17 things you can do with a VPN
A virtual private network (VPN) solution is absolutely crucial for staying safe online. Primarily, it encrypts your data to protect it from malicious actors and prying eyes. But, it actually does so much more than that. In fact, reliable VPN solutions can provide you with a plethora of benefits.
So, you’re probably wondering, what can I do with a VPN? You know, beyond the usual.
Well, ask and you shall receive. In this article, we have the ultimate list of all the uses of VPN – from the common to the lesser-known functions. Whether you’re a seasoned user or new to this VPN world, you’re sure to find some new and useful uses in this comprehensive guide.
First, though, let’s start with a quick guide on how to use the best VPN.
Start using a VPN in 4 steps
- Pick a capable VPN. We recommend NordVPN since it has 5,900+ servers in 60 countries and a 30-day money-back guarantee
- Download and install the VPN app on your device and sign in
- Connect to the server of choice
- Start exploring all the cool things to do with a VPN
Things you can do with a VPN
Far from a one-trick pony, there are tons of things you can do with a VPN. We’ll go through each of the uses below. However, if you’re short on time, you can jump right to a specific function to learn more:
- Protect your privacy
- Maintain anonymity while online
- Prevent Internet service provider (ISP) tracking
- Stay safe while on public wifi
- Stream geo-blocked content from anywhere
- Watch blacked-out sports regardless of your location
- Unblock geo-restricted websites
- Circumvent website restrictions
- Enjoy fast Internet connection
- Safely download torrents
- Level up your gaming speed
- Access more games
- Bypass censorship
- Access online banking services securely
- Get cheaper tickets and bookings
- Enjoy the best prices for online shopping
- Extend access to free services
1. Protect your privacy
One of the main uses of a VPN is to keep your Internet traffic safe from prying eyes and interception. And there are a few layers to this.
For starters, the VPN encrypts your traffic to make it unreadable even if intercepted. Typically, the encryption used is AES-256, which is highly secure. So, rather than security and privacy-compromising data like financial documents or medical records, all your hacker would see is a scrambled, meaningless sequence of characters.
Additionally, the VPN also creates a secure tunnel that runs from your device to your destination – such as a streaming platform, website, or even your online banking account – to eliminate the risk of interception.
2. Maintain anonymity while online
Your IP address is a unique identifier and it gives away a number of identifying information, including geographical location. It’s often used to track online activities and collect personal information by websites, advertisers, trolls, and other snooping third parties. It could also be used for government surveillance.
Fortunately, a VPN can hide your IP address with just one click. See, when you use a VPN, your Internet traffic is routed through one of its servers. This masks your actual IP address and replaces it with the IP address of the server. So, your true IP is hidden and you can remain anonymous online.
3. Prevent Internet service provider (ISP) tracking
Unfortunately, your Internet service provider (ISP) has quite a few ways to compromise your privacy. For starters, it has access to your Internet traffic, which includes things like browsing history and downloads. This information can then be sold to advertisers, used for targeted advertising, or even shared with government agencies.
But, with a VPN, your Internet traffic is encrypted and your IP address is spoofed. Both of these safeguards put a huge dent in your ISP’s ability to track, share, and capitalize on your data. So, you’ll be free from targeted advertising and surveillance. Instead, your data and Internet history remain solely your own.
4. Stay safe while on public wifi
Free wifi may be very tempting to travelers, digital nomads, and just about anyone on the go, but a huge danger lurks beneath. Whether it’s in a hotel or a cafe, most public wifi networks are unsecured – leaving your personal information vulnerable to interception and theft.
Plus, it’s also not uncommon for cybercriminals to set up fake wifi hotspots to trick users into giving away their personal information like login credentials and credit card details. In fact, four in 10 people have had their information compromised while using public wifi.
A VPN for public wifi helps to neutralize these threats by encrypting all the traffic from and to your device. So, even if a hacker manages to intercept your traffic, they’ll only get unreadable encrypted data.
5. Stream geo-blocked content from anywhere
One of the best uses for a VPN is to stream geo-blocked content. After all, most streaming platforms now restrict their services in one way or another to comply with licensing agreements, distribution rights, and copyright laws.
For instance, Netflix has different libraries of content for viewers in different countries. Meanwhile, other streaming sites like BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and Sling TV are only available in specific countries.
A powerful streaming VPN like NordVPN will take care of this headache quickly and easily. It issues a new IP address to make it seem like you’re accessing from within a licensed country. Thus, you can access the geo-block content from anywhere in the world.
6. Watch blacked-out sports regardless of your location
Sports leagues and broadcasting networks often impose blackouts on specific games and events. This is to prevent them from being broadcast by anyone other than the local/national cable networks with exclusive rights.
Since blackouts are location-specific, you can use a VPN for streaming sports. This way, you can bypass the geographic restrictions if your favorite team’s games are blacked out in your area. By connecting to a VPN server in an approved region, it’ll seem like you’re watching from a location where the blackouts don’t apply and you’ll have full access to the games.
7. Unblock geo-restricted websites
Different content for different countries is true not only for streaming platforms but also for many other sites. For instance, news sites like The New York Times and BBC News publish different articles and content for different regions. Meanwhile, other websites block or restrict their content and services based on your location.
But, you don’t have to let geo-blocks get in your way. With a VPN, you can easily connect to a server in an unblocked country and get a new IP address. You can then unblock websites and access restricted content from anywhere you want, regardless of your location.
8. Circumvent website restrictions
Dealing with parental controls, ISP restrictions, institutional blocks, and other website restrictions is undoubtedly frustrating. While they might have their purposes, these restrictions can be overly harsh and unforgiving – blocking not only sites with adult content and gambling but also innocuous sites like Spotify and Facebook.
Fortunately, a VPN is all you need to skirt these restrictions. By using a VPN to change servers, you can easily access all the sites and services you want without censorship and restrictions.
9. Enjoy fast Internet connection
If you’re often gaming, torrenting, or involved in other bandwidth-intensive activities online, there’s a high chance that you’ll fall victim to ISP throttling. This is where your ISP intentionally slows down your connection to limit bandwidth usage. So, you’re either stuck staring at the spinning wheel of death or listlessly waiting for a page to load.
To combat ISP throttling, you need a reliable VPN to encrypt your Internet connection. This way, your ISP has no way to view your online activities and won’t be able to tell what exactly you’re doing online. Subsequently, it can’t throttle your Internet speed.
10. Safely download torrents
Torrenting can be a dangerous endeavor and you’ll need the best antivirus to truly protect from its many risks. However, a VPN has its role to play in keeping you safe, too.
When torrenting, your IP address is exposed to all connected to the network – including hackers and unsavory third parties. Moreover, ISPs are also quick to throttle connection speed if they even catch a whiff of P2P activities.
A torrenting VPN solves both of these problems. By masking your true IP address from everyone, it keeps your data private for maximum privacy. Plus, since your data is encrypted, your ISP has no idea what you’re doing and, thus, can’t throttle your connection.
11. Level up your gaming speed
A solid gaming VPN can really enhance your gaming experience by speeding things up. First off, you can bid goodbye to lag spikes caused by ISP throttling since the VPN encrypts your Internet connection and conceals your online activities.
Apart from that, the VPN helps to minimize latency by optimizing the traffic route. Plus, a VPN also lets you connect to a different server whenever you want to. This way, you can switch to a faster and less congested server for a lag-free gaming session.
12. Access more games
One of the handiest VPN uses for gamers is that it provides access to a wider selection of games. With a VPN, you can connect to a server in another country and access all the games that are region-locked, banned, or simply unavailable in your region.
For instance, you can use a VPN to change region on Steam so that you can access its different game libraries, which vary from country to country.
Additionally, some games are rolled out in certain countries before others. To keep the anticipation from killing you, you can use a VPN to change your location and get early access to the games.
13. Bypass censorship
Certain countries like China, Russia, and Iran have very strict Internet censorship laws. So, Facebook, Wikipedia, Google, and all the other sites that most of us use daily are off-limits. The same goes for apps like Whatsapp, Viber, and Messenger.
If you’re in one of these countries, a VPN is the most effective solution to bypass these restrictions. By connecting to a server in another, more liberal country, the VPN routes your Internet traffic through that server and ensures that your actual IP address remains hidden. This allows you to access the blocked sites and apps that would otherwise be censored or banned.
14. Access online banking services securely
Have you ever experienced the sheer terror of being locked out of your banking accounts while abroad? Well, this is a very real fear that many face.
Banks, financial institutions, and government portals tend to block accounts if they detect a foreign IP address attempting to access them. This is a necessary safeguard but it would still leave you locked out of your account.
To save yourself from bureaucracy trouble and unnecessary panic, a VPN for banking is all you need to change your IP to one from your home country. This way, you can access your Internet banking and other accounts without any restrictions.
15. Get cheaper tickets and bookings
Dynamic pricing is a common practice among most airlines and hotels now. So, you’ll see wild fluctuations in prices influenced by things like point of sale, geographical location, currency, and more. Certain companies may even track your IP address and browsing history to adjust their prices.
The best thing you can do here is to get a VPN for traveling to mask your actual IP address and encrypt your Internet traffic, preventing companies from tracking your online activities and leveraging your personal information to their benefit. You can then use the VPN to also connect to a server in a region that offers the lowest prices, ensuring that you get the best deals.
16. Enjoy the best prices for online shopping
One of the best VPN uses is that it can help you avoid location-based price discrimination. This is when companies and businesses charge different prices for the same product or service based on your geographical location. There could be many reasons for this, such as higher taxes or simply a sales strategy.
In any case, by using a VPN, you can switch between servers in different locations and compare prices to find the lowest price possible. This is where having a VPN with plenty of servers worldwide can be especially advantageous.
17. Extend access to free services
Some websites offer limited free resources and services for a certain amount of time before you have to pay. For example, The New York Times and Medium both allow visitors to read a certain number of articles for free each month. These websites usually track each user and visitor by their IP address to know when one has reached its limit.
But you can get more mileage out of these free services with a VPN. Simply by using a VPN to switch your IP address, you’ll be seen as a new visitor. This way, you can extend your access and enjoy the free services for a longer period.
What you can't do with a VPN: Myth busting
For all that a VPN can do (and that’s a very long list), there are still some things that it can’t do. Here are some of them:
- Provide complete anonymity. While a VPN can mask your IP address and encrypt your traffic, it doesn’t make you 100% anonymous. For instance, if you like a post or offer your personal information on a social media platform, the platform is still able to use that information to tailor its targeted ads.
- Protect against all threats. A VPN is a good shield against many types of cyber threats but it can’t protect against every one of them. For example, it can’t stop anyone from falling for phishing attacks or remove malware that has already infected your device. You’ll still need a top-notch antivirus solution for an all-around protection.
- Access all websites. One of the most critical VPN uses is that it can help you to bypass geo-restrictions and unblock websites. However, a VPN can’t give you access to paywalled content or sites that require a paid subscription or payment.
- Replace all other security measures. A capable VPN does wonders in keeping you safe online. That said, it’s still not an all-encompassing solution that can replace other necessary security measures like antivirus, strong passwords, and two-factor authentication.
What do people use VPN for most
As you can see from above, there’s a long list of answers to your question of what I can do with a VPN. For the most part, though, people usually use VPNs for:
- Online privacy protection. It’s no surprise that 43% of users said that security is their main reason for using a VPN. After all, a VPN encrypts your Internet traffic and masks your IP address to make it that much more difficult for hackers and other third parties to track your online activities or intercept your data.
- Bypassing geo-blocks. Many sites are geo-restricted and available only to those in select countries or regions. One of the main uses of VPN here is to bypass these blocks by routing your traffic through a server in an approved country.
- Unblocking content. Similarly, many people also use VPNs to access streaming services and content that aren’t available in their countries or regions. For instance, according to Global Web Index, 56% of all VPN users access Netflix each month.
- Safe and anonymous torrenting. A great many of users share files through P2P networks daily, which makes it a very dangerous breeding ground for cybercrimes. Worse, torrenting also exposes your IP address for all to see. This explains why one of the most common uses of VPN is to hide users’ actual IP addresses during torrenting for secure P2P sharing.
- Avoiding ISP throttling. One of the most popular VPN uses is that it helps to prevent ISP throttling for better speeds. By encrypting your data, your ISP won’t be able to tell what you’re doing and, thus, won’t be able to throttle your internet speed.
Check out our comprehensive video guide where we go through some more uses of a VPN:
In a nutshell
On the whole, there are many things to do with a VPN. While the primary function of a VPN is to mask your IP address and encrypt your data to protect your privacy and anonymity, you’ll find many other VPN uses for this incredibly versatile solution.
With the help of a VPN, you can also bypass geo-restrictions to unblock content from all over the world, save money by weeding out the best deals, escape censorship, and beyond.
However, to fully enjoy these VPN uses, it’s crucial to choose a capable VPN that can get the job done. We highly recommend NordVPN, as it’s a well-rounded service with a massive server fleet, advanced security, high speeds, and robust features. NordVPN also has a 30-day money-back guarantee, allowing you to try out its services risk-free.
Can I watch anything with a VPN?
Yes, you can watch anything with a VPN. However, there are a handful of exceptions, such as content behind a paywall and films or shows that aren’t available on any streaming sites. Additionally, many streaming services actively block VPNs. To bypass their strong restrictions, you’ll need a reliable VPN like NordVPN.
What are the benefits of using a VPN?
The benefits of using a VPN include enhanced online privacy, anonymity, access to geo-restricted websites and content, secure torrenting, and more. Additionally, a VPN also helps to bypass censorship, prevent ISP throttling, and avoid location-based price discrimination.
What not to use a VPN for?
A VPN should not be used for illegal or unethical activities like hacking, stalking, or harassment. Plus, it also should not be used for downloading illegal or copyrighted materials. Moreover, you might want to temporarily turn off your VPN while on PayPal as its User Agreement prohibits the use of proxy services.
How much does it cost to have a VPN?
The cost of a VPN can vary depending on the provider. Overall, they’re generally very affordable. For less than $4.00/month, you can get industry-leading VPNs like NordVPN or Surfshark to keep you safe online. In any case, the many uses of VPN far outweigh its minimal expense.