Sometimes, a VPN can leak your personal data without you even knowing it. This defeats the purpose of using a VPN service. Therefore, we recommend routinely checking your VPN for leaks to ensure that it is working as expected.
We consider it good practice to do the following tests on your VPN:
We recommend using a VPN that always aces the VPN tests listed above. NordVPN has proven to be a totally leak-proof VPN, having never failed our extensive tests. NordVPN is our best VPN because it’s a safe, affordable, and reliable VPN service.
Read our full article below for more details about how to test if your VPN is working.
Did you know you can test a VPN to see if it’s working? VPN tests can help you check if the service is actually keeping your data safe online.
At VPNOverview, we run these tests every time we check that our VPN reviews are up-to-date. In this article, we’ll share how you can check if your VPN is working by running these standard tests. This will help you pick the best VPN for your needs.
The Types of VPN Tests
Sometimes, a VPN leaks sensitive data without leaving any hints that it’s happening at all. There are several free tools you can use online to test for the most common VPN leaks, namely IP address leaks, DNS leaks, and WebRTC leaks.
You can also run VPN speed tests to check what kind of download and upload speeds you’re getting. Lastly, you can test your VPN for malware to ensure that the app is not harming your device.
The table below summarizes the VPN tests you can run to check if your VPN is working.
IP address leak
Tests for exposure of your device’s original IP address. IP address leaks can reveal your device’s location.
Your IP address is one of the most revealing pieces of information associated with your device. It can reveal your location, be used to track you on the internet, and even eventually be tied to your identity.
Therefore, it’s vital to hide your IP address using a VPN. You can check if your VPN works to hide your IP with the following steps:
Check your IP address using our IP address checker. Simply click the link, and you will be able to see your IP address in the table on the webpage.
Alternatively, you can go to ipv6-test.com, which will display your IP address along with other details.
Now, connect to your VPN. We use NordVPN because we’ve found it to be one of the best providers with solid leak protection.
Check your IP address again using our IP address checker or ipv6-test.com. If your VPN is working correctly, the IP address and location should be different from the information you saw in Step 1 above.
If the second test shows your original IP address, then you have an IP address leak. There are three ways to solve this:
Run the IP test again after making these changes. If your VPN frequently leaks your IP address, it can compromise your privacy.
We recommend using NordVPN, as our extensive testing shows that it has superior leak protection. It also has an automatic kill switch, which disconnects you from the internet if the secure VPN connection drops.
An internet protocol address is a unique string of digits assigned to every internet-connected device on your network by your internet service provider (ISP).
IP addresses identify each device based on its connection and location. It also establishes the rules by which devices on the same network can communicate with one another. Without an IP address, you won’t be able to use the internet.
What happens if your IP address leaks?
VPNs mask your identity by replacing your true IP address with the IP of the VPN server you’ve chosen. This means that your location and identity remain hidden — unless your IP address leaks.
IP leaks expose your original IP address, and therefore your device’s location, to third parties. They usually occur when you reconnect to the internet after an abrupt loss of connection.
Most high-quality VPNs have kill switches that automatically cut your connection to the internet when your VPN malfunctions. This means that the risk of your unencrypted data leaking onto the web is significantly smaller.
DNS Leak Testing
DNS is an acronym for Domain Name System. It allows users to browse the internet with ease. VPNs should make sure your DNS information stays private. Unfortunately, a DNS leak can cause your data to become visible to other parties, even when your VPN is activated.
Run either the standard or extended test. We recommend selecting the extended one because it provides more in-depth results.
Make a note of the IP addresses you see when the test is complete.
Now, connect to your VPN and run the test again. For this article, we’re using NordVPN.
Check whether any of the IPs listed in the results belong to your internet service provider (as revealed in Step 3 above). If yes, this means your ISP can see your data, and you have a DNS leak. If the IPs instead belong to your VPN provider, then there is no DNS leak.
We suggest performing a DNS leak test regularly. If you find that your VPN suffers from DNS leaks, we recommend switching to a VPN known for security, such as NordVPN.
The Domain Name System translates a domain name (e.g. vpnoverview.com) into an IP address so web browsers can access and load the relevant internet resources without making users remember the IP addresses themselves. Think of the way your phone’s contact list translates the names of your friends and family members into a phone number. This is similar to how DNS works.
What happens if your DNS info leaks?
VPNs keep your online activities private by encrypting your internet connection and routing it through an intermediary server located in another part of the world. DNS leaks occur when your translation requests leak out of the encryption tunnel.
This means that:
Your ISP can see every website you visit. They’ll see this in the form of translation requests. ISPs can monitor your online activities and potentially throttle your connection if you engage in activities they disapprove of, like data-intensive activities such as downloading, streaming, or gaming. In many countries, ISPs are even free to sell your browsing data to third parties without your knowledge or consent, such as marketing agencies, advertisers, and even the government.
Your IP address, ISP, and location will be visible. This is more than enough information for anyone with an internet connection to uncover your identity.
WebRTC Leak Testing
If you use real-time multimedia services through your web browser (like video calling), your IP address can be exposed despite using a VPN. To check for this, you should conduct a WebRTC leak test using the steps below.
With your VPN disconnected, go to browserleaks.com and check both the “Local IP Address” and “Public IP Address” fields.
Close the browser window.
Turn on your VPN and go to browserleaks.com again.
Check that the new information in both the “Local IP Address” and “Public IP Address” is not the same as your original IP address seen in step 1 above.
If you see your original IP address despite using a VPN, your VPN is experiencing a WebRTC leak. To prevent this, we recommend using a trusted VPN such as NordVPN, which has foolproof WebRTC leak protection.
WebRTC stands for “Web Real-Time Communication.” This technology allows us to stream audio and video within our browsers. Along with WebGL (which allows for the use of 3D graphics in your browser), WebRTC plugins are now standard in most popular web browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.
The WebRTC plugin allows users to make video calls directly through the browser without using video conferencing apps like Zoom or Skype. It also helps improve other real-time multimedia capabilities, such as P2P file sharing and screen sharing.
The WebRTC plugin can leak your IP address, even when you’re using a VPN. This means that the convenience of making video calls directly from your web browser comes at the cost of your digital privacy. This security vulnerability is often seen in Firefox and Chrome.
Just like with IP leaks, WebRTC leaks expose the user’s true IP address and location. One method of preventing WebRTC leaks is to disable WebRTC functionality in your browser’s settings or to use a trusted VPN like NordVPN that will protect you against such leaks.
VPN Speed Testing
Using a VPN can slow down your internet speed. However, the speed drop should never be so extreme that it affects your online activities. You can test your VPN’s speed using the steps below.
With your VPN disabled, go to speedtest.net and click the “Go” button to run a speed test. This will show you your original internet speed.
Connect your VPN and repeat the test.
The speed test will run for a moment and eventually present you with three numbers, explained below.
This number tells you how many milliseconds (ms) it takes for your connection to respond to a request. This is also called latency. The higher the latency, the slower your connection will be.
If the ping is very low, like 3 ms, your speed is doing really well. A ping of 200+ ms, on the contrary, likely means your connection is very slow.
In general, a ping lower than 60 ms is recommended. You will find that servers located far away from you will most likely have a higher latency than those that are nearer.
The download speed measures the rate at which data from the VPN server travels to your device in megabits per second (Mbps). High download speeds indicate fast connections.
Download speed is usually the most important factor when using the internet, unless you’re streaming HD video or playing online video games.
Generally, a download speed of about 10Mbps per person is enough, although this does depend heavily on your online activities. Just like with latency, the fastest servers are usually the ones that are closest to you.
The upload speed measures the opposite of the download speed, namely the rate at which data from your device travels to the VPN server in Mbps. High upload speeds indicate fast connections. Your upload speed doesn’t necessarily have to be as high as your download speed.
With just 5Mbps per person, you should already be able to stream your favorite streaming services.
If you find that the ping is very high and the upload and download speeds are very low, your VPN might be affecting your speed. To solve this, try these steps:
Disconnect the VPN and run another speed test. If the results are much better, the slow connection is caused by the VPN. If not, it’s down to your own internet connection.
Choose a different VPN server that’s closer to your physical location and run another VPN speed test. The results should be much better, allowing you to enjoy your VPN connection without as much lag.
Change the VPN protocol. You can usually do this in the settings of your VPN software. Try to use WireGuard or OpenVPN to reach the best results without trading in on security. If those don’t give the required result, IKEv2 or PPTP might help.
If your connection is still slow after you’ve tried several VPN servers and protocols, your VPN is not performing well. We recommend opting for NordVPN, which is one of the fastest VPNs we’ve tried and tested.
A VPN encrypts your data and reroutes your connection through a different server. This process can affect your device’s performance. Some VPNs drastically lower your internet speed, while others have found ways to affect it as little as possible.
There are several factors that might influence your VPN connection speed, including:
Chosen VPN protocol: VPNs work with different protocols to encrypt your data. Some protocols are safer than others, but they might also slow down your connection.
Distance from server: The greater the distance between your physical location and the VPN server you’re connected to, the slower your connection will be.
Server load: Many VPN servers are shared among users of a provider. This means that your chosen server and IP address will also be used by others. The more people using the same server, the slower your connection might become. Getting a dedicated IP address can solve this issue.
VPN Malware Testing
Some VPNs contain malware in their apps, meaning your phone or computer will be affected the moment you download them. That’s why it’s important to make sure you only use malware-free VPNs.
You can check your VPN for malware using the steps below:
Go to virustotal.com. Click on “Choose file” and pick the VPN app from your computer.
Click “Confirm Upload” and wait for the site to finish analyzing the file.
VirusTotal will run its test and show the results in a list.
If the results indicate that your VPN app has malware, it’s important to switch to a trusted provider like NordVPN.
Make sure to only upload the VPN app and never share any personal data or information on VirusTotal or other scanners. This will help you maintain your online privacy.
Although VirusTotal is a useful scanning service, keep in mind that it shouldn’t be treated as a substitute for antivirus software. Aside from performing this test, it’s vital that you have a working, up-to-date antivirus program on your device as well.
Good antivirus software will protect you against most malware, both from unsafe VPN services and from any other source on the internet. Our top recommendation is Norton 360 because it provides comprehensive protection against all internet threats.
Malware is more commonly found in free VPN apps than in premium services. Signing up for a VPN provider free of charge usually comes at the cost of security and speed. Not all free VPN providers have the resources to fend off hackers who exploit software vulnerabilities.
Although you can find plenty of good free VPN services online, some malicious VPNs will spread malware or track their users’ online activities to sell data to third-party advertisers.
These data-mining practices usually occur without the user’s knowledge or consent. Signing up for a free VPN is all the “consent” these providers need to make money from your data.
Additionally, free VPNs come with limitations, such as very few server locations or monthly data limits. To avoid these, we recommend choosing an affordable premium provider with a 30-day money-back guarantee, like NordVPN.
The Best VPNs With Complete Leak Protection
We’ve done in-depth tests and reviews of hundreds of services to find the best VPNs that offer great speeds, security, and features. Below are our recommendations for the best VPNs that have complete leak protection.
1. NordVPN: The best VPN for online security
NordVPN aced all the VPN tests we put it through. In our latest speed tests, NordVPN retained up to 96% of our download speed, and we experienced only 5ms ping on nearby servers. Thanks to its military-grade encryption and VPN protocols, it’s also never leaked our data, location, or IP address.
Best of all, it comes at an incredibly affordable price. You can take advantage of the 30-day money-back guarantee to try NordVPN risk-free.
Save big with 68% off a two-year subscription plus 3 months free!
2. Surfshark: Unlimited devices at an unbeatable price
If you want one of the safest and most reliable VPNs at an unbeatable price, we recommend Surfshark. It consistently passes every VPN test we conduct and does an excellent job of keeping us safe online. Surfshark blocks ads, malware, cookies, and pop-ups for a better browsing experience.
Moreover, you can install Surfhark on an unlimited number of devices, which makes it perfect for the whole family or workplace. Just like NordVPN, it works with almost any streaming service to ensure you get the most bang for your buck.
Surfshark costs just a couple of dollars a month when you opt for a two-year subscription, and you also get a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Save 82% + 2 Months free and pay only $2.30 a month
Very user-friendly and works with Netflix and torrents
ExpressVPN has long been one of the leaders in the VPN market, and our ExpressVPN review shows that it has certainly earned its standing. It has never failed a VPN test we’ve put it through and is one of our go-to options for foolproof safety, complete privacy, reliable speeds, and a solid server network.
Of course, it’s packed full of features while being extremely user-friendly. We’ve used it to unblock geo-restricted content in India, the US, the Netherlands, and other countries, including streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, and more.
It’s pretty simple to run a VPN test for IP leaks, DNS leaks, WebRTC leaks, speed, and malware. Doing these routinely can ensure that you are using a secure VPN provider.
To keep yourself secure and private online, choose only a VPN that aces all these VPN tests. We recommend NordVPN for its military-grade encryption, wide variety of secure VPN protocols, fast server network, and protective features like the kill switch and ad blocking.
How to Test Your VPN for Leaks: Frequently Asked Questions
Still wondering how to perform a VPN test? Or do you have a different question? Our FAQ will help you out.
How do I know if my VPN is leaking?
There are three tests that determine if you are suffering from a VPN leak:
IP leak test (ipv6-test.com)
DNS leak test (dnsleaktest.com)
WebRTC leak test (browserleaks.com)
All three leaks can expose your IP address and location, compromising your privacy. These tests are very easy to do and will only take a couple of clicks!
How do I speed test my VPN?
You can visit the trusted website speedtest.net to check your VPN speeds. Simply connect to your VPN and then click the “Go” button on the website to check upload and download speeds. If you want to make sure you choose a VPN with fast connections, have a look at our list of fastest VPNs.
How do I know if my VPN is working?
Once you’ve connected to your VPN server, check your public IP address. You can do this by using our IP tool. If the IP and location that show up match your own private IP address and location, your VPN isn’t working. If they match the information from the VPN server, your VPN has changed your IP address and is working.
How do I find my IP address?
A simple online search will return plenty of free tools that will show you your IP address, our very own IP tool being one of them. Windows users can also check their IP addresses directly from the Command Prompt.
Open the Command Prompt.
Type “ipconfig” into the Command Prompt screen.
Your IP address and all of your system’s configured network interfaces should appear.
Mehak has been writing for over a decade and is passionate about helping people have safer, healthier relationships with all things tech. She has a master’s degree in communication and is interested in the impact of technology and the internet on global communities.