Private Internet Access Review: Quick Expert Summary
Private Internet Access (PIA) is very intuitive, really fast, and has one of the largest VPN server networks available (35,000+).
PIA also maintains some of the strongest security practices in the industry — its apps are fully open-source, its no-logs policy has been repeatedly tested in court, and it offers a lot of high-security customization for advanced users.
PIA also offers more extra features than most other VPNs, including:
- Torrenting on all servers.
- Tor support.
- Ad blocker.
- And more…
PIA is a good VPN for most high-privacy needs (like torrenting and gaming), but it’s not my top choice for streaming — PIA can unblock most Netflix libraries as well as Amazon Prime and Disney+, but in my testing I was unable to access other popular streaming sites like Hulu or BBC iPlayer. I also don’t recommend PIA for people in restrictive countries like China — my friends in countries that censor the internet reported that PIA was inconsistent at bypassing internet restrictions.
But PIA is still a good VPN for most users. It has one of the largest server networks of any VPN on the market, it’s secure, and it’s easy to use across all apps and platforms. And it also allows for 10 simultaneous connections on one account (unlike most VPNs that only allow for 5-7 simultaneous connections).
Private Internet Access has 1-month, 1-year, and 2-year payment plans (the 2-year plan comes with a free 1-year license for encrypted cloud storage). All plans are covered by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
|Overall Rank||#6 out of 45 VPNs|
|Number of Servers||35,000+|
|Number of Devices||10|
|Starting Price||per month|
|Money-Back Guarantee||30 days|
Private Internet Access Full Review
I spent a couple of weeks testing and researching Private Internet Access (PIA) to see whether or not it’s actually one of the top VPNs out there.
PIA is known for its massive server count (35,000+) that continues to grow each month. The large server network ensures that none of PIA’s servers get overcrowded, which helps provide faster connection speeds.
And this really works — PIA had excellent speeds in my speed tests, which allowed me to stream content in HD without any buffering (even while connected to distant servers), download torrent files quickly, and browse the web without interruptions.
Private Internet Access Features
PIA comes with all of the standard security features, like:
- Multiple encryption options. PIA offers 256-bit AES encryption and 128-bit AES encryption. 256-bit AES is more secure, but 128-bit AES has slightly faster speeds (it was 4-5% faster in my tests).
- No-logs policy. PIA doesn’t track, store, or log any browsing data, and this has been repeatedly proven to be true in court (unlike most other VPNs that have not been legally tested).
- Kill switch. This feature protects you from possible data leaks by shutting down your internet access if you’re disconnected from the VPN.
I like that PIA has a built-in kill switch on its iOS app (many VPNs don’t have a kill switch on iOS). PIA’s Windows and Mac kill switch offers some extra flexibility — you can choose whether to activate the kill switch if the VPN accidentally disconnects or if you’re not connected to a VPN server (only allowing you to use the internet if you’re connected to a PIA VPN server).
I also think it’s great that PIA’s servers run on RAM memory. This means PIA doesn’t store any data on a hard drive, and all of the data on the server is erased when the server is rebooted.
PIA offers complete protection against DNS and WebRTC leaks. PIA’s DNS servers prevent DNS leaks and its browser extensions prevent WebRTC leaks (some top VPNs like VyprVPN, PrivateVPN, and ProtonVPN don’t have browser extensions and are unable to prevent WebRTC leaks). PIA doesn’t support IPv6, but I really like how it automatically disables IPv6 traffic by default — this way, you don’t have to remember to manually disable it on your device.
PIA offers 3 protocols: OpenVPN (TCP and UDP), WireGuard, and IKEv2/IPSec (only available on the iOS app). I’m really happy PIA includes WireGuard because it’s more secure, and in my tests WireGuard provided faster speeds than OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPSec (competitors like ProtonVPN, TunnelBear, and IPVanish don’t support WireGuard).
PIA supports Tor (The Onion Router) over VPN on all of its servers, allowing you to browse .onion sites with an extra layer of security.
Although the Tor network is already very secure, using Tor over VPN prevents other Tor users from finding out your real IP address (if your IP address gets leaked, other Tor users will see the VPN’s IP address, and not your actual one).
Using PIA’s Tor over VPN feature is very simple — just connect to any PIA server and then begin using the Tor browser (it’s free to download).
But keep in mind that Tor over VPN connections are very slow (in general) — because the Tor network encrypts your traffic multiple times and adding a VPN connection makes it even slower. In my tests, websites took up to 20 seconds to load and my connection speeds were reduced by 75% when compared to my internet speed without a VPN.
PIA has good Tor support, but I slightly prefer AstrillVPN and ProtonVPN’s Tor over VPN feature — both of these VPNs allow you to browse the Tor network with Opera, Chrome, and Firefox rather than the Tor browser.
But overall, PIA’s Tor over VPN is very easy to use, it works on any server, and it provides an extra layer of protection for users who visit .onion sites on a regular basis.
PIA’s split-tunneling feature is better than most other VPNs’ split-tunneling functions.
PIA has split-tunneling on Android, macOS, Windows, and Linux (iOS doesn’t support split-tunneling).
PIA’s desktop apps let you select both apps and website IP addresses to bypass the VPN tunnel, unlike top competitors like ExpressVPN, which only let you bypass app traffic (although PIA’s Android split-tunneling feature only works on the app level).
One of the things I like the most about PIA’s split-tunneling function is that it’s available on macOS. Most VPNs don’t support split-tunneling on Mac computers, so this is a huge plus.
During my tests, PIA’s split-tunneling worked perfectly. I tested split-tunneling while I downloaded files — I routed all of my P2P activity through the VPN and excluded my bank’s IP address (most banks don’t allow VPN traffic). This allowed me to have faster download speeds, and I could still access my bank account.
Overall, PIA’s split-tunneling function works great, it lets you redirect both apps and website IP addresses, and I really like that it’s also available on Mac.
PIA offers obfuscation through the Shadowsocks protocol (an open-source encrypted proxy), which hides your VPN traffic from governments and ISPs.
PIA basically masks your VPN connection and makes it appear like you’re using the internet without a VPN, which is what allows you to overcome geo-blocks and VPN blocks.
Unfortunately, Shadowsocks isn’t reliable at bypassing government firewalls in countries that place heavy censorship on the internet. My colleagues in China and Iran tested PIA and reported that they were able to access the open internet only around 50% of the time. If you want a more reliable VPN that works in restrictive countries, I recommend ExpressVPN or PrivateVPN.
But PIA’s Shadowsocks is reliable at hiding your VPN connection from your ISP, and it’s good for accessing geo-restricted sites. I was unable to access Disney+ while connected to one of PIA’s US servers, but it worked when I enabled Shadowsocks!
Keep in mind that using Shadowsocks will slow down your internet connection a little bit because Shadowsocks adds another layer of encryption to the connection. While using obfuscation, I had an average decrease in speed of 7% compared to my speed when I was connected to a PIA server. This isn’t too bad, but it could cause some minor lag or buffering.
Overall, PIA’s Shadowsocks proxy obfuscation feature is good for masking your VPN connection from your ISP and streaming services, but the feature only works some of the time to bypass government firewalls.
PIA MACE (Ad Blocker)
is an ad blocker that’s good at blocking ads, ad trackers, and malicious websites. I tested PIA MACE by visiting ad-heavy media outlets and social media pages, and PIA MACE prevented most of the ads from loading on the sites. And because there were (almost) no more ads on these sites, web pages loaded faster than usual.
I also tested PIA MACE’s malware detection — I tried to visit known suspicious HTTP websites and the tool blocked most of them. However, PIA MACE also labeled some safe sites as unsafe (but this didn’t happen often).
PIA MACE is available on PIA’s desktop apps, and you can also get it on Android if you install the APK version of the PIA Android app (you won’t get PIA MACE if you download the app from the Google Play Store). PIA’s ad blocker doesn’t work on iOS.
But overall, I think PIA MACE is a great additional tool that’s capable of blocking ads and protecting users from trackers and malicious sites.
Identity Guard is a good data breach monitoring tool that’s easy to use that works really well.
This feature lets you check if your email (or any other personal information) has been compromised in a data breach, and it will send you an alert if anything gets leaked in a new breach.
I tested Identity Guard with an old email and found that my account had been breached in 9 different data breaches. The results included the company that suffered the breach, a brief summary of the breach, and my personal information that was exposed (email address, passwords, names, date of birth, etc.).
Overall, Identity Guard is a good way to check if your email has been involved in a data breach, and you can set up alerts to receive an email notification if your email is ever leaked.
Private Internet Access Privacy & Security
PIA has a strict no-logs policy
PIA’s no-logs policy has been proven in court (multiple times). For example, PIA couldn’t comply with a subpoena in a 2015 case about a cyber attack on a media house and in a 2016 case about a bomb threat. PIA publishes regular transparency reports that detail exactly what requests it’s received and how many times it’s complied with an authority’s request for user data. There are very few VPN companies that have this level of transparency.
One of the things I like the most about PIA is that all of its apps are open-source. This allows anyone to examine PIA’s code for holes in security or privacy.
PIA is headquartered in the US, which is part of the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliances (a group of countries that share intelligence data). But since PIA doesn’t keep any logs, it wouldn’t have any user information to hand over if the US government requested it (see the transparency report linked above).
Overall, PIA is one of the most transparent VPNs out there — it has a strong no-logs policy, which has been tested in court on multiple occasions, and all of PIA’s software is fully open-source.
Private Internet Access Speed & Performance
I ran speds tests by connecting to a server in all 78 countries where PIA has a server, and on average, I experienced a 35% speed decrease, which is better than most other VPNs.
For the speed tests, I primarily used the WireGuard protocol because OpenVPN was typically a lot slower.
As I expected, PIA had very fast speeds when I was connected to a local server (Romania). While I experienced some slowdown when I connected to distant servers in the US and New Zealand, PIA still maintained good speeds for browsing, streaming, torrenting, and even high-performance gaming.
I first ran a speed test without being connected to a PIA server to get a baseline for my speeds:
Next, I used PIA’s auto-connect option to connect to the fastest server (and I was instantly connected to a server in Romania). My download speed decreased by 53%, which is a significant drop, but I was able to browse the internet and watch content in HD on Netflix with virtually no delay.
Then, I tested a VPN server in the US. The download speed was 75% slower than my speed without a VPN, and it took 10-15 seconds for Netflix TV shows and movies to load. However, once the shows began, they streamed uninterrupted. And the torrent speeds were significantly better than the streaming speeds — I downloaded a 20 GB torrent in 24 minutes, which is really fast.
When I tested a server in New Zealand (one of the most distant servers from my location), I was surprised that my download speed was similar to the US server. Websites took 4-5 seconds to load, and streaming content on Netflix took up to 20 seconds to load (which was about the same as in the US). I was even able to play online games with only minor lag.
Since Romania has very fast internet speeds, it’s not fair to compare my results with what people from other countries see. So I asked my colleague in the US to run some speed tests, too.
He first ran a speed test without being connected to a PIA server.
Then, he connected to a PIA server using the auto-connect feature. Although he’s located in the New York region, he was automatically connected to the best server (San Diego) — on the other side of the country. His speed loss was only 6%, and he reported no difference in his online activities.
Next, he connected to a server in Spain. While his download speed was reduced by 33%, he said websites took less than 2 seconds to load, streaming content started almost instantly, and files downloaded without any noticeable slowdown. Also, he was able to play online video games without any buffering.
Finally, my colleague connected to a server in Australia, which is one of the furthest locations from his location. While his ping was really high, his download speed was actually better than the connection in Spain (a decrease of just 15%, which is pretty remarkable) — websites only took a couple of seconds to load, and TV shows and videos on Netflix began almost immediately.
Overall, PIA maintains blazing-fast speeds on local servers and has pretty good speeds on distant servers. During our tests, both me and my colleague were able to watch Netflix and other streaming services content in HD (although content sometimes took 10-20 seconds to load), download files with fast speeds, play games with no or only minor lag, and browse the internet with only minimal buffering.
Private Internet Access Servers & IP Addresses
PIA has one of the largest VPN server networks out there with 35,000+ servers in 78 countries.
While other VPNs have servers in more countries (like HMA — 190+ countries, CyberGhost VPN — 90 countries, and ExpressVPN — 94 countries), PIA still has a server located in nearly every region of the world, allowing you to connect to a close server no matter where you’re located.
While I like that PIA tells you the latency for each server — and indicates whether the latency is low or high — I would like to see PIA also display the server load percentage for each server (like ProtonVPN and CyberGhost VPN). This would allow you to choose a server that isn’t overcrowded.
PIA uses shared static IP addresses, which is good because you’re using the same IP address as possibly thousands of other users, making it very difficult for someone to trace the IP address back to you.
PIA also offers dedicated IP addresses (they’re IP addresses only assigned to you) for a small additional cost. Dedicated IPs are useful because they reduce the risk of being blacklisted by banks and streaming sites. PIA has dedicated IPs for 4 locations: the US, the UK, Canada, and Germany.
Overall, PIA has the biggest server network on the market (35,000+). All of its servers are P2P-friendly, it uses shared IP addresses, and offers dedicated IP addresses.
Private Internet Access Streaming & Torrenting
PIA unblocks Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+, but it doesn’t work with Hulu and BBC iPlayer.
In my tests, PIA unblocked Netflix US, UK, Japan, Germany, France, and Italy, as well as lesser-known sites like VRV, Tubi TV, USA Network, Crunchyroll, Pluto TV, The CW, and more (and all of the content streamed in HD).
PIA has excellent P2P support — it allows torrenting on all of its 35,000+ servers and works with all of the major torrenting clients like qBittorrent, Vuze, uTorrent, and Deluge. PIA also allows port forwarding (which lets you connect to more peers to get better speeds).
Before I tested PIA for torrenting, I ran leak tests while connected to servers in 10 different countries, and my tests all came back with 0 leaks.
Overall, PIA can unblock some streaming sites, and it has excellent torrenting support. I was able to watch TV shows and movies on Netflix (it unblocked all 7 international content libraries I tested), Disney+, Crunchyroll, and many more. I also was able to download files using all of the popular torrent clients.
Private Internet Access Government Bypassing
PIA isn’t very reliable at bypassing government censorship.
My colleagues in China, Iran, Russia, Saudia Arabia, and Indonesia told me they were able to access unrestricted internet only about 50% of the time.
If you live in a restrictive country and are looking for a VPN that consistently bypasses government firewalls, I recommend ExpressVPN.
Private Internet Access Plans & Pricing
PIA offers really affordable payment plans.
It has a 1-month, 1-year, and 2-year plan (the 2-year plan offers the best savings and comes with a free 1-year license for Boxcryptor, an end-to-end encryption service for cloud storage).
PIA accepts 4 different credit cards, PayPal, Amazon Pay, and cryptocurrencies (Bitpay, Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, and Litecoin).
All PIA plans come with the same features and are backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Overall, PIA has attractive pricing, accepts multiple payment options, and has a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Private Internet Access Ease of Use: Mobile & Desktop Apps
PIA has apps for iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, and Linux. I easily installed the Android and iOS apps in 1 minute, and it took about 2 minutes to install the Windows and macOS apps.
I really like PIA’s Android app
— it works just as promised, it’s feature-rich, and it’s easy to navigate.
I especially like how you can connect to a server with one tap of the large power button on the main window. If you want to manually connect to a server, all you have to do is tap on Current Region to find the full list of server locations (you can also filter servers by favorites, latency, and name to help save you some time).
One of my favorite things about PIA’s Android app is how flexible and customizable its settings are. You can easily change protocols (OpenVPN or WireGuard), encryption levels, proxy settings, and connection options (like whether to connect to trusted or untrusted Wi-Fi networks). You can also enable/disable port forwarding, change the look and layout of the app, and do a lot more.
While all of the options may seem overwhelming to a new user, I like how PIA automatically sets all of the features to a recommended default setting — so you don’t have to worry about changing them. Also, I love how there is a brief description for most of the settings. My only complaint is that all of the functions are listed under one long tab (I like how ExpressVPN organizes its settings features into different categories to provide a cleaner design).
PIA has its own private/incognito web browser for Android and iOS devices called InBrowser (you have to install it through the Google Play Store) — it wipes all sessions, cookies, and browser history whenever you close the app.
The only minor downside of PIA’s Android app is that it’s missing obfuscation, so I hope PIA adds this feature to the Android app soon. Also, keep in mind that you need to install the APK version of the PIA Android app to be able to use PIA MACE (if you download the Android app from Google Play Store, you won’t be able to use PIA’s ad blocker).
Overall, PIA has a very good Android app — it’s simple to use, fast, and offers a lot of customization options for advanced users.
PIA’s iOS app is similar to the Android app.
One of the differences is the iOS app has 3 protocols instead of 2 — IKEv2/IPSec, OpenVPN, and WireGuard.
PIA’s iOS app is missing obfuscation and PIA MACE.
Overall, PIA’s iOS app is secure and user-friendly, and it has many of the same features as the Android app.
I used PIA’s desktop app on my Windows 10 PC and MacBook Pro. I really like PIA’s desktop apps — they have intuitive interfaces and are similar to the iOS and Android apps.
You connect to a server by pressing one big on/off button. By pressing a slider, you can also access quick connect options and connection details like data usage, VPN protocol, encryption, etc.
I also like how there are quick settings that allow you to easily enable/disable features like PIA MACE and port forwarding. And I’m a big fan of PIA because it’s one of the few VPNs that include the split-tunneling feature on macOS.
I like that PIA’s desktop apps have automation settings that tell the VPN what to do when you use a secure/unsecured WiFi or wired connection (connect or disconnect). This is convenient because you can configure PIA to automatically connect to a server when you access unsecured Wi-Fi networks.
Overall, PIA has great desktop apps. They’re both feature-rich and very easy to use.
Private Internet Access’s Apps: Is Private Internet Access Easy to Use?
PIA has user-friendly apps for Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, and Linux.
They all have a similar design and are easy to navigate, and all of PIA’s apps are fully open-source. The desktop apps are the most feature-rich (the iOS and Android apps are missing obfuscation and PIA MACE), but the mobile apps also come with a lot of customization, convenient features, and advanced tools.
Private Internet Access Customer Support
PIA has great troubleshooting guides, a detailed FAQ section, 24/7 live chat, and email support.
Unfortunately, PIA doesn’t have phone support.
PIA has extensive step-by-step guides that show you how to install and uninstall the PIA app and troubleshoot issues. I like that the guides have a reader-friendly layout (with well-edited screenshots), and the FAQ section has over 100 questions! I found the guides and FAQs answered most of my questions.
When I tested PIA’s live chat, I was always connected to a support rep in under 10 seconds, and the reps were responsive, friendly, and knowledgeable. The one drawback is that the live chat is only available in English.
I also sent PIA 5 emails and received a reply each time within 2-3 hours. Most VPN companies respond to an email in 6-8 hours, and some even only respond the next day.
It was simple to get a refund over live chat. The rep didn’t try to pressure me into changing my mind, and I only needed my order number to process the refund.
Overall, PIA has excellent customer support. There are useful setup and troubleshooting guides along with in-depth FAQs, responsive and knowledgeable 24/7 live chat reps, and PIA responded to my emails in only a couple of hours.
Is Private Internet Access Good Enough?
PIA has great security, easy-to-use apps, good speeds, and it allows up to 10 simultaneous connections.
It has one of the largest VPN server networks on the market (35,000+ servers), highly customizable and fully open-source apps, and some really competitive pricing options. PIA supports torrenting on all of its servers and works with all popular torrenting clients, and it also works with most streaming services, including Netflix and Disney+.
During my speed tests, PIA provided me with above average connection speeds. I had excellent speeds on local servers and maintained really good speeds on distant servers, which enabled me to stream content, download torrents, and play games with little or no slowdown.
PIA secures data with 256-bit AES encryption, leak protection, a kill switch, and a strict no-logs policy (that has been proven in court many times). While PIA is based in a country that is part of the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliances, PIA doesn’t record any user information, so it wouldn’t have data to turn over to the government.
In addition to these standard security features, PIA has a ton of extras, including obfuscation, Tor support, split-tunneling, email breach monitoring, and an ad blocker.
While I’m a big fan of PIA, there is room for improvement. It doesn’t work well in restrictive countries like China, it can’t unblock Hulu and BBC iPlayer, and its iOS and Android apps are missing obfuscation and a native ad blocker.
PIA is one of the cheapest VPNs on the market and all of its plans are backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Private Internet Access — Frequently Asked Questions
- Can Private Internet Access be trusted?
- Will Private Internet Access work in China?
- Does Private Internet Access work with Netflix?
- Does Private Internet Access have a kill switch?
Can Private Internet Access be trusted?
Yes, PIA is really trustworthy.
It is a member of the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliances (a group of countries that share intelligence data), but PIA has a clear, court-tested no-logs policy. PIA has received several subpoenas requesting user data, and it has never had any user data to hand over. While PIA’s no-logs policy hasn’t been audited, all of its apps are fully open-source (which is much safer and more transparent than any single audit). Private Internet Access’s open-source software allows anyone to inspect its software code to make sure there are no cracks in its security.
PIA also comes with industry-standard security features like 256-bit AES encryption, a kill switch, and full DNS leak protection, and all of its servers run only on RAM memory (meaning all data is wiped clean each time the server is rebooted).
Will Private Internet Access work in China?
PIA works in China, but it’s not reliable.
While PIA offers obfuscation through Shadowsocks to help bypass government firewalls, my colleagues in China (and other restrictive countries) confirmed they were only able to overcome internet censorship 50% of the time. PIA support reps told me they can’t guarantee PIA will work in China all the time.
Does Private Internet Access work with Netflix?
Yes, PIA unblocks many Netflix content libraries.
In my tests, Private Internet Access unblocked Netflix US, UK, Japan, Germany, Italy, and France. And thanks to PIA’s great internet connection speeds, I was able to stream content in HD and without any interruptions.
During my tests, I was also able to access Amazon Prime, Disney+, and other streaming services, but I couldn’t access Hulu and BBC iPlayer.
Does Private Internet Access have a kill switch?
Yes, PIA offers a kill switch for its iOS, macOS, Windows, and Linux apps.
PIA doesn’t have a kill switch feature for Android, but this is because the Android operating system has a much better feature — the ability to block an internet connection without a VPN. This provides system-level protection, and PIA has chosen to not even give you the option to connect on the app level.
But for all other operating systems, yes Private Internet Access has a kill switch.