Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are currently the best way to browse the internet while maintaining one’s anonymity. Internet users, in particular, should find value in using a VPN.
A VPN can help secure one’s connection by creating a personal, private “tunnel” through the internet. This tunnel will connect your computer to your desired content privately while routing you through various other servers that mask your identity. To anyone snooping in on your activity, it simply looks like your IP address exists in a specific location, but they cannot tie it directly to you or your personal computer or location. And because many VPN services use different servers located in many different countries, the end result is the ability to get past geographically blocked content.
The following review of the Private Internet Access VPN service should help you determine if this service is the right one for you.
Install Private Internet Access VPN on different devices
We recommend that you download and install the PIA application designed for different operating systems, or utilize PIA's setup tutorials for each system.
PIA works on most major operating systems, while also extending operability with some older versions for different systems.
This VPN can be installed on the following operating systems:
- As a Chrome extension
You'll find that PIA has a rather wide range of older operating systems that it can work with among the larger systems currently available. There are, of course, some limitations. The following list should help clear up some confusion:
- To install PIA on Mac computers, you'll need Mac OSX versions 10.8 or newer
- To install PIA VPN on Windows computers, you'll need Windows XP or newer
- To install PIA VPN on Android, you'll need Android version 2.2 or higher
- To install PIA on iOS, you'll need iOS 8.0 or newer
- To install PIA on Linux, you'll need Ubuntu version 12.04 or newer
You can download the PIA applications first before purchasing a subscription. Although you will find that PIA is among the cheapest VPN subscription services available, we still recommend reading our PIA review below.
Private Internet Access review summary
Private Internet Access bills itself as the largest Virtual Private Network service provider for secure network tunneling. Created, owned and operated by Los Angeles-based London Trust Media, Private Internet Access is dedicated to bringing the internet “back to its original state”. For London Trust Media, this means no spying from advertisers, no big data collection and no cryptographic technology following your every move online. Private Internet Access focuses specifically on privacy and creating a private internet browsing experience. As such, it has limited features beyond those centered on security. Overall, we've found that this service is extremely functional for the price. We’ve taken a deep look into their service, hopefully providing you with a holistic analysis of their service.
Summarized pros and cons
|Over 3,340 servers||Only one type of VPN server|
|Servers located in 24 countries||Only 7-day money back period|
|Security through Blowfish CBC||Servers in far fewer countries than most competitors|
|As cheap as $2.03 a month|
|Over a dozen payment options|
|IPv6 leak protection|
Pricing and payment plans
Private Internet Access has three pricing plans that are neatly summed up in the following screenshot from their website:
The three payment options offer varying levels of value for potential buyers. Those wanting to try out the service may find the price point fairly attractive. Anyone who finds the service acceptable and wants to keep using it beyond the first month will likely want to, at the least, utilize the 6-month plan. However, the one year plan does offer pretty exceptional value for the price. Interestingly, Private Internet Access is far cheaper than many of their competitors for a single month plan. Their pricing structure (monthly, 6-month, 1-year) is very common in the industry. Their price, however, is far lower than most competitors, especially for the 1-year plan.
Private Internet Access accepts payment through major credit cards and PayPal but includes a number of alternative payment methods that are fairly uncommon. This includes the ability to pay with a gift card (a means of further keeping yourself anonymous). The service takes not just standard gift cards, but also brand-specific cards such as Walmart, Target or Starbucks gift cards. The service also accepts payments with Amazon, Bitcoin, CashU, OKPAy, Ripple, Mint and direct bank transfers.
Private Internet Access works on most, but not all operating systems and system families. The supported operating system families include:
- Windows XP or newer
- Mac OS X 10.8 or newer
- Linux Ubuntu 12.04 or newer
- Android 2.2 or newer
- iOS 7.0 or newer
Private Internet Access: Main features
Private Internet Access boasts of having more features than many of its competitors. This is somewhat hard to verify, in that the service identifies such things as “easy to use” and "instant setup" as features. However, there are some very tangible, and definitely desirable features that the service offers that should interest internet users.
The VPN service provides very specific security features that we will get into a little later. As far as non-security related features, the following are beneficial for internet users:
VPN servers in 24 countries. This feature is extremely valuable for internet users trying to bypass geographic content blocking. U.S. users attempting to access BBC content through services such as UKTV Again may find this particularly useful. However, many of the service's competitors do offer servers in far more countries.
Over 3,340 servers. This number is exceptionally high, even for a paid VPN service. This is a good thing for Private Internet Access and especially for internet users. It means an easier time finding a good server without much load, good bandwidth and, with any luck, a server that’s closer to your own location to limit the reduction in internet speeds.
Instant setup. This feature cuts down on how long it takes to start using the service. This is particularly useful for users with limited technical ability. Note, however, that Private Internet Access does not identify where and how this access is “instant”. You will still need to download the software, which runs in its own auto-installer.
Unmetered, unlimited bandwidth. This feature may be extremely important for internet users who use P2P services for torrenting or other purposes. Particularly for those who use Ace Stream or other P2P addons, unlimited bandwidth means, ostensibly, that you’re not going to experience as much of the speed decrease that is common with using a VPN. Be sure to check out our detailed speed test later in the review.
5 devices connected simultaneously. For internet users, this means the ability to connect more than one streaming device to the service at a time. This allows you to stream content from your computer, an Android streaming device, and another mobile device at the same time. This may not necessarily be the most important feature unless you’re sharing your account or you’re using multiple computers to run different P2P tasks.
Ad blocking. While this is not necessarily a big concern for internet users, it is helpful for anyone doing normal web browsing. However, with the multitude of free ad blocking software out there, this should not be your only reason for purchasing this service.
When it comes to choosing servers, Private Internet Access allows you to connect to different servers either automatically or by country. Unfortunately, you cannot obtain a list of servers and choose exactly which server your want. You also cannot identify the load level or ping for each individual server. For U.S. servers, you can choose by geographic location. However, the inability to choose a specific VPN is somewhat limiting, particularly when compared to other VPN services. Additionally, it does not appear that Private Internet Access has different kinds of servers. While all servers come with the same high level of security, Private Internet Access does not provide any servers that offer different benefits.
Although not widely advertised on the site, Private Internet Access also includes its own version of an automatic kill switch. Their kill switch will shut down your internet should the VPN service stop working. You can regain access to your internet by turning the service and kill switch off.
PIA speed test
When we gave the Private Internet Access VPN service a spin, we tested one of the most important aspects for internet users: speed. Because of how a VPN works, there’s always a reduction in speed. This varies depending on the server, server load, and how distant that server is from your home location.
We used Speedtest.net for all speed and ping testing. These tests gave us a picture of both the speed and quality of different servers in different countries. We ran a control test without a VPN to provide a reference point for speed and ping decreases. Our test location for all speed tests was in Washington D.C., U.S.A.
internet users should note that streaming through different websites can sometimes require less bandwidth than you’d expect. Typical HD streaming requires as little as 5 Mbps, while SD streaming can work with half of that or less, occasional with as little as 1.5 Mbps. However, loading times for videos streaming from different sites will suffer if bandwidth drops too much.
Our tests were conducted using servers in countries where Private Internet Access houses the majority of their servers: United States (1,672 servers, 9 locations); Netherlands (310 servers, 1 location); United Kingdom (233 servers, 2 locations); Canada (190 server, 2 locations); Australia (172 servers, 2 locations). For the U.S. test, we chose the server location closest to the control test (U.S. East). For all other countries, we chose the location with the most servers and the most bandwidth.
Here were the results of our speed testing.
|Server||Ping (ms)||D/L Speed (Mbps)||U/L Speed (Mbps)|
The speed test results were a mixed bag of interesting and expected. In many of our speed tests with other VPN services, we’ve noticed significantly slow speeds from UK servers. This continues to be true for Private Internet Access. However, the biggest surprise was that the Canada server was faster than the U.S. server, despite the U.S. server being so much closer. Generally speaking, all tested servers, minus the UK server, were good enough to stream HD video. Internet users should easily find a good number of functional servers to use for streaming from almost all websites. Those using P2P services such as those from BitTorrent may find more value in the Canadian servers, depending on your home location.
Security and privacy features
Private Internet Access has a unique focus on privacy. The service utilizes several layers of privacy and security protection that should benefit internet users in particular. Key among these is IP Cloaking. Private Internet Access assigns an anonymous IP address to each user. Although all users receive a U.S. IP address initially through the main security layer, you are then able to route through servers in different countries.
Private Internet Access uses encryption based on the Blowfish CBC algorithm, alongside an OpenVPN protocol. Both are critical to the Private Internet Access model for creating a secure tunnel. Additionally, Private Internet Access uses IPSec/L2TP, PPTP and SOCKS5.
Outside of these security features, Private Internet Access allows users to sign up using anonymous methods (gift cards), uses ad blocking and malware blocking software, can unblock ISP-blocked software and will not record traffic or request logs. The service also includes protection against DNS and IPv6 data leaks.
Private Internet Access provides several means of support service communication. There is a rather extensive FAQ page that could solve most users’ main concerns. However, users can reach out to the company directly through an on-page message system or through email. The on-page message system, however, simply provides a faster means of sending an email. There is no live chat and no number to call to talk to support staff in real-time.
Private Internet Access has a quick, easy and, if you so choose, heavily anonymous sign-up process. The service does request and use a confirmation email. However, the username is anonymous and can be used to sign in to the client account on the website and the VPN software. The service provides a money-back guarantee of only 7 days, however, which may not be enough time to fully assess whether the service is or is not acceptable.
Private Internet Access has a lot of desirable features. It's extremely easy to sign up, and even easier to use. Once the program is installed, finding and connecting to servers takes only seconds. The fact that Private Internet Access has over 3,000 servers, most of which are in the U.S., almost guarantees that you’ll find a functional server with low load. Through testing, we also found that there is little loss in speed after connecting to different servers.
The best features for this service include a large number of servers, the overall exceptional bandwidth with many of those server locations, and the broad security features. However, internet Kodi users will likely find the low cost to be the biggest draw for this service. A 1-year plan costs $3.33 a month, which should help free up any funds for internet users who use paid services like USTVNow or Sling TV. While paid services are not a necessity, many do offer better streaming quality.
Perhaps the biggest downside to Private Internet Access is the lack of server types. While all servers have an equal level of security across the board, comparable services offer varying types of servers for different purposes. That said, Private Internet Access does come in at one of the cheapest prices around, which for most users will likely more than make up for service’s general lack of extended features.
Sam Cook • Author
Sam Cook is a full-time content strategist by day, a part-time freelance content writer since 2015. In another life, he was a high school English teacher for nearly a decade. Based in sunny New Orleans, he writes long-form educational content on technology, including Insurtech, Fintech, HRtech, and content streaming.
Lisa Holden • Editor
Lisa Holden is an editor and creative based in Houston, TX. Lisa holds a BA in African-American Studies from Temple University and has spent her career working in news publications and magazines, even founding a magazine herself. She began working as an editor for Flixed in 2023. When she’s not editing or working on one of her many creative endeavors (whenever that is), she enjoys traveling to new places and biking on sunny days.