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.
|Encryption||128-bit AES, 256-bit AES|
|Protocols||OpenVPN, WireGuard, PPTP, L2TP/IPsec|
|Price||Check Latest Price|
|Payment Methods||PayPal, Credit Card, Bitcoin, Gift cards|
|Refund Policy||30-Day Money-Back Guarantee|
|Simultaneous Connections||10 devices|
|Location & Servers||72 Countries, 14500+ Servers|
|Live Chat Support||Yes|
|Supported Platforms||Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Routers|
What Is Private Internet Access?
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.
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.
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.
Privacy & Jurisdiction
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.
|No logs Policy||✅|
Does PIA Keep Logs?
PIA absolutely does not keep any logs, of any kind.
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.
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
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:
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.
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?
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.
|No Leaks (IP, DNS, WebRTC)||✅|
|RAM Disk servers||✅|
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.
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)
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 126.96.36.199.
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
DNS Leak Test
WebRTC Leak Test – WebRTC Tool
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.
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
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.
|Criteria||Ping (ms)||Download (Mbps)||Upload (Mbps)|
|Baseline Speed||13 ms||99.65 Mbps||50.04 Mbps|
|Connected to Manchester, UK||27 ms||92.78 Mbps||42.02 Mbps|
|Connected to Denver, US||201 ms||76.08 Mbps||32.77 Mbps|
|Connected to Sydney, Australia||289 ms||59.11 Mbps||28.35 Mbps|
|Connected to Montreal, Canada||230 ms||68.27 Mbps||34.09 Mbps|
|Connected to Singapore||264 ms||57.44 Mbps||21.91 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.
|Criteria||Ping (ms)||Download (Mbps)||Upload (Mbps)|
|Baseline Speed||13 ms||99.65 Mbps||50.04 Mbps|
|Connected to Manchester, UK||31 ms||86.51 Mbps||35.22 Mbps|
|Connected to Denver, US||307 ms||60.83 Mbps||23.71 Mbps|
|Connected to Sydney, Australia||353 ms||44.17 Mbps||18.26 Mbps|
|Connected to Montreal, Canada||291 ms||59.58 Mbps||30.87 Mbps|
|Connected to Singapore||327 ms||47.13 Mbps||17.58 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.
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.
|Amazon Prime Video||Working|
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.
Besides Netflix, PIA also successfully unlocked Hulu, Disney Plus, Hotstar, DAZN, ESPN, and HBO Now.
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
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 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.
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.
Private Internet Access offers custom apps for a wide range of devices. You can set up the VPN on:
- Fire StickRouters
PIA Proxies – SOCKS5, Shadowsocks, Browser Extensions
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.
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
- 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.
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
Once you’re in the settings interface, everything is easy to find.
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.
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.
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.
Overall, I liked the user experience.
PIA may be more popular among advanced users, but its simplicity makes it appealing to beginners as well.
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
- Amazon Pay
- Google Pay
- Apple Pay
For one-time purchases, you can additionally use the payment options below:
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.