Are you looking for a new Private Internet Access VPN review? That’s logical, the last couple of years these services have gained enormous popularity, almost 30% of the internet users has been using VPN services over the past 5 years. We at Globalwatchonline.com tested and tried all different providers for you, read our comprehensive PIA VPN review and learn everything about this service, we are sure that once you’re done reading you will know if this provider suits you.
What is Private Internet Access?
Private Internet Access (usually abbreviated to PIA) is one of the larger VPN providers currently in the VPN market. One of their strengths is their focus on privacy and security. They have a “no log” policy (where no data is stored).
This makes PIA particularly popular with (bit)torrent users. Private Internet Access is also known for its minimalist and compact apps and programs. Some consumers may find this an advantage, while others may find it a turn-off.
Minimalist, but excellent quality
Private Internet Access is one of the largest VPN providers today. Their reputation for privacy is well deserved: their no-log policy is watertight and they are very careful to monitor changes that might affect their users’ privacy. They also have a wide choice of servers and server locations, which generally provide a stable and fast connection.
- It was started by London Trust Media, INC. back in August 2010. Despite being one of the cheapest VPNs, and having thousands of users, is it good enough for serious use? In this review, we tested PIA server network performance, usability of their VPN app as well as the technology behind their VPN service (OpenVPN + 128-bit encryption).
- True to its name, this provider is best known for its strict no-logs policy and commitment to user privacy. It’s not one of the cheapest solutions though, but it ranks high on the best VPN list of 2021.
Why should you buy Private Internet Access?
PIA is also very well priced when you take out a subscription for a longer period of time.This, combined with the simple and neat software, makes us happy to recommend PIA if you are looking for a good VPN.
The support for American Netflix and other streaming services also works well. Netflix has recently started to pay close attention to the use of VPNs and is trying to block them. As a result, you might not be able to access the streaming service when using a VPN. A good tip is to try another server (location), if you want to know more about this subject, we advice you to read our VPN for Netflix guide.
What are the advantages of PIA?
- No logs (proven in court)
- Unlimited bandwidth and usage
- Up to 10 simultaneous connections
- American Netflix is working perfectly
- Over 35,000+ servers in 78 countries worldwide
- Numerous features, kill switch, Ipv6 leak protection, ad blocker, P2P support
What are the disadvantages of PIA?
- No telephone customer service
- Dashboard is buggy sometimes
- Speed is sometimes a bit slow
|USABILITY:||PIA is simple and easy to use on PC, Tablet and Phone|
|LOG FILES:||Private Internet Access has a strict no log policy|
|LOCATIONS:||30+ countries and over 3335 servers|
|SUPPORT:||Live chat support that is limited|
|TORRENTING:||Torrenting is allowed with PIA|
|NETFLIX:||Unblocks Netflix in USA with 1 server|
|ENCRYPTION/PROTOCOL:||128-bit AES (default), OpenVPN and more|
How to use Private Internet Access?
The PIA software is available for download for Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS and Android. There are also Chrome, Firefox and Opera extensions. So chances are it will work on your device too. On the ‘Download’ page of the PIA website you can see at a glance which options you have. Then you download the right file with a simple press of the button. After that there are a few steps you need to take to start using PIA:
How does PIA work?
The 3-step process for signing up and installing Private Internet Access is extremely simple. First, head to PrivateInternetAccess.com to choose your payment plan. You can choose between 1-month, 1-year, 2-year, and 3-year plans. Once you select and create an account with your billing information, you’ll be directed to the setup process you see below.
Download Private Internet Access from Private Internet Access.com.
Be sure you have at least 19 MB of free space on your local drive. Choose which drive you would like to install Private Internet Access.
Select where you would like to create shortcuts for Private Internet Access. The setup wizard gives you the option to select between the desktop and start menu/finder folder, or both.
And it’s as easy as that! Private Internet Access has been installed. From here, you can automatically launch and begin using your VPN for secure browsing, streaming, and torrenting. Once installed, Private Internet Access will provide an automatic software update if available. You can either choose to do so then or remind you of the update at a later time.
The server network of a VPN provider determines your options. PIA does very well in this area:
- PIA at the time of writing has over 29,000 servers in 106 locations in 78 countries.
- They have 16 different server locations in the United States.
- PIA recently started offering dedicated IP addresses in the US, UK, Canada, Germany and Australië.
Number of servers and locations
Private Internet Access has, at the time of writing, more than 29,000 servers spread across 78 countries. This means that for most users there are more than enough servers spread across enough locations. They themselves state that they are constantly working on expanding their server network, so always check their website for the latest status.
At the time of writing, PIA has thousands of servers spread across 106 locations in 78 countries:
- American continent: United States, Canada, Mexico, Greenland, Brazilië, Panama, Bahama’s, Argentinaë, Venezuela
- Europe: United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Romaniaë, France, Czechë, Italyë, België, Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Ireland, Finland, Poland, Portugal, Albanië, Iceland, Luxembourg, Ukraineë ne, Lithuania, Andorra, Latvia, Greece, Bulgaria, Estonia, Moldavië, North Macedoniaë, Serië, Slovakia, Turkey, Hungary, Isle of Man, Liechtenstein, Bosnië and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Malta, Armenië, Cyprus, Georgië, Monaco, Croatiaë
- Asia and Oceania: Australië, Japan, Singapore, New Zealand, India, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Mongolië, Cambodia, Philippines, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Macau, China, Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan
- Middle East and Africa: Israel, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabiaë, Morocco, Qatar
Besides one of the so many substantial expansions in terms of server numbers, PIA has recently completed a major, quality upgrade of their server network. The biggest advantage of PIA’s new “NextGen VPN Network” is the fact that the servers of this network use only RAM memory.
This means that sensitive user data is automatically deleted every time a server runs out of power for a while. This is obviously a big plus in terms of privacy. PIA’s latest desktop and mobile apps allow users to automatically browse through this new network.
Dedicated IP address
Private Internet Access has recently started offering dedicated IP’s . A dedicated IP can make your surfing experience smoother by, for example, having less trouble with captcha’s. It is a paid feature that you can purchase on top of your subscription.
Currently the dedicated IP’s are only available in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australië and Germany. Other countries will probably be added to this list in the course of the year. If you are still looking for a VPN that offers dedicated IP addresses in the Netherlands, you can go to NordVPN or CyberGhost.
Private Internet Access Speed
One of the most important factors of a VPN is their download speed. If you’re signing up with a slow (read: bad VPN), you’ll end up with ridiculously slow speed. We’ve faced that several times, especially when we tested speed in StrongVPN and Mullvad (both were below 20 Mbps out of 100).
However, things with Private Internet Access look quite good actually. As always, to make our PIA review accurate, we went to speedtest.net and put the following locations to the test: US, EU, Asia, and the UK. The location I used to track the speed was in the middle of Europe: Amsterdam
In conclusion, the connections and speeds of PIA are considered to be a fast VPN. Not as fast as NordVPN or ExpressVPN, but surely an “OK” alternative as it’s cheaper. Keep in mind, speed is an important factor and is vastly connected with the VPN software you’re using. Of course, there are some ways to speed up a VPN connection, but the main strength comes from the actual VPN servers.
Speed in everyday use
In everyday use, PIA is a fairly nice VPN to work with. We did notice some difference when performing daily activities, but it was a minimal speed difference. Browsing went without a hitch, and so did streaming music and videos and using YouTube. Gaming was also fast and easy. We did notice that loading videos sometimes took a little longer. But once the video was on it went well.
- Streaming American Netflix worked, but with some delays. Movies and series had to buffer for a while at first and then played well and smoothly. Finally, we were able to download torrents quickly, but more slowly than with our own connection.
Within a little less than 15 minutes we had downloaded a file of almost 2 GB. So you do notice that your PIA VPN connection is on in daily use. Overall, the service offers decent speeds for daily work. However, PIA is not the fastest VPN.
Is Private Internet Access Safe?
PIA puts security and privacy first and certainly excels in this area:
- PIA works with several strong protocols, such as OpenVPN and the new WireGuard, and has a SOCKS5 proxy and wireguard support
- PIA has a built-in kill switch and PIA MACE to stop ads, trackers and malware.
- To create an account, you must provide an email address and payment information, but both can be done anonymously.
Private Internet Access has things well in hand when it comes to security and encryption. They work with several protocols (OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP/IPSec and WireGuard) and also have a SOCKS5 proxy. The choice for most users will be OpenVPN, as it is a rock-solid protocol.
WireGuard is a new open source VPN protocol that is also very fast and efficient. This protocol uses advanced cryptography and operates at the kernel level of an operating system. This means that data is encrypted faster and more securely.
PIA also has several different levels of encryption
The default settings use 128-bit encryption on your data, which is good, but not the best. However, you can step up your data encryption to 256-bit, which is the industry standard, and will give you a very secure connection (it will slow everything down a bit, though).
- You can also choose the level of encryption on both your data authentication and your handshake. Both of these help your computer and the server verify the authenticity of the connection and the data being transmitted. The default settings are for SHA1 and RSA-2048, a 2,048-bit encryption key. That’s very difficult to break.
- You can go all the way up to RSA-4096, though, and double the size of the data authentication key with SHA256. Again, I recommend using the maximum settings so you get the best security possible. But if you really need extra speed, you could consider using the default recommendation.
Log policy and privacy
In 2019, PIA was acquired by Kape Technologies. This company previously acquired the VPN providers CyberGhost and ZenMate . Private Internet Access is known for their focus on privacy and for good reason. PIA maintains a strict ‘no log’policy. This ensures greater security and anonymity for PIA users.
The data sent through PIA’s servers is never stored on hard drives, but on a special ‘null device’. This is a virtual output device that automatically pretends the data does not exist. Once the data is transferred to the null device, it cannot be retrieved. This way, PIA can guarantee that they are not logging.
Because PIA does not log anything, the company also cannot hand over information to governments or police in the event of a court request. Their headquarters are located in the United States. They have chosen to do this on purpose. The US is ééone of the few countries that do not have a mandatory ‘data retention policy’ . This means that they are not obliged to store information for a specific period of time. In Europe, this is often the case.
Since PIA is based in America, it could be that they have to start logging a user’s data ná a court order. PIA has shown in practice during multiple court cases and investigations that they have no data of their users’ VPN usage.
Private Internet Access and Russia
PIA has proven multiple times that they put privacy first. This also comes out in their choice to exclude Russian servers from their server offerings. Russia decided several years ago that all data traffic within the country must be logged for at least a year. Because of this law, PIA could no longer guarantee the privacy of their users, so they decided not to offer Russian servers.
You put part of your privacy in their hands when using an external VPN provider. So you have to trust them. Fortunately, to date there are totally no indications that PIA has ever violated customers’ privacy. On the contrary, PIA’s decisions and choices show that they stand up for customers’ privacy.
PIA’s ioXt certificate
Another plus in terms of security, PIA’s Android app has recently been certified by the ioXt (Internet of Secure Things) alliance. This is an alliance of more than 100 major companies that work together to make the Internet more secure and privacy-oriented.
ExpressVPN, for example, is also part of this alliance. With many VPN’s, the focus seems to be mainly on the desktop applications, but it is good to know that PIA is therefore also putting a lot of energy into securing its Android app.
What information does PIA need?
As soon as you start using PIA, the company first of all needs your payment information . Private Internet Access offers many anonymous payment options. Therefore, you do not need to give any personal data here.
Paying with Bitcoin, for example, is very easy. You are only required to provide a working email address so that PIA can link your account to it. Of course, you can create this email address specifically for PIA so that it cannot be traced back to you as a person.
PIA will then create an account name for you and after payment you will receive a confirmation email with your order ID. You can use these codes when communicating with, for example, the support team. So you only need to have a working email address: PIA can be used completely anonymously
Private Internet Access Features
PIA offers some interesting features that not all VPN services offer. For example, not all VPNs offer access to (the US version of) Netflix, PIA does. If you are a big fan of Netflix, always check if you can access the Netflix website with your VPN account. Furthermore, not all VPN services offer servers that support P2P networks either. This can be important if you often download torrents. Read more if you want to find everything about the features that PIA offers:
PIA and Netflix
Watching (foreign) Netflix is a hot topic within the VPN world. Netflix is fighting hard against VPN’s and blocks any IP address they know is from a VPN provider. This makes it difficult for many providers to always allow Netflix to work with their VPN connection. PIA does try to do this.
During our test, we were able to access American Netflix with a VPN server in New York from the Netherlands without any problems. PIA told us that Netflix works with their US, Canadian and UK servers. This suggests that they are working hard to keep this in place. In any case, at the time of writing it is possible to view American Netflix from other countries with PIA.
PIA and torrents
It is possible to download files via P2P while using the Private Internet Access servers. Downloading torrents is fast and easy. You don’t even realize you’re using a VPN, except that you will be protected and remain anonymous. Want to know more? Then read our VPN and torrenting guide.
PIA Browser Extension
In addition to the PIA software, PIA also has a handy browser extension. This works much the same as the regular desktop and smartphone software. The difference is that a browser extension ensures that only browser traffic goes through a VPN.
Other applications that use the Internet but do not go through the browser are then not protected by the VPN connection. By the way, the browser extension gives you additional options regarding tracking, as seen below in a screenshot of the extension settings
A new feature recently added by PIA is split-tunneling. This is a technique that allows you to choose which apps will or will not use the VPN, which therefore means that you can choose which apps will experience a speed delay. So, for example, if you want to watch Netflix on your own connection, but at the same time visit a site anonymously, you can disable the VPN for the Netflix app.
PIA and Linux
PIA has handled it well for its Linux users. For all users of Debian, Slackware, Fedora and Arch-based distro’s you can install OpenVPN via the terminal. But much more convenient is still the possibility to download the regular Windows UI for Linux. Especially for new users of Linux, this can be a great advantage. PIA is therefore ééone of the few VPN providers that has really done its best for Linux users.
- This is possible for distro’s that use systemd, such as Linux Mint, Ubuntu, Debian and Arch. There are also users who use PIA on other distro’s, but this is not officially supported according to PIA’s site.
- The server network is not the most extensive of all VPN providers, but you certainly won’t be short of it. Moreover, the servers are mostly stable and usually achieve competitive speeds. We didn’t have any problems with the security either.
To top it all off, PIA has also put a bunch of handy extra features into the app. Apart from the ever-present kill switch, PIA has added some extra protection in the form of ‘Mace’. This is a program that runs in the background and gives you extra protection against ads, trackers and malware. For convenience, there is also the option to set different DNS servers or the level of encryption. Finally, you can also choose a SOCKS5 proxy.
Private Internet Access has a kill switch which you can find in the dashboard settings. An activated kill switch ensures that you won’t accidentally leak information if your VPN connection goes down for a while. Also, this VPN has a special way to block domains used for ads, trackers and malware. This feature is called PIA MACE and can be found in the settings under the kill switch.
Private Internet Access’ help desk offers several options. If you’re stuck with a problem, you can consult their database or guides. You can also give personal feedback if you think PIA should solve a certain existing problem or add a new feature. Other users can ‘vote’ on this and PIA will then see if they can do something with the feedback.
- If you encounter a problem that the database cannot solve, there is also the possibility to contact PIA itself. This works via an entry form. You provide information about your account and system and ask your question. This form must be completed in English. You will receive their answer via e-mail.
- We also sent in a question. After six hours we received an answer. This could be better as far as we are concerned, but it is not bad. In the email we received, we got more information and follow-up questions to help us if necessary. All in all, we received solid answers. Although PIA does not have a live chat and you therefore have to wait a while for an answer, we think the system they have in place is fine.
Private Internet Access Pricing
PIA has a single plan with tiered pricing based on the length you’d like to commit and prepay. That keeps things nice and simple. And you can also get a great deal if you’re ready to shell out a single year in advance. All subscriptions at Private Internet Access give you full access to PIA’s entire VPN network. With ééone subscription you can access 10 devices simultaneously. There’s also a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can try out the VPN before committing to an actual contract.
PIA accepts the following payment options:
- Credit card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover)
- Cryptocurrency (Bitpay, Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Litecoin)
- External gift cards (including Starbucks, Walmart, Best Buy)
Enough options to pay off your subscription, then. There are several anonymous payment methods, such as Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash, that allow you to maintain your complete privacy when it comes to purchasing your VPN connection. Once again, PIA puts anonymity first, which is highly appreciated by many users – including ourselves.
- $5.99/mo ($71.88 per year)
- 2 years
- $3.49/mo ($83.87 per 2 years)
Do We Recommend Private Internet Access?
PIA is a user-friendly VPN with robust security features that are easy to configure to meet your preferences. The VPN performs well when it comes to security and anonymity, but inconsistent speeds and shaky geo-spoofing abilities mean that PIA isn’t the best choice for streaming. We also weren’t very impressed with PIA’s customer support. Despite its downsides, PIA still has a lot to offer at an affordable price.
- PIA offers excellent coverage in North America and Europe, with tons of servers centrally located. That coverage isn’t as great in other parts of the world, however, with only a few servers spread around the Middle East, Asia, Oceania, and a single, lonely one in Brazil for South American users.
- PIA has all major protocols available, along with state-of-the-art encryption methods. Their annual pricing is among the lowest in the industry. And they’ve got a seven-day money back guarantee if you’d like to try them out.
- No general live chat support and company located in the US.
- User-friendly, affordable, and privacy-friendly, but has some downsides
How to use your PIA Coupon?
Are you browsing Private Internet Access’s website and want to buy this service even cheaper? You can! With a valid discount code you get extra discount. Did you find such a code? Below we explain how you can activate it.
- To get started go to Private Internet Access.com and select one of the plans. On the same page, scroll down slightly and enter your email address at step 2. Then, at step 3, choose one of the payment methods. You can pay via PayPal and with a credit card, among others. In addition, you have the option to pay with crypto currency.
- When you select one of these payment methods, a screen pops up. Here you will find all the details of your order. In addition, here you have the opportunity to enter the Private Internet Access discount code. To do this, first click on “Do you have a coupon?”. Then in the empty input field, under “Your coupon code”, enter the found discount code and click “Apply”.
- The discount will then be immediately deducted from the total amount. Check the order summary again just to be sure. Have you selected the right plan and the desired options? Then press “Continue” to finalize your order.