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An Ultimate Guide to Using a VPN For Beginners [2020]

VPNs (virtual private networks) change the way you use the internet. They create a safer, more private experience and unlock a more open and freer web.

In this ultimate guide, you’ll discover everything you need to know about VPNs, including:

  • why you should use a VPN,
  • how to choose one,
  • how to install and get a VPN up and running on all your devices.

Why Should You Use a VPN?

What do governments, ISPs, Facebook, Google, advertisers, and cybercriminals have in common? They all track your internet activity.

VPNs allow you to safely and privately use the web. They change your IP address while encrypting your traffic. All outside parties can see is the IP address of your VPN server and not what you browse online.

Aside from their privacy benefits, VPNs have other great features you can take advantage of. For example, you can connect to a server in a remote location to bypass government censorship. This way, you can access geo-restricted content.

Let’s say you live in a country like China that bans all Google products. With a VPN, you can get around the Great Chinese Firewall to access Gmail, Google Drive, and the open web. The same goes for circumventing local network restrictions, even in countries without censorship.

Moreover, by choosing a server in a different country, you can unlock region-locked content. You can access HBO Go and Amazon Prime from outside the US, BBC iPlayer from outside the UK, and every other great platform with ease.

How to Choose the Right VPN Provider?

There are so many VPN providers out there that it can make your head spin. They’ve become so popular that some browsers like Opera have integrated them into their platforms.

With that said, you want to choose a VPN that provides you coverage across all your devices. It doesn’t include only desktop and mobile, but also the possibility to install a VPN on your router or smart home devices.

The best VPNs focus on security and use encryption protocols like AES-256 and Chacha20. Even if these terms don’t mean much to you, be on the lookout for them when choosing a VPN provider.

If it’s necessary, you can also look for a VPN that is compatible with streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, and so on. Even if you’re not a big-time streamer—but who isn’t these days—it’s a sign of high quality and fast VPN service.

Likewise, if a VPN has many servers in a variety of countries, that’s another sign of quality.

Furthermore, the top VPN providers also provide extra security features like kill switches or onion-over-VPN. Plus, they always have a no-logging policy.

  • Kill switches protect your data if your VPN connection drops for any reason.
  • Onion-over-VPN is the highest level of internet privacy. It’s not necessary daily but can protect you if you are an activist or journalist practicing free speech in a heavily-censored country.
  • No-logging means the VPN provider doesn’t keep a record of your activities when you connect to their servers. Some do and cooperate with government agencies or sell your data.

Finally, make sure your VPN is compatible with all your devices. You want to be able to use it on macOS, Windows, iOS, Android, Linux, or any platform.

Free vs Paid VPNs

If you need to choose between free and paid VPN service, always go for the premium one. The free VPNs (including Opera’s) don’t have the same robust security and performance features described above.

But you don’t need to spend too much to get a premium VPN. Even the highest quality VPN providers have 1-3-year deals that can get your monthly VPN cost down to less than what you pay for a cup of coffee.

And many of them offer risk-free trial periods. If you’re not satisfied, you can get your money back with no questions asked.

How to Setup a VPN?

Setting up a VPN is easy. After you choose a VPN provider (and pay for it), all you have to do is download their software onto your device.

Log in with your email address and password. Then choose a VPN server in a preferred location. For example, if you’re traveling in Canada, you might want to select a US server to have access to Pandora.

Also, you can select “Quick Connect” and the VPN will choose the fastest and usually closest server for you.

That’s all you have to do. You can use advanced features like Double VPN or Onion-over-VPN if you need even more security. Using a VPN can enhance your internet experience. There’s never been a better time to use one. Do your homework and find the best VPN for you.