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Visit Private Internet Access
  • Large server network
  • Affordable pricing
  • Kill switch

Private Internet Access Review

Private Internet Access is a cheap, fast and secure VPN with a full range of features, like split tunneling, port forwarding and a kill switch. Read this full Private Internet Access review to see if PIA is the right VPN for your needs.

Mindy Born
By Mindy Born (Writer)
— Last Updated: 2024-05-21T07:59:58+00:00 Facts checked by Jasna Mishevska

Key Takeaways: Private Internet Access Review

  • Private Internet Access failed to get into Hulu or Disney Plus, but it did get into Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. It isn’t the fastest VPN out there, but it has good U.S. download speeds.
  • PIA’s no-logs claims have been tested both by third-party audits and by affidavits requesting user information, and the VPN has shown itself to truly keep no logs.
  • Live customer support was very responsive when we tested it, and there are detailed guides with information on most aspects of the VPN.

Private Internet Access (PIA) is one of the top 10 best VPN providers. It has an independently verified no-logs policy that’s audited by Deloitte, and it has twice been asked to turn over user data to authorities but stated that it didn’t have any to turn over. In this Private Internet Access review, we will look into the highs and lows of this VPN. 

PIA has a kill switch, Shadowsocks support, port forwarding and custom DNS support. It fared very well in our VPN speed comparison with remarkably low latency across the globe and U.S. download speeds surpassing ExpressVPN and CyberGhost. It didn’t do as well with international servers but still had respectable results.

  • 10/05/2021 Facts checked

    PIA has added a few more features since our last review and now works with Amazon Prime Video, but it is no longer the cheapest VPN out there. PIA announced that it passed an independent audit by four firms, confirming it is a zero-logs VPN.

  • 09/05/2022

    Updated the speed section to include the Cloudwards automatic speed tests.

  • 03/21/2023 Facts checked

    PIA now offers unlimited simultaneous connections on all plans.

  • 12/14/2023 Facts checked

    This article was rewritten with new information about Private Internet Access VPN from our testing.

What Is Private Internet Access & Who Is It For?

Private Internet Access is a well-established VPN provider that has been operating since 2010 with its jurisdiction in the United States. PIA has a broad network of over 35,000 servers in more than 90 countries. In 2019, PIA was acquired by Kape Technologies, the same company that bought ExpressVPN in 2021, and some users have expressed concerns about this change. 

The Cloudwards Expert Opinion: PIA

We like that PIA operates with fully open-source apps, so anyone can inspect the code and verify that it is secure. It’s an affordable VPN with good speeds, unlimited simultaneous connections and all the features you would expect from a top VPN. 

PIA’s weak point is that it isn’t able to unblock some streaming services, such as Disney Plus, but it will unblock others, such as Netflix.

Private Internet Access: Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Large server network
  • Unlimited device connections
  • Affordable pricing
  • Kill switch
  • Advanced split tunneling
  • Ad blocker
  • Dedicated IP addresses
  • Multihop & obfuscation

Cons:

  • Can’t get into Hulu
  • Owned by Kape Technologies
  • Inconsistent upload speeds
  •  No split tunneling or obfuscation on iOS

Private Internet Access VPN Alternatives

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Features: What Can PIA VPN Do?

80 % – Good

PIA used to be a no-frills VPN service, but there is now a much broader range of features on offer. Users have a lot of control over network settings and can configure their DNS servers, set up port forwarding and choose remote ports. While these settings aren’t unique, PIA simplifies advanced configuration with a streamlined settings menu so it’s easier to use than most.

Kill Switch and Split Tunneling

Two essential features that enhance your online privacy are the kill switch and split tunneling.

If something causes a VPN to disconnect, data is no longer encrypted, causing the user to be connected to the web server directly instead of being routed through a VPN server. A kill switch disconnects your internet connection if your VPN connection drops, ensuring that your real IP address isn’t leaked.

With PIA, you can choose between the default kill switch or the advanced kill switch. The default works like a standard kill switch, and the advanced kill switch prevents any data from going outside the VPN, even when the VPN is turned off.

Split tunneling allows users to customize security by choosing which apps and sites will be outside the VPN tunnel. This way, users can choose to have secure apps run outside the VPN while other potentially less secure sites, like those for file sharing, can run through PIA. 

Users can choose between standard split tunneling by app or IP or inverse split tunneling, which runs everything through the VPN and lets users select sites, apps or IPs to exclude.

MACE Ad Blocker

pia mace
Private Internet Access VPN’s MACE feature 

MACE is an ad blocker integrated into PIA’s desktop and mobile apps, providing faster and more memory-efficient ad blocking compared to browser extensions. It operates by rendering IP addresses of unwanted domain names as non-routable on the public internet, thereby blocking domains associated with advertisements, trackers and malware.

Port Forwarding

PIA’s port forwarding allows users to open specific ports on their VPN connection, so they can direct incoming data traffic through designated ports for things like gaming or hosting servers. Once the port forwarding feature is selected, servers that allow port forwarding will be highlighted, while those that do not will have a backwards arrow with a line through it.

pia port forwarding engaged
Private Internet Access’s port forwarding feature is useful for gaming.

Dedicated IP Address 

A dedicated IP address gives users a unique server address in the country of their choice. This ensures that no other PIA customers share the same address for their internet traffic, potentially reducing the possibility of encountering captchas or bans. 

PIA dedicated IP
PIA’s dedicated IP address helps keep data safe.

PIA’s Multi-Hop and Obfuscation

For users who want to bolster their privacy while browsing the internet without the complexity of manually configuring proxy settings, PIA’s Shadowsocks multi-hop feature provides an easier way to get a double layer of added security. While selecting SOCKS5 requires inputting a server IP address and port, the Shadowsocks option offers a more streamlined way to set up a proxy.

pia multi hop
PIA’s multi-hop with Shadowsocks feature is easy to set up.

Private Internet Access Features Overview

General
Payment methodsPayPal, Credit card, Amazon, Paygarden, Apple Pay, Google Pay
Accepts cryptocurrency
Simultaneous connections Unlimited
Supports split tunneling
Unlimited bandwidth
Free trial availableOnly on Android/iOS apps
Refund period
Worldwide server amount35,000+ servers in 91 countries
Desktop OSesWindows, MacOS, Linux
Mobile OSesAndroid, iOS
Browser extensionsChrome, Firefox, Opera
Can be installed on routers
Streaming
Can access Netflix US
Can access BBC iPlayer
Can access Hulu
Can access Amazon Prime Video
Security
Encryption types128-AES, 256-AES
VPN protocols availableIPSec, OpenVPN, Wireguard
Enabled at device startup
Allows torrenting
No-logging policy
Passed DNS leak test
Killswitch available
Malware/ad blocker included
Support
Live Chat24/7
Email support24/7
Phone support
User forum
Knowledgebase

User-Friendliness & Hands-on Testing

80 % – Good

The app is beginner-friendly and intuitive to use. PIA VPN is logically organized with essential functions like server selection and connection status easily accessible. While the focus is on functionality over aesthetics, the interface is clean and uncluttered. 

When you open the app, the connection button is the first thing you will see, and settings are located under the ellipsis menu in the upper right of the app.

How to Install Private Internet Access

Downloading Private Internet Access VPN onto any device is a simple process.

  1. Sign Up for PIA VPN

    Go to the Private Internet Access website and choose your preferred plan. Sign up for an account and download the app onto your device.

    pia ordering
  2. Choose a Server

    Select the server in the country you want to connect through if you have a preference, or allow Private Internet Access to choose the fastest server for you. Click on the server location or the quick start button to connect.

    pia select servers
  3. Select Settings

    Go to the “settings” tab to choose whether the VPN will launch when you start your computer system or manually, the theme, notification settings and more.

    PIA general settings

How to Set Up and Use Private Internet Access

PIA has many features, including a kill switch that will disable your internet if the VPN connection drops and the ability to choose the best protocol for your purposes.

  1. Go to Settings

    Navigate to the ellipsis menu in the upper-right corner and click on “settings.”

    pia setting selection
  2. Open the Privacy Tab

    Go to the “privacy” tab in the left-hand menu in settings. You will see two options for kill switches. The VPN Kill Switch will already be enabled, but you can choose the advanced option if you don’t want your internet connection to run at all unless the VPN is connected.

    pia kill switch
  3. Choosing Protocols

    Find the “protocols” tab to the left of the “settings” screen and click on it. Choose either the OpenVPN or WireGuard protocol and configure the settings in the way that best suits your needs.

    pia protocols

PIA App on Desktop: macOS & Windows Apps

pia dashboard
PIA VPN’s dashboard can be adjusted to move wherever you like.

When a user initially signs up for Private Internet Access VPN, the client will be attached to the Windows tray by default so that one errant click outside of the box will close the settings window. Users can easily change this in the “general” settings and eliminate the one annoying thing about the app. Otherwise, the interface is easy to use.

When launching the app, there is a prominent “on” button for quick connection to the nearest server, which is usually the fastest. There is an ellipsis menu in the upper-right corner that will open settings. From settings, users can adjust connection options, usage data, and choose split tunneling or kill switch functions.

PIA on Mobile: Android & iOS Apps

The Android app is intuitive and user-friendly, even for beginner VPN users. When you sign in, you are greeted with a quick connect button that looks very much like the desktop app. There is a hamburger menu in the upper-left corner that opens settings. The Android app is so easy to use, it made our list of top VPNs for Android.

The iOS app lacks a split tunneling option and does not offer obfuscation.

Private Internet Access Device Compatibility & Simultaneous Connections

PIA supports a broad range of platforms. This includes dedicated desktop and mobile apps for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android and Linux, along with browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Opera. PIA is compatible with routers, although the VPN does not suggest router-based configuration due to speed limitations.

PIA provides unlimited simultaneous connections, and the VPN makes its APK file available so users can sideload it onto Amazon Fire TV Stick or Android-based media players and gaming consoles.

Private Internet Access Pricing: How Much Does Private Internet Access Cost?

90 % – Excellent

Although Private Internet Access doesn’t have a free VPN option like Proton VPN or Windscribe, it is one of the cheapest VPNs around at just $45 on the three-year plan (with four months free). That’s a bit cheaper per month than Surfshark’s cheapest plan, which is an excellent value. You can also pay with cryptocurrencies. 

Pricing Plan Breakdown

PIA pricing
PIA is one of the cheapest VPNs around.

The monthly plan is only $11.99 per month, which isn’t cheap but is a few dollars less than Surfshark’s lowest-cost monthly plan. Read our Surfshark vs PIA comparison for more details.

Private Internet Access Free Plan & Money-Back Guarantee

There is a 30-day money-back guarantee on all plans, even the monthly plan, which means you can use it like a free 30-day trial if you request a refund within that time. Note that this guarantee is only valid once, so if users reorder the VPN, they will not be covered by the money-back policy.

Private Internet Access Speed

80 % – Good

Download speeds in the U.S. outperformed those using servers farther away, with significant dips in speed in South Africa. With the exception of South Africa, upload speeds remained consistently strong across most servers. Latency was lower nearer our U.S. testing location as is to be expected, while Australia, Singapore, and South Africa had the highest ping times.

Private Internet Access Speed Test Results

Download Speed (Higher is better)
Upload Speed (Higher is better)
Latency (Lower is better)
Source: Cloudwards VPN Speed Test. We test daily. Data from 05/17/24 to 06/14/24

Notes From the Lab: Our Detailed Speed Analysis

Internet speeds vary widely based on geographic location and connection types, so we tested seven VPNs using automatic VPN speed tests with a baseline download speed of 100 Mbps and upload of 10 Mbps, which are good speeds for streaming or browsing. The tests originate in the U.S. and evaluate the connection speeds to servers in locations around the world.

In our speed tests, PIA showed remarkable latency, less than NordVPN or Surfshark and tied with ExpressVPN. It did well with U.S. download speeds, falling between ExpressVPN and NordVPN, but did less well on international download speeds. Upload speeds were consistent with the other VPNs tested.

Security: Is Private Internet Access Safe?

90 % – Excellent

OpenVPN is PIA’s default protocol, with AES-128 encryption. This will be good for most situations, and you can choose AES 256-bit if you need stronger security. Read our description of encryption to find out more. 

Users can choose between UDP which gives faster speeds but without error detection or TCP, which is more reliable but slightly slower. If you’re on the fence about which to choose, read our VPN protocol breakdown.

WireGuard is a newer protocol, offered by many of the best VPNs, like NordVPN, ProtonVPN and IPVanish. WireGuard’s smaller codebase makes it faster and more efficient than OpenVPN, but OpenVPN allows more flexibility in encryption. Read more about WireGuard in our VPN protocol guide

Protocol:EncryptionSupported OS
UDP (OpenVPN)AES 128-bit
AES 256-bit
Windows
macOS
iOS
Android
Linux
TCP (OpenVPN)AES 128-bit
AES 256-bit
iOS
Android
WireGuardChaCha20 Windows
macOS
iOS
Android
Linux

Private Internet Access Security Features

MACE is PIA’s ad blocker. It defends against pop-ups, malware and cross-site trackers. MACE works by redirecting DNS requests to your local IP address, which results in faster processing. PIA also offers the option to set up a proxy through Shadowsocks or SOCKS5 within the app’s “multi-hop” tab, which adds an additional layer of security.

Private Internet Access Leak Test Results & Detailed Security Analysis

A DNS leak test works by triggering a series of connection attempts that check which servers are used to resolve domain names when you enter a website name. After the test, users can see which servers are getting access to information. There were no DNS leaks when we tested Private Internet Access VPN.

Privacy: Is Private Internet Access Private?

90 % – Excellent

According to the Private Internet Access blog, PIA has been subpoenaed for logs on multiple occasions and each time they have had no data to share. PIA is an independently audited VPN that does not keep any logs. The only information it retains is your payment information and email address, and the VPN accepts cryptocurrency.

Privacy Policy: Does Private Internet Access Keep Logs?

PIA has a strict no-logs policy, and its no-nonsense privacy policy is very clear that it only keeps the bare minimum of data. This includes users’ email address, payment information, and territory or state and zip code for tax analysis. The data it does collect is anonymized and this can be verified by looking at the VPN’s open-source application and client coding.

Private Internet Access states that it does not log any use of its virtual private network. All the information regarding your browsing when using the VPN is protected and even your payment information is not kept on record in full. 

Independent Audits

In August 2022, Private Internet Access was independently audited by one of the Big Four auditing firms, Deloitte. The audit confirmed that PIA does not store any logs or details that could be used to identify its users. Deloitte inspected PIA’s server configuration and management systems and found that they are not designed to identify users or detect their activities.

Private Internet Access Streaming Performance & Unblocking Ability

70 % – Decent

Some streaming services we tried worked very well, while others didn’t work at all. There was extreme buffering on some sites, but Netflix U.K. and Germany played HD films and television.

Streaming App:Status
Netflix
Amazon Prime Video
Netflix
Hulu
Disney Plus
BBC iPlayer

Can Private Internet Access Unblock Netflix?

Private Internet Access had no trouble connecting to Netflix U.K. and Netflix Germany from our location in the U.S. with no noticeable lag when watching high-quality video. Although it was able to get into Netflix Japan, the connection was too slow to load any TV shows or movies.

pia netflix uk
PIA VPN unblocks Netflix but struggles with other streaming platforms.

Other Major Streaming Platforms

PIA was able to unblock HBO Max and Amazon Prime Video and played HD videos without any noticeable buffering. Disney Plus and Hulu would not load at all. BBC iPlayer loaded with no problems, even though we were testing from outside the U.K.

amazon prime video pia
PIA works well with some streaming platforms but not with others.

Private Internet Access VPN Server Locations

80 % – Good

Private Internet Access no longer gives detailed server information on its website, but it does list countries with VPN servers. The majority of servers are located in North America, followed closely by Europe, and with many spread across Asia.

Global Distribution of VPN Servers

Region:CountriesLocations
North America 653
South America 1010
Europe 4448
Asia 1818
Africa 55
Oceania 26
Middle East 44

Private Internet Access Customer Support

90 % – Excellent

PIA offers customer support through a knoweldgebase, guides, email support and a user forum with sparse community comments. There is live chat support but no phone number to call. A human (not a bot) customer support representative responded with detailed answers to our questions in under a minute.

Other Support Speed & Quality

The “guides” section has a search bar where you can find a solution to most problems, from instructions on how to install the VPN on a router to explanations of features.

pia guides
The “guides” section of PIA’s help portal is the fastest place to
find a solution to any problem you may have.

Private Internet Access vs Other VPN Services

Both ExpressVPN and PIA are owned by Kape Technologies, and both rank as top VPN options. However, ExpressVPN outpaces Private Internet Access in streaming quality, while PIA is a more affordable option. Read more about it in our ExpressVPN vs PIA comparison.

Private Internet Access has many excellent features, such as its unlimited simultaneous connections. Compared to the six that NordVPN offers, that’s a huge advantage, although NordVPN has better overall speeds according to our tests. Find out more in our NordVPN vs PIA review.

Surfshark also offers unlimited simultaneous connections, is competitive when it comes to price and has a much better track record unblocking streaming platforms and better customer support, but PIA has more server locations and is a little more affordable. Read more in our Surfshark vs PIA comparison

Community Feedback: Private Internet Access Reviews on Reddit & Social Media

User reviews of PIA on Reddit and the Cloudwards comment section are a mixed bag. Some users commented positively on the VPN’s trustworthiness, noting its refusal to hand over user information when subpoenaed. Others noted the VPN’s fast and stable speeds and large server network as reasons they were happy with the service.

Some people complained about the customer service response time and policies, and there are instances of users encountering difficulties claiming refunds on the money-back guarantee. Still others mentioned PIA’s jurisdiction in the U.S. as a concern. That said, there were more positive reviews than negative ones.

The Verdict: Is Private Internet Access a Good VPN Service?

PIA is a dependable budget-friendly VPN provider, offering valuable features such as port forwarding, advanced kill switch, dedicated IP addresses, split tunneling and multi-hop servers. However, it didn’t unblock Hulu and Disney Plus in our tests and the lack of live chat customer support is not ideal.

Nevertheless, PIA remains an excellent choice for those looking for a fast VPN that is compatible with most platforms at a reasonable price. Have you used Private Internet Access? What’s your opinion on the variety of features it offers, as well as its customer support? We’d love to hear from you in the comments, and thank you for reading!

FAQ: PIA Review

  • Both services offer a premium VPN with unlimited simultaneous connections and fast P2P file sharing at a budget-friendly price. Surfshark overtakes PIA in speed, streaming, torrenting and customer support, while PIA excels at features, has a lower price than Surfshark and more server locations.

  • Both VPN providers have a good track record of respecting users’ privacy and good security. NordVPN was faster with more stable speeds in our speed tests and offers better customer service and streaming ability. PIA is more budget-friendly and has an enormous server network.

  • Private Internet Access is owned by Kape Technologies, a cybersecurity company based in London, although the VPN still has its jurisdiction in the United States. Kape acquired ExpressVPN in 2021, as well.

  • PIA does not keep any logs and has been independently audited and confirmed a no-logs VPN by Big Four auditing firm Deloitte.

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