How we test VPN applications

Our aim at VPN Watch is to provide users with a detailed review of every VPN service, to guide users in choosing the VPN service that fits their needs. We look at every detail and test every feature to see how they work. Nothing beats first-hand experience when trying to understand how a service works.

Jayden Andrews

Jayden Andrews

VPN expert

Jayden Andrews is a VPN expert for VPNwatch.com. He has since tested a number of VPN software and …

Read more
Michael Brown

Michael Brown

Technical director

Michael Brown manages the technical side of VPN testing, focusing on VPN testing methodologies and leak checks. As …

Read more
Jane Green

Jane Green

Content editor

Jane Green is the Content Editor of VPNwatch.com. She carefully goes through all the guides, articles, and reviews …

Read more

More About the VPN

Before anything else, we have to know the basic details of the VPN service we are going to review. Knowing this background information would allow us to understand the service better. The first thing we look at is the VPN’s website.

From there, we’ll be able to get details on the app’s developer, their company headquarters, and other contact information. The website is also a rich resource when trying to learn more about the VPN service. It usually has the installation instructions, VPN features, pricing plans, and other useful information.

1
2

Purchase and Install the VPN app

After running a background check, the next step is to purchase and download the VPN client for desktop and mobile (iOS and Android). In this step, we record any issues or difficulties we encountered during the installation process.

We also take screenshots for recording purposes, copy the page link, and save the after-purchase email. We analyze the whole installation process and evaluate whether the app is easy to install or a bit complicated.

Usability and UX

The next factor that we look into is the usability of the app’s user interface.

Is it easy to navigate? Are the features readily accessible?

Is the layout easy to understand? Are buttons and links all working?

We take these details into consideration and describe the whole process for record-keeping. We also take three to five screenshots of the desktop interface and another set of screenshots of the mobile app’s user interface to include in our review.

3
4

Check for leaks

DNS and IPv6 leaks compromise the VPN user’s security and privacy so it is crucial to check the VPN service if it is leaking any traffic. Some VPN providers are also not aware that they have leaks, so performing a check is necessary. We use https://ipleak.org/ to conduct leak tests while the VPN is running. We record the test results and the description of the errors, if there are any. We also take screenshots of the test results for record purposes.

Access and Compatibility

For this step, we check the number of simultaneous connections that the VPN service can support and record it. We also check which platforms and operating systems are supported by the VPN. We evaluate the VPN’s compatibility with Windows, Linux, iOS, macOS, Android, Smart TVs, routers, and other devices.

5
6

Speed Tests

One of the key characteristics of a good VPN service is a fast internet connection. We conduct a speed test, with and without VPN, to see if there is any difference in internet connection speed. First, we run a speed test using Speedtest.net while the VPN is turned off, then record the results. Then we switch on the VPN and run a test using different server locations: Australia, USA, Europe, and Japan. We record the speed test results with the VPN turned on and compare it with the speed test result without the VPN. We also take screenshots of the upload and download speed results for each server used during the test.

Privacy and security features

VPNs are designed to protect the privacy and security of the user, so we pay extra attention to these features. Here are some of the factors we look at when reviewing the app’s security features:

  • Describe the encryption levels being used and how effective it is in ensuring the user’s privacy.
  • Check the app’s no-log guarantee in the Privacy Policy or Terms of Use section of the VPN’s website.
  • Describe what protocols the VPN service uses.
  • Find information about anti-firewall features and whether the VPN has access in China and other countries that enforce internet censorship.
  • Find out if the VPN has a kill-switch option.
  • Check for other important security features.
7
8

VPN’s Unblocking Features

One of the common uses of VPN is to unblock content that is usually restricted by location. To check whether the VPN service has the power to unblock geo-restricted content, we log into a Netflix account and try to play a movie. If there is a “Proxy Detected” error, then the VPN service failed at unlocking the restricted content.

We also check torrent support by downloading a torrenting client and trying to download a torrent file while using VPN. While downloading, we also check the speed and compare it with the torrenting speed without VPN activated.

Next, we try loading a few websites using the TOR browser to see if the VPN is able to unblock TOR browser restrictions.

Customer Support

Customer support is important for when you run into problems while using the VPN app. So we make sure to check the working hours and days of the VPN’s customer support. We also list down the available channels of communication for customer support: online chat, email, and phone. After getting this information, we try to send a test message to the customer support team. We write down the response time and assess the response quality of their customer support.

9