VPN’s can be so….sloooowwwwwww…
Internet is expensive. I don’t know about you, but I want to get every last bit of speed I can out of it.
Some people skip the extra security and flexibility that a VPN for streaming provides, just because they don’t want their Internet to be slower than it already is.
That’s a big mistake.
Here’s a simple trick that you can use in most VPN’s to easily get 10%-20% more speed from your connection. I’m going to increase my IPVanish speed in this example, but this trick will work for most VPN’s out there.
If you haven’t already read my primer on why you need a VPN for Kodi, check that out and then come back to this article.
The elephant in the room: How much speed is too much to lose?
I’ve added this section after the original article was published to answer a great question from Dave, one of my readers. He’s complaining (and rightly so) that VPN’s take a massive cut to your overall Internet speed. You can see my example below, where just using the VPN, my connection speed coming into the TV box drops from 170+ Mbps down to 26 Mbps.
Is that too big of a speed penalty?
I’m going to argue that you actually need less speed at the TV box level than you think.
Qualifier: The words “at the TV box level” are critically important in that sentence. Your overall Internet speed coming in to your house should be as fast as possible so that no one device is the bottleneck, but each individual device can only use a certain amount of bandwidth.
The math (I’ll keep it simple so stick with me)
Say you wanted to stream 4K content to your device. According to Does Streaming Use Data, That’s going to be about 7GB per hour.
- 7 GB per hour = ~120 MB per minute = 2 MB per second bandwidth
- 2MB per second = roughly 16 Mbps bandwidth (the conversion from MBps to Mbps)
That means 4K content at the device level only uses around 16 Mbps total bandwidth. Anything beyond that is just so that the device can handle background tasks without interrupting your streaming.
I’ll stress again, that this is at the device level. The other devices on your network – not connected to your VPN – will still be using their slice of your full Internet speed. A VPN only affects the devices that you’re running it on.
The one setting you need to change to increase VPN speed
If you don’t care to know the ins and outs of what we’re going to do, feel free to skip to the next section. My feelings won’t be hurt.
Still here? Good.
What we’re going to be focusing on is whether to use VPN over TCP vs UDP.
What does that mean in layman’s terms?
It has to do with how the information (called packets) is transferred from one device to another over the Internet.
TCP is slower, but it has a built-in error correction. You see, the data packets don’t always arrive in the same order that they’re sent. Think of it like travelling along a spider web. There are plenty of ways to get from Point A to Point B. Some may be quicker than others.
Data travelling on the Internet is the same concept. They may take different paths to get to your computer, and some may be quicker than others.
Data packets sent over TCP will realize that they’re out of order and self-correct. When a packet sent via TCP arrives out of order, it’s held in a queue and waits for the others before it to catch up.
UDP is faster, but has no error correction. UDP sacrifices reliability for speed. Think of it as an unscrupulous eBay seller that doesn’t care if you actually get your item. They sent it and that’s all that matters.
Any packets that arrive out of order will be discarded. This can lead to digital artifacts or corrupted data.
In a nutshell: When it works correctly, UDP is the faster way to go. But if you start seeing glitches, errors, or generally things that you can’t explain…you may want to switch back to TCP and see if that fixes the problem.
Increase IPVanish speed (or any VPN)
First of all, you need to do a little bit of testing with your own system. How you actually use your VPN makes a big difference in how much of a VPN speed increase (if any) you’ll see using this trick.
Speedtest.net is a great way to see what your Internet speed is at each device. You may have 30 Mbps coming in to your house, but by the time it gets to your streaming device, it may be a fraction of that.
I’m going to show three different Speedtest results:
- Without running a VPN
- Running VPN over TCP
- Running VPN over UDP
I’ve upgraded the Internet connection in my house, so my speeds may be faster than you’re used to seeing.
It’s not so important what the initial speed is, but it is very important what the difference in the three tests will be.
Let me explain: If my initial speed is 50 Mb/s, my TCP test is 2 Mbps and my UDP test is 25 Mb/s then that tells me two things: First, that’s one hell of a drop-off in speed for the TCP test, and I think something is wrong. Second, (and more important) the UDP test is about 12 times faster than the TCP test and about 50% as fast as not using a VPN at all. Both of those facts are important.
As I said, I’ll be looking to increase my IPVanish speed, but this trick should work with most VPN’s. If it doesn’t work on your VPN, I’ll include a coupon code at the end of this article for a special deal on IPVanish VPN.
My initial speed: No VPN
As you can see, my Internet speed on my Android TV box is almost 170 Mbps. That’s pretty good.
VPN over TCP
The default setting in IPVanish and most other VPN’s is to use VPN over TCP. You can check which VPN protocol you’re connecting with by going to Settings -> Connection -> Protocol
As you can see, the Internet speed at the device level takes a pretty significant hit…all the way down to 17 Mbps.
It’s been well documented that using a VPN will decrease your Internet speed. After all, you’re trading performance for security. But, I think we can do better.
VPN over UDP
Head on back to the IPVanish Settings tab and select the OpenVPN (UDP) protocol.
Now, Speedtest showed a VPN speed of 26 Mbps, an increase of over 50%!
Not too bad for a couple of clicks, right?
Again, this trick should work to increase almost any VPN speed. But I always advise testing your particular VPN and your streaming habits. Depending on how you use your VPN, you may not see as big a performance increase as I have here.
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This simple trick is an easy way to get a 50% improvement in your IPVanish speed, and it will work with most VPN’s.
Let me know what you think. Have you found any other settings that ramp up your IPVanish speed? Let me know in the comments below!