Normally, when you connect to the internet using a VPN, all of your internet traffic travels through the VPN’s encrypted tunnel. However, there are times when you don’t want or need all of your online traffic to flow through an encrypted connection.
For instance, while you may need to access a streaming service in another country, if your internet traffic is all going through a server in that country, you may be unable to access certain websites and services in your location, such as banks and other financial institutions.
Alternatively, you may want to protect your P2P file sharing activity, while keeping the rest of your activity outside the VPN tunnel.
For times like these, a VPN that supports split tunneling comes in handy.
Split tunneling allows a user to designate that certain types of internet traffic will be funneled through the VPN’s encrypted tunnel, while the rest of the internet traffic will continue to use the unprotected, ISP-provided internet connection.
Split tunneling can be set up at the router level, or it can be set up manually on various operating systems. However, the easiest, and perhaps most efficient way to set up split tunneling, is in the VPN app itself.
There are two ways to set up VPN split tunneling, and that’s either with settings in the app, or by using the VPN provider’s browser extensions to protect the browser traffic, while the rest of the device’s internet traffic is routed as normal.
Unfortunately, not all VPNs support split tunneling, nor do all VPNs offer browser extensions. The 5 VPNs we’ll be taking a look at in this article offer either a split tunneling option as a feature in their app, or offer a browser extension that enables limited split tunneling.
In addition to each VPN’s split tunneling features, I’ll explain why you would want to use split tunneling, and also take a look at the other features VPNs offer.
Best VPNs for Split Tunneling
After running my top VPNs through a number of tests, I have found that the 5 VPNs listed below offer the best split tunneling features. TL;DR version:
- ExpressVPN: The provider offers split tunneling, both in-app and via browser extensions. ExpressVPN offers excellent online protection and privacy, and its fast connection speeds are optimal for any online activity.
- NordVPN: This low-priced provider offers split tunneling via a browser extension. NordVPN should prove to be an attractive option for users looking for reliable, split-tunneled protection at a reasonable price.
- Surfshark: This fast-growing provider delivers split tunneling via its Windows and Android apps, and via browser extensions on other desktop platforms. Fast connections and top-notch protection are the rule here.
- CyberGhost: Users with little to no experience with VPNs will appreciate this provider’s easy-to-use apps and browser extensions. The provider delivers split tunneling via both their Windows app and their browser extensions.
- VyprVPN: This provider delivers split tunneling in-app, offering selective app access to its self-owned and -operated server network. Experienced users will appreciate the provider’s extensive in-app protection options.
I evaluated and ranked the top split tunneling VPNs using the following criteria:
- Offers split tunneling feature (DUH!)
- Comprehensive global server coverage
- Offers P2P (torrenting) support
- Focus on privacy and security protections
- Top-notch multi-platform app support
- Excellent customer support
Here’s my list of the top 5 split tunneling VPNs.
ExpressVPN is my #1 choice for split tunnel VPN protection for your connected devices. The provider offers the feature both in its apps and via browser extensions.
The provider offers split tunneling by way of its macOS, Windows and router apps, as well as its Chrome and Firefox browser extensions. The apps offer app-by-app split tunneling, while their browser extensions protect all in-browser internet activity.
The ExpressVPN global server network offers 3,000+ servers, located in 94 countries around the world, providing excellent access to content around the globe. The provider allows P2P file sharing on all of its servers.
Privacy is also well protected thanks to the provider’s strict no-logs policy and Bitcoin payment option.
While connection speeds weren’t a deciding factor in this roundup, I will mention that ExpressVPN offered the fastest download speeds in our last VPN speed tests.
Apps for the iOS, Android, Windows, Linux, macOS, Amazon Fire and Chromebook platforms are available. Chrome and Firefox browser extensions are also available.
You can connect up to 5 devices at once using a single set of login credentials. If you require more, or if you have a device not on the above list, you can take advantage of the provider’s router support.
Customer support is available around the clock at ExpressVPN, with 24/7 live support chat, a support ticket tracking system, email support and a searchable support library.
- Split tunneling via app and browser extensions
- Top-notch security and privacy protections
- Fast download speeds
- Comprehensive app support
- Server network covers the globe
- More expensive than many other VPNs
BEST SPLIT TUNNELING VPN:ExpressVPN is the best option on this list for split tunnel VPN protection. The provider’s apps and browser extensions make it easy to designate which internet-connected apps require VPN protection, and which can be safely left out in the open. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of ExpressVPN.
NordVPN delivers low-priced split tunneling protection thanks to its Chrome and Firefox browser extensions. This means the provider’s split tunneling feature is limited to those two browsers, and it doesn’t offer app-by-app split tunneling.
The provider has over 5,200 servers, spread among 59 countries around the globe. The provider’s global network offers access to content in most of the free world. While you can connect to any server to begin P2P file-sharing, the provider will automatically switch you to a P2P-optimized server in one of 47 countries.
Military-grade encryption, kill switch protection, and DNS leak and IPv6 leak prevention are just the start from NordVPN. The provider also offers obfuscating servers and a Double VPN option that routes your internet traffic through twin VPN servers.
Privacy protections include a no-server-logs policy and a Bitcoin subscription payment option.
Windows, iOS, Android, Android TV, macOS and Linux platforms are included on NordVPN’s list of apps. Chrome and Firefox browser extensions, as well as router support, are available. Up to 6 simultaneous connections are allowed on a single set of login credentials.
24-hour-a-day customer support is available via around-the-clock live support chat, email, a “contact us” form and a searchable support library.
- Top-notch privacy and online security protections
- Budget pricing
- Good global server coverage
- Connection obfuscation feature
- Split tunneling limited to browser
BEST BUDGET VPN OPTION:NordVPN will be an attractive option for budget-minded users who are looking for VPN protection for their browser activities, and who don’t require VPN protection for the rest of their device’s activities. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of NordVPN.
Surfshark provides split tunneling capabilities via its Windows and Android apps, as well as its Chrome and Firefox browser extensions.
The provider is the owner of a fast-growing global server network, which currently has a 1,040+ server count, housed in 60+ countries. While you can connect to any server for P2P activity; it will be rerouted through servers located in the Netherlands or Canada.
The provider protects your connections using government-level encryption, kill switch protection and an ad-blocking feature. Privacy protection is taken care of by the provider’s no-logs policy and acceptance of Bitcoin.
App support includes offerings for the Linux, iOS, Android, Windows, macOS and Fire TV device platforms. Firefox and Chrome browser extensions are also available. The provider can be set up on multiple types of routers. Surfshark offers an unlimited simultaneous connections allowance.
Surfshark customer support is always there thanks to a searchable support library, a support contact form and an around-the-clock live chat option.
- Ever-expanding global server network
- Unlimited concurrent connections
- Excellent security and privacy protections
- No split tunnel feature in macOS app
- 1-month subscription is expensive
PERFECT FOR LARGE GROUPS:Surfshark not only offers reliable split tunneling for your VPN activities, you’ll also benefit from its fast-growing server network, which seems to grow larger by the day. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of Surfshark.
CyberGhost’s split tunnel protections are available on the macOS, Windows and Android platforms. However, split tunneling is limited to the browser on the Mac, and to the app on Android. (The feature is not available at all on iOS devices.)
The provider’s global server network currently consists of 5,700+ servers stationed in 90 countries around the world. Global server coverage like that provides access to content around the globe. P2P activity is allowed on 70 downloading-enhanced servers.
CyberGhost’s fast connections are well protected using military-level encryption, plus IPv6 and DNS leak protection. The service’s app also blocks malicious websites, ads and online trackers. In addition, it can force a website to load HTTPS versions of its pages if they are available.
A no-server-logs policy and a Bitcoin payment option have your privacy protected.
Native app support includes offerings for the iOS, Android, Android TV, Linux, macOS, Windows and Amazon Fire platforms. Chrome and Firefox browser extensions are available.
Up to 7 concurrent connections are allowed. Router features are also available.
The provider’s customer support offerings include 24/7 live support chat, a searchable support library and a support ticket tracking system.
- Wide-ranging global server network
- Easy-to-use apps
- Split tunneling via app and browser extensions
- Excellent privacy and security protections
- Apps lack advanced security options available from other providers
BEST FOR VPN NEWBIES:CyberGhost is an alluring choice for beginner VPN users looking for easy-to-use split tunnel protection for their internet activities. The provider’s apps provide reliable protection without the need for complicated setup. A 45-day, no-risk money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of CyberGhost.
VyprVPN delivers split tunneling ability through their Android, macOS and Windows apps. The provider does not offer browser extensions.
The provider has over 700 servers, spread among 70 countries around the globe. They own every one of those servers, keeping third-party contractors away from their customers’ information, thus adding an extra layer of privacy to the provider’s strict no-logs policy. VyprVPN allows torrenting on all of its servers.
Government-level encryption protects your internet connection, along with built-in kill switch protection, as well as IPv6 and DNS leak prevention. The provider’s apps also offer malicious site blocking.
VyprVPN app support includes protection for the Android, Android TV, iOS, macOS and Windows device platforms. No browser extensions are available. However, router protection is available. The base VPN subscription offers just 3 simultaneous connections.
Support is 24/7, with always-available live support chat, a support request form, and a searchable support and troubleshooting resource.
- Split tunnel for Android, macOS and Windows
- Comprehensive global server coverage
- Top-notch security and privacy
- Proprietary VPN servers for extra privacy
- More expensive than comparable VPN providers
- Only 3 simultaneous connections included with basic subscription
EXTRA LAYER OF PRIVACY:VyprVPN delivers reliable access to content, along with easy-to-use split tunnel capabilities. In addition, the provider’s totally self-owned and -operated server network provides added privacy protections by keeping third parties away from your info. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of VyprVPN.
What Is Split Tunneling and How Does It Work?
A VPN’s split tunneling feature allows you to protect portions of your online activities by routing them through your encrypted VPN connection, while allowing other apps or websites to use your unprotected internet connection.
Think of your internet connection as an interstate highway. In this scenario, split tunneling would be the fork in the road where you have the choice of taking two exits. One road goes into a tunnel and is hidden from sight, while the other road travels above ground, visible for the world to see.
If your data takes the first exit, its online activity is protected from prying eyes by an encrypted tunnel. The second exit allows your Internet Service Provider, hackers and other nosy folks to track your online travels.
VPN providers can offer split tunneling either by offering the feature in their apps or by offering a browser extension.
Split tunneling settings for a VPN can vary from provider to provider. Even the name of the feature is sometimes different. For instance, CyberGhost calls their split tunneling feature “Exceptions,” while VyprVPN calls it “Connections Per App.”
However, in most cases, the user selects the apps or websites they wish to protect with the VPN, leaving the rest of the apps and websites to operate out in the open, and showing the user’s real geographical location.
This can come in handy when you may want to view Netflix Japan content while you work or pay bills, but your bank’s website has geographical security safeguards built-in and requires you to connect from your home location.
Or, you may want to use your VPN to torrent files, while leaving your web browsing in the open.
VPN browser extensions allow users to keep their browsing sessions undercover, while allowing the rest of their device’s apps to connect using the unprotected connection. This comes in handy when you want to browse “sensitive” sites, such as The Pirate Bay or adult-oriented websites.
Do Free VPNs Offer Split Tunneling?
No. Split tunneling is tough to find as a feature from even pay-to-play VPNs – it’s almost a sure bet a free VPN provider isn’t going to offer such an advanced feature.
Plus, free VPNs aren’t exactly known for offering reliable access to streaming services and other blocked content, so there’s that.
In addition, “free” VPNs actually have a hidden cost – that of your privacy. Many free VPN providers will track your online activities, then sell the collected info to advertisers and other interested parties.
Plus, some freebie providers have been found to be inserting unwanted ads and tracking cookies into their users’ browser sessions.
This all kind of removes the “Private” from “Virtual Private Network,” don’t you think?
Other drawbacks to sans-payment VPNs are in the convenience and performance departments.
Some freebie VPNs will make you cool your heels in a waiting queue before being allowed to connect to a server. Then, once you’re given the green light to connect, you either find you have a severely limited server selection to choose from, or you are automatically connected to a server of the provider’s choosing.
Many free VPNs will throttle your connection speeds, keeping the fast lane reserved for their paying customers. They also have a tendency to place daily or monthly data caps on their users’ connections.
These last two paragraphs should be enough to dissuade fans of Netflix and other streaming services from using a free VPN.
If you’re looking for a VPN that offers split tunneling, don’t bother with free VPNs. They not only don’t offer the feature, but the rest of their feature set is disappointing too.
What Else Is a VPN Good For?
This article’s subject is the split tunneling feature of VPNs. However, VPNs also offer other features to both protect and enhance your online activities.
A VPN is an optimal way to access content from other regions that may normally be unavailable to you in your area. It accomplishes this by temporarily assigning your device a new IP address, making it appear that you are located in another part of the world. This opens access to blocked content.
This includes content that video and music streaming services, as well as gaming companies, offer. A VPN also offers an excellent way to access content from the free world from inside overly restrictive countries, such as Russia, Iran, China and others.
A VPN encrypts your internet connection, encasing it in a tunnel of protection, keeping your online antics safe from observation by the prying eyes of your ISP, the government and other Nosy Nellies. That same encryption keeps your online activities safe from hackers when using an unprotected Wi-Fi hotspot at your local coffee shop.
Some ISPs have been found to throttle your internet speeds when they find you’re engaging in “unapproved” activities, like partaking in peer-to-peer file sharing or accessing certain streaming services. A VPN’s encryption prevents anyone from monitoring your online activities. They can’t block what they can’t see.
Whenever you’d like to keep part of your online activities undercover, or need to preserve your access to local online resources, while opening access to foreign resources, a VPN that supports split tunneling is the tool for you.
ExpressVPN is my top choice for protecting and enhancing your internet usage. The provider offers excellent split tunneling performance through both their app and their browser extensions.
ExpressVPN also provides fast download speeds, excellent security and privacy protection, top-notch multi-platform app support and a comprehensive global server network.
For more information or to purchase a subscription, visit the ExpressVPN website.