Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN Review

Verdict:
RECOMMENDED
Overall Score:
8.3 / 10

Private Internet Access (PIA) provides a premium service at an affordable price.

The provider boldly claims that they offer the “world’s most trusted VPN” – could this be true?

I was eager to test its mettle.

After several hours of examining the VPN, here’s what I found about the service, all summed up in this in-depth PIA VPN review.

Overview

criteriadetails
JurisdictionUS
LoggingNo-logging Policy
Encryption128-bit AES, 256-bit AES
ProtocolsOpenVPN, WireGuard, PPTP, L2TP/IPsec
PriceCheck Latest Price
Payment MethodsPayPal, Credit Card, Bitcoin, Gift cards
Refund Policy30-Day Money-Back Guarantee
Simultaneous Connections10 devices
Location & Servers72 Countries, 14500+ Servers
P2P (Torrenting)Yes
Live Chat SupportYes
Supported Platforms
Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Routers
Official Website:https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/
Table of Contents show

What Is Private Internet Access?

Private Internet Access website

Without a doubt, Private Internet Access is one of the most popular names in the industry.

Launched in 2010, the VPN has grown exponentially and now boasts over 14,500 servers across 72 different countries.

Currently, PIA has more than 2 million active subscribers across the globe.

It maintains a proven no-logs policy and uses best-in-class protocols and encryption.

Besides, the VPN is blazing fast and circumvents geo-blocks easily.

Who Owns Private Internet Access?

In 2019, PIA was acquired by Kape Technologies, the same company that owns CyberGhost and ZenMate.

While PIA’s CEO, Ted Kim, praised the acquisition, many users weren’t as pleased, and some even considered jumping ship.

"We are excited to join forces with Kape to create a true pioneer in digital privacy with significant scale. This transaction brings us one step closer in realising our vision of a digitally private and secure world for our customers."

- Ted Kim (PIA CEO)
Reddit user writing about PIA

“Yeah for real, I always felt relatively safe with PIA and suggesting to anyone who was asking for help regarding VPNs and there are very few companies or services I actively suggest happily to people and now that is destroyed. I know it’s business and all I guess, but it still sucks. Time to start searching for my replacement.”

- Reddit User

Crossrider & PIA

Indeed, Kape Technologies’ past is far from rosy.

Until 2018, the company was known as Crossrider and was notorious for creating high-risk malware and adware.

Although Kape Technologies has since rebranded and switched to cybersecurity, some users are still wary of its controversial past.

That said, it’s worth noting that PIA continues to operate as a separate entity despite the acquisition.

“… we will continue to operate as a separate entity just as CyberGhost and Zen Mate have since they joined Kape Technologies…. We will continue to remain fully committed to our founding values. Most important among these is the privacy and anonymity of our users will always remain our number one concern and we have ensured, with Kape, that our guiding principles will be upheld going forward.”

- Michael (PIA CS Staff)

But is the VPN as secure and trustworthy as it used to be?

Or should you be concerned about the change of hands?

Keep reading to find out.

Pros

Cons

Privacy & Jurisdiction

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The quality of a VPN service comes down to how securely it handles your data.

When I’m examining a service, I dig through its logging policy to see if there are any red flags.

criteriadetails
No logs Policy
Safe jurisdiction
Transparency

Does PIA Keep Logs?

PIA absolutely does not keep any logs, of any kind.

The provider has a well-structured privacy policy that clearly states what they collect and what they don’t.

Straight away, I noticed that the VPN records the following personal data:

  • E-mail Address
  • Payment Data
  • State or Territory of origin and Zip Code

But the provider makes it clear that they only use this information for account management and to ensure compliance with statutory obligations.

"The above-mentioned Personal Data is not, at any point, associated with any kind of activity done by the user inside the Private Internet Access VPN which is NOT recorded, logged or stored at all."

Personal Data is not stored by PIA

Almost every other VPN provider will claim that they keep zero logs.

But as you might have guessed, not many live up to that claim.

Ideally, you should make sure your VPN has undergone an independent third-party audit of its logging practices.

PIA’s no-logs policy has been tested in court twice.

And in both cases, the provider has passed with flying colors.

PIA & FBI Cases

Private Internet Access has survived multiple FBI cases as well as a server seizure in Russia.

The first subpoena, issued in March 2016, resulted in no useful data being revealed.

According to the official court records, the only information PIA could provide was a cluster of its IP addresses:

"A subpoena was sent to London Trust Media [Private Internet Access] and the only information they could provide is that the cluster of IP addresses being used was from the east coast of the United States."

The second case happened in 2018 following an FBI investigation into alleged hacking of several news websites.

Once again, PIA proved that it could not link online activities with a user’s identity:

"John Allan Arsenault, general counsel for London Trust Media, a VPN company, testified about how many VPN companies, including his, intentionally don’t retain logs of internet activity of their clients so that they cannot be produced in response to subpoenas from law enforcement or others. London Trust Media operates the brand Private Internet Access (PIA), which owns several IP addresses used to hack Embarcadero Media. Private Internet Access does not log user activity, such as what files they accessed or changes they made to a website."

Has PIA Been Audited?

Although PIA’s logging policy is yet to be audited, the fact that it’s been proven twice in the real-world means it’s as trustworthy as it gets.

Additionally, PIA also produces biannual transparency reports that detail governmental data requests.

Government Demands (Private Internet Access)

Jurisdiction & Applicable Laws

For maximum anonymity, I normally recommend VPN providers located outside the 5/9/14- Eyes jurisdictions.

Does PIA Fall Within the Five Eyes Surveillance Network?

Private Internet Access is based in the US, which is at the core of the FVEY surveillance networks.

Usually, this is a cause for concern, but that’s not the case with this VPN.

As I mentioned, PIA does not keep logs, which means there’s absolutely no way the authorities can lay hands on your browsing history.

Additionally, the US does not have any mandatory data retention laws that might force PIA to violate its no-logging policy.

How Secure Is PIA?

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PIA pulls out all the stops when it comes to protecting your data.

The provider uses robust protocols and encryption alongside a wide range of advanced security features.

criteriadetails
Strong encryption
No Leaks (IP, DNS, WebRTC)
Custom DNS
RAM Disk servers
Kill switch
Multi-hop
Port forwarding
Obfuscation
Ad Blocker

Tunneling Protocols & Encryption

The VPN offers a wide range of VPN protocols, including OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP/IPsec, PPTP, SOCKS5, and WireGuard.

I was particularly pleased to see that PIA supports WireGuard technology. In terms of speed, the protocol is unmatched and allows you to retain most of your baseline speed.

If you are more concerned about safety, then OpenVPN is the protocol I recommend.

On top of being the most reliable option, OpenVPN also strikes a perfect balance between speed and security.

While PIA does support numerous protocols, only OpenVPN, IKEv2, and WireGuard are available in its apps.

If you want to use L2TP/IPsec, PPTP, or SOCKS5, you will need to do so through manual configuration. 

Connection preferences

In addition, Private Internet Access gives you control over encryption algorithms you use.

This allows you to optimize connections based on your unique performance and security needs.

Available encryption options include:

  • AES-256 (CBC/GCM
  • AES-128 (CBC/GCM)
  • None

PIA comes with AES 128-bit with RSA-2048 handshake as the default encryption standard.

But if you want a little bit more security, you can easily switch to the more robust AES 256-bit.

PIA also gives you the option to forgo encryption altogether.

This feature is excellent because it enables you to improve speeds while also hiding your IP.

Does Private Internet Access Have A Kill Switch?

Private Internet Access provides a kill switch that works like a fail-safe.

If your VPN connection drops, this feature blocks access to the internet, ensuring your browsing behavior is never exposed.

Does PIA Offer Split Tunneling?

PIA apps also support split tunneling, which allows select applications to bypass the VPN.

This is very useful because it lets you use local network resources like printers while connected to PIA.

Does PIA Have an Adblocker?

Yes, PIA does offer an ad-blocker known as PIA Mace.

In addition to blocking advertisements, PIA Mace is also effective against malware and tracking domains.

Is PIA VPN Safe From Leaks?

IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks can render a VPN pretty much pointless.

So, when I was examining PIA, I made sure to test for potential leaks.

Note: When conducting the tests, I connected to the Denver, Colorado server, and as you can see below, my assigned PIA IP address was 70.39.110.73.

Connected using PIA

PIA once again proved to be entirely secure.

I tried several different tools, and none detected any leaks whatsoever.

Below is a snapshot of the leak test results:

IP Leak Test

No IP leaks were found for PIA

DNS Leak Test

No DNS leaks were found

WebRTC Leak Test – WebRTC Tool

No WebRTC leaks

Is PIA Safe to Install? (Malware Test)

I also ran the Private Internet Access VPN installation file through VirusTotal to see if it contained any malware.

The result? No engines detected the file.

This means that PIA is safe to install on your device.

No malwares were found

Deep Packet Inspection

Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) enables ISPs to circumvent VPN encryption and track you around the web.

As such, it’s essential to make sure your VPN is robust enough to withstand DPI.

I’m pleased to report that Private Internet Access passed my Deep Packet Inspection.

The VPN obfuscated all the data that I captured, and there wasn’t any intelligible information in the data packets.

Speed & Performance

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Private Internet Access offers good performance with fast download speeds and low latency.

As I expected, the nearby servers were significantly quicker than distant locations.

Speed Test Results

When reviewing PIA’s performance, I run tests using both the WireGuard and the default OpenVPN setting.

WireGuard Speeds by Location

To be honest with you, I was blown away by how ridiculously fast PIA’s WireGuard connections are. I barely noticed any impact on speed, especially when connected to nearby servers.

On average, my speeds dropped by just 7% when connected to local servers (UK). 

Long-distance speeds, on the other hand, took a bigger hit. I recorded a 43% slow down when connected from Manchester to a Denver, US server.

Note: My baseline speed was 100 Mbps download, 50 Mbps upload, and a ping of 13 ms.

CriteriaPing (ms)Download (Mbps)Upload (Mbps)
Baseline Speed13 ms99.65 Mbps50.04 Mbps
Connected to Manchester, UK27 ms92.78 Mbps42.02 Mbps
Connected to Denver, US201 ms76.08 Mbps32.77 Mbps
Connected to Sydney, Australia289 ms59.11 Mbps28.35 Mbps
Connected to Montreal, Canada230 ms68.27 Mbps34.09 Mbps
Connected to Singapore264 ms57.44 Mbps21.91 Mbps

OpenVPN Speeds by Location

Private Internet Access delivers impressive speeds over OpenVPN as well.

In fact, when connected to close by servers, I lost only about 13 percent of my baseline speed.

CriteriaPing (ms)Download (Mbps)Upload (Mbps)
Baseline Speed13 ms99.65 Mbps50.04 Mbps
Connected to Manchester, UK31 ms86.51 Mbps35.22 Mbps
Connected to Denver, US307 ms60.83 Mbps23.71 Mbps
Connected to Sydney, Australia353 ms44.17 Mbps18.26 Mbps
Connected to Montreal, Canada291 ms59.58 Mbps30.87 Mbps
Connected to Singapore327 ms47.13 Mbps17.58 Mbps

How Can I Improve My Speed if PIA for Me Is Slow?

PIA is one of the fastest VPNs available, and my speed test results prove that.

However, if the speed you’re getting is not sufficient, switching to a lower bit encryption can speed things up. 

Additionally, connecting to a nearby server can help you reduce latency and improve your download speeds.

Media Streamig

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Several aspects that determine whether a VPN is a good option for streaming.

But the biggest question is often whether the service can unblock your favorite streaming platform.

So, does PIA a good VPN for streaming?

I tested several sites, including Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu, to find out.

Streaming ServiceStatus
Netflix USWorking
HuluWorking
BBC iPlayerWorking
HBOWorking
Amazon Prime VideoWorking
DAZNWorking

Does PIA VPN Work with Netflix?

Netflix actively detects and bans VPN IPs.

I connected to a US server and checked to see if PIA works with American Netflix, and it unblocked it right away.

Not many VPNs can access the streaming service, so it was great to see PIA expand my content library.

I was able to access shows like Dexter, The West Wing, and Criminal Minds (shown below) that aren’t available here in the UK.

Streaming Criminal Minds with Private Internet Access

Besides Netflix, PIA also successfully unlocked Hulu, Disney Plus, Hotstar, DAZN, ESPN, and HBO Now.

Torrenting (P2P)

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If you want to avoid DMCA notices, then a VPN can help you hide your torrenting activities.

That said, you have to remember that not every VPN is ideal for torrenting.

While some VPNs are merely slow, others are riddled with security loopholes that can put you at risk.

Is PIA Good for Torrenting?

PIA allows torrenting on its network and provides fast speeds and unlimited bandwidth.

That makes it perfect for downloading and streaming large media files.

Besides, PIA is safe for torrenting thanks to its military-grade encryption and zero logs policy.

Countries & Servers

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PIA provides access to an impressive 14,500+ servers located in 74 countries, which is higher than what most of its competitors offer.

Furthermore, the provider has spread the servers in 95+ city-level locations.

This is nice because it ensures you can access low latency servers anywhere on the globe.

Private Internet Access servers

Private Internet Access only uses bare-metal servers.

That means all their servers are physical and not rented.

The server network also comprises geo-located regions.

But that’s not necessarily a negative.

That’s because the geo-located regions also rely on bare-metal servers. The only difference is that they use IP addresses registered in another country.

PIA uses these servers to allow users to geo-locate to restrictive countries safely and privately.

The geo-located regions are marked with a globe icon in the server list.

Ge-located regions

PIA is also transparent about the physical server locations of the geo-located server locations:

  • Algiers, Algeria (Amsterdam)
  • Minsk, Belarus (Vilnius)
  • São Paulo, Brazil (Miami)
  • Phnom Penh, Cambodia (Singapore)
  • Shenzhen, China (Hong Kong)
  • Cairo, Egypt (Bucharest)
  • Tehran, Iran (Amsterdam)
  • Doha, Qatar (Amsterdam)
  • Saint Petersburg, Russia (Tallinn)
  • Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (Amsterdam)
  • Dubai, UAE (Amsterdam)
  • Caracas, Venezuela (Amsterdam)

NextGen vs. Legacy Network

PIA rolled out its NextGen network in August of 2020.

But what’s so great about the PIA NextGen network?

First, the NextGen servers use 10 Gb/s network cards, which is a massive improvement to the previous 1 Gb/s cards.

That means that they offer ten times the performance of legacy servers.

In terms of privacy, NextGen is also safer.

The network uses RAM Disks, which means all data is wiped clean with every reboot.

Does PIA Work in China?

China is arguably the most censored nation on earth.

The Great Firewall blocks thousands of websites, including Wikipedia, Facebook, and Gmail.

VPN use is restricted too.

I put PIA to the test with the help of one of our team members based in China.

And to my pleasant surprise, the VPN worked perfectly using OpenVPN UDP.

We also tried the ShadowSocks proxy, and again, PIA penetrated the Great Firewall with ease.

Why Did PIA Leave Russia?

PIA closed its Russian data centers after the government introduced mandatory data retention laws and seized the company’s servers.

Although the seizure did not yield any data, the new law would have forced the company to violate its no-logs policy.

Multi-Platform Compatibility

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Private Internet Access devices

Private Internet Access offers custom apps for a wide range of devices. You can set up the VPN on:

  • Windows
  • macOS
  • Linux
  • Android
  • iOS
  • Fire StickRouters

PIA Proxies – SOCKS5, Shadowsocks, Browser Extensions

criteriadetails
Browser Extensions
Shadowsocks
Smart DNS
SOCKS5

Private Internet Access also has proxy extensions for several browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.

The provider also offers SOCKS5 and Shadowsocks in its Windows clients.

I was disappointed to see PIA still does not support Smart DNS.

This feature allows you to bypass geo-blocks on devices like Xbox that lack built-in VPN functionality.

How Many Devices Does PIA VPN Allow at a Go?

PIA supports up to 10 simultaneous connections on a single license.

This makes it easier to protect all your devices and extend some connections to your friends and family.

Customer Support

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criteriadetails
Live Chat
Email
Phone Support
Reddit
Forum
Knowledgebase

When it comes to VPNs, it always helps to have quick access to technical support.

PIA has a 24/7 customer service center that is available via the following channels:

  • Live chat
  • Email
  • Reddit (r/PrivateInternetAccess)
  • Community forum
  • Knowledge base

I contacted customer support via live chat, and I was pleased with their response and helpfulness.

Besides connecting you to an agent, PIA live chat has a very convenient search feature.

Private Internet Access live chat

You can also contact PIA from the support page using an email-based ticket.

If you’re a Reddit user, you can also get help from PIA’s official subreddit (r/PrivateInternetAccess).

PIA VPN on Reddit

Additionally, PIA has several setup tutorials, troubleshooting guides, and other useful information on their website.

The provider also runs a YouTube channel that contains video tutorials and privacy news.

User Experience & Usability

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Few providers can rival PIA in terms of usability.

Its applications are visually appealing and relatively easy to navigate.

But what impressed me the most with this VPN was its customizability.

PIA allows you to configure everything from the encryption algorithm to data authentication and handshake.

Encryption settings on Private Internet Access application
You can also choose a data authentication method

You can also set the VPN to connect on boot or when you launch the app.

It also gives you a choice to use a custom DNS, switch between TCP and UDP, and block local networks.

But all this shouldn’t intimidate you if you’re new to VPNs. That’s because PIA also allows you to connect with a single click by clicking the ON and OFF button.

Windows

Windows app interface

PIA’s Windows client is simple to use. It supports one-click connections and comes with two distinct auto-connect features – ‘Launch on System Startup’ and ‘Connect on Launch.’

With ‘Launch on System Startup’ turned on, PIA automatically connects when you open the app. No need to click any button or select a server.

The ‘Launch on System Startup’ feature works similarly and auto-connects the VPN when you fire up your PC.

PIA’s settings menu can be accessed quickly from the home screen by clicking the three dots in the upper right corner.

Click on the "three dots"

Once you’re in the settings interface, everything is easy to find.

Android

The Android app offers many of the features you’ll find in the Windows client.

It allows auto-connection on startup and when you open the VPN application.

Android app
Additional features like VPN snooze

The application also packs a few unique features such as ‘Quick Settings’ and the ‘Quick Connect.’

Another added goodie is VPN Snooze.

This allows you to pause your VPN connection and automatically reconnect after a pre-set amount of time.

Chrome & Firefox Extensions

PIA has significantly improved its Chrome, Firefox, and Opera browser extensions.

While you won’t get all the features available on the native clients, the addons are just as customizable and easy to use.

PIA's chrome extension

With the Chrome extension, you can block location and disable credit autofill on websites.

A few other useful privacy features include the ability to block camera and microphone access.

I was also happy to see that PIA browser extensions allow you to create a ‘Bypass list.’ Sort of like split-tunneling, but for websites.

Privacy features
You can customize the bypass list

Overall, I liked the user experience.

PIA may be more popular among advanced users, but its simplicity makes it appealing to beginners as well.

Affordability

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Private Internet Access is not only affordable but also offers excellent value for money.

Its long-term plans offer massive savings with a discount of up to 78%.

The provider also offers some sweet deals from time to time.

When I was signing up, they were offering an extra 3 months and a Boxcryptor – Cloud Security License.

So, keep an eye out.

How Much Does PIA VPN Cost?

PIA offers three subscription plans.

Depending on how long you want to sign up, you can choose between 1, 12, and 24 months:

  • 2-year plans – $2.59/mo
  • 1-year plan – $4.16/mo
  • 1-month plan – $11.95

Which Payment Methods Does Private Internet Access Accept?

Private Internet accepts a broad range of payment options.

But the method you use will depend on whether you are interested in a recurring or non-recurring subscription.

If you’re making a recurring payment, you can pay using any of the following methods:

  • Credit Card
  • PayPal
  • Amazon Pay
  • Google Pay
  • Apple Pay

For one-time purchases, you can additionally use the payment options below:

  • Bitcoin
  • Ripple
  • CashU
  • Okpay
  • Paygarden

Anonymous Payment Options

Private Internet Access lets you pay with Bitcoin as well as supported US Gift Cards.

This will appeal to users who are wary of sharing your credit card info.

PIA Refund Policy

Whichever plan you are interested in, Private Internet Access comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

However, the refund policy does not cover purchases made through the Apple Store and Gift.

To get your money back, simply contact PIA support and request a refund within the first 30 days.

User Reviews

After testing and reviewing Private Internet Access, I scoured the web to get a clearer picture of the VPN’s reliability and trustworthiness.

On Trustpilot, PIA holds a 4.1 rating, with 80% of users viewing it great or excellent and only 14% having an unfavorable opinion.

Private Internet Access user reviews on Trustpilot

Private Internet Access Reddit Reviews: Good or Bad?

I also scrolled through the r/PrivateInternetAcess subreddit, and most of the feedback was positive.

Still, several users appeared to take exception to the VPN’s change of ownership.

Opinions on Reddit

Notably, very few users had any issues with performance.

Alternatives to PIA VPN

PIA has consistently ranked as one of the top VPNs for the best part of the decade.

It’s fast and offers one of the largest server networks in the VPN industry.

However, if its association with Kape Technologies makes you uncomfortable, below are 3 top alternatives worth checking out.

NordVPN

NordVPN is one of PIA’s toughest competitors.

The VPN is lightning-fast and provides access to 5400+ servers in 59 countries around the world.

It does not collect logs and is based in Panama, a privacy-friendly jurisdiction.

NordVPN also works perfectly with Netflix and offers dedicated IPs, a feature PIA lacks.

Similarities

Differences

Surfshark

Surfshark is a VPN based out of the British Virgin Islands.

It uses military-grade encryption and keeps neither connection nor activity logs.

Additionally, the VPN supports Double VPN (Multi-Hop).

This allows you to route your traffic through two VPN servers, encrypting it twice.

Similarities

Differences

HMA VPN

HideMyAss (HMA) is one of the few VPNs that offer a 7-day free trial. It’s fast and works well with Netflix and other major streaming services.

HMA comes with a unique IP Shuffle feature that randomizes your IP anywhere from every 10 minutes.

This keeps you extra untraceable.

Similarities

Differences

FAQ

What Happened to Private Internet Access?

In 2019, Private Internet Access was acquired by Kape Technologies, which operates CyberGhost and Zen Mate.

Is Private Internet Access Safe?

Private Internet Access is safe. It uses military-grade encryption, and its no logs policy has been proven more than once.

How Many Devices Can Use With PIA?

PIA allows you to connect up to 10 different devices using a single subscription.

How User-Friendly Is PIA?

PIA is extremely user-friendly, and you don’t have to be tech-savvy to set up or use the VPN.

Do I Recommend PIA VPN?

Yes, I recommend PIA VPN.

Private Internet Access is a well-rounded VPN that delivers on all fronts. Its encryption is top of the line, and it boasts a proven no-logging policy.

PIA is also fast and offers a massive server network.

It efficiently unblocks Netflix, iPlayer, Hulu, and other popular streaming platforms.

If you’re looking for a reliable VPN that is both customizable and easy-to-use, PIA is worth checking out.

Try Private Internet Access Risk-FREE!

Protect private web traffic from snooping, interference, and censorship. All plans are covered by a no-hassle 100% money-back guarantee for your first 30 days of service.

Bram Jansen
Bram Jansen
I'm Bram Jensen, a leading expert in the realm of cyberspace, ever since I was little, books like Neuromancer and The Foundation always fascinated me, this fiction of a world that isn't simply based within the real world. As I started growing up, I started gaining interest in how I could manipulate this cyberspace that's available in the real world, so I picked a career that I knew was right for me.