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Private Internet Access Review 2020

Private Internet Access is a US-based VPN service available at $2.85/mo price. It has 12434+ servers in 47 countries worldwide suitable for torrenting. PIA has received a 3.8/5.0 star rating overall.

Based inUnited States [UNSAFE]
Price$2.69/mo
Servers12434+ (78 Countries)
LogsNo Traffic Logs
Multi-login10 Devices
Refund30 Days
RecommendedYes
WebsitePrivateInternetAccess.com
Private Internet Access Deals

**COVID-19 Update**
Due to the recent upsurge in cybersecurity risks of breaches and hacks associated with COVID-19, we at VPNRanks are keeping a close eye on how VPN providers are responding to these new challenges. Any recent upgrades and updates in features are promptly reflected in our VPN reviews.

Private Internet Access (PIA) is a US-based VPN provider delivering its services through 12434+ servers in 78 countries. PIA VPN offers dedicated apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android as well as browser extensions.

In terms of features, PIA is equipped with Kill Switch, Adblocker, Port Forwarding functionality, and SOCKS5 proxy, which are valuable tools to have for boosting online privacy.

However, the testing performed for this Private Internet Access Review revealed that the provider lacks the ability to unblock popular streaming channels like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Amazon Prime Video.

It is a moderately affordable VPN that offers 10 simultaneous connections and a 30-day money-back guarantee for $2.69/month.

Based on the above-described attributes, I recommend PIA VPN as it offers a massive server network like PureVPN and ExpressVPN, but it has some flaws that make it a cut below the aforementioned VPN brands.

Overall, the provider has earned a rating of 3.8/5.0 as per our testing criteria.

My Rating Criteria

I have tested Private Internet Access through my nine (9) steps rating criteria. These steps are:

  1. Jurisdiction – Where is PIA VPN based?
  2. Security – Is Private Internet Access secure?
  3. Leaks – Does PIA VPN leak IP, DNS, and WebRTC?
  4. Servers – Does Private Internet Access work in China?
  5. Speed – How fast is PIA VPN?
  6. Streaming – Does Private Internet Access work with Netflix?
  7. Compatibility – How many devices does PIA VPN support?
  8. Pricing – How much is Private Internet Access?
  9. Trustworthiness – Is Private Internet Access Trustworthy?

Jurisdiction – Where is PIA VPN based?

Unfortunately, PIA VPN hails from the US. This is a bad thing because the country has engaged in some of the most privacy-invasive surveillance programs in the world.

Even though the USA has no law that requires VPNs to maintain activity logs of their users, laws have never stopped agencies like the NSA to casually violate the privacy of American citizens. Moreover, the USA is a key member of the intelligence-gathering group known as Five Eyes.

Therefore, a US-based VPN will always have a hard time convincing its users of guaranteed privacy.

Security – Is Private Internet Access secure?

Private Internet Access is a very secure VPN service and includes multiple tunneling protocols and strong encryption standards.

I studied the security features of this VPN and learned that the provider offers three VPN tunneling protocols including one proxy protocol:

  • PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol)
  • L2TP (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol)
  • OpenVPN
  • SOCKS5 Proxy Tunnel

SOCKS5 proxy is an interesting addition. This protocol can be used for streaming purposes as it provides good speed but reduced security as compared to OpenVPN.

Along with these protocols, PIA offers military-grade 256-bit encryption. This encryption level is extremely strong and rules out the possibility of brute-force type attacks.

Furthermore, it is equipped with SHA-1 or SHA-256 encryption. For handshakes and authentication, it uses RSA-2048 public-key encryption, which itself is also quite strong.

Considering the encryption standards and VPN protocols used, PIA is quite safe to use and can be trusted to keep you secure from hackers and cybercriminals on the web.

Does Private Internet Access keep logs?

PIA VPN follows a no-logging policy in true letter and spirit.

Every VPN promises to store no logs at all. Yet, not all deliver on that promise. In fact, on the contrary, many VPNs have handed over customer data to third parties.

PIA expressly mentions that they keep no logs of user activities performed while using their VPN service. Only the following user-related logs are collected by PIA:

PIA-VPN-No-Logging-Policy

This is the bare minimum of information that any provider must collect in order to deliver their service to the users. Therefore, despite the fact that PIA is based in the US, it is still capable of offering a good level of privacy to users since it doesn’t retain any personally identifiable information of users.

PIA VPN Advanced Security Features

Apart from the core encryption and tunneling protocols, PIA also offers some additional features for users that need to turn their security even tighter from accidental lapses.

Here are some of PIA’s key additional features:

PIA VPN Kill Switch

The PIA VPN Kill Switch disconnects your internet if you lose your VPN connection for one reason or the other. This stops your actual IP address from getting exposed to your local ISP or the site you are visiting.

I’d recommend users to keep the Kill Switch enabled at all times, especially if you’re performing sensitive tasks like downloading torrents in a country with strict laws against online piracy.

The Kill Switch will ensure that your real identity remains hidden even in case of sudden connection interruptions.

Encrypted Wi-Fi

What makes PIA a standout VPN service from its competitors is its encrypted Wi-Fi feature. When you use Private Internet Access on your Wi-Fi, it protects the device through WPA protocol first. Therefore, you have to provide an authentication key before using the VPN on Wi-Fi devices, which makes your connection sessions more secure.

PIA SOCKS5 Proxy

PIA SOCKS5 proxy offers an additional layer of authentication as it only allows authorized users when it comes to accessing the servers. In addition, it provides an appreciable connection speed as compared to other protocols.

This makes SOCKS5 good for purposes such as downloading and streaming. The popular usage of the protocol involves downloading torrents because it usually results in faster speeds.

However, it must be remembered that if you’re in a country with strict laws against torrenting, the wiser decision would be to stick to more secure protocols like OpenVPN even if it results in slightly slower speeds. This is because SOCKS5  has weaker security as compared to other VPN protocols.

WireGuard (Beta)

WireGuard is touted to be the next big thing in VPN technology as a modern protocol that has been under development for the past couple of years. PIA is one of the few VPNs that are now offering WireGuard in their beta clients.

WireGuard is expected to significantly improve VPN performance and security when it is finalized and launched. It is great to see PIA is already testing WireGuard in beta so we can hope to see its full launch as soon as the development of the protocol reaches its final stage.

Private Internet Access Block Ads & Malware

Private Internet Access has a propriety ad and malware blocking technology called MACE. The service blocks pesky ad-trackers that trace you online, compromising your privacy. This is an excellent additional feature to have alongside the core VPN protection functionalities.

PIA VPN Port Forwarding

PIA VPN also offers port forwarding capability for no additional costs. Port forwarding basically allows specific applications on your device/computer to communicate over dedicated ports. This essentially limits access to certain parts of a network to a given application, such as gaming.

Many gaming servers can only be accessed through certain ports. Therefore, if you’re a gamer that needs port forwarding functionality on a VPN, PIA is a very good choice.

Handshake Naming System (HNS)

The US-based VPN service has added another feather in its cap by adding the “Handshake Naming System” technology in its armory. Hence, you can change the selected Name Server from PIA DNS (Domain Name System) servers to any Handshake Name System (HNS) servers if you are using Mac, Linux, or Windows devices.

Once you have changed the settings, you can surf the web securely and anonymously from anywhere. Here is how you can do to enable HNS in your PIA settings:

  • From your Private Internet Access settings window, you should right-click the PIA system tray icon
  • You must left-click on settings, the settings window will pop up on the screen
  • Go to the Network tab, change PIA “DNS” to “Handshake” from the drop-down menu
  •  Connect to PIA server to enforce the name server change effectively

Leaks – Does PIA VPN leak IP, DNS, and WebRTC?

PIA VPN doesn’t leak your IP, DNS, and WebRTC information. In order to test for leaks, I used ipleak.net and found the VPN totally free of any leaks.

pia-vpn-ip-dns-webrtc-leak-tests

Servers – How many servers does PIA offer?

PIA VPN’s network consists of 12434+ servers in 78 countries. All the servers are physical, which ensures good stability and precludes server overcrowding.

PIA-servers

 

There are few providers with a network as large as PIA’s and that is one of the USPs of this VPN.  The VPN servers along with the geographic location of their presence allow users to access a broad range of geo-restricted content.

PIA has been expanding its server network using virtual locations (signified with a globe symbol in PIA’s apps). In June 2020, the company announced adding 30 more geo-locations to cover a greater range of countries in addition to the U.S, Canada, the U.K, Switzerland, Netherlands, Sweden, France, Germany, Romania, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, and Hong Kong and others.

Although PIA covers a good amount of key locations in its network, this range is still smaller than the likes of NordVPN and PureVPN.

Nonetheless, since most of the servers are in locations where online censorship and regulation aren’t big problems, it’s unlikely users will feel the need to have access to a larger pool of locations in PIA’s network.

If you’re having trouble with PIA, you can find some helpful tips in PIA not connecting guides.

Does PIA Work In China?

PIA VPN works in China, but only in some areas if you manually configure it properly. But there’s no guarantee that the service will work reliably in China due to the GFW.

As such, most VPN services today are unable to work properly within China and PIA is no different. Here is the working list of China VPNs.

Is PIA VPN good for torrenting?

Yes, PIA is a good VPN for torrenting. All PIA servers support torrenting and p2p activities. However, the provider actually reroutes your data packets to those servers where torrenting can be safely done, such as Switzerland and Netherlands.

Therefore, you’ll get better performance if you directly connect to these servers rather than hopping through multiple locations to circle back to Switzerland or Netherlands. To read more about it in detail, check out our article on using PIA for torrents.

Speed – How fast is PIA VPN?

PIA VPN offers impressively fast connection speeds. We have a proper speed test guide detailing how fast Private Internet Access really is.

Anyways, to measure how well PIA performs, I ran speed tests on 9 different servers. This is how my PIA VPN speed test results went:

Server locationDownload speedUpload speedPings
Australia85.5 Mbps94.09 Mbps310 ms
Canada53.17 Mbps95.92 Mbps288 ms
Hong Kong55.59 Mbps90.09 Mbps470 ms
Israel91.84 Mbps93.09 Mbps210 ms
Singapore89.67 Mbps93.5 Mbps121 ms
South Africa59.5 Mbps90.84 Mbps303 ms
United Arab Emirates78.42 Mbps93.17 Mbps242 ms
United Kingdom86.09 Mbps90 Mbps150 ms
United States91.09 Mbps92 Mbps279 ms

It should be remembered that VPN speeds are highly subjective and dependent on a myriad of factors including your base internet speed, ISP, proximity to the chosen server, the overall load on a server, and more. Therefore, these speed tests do not represent the performance of PIA for every use case.

If you’re looking for a VPN that is specifically known for fast speed, see this list of fastest VPN services.

Streaming – Does Private Internet Access work with Netflix?

Yes, PIA VPN works with Netflix. Although the VPN had been struggling to unblock Netflix for some time in the past, PIA now efficiently unblocks Netflix US, Japan, and Germany.

pia unblocks us netflix

To learn more, see our guide on PIA VPN with Netflix.

Other Streaming Services

PIA VPN does work with some VPN streaming services such as Hulu, Sky Go, and CBS. The geo-restriction firewalls on these websites are weaker as compared to those employed by Netflix and BBC iPlayer. This is why PIA has a good success rate when it comes to unblocking Hulu, CBS, etc. but not in the case of US Netflix and others.

Compatibility – How many devices does PIA VPN support?

PIA VPN supports 10 simultaneous connections from a single account. It supports all common operating systems and devices including Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS as well as browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox.

That’s not all. Now that PIA VPN is officially available on the Amazon app store, you can easily set up PIA VPN on any FireStick device as well as use it with platforms like Kodi.

In addition, users can manually set up PIA on Roku by using a router. But it’s the dedicated apps of PIA for desktops and mobile phones that offer the best functionality and user experience.

PIA VPN for Windows

PIA VPN has a very simple app for Windows whose natural habitat is in the taskbar. The app has an appealing visual design and also comes in both Light and Dark versions, which is pretty cool.

You can choose your preferred server location to connect to from the home screen. In fact, you can do the connecting and disconnecting by right-clicking the PIA VPN icon on the taskbar without even needing to open the full interface of the app. I think that’s pretty convenient.

pia-vpn-for-windows

You can configure some settings such as VPN protocols, encryption levels, ad-blocker, and Kill Switch from the settings tab. Connecting to a server takes a few seconds and the process is generally stable with almost no connection drops.

Overall, the PIA Windows app is quite usable.

PIA VPN for macOS

The PIA VPN app for macOS is pretty much the exact replica of the Windows app. All the features that you get in the Windows are version are also available in the Mac app. The connectivity and performance are also impressive, just like in the case of Windows.

pia-vpn-for-mac

PIA VPN for Linux

PIA is one of the only few providers that actually offers a complete GUI-based app for Linux systems, which looks performs very much like the other desktop apps for Windows and macOS.

pia-vpn-linux-app

This is extremely commendable and PIA deserves 10/10 for its clean, stripped-down, yet highly configurable VPN apps for desktops and smartphones alike.

PIA VPN for Android

The Android app extremely features a simple and highly intuitive design. The home screen consists mostly of white space with a large on and off button that you can toggle with a tap. At the bottom is mentioned your currently selected server location and IP address.

pia-vpn-for-android

To change the server region you can simply tap on the region displayed at the bottom of the screen, which will open the full list of available server locations.

The app provides a lot of configurable settings including UDP and TCP connections, port forwarding, encryption standards, automatic protection in case of connecting to unknown Wi-Fi hotspots, and even a Per-App Settings which essentially offers split-tunneling functionality.

Suffice to say, the provider certainly invested a lot of time and energy into developing the Android app which offers a crazy amount of options while still remaining super easy to use.

PIA VPN for iOS

The iOS app looks and behaves the same way PIA’s Android version. However, it is not as configurable due to the fact that iOS doesn’t permit low-level tweaking in any app.

Nonetheless, it still provides an impressive range of settings that can be changed such as VPN protocols, Kill Switch, Adblocker (MACE), and more.

pia-vpn-for-ios

Overall, it is a very streamlined and usable app.

Pricing –  How much is Private Internet Access?

PIA VPN costs $2.69/month on its 2-year plan. Currently, the provider offers three (3) affordable pricing plans for its existing as well as new users. This is what the current pricing looks like:

PIA pricing

 

All PIA VPN packages offer a 30-day money-back guarantee so users can cancel PIA VPN and request a refund within 30 days of purchase if they’re unsatisfied with the service. PIA also offers 10 simultaneous connections so, you can connect up 10 different devices on a single Private Internet Access account. The refund policy also doubles as a PIA free trial.

Payment Methods: Bitcoin and Much More

The VPN currently accepts payments via Credit Cards, Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, PayPal, Amazon, Ripple, Amazon Pay, and Mint.  While most VPN providers take the high road when it comes to accepting cryptocurrencies, this VPN goes all in.

Moreover, you can use the PIA gift card option for anonymous payment. This shows that providers are serious about their commitment to the privacy of the users.

pia-vpn-payment-methods

Trustworthiness – Is Private Internet Access Trustworthy?

PIA was previously owned by London Trust Media but has now been acquired by Kape Technologies, a company that is also behind recognized VPNs like CyberGhost and Zenmate.

The company has a shady reputation for engaging in questionable practices in the past (such as hiding malware in its advertisement tools).

Therefore, jurisdiction and company history are factors that do not go in favor of PIA.

Private Internet Access Trustpilot Rating

PIA has a good reputation on Trustpilot. The provider has a rating of 4.0/5.0 with 5,400 user reviews. 63% of the users have rated the service excellent.

pia-vpn-trustpilot-ratings

What Reddit thinks about PIA

Is PIA any good? Well, considering the Trustpilot ratings and my personal review, the VPN is certainly one of the best in the market. Still, it pays to see what other users on Reddit have to say about the service.

Most comments on Reddit speak favorably of PIA VPN, which is a good sign:

positive-comments-about-pia-vpn-on-Reddit

one-user-never-face-any-problem-with-pia-vpn

Naturally, there are some negative comments about the service too.

And then there are some comments that are critical of some aspects of the VPN:

negative-comment-on-reddit-about-pia-vpn

one-user-facing-disconnect-and-reconnect-issue-on-his-iphone

Complies with GDPR

Private Internet Access is included in the list of GDPR compliant VPNs. Users of PIA can demand the provider to provide information about how their data is being used by the service, as per GDPR’s requirements.

After abiding by all the guidelines of GDPR in the right way, PIA has improved its reputation in the minds of its existing and potential users to a new plane.

To know about other VPNs that follow GDPR, read this detailed guide.

Customer Service

PIA VPN now offers 24/7 live chat support. We have expressed disappointed in PIA in the past due to its lack of live chat customer support because emails were the only way PIA customer support could be reached.

Although PIA’s email support has always been quite responsive and helpful, live chat will add a whole new dimension to their support capabilities while also facilitating customers a great deal.

Other than that, PIA still offers informative knowledgebaseGuides, and a Blog. These are quite

pia-vpn-customer-support

With the help of these services, you can setup this VPN on any of your preferred devices. Nevertheless, there is no option such as Live Chat when you need quick solutions. Speaking of quick solutions, if you ever run into any connectivity issues, definitely check out our Private Internet Access not working guide.

PureVPN vs Private Internet Access

If you want to compare between PureVPN and Private Internet Access, you can explore the below-mentioned table:

FeaturesPureVPNPIA VPN
Price $2.91/mo $2.69/mo
Servers2,000+ in 140 Countries12434+ in 78 Countries
CompatibilityAll DevicesAll Devices
JurisdictionHong KongUnited States
Logging PolicyZero LogDoes not Keep logs
Customer SupportLive chat & email supportLive chat & email support
Trustpilot Score4.84.2
Website PUREVPN PIA VPN

Alternatives to PIA VPN

If you aren’t satisfied with the features offered by PIA, then you have a ton of best VPNs to choose from:

Do I Recommend Private Internet Access?

Yes, I recommend Private Internet Access.

Considering the fact that it is quite affordable, has a large number of servers, good logging policy, and extremely smooth VPN apps, PIA is certainly a VPN worth its salt.

In fact, the VPN is now also an efficient unblocker of several Netflix regions including Netflix JP, US, and DE.

Nonetheless, the provider does have some flaws which I found in this Private Internet Access review. For instance, it is not reliable for China, but that is a problem shared by the majority of providers out there.

Overall, it is a good VPN to have if privacy is your main concern, and if you also want to unblock some streaming services like Netflix as a bonus. Indeed, PIA is also pretty good for torrenting as described above.

I, therefore, give 3.8/5.0 to PIA in my review.

Looking for alternatives? See the VPN reviews 2020 page for a detailed evaluation of over 150 other providers.

Also, if you’re looking for more premium VPNs at cheaper rates, check out our amazing VPN deals for 2020.

PIA News And Recent Developments

  • Hong Kong servers shut down by PIA due to the new national security law – July 14, 2020. The new national security law recently imposed on Hong Kong seriously undermines the democratic liberties of the people, including their right to privacy. Under this law, the Chinese government can now seize servers located in Hong Kong and even intercept communications without a warrant if they so desire. In response to this obvious threat to user privacy, PIA is shutting down all physical servers in Hong Kong. However, the company is already working on launching virtual servers that will allow users to connect to Hong Kong virtually, so that their data remains outside of the Chinese/Hong Kong jurisdiction and thus safe from government interception.
  • PIA temporarily removes Mexico VPN exit gateway – June 23, 2020. Private Internet Access is temporarily removing its Mexico VPN server from their VPN network. They’re leaving the Mexico region temporarily as they seek a new data center partner to work with. On the bright side, Private Internet Access is planning to offer a Mexico exit gateway in the future as soon as they can find a reliable data center partner.

  • Server network expansion – June 3, 2020. PIA announced the launch of virtual servers in 30 new locations as part of its ongoing VPN Network Expansion Plan. The provider will add new servers in the month of June which will cover new regions previously unavailable. These servers will be marked with a globe sign in the server selection screen in PIA’s clients. The provider chose virtual servers because the actual data centers these servers are hosted on are all trusted by PIA and meet their quality standards. Previously, the company was using bare metal servers in these regions which had to be shut down due to security and regulatory issues.
  • PIA introduces live chat support – June 1, 2020. PIA recently introduced live chat support, adding a new dimension to its customer support. Previously, the provider could only be reached out through emails. It is remarkable that PIA introduced live chat during the current coronavirus pandemic, at a time when many providers that have long offered live chat support are struggling to talk with customers live.

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Osama Tahir

Osama Tahir

Author
Posts by Osama Tahir

Osama Tahir's Biography :


Osama is a staunch believer in the inalienable right of every citizen to freedom of expression. Writing about online privacy and security without regard to political correctness is his answer to the powers that be threatening our freedom. Deeply curious about Nature and the Universe, he is fascinated by science, intrigued by mathematics, and wishes to play guitar like Buckethead in some alternate version of reality.


4 Responses to Private Internet Access Review 2020

  1. andrew miller says:

    I am using VPN with the internet kill switch activated and recently I have come up with a copyright infringement notice from my ISP. I don’t remember any instance where I had downloaded any torrent or P2P file from anywhere on internet. Though, I watched Suicide Squad last week on an online streaming site and I think it might have caused this. At the moment, I want to know that how can PIA protect me against ISP notices while I stream videos on internet?

    • admin says:

      Dear Andrew Miller thanks for commenting,
      It seems that you have streamed a copyright protected movie on an infringing site. Just like torrenting and P2P, streaming media on pirated sources is illegal and may end you in paying fines or even serving time in prison.
      Also, it looks like your VPN doesn’t offers an internet kill switch, as ISP had identified your online activity at the time of DNS leak. When DNS leak occurs, your online activity becomes visible to ISP. To get around with DNS leak, a VPN with an internet kill switch stops the entire internet traffic. This makes ISP unable to spy on your online activates. Currently, PureVPN, ExpressVPN and the above mentioned providers offer internet kill switch. You can choose among one of them for safe & secure streaming.

  2. Mariya Shukamova says:

    I have come a long way through testing plenty of VPN services, but found PIA to be the best provider among rest. Reliable service, responsive support system, economical plans and high-speed server speed makes PIA a suitable service for privacy and unblocking needs.

    • Ghulman says:

      Hi Mariya,
      I am glad you are enjoying PIA.

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