Private Internet Access VPN Review 2022: Maximum security

Private Internet Access VPN PIA - cover

Private Internet Access (better known by the abbreviation PIA) is one of the biggest VPN providers on the market right now. One of its biggest advantages is its focus on privacy. They have a no-logs policy, making PIA quite popular among (bit)torrent users. Private Internet Access is also known for its minimalistic and compact applications and programs. Some users find this feature an advantage, while others may be a little disappointed.

We tested this VPN service and checked PIA’s connection speeds, security, privacy, ease of use, server network and extra features. These are the results we got.

Private Internet Access VPN: Quick points

Pros

  • Strong security
  • No records/logs
  • Strong focus on privacy
  • Vast offers of fast servers
  • Friendly price

Cons

  • No live customer service

Private Internet Access is one of the biggest VPN providers right now. Their reputation when it comes to privacy is proven: their no-logs policy is very correct, and they keep an eye out for any changes in the world that might affect the privacy of their users. In addition, they offer a wide selection of servers and server locations, which generally provide a stable and fast connection. American Netflix and other streaming services also appear to have adequate support.

On top of all that, PIA is very reasonably priced when you sign up for a longer-term subscription. This, combined with simple and clean software, makes us recommend PIA if you are looking for a quality VPN.

 The only possible downsides are the lack of a live chat with customer service and the fact that the dashboard disappears when you click somewhere else on the screen. Needless to say, these are minor drawbacks, which some may even overlook. In short, PIA is a very reliable, fast and good VPN provider.

Know all about the features and results of this impressive VPN service provider on our review. In case you’re in a rush and want to jump in right now, follow the button below.

Speed ​​– Is Private Internet Access fast?

To give you a good idea of ​​how Private Internet Access performs in terms of speed, we run several speed tests. We also take into account our personal experiences testing the PIA during everyday use. You can find the results below:

  • The results of speed tests were mixed , with some good results for our local PIA servers and lower results for US servers.
  • During daily use, internet speed hardly slows down while browsing, streaming or downloading.

PIA speed test results

Below you can see the results of some of the speed tests we did using Private Internet Access. Please note that these measurements always vary by location, internet service provider and time of day. That’s why we’ve also included a speed test of our connection without the VPN to use as a reference.

Speed ​​without a VPN (speedtest.net):

PIA Speedtest No VPN

These are the test results with our internet connection without using VPN on speedtest.net. This is an initial measurement that will be used as a reference to compare with other results.

Speed ​​with a local server (speedtest.net):

PIA Speedtest Local Server

These are the results of speedtest.net after connecting to a PIA server near our location. The results are quite remarkable . The ping increased slightly, from 9 to 22, but the download and upload speeds remained roughly the same. This means that this local PIA server should be almost as fast as our own connection.

Speed ​​with a US server (speedtest.net):

PIA Speedtest distant server

These are the speed test results of our internet connection when we connect to a PIA server in the United States. This shows a somewhat expected picture. Ping has increased immensely, while especially download speed has decreased substantially. In other words, it would be possible to notice delays in results like this.

These results are not surprising for a VPN server located at a great distance from the user. After all, that distance means that all internet traffic must make a big detour through the server before being sent to the right place. This almost always slows down your connection. However, these results show that PIA is a long way from being the fastest premium VPN. In fact, PIA has been shown to be the slowest VPN among the top 5 VPNs.

Speeds during daily use

Despite not very good speed test results, PIA is a nice VPN for everyday use. We noticed a change when performing day to day tasks, but this was only a small difference in speed .

We would be able to browse, stream music and videos, and use YouTube  – without any lags or significant delays. We were also able to watch American Netflix with an American server. At the very least, it took Netflix a little longer to buffer an episode, but the video played smoothly after that. We were able to play online games without significant delays and also download torrents very fast: a file of almost 2 GB in less than 15 minutes.

The main examples of low speeds we observed were when starting a Netflix or YouTube video (once it started playing, everything was fine). All in all, PIA offers decent speeds for day-to-day activities, but it’s not the fastest VPN out there.

Security – Is Private Internet Access secure?

PIA puts security and privacy first and therefore certainly excels in these respects:

  • PIA works with several strong protocols , including OpenVPN and the innovative new WireGuard protocol. It also has a SOCKS5 proxy.
  • PIA has a strict no-log policy .
  • PIA has a built-in kill switch and PIA MACE to block ads, trackers and malware.
  • The only information you need to provide to create an account is an email address and your payment information, but both can be done anonymously.

Protocols

When it comes to security and encryption, Private Internet Access knows what it’s doing. They work with multiple protocols (OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP/IPsec and WireGuard) and have a SOCKS5 proxy. Most users will want to opt for OpenVPN as this is a solid protocol. WireGuard is also rapidly becoming popular and is now also available as an incredibly secure protocol in PIA.

Do you want more speed and are less worried about encrypting your data? Then you can easily choose one of the other protocols within the PIA software. To learn more about protocols, you can check out our article comparing all the different protocols on the market.

Records and privacy policy

PIA was recently purchased by Kape Technologies. This company has also acquired VPN providers CyberGhost and Zenmate in the last couple of years. Private Internet Access is known for its attention to privacy, which is shown in every move by the provider. PIA maintains a strict no-logging policy. This creates a safer and more anonymous experience for users, which PIA values ​​above all else. 

User browsing data is never stored on hard drives, but on a special null device. This is a virtual device that automatically pretends that no data sent by it exists. Once the information was written to the null device, it became unable to recover. This is how PIA can enforce its no-logs policy.

Since the PIA does not record anything, they cannot hand over information in the event of a court order. PIA’s headquarters are in the United States, which was a conscious choice. The US is one of the few countries in the world that does not have a mandatory data retention policy. This means that PIA is not required to store information for a specific period, as is often the case in Europe.

However, as PIA is located in the United States, it is possible that they may be required to begin recording information about a specific user to help identify them following a court order. During various tests and investigations, PIA proved to have no information about their customers’ VPN usage.

There seems to be some concern on online forums, for example, regarding the official location of PIA (the US). Many point out that the United States is home to some organizations that can be very persistent when it comes to obtaining data from American citizens, such as the NSA and FBI. 

An anonymous source even shared the particularly bold claim with All Things VPN that “other sites have found that the PIA worked alongside the NSA” and that “PIA has received banning orders from judges in the past.” While shocking, we could not find evidence to support any of the above claims.

It is technically possible, as one Reddit user pointed out, that PIA will receive a court order to begin monitoring the data traffic of one or more users, combined with an order of silence. This would mean that no one would ever find out that PIA users are being monitored. However, we must emphasize that this concern is based only on theory and possibility and not on actual evidence. At least not based on the evidence we could find. However, if you are one of those who are concerned about the location of PIA in the US, there are providers located in countries with better privacy reputations, such as ExpressVPN (British Virgin Islands) and NordVPN (Panama).

PIA and Russia

PIA has proven that it takes its customers’ privacy very seriously on numerous occasions. An example is choosing to remove Russian servers from your server network . A few years ago, Russia decided that all domestic data traffic should be logged for at least one year. This law made it impossible for PIA to guarantee the privacy of its users, which is why they decided to no longer offer Russian servers.

When using an external VPN provider, you always put some of your privacy in their hands. That means you must put your trust in them. Fortunately, so far there have been no indications that PIA has harmed its customers’ privacy . On the contrary, they support their customers at every turn.

Kill switch

Kill Switch Off

Private Internet Access has a kill switch that can be found in the panel settings. An activated kill switch ensures that your information doesn’t accidentally leak in case your VPN connection drops. In addition, this VPN has a unique way of blocking domains used for ads, trackers and malware. The name of this feature is PIA MACE, and it can be found in the settings under the kill switch.

What information does PIA need?

Before you can start using the PIA service, the company will need your payment details. Private Internet Access offers many anonymous payment options, so you don’t need to provide any personal information to make the payment. It is very easy to pay with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. Therefore, you only need to provide a valid email address so that PIA can link your account to it. You can, of course, register a new email address specifically for PIA so that it cannot be traced back to you.

Then PIA will create an account name for you and send you an “Order ID” in a confirmation email after payment. You can use these codes when you need to communicate with the support team, for example. That’s all you need: a valid email address. In addition, PIA can be used completely anonymously.

Ease of Use – Is Private Internet Access (PIA) easy to use?

The PIA score is very satisfactory when it comes to ease of use:

  • The PIA website is very informative and clear.
  • Installing PIA is quick and easy.
  • The PIA software can be found on the taskbar and is easy to navigate.
  • There are three PIA subscriptions, of which a 2-year plan is the cheapest option at $2.69 per month.
  • PIA offers many anonymous payment options.
  • Customer service is helpful and works through online form and email, although it is a little slow.

The PIA website

PIA Website Homepage

The Private Internet Access website contains a wealth of information, conveniently separated into clear menu items. It is available in multiple languages. On the home page there is a button that allows you to subscribe immediately. Just click on it, choose your preferred subscription, select a payment method and fill in your details. Now, all you need to do is download the software.

The PIA website also hosts your personal account login page. The website is generally clearly structured and contains extra information about PIA’s services and the size of its network.

Installing Private Internet Access VPN

The PIA dashboard is downloadable for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS and Android. They also offer extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Opera. Thus, PIA is compatible with almost all devices. The website download page shows all the options displayed in an organized way. Just click the right button to download the desired file.

PIA Download Screen

We use the PIA app for Windows, so the download instructions we’ll explain here are for Windows. As soon as you open the downloaded file, the installation will start automatically. Installing the panel takes less than a minute, but even so, the process is explained step by step by PIA. Use your account information to log in. Now you can really get started.

PIA-Screenshot-Windows-Home

Note : Please be aware that the PIA software no longer supports Windows 7. Numerous people still run this OS on their PCs because it might run a little better and faster, especially on older devices. If you are one of those people, you would be better off choosing a VPN that supports Windows 7, such as ExpressVPN or NordVPN.

PIA Appearance and User Experience

The PIA program was created to run without complications. When you open the panel, you will see a big button that says “ON”, a small map and the VPN server selected for you. After connecting to the VPN server, you will find your IP address at the bottom of the screen, with the IP of the VPN server you are currently using. If you click on the down arrow, you will be able to see more information and possibilities: most used servers, performance and usage of your connection, quick settings and the type of subscription you have.

PIA Screenshot App Homescreen

By clicking on the three dots in the upper-right corner, you will be able to access other settings. For example, you can change your language, theme and general preferences under “General ”, or view your account details under “Account ”. The kill switch and PIA MACE can be found under “Privacy ”.

Also, you can configure your network preferences under “Network ”, and your connection preferences under “Connection ”. These settings are a little more advanced, but are configured with the best options for users who want to start using the service right away on default.

Finally, you can find support tools, such as the program tour and a link to the support service, under “Help ”.

PIA Screenshot iOS Settings

The panel will disappear from your screen when you are not using it. If you need to open it, you’ll find it on your taskbar. Sometimes you need to click the little arrow in the lower-right corner of your screen (^). You will need to click on it if you want to enable or disable the connection. 

This way the app will remain hidden until you need to use it. This is a useful feature for anyone who wants to keep the VPN hidden, but it can be annoying if you need to do something to the panel: as soon as you click on another area of ​​the screen, the panel disappears again.

Overall, PIA’s software is transparent and pleasant to use, with a smooth look and easy-to-find options.

Prices and payment methods

PIA offers three types of subscriptions: monthly, 1 year and 2 years.

PIA Prices Summer 2020

If you decide on a monthly plan – which can be cancelled after each month – it will cost you $9.95 per month. An annual plan drops to $3.33 per month. If you choose a two-year plan, you’ll only spend $2.69 a month. That means you save a lot compared to a monthly subscription. Plus, you’ll get two extra months free with this latest subscription (which has already been calculated in the monthly price). You will also get a free cloud security licence called Boxcryptor. In short: the longer the subscription, the cheaper it will be for you.

All Private Internet Access subscriptions give you full access to the company’s VPN network. They also offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, allowing you to try out the service before committing to a subscription.

PIA accepts several forms of payment:

  • PayPal
  • Credit Card (Visa, MasterCard, Amex, Discover, JCB)
  • AmazonPay
  • Cryptocurrencies (Bitpay, Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Litecoin)
  • Gift cards (gift card)

We think there are many options to pay for your subscription. There are several anonymous payment methods such as Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash that allow you to maintain complete privacy even when it comes to purchasing your VPN connection. Again, PIA puts anonymity first, which is highly appreciated by many users – including ourselves.

Private Internet Access VPN and Linux

PIA takes very good care of Linux users. For users of Debian, Fedora, Slackware and Arch distributions, it is possible to install OpenVPN through the terminal. The option to install the Windows UI for Linux is even better. This option can be very practical, especially for new Linux users. With a user interface like this available for Linux, PIA is one of the few providers that has gone out of their way to provide an easier service for Linux users.

Unfortunately, the app is only available to Linux users who also own the system software package, including Linux Mint, Ubuntu, Debian and Arch.

PIA’s server network isn’t the biggest, nor does it have the fastest servers – that title continues with ExpressVPN. But there are multiple servers for the vast majority of users, and most servers show a high degree of consistency and security.

During testing with PIA, we did not encounter any security issues. In addition, PIA offers a number of extra features. First, there is a program unique to PIA, called “Mace”. This program offers an extra level of security against ads, trackers and malware.

In the app, you also have the option to switch to custom DNS servers or change the encryption level. And of course, PIA also has a kill switch, plus you can choose to route your traffic through SOCKS5 proxies for extra tunnelling over SSH.

PIA may not be the provider with the most servers, or the fastest servers, but it has very competitive numbers in these two categories. Whether it’s speed, security or ease of use, PIA offers a quality product, making it a great choice for Linux users.

Customer service

The PIA help desk offers several possibilities. You can consult your database or instruction manuals when you have a problem. You can also provide feedback if you think PIA should fix a certain existing issue or add a function. Other users can “vote” on this, and the PIA will determine if they can do something with the feedback.

PIA Support Page

If you have a problem that you cannot resolve after consulting the database, you can also contact PIA via the contact form. You will have to provide some details about your account and ask your question. This form must be completed in English. You will receive a reply by email.

We sent a question to them and received a response after 6 hours. The email had detailed information and other questions to help us if we needed it. In general, the response was quick and quite complete. Even if PIA does not offer a live chat service and you have to wait a few hours for a response, we consider the system available at the moment to be satisfactory.

PIA server network

A VPN provider’s server network determines its possibilities. PIA has some amazing features when it comes to this:

  • Currently, PIA has more than 25,000 servers in 99 locations in 77 countries.
  • They have 14 US server locations.
  • PIA offers dedicated IP addresses in the US, UK, Canada and Germany.

Number of servers and locations

Private Internet Access currently has over 25,000 servers in 77 countries. For most users, this is a pretty good number in many places. PIA says the company is continually working to expand its server network , so you can visit the service’s website for the latest news.

PIA Regions Screenshot

In addition to dramatically increasing the number of servers once again, PIA has also recently created an entirely new network for its users: PIA’s NextGen VPN network. The main advantage that this network offers is that your server only stores data using RAM memory, instead of HDD/SSD storage. 

This means that user (confidential) data is completely deleted every time a server temporarily loses power. Obviously, this is a big plus when it comes to privacy. Desktop apps as well as the latest mobile apps from PIA use this network by default.

Dedicated IP address

Private Internet Access has recently added dedicated IP addresses to its service. A dedicated IP can improve your browsing experience as you will not receive as many captchas. For this feature, you will have to pay a little extra on top of your subscription. For now, the feature only offers dedicated IPs in the US, UK, Canada, and Germany. PIA will likely add more countries to this list soon. If you’re not in one of these countries, and you want a VPN with a dedicated IP, NordVPN or CyberGhost might be right for you.

Private Internet Access VPN options

PIA has several extra possibilities and options:

  • You can watch American, British and Canadian Netflix with PIA.
  • Downloading torrents with PIA is easy, fast and secure.
  • PIA has a useful browser extension that can only protect your browser traffic.
  • The tunneling split is now also possible with the PIA.

PIA and Netflix

Netflix App Icon

Watching (foreign) Netflix is ​​a popular topic in the VPN world. Netflix is ​​fighting VPNs a lot, as well as blocking all IP addresses that it identifies as being from a VPN provider. For many providers, this makes it difficult to use Netflix with the VPN connection offered. PIA does its best to continue making this service available to you.

When we ran our test, we were able to access American Netflix from anywhere, using a VPN server in New York. PIA informed us that Netflix works with its US, Canadian and UK servers. This suggests that they are working hard to continue offering the service. Anyway, it is possible to watch American Netflix from other countries using PIA.

PIA and torrents

It is possible to download files via P2P using Private Internet Access servers. Downloading torrents is easy and fast. You won’t even realize you’re using a VPN, despite being protected and downloading anonymously.

PIA browser extension

In addition to the PIA program, this provider also has a very useful browser extension. It works in the same way as desktop or smartphone software. The difference is that the browser extension only ensures that browser traffic goes through the VPN. Other applications that use the internet but do not run through the browser will not be protected by the VPN. Incidentally, the browser extension offers an extra tracking option, as shown below in the extension’s settings screen.

PIA Browser Extension Settings

Split tunnel

A new feature recently added by PIA is split tunnelling. This is a technique that lets you choose which apps use the VPN or not, which means you can choose which apps will have a speed lag. So, if for example, you want to watch Netflix on your own connection, but at the same time visit a website anonymously, you can disable the VPN for the Netflix app.

Private Internet Access (PIA): Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have any questions about PIA? Click on one of the questions below to read its answer. If you still have any problems or questions, please leave a comment below. We are here to help you and will respond as soon as possible!

PIA is known for focusing on your security and privacy. This provider uses strong protocols: OpenVPN, PPTP, IPSec/L2TP and WireGuard. The service does not store any data, in addition to offering an integrated kill switch and an adblocker. 

PIA allows you to create a fully anonymous account. Unfortunately, this provider is based in the United States. Still, they’ve proven time and time again that they don’t really store any VPN data to share with authorities or anyone else.

With PIA, you are likely to be able to access the US, Canadian and UK versions of Netflix. However, it will not always be possible. Few PIA servers work with Netflix, and those servers can change constantly. All other servers, if used to access Netflix, will display an error message.

The cheapest PIA subscription is just $2.69 per month. This is the price of the 2-year subscription, but currently you still get 2 months free. If you prefer a shorter subscription, 1 year for example, you will pay $3.33 per month. Monthly subscription costs $9.95.

PIA offers decent speed during daily use. However, servers closer to you are likely to be much faster than servers farther away. The further away the server, the slower your connection, which can be an inconvenience.

PIA is effortless to use. The PIA website is clear and informative. Installing the PIA is also quick and hassle-free. Once installed, the PIA software can be found on the taskbar and is straightforward to navigate.