There are a few things you can do to speed up your VPN, such as picking a different server. But one of the factors is the protocol used to encrypt and decrypt the data that flows over the VPN connection.
You might well have no idea what protocol your VPN uses as that information isn’t usually displayed prominently in the app. And it can also vary according to the device you’re using, as not all protocols are available across the various operating systems. Plus, some VPN providers choose to support more, and some fewer protocols.
WireGuard vs OpenVPN
- WireGuard is the fastest VPN protocol
- OpenVPN is the most secure
The short answer to the question, though, is that WireGuard is probably the protocol you’ll want to use if speed is the most important thing to you.
WireGuard is a newcomer, even compared to OpenVPN which has been the favourite for quite a while now. OpenVPN wasn’t designed for phones and other devices which regularly switch between Wi-Fi and mobile data, and the fact the code for OpenVPN is much, much longer than for WireGuard means it’s more demanding on CPU power. And in turn, that means it has a bigger hit on battery life.
However, it’s so new that it’s still in beta on most of these apps which can mean performance isn’t the best yet, or that there could even be bugs. So for security and privacy, you may prefer to stick with OpenVPN for now.
Plus, some free VPNs (such as hide.me's free tier) don't let you use WireGuard.
Are IKEv2, L2TP & PPTP good VPN protocols?
- IKEv2 is the best choice if OpenVPN or WireGuard aren’t available
- L2TP is slow and demanding on your CPU
- Don’t use PPTP – it has known vulnerabilities
These are all older protocols which, although they work, do not necessarily offer the best speed or reliability when using a mobile device.
The best of them is IKEv2, which is supported by iOS and Android and was designed to handle changes between Wi-Fi and mobile data networks without dropping the VPN connection.
It offers pretty good speeds, too, but not as fast as WireGuard, from the test data we’ve seen.
Should I choose UDP or TCP for my VPN?
Some VPN apps don’t let you pick which protocol to use, which can be frustrating. Alternatively you might find separate TCP and UDP versions of each protocol, but whatever the case then there are pros and cons to each protocol.
UDP is better for speed, so is the one to select if you’re trying to stream video.
TCP is better for reliability as, unlike UDP, it guarantees that every packet of data will be delivered. However, in the real world, it’s rare that you’ll experience problems with UDP.