Private Internet Access is a decent budget choice for everything except streaming.
- Fast European transfer speeds
- Wide range of privacy and security features
- Audited no-logging policy
- Relatively poor US speeds
- Detected by most streaming services
- Connect up to 10 devicesWhen subscribing, you can use Private Internet Access on up to 10 different devices.
- Multi-platform supportPrivate Internet Access is compatible with multiple platforms, including Windows, macOS, Linux, Android and iOS
Private Internet Access (PIA) is a US-based virtual private network provider that competes heavily on price.
The service had a well-founded reputation for security under previous ownership and it continues to operate in the same spirit. It’s currently owned by Kape Technologies, which also owns rivals CyberGhost and ExpressVPN, among VPN services, as well as review sites such as vpnMentor.
However, PIA has recently adopted a policy of regular audits of its security and no-logging policy, mostly recently in August 2022, which I very much applaud. PIA supports up to 10 simultaneous connections from a wide variety of devices and operating systems, and has a good range of international endpoints.
Pricing and Subscriptions
Private Internet Access is currently among the cheapest privacy-oriented consumer VPN providers. Subscriptions currently cost $11.95/£9.99 per month, $39.95/£32.49 per year, $79/£65 per three years. New two-year subscribers also receive an extra three months’ subscription for free, but these two-year subs renew as a one-year subscription at whatever the annual fee is at the time of renewal.
This fee has been consistently inexpensive for years, though, making PIA a good bet if you don’t want to be surprised by unexpectedly high renewal costs.
If you don’t want payment cards and accounts in your name to be associated with your subscription, you can pay using a variety of cryptocurrencies if you feel that will help you maintain anonymity.
Privacy and Protection
- No-logging policy
- Supports less common operating systems such as Linux
PIA has a clear and explicit no-logging policy, which it’s committed to have independently audited on a regular basis. It also publishes source code for much of its software.
The US doesn’t currently have any mandatory data retention laws in place and encrypted traffic passing through a VPN isn’t accessible to logging devices in data centres.
When served with an FBI warrant to hand over VPN logs, PIA didn’t have anything to give investigators, making it one of the few VPN providers whose no-logging claim is known to have been tested. However, since PIA hasn’t been publicly dragged into court since it was bought by Kape Technologies, we don’t have proof that it has continued its no-logging policy under new ownership, although I have no reason to suspect that anything would change here.
PIA also publishes bi-annual transparency reports, which, as of March 2023, inform us that the firm has received nine court orders, 68 subpoenas and six warrants, among other notices and demands for data. It has handed over logs for none of them, because it doesn’t keep logs in the first place.
Features and Usability
- Simple to use, even for novices
- Features include kill switch and ad-tracker blockers
There are graphical clients for Windows, Linux and macOS, and detailed instructions are provided for setting up connections on other operating systems and devices, including routers and other network appliances.
PIA’s Windows desktop app has all the advanced configuration options you’re likely to need, but is simple enough even for novices to easily get to grips with. A single button allows you to connect to the last VPN server you used, with an arrow that takes you to a full, searchable list of endpoint locations. This displays their current latency and allows you to add favourites.
A separate Settings window lets you configure the client’s behaviour, allowing actions such as launching on system startup and connecting automatically. You can even switch between the client’s default dark theme and a lighter colour palette.
There’s a VPN kill switch that can be set to automatically cut off all internet traffic if the VPN is disconnected, the PIA MACE tool that blocks ad-trackers, custom DNS and port forwarding on endpoints that support it. There’s also an option to block LAN traffic, plus an extremely flexible range of customisable settings for your VPN connection, including your preferred encryption settings.
Private Internet Access has endpoints in 77 countries, across more than 20,000 servers. These now include geo-located servers – physically located in another country, but effectively masquerading as endpoints in geographically or politically challenging countries. These can be disabled if you want to stick with physical endpoint servers.
- Not among the fastest VPNs in recent tests
- Poor option for streaming video
VPN clients are tested on their default connection settings except where specifically stated. All of my testing is carried out across a high-speed fibre connection providing optimal performance conditions – this months’ fastest performance was throughput of over 500 Mbps from Surfshark, although most services were a little slower than usual in this test. You’ll notice that PIA was more severely affected than most.
|Private Internet Access – Wireguard
|Reference Group Average HTTP
|Reference HTTP without VPN
PIA had a pretty poor month in my tests this time around, which prompted me to check the performance of both its OpenVPN and WireGuard protocols, which you’ll see in the table above. Generally, you’ll want to opt for WireGuard where available, and switch to it if the client’s auto-selected protocol and endpoint server under-perform for you.
Private Internet Access’s performance from endpoints in the UK and the Netherlands was reasonable, but it isn’t the best for the US, as shown by throughput from endpoints in New York. Streaming has never been PIA’s strong suit, and you can’t always rely on it to provide access to your favourite service when you’re connected, although it now has some streaming optimised endpoints that you can use in a pinch.
You can always add a browser to use in your country for streaming only to PIA’s split tunnelling settings, so you don’t get locked out for being on a VPN. However, you’ll have to make sure you don’t accidentally send any data you wanted to keep private via said application.
Should you buy it?
You want an affordable and secure VPN:
Private Internet Access has a well-regarded no-logging policy that’s stood up to serious challenges under previous ownership, making it a decent choice for those who want a secure VPN. It also has very competitive prices if money is a concern.
You want a speedy VPN:
The Private Internet Access VPN didn’t perform very well in our speed tests, especially in the United States. There are far better options if speed is a priority.
Private Internet Access is a perfectly fine VPN, although you should check out NordVPN, ExpressVPN or Surfshark if you need fast US connection speeds. Although Private Internet Access isn’t brilliant for video streaming, it’s generally proven itself to be reliable, cheap and secure.
If security is your primary interest, then also consider Perfect Privacy, which is slower and more expensive, but very specifically focused on security and online privacy, with an unmarred track record.
How we test
We run tests from a London-based connection that typically sees speeds between 500Mbps and 700Mbps, which means that we’re able to get a good idea of what each VPN’s maximum speeds currently are.
We test multiple endpoints from each provider in three locations: the UK, the Netherlands and the U.S.
Tested speeds with three endpoints: UK, USA and the Netherlands.
Researched security and no-logging claims
Tested all available features
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No, Private Internet Access has a proven no-logging policy, although it’s possible that could change under new ownership in the future.
The Private Internet Access VPN ranked below average in our speed tests, so this isn’t the fastest VPN available.