Our Private Internet Access (PIA) score
PIA (Private Internet Access) Review (2023): Safe, Cheap Option
Private Internet Access VPN bills itself as “a VPN you can trust.” PIA boasts an impressive roster of features, including a strict no-logs policy, an extensive server network, and fast speeds. We put PIA through the wringer to verify these claims and more.
For this review, we ran extensive tests and checks to determine its security, privacy features, usability, and server network. This Private Internet Access VPN review is an exhaustive tell-all to help you discover if the VPN is worth your money.
Our Experience With PIA: Short Summary
|Strong security||Windows app dashboard disappears into the app tray when you click elsewhere|
|Proven no-logs policy||Servers sometimes take a while to connect|
|Strong focus on privacy|
|US Netflix works|
|Simple and clear software and website|
In our experience, Private Internet Access VPN is worthy of its spot on the best VPN list. In our previous tests, PIA provided only average speeds. This time, however, its download and upload speeds were through the roof, making it one of the fastest VPNs in our book.
PIA’s performance makes it a great choice for any activity that requires fast speeds, including streaming, gaming, and downloads. Its server network in 84 countries can also unblock the major streaming services, including Netflix. It also allows P2P file-sharing and torrenting.
True to its privacy claims, PIA doesn’t log data that can be traced back to you. This was confirmed by an independent audit by Deloitte, one of the best auditing firms globally.
On top of all that, PIA is very reasonably priced when you register for a subscription for a longer time. For example, its monthly fee is 66 cents cheaper than Surfshark’s if you get the one-year plan. This, combined with simple and clean software, makes us happily recommend PIA if you are looking for a quality VPN service.
The main downside of Private Internet Access VPN is its odd app behavior: the dashboard disappears when you click outside of the window. In addition, servers sometimes took a while to connect. Otherwise, PIA is a very reliable, fast, and secure VPN service.
|💵 Price||From $2.19 a month|
|📱 Operating systems||Linux, Windows, Mac, iOS, Android|
|💳 Payment methods||PayPal, Other, Credit card, Cryptocurrency|
|🔒 Protocols||OpenVPN, Wireguard, L2TP/IPsec, PPTP|
|📥 Torrent options||Torrenting allowed|
|📅 Money-back guarantee||30 Days|
|📋 Logs||Zero logs|
|🎬 Works with|
Speed – How Fast is PIA?
A slow VPN can result in pages taking longer to load and lags. We checked PIA’s speeds to see to give you an idea of how it holds up. Based on our testing, we awarded PIA a 9 out of 10 score in speed. Here’s a preview of our findings:
- PIA posted blazing-fast download and upload speeds. Its ping is also comparably low.
- We didn’t experience any lags or hitches while performing day-to-day tasks with PIA.
Speed test results for PIA
We conducted our PIA speed tests from our headquarters in the Netherlands. We started by recording our download speeds, upload speeds, and latency (ping) without a VPN. Next, we checked PIA’s speeds in at least one country on every continent and compared the speed drop-offs.
The table below is a summary of the results.
Speed tests always vary per location, internet provider, and time of day. View these values as indicators only.
|Server||Download (Mbps)||Upload (Mbps)||Ping (ms)|
|Fastest server (Amsterdam)||194.03||235.38||10|
|The U.S East (New York)||167.16||220.76||92|
|The U.S. West (Las Vegas)||141.49||158.61||159|
|The U.K (London)||190.61||236.24||12|
As you can see from the speed tests, PIA posts excellent speed test values.
Its fast download speeds suggest that PIA is a good choice for activities like streaming HD movies and downloading large files. We also recommend PIA for any upload-related activities, such as uploading content to social media and transferring large files.
Here are some detailed reports:
- The fastest PIA server maintained about 95% of our original download speeds, rubbing shoulders with the likes of NordVPN. In our recent testing circuit, NordVPN and Surfshark’s fastest server also gave us around 95% of the initial download speeds.
- Equally impressive is the fact all the PIA servers we tested in Europe (the U.K., Germany, and France) kept at least 93% of our download speeds. Our speeds did drop in the U.S., but not significantly.
- In terms of upload speed, PIA excelled, as well. PIA’s servers in New York served at least 89% of our original upload speeds. We had even slightly better results in the U.K.
Of course, our speeds decreased as we tested locations farther away, including Japan and Australia. This is not surprising. If you connect to a distant server, your latency will surely be higher.
Overall, PIA’s latency is within the ballpark of the top VPNs, indicating that it’s a handy option for tasks like gaming.
Speed during everyday use
We checked PIA’s speeds while performing day-to-day tasks to confirm if it’s as fast as the speed test suggests.
We were able to load several news sites and blogs without any delays. Similarly, we watched many YouTube videos and streamed Spider-Man: Homecoming on Netflix without any interruption. (In our previous PIA tests, Netflix needed a little extra time to buffer an episode. Not this time, though.)
In addition, we could play online games like Fortnite without any lags. We were also able to download torrents very fast: a file of nearly 2 GB was downloaded in under 10 minutes.
All in all, PIA offers excellent speeds for day-to-day activities — though it’s still not the fastest VPN around. That honor belongs to NordVPN, which is the fastest VPN in the industry.
Safety – How Secure is PIA?
Here’s a rundown of the different safety aspects of PIA VPN, which informs why we gave it 9.5 out of 10 in safety:
- PIA works with various strong protocols, including OpenVPN and the new, innovative protocol WireGuard. It also has a SOCKS5-proxy.
- PIA has a strict no-log policy, proven in court.
- PIA has a built-in kill switch and PIA MACE for blocking ads, trackers, and malware.
- You need an email address and your payment information to create an account.
Private Internet Access VPN encrypts your traffic with 128-bit and 256-bit AES encryption. This kind of encryption will take millions of years to break.
In terms of VPN protocols, PIA offers OpenVPN and WireGuard for Windows, Android, and Linux. For iOS and macOS, PIA includes the IPSec (IKEv2) protocol.
We recommend using OpenVPN since it offers the best combination of speed and security. If you want fast speeds, choose the lightweight WireGuard protocol. OpenVPN and WireGuard are considered the best protocol options today.
Logging and privacy
PIA maintains a strict no-logging policy. This means it doesn’t store personally identifiable information and user data.
User browsing data is never stored on hard disks but on a special null device. This is a virtual device that automatically pretends as if any data sent through it doesn’t exist. Once the information has been written to the null device, it becomes unable to retrieve. This is how PIA can guarantee its zero-logs policy.
Since PIA doesn’t log anything, it’s unable to hand over information in case of a court order.
PIA’s no logs policy was audited in 2020 by Deloitte, one of the best auditing firms. The exhaustive audit confirmed that PIA doesn’t store logs that can be traced back to users.
PIA and the US
Since PIA is located in the US, the company may be ordered to provide information to assist with lawsuits. However, PIA has proven not to possess any information regarding its customers’ VPN use.
As recently as 2018, John Allan Arsenault, the general counsel for Trust Media, testified in court that “many VPN companies, including [PIA], intentionally don’t retain logs of internet activity of their clients so that they cannot be produced in response to subpoenas from law enforcement or others.”
Concerns remain over PIA being headquartered in a Five Eyes country. There have also been claims that “other websites discovered PIA has worked together with the NSA” and that “PIA has received gag orders by judges in the past.” However, there is no evidence supporting either of these claims.
Nevertheless, if you’re concerned with PIA being located in the US, there are providers out there which are located in countries with a better privacy reputation, such as ExpressVPN (British Virgin Islands) and NordVPN (Panama).
PIA and Russia
Private Internet Access has proven they take their customers’ privacy very seriously on multiple occasions. An example is their choice to remove their Russian servers from their server network.
In 2016, Russia decided that all domestic data traffic must be logged for at least one year, making it impossible for PIA to guarantee their users’ privacy, which is why they decided to no longer offer Russian servers.
When you use an external VPN provider, you always place part of your privacy in their hands. This means you have to place your trust in them. Luckily, there have been no indications so far that PIA has ever harmed their customers’ privacy. On the contrary, they stand by their customers at every twist and turn.
Private Internet Access users get access to a kill switch. An activated kill switch ensures that you are not accidentally leaking any information when your VPN disconnects for a minute.
Additionally, this VPN has a unique way of blocking domains that are used for ads, trackers, and malware. This function is called PIA MACE and can be found in the settings under the kill switch.
PIA’s ioXt certificate
Another testament to Private Internet Access’s serious approach towards transparency and security is the fact they had their Android app ioXt-certified.
ioXt (Internet of Secure Things) is an alliance comprised of over 100 large companies, including Google, Amazon, Comcast, and more. This alliance works together and strives to make the internet more secure and privacy-orientated.
It’s great that PIA is committed to making its mobile applications as safe as their desktop equivalents.
Does PIA leak your data?
We connected to PIA servers and checked whether we would suffer any leaks while using the service.
First, PIA changed our IP address as expected and didn’t reveal our original IP. It didn’t suffer from IPv4/IPv6 leaks.
We also tested for DNS leaks, and PIA passed that as well. That means that PIA doesn’t send DNS requests directly to your ISP.
Finally, we ran a WebRTC leak test. Such leaks usually happen when you attempt to establish a video or audio connection with another person. PIA didn’t expose your IP address through WebRTC leaks.
What information does PIA need?
PIA requires the following to create an account:
- Email address
- Payment information
To remain anonymous, you can register a new email address specifically for PIA so that it can’t be traced back to you. You can also pay with Bitcoin, so you don’t have to submit your details for payment processing.
Usability – How User-friendly is PIA?
After downloading and using Private Internet Access VPN’s apps, we can conclude that it’s user-friendly. That’s why we gave it an 8.5 out of 10 in user-friendliness. Here are our findings:
- PIA’s website is very informative and clear.
- Installing PIA is quick and effortless.
- The software is easy to navigate, although it sometimes takes a while to connect to a server.
- PIA’s cheapest plan costs $2.19 monthly, and you can pay using credit cards and cryptocurrency.
- The customer service is helpful and works through an online form and email, though it is a bit slow.
The PIA website and installation process
PIA’s website is clean, organized, and easy to navigate. All the important menus and information are available on the homepage.
The website is available in 28 languages, including Spanish, German, Italian, Dutch, and French. To switch languages, simply click on the globe icon at the top right corner of the homepage.
PIA has native Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android apps. There are also extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.
The “Download VPN” page of the website of PIA shows you all the Private Internet Access apps available. Simply click the right operating system to download the relevant file.
Installing PIA is straightforward and quick. We installed PIA’s Windows app in less than a minute.
Below, we’ll walk through the steps to sign up for and install PIA on your device. We’ll use the Windows app as an example, but the process is similar for macOS.
- Click the “Get PIA VPN” button on the homepage. Doing that will take you to the pricing page.
- Hover over your preferred plan and click “Select Plan.”
- Choose a payment method and fill in your details. You can add PIA’s antivirus and dedicated IP at extra charges. Review your order to ensure you’re only paying for what you want.
- PIA will email you confirming your purchase and ask you to create a password.
- Download the PIA Windows app from the website and follow the installation prompts.
- Login into the Private Internet Access app and connect to a server to enjoy VPN protection.
PIA offers a quick tour when you open the app for the first time. The tour involves a handful of tips to help you find your way around the app.
PIA VPN no longer supports Windows 7. Some people still run this operating system on their PC, because it might work a bit better and faster, mainly on older devices. If you’re one of these people, choose a VPN service that does support Windows 7, such as NordVPN.
PIA’s appearance and user experience
PIA’s software is designed to get in your way as little as possible. When you open the dashboard, you will see a large ON button, a small map, and the VPN server the app selected for you.
After connecting to the VPN server, you will find your IP address at the bottom, along with the IP address of the VPN server you are using at that moment.
If you click on the arrow at the bottom, you’ll see more information and functions. This includes regularly selected PIA VPN servers, performance details, quick settings, encryption details, and your subscription type.
When you click on the three dots in the top right corner, you’ll be able to access more comprehensive settings. For example, you can configure the language, theme, and general preferences under “General,” or review your account information under “Account.”
PIA has a dedicated tab for switching between protocols. Meanwhile, you can find its kill switch and PIA MACE feature under “Privacy.” Furthermore, you can set up your DNS servers and request port forwarding under “Network.”
On Windows, the dashboard will disappear from your display when you’re not using it. If you need it, you can find it in your system tray.
Sometimes, you might have to click the little arrow in the bottom right corner of your Windows desktop. This adds an extra step before you can enable or disable the connection.
This is a useful feature when you want to keep the PIA VPN dashboard out of sight, but it can be annoying when you want to do something within the dashboard.
You can improve the situation somewhat by going to Settings > General > Dashboard Appearance. Setting this option to “Window” will attach PIA to your taskbar instead of the tray, making it easier to find.
Another issue we had with the Private Internet Access app was that connecting to a server sometimes took a while. We needed to cancel the connection attempt and try again before recording success.
PIA browser extension
PIA VPN also has browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. This works about the same as the regular desktop and smartphone software. The difference is that the browser extension only ensures that the browser traffic runs via a VPN. Other applications are not protected by the VPN connection.
The PIA VPN browser extension gives you extra options regarding tracking, as shown below in a screenshot of the extension settings. Our experience with PIA’s Chrome browser was seamless and effective, and it rivals the best VPNs for Chrome.
Private Internet Access VPN offers split tunneling. This feature allows you to choose which apps use the Private Internet Access VPN. This is helpful if you want to conserve bandwidth. For example, you can watch Netflix without a VPN while simultaneously visiting a site anonymously.
We used PIA’s split tunneling feature to select which apps should use the VPN. Simply click “add application” or “add IP address” to choose which apps or websites use the VPN.
We were also able to run inverse split tunneling, which is to let all apps run through the encrypted tunnel and leave specific apps out.
Pricing and methods of payment
PIA offers three subscriptions: a monthly, a six-month, and a two-year option.
PIA’s two-year offer is a good choice if you need a long-term VPN, and subscribing to it lowers your monthly expense even more. It comes out at only $2.19 per month. This is a bargain, as TunnelBear’s three-year plan, for example, is priced at $3.33 per month.
Each subscription comes with a free license of Boxcryptor, which can encrypt sensitive files in cloud storage services, including Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive.
You can pay for a PIA VPN subscription through different methods:
- Credit card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover)
- Amazon Pay
- Cryptocurrency (Bitpay, Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Litecoin)
- Gift cards
It’s good to see that PIA accepts crypto payments since it allows you to purchase the VPN without submitting personal payment information.
How does PIA’s money-back guarantee work?
Private Internet Access VPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee on all plans.
To request a refund, send an email to email@example.com. Be sure to include the following details:
- The email address you used to sign up
- The complete PIA Order number from your payment confirmation email
We tested PIA’s money-back guarantee and received our money back, no questions asked.
PIA and Linux
Private Internet Access VPN used to be one of the best Linux VPNs around at one point. Sadly, that’s no longer the case. Its server network is being blocked throughout the globe, so it’s very difficult to create (and maintain) a stable connection with PIA for Linux users.
As for its client on Linux, you can install OpenVPN via the terminal if you’re using Debian, Fedora, Slackware, and Arch distros. Far better, though, is the option to install the Windows UI for Linux.
PIA offers a dedicated GUI for the Linux platform. Unfortunately, the app is only available to Linux distributions that also have the system software suite, like Linux Mint, Debian, Ubuntu, or Arch.
In the app, you also have the option to switch to custom DNS servers or change the level of encryption. Of course, there is also a kill switch, and you can route your traffic through a SOCKS5 proxy for extra tunneling through SSH.
If you have questions about Private Internet Access VPN, the knowledge base is a good place to start. It contains helpful articles, installation guides, updates, and FAQs.
Private Internet Access VPN has a section under the knowledgebase titled “Community.” However, it’s not a community forum where you can interact with other users and ask questions. Rather, PIA’s community allows you to request features and servers and make suggestions to improve the service.
If PIA’s database doesn’t have answers, get in touch with support agents by filling out the contact form on the website or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The main drawback of the contact form is that you have to fill in several mandatory fields.
For immediate assistance, use the live chat feature. During this review, we reached out to live chat agents multiple times, and on every occasion, they provided prompt and helpful answers.
Server Network – Can Private Internet Access VPN Unblock the Internet?
PIA has an impressive number of servers capable of unblocking sites, earning its server network an 8.5 out of 10. Here’s a quick look at our discoveries:
- Private Internet Access VPN offers VPN servers across 84 countries.
- It can unblock Netflix and virtually any streaming service.
- PIA allows torrenting on its servers
- PIA offers dedicated IP addresses in the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and Germany.
Number of servers and locations
Private Internet Access VPN has servers in 84 countries. PIA used to claim to have over 33,000 servers in these countries, but the VPN has since taken down that information from its website. This has become a trend in the industry. For instance, ExpressVPN and Surfshark no longer list their server count.
Here’s a breakdown of PIA’s server locations:
- Americas: United States, Canada, Mexico, Greenland, Brazil, Panama, Bahamas, Argentina, Venezuela
- Europe: the United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Romania, France, Czech Republic, Italy, Belgium, Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Ireland, Finland, Poland, Portugal, Albania, Iceland, Luxembourg, Ukraine, Lithuania, Andorra, Latvia, Greece, Bulgaria, Estonia, Moldova, North Macedonia, Serbia, Slovakia, Turkey, Hungary, Isle of Man, Liechtenstein, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Malta, Armenia, Cyprus, Georgia, Monaco
- Asia and Pacific region: Australia, Japan, Singapore, New Zealand, India, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Mongolia, Cambodia, Philippines, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Macao, China, Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan
- The Middle East and Africa: Israel, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Qatar
Private Internet Access VPN servers only store data using RAM memory rather than HDD/SSD storage. This means that sensitive user data is completely wiped every single time a server is restarted or shut down. This is a huge advantage when it comes to privacy and applies to PIA’s desktop and mobile apps by default.
PIA and streaming (Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, BBC iPlayer)
We recommend PIA for streaming since it works with all the streaming services we tested, including the usually hard-to-unblock Netflix. No wonder it has cemented the fifth spot in our best Netflix VPNs list.
|Platform||Can PIA unblock it?|
During our testing, we were able to access American Netflix from the Netherlands through a VPN server in New York. Additionally, we got into the British, Canadian, and German Netflix libraries. We were able to stream in HD without any noticeable lags or buffering.
The Private Internet Access VPN is also great for many other streaming services, including Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer. You can also use PIA VPN on Firestick and even on routers.
The PIA VPN on Firestick works quite well, allowing you to easily unblock Netflix or access other streaming providers.
PIA and torrents
Private is a good bet for downloading torrents. We tried downloading torrents from The Pirate Bay with PIA, and the entire process was fast and seamless.
PIA is unique in that all its servers are optimized for torrenting. By contrast, other providers only designate select servers as “P2P servers.” Using PIA for torrenting means you can use any of its servers and not have to worry about losing precious download speeds.
Dedicated IP address
Private Internet Access VPN offers dedicated IP addresses. Dedicated IPs are unique to you and are less likely to be flagged or blocked by online services.
PIA’s dedicated IP service starts from $2.50 per month (on top of your VPN subscription).
PIA’s dedicated IP address locations are in the US, the UK, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Australia, and Germany. If you need a different location, consider NordVPN. It has dedicated IPs in more countries, including Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Hong Kong, and Spain.
PIA’s dedicated IP is one of the reasons we consider it to be one of the best VPNs for online banking.
Our Experience With Private Internet Access VPN
In this round of testing PIA, we were impressed with the VPN’s features and performance. It offers high-level encryption and abides by a strict no-logs policy, which is ideal for privacy-conscious users.
PIA’s unblocking ability and fast speeds make it a great choice for streaming movies or downloading torrents. Plus, it’s a good VPN for beginners, thanks to its user-friendly apps.
If you’re wondering how PIA compares with other VPN services, it does hold its own — but it still needs improvement. For example, it’s not as fast as NordVPN. NordVPN is also better for streaming, torrenting, online banking, crypto trading, and unblocking chatbots.
We recommend PIA if you want a beginner-friendly VPN with a proven dedication to user privacy and security.
Interview with Private Internet Access VPN
We had the opportunity to ask some questions to the people behind the scenes at Private Internet Access. We talked about the safety and privacy of their service and the way they manage their servers.
This valuable input for our Private Internet Access review helps shed light on important features of the software. Find out what our questions were and the answers that PIA had for us.
1. Do you keep logs that would allow you to link an IP address to a certain user?
“No, we don’t keep any logs.”
2. Could you tell us a little more about the data retention laws you must abide by?
“At the moment, there are no laws in the US that oblige VPN providers to store data.”
3. What tools do you use to monitor and combat improper use of your services?
4. What happens when you receive a DMCA takedown notice or the European equivalent of it?
“DMCA takedown notices are handled by our Legal Department. However, it’s impossible for us to link information to a certain user, as we don’t keep logs.”
5. What steps are taken if a court order for tracking down a particular user is issued? Has this ever happened before? Would you be able to identify a user in such a case?
“Court orders are handled by our Legal Department. But since we don’t log anything, we cannot hand over any data.”
6. Are BitTorrent and other file-sharing traffic allowed on all your servers?
“Yes, torrenting is allowed on all our servers, although downloading and sharing illegal material isn’t permitted by law. Every now and then, there are providers who will block the portals used for torrents. That is why we have a couple of servers that permit port forwarding, so we can bypass these blocks.”
7. Do you have your own DNS servers?
“Yes, we do have our own DNS servers. These prevent possible DNS leaks. Our PIA applications automatically use these DNS servers.”
8. Do you have physical control over all your servers?
“At the moment, we have [thousands of] servers in over 78 countries. That is why we are forced to use a number of external data centers and suppliers, all of which are bound by strict agreements that are in accordance with the values of Private Internet Access. We also continuously monitor the status and regulations of the countries in which our servers are located. If there are any changes in the regulations, we determine whether the “costs and benefits” still meet our requirements. In some unique cases this will lead to suspending our services in a certain country (such as in Russia in 2016).”
Do you have a question about PIA? Click one of the questions below for the answer. If you’re still having problems or want to ask a different question, feel free to leave a comment below this article. We’re here to help and will answer as soon as we can!
PIA is known for its focus on privacy and security. This VPN uses strong protocols: OpenVPN, PPTP, IPSec/L2TP, and WireGuard. It doesn’t log any of your data and offers a built-in kill switch and adblocker. PIA allows you to create an account completely anonymously.
Unfortunately, this provider is situated in the US. Even so, they’ve proven time and again that they don’t log any VPN data to share with authorities or anyone else.
With PIA, you’ll should be able to access Netflix libraries, including the American, Canadian, and British versions of Netflix. Simply connect to a VPN server in the country you want to access. For example, if you want to access the US library, connect to a US PIA server.
PIA’s cheapest subscription will only cost you $2.19 a month. This is the price for a subscription for two years and two months extra. If you’d rather get the six month subscription, you’ll pay $7.50 a month. A monthly subscription comes down to $11.99. Our PIA review breaks down all of PIA’s pricing plans.
PIA offers exceptionally fast download and upload speeds, perfect for streaming and uploading content. It’s latency is reasonably low, making it a handy choice for gaming. If you want to see our PIA speed test results, check out our full Private Internet Access review.
PIA is very user-friendly. The PIA website is informative and clear. Installing PIA is also quick and effortless. After being installed, the PIA software can be found on the task bar and is easy to navigate. If you want to learn more about PIA’s usability, check out our PIA review.
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