Steam is arguably the best way to buy and play games over the internet on your Mac or Windows PC, as you can download them directly to your hard drive via the internet.
However, you may find that your access to the service is blocked when you’re connected to your school’s or employer’s network, or that you may not have access to the same content your friends in other regions do. This makes a VPN an essential part of any gamer’s toolbox.
By using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), you can detour around any roadblocks in your way, whether they’re erected by your school or employer’s IT folks, your parents or even Steam itself.
In addition, a VPN keeps your other online activities undercover, safe and sound away from the eyes of third parties, like your ISP or the feds.
When considering a VPN for use with Steam, always carefully consider a VPN’s connection speeds, global server coverage and privacy protections.
Gaming-related file sizes can sometimes be massive, and a fast connection is always welcome when downloading any type of content. Meanwhile, comprehensive global server coverage opens access to content that might normally be blocked to you in your region.
In addition, your privacy is valuable, and any competent VPN will do a top-notch job of keeping your identity and your online activities incognito.
Best VPNs for Gaming With Steam
After extensive testing, I’ve found that the following 5 VPNs are the best for use with Steam:
- ExpressVPN: Fast connections, wide global server coverage, no logs
- NordVPN: Wide-ranging server coverage, fast connection speeds, reasonable prices
- CyberGhost: Easy to use, fast speeds, no logs
- IPVanish: Fast connections, no logs, top-notch security
- PrivateVPN: No logs, easy-to-use apps, fast connections
I evaluated and ranked the top 5 VPNs according to the following criteria:
- Connection speeds
- Global server coverage
- Privacy protections
Here’s our list of the best VPNs for Steam:
ExpressVPN is my top choice for Steam users.
The provider supplies fast connection speeds, allowing you to quickly download games and updates from the Steam servers.
ExpressVPN also offers wide global server coverage, with more than 3,000 servers located in 94 countries. That kind of coverage means you’ll have plenty of content-unlocking power at your fingertips.
The provider makes its home in the British Virgin Islands, where the government doesn’t require VPN services to keep any logs recording their customers’ online activities while connected to the service. This allows ExpressVPN to follow a total no-logs policy, recording none of its users’ online antics.
ExpressVPN’s speedy connections are protected by military-grade encryption, keeping your online travels and personal information safe from the prying eyes of others.
Kill switch protection in their macOS and Windows apps ensures your activities won’t be left open to observation. (The provider also offers native apps for iOS and Android devices.)
Keep in mind that this provider only allows 3 simultaneous connections for a single account. However, it offers excellent router compatibility, making it easy to protect all of your devices.
- Fast connection speeds
- Well-encrypted connections
- Kill switch protection in Mac and Windows apps
- No user logs
- More expensive than other providers
- No kill switch protection on mobile devices
BEST FOR STEAM:ExpressVPN is my #1 choice. Its fast connections provide an optimal method of downloading Steam content, while its online protections help you avoid roadblocks along the way. The provider offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, making it a risk-free proposition to try their service.
Read our full review of ExpressVPN.
NordVPN snags the #2 spot in the “best VPN for Steam” rankings.
The provider offers speedy, well-protected connections. The service’s server location count, while not as optimal as ExpressVPN, still offers plenty of opportunities to unblock any barriers that Steam or your local network administrator may have thrown up.
NordVPN keeps no logs of any kind and offers kill switch-protected connections. Military-grade encryption keeps the bad guys away, shielding you from data theft while online.
Native app support is available for the Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android and Android TV platforms. In addition, in-browser streamers will be glad to know that browser extensions are available for the Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox platforms.
A total of 6 devices can be connected via a single NordVPN account. Plus, the provider offers support for various makes and models of routers, allowing you to protect all of your devices at once.
NordVPN offers two features that most VPN providers don’t offer, which are Double VPN and obfuscated servers.
Double VPN routes your traffic through two VPN servers. This provides two layers of encryption, which is great for security but will slow down your connection speeds. Obfuscated servers make your VPN traffic appear to be normal internet traffic, which helps you avoid detection in overly restrictive countries, like China.
- Fast connection speeds
- No user logs
- Double-VPN and obfuscated servers available
- Reasonably priced
- Selecting exact server locations is more difficult than it should be
EXCELLENT VALUE:NordVPN provides fast connections, top-notch encryption and a good return on investment. A 30-day money-back guarantee makes trying this provider a no-brainer.
Read our full review of NordVPN.
CyberGhost is arguably the best available option on this list for the first-time VPN user. The provider’s apps are easy to use and can protect your connection with a single click of the mouse.
CyberGhost’s global server coverage doesn’t quite measure up to other providers on this list, but it still has most regions around the world well covered.
This provider offers speedy connections, meaning it won’t take long to download updates and new content for your favorite games. Your connections are protected by military-grade encryption, and kill switch protection is available.
Top-notch identity protection is available, as the provider keeps no logs of any type and accepts Bitcoin as payment.
Native apps are available for the Windows, macOS, Android, Android TV and iOS platforms. Browser extensions are available for Chrome and Firefox browsers, and up to 7 devices can be concurrently connected on a single account.
Users with a large number of connected devices can protect themselves via various makes and models of routers.
The provider does offer a free tier of service. However, the connections are slower, you’re limited to a few select servers, and you’re required to wait in a queue before connecting.
While it usually takes only a few minutes at most to connect to a VPN server, keep in mind that there will be a delay if you opt for their free service.
- Good connection speeds
- No logs
- Excellent security
- Server options lacking when compared to other providers
GREAT OPTION FOR FIRST-TIME USERS:CyberGhost is an excellent option for first-time VPN users. Their apps offer one-click protection, and the service does a fine job of protecting your privacy. A 45-day no-risk money-back guarantee is available.
Read our full review of CyberGhost.
IPVanish provides speedy connections and industry-standard privacy and security protections.
While the provider doesn’t offer quite as comprehensive global server coverage when compared to others on this list, its coverage should still prove to be sufficient for most users’ needs.
Native app support is available for the macOS and Windows platforms, as well as iOS, Fire TV, Chromebook and Android devices.
The provider allows a generous 10 simultaneous connections on one account. In addition, users can protect all of their connected devices via a single access point by setting up a router from select models that work with the provider.
The apps offer an obfuscation feature to disguise your encrypted connection as normal traffic, making the use of the VPN less obvious.
Unfortunately, your payment information isn’t well protected here, as IPVanish does not accept Bitcoin payments.
- Fast connection speeds
- Reliable connections
- Obfuscation feature
- Allows 10 simultaneous connections
- Server coverage not as wide as other providers
- No Bitcoin payment option
RELIABLE AND SECURE:IPVanish provides above-average protection for Steam users. They offer a mix of connection speed and security, keeping your online activities under the radar. A 7-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read our full review of IPVanish.
PrivateVPN is newer to the scene than the other providers on this list, but they are rapidly gaining a good reputation in the industry.
The provider offers fast, well-protected connections, providing military-grade encryption to keep your online activities out of sight.
Native apps are available for the macOS and Windows platforms, and you’re covered when out and about thanks to apps for the Android and iOS platforms. Plus, if you’re a Kodi user, PrivateVPN offers a Kodi add-on.
Up to 6 simultaneous connections to the service via a single account are allowed. Plus, select routers can also be configured to protect all of your connected devices.
PrivateVPN is a strict “no-logs” provider, so there’s no evidence connected to your online antics. Bitcoin is accepted here.
The service could do better when it comes to global server coverage, though, with just 100 servers spread out among 59 countries.
- Fast connection speeds
- Excellent privacy protections
- Accepts Bitcoin
- Global server coverage needs improvement
PLENTY OF CONNECTIONS:PrivateVPN is perfect for families that have more than one Steam gamer in the house, as the provider allows up to 6 devices to connect at the same time to a single login. Users adverse to financial risk will like the provider’s 30-day money-back guarantee.
Can I Use a Free VPN With Steam?
While you can certainly use a free VPN with Steam, in my humble opinion, you’re not going to be satisfied, and I strongly urge you not to do so.
Free VPN connection speeds are usually underwhelming, and slow speeds mean it’ll take longer to download your new game and jump into the action. And Steam is all about instant-gratification gaming, right?
Plus, some free VPNs will make you wait in a queue before connecting, which brings us back to the whole “instant gratification” issue.
Also, free VPNs have been known to keep logs of their users’ online activities, often selling the information to advertisers and other interested parties. (If you get a free service on the internet, there’s a good chance you and your personal information are what they’re selling. Just ask Facebook or Google.)
All of these reasons make the idea of using a free VPN with Steam a less-than-optimal solution.
Things to Keep in Mind When Using a VPN With Steam
While using a VPN to access Steam is an excellent solution for those users that may find the service blocked due to local network usage policies (which can be put in place by network administrators at school or work, or even at home by mom or dad), there are risks connected to using the service.
Much like the regional restrictions that film and television studios put on Netflix streaming content, Steam’s contracts with game publishers restrict the sale of games and their downloadable content to certain regions of the globe.
Steam can and will block your account for using a VPN to access their services. While the games provider doesn’t usually block users who are using a VPN to avoid school or work roadblocks, they do frown on accessing the service from regions of the world where you normally wouldn’t have access.
While you can always create another Steam account, if you’re blocked because of using a VPN, you’ll lose access to all of the games and content you purchased on your old account.