Private Internet Access is a popular VPN service that you may consider as your permanent VPN solution. PIA provides excellent value for the money, but the support is not great. Keep reading my (ultimate) Private Internet Access review to find out more about the pros and cons of PIA VPN!
Private Internet Access review 2018 in a nutshell
|Headquarters & jurisdiction||United States|
|Log policy||No logging.|
|GDPR compliance||Yes, according to the support team.|
|Servers & locations||3500+ servers, 28 countries.|
|Dynamic & static IPs||Dynamic IPs.|
|Dedicated IPs||No, for anonymity reasons.|
|VPN protocols & security||OpenVPN, IPSec, PPTP, L2TP.|
|Advanced VPN protocols||No, but you may use PIA with Tor.|
|P2P & torrent policy||Yes, on all servers (routed to specific locations).|
|VPN applications||Windows, MacOS, Android, Android TV, iOS, Linux.|
|Plug & Play Routers||Yes, FlashRouters and Sploitworks.|
|Other devices (manual setup)||DD-WRT, Tomato, Sabai routers, Freebox, Raspberry PI, Boxee Box|
|Browser extensions||Yes, for Chrome, Opera, and Firefox.|
|Kill Switch||Yes, for the Windows, MacOS, Android apps.|
|DNS leak protection||Yes, for the Windows and MacOS apps.|
|IPv6 leak protection||Yes.|
|Automatically change IP||No.|
|Proxy & SOCKS5||Yes, both HTTP proxies (within the Chrome extension) and SOCKS5.|
|Simultaneous connections / devices||5 devices.|
|Pricing||From $6.95/month, lower for annual and bi-annual plans.|
|Promos & discounts||Rarely.|
|Payment methods||Credit cards, PayPal, Bitcoin, BitcoinCash, Amazon Pay, CashU, OKPay, Mint, Mobiano, Gift cards.|
|Moneyback||Yes, seven days.|
|Support||24/7 email and support tickets. No live chat.|
|User reviews||Mostly positive, complaints about support.|
|Multilanguage||Yes (website and apps).|
|Pros/What I like||Excellent price, lots of encryption features, good speed.|
|Cons/What could be improved||Support is not great, a low number of locations (compared to other VPNs).|
Headquarters & jurisdiction
Private Internet Access VPN is based in the United States. Not the best location for running a VPN service as the United States is a member of the Fourteen Eyes group of countries that share intelligence to avoid breaking domestic laws. Also, the US is the home of NSA, the well-known governmental surveillance agency.
However, PIA has a strict no logging policy that was recently confirmed by an FBI investigation. The criminal complaint filed by the FBI shows that a subpoena sent to Private Internet Access resulted in no useful data being revealed about a suspected hoaxer.
PrivateInternetAccess.com does not collect or log any traffic or use of its Virtual Private Network (“VPN”) or Proxy.
The response of the PIA support team regarding the GDPR issue:
We are currently compliant with the GDPR guidelines and we are currently working towards finalizing the update of out Terms and Conditions to reflect this on our site.
Servers & locations
Private Internet Access offers access to more than 3000+ servers (impressive!) in 28 countries: United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, France, Germany, Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Romania, Turkey, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Israel, Mexico, Brazil, India.
Dynamic & static IPs
All PIA servers have dynamic IPs, meaning that every time you connect you (most probably) get a different IP. For a specific location, you get connected to a server from the server pool, which assigns you a random IP address. However, it is possible to get the same IP using the OpenVPN application instead of the PIA app.
Private Internet Access does not offer dedicated IPs. Here is their explanation:
We do not offer dedicated IP addresses. All of our IP addresses are shared among our users to ensure the maximum level of anonymity possible. It is this feature that allows your internet traffic to be truly untraceable when using our VPN service. If the IP address was yours and yours alone, then it would not be much different than a normal connection.
VPN protocols and security
A strong point of the Private Internet Access service is that it provides a lot of options to increase or decrease the encryption and the security of the VPN connection. The available VPN protocols are OpenVPN, IPSec, L2TP, and PPTP. Take a look at the table below to see how you can use them (for the manual setup you may find detailed tutorials on the Private Internet Access site):
|OpenVPN (UDP & TCP)||Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS (only UDP) and Android apps or manual setup on routers, FreeBox, NAS Synology, Raspberry PI.|
|PPTP||Manual setup on Windows, MacOS, Android, Linux.|
|L2TP||Manual setup on Windows, MacOS, Android.|
OpenVPN connections can be secured with an AES-256 cipher, SHA256 hash authentication, and RSA-4096 handshake encryption. Thus, we can conclude that Private Internet Access uses a powerful encryption suite.
Advanced VPN protocols
Private Internet Access does not implement any of the more advanced VPN protocols like Stealth VPN, Double VPN, Softether, Tor over VPN. However, if you want to get more in terms of anonymity and privacy you use PIA and Tor at the same time.
P2P & torrent policy
Can you use PIA for torrenting? Private Internet Access allows P2P and torrent traffic on all their servers. However, if you connect to servers located in countries that have a strict no P2P/torrent policy the traffic will be routed through other servers via a VPN channel.
- It offers KillSwitch and DNS leak protection.
- Servers provide good speed.
- It offers access to SOCKS5 proxies.
- You may connect to any server even if the location is not torrent friendly.
Must read: Learn how to torrent safely!
PIA VPN review – VPN applications
Private Internet Access Windows app
Both Windows and MacOS apps have similar structure and behavior. The user interface is simple and offers easy access to the available options.
From the main screen, you may log in, choose the desired location and turn on/off the following options: Start application at login, Auto-connect on launch, Show desktop notifications. Strangely, you can not connect/disconnect from this screen, only by accessing the application menu from the icon tray.
From the Advanced settings, you may choose the VPN protocol from OpenVPN UDP or OpenVPN TCP. Also, you have the option to select the remote port.
The other advanced settings of the PrivateInternetAccess Windows application are explained below:
- Request port forwarding: The port that is being used is shown when you hover over the PIA icon in the system tray area. It can be useful to set it up in applications.
- PIA MACE: A new feature of Private Internet Access that acts as a blocker for advertisement, malware, trackers, etc.
- VPN Kill Switch: It terminates the Internet connection if the VPN connection drops (more details below).
- IPv6 leak protection: This disables the use of IPv6 while connected to the VPN.
- Use small packets: You may want to use this option in case of often VPN disconnects.
Private Internet Access encryption options
The Windows and MacOS apps allow you to choose the following encryption parameters:
- Data Encryption: Change the encryption level: AES-128, AES-256 or None.
- Data Authentication: Select the cryptographic hash: SHA-1, SHA-256 or None.
- Handshake: Encryption used to establish a secure connection with Private Internet Access servers. PIA uses TLS 1.2. The default is RSA-2048.
These options are great, and they offer a lot of alternatives for different usage scenarios. What to select? It depends on what you need.
Do you want maximum protection? Select AES-256, SHA-256, and RSA-4096.
Do you want all speed and no safety at all? Pick None, None and ECC-256k1.
The default recommendation is AES-128, SHA-1, and RSA-2048.
To sum up the PIA review regarding the Windows application: easy to use, nice features, excellent encryption options. However, I would like to see a Connect/Disconnect button in the main window.
Private Internet Access MacOS app
The Private Internet Access MacOS application is simple, yet powerful as it exposes some advanced features.
Firstly, after install, you get to the main screen. Your username and password are already filled in. I’m not sure how I should feel about it: it’s a nice touch from the usability point of view, but it was kind of spooky to install the app for the first time and see that the account credentials were already there.
From the Region drop-down, you can select the location to connect to. You are not able to choose the server. The app will connect to the server that offers the best performance for the selected location. The Auto option connects to the closest server/location.
The Private Internet Access MacOS app uses the OpenVPN protocol to connect to the VPN servers. You may choose from the UDP or TCP connection types. Also, you can select the remote port. Thus, you have several alternatives in case some ports are blocked by your ISP or at school.
The other essential features that are present for the Windows application (Request port forwarding, PIA MACE, VPN Kill Switch, IPv6 leak protection, Use small packets, Data Encryption, Data Authentication, Handshake) are also implemented. Take a look above (to the Windows app presentation) for more details regarding each option.
To sum up, the Private Internet Access application works great, connects smoothly and offers excellent speed.
PrivateInternetAccess VPN Review – iOS app
The Private Internet Access iOS app is straightforward, and it does what it is supposed to do: connects your iPhone/iPad to a VPN server from the desired location.
From the home screen, you can turn the VPN on/off and select the desired location. If you choose Automatic, the app tries to find the server that provides you the optimal speed. It does not mean that the server will be from your country.
The Automatically reconnect option will try to get the VPN connection back in case of unwanted disconnects, and PIA MACE (replaced from version 2.5 by the Safari Content Blocker) blocks ads, malware, and other threats.
The Private Internet Access iOS app uses the IPSec VPN and OpenVPN UDP protocols. You may also change the Remote port for OpenVPN to 1194, 8080, 9201 or 53.
In-app purchases are available if you don’t already have an account.
PrivateInternetAccess Review – Android app
The Private Internet Access Android app uses the OpenVPN protocol. It offers the same options explained above for the Windows app. It is important to mention the PIA MACE (blocks ads, trackers, and malware while you are connected to PIA network) and Internet KillSwitch (ensure your internet always uses our VPN connection).
An exciting feature is the option to select apps that you want to let bypass the private VPN tunnel.
The Private Internet Access Android can also be downloaded as apk file from the Private Internet Access Client Area.
PIA Review – Android TV app
The Private Internet Access app for Android TV can be downloaded as apk file from the PIA site. If you are not able to install the APK, you may try to set up the OpenVPN connect app. Also, the latest updates bring support for FireOS.
Private Internet Access Review – Linux app
For Debian-based Linux (including Ubuntu), PIA recommends that you try running their Linux client software. Once the application is successfully installed, you should see a client icon in your system tray near the clock. The icon will appear to be a small, red robot icon if disconnected, and bright green if connected.
The application uses OpenVPN protocol, and the user interface is similar to those for the Windows and MacOS operating systems.
Other devices (manual setup)
Private Internet Access offers access to a lot of tutorials that allow manual VPN setup for:
- Routers – OpenVPN setup on DD-WRT, Tomato, PfSense routers.
- PPTP, L2TP, and SOCKS protocols.
- Different devices like Raspberry PI, NAS Synology, Boxee Box, FreeBox Revolution.
Browser extensions and add-ons
The Chrome extension is one of the best VPN/proxy extensions I used so far. It provides a lot of useful extra features.
The user interface is straightforward: select the desired location and turn the extension ON. The browser sets the proxy and connects to the server.
As mentioned above, the Private Internet Access Chrome extension also provides:
- WebRTC leak protection;
- Privacy options to block camera access, block microphone access, block location access, disable network prediction;
- Anti-tracking options by disabling third-party cookies, website referrer, hyperlink auditing and removing UTM parameters;
- Ad-blocking using PIA MACE module;
- Website bypass list to use the direct connection (no proxy). Thus, you may access your local Netflix channel and still have PIA extension activated for other websites. Import/export feature for the bypass list is available.
The PIA Firefox addon and the PIA Opera extension have been recently launched and have fewer functions, but they are still great to use. They include:
- Easy on/off switch
- WebRTC blocking
- Sort gateways by latency
- Website URL whitelist
Kill Switch is a fail-safe mechanism that is a must for all VPN services. It cuts off the access of the computer to the Internet when the VPN connection drops accidentally.
Private Internet Access implements Internet KillSwitch (the Internet access is completely cut off in case of VPN disconnect until it is manually restored or the VPN reconnects) for the Windows, MacOS, Linux and Android apps.
Unfortunately, the PIA KillSwitch does not work if you are connected to both Ethernet and Wifi:
Users who may be connected to two connections simultaneously (ex.: wired and wireless) should not use this feature, as it will only stop 1 active connection type.
DNS leak protection
Private Internet Access provides strong DNS leak protection. It can be enabled and disabled in the Windows application, while default on the MacOS app enables it.
PrivateInternetAccess uses their private DNS servers (184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11) for the DNS queries while on the VPN. When using a DNS Leak testing site, you should expect to see your DNS requests originate from the IP of the VPN gateway you are connected to.
If you change your DNS servers manually or if for some other reason they are replaced this does not necessarily mean your DNS is leaking. Even if you use different DNS servers, the queries will still be routed through the VPN connection and will be anonymous.
Generally speaking, it is advisable to use DNS services that do not log your activities.
Proxy & SOCKS5
The Private Internet Access Chrome extension uses HTTP proxies, but they can not be used by manual setup.
The SOCKS5 proxies are extremely useful for those interested in torrenting. Most of the BitTorrent clients can be set up to use SOCKS5 proxies and, the advantage is that the downloads automatically stop if the SOCKS5 connection drops.
Private Internet Access provides SOCKS5 on the following server:
PIA applications can be installed on unlimited devices, but you may only connect from 5 devices simultaneously. It should be enough for a medium-sized family. If you need simultaneously connection simply create an additional account.
Private Internet Access does not offer a free trial. However, you may subscribe to the service, test it for several days and ask for a refund if you are not satisfied. You may benefit from the 7-day money back guaranty.
Private Internet Access is one of the most affordable VPN services on the market, and it offers excellent value for the money.
The monthly price is $6.95. If you are happy with the service (and you will probably be), you may go for the annual plan ($39.95) or the recently introduced bi-annual plan ($69.95).
Promos and discounts
Private Internet Access is already at a great price. Thus, there is no room for discounts. However, if you are looking for an exceptional offer go for the 2-year plan at $69.95.
Are you looking for a VPN deal? Here is a site that lists active VPN promotions. If you know other Private Internet Access promotions feel free to share them in the comments below.
You may pay for Private Internet Access services using many ways: credit cards, PayPal, Bitcoin, BitcoinCash, Amazon Pay, CashU, OKPay, Mint, Mobiano (Pay by mobile), Gift cards (including Starbucks, Walmart, Best Buy and over 100 more).
According to the Terms of Service, you may get a full refund during the first 7-day of your subscription:
If you are less than 100% satisfied with the PrivateInternetAccess VPN service, we will gladly refund your payment if the refund is requested within seven (7) days from the date of the purchase.
However, you should carefully read the money back conditions presented on the page.
The Private Internet Access team offers 24/7/365 ticket support. No live chat. Here is their explanation regarding the absence of live chat support:
We have found throughout our support years that we are able to provide more comprehensive, higher quality and better support through ticketing versus live chat.
Update: Starting from June 15, 2018, the support requests via the PIA forum are no longer available as the forum was discontinued.
PIA review – Performance/speed testing
The speed of your Internet connection while connected to a VPN server depends on factors like: the speed of your regular Internet connection (without VPN), the connection from your location to the VPN server, the load of the VPN server (the number of users on the server), the available bandwidth for the VPN server. Thus, some factors may NOT be related directly to the VPN service. It is something you need to take into consideration when measuring the performance of a VPN service.
To get an idea of the Private Internet Access connection speed, I had performed some tests for several use cases.
Firstly, I had tested my regular Internet connection and then compared it with the speed of the VPN connection when the PIA app was set to the maximum speed (no encryption). I connected to UK London, and the speed results were the followings:
Secondly, I have set the PIA app for the highest encryption (AES-256, SHA256, RSA-4096). Curiously, the speed seemed to be higher than for no encryption settings:
Lastly, I tried the connection to a US server from the East coast with regular encryption:
To sum up, I found the performance/speed of the Private Internet Access servers enjoyable, but not as good as presented in other reviews that I read where PIA is presented as the fastest VPN. However, the provided speed is enough for great browsing and good streaming.
The PrivateInternetAccess site is precisely what should be: simple, informative, no unnecessary design elements. The checkout process is simple, and you instantly get access to the VPN service after payment.
Private Internet Access reviews are collected on TrustPilot. The user reviews are mostly positive, and users are impressed with the PIA service. However, if you take a closer look, you may find some complaints about the support. As there is no live chat support, help requests take longer than expected. So, keep this potential problem in mind when you subscribe to PIA VPN.
Private Internet Access review – Pros – What I like about Private Internet Access
Private Internet Access service is excellent: simple and effective. Here are some of the things I love the most about Private Internet Access:
- Excellent price;
- Robust VPN service, excellent security with a lot of options, no logging;
- Friendly and straightforward VPN apps;
- Good speed.
Private Internet Access VPN review – Cons – What could be improved
Several things could be improved:
- The support could be faster and more effective. You may read complaints about it on different forums;
- KillSwitch cannot be used if you are using both wired and wireless Internet connections;
- More server locations would be nice;
- It does not work with Netflix.
PrivateInternetAccess review – Conclusion
It is the end of my extensive PIA VPN review. I tried to cover as many aspects as I could to present the Private Internet Access VPN service as accurate as possible. The conclusion is that Private Internet Access offers great value for the money, but you need to take into consideration that the support may be an unpleasant surprise.
What do you think of Private Internet Access? Have you tried it? What features should I add to this Private Internet Access VPN review? Would you recommend it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.