Private Internet Access website
An excellent VPN provider and one of the industry's leaders. Don't let the modest looking client mislead you. Private Internet Access offers everything you need in a VPN, from fast connection speeds to excellent security features, at a price that easily beats most competitors.

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Pros
Cons
Excellent speeds
No logging
Top notch encryption and security
Easy single click connection
Supports BitTorrent and P2P file sharing
Knowledgeable customer service
Can't select specific servers
Very little error feedback
Slow customer support

Speed Tests

PIA doesn't brag much about how fast its VPN is. Looking over their site and marketing material, the only reference to speed is a mention that they use Gigabit VPN ports. Based on that, I assumed their performance would be pretty middle of the road. It wasn't. Both the download and upload speeds were excellent.

The VPN tests in all seven countries and at the server location closest to me nearly matched my baseline tests in which a VPN connection was not used. The overhead from using the service was negligible. During a previous Private Internet Access speed test a few months back, the US servers showed some significant slowdowns. This no longer seems to be the case. Whatever the problem was, it has been resolved.

For those that are interested, these are the details of how the tests are run. As a high-level overview, I run back to back tests with the VPN connected and disconnected using the same remote test server. These tests are carried out as close to each other timewise as possible.

The homepage outlines how Private Internet Access compares to all the other high-speed VPN providers I have reviewed so far.

Closest Server
Speed test of closest PIA servers
Using VPN
Baseline Private Internet Access upload performance
No VPN
United States
Private Internet Access speed review
Using VPN
Baseline test of United States server
No VPN
United Kingdom
Download performance of PIA’s United Kingdom servers
Using VPN
Baseline review of United Kingdom server speed
No VPN
Canada
Canadian test of PIA speed
Using VPN
Review of Private Internet Access server download speed
No VPN
Australia
Private Internet Access download speed
Using VPN
PIA server speeds
No VPN
Netherlands
PIA speed test
Using VPN
Baseline download performance for the Netherlands
No VPN
Germany
Speed test of German servers
Using VPN
Germany sever speed baseline test
No VPN
France
Private Internet Access speed test
Using VPN
Baseline test of French upload and download speeds
No VPN
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About Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access has been around since August 2010. Based in Grandville, Michigan in the United States, PIA gets wide recognition as one of the top consumer VPN providers and as a service at the forefront of the market. Their commitment to user privacy and security is second to none, which is why companies like Forbes, MSN Money, PC World, Yahoo, and AT&T trust them with their business.

Privacy and Security

PIA is very serious about these indeed. They do not keep any logs whatsoever. No activity logs, no session logs, nothing. Their Privacy Policy clearly states this, and they had this to say in a recently added FAQ entry:

We can unequivocally state that our company has not and still does not maintain metadata logs regarding when a subscriber accesses the VPN service, how long a subscriber's use was, and what IP address a subscriber originated from. Moreover, the encryption system does not allow us to view and thus log what IP addresses a subscriber is visiting or has visited.

Taking this approach does make things harder on PIA's end when it comes to diagnosing their system and handling service abuse issues, but they opted to put their customer first. Very commendable.

The provider does just as well on the encryption front, offering a wide range of top-notch choices. They offer AES-128, AES-256, and Blowfish for data encryption, SHA1, and SHA256 for data authentication, and RSA-2048, RSA-3072, RSA-4096, ECC-256k1, ECC-256r1 and ECC-521 for handshaking. You can set things to be automatically selected for you, and if you don't care about privacy and just want pure server speeds, you can also turn all these settings off.

Features

My review found Private Internet Access offers all the features you would expect from a top VPN service. For the privacy-minded, it implements both a VPN Kill Switch and IPv6 leak detection.

The provider supports all operating systems and devices you can think of, including routers. It offers excellent step by step installation and troubleshooting instructions for each. PPTP, IPSec/L2TP, and OpenVPN are the supported protocols. For those who are not too concerned about privacy and just want better Private Internet Access download speed and overall performance, the service subscription even includes SOCKS5 Proxy.

The client is very minimalistic and humble looking. That is fine by me since it's easy and intuitive to use. It does what it's supposed to do, does it well, and is not bloated with additional gimmicky features that ultimately just confuse.

Restrictions

Users of Private Internet Access are restricted to 5 simultaneous connections. This number is at the high end among providers and should be more than sufficient. If you find you need more, you can always install the VPN on your router. PIA supports several models.

There are no bandwidth or time of day restrictions.

Several activities outlined in the Terms of Service (and listed below) are disallowed, and PIA does have a zero tolerance policy towards breaches. To stay on the safe side, it's best to review these.

  • Sending or receiving unsolicited and/or commercial emails in violation of law, promotional materials, "junk mail," "spam," "chain letters," or "pyramid schemes";
  • Exploiting, possessing, producing, receiving, transporting, or distributing any illegal content, including but not limited to any sexually explicit depiction of children;
  • Uploading, possessing, receiving, transporting, or distributing any copyrighted, trademark, or patented content which you do not own or lack written consent or a license from the copyright owner;
  • Forging headers or otherwise manipulating e-mail identifiers in order to mask or mislead the origins of certain content;
  • Interfering with the service to any other user, client, host or network which reduces the quality of service for other clients and users;
  • Using the service to engage in Denial-of-service (“DOS”) attacks to any third-parties or to Privateinternetaccess;
  • Accessing data, systems or networks including attempts to probe scan or test for vulnerabilities of a system or network or to breach security or authentication measures without written consent from the owner of the system or network;
  • Using this service to transmit any material (by email, uploading, posting, or otherwise) that threatens or encourages bodily harm, injury or destruction of property, defames one or more third parties, or promotes any act of cruelty to animals; or
  • Accessing the service to violate any laws at the local, state and federal level in the United States of America or the country/territory in which you reside.

Customer Support

The only way of getting in touch with PIA support is via a ticketing system. The listed average response time is 4-6 hours, and that is pretty much what I experienced. It would be nice to have a phone or live chat option. That said, the quality and knowledge of the support staff is excellent.

The website offers a very in-depth knowledge base that answers questions and provides guidance on everything from technical issues to payment. I found detailed, easy to follow pictorial set up guides for all platforms and protocols. These should be more than sufficient to get anyone up and running.

Private Internet Access has no free trial but does offer a 7-day money back guarantee. That guarantee does not appear to have any caveats attached to it, such as a maximum usage restrictions beyond which a refund will not be issued. This is nice to see as it allows you to evaluate the service thoroughly before committing. Not all VPN providers are this generous.

Server Locations

Though not as geographically diverse as some other VPN services, Private Internet Access has servers in more than enough countries to satisfy everyone's needs. They currently offer 36 location in 24 countries. The impressive thing is that in those 24 countries, this provider has a massive 3268 servers. This much hardware gives them a lot of options when it comes to load balancing, ensuring the high performance I have seen in this PIA speed review. You'll find the complete Private Internet Access server list here.

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