Private Internet Access VPN Review (Updated 2023)
PIA VPN is apparently one of the top VPN services when it comes to security, privacy, and blocking trackers. It’s packed with some really interesting tools and features, including the ability to unblock almost every geo-restricted streaming service. But we weren’t really impressed with its speed. If you ask us, then overall, it’s a secure and capable VPN that can be considered for your devices.
PIA VPN offers 35000+ servers in 84 countries, using which you can unblock your favorite geo-blocked games, streaming platforms, and torrent clients. Cool, right?
With an abundance of VPNs in the industry, you may come across providers that aren’t truly private even while they claim to be. But, in our PIA VPN review, we found that Private Internet Access is truly an exception. The VPN offers a stringent no-logging policy and a bucketful of other features, including a Kill Switch, Ad-blocker, split tunneling, and DNS leak protection.
But, despite all these features, we couldn’t label the VPN as great without testing it on strict criteria we previously used to test premium providers like ExpressVPN. So, without any delays, let’s start testing for our PIA VPN review 2023.
Ranked #6 out of 56 VPNs
We have spent thousands of hours and days testing 160+ VPN services using our carefully curated testing process to recommend you the best VPN. Here are a few statistics:
- Total Hours of Testing1000+
- Weekly Speed Tests110
- VPN Services Reviewed160+
- Streaming Platforms Tested Daily50+
- IP & DNS Leak Tests Performed100+
- How Much we have spent on testing$30,000+
- Allows unrestricted P2P activities
- Efficient kill switch
- MACE (ad-blocking) feature
- Configurable apps
- Unblocks geo-restricted streaming services
- Above-average server network
- Speeds are pretty average
- No security audit has been conducted
- The FireStick app can be improved
Pricing Plans – How Much Does PIA VPN Cost?
PIA VPN costs just US$11.95 per month. It is one the cheapest VPN providers if you opt for its three-year plan; $2.11/mo with 3 months FREE. For this price, you can use PIA VPN on 10 devices simultaneously; routers, computers, and smartphones.
You can also get its yearly subscription which costs US$3.33 per month or US$39.95 per year. The 1-month plan is three times costlier than its 2-year plan, so it’s actually not worth opting for. This is what the current pricing looks like:
Thinking: Is PIA VPN free by any chance? Well, all PIA VPN packages offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, so users can cancel PIA and request a refund within 30 days of purchase if they’re unsatisfied with the service.
If you want to stay secure without spending a lot of money on a VPN, you should check out the best PIA VPN deals.
PIA VPN Payment Methods
PIA VPN accepts all major credit cards, Union Pay, PayPal, and multiple other payment methods. These methods include cryptocurrencies like BitPay, Ethereum, Dogecoin, Bitcoin, and Litecoin.
You may also pay through third-party gift cards (Walmart, Starbucks, Best Buy, etc) for further anonymity. You can also subscribe to it using iTunes and Google Pay through an in-app purchase.
Servers – How many PIA VPN servers are there?
PIA servers list has 35000 servers in 84 countries and offers competitive prices despite providing enhanced features. This extensive server network is available across four regions:
|Number of Countries
|Middle East, Africa, & Central Asia
Although the number of servers does not vouch for the VPN’s quality and services, it is still a noteworthy point. The company announced just recently that it has servers in all 50 states of the US. This should help lower the traffic for US residents so that the servers don’t get congested because of a huge number of people accessing the same server at the same time.
According to our Private Internet Access VPN review research, nearly half of the servers offered by PIA VPN are located virtually. Some people may find this problematic, however, we had no issues as we received the best speeds regardless of the servers being located virtually or physically.
The best thing about an extensive server network is that it becomes difficult for streaming services to block IP addresses. Moreover, it provides you with multiple server options to connect to within a country, so you get the one with the fastest speeds.
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 VPN, you can find some helpful tips in PIA VPN not connecting guides.
Security – Is PIA VPN Secure?
Yes, PIA VPN is an absolutely safe VPN service. All its apps use encryption protocols like WireGuard and OpenVPN, which are known to be the most secure options. You can use the most secure AES-256 cipher with OpenVPN or the default AES-128.
We studied the security features of this VPN and learned that the provider offers two VPN tunneling protocols and two proxy protocols:
Considering the encryption standards and VPN protocols used, PIA VPN 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?
No, not really. PIA VPN claims to offer a strict no-logging policy which means that it doesn’t collect or store any information about the VPN usage of its users. Moreover, it does not log any details regarding your connection, browsing activity, bandwidth usage, or anything else like that.
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 VPN mentions that they keep no logs of user activities performed while using their VPN service. Here is a screenshot that confirms this:
This confirms that even though PIA VPN is based in the US, it can still offer 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 VPN 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:
- Robust Kill Switch
- Advanced Split Tunneling
- Default Ad-blocker
- Top-notch Protocols
- Decent Automation Settings
- Highly Customizable Settings
Does PIA VPN have a kill switch?
Yes, PIA VPN offers a kill switch. A VPN kill switch is a feature that’s offered by most reliable VPNs like Private Internet Access. This feature disconnects you from the internet immediately if your VPN connection drops to make sure that your actual IP address hasn’t leaked online.
For this PIA VPN review, we fired up our browser to test this feature and tried loading a page while switching servers. The good thing was that the page didn’t load until we were successfully connected to the VPN server. That’s how we learned that the kill switch was working.
PIA allows you to set the kill switch to ‘Auto’ or ‘Always’ on. Still, we recommend you keep it to Always, 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.
PIA VPN encrypts all internet traffic and communication from your device, making your data absolutely unreadable by ISPs, government authorities, network administrators, and other third parties.
Its encrypted Wi-Fi feature makes PIA a standout VPN service from its competitors. When you use PIA VPN on your Wi-Fi, it protects the device through WPA protocol first. Therefore, you must provide an authentication key before using the VPN on Wi-Fi devices, making your connection sessions more secure.
Does PIA VPN have SOCKS5?
Yes, PIA VPN offers SOCKS5 which is far superior to SOCKS4 as it includes IPv6 support, UDP, and authentication. 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.
In short, if you desire to boost your security and privacy, PIA’s SOCKS5 proxy is the right option for you. But on its own, a VPN is ten times better than a SOCKS5 proxy. However, if you combine the two, you’ll get increased security and speed. That’s why we recommend you use PIA VPN with SOCKS5 proxy instead of the proxy alone.
So, we recommend using PIA VPN with uTorrent and other clients directly instead of its SOCKS5 proxy.
PIA VPN has implemented the latest WireGuard protocol in most operating systems, devices, and extensions to improve user security. With added protection, this tunneling protocol on PIA’s servers ensures its customers’ privacy and anonymity.
On the WireGuard connections, the VPN has implemented a daemon that occasionally wipes and deletes all connection data when keepalives aren’t transmitted for 3 minutes.
Private Internet Access Block Ads & Malware
Private Internet Access has a propriety ad and malware-blocking technology called MACE. The service works at the DNS level and 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.
We tested this feature by visiting a popular news website in the United States. You can see in the image below that PIA VPN successfully blocked the ad appearing at the top of the news site:
But please note that the feature won’t remove every ad on all sites. While testing, it didn’t block any advertisements on YouTube. We hope this answers your ‘Is PIA VPN safe?’ query.
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 network parts of a given application, such as gaming.
Many gaming servers can only be accessed through specific ports. Therefore, if you’re a gamer that needs port forwarding functionality on a VPN, PIA VPN should be your go-to option as it the best VPN with port forwarding feature in USA.
Here’s a quick guide to setting up port forwarding with PIA VPN: Subscribe to PIA VPN and install its VPN client. Open the PIA VPN app on your device. Then, visit Settings > Network. Enable “Request Port Forwarding.” From the server menu, choose a server location that supports port forwarding and click connect.
Handshake Naming System (HNS)
The US-based VPN service has added another feather to its cap by adding the “Handshake Naming System” technology to its armory. Hence, you can change the selected Name Server from PIA VPN DNS (Domain Name System) server to any Handshake Name System (HNS) server if you use Mac, Linux, or Windows devices.
Once you have changed the settings, you can surf the web securely and anonymously from anywhere. Here is what you can do to enable HNS in your PIA settings:
- From your Private Internet Access settings window, you should right-click the PIA VPN 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 the PIA server to enforce the name server change effectively
Leaks – Does PIA VPN Leak IP, DNS, and WebRTC?
No, PIA VPN doesn’t leak your IP, DNS, and WebRTC information. To test PIA VPN for leaks on our Windows device, we used ipleak.net and found the VPN totally free of any leaks.
We further tested PIA VPN for IP/DNS leaks on macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS, and the VPN did not leak our actual IP address on any device.
However, we did notice some WebRTC leaks while using PIA’s browser extensions. Because of its robust DNS protection protocols and private DNS servers, all DNS requests are processed by Private Internet Access rather than ISPs. In short, there’s a very minimal risk of data leaks when utilizing PIA.
Speeds – How Fast is PIA VPN?
PIA VPN offers a worldwide network of next-generation servers that has been optimized for 10 Gbps connection speeds and uses the world’s speediest protocols . This means there won’t be any stuttering, buffering, freezing, or lagging during your online activities.
PIA VPN offers fast service on local servers, but its faraway servers can slow down your speeds. To conduct PIA VPN speed tests on our Windows device, we set the app to 256-bit encryption with the OpenVPN UDP protocol, and it provided us with the best speeds as compared to other VPN protocols.
On PIA’s local servers, we received the following speeds:
|PIA speeds on US-Atlanta servers
|PIA speeds on US-New York servers
As you can see we faced a speed drop of 16% to 30% on the local servers. Whereas on PIA’s international servers, we received the following speeds.
|PIA Speeds on UK server
|PIA Speeds on Canadian server
As you can see the speed drop is considerably higher than the ones based in the US because of our distance from the actual location.
We also ran speed tests on nine different servers. This is how the speed test results went in our PIA VPN review:
|United Arab Emirates
Overall, PIA’s speeds were pretty impressive. On its local US server, you can see that our speed dropped by only 19%, whereas the minimum speed drop on our long-distance servers was 26%. Moreover, if you want guaranteed fast speeds, then you can use PIA’s Auto-connect feature.
Streaming – Does PIA VPN Work with Netflix?
Yes, PIA VPN works well with Netflix. However, it is capable of unblocking only 6 Netflix libraries, including the UK, US, Japan, Denmark, and France. To unblock more Netflix content, you can try a premium VPN like ExpressVPN instead.
We tested PIA VPN using its US server first. We connected to its US – Washington DC server and unblocked American Netflix easily. After that, it took about a minute to load the complete library and access multiple titles without any issues.
Let us tell you that PIA VPN also offers streaming-optimized servers to unblock different Netflix libraries. These specialized servers are present in Japan, the US, Denmark, the UK, Italy, Germany, Spain, and more. However, when tested, its DE streaming-optimized server could not unblock German Netflix for us.
Other Streaming Services
PIA VPN works with popular streaming services other than Netflix as well, such as Hulu, Disney+, and CBS. The geo-restriction firewalls on these websites are weaker than those employed by Netflix and BBC iPlayer . When we tested PIA VPN with Hulu, it unblocked the streaming platform for us within a minute.
We were able to unblock the following streaming services with PIA VPN:
This is why PIA VPN has a success rate when it comes to unblocking Hulu, CBS, etc. but not in the case of German Netflix and others.
Is PIA VPN good for torrenting?
Yes, PIA VPN is a good VPN for torrenting, as it easily passed all our P2P performance and security tests. It offers AES 256-bit encryption, DNS leak protection, a no-logs policy, and a kill switch. It’s also one of the very few VPNs that offer port forwarding, which can significantly enhance your torrenting speeds.
All PIA VPN 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 perform better if you directly connect to these servers rather than hopping through multiple locations to circle back to Switzerland or Netherlands. We tested PIA VPN with uTorrent and could download a 1.2 GB file within 5 minutes. To learn more about it, check out our article on using Private Internet Access for torrenting.
Compatibility – How Many Devices Does PIA VPN Support?
PIA VPN allows you to connect unlimited devices and use up to 10 devices simultaneously with each of its subscription accounts. PIA VPN also works with all popular streaming services, so you get unrestricted access to all your favorite content.
PIA 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. PIA VPN is officially available on the Amazon App Store, you can easily set up PIA VPN on FireStick. The PIA VPN app for FireStick is pretty user-friendly and doesn’t require manual configuration.
In addition, users can manually set up PIA VPN on Roku and PIA VPN on Kodi by using a pre-VPN-configured router. But the dedicated apps of PIA VPN for desktops and mobile phones offer the best functionality and user experience.
PIA VPN is also compatible with non-VPN devices like Chromebook, Chromecast, and more. However, you’ll need to set up PIA VPN on a router and then connect these devices to use the VPN.
Installation of Apps and Ease of Use
Installing PIA VPN was a piece of cake on most devices. The process wasn’t complicated and the UI was also fairly easy to use. The apps also offered customizations for advanced VPN users. For your ease, we’ve described our experience with a few of the PIA VPN apps briefly:
Does PIA VPN work for Windows?
Yes, PIA VPN works on any Windows device. Login to PIA VPN and you’ll observe 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. We think that’s pretty convenient.
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 VPN Windows app is quite usable.
Does PIA VPN work for macOS?
Yes, PIA VPN works for macOS 10.13 (High Sierra) and above. It also works on Monterey, Big Sur, or any 64-bit Mac. Since the Mac system apps are frequently updated, you shouldn’t face any issues with them. No worries, you’ll get the same VPN features across all macOS versions.
The PIA app for macOS is almost a replica of the Windows app. All the features that you get in the Windows version are also available in the Mac app. The connectivity and performance are also impressive, just like in the case of Windows.
Does PIA VPN work for Linux?
Yes, PIA VPN works on most Linux operating systems, including Ubuntu 18.04+ (LTS), Arch, Debian, Fedora, Mint 19+, and many more. It’s also compatible with ARMHF, ARM64, and x86_64 systems.
PIA VPN is one of the few providers that offers a complete GUI-based app for Linux systems, which looks and performs very much like the other desktop apps for Windows and macOS.
This is extremely commendable, and PIA deserves 10/10 for its clean, stripped-down, yet highly configurable VPN apps for desktops and smartphones alike.
Does PIA VPN work for Android?
Yes, PIA VPN works with the latest versions of Android OS 5.1 and up, regardless of your mobile device.
The Android app features an extremely 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, you will find your currently selected server location and IP address.
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. You may also opt for the Light or Dark mode.
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 Per-App Settings, which essentially offers split-tunnelling functionality.
Suffice it 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 remaining super easy to use.
Does PIA VPN work for iOS?
Yes, PIA VPN works for most iOS devices having version 12.1 and above on iPads and iPhones. Furerhtmore, it offers a dedicated MacVPN app and compatibility with Apple TV to utilize Smart DNS.
The iOS app looks and behaves the same way as PIA’s Android version. However, it is not as configurable because 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.
Overall, it is a very decent-looking and easy-to-use app.
In terms of bypassing censorship, PIA VPN is one of the most reliable VPNs. Based on our experience, the PIA VPN works quite well. In fact, it can also bypass geo-walls in heavily restricted regions like Turkey, Russia, China, and the UAE.
Before penning our Private Internet Access review, we tested PIA’s China-Shanghai server and were able to bypass restrictions with ease. To ensure, our connection being a success wasn’t a fluke, we tested the server multiple times throughout the week. We were able to get fruitful results once more.
Be sure to use the OpenVPN protocol and enable Shadowsocks proxy in the PIA VPN app’s settings to bypass the Great Firewall easily. Although Shadowsocks may not provide the level of safety or effectiveness an obfuscation tool does, it gets the job done anyway.
PIA’s live chat support is pretty decent. It’s quite efficient and informative when responding, and our queries were answered 80% of the time. However, if you don’t get an answer, you’re encouraged to email the provider through its ticketing system.
For our PIA VPN review, we tested PIA’s 24/7 live chat support and were responded to by a chatbot. We clicked the Transfer to Agent prompt, after which we were connected to a human representative in about 4-5 minutes. Then, we asked a question about their supported Netflix libraries and got an informative answer within seconds.
As for the ticketing system, we received an answer in about 8 hours from their customer support representatives. There’s also a knowledgebase section on their website with 100+ FAQs that’s updated now and then to solve your issues.
Along with all that, PIA VPN also offers a Twitter account dedicated to solving user queries. We DMed them with a query about a technical app issue and got a response after two days. However, while speaking of quick solutions, if you ever encounter any connectivity issues, check out our PIA VPN not working guide.
Here’s a summarised version of the customer support modes offered by PIA VPN:
|Offered by Private Internet Access
|24/7 Email Support
|24/7 Live Chat Support
|Email support via online form
Trustworthiness – Is Private Internet Access Trustworthy?
PIA VPN is an absolutely trustworthy VPN service, offering great security and a proven no-logging policy. It offers an efficient ad-blocker, the largest server network available, and allows anonymous torrenting. In short, one won’t be able to find such a reliable VPN at a super-affordable price.
Before we recommend this VPN in our PIA VPN review, we checked what consumers actually have to say about the VPN. So, we reviewed its Trustpilot rating to see how efficient PIA’s customer support is in case users need help. For instance, if anyone faced PIA VPN, not connecting issues and such.
Private Internet Access Trustpilot Rating
PIA VPN has a good reputation on Trustpilot. The provider has a rating of 4.6/5.0 with over 8,700 user reviews. 68% of the users rated the service excellent.
This means that it’s a top choice for all VPN users. Moreover, we also checked Private Internet Access reviews on Reddit, and most users had pleasant experiences with it.
Is Private Internet Access trustworthy according to Reddit?
No, apparently not. In fact, Reddit has conflicting views regarding Private Internet Access trustworthiness. One of the reviews we came across questioned PIA’s refund policy. The user claimed how they were charged on the 28th day of their use. Upon trying to get a refund for the trial period, PIA VPN supposedly declared the user ineligible. The user even went on to claim that PIA’s refund policy is deceptive.
On the other hand, another user penned down a PIA VPN review on Reddit and shared his experience. He talked about how he’s been using PIA VPN for three years and intends on renewing the subscription for another year.
Here’s what he had to say:
He also commended PIA VPN’s no logs policy, and customer service.
You may also browse through other reviews of Private Internet Access VPN on Reddit.
Alternatives to PIA VPN
If you aren’t satisfied with the features offered by PIA, then you have a ton of the best VPNs to choose from:
- PrivateVPN Review
- PureVPN Review
- VyprVPN Review
- Surfshark Review
- NordVPN Review
- CyberGhost Review
- IPVanish Review
FAQs – PIA VPN Review
Is PIA a reliable VPN?
Yes, PIA is a reliable and safe VPN. All PIA VPN apps make use of OpenVPN encryption protocols and WireGuard. Through OpenVPN, you have the option of using AES-128 or a more secure option such as AES-256-bit encryption. It has a proven no-logging policy and great security. One should be happy to find a trustworthy VPN for a very reasonable cost.
Can PIA VPN be tracked?
No, there’s no way to get tracked while using PIA VPN since its apps don’t store or record users’ personal data. PIA VPN doesn’t store or log any VPN usage information that may trace back to you. In fact, it claims to hold no records of its users’ browsing activity or bandwidth usage or anything of such sort. This means your digital footprints are completely hidden with PIA.
Which VPN is better than PIA VPN?
Does PIA VPN sell your data?
Is PIA based in the US?
Yes, PIA VPN is headquartered in the USA. Given the US is a founding member of the 5 Eyes Alliance, we can understand why you might raise an eyebrow about PIA’s jurisdiction. However, rest assured, it may be subjected to data collection laws but doesn’t log any data whatsoever. You may refer to PIA’s no logs policy for fact-checking.
Is PIA VPN better than ExpressVPN?
No, PIA VPN is not better than ExpressVPN. Despite offering strong encryption, fast speeds, and P2P sharing, PIA VPN still needs to improve its VPN services. ExpressVPN is faster for long-distance connections and provides bufferless streaming, MediaStreamer, and top-notch security features. Thus, it gains the upper hand on PIA VPN.
Now that we’ve reached the end of our PIA VPN review, we’d like to mention that PIA VPN is one of the best VPN providers available in the industry. It offers robust security, reliable speeds, and super-customizable app options. Apart from that, you also get great unblocking capabilities and a GUI-based Linux app.
In short, it’s the best you can get at such a price. But if you’re searching for fool-proof security, blazing-fast speeds, and above-par customer support, then we recommend you get ExpressVPN. It’s that one VPN you can never go wrong with.
That’s all for our PIA VPN review. Until next time!