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VPNs for Dummies: The 5 Best VPNs for Beginners

New to using VPNs and looking for the simplest VPN to use? In this article, I explain the ins and outs of VPNs, what to look for, and the best 5 VPNs to choose if you’re a VPN “dummy.”

Internet users new to the VPN world may be wondering what exactly a VPN does and how it can help them on the internet.

In this article, I’ll explain the ins and outs of VPNs, what they do, what their benefits are, what to look for in a VPN and the best 5 VPNs for “dummies.”

What Is a VPN and What Does It Do?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a private network of servers that a VPN company owns.

When you connect to one of its servers, two things happen.

1. You Get a New IP Address

For those who don’t know, an IP address is what identifies your device on the internet. Every internet-connected device has one.

You can think of it like a home address for your device. A home address lets the post office know where mail came from and needs to go. Likewise, an IP address lets other devices on the internet know where a request came from and where a response needs to go.

That’s why, when you type in “youtube.com,” your device will pull up “youtube.com,” and the device of some random person won’t pull up “youtube.com.” YouTube’s servers know that it was your device that requested to access YouTube, not anyone else’s.

When you connect to a VPN’s servers, however, the servers will give you a new IP address, based in whichever country you want to connect to.

This has two benefits:

One, you can hide your IP address so that no one will be able to trace your online activities back to you.

Two, you can access location-specific content that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to access. Some services, like streaming services, geo-block users from other countries from accessing their content.

For instance, if you’re located in the USA, you won’t be able to access U.K. content from, say, BBC iPlayer. But with a new IP address from a VPN, you can access BBC iPlayer’s content, no problem.

2. The VPN Encrypts Your Connection

When you connect to a VPN server, you not only get a new IP address, but you also get encryption for your internet connection.

When your internet connection is encrypted, the encryption acts like a mountain tunnel. Just like how a train disappears from view when it enters a mountain tunnel, so your internet activities will disappear from view when using a VPN and its encryption.

This encryption is usually AES 256-bit, which is the most secure encryption out there today. The benefits of this are endless, but here are a few examples:

1. No One Can See What You’re Doing

No one can crack AES 256-bit encryption.

Okay, it’s not impossible, but it takes a ton of time and money, so no one is going to try. It’s for that reason that your internet activities are completely safe.

Neither governments, nor hackers, nor your Internet Service Provider (ISP), nor advertisers can have any idea what you’re doing when your connection is encrypted. There will be no spying, no interference, and no stealing of your data.

2. You Can Use Public WiFi Hotspots Safely

Public WiFi hotspots are extremely unsafe.

They’re usually unencrypted, so hackers have an easy time infiltrating the online activities of other users on the hotspot. The guy at the next table over in the coffee shop may not be as innocuous as he seems, spying on your online activities and stealing your personal, financial and business information.

But a VPN’s encryption will make it impossible for the hacker to access your data, keeping you entirely safe on the hotspot. Especially if you’re a frequent traveller and use public WiFi hotspots on the regular, a VPN is invaluable.

3. Your ISP Can’t Throttle Your Connection Speeds

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) don’t usually like it if you’re conducting P2P file sharing or streaming video from certain “unapproved” websites. In retaliation, they’ll throttle your internet speeds.

A VPN’s encryption, however, will prevent your ISP from knowing what you’re up to, so they can’t throttle your internet speeds based on your online activities. You can stream and share files to your heart’s content, and your ISP will have no idea.

While an ISP can still throttle your connection speeds if you use too much data – a VPN can’t hide how much data you use – they can’t throttle you based on what you’re doing.

How to Use a VPN

The process is simple for using a VPN.

  1. Visit your preferred provider’s website and sign up for the service. (I recommend CyberGhost.)
  2. Once you’ve paid for your subscription, download the provider’s app(s) on your device(s).
  3. Sign into the service on the app.
  4. Use the app to connect to a VPN server. You can usually just click a button and it will connect you to the nearest, best-performing server. If you’re interested in connecting to a server in another country, check out the server list and connect to a server in another country.
  5. That’s it, you’re connected – your connection is now secure, and if you connected to a server in another country, you can access that country’s internet content!

Note: If you’re trying to access country-specific content, sometimes you need to clear your browser cache and cookies to erase old location identifiers before the service will be accessible.

If you’re still having trouble, contact your VPN’s customer support department, since some servers may be better than others for doing certain online activities, like streaming or torrenting.

What to Look For in a VPN

There are a few things you want to look out for when choosing the best VPN for you, especially if you’re a newbie to VPNs. Here, I’ll explain what each of those factors are.

Ease of Use

Since our topic is the simplest VPNs to use, considering how easy a VPN is to use is important.

Easy-to-use VPN apps will often include a button that offers one-click protection. That button will connect you with the best-performing server nearest your location, so you can count on protection and speed.

Also consider whether or not the provider lets you easily access their network of servers. It should be a simple process to choose a server, and even easier if they mark which servers are best for streaming or downloading.

Finally, take into account the user interface. The app should be uncluttered and easy to read while keeping the number of clicks to get to your desired location to a minimum.

Customer Support

Especially when you’re new to using a VPN, you’ll want a VPN that offers comprehensive and responsive customer support. All of the VPN providers on my list offer 24/7 live support chat, meaning you can get answers instantly.

Also available are usually an email support option, a trouble ticket tracking system, a “Contact Us” form and a searchable support library.

Most VPNs, and all of the VPNs on my list, don’t offer phone support. But their 24/7 live support chat should make up for that.

Connection Speeds

Everyone wants a fast connection. It makes every online activity more enjoyable: streaming, gaming, file sharing, you name it.

However, how fast a VPN is will depend on your usual, ISP-provided connection speeds. A VPN’s encryption will slow down your internet connection at least somewhat, but if you ordinarily have fast speeds, a fast VPN won’t slow you down by much.

Every VPN service provider on my list offers impressive connection speeds, with the ability to watch streaming video in HD at least, play fast-moving games and share large files without a problem.

Security and Privacy

Security and privacy protections are a must when you’re using a VPN, especially if your main focus is protecting your connection.

Security-wise, all of the VPN providers on my list offer military-grade AES 256-bit encryption. Most also offer kill switch protection, which will cut off your internet connection if you become disconnected from a VPN server, and DNS leak protection, which will prevent your DNS requests from leaking outside of the VPN tunnel.

More detailed information and explanations about VPN security protections can be found in our VPN Security Features article.

Privacy-wise, it’s important to choose a VPN that keeps no logs of your online activities. Even though a VPN’s encryption keeps any outsiders from knowing what you’re up to, your VPN can access information about your online activities.

That’s why it’s critical to choose a VPN that will not record your online activities, so they can’t leak it to law enforcement or advertisers. All of the VPN providers on my list follow strict no-logs policies.

Also available from most providers is a Bitcoin cryptocurrency payment option, which will keep your financial information under wraps.

Multi-Platform Support

These days, almost every device in the house has an internet connection, from the obvious, like your computer or mobile device, to the less obvious, like your refrigerator. That makes it important for the VPN you choose to offer a VPN app for your favorite devices.

Even the least “worthy” VPNs on the market offer native apps for the “Big 4”: iOS, macOS, Windows and Android. But the better VPNs, like the ones on my list, offer apps for other devices as well, like Amazon Fire, ChromeOS, Android TV and Linux.

In addition, many VPN service providers offer browser extensions for browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and even Edge. However, I wouldn’t suggest using these, as they only encrypt your browser traffic, leaving the rest of your device’s internet activities open to monitoring.

The best VPNs, like the ones on my list, also offer router support. That means you can set up your VPN connection on your router, and all devices connected to the router will be protected at once.

Simultaneous Connections

The ability to connect more than one device at a time to a VPN’s servers can be important, especially if you’ve got a lot of devices, or you want to protect your whole family or business.

On the low end, VPNs like ExpressVPN only offer 5 simultaneous connections. On the high end, VPNs like Surfshark and IPVanish offer unlimited simultaneous connections.

Optional: Global Server Network

VPNs have servers all over the world. If you want to, you can connect to a VPN’s servers in other parts of the world, opening up access to content that you may not normally have access to.

This is optional because some users only want to protect their connection, not access content in other countries, so it’s up to you if you think you’ll want to access content in other countries. In that case, look out for a provider with enough server coverage to fulfill your needs.

The Best VPNs For “Dummies”

Here’s a shortened version of the descriptions of the best VPNs for beginners. For more detailed information, find my full, in-depth reviews below this list.

  1. CyberGhost: CyberGhost offers easy-to-use apps that offer one-click protection, in addition to easily-identifiable streaming- and downloading-optimized servers. The provider’s customer support is speedy to respond to inquiries, and its connection speeds are satisfying.
  2. NordVPN: NordVPN is another easy-to-use, top-notch provider that doesn’t cost much. It offers some of the fastest connection speeds on the market. The provider also thoroughly protects your privacy and security, and customer support is only a click away.
  3. Surfshark: Surfshark offers unlimited simultaneous connections, so you and your family can easily connect to the VPN servers all at once. The provider offers one-click connection to the fastest server available or the nearest country.
  4. ExpressVPN: ExpressVPN’s “Smart Location” feature picks the best VPN server for optimal performance. The provider also offers excellent access to geo-blocked content and the fastest speeds available, although at an expensive price.
  5. IPVanish: IPVanish offers a “Quick Connect” feature that chooses the best available city and best available server for a selected country. The provider also offers unlimited simultaneous connections and enhanced privacy protection.

Here are the in-depth reviews of the best VPN providers for newbies.

1. CyberGhost

Cyberghost Jan 2022

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.CyberGhost.com

Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS

CyberGhost is the best possible VPN choice for newbies to the VPN world.

CyberGhost offers easy-to-use apps for the Linux, Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Android TV and Amazon Fire device platforms (in addition to easy-to-use router support and Chrome and Firefox browser extensions). Streaming- and downloading-optimized servers are easy to find and connect to.

The provider’s customer support options include 24/7 live support chat, a trouble ticket system and an easy-to-search support library.

CyberGhost’s connection speeds can easily handle any of your favorite online activities, including streaming, gaming and file sharing.

The security protections that CyberGhost offers are comprehensive. Government-grade AES 256-bit encryption protects your connection, as does an automatic kill switch and DNS leak protection. The service can also block ads and malicious websites, as well as protect against malware.

CyberGhost never saves any logs of your online activities, so no one can request them and find out what you’re up to. A Bitcoin payment option is also available.

The provider lets you connect up to 7 devices at once to its servers, which is an unusually high number.

CyberGhost’s global server coverage is some of the widest available from any provider, comprising 6,600+ servers in almost 90 countries.

Pros:

  • Easy-to-use apps
  • Streaming- and downloading-optimized servers
  • 24/7 live support chat
  • Fast connection speeds
  • Thorough privacy and security protections

Cons:

  • Doesn’t unblock all streaming services

BEST VPN FOR “DUMMIES:CyberGhost offers the most easy-to-use service, making it my top choice for new VPN users. The provider’s customer support is only a few moments away at any time, and your privacy and security are completely protected. Its connection speeds are appreciably fast. A 45-day money-back guarantee is available.

Read our full review of CyberGhost.

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2. NordVPN

NordVPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.NordVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

NordVPN ranks 2nd when it comes to easy-to-use service, and for good reason.

The provider’s apps include a “Quick Connect” button, which connects you to the nearest and best available server. The apps offer a pleasant interface.

Those easy-to-use apps are available for the iOS, macOS, Android, Windows, Linux, Amazon Fire and Android TV device platforms. Simple Chrome and Firefox browser extensions are available, as is support for numerous router makes and models.

Customer support agents are always available via 24/7 live support chat, and email support is also an option. A searchable knowledge base holds answers for those who are do-it-yourselfers.

NordVPN provides some of the fastest connection speeds available, offering the ability to stream content in HD or 4K, play fast-moving games or share large files. The provider never imposes any data caps on your connection and also offers unlimited bandwidth.

Your security is utterly protected thanks to bank-grade AES 256-bit encryption, as well as kill switch and DNS leak protection. A proprietary CyberSec feature blocks malware attacks, botnets and ads.

Your privacy is duly protected with a strict no-logs policy and a privacy-friendly Bitcoin payment option.

6 simultaneous connections are allowed on a single account.

NordVPN’s server network is rather wide, including 5,500+ servers in 59+ countries. The provider is adept at unblocking any kind of content you have in mind.

Pros:

  • “Quick Connect” button
  • Extremely fast connection speeds
  • Wide app support
  • Speedy customer support responses

Cons:

  • Streaming-optimized servers not designated in apps

GREAT ALL-AROUND VPN:NordVPN offers an excellent service all around. Fast connection speeds, responsive customer support and strong encryption all make the scene. The provider’s “Quick Connect” button makes it easy to find the best server for your location. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.

Read our full review of NordVPN.

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3. Surfshark

SurfShark VPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.Surfshark.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

Surfshark is your best bet if you’re looking for cheap VPN service that’s also high-quality and easy to use.

Surfshark offers both a “Fastest Server” button and a “Nearest Country” button, which only take a click to connect to. The provider also offers a simple user interface.

Apps are available from the provider for the Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android and Amazon Fire device platforms. Browser extensions are available for Chrome and Firefox, and it’s easy to set up a router with the service.

Fast, 24/7 live support chat is available, as is email support, a contact form and a searchable knowledge base.

Connection speed-wise, Surfshark excels, offering plenty of speed for all of your preferred online activities, and there’s unlimited bandwidth and no data caps to boot.

There’s security protections in the form of high-end AES 256-bit encryption, an automatic kill switch and DNS leak protection. The provider also offers malware and phishing protection, as well as ad and tracker blocking.

Surfshark doesn’t save any logs of your online activities, and a Bitcoin payment option keeps your financial information undercover.

Surfshark also offers unlimited simultaneous connections, meaning you can connect as many devices as you need to the provider’s servers at one time on one account. Large families and small businesses will especially appreciate this fact.

Surfshark’s global server coverage used to be minimalist, but now is composed of 3,200+ servers in 65+ countries, giving you plenty of options for which country to connect to.

Pros:

  • Budget pricing
  • “Fastest Server” and “Nearest Country” buttons
  • Unlimited concurrent connections
  • Comprehensive privacy and security protections

Cons:

  • Single month subscription somewhat expensive

BEST VPN FOR BUDGET:Surfshark is your VPN if you’re looking for an easy-to-use service that doesn’t break the bank. The provider offers buttons that quickly connect you to the fastest server available or the nearest country. Unlimited simultaneous connections are an added bonus. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.

Read our full review of Surfshark.

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4. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.ExpressVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

ExpressVPN is a top-notch provider, especially when it comes to streaming.

The provider offers a “Smart Location” feature that chooses the best VPN server for you based on metrics like speed, latency and distance. It’s easy to choose a server manually if you’d prefer to do that.

ExpressVPN native apps are available for the iOS, macOS, Windows, Android, Linux, ChromeOS, Amazon Fire and Android TV device platforms. Browser extensions are available for Chrome, Firefox and even Edge, and there’s plenty of router support, too.

24/7 customer support is available for you, well, 24/7. Email support and a trouble ticket tracking system also make the scene, and there’s a searchable support library if you want to search for answers on your own.

ExpressVPN offers the fastest connection speeds available from any provider, meaning you can watch streaming video in HD or 4K, play games without lag and share large files quickly. No data caps or bandwidth limitations from this provider.

Government-grade AES 256-bit encryption, an automatic kill switch, DNS leak protection and more are all available to protect your internet connection.

A strict no-logs policy protects your privacy, as does a Bitcoin payment option.

Only 5 simultaneous connections are allowed on one set of login credentials, but that should be enough for many users.

ExpressVPN’s server network is incredibly large, including 3,000+ servers in over 90 countries. The provider is well known for its ability to unblock even the most formidably protected streaming and other kinds of services.

Pros:

  • “Smart Location” feature
  • Always-available customer support
  • Blazingly fast connection speeds

Cons:

  • More expensive than other providers
  • Doesn’t point out streaming-optimized servers in apps

BEST EASY-TO-USE VPN FOR STREAMING:If you want both an easy-to-use provider and one that’s great for streaming, choose ExpressVPN (if you’ve got money to burn). The provider offers incredibly fast speeds, a wide server network and comprehensive app support, as well as a “Smart Location” feature. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.

Read our full review of ExpressVPN.

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5. IPVanish

IPVanish

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.IPVanish.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

IPVanish excels when it comes to security and privacy, while also being simple to use.

The provider offers a “Quick Connect” feature that connects you to the best available city and the best available server for a selected country.

Apps are available for the Windows, iOS, macOS, Android, Amazon Fire and ChromeOS device platforms. Sadly, if you’re a Linux user, you’ll have to set up the service manually. There are no browser extensions to speak of, although there is router support.

Customer support is available around the clock thanks to 24/7 live support chat. Email support is also an option, as is a searchable knowledge base.

Although it does depend on your usual connection speeds, IPVanish won’t slow you down by too much. Streaming, gaming and file sharing are all possible with this provider.

IPVanish protects your online activities with government-grade AES 256-bit encryption and a kill switch with auto-reconnect. In addition, the provider owns and operates all of its servers, keeping third-party contractors far away from your data.

Although IPVanish promises never to save any usage logs, it’s also true that the provider doesn’t let you pay with Bitcoin.

IPVanish allows for unlimited simultaneous connections.

The provider’s server network isn’t too large, including 1,600+ servers in 54+ countries. However, if you’re just looking to encrypt your connection, this shouldn’t be an issue.

Pros:

  • “Quick Connect” feature
  • Keeps third-party contractors away
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections

Cons:

  • No Bitcoin payment option
  • One-month subscription pretty expensive

SIMPLE AND SECURE:IPVanish offers a “Quick Connect” feature that connects you to the best available server for where you are. The fact that its servers are proprietary adds an extra level of security and privacy. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.

Read our full review of IPVanish.

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Why Not Use a Free VPN?

Free VPNs can be enticing, especially for newbies, since you may not want to invest much money upfront. However, free VPNs are dangerous for your online health, and “offer” inconvenience and lousy performance.

First of all, you’ll be lucky if you find a VPN that offers apps for all of the big 4 platforms of macOS, iOS, Windows and Android. You can forget about router support or apps for other devices, like Amazon Fire, Android TV, Linux and more. Browser extensions are rare, too.

In addition, free VPN providers make you wait in a queue behind other free users before allowing you to connect to any of their servers. If you were looking for quick access, prepare to be disappointed.

Once you are given the go-ahead to connect, you’ll have very few servers to connect to, or no choice at all. Especially if you were looking to access content in other countries, free VPN server providers are not your best bet.

Speaking of accessing content in other countries, it’s difficult these days to find a VPN that will be able to unblock content, since a lot of services geo-block their content. All of the paid VPN providers on my list offer easy access to geo-blocked services, but free VPNs will only let you down.

Plus, free VPNs like to throttle your internet speeds to save bandwidth for their paying customers. That’s in addition to daily or monthly data caps, so prepare not only for your speeds to be slow, but also to have your online, VPN-connected sessions to be cut short.

None of the paid providers on my list throttle your bandwidth or impose any data caps of any sort.

Finally, consider the threat to your privacy. Free VPNs will often record your online activities and sell the information to interested third parties, such as advertisers or even law enforcement. Plus, free VPNs often insert unwanted ads and tracking cookies into your browsing sessions (and those cookies don’t stop tracking you when you stop using the VPN).

Paid VPN providers pose none of these problems, and VPNs like CyberGhost, NordVPN and Surfshark come at a value price, so you don’t have to spend that much money for quality protection. Trust me, you want to stay far away from free providers.

Conclusion

Finding a VPN that’s easy to use is essential for newbies to the VPN world. The best VPN for “dummies” is CyberGhost.

CyberGhost offers easy, one-click connection to the best possible server for you, as well as options for servers optimized for streaming or downloading. Its connection speeds are formidable, its customer support responsive, and its security and privacy protections comprehensive.

For more information or to subscribe to the provider, visit the CyberGhost website.

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