN from a script.

If that sounds like hard work, you might be right, but there can be benefits. For example, how about setting up a scheduled task to automatically connect at a certain time of day? Automatically connect when your system boots, but only after it first performs some tasks on the local network? Create special shortcuts that link to different locations, then open whatever app or website you need?

Getting this job done can be easier than you think. The ‘piactl connect’ command connects you to the current default connection, for example, while ‘piactl disconnect’ closes the connection. You don’t need to be a developer to recognize what “piactl set region us-atlanta” does, and there are commands to get and set more options and monitor service status.

While the basics of piactl are clear, the documentation is a little short on details, and even the smartest of experts will be left wondering exactly how some of the more advanced tricks will work.

There are other complications, including the need to have the graphical client running before some of the commands will work.

It’s enough to only have the ‘connect’ and ‘disconnect’ commands to make the feature useful, and we’ll be interested to see how piactl develops.

Android app
PIA’s Android VPN app opens with a very conventional interface – a blank space, a large on/off button, your region of choice and an IP address, but swipe up and you’ll find a host of other buttons, icons and status details.

There are quick settings links to toggle the kill switch on and off, or to launch PIA’s private browser, for example (not installed by default.) Flag icons for quick access to a number of countries. Snooze options to disconnect from the VPN and automatically reconnect after 5 or 15 minutes or an hour. And connection status details cover everything from your preferred protocol and encryption method to the amount of data you’ve uploaded and downloaded.

This looks a little cluttered, but it’s easy enough to understand, and at least it means these settings are never more than a swipe away.

Tapping the current region shows a list of other locations. Each has a latency figure that gives you an idea of ​​its distance, and a simple favorites system allows you to move the most frequently used servers to the top of the list. All this is very easy to use.

The app is surprisingly configurable, with more options and settings than many desktop VPN clients.

You can choose OpenVPN UDP or TCP connections, for example, with the ability to set local and remote ports and request port forwarding. (WireGuard is also now available.)

The app can be set to automatically protect you when accessing unknown or untrusted wireless networks, or to turn itself off when using cellular networks.

A built-in kill switch protects you by blocking internet access if the VPN connection goes down.

The app settings box allows defining specific apps that won’t use the VPN (this is the equivalent of the “split tunneling” feature you’ll sometimes see elsewhere).

As with the Windows client, you can replace the default Private Internet Access DNS servers with your preferred alternative.

There is support for using the application with a proxy, reducing the packet size to improve reliability, and automatically connecting when the device or application is launched. You can even make your phone vibrate to show when you’re connected, much more convenient than regular notifications.

It’s all very well put together and a well-judged combination of power and ease of use. Whether you’re a VPN expert or just looking for an easy life, there’s something here for you.

App for iOS
PIA’s iOS app looks and feels pretty much the same as the Android version, and where there are changes, they’re usually good news.

The home screen, for example, drops some of the Android clutter and focuses on the basics: A connect button, a list of locations, and some handy flags for quick connect.

The location list is identical to Android, including latency data and the quick reconnect favorites system.

It has a decent range of options and settings, especially for an iOS app. You get a wider choice of applications than the desktop builds (WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2), the ability to choose UDP or TCP connections, set a custom port, use your favorite DNS, take fine-tuned control over encryption, and enable kill switch to protect you online.

An updated network management tile makes it easier to set certain networks as trusted or untrusted and instructs the app to automatically connect or disconnect each time you access them.

There are also a handful of useful iOS-specific features, including optional support for Siri shortcuts to connect or disconnect VPNs and block content on Safari.

Overall, it’s a quality app that’s easy to use and far more capable than most iOS competitors. A must see for the discerning Apple user.

Browser extensions
Using the apps for private Internet access isn’t difficult, but having to keep switching between your regular app and the VPN client can still be a hassle.

Like ExpressVPN and NordVPN, Private Internet Access now offers add-ons for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera, allowing you to connect to a VPN directly from the browser interface. This only protects your browser traffic, but if that’s not an issue, the extension makes Private Internet Access much easier to use.

The extension looks and feels almost identical to other clients, so there is almost no learning curve. A simple open interface has a large Connect button to connect to the nearest server and has a full list of locations with latencies (and a favorites system) if needed. At the very least, you can activate a VPN from your browser with a few clicks.

A separate tunnel-type bypass list allows specifying websites you don’t want to VPN. If they don’t work properly with a VPN on, add them to the bypass list and their traffic will be routed through your regular connection.

Bonus privacy tools can prevent websites from accessing your location, camera or microphone. They are able to stop WebRTC leaks and variously block or disable Flash, third-party cookies, website referrers, hyperlink auditing, address and credit card autofill, and more. We’ve seen dedicated privacy extensions that do less.

Previously, these settings were enabled by default, a potential problem if they break a website and the user doesn’t understand why. PIA now installs with features turned off and asks you on install if you want them enabled, a much safer route. Good job.

All this functionality means there are a lot of settings to explore, but on balance the plugins work very well. If you’re looking for simplicity, you can simply select a location and click Connect, just like any other VPN extension. But more experienced users can head to Settings, where they’ll find more features and functionality than almost any other VPN browser add-on we’ve seen.

Supports
The Private Internet Access Support Center has a web knowledge base with articles covering troubleshooting, account issues, technical complications, and more. They don’t always have the detail you’ll see with ExpressVPN, but they’re not just boring descriptions of the app’s features either.

For example, an article on encryption security best practices provides users with some useful technical knowledge about encryption, authentication and handshake methods, etc.

The Guides section contains setup articles and tutorials for all supported platforms. Some of them are relatively basic, but there is still a lot to explore, for example with 12 articles just for Android.

A handy news page regularly alerts users to new servers, app updates, service issues, and more. This could save you a lot of headaches in itself if you see that your current problem is a known system outage and that you don’t need to spend time contacting support or trying to diagnose it yourself.

The support site now includes live chat
If you can’t resolve your issues online, PIA now offers live chat support as well as email support. We opened a chat session and asked a potentially difficult question about the old authentication and handshake options dropped in the recent update. Would the agent know the product with this level of detail, especially with a change that had just happened? Yes, almost… the agent didn’t give us any real technical details, but explained that they were down and directed us to a support page where we could learn more, as good a response as we’ve come to expect from any provider.

Private Internet Access Review: The Final Verdict
Private Internet Access isn’t perfect, but it scores in many key areas: this VPN works on almost everything, is easy to use, packed with advanced features, and offers (mostly) decent speeds at a very low price. Go take a look.

Click Here To Get Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN With Special Discount Price

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The links contained in this product review may result in a small commission if you opt to purchase the product recommended at no additional cost to you. This goes towards supporting our research and editorial team and please know we only recommend high quality products.

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