VPN services do vary in the speeds they offer, but any VPN connection will be a bit slower than using your broadband or mobile data connection without a VPN. However, if you’re experiencing really slow speeds with NordVPN, such as video constantly buffering or websites taking forever to load, there's likely to be a problem that you can fix with these tips.
First, a quick word on VPN speeds. Typically, you shouldn’t notice any difference in internet speed when connected to NordVPN. As long as your regular internet, be it through home broadband or your phone’s 3G or 4G data, is relatively fast then you should be able to use apps and websites as normal.
You can use SpeedTest, either on the website or the Android or iOS app to measure your connection speed. Typically you’d find that there’s a 10-30% drop in speed when connected to a VPN server. And if your normal internet connection is fast already, even a 30% slower connection shouldn’t make much difference.
But other factors can come into play such as server location, server load and the protocol the VPN is using. You can change most of these yourself, so if you find your download or browsing speeds are sluggish, the following can help.
And before you blame the VPN, double-check that your internet is running at the expected speed with the VPN disconnected and that you’re not running any other apps in the background that are downloading stuff, including big operating system updates.
The server you choose plays a big part in your connection speed. First, there’s distance. The closer the server is to your physical location usually means a faster connection.
Second, consider server load. You won’t see this unless you click the three dots next to a country to see the servers available. As you can see in the image below, there’s a load percentage next to each server. This tells you at a glance if a lot of people are using that server or just a few. If the load is over 70% you’ll probably get a faster connection speed by choosing a server with a lower load.
For ease of use, the default is to choose the fastest, but you can also use the drop-down menus to pick a region and a particular server.
Note that you’ll need the main Windows or Mac app as the browser extension doesn’t show individual servers.
Use a different protocol
Though it may not be obvious, if you dig into Nord’s advanced settings you’ll discover you can choose which protocol to use. While you might expect to see PPTP, OpenVPN and L2TP, your choice here is between UDP and TCP. The default is UDP, but you can try changing to TCP to see if it improves your connection speed.
From the home screen, click Settings, then Advanced settings. Click I know what I am doing. Now you’ll see the Protocol option.
Use a Peer-to-peer server
If you’re using a VPN to download software, videos or anything else that requires a P2P client (i.e. Bittorrent) then make sure you’re connected to a server that’s optimised for P2P.
You’ll find these if you click on P2P under Speciality Servers.
Restart your stuff
The oldest trick in the book, this one. Restart your computer, your phone, your router and any other network gear you use such as powerline adaptors or mesh Wi-Fi nodes.
If the slowdown is being caused by any of these, restarting them offers a good success rate. For mains-powered devices, switch them off (if possible) and unplug them for 30 seconds, then plug back in and power up.
With phones and tablets, hold down the power button and choose the power off or restart option.
If you find some sites won't load at all with NordVPN, check out our tips on how to get around this problem.
Disable your firewall
Sometimes a firewall can be the cause of sluggish speeds. It’s worth disabling it for the purposes of checking if your speeds improve. Don’t run your PC or laptop without a firewall running for long periods though.
If you have a software firewall that turns out to be the cause of your problem, try installing a different one. If the firewall is in your router, check that there are no unnecessary rules set. Typically this will only be because you set some up yourself, then forgot. But if you’ve no idea what a firewall rule is, then there’s not much you can do besides upgrading to a newer or better router.
Many ISP-supplied routers are basic devices and you might well get better internet speeds from one of the latest routers.
If all else fails, update everything. Update Windows, update your motherboard BIOS and network drivers (both Ethernet and Wi-Fi), update your router’s firmware and your phone or tablet’s software.