Private Internet Access VPN is among the oldest and well-known VPNs there is going. It has a massive fan base and comes with many features, not to mention an attractive pricing structure.
However, once you dig under the surface, things may not be as clear, and there are a couple of worrying areas for some users.
After moving on from London trust media, the company was purchased by one known to add extra software into their installation routines. Browser toolbars being the most notable.
However, that is our PIA VPN review’s purpose and to see what’s good and what’s bad.
By the end of our VPN review, you’ll be able to see if you can trust this VPN and if it’s worth your money. (Find the Best VPN Australia)
Quick Guide to Private Internet Access
Private Internet Access (PIA) is a popular VPN and much of this is for its strict no-logs policy and overall user privacy.
We need to find out whether PIA is as trustworthy as they claim for protecting user privacy and anonymity. Besides, we need to see if it has improved with streaming capabilities as it suffered. Speeds are also vital as there are many more VPNs out there upping their game. (Read Does Pia Work With Netflix)
Our VPN review will look at this VPN provider and see if they have improved enough, and there is more going on than just an easy-to-use user interface.
It can unblock Netflix US and a couple of others. Other streaming services can be hit or miss, yet this can be the same for some other VPN providers. Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer are other services to access, and we will see how it copes while keeping users safe.
Private Internet Access VPN Pricing
|Two - Year plan||$2.69||Billed as $69.95 every 2-years|
|1 - Year plan||$3.33||Billed as $39.95 every 12 months|
|1 - Month plan||$9.95||Billed as $9.95 every month|
PIA offers great price to features value, in particular, if you consider the extensive discounts for longer subscription plans. On the 2-year plan, you now get two-months free.
If you wish to test the services, you’ll find no addition to a free trial, just as other VPN providers do. Luckily, you have a 30-day money-back guarantee, which offers plenty of time to test everything on the service before you decide one way or another.
If you try PIA and want to use the 30-day money-back guarantee, you can follow these guides.
All Private Internet Access VPN refunds will need a member to request a refund using the support ticket feature.
It is also worthy to note that these refund requests will only be available within the first 30 days from the last payment per the company terms and conditions.
To refund a member payment, PIA needs the following information to verify the account for security reasons:
- The email address entered for account registration.
- The full PIA Order number, which comes with your confirmation email.
To obtain your refund, it can take between 5-10 business days.
Some users may not understand VPN protocols, yet this doesn’t matter as PIA deals with all this in the background. Also, PIA offers detailed explanations on the website for each protocol encryption type and how you can find the best depending on your tasks.
PIA’s dedicated apps default to the OpenVPN protocol, and here you can select between UDP and TCP connections.
One exception is the iOS app, as this uses IPsec. If you don’t wish to use OpenVPN, you can select to use the latest security protocol, WireGuard, for use on mobile devices and desktop apps.
There is also some manual configuration where you can do this yourself using OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec, PPTP, and SOCKS5 Proxy.
PIA is moving to the next generation of networks and uses private IPs in the apps and servers rather than a public-facing DNS system.
In effect, they have a secure DNS system in place and can function according to needs like DNS, DNS plus ad-blocking, or DNS plus streaming. All this is automatic without users having to do anything.
PIA offers dedicated apps for most of the major platforms, including:
Many of the features are similar across all the apps. One difference is the exception is the iOS app, which lacks the MACE ad-blocking feature and uses the IPsec rather than OpenVPN.
If you wish to carry out the manual installation on devices without an app, Private Internet Access offers in-depth installation guides on their website. You can have PIA VPN setup on compatible routers, including DD-WRT, Tomato, and pfSense.
Users have 10 simultaneous connections when signing up to PIA; however, if you install onto a router, you can secure all your devices in one go.
Another welcome feature offered by PIA is the PIA MACE feature. PIA MACE blocks domains to stop ads, trackers, and malware.
It differs from others because you have no way of white-listing any domains or adjusting filters in the settings. You have two options, you have it on, or you have it off.
It is better to have some ad-blocking rather than none, yet if you use the VPN for extended periods, it is advisable not to trust the MACE option as your primary adblocker.
While you can’t adjust it, it also doesn’t perform up to the levels of other VPN ad-blockers or as many browser add-ons you can get, such as uBlock Origin ad-blocker.
PIA does a great job for security and privacy features, yet it falls behind once you add MACE into the equation.
Privacy and Security
PIA claims to be among the best VPNs for security and anonymity. The security features offered reflect the VPN’s new focus on safety.
Private Internet Access offers lots of security features to maintain safe browsing.
There are many advanced features that may not worry casual users. Yet, it is good to know the VPN will keep your connection and user data safe by using a VPN tunnel with full data encryption, IPv6 leak protection, DNS leak protection, and a firewall as standard.
In carrying out a DNS leak test, there were no IP addresses or DNS leak signs from anywhere in testing.
Experienced users may welcome the PIA advanced security features, which you can easily find in the app settings tab. You find your kill switch, malware, and tracking protection, and the option for port forwarding.
One thing to note is that PIA offers you the freedom to customize your encryption algorithm and protocols. Default protocol settings are AES 128-bit encryption.
There are two things to note here; faster speeds can be obtained using this lower encryption algorithm so that any speed test won’t offer a true picture. The second is, it isn’t as robust as AES 256-bit encryption. (Read NordVPN Vs Avast Secureline)
Luckily, you can change this setting if you wish. Yet if you increase it for more security, your connection could see another dip in performance.
With the cloud hanging over the company of being involved with Kape. PIA now has open-source desktop and mobile apps, so anyone can carry out a VPN review, check the code, and see if they stick to what they say.
It is a turnaround as PIA really keeps to its no-log policy. Even based in the US, and required to comply with US laws. If the government requests information from PIA, then PIA is obliged to hand over any relevant data.
It is another reason there are many who are nervous because of the location inside the 5/9/14-Eyes Alliance.
Besides this, there are a couple of instances where Private Internet Access has been tested. In 2015 and 2017, the US government demanded data from PIA concerning an ongoing investigation. On both occasions, PIA had nothing they could hand over.
It can be hard for any person to know if their VPN does or doesn’t retain logs, no matter what they say. However, such incidents like this, top marks in the DNS leak test, and open source apps add a layer of transparency you may not see on other VPN services.
Ease of Use
Signing up for PIA is straightforward and takes a matter of minutes to create an account.
- Head to the website, hit the ‘Join Now’ button, or the ‘Get 2 Months Free’ take you to the plan page.
- Select 2 years, yearly or monthly
- You are redirected to the payment option where you have a Credit card, PayPal, Amazon Pay, or crypto.
- You get a Boxcryptor Cloud Security license free for one year, and you can select a dedicated IP address at $5 per month. You do have limited locations for this in Australia, Canada, Germany, UK, and the US. It isn’t possible to change this in your first subscription period.
- Go through your payment, and then you add your details to create your account. Downloading the apps can be from your confirmation email or direct from the website.
Setup and User Interface
Setting up the app is much like installing any other software. Once installed and logged in, you are greeted with a two-tone colour scheme of grey and green. Like many VPN providers, you have your standard power button that glows green on a connection.
Underneath this, you have a dark grey map with a green dot of your server location, and under this, your VPN IP address.
The Windows VPN Client can expand or contract and will show more settings such as:
- Port Forwarding
- Language Settings
- Connect on Launch to a specific VPN server
- Launch the Windows Client on system startup
- Ability to change DNS options
You can dive deeper in the settings and find enable or disable your kill switch, data downloaded and uploaded and the amount of time connected. You can also access the connection tab and change your protocol between OpenVPN and WireGuard.
PIA offers freedom by offering split tunneling on desktop apps. You can decide which apps send data across the internet directly or which pass via PIA first.
One use is for online banking data or to keep you safe and out of sight when torrenting. Torrenting has full support.
The fastest servers have ping times in green, while slower VPN servers are shown in yellow; thus, it’s easy to choose the best server.
PIA’s VPN service includes ad-blocking with the MACE feature, and although not totally effective, it is a decent advanced feature.
Another inclusion is a SOCKS5 Proxy option. You don’t get VPN encryption or protection from the VPN service, yet it offers a faster connection that can mask your IP address and thus some level of anonymity.
It is used mainly for faster streaming and isn’t safe for torrenting as your activity can be monitored.
You won’t find too many VPN providers offering this option to access websites, yet it’s handy to have if you’re on a slow connection and the VPN causes your streaming to buffer.
PIA offers secure browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.
If you carry out lots of browsing, these extensions are a great way of adding privacy and security to private and public networks if you have an internet connection via a public WiFi hotspot.
Performance and Servers
While doing this PIA review, we saw the PIA network grow its number of servers to more than 25,290+ VPN servers across 77 countries.
With larger VPN networks, you have faster connection speeds available. Besides this, it should also mean less congestion of web traffic as there are more servers for all users. You also have a much larger pool of IP addresses to use between users.
In our speed test, our base speed was 100 Mbps. We began with the PIA automatic connection feature, which connected us to a nearby server and gave us a connection speed of 64 Mbps.
However, running a speed test for a second time, the speeds dropped to less than 45 Mbps.
All through our speed testing, we saw the same inconsistencies from various server locations. The highest download speed outside of the US came from a UK server of all places.
From the US to Canada showed favourable results, yet it wasn’t the same for Australia or other remote regions we tested. Speeds less than 30 Mbps were quite frequent.
Hong Kong and Private Internet Access Australia speeds came out the worst, no matter the time of day. They gave an average of 15 to 20 Mbps download speed.
On occasion to remote regions, we saw Private Internet Access won’t connect fast enough to stream HD, and it could be a cause for SD quality. BBC iPlayer was okay from Australia.
However, accessing US Netflix in HD could be an issue, especially if there are simultaneous connections in your home.
The VPN company PIA lacks in some areas, yet with an increase in security, a massive jump in the number of servers, and improved customer support. PIA joins the ranks of offering 24/7 live chat customer support, and nowadays, live chat support is expected from top-tier VPN providers.
PIA’s biggest positive to customer support is on their website. The customer support section offers plenty of resources. You can find easy-to-follow installation guides, troubleshooting, FAQs, and a comprehensive, searchable knowledge base.
Although not the same as getting a customer service person to answer a question, these customer service resources offer lots of valuable information and say a lot about the direction, the company is going.
Does Private Internet Access Work with Netflix?
PIA couldn’t access Netflix; however, it now works with Netflix and many other streaming platforms.
Is using a VPN for Netflix illegal?
It is not illegal to watch Netflix using a VPN. However, it does go against the terms of Netflix about watching certain movies and TV shows from another region.
Who owns Private Internet Access?
Kape Technologies are the owner of PIA. It was purchased from London Trust media in 2019 with CEO Mark Karpeles.
How many devices can you have on private Internet access?
You can have 10 simultaneous device connections on Private Internet Access.
How do I turn off private Internet access?
All you need to do is locate the application icon on the system tray. Right-click on the icon and select ‘Disconnect.’ You can also open the app and select the ‘Power’ Button.
Note, this isn’t the same as how to uninstall Private Internet Access.
Is a VPN illegal?
Using a VPN isn’t illegal unless you are in countries that ban their use. Turkey, China, Russia, Iraq, North Korea, and the United Arab Emirates are the key countries that stop VPN use.
Is PIA VPN safe for banking?
PIA is very safe for banking as it uses encrypted tunneling features for data encryption of your data
Does Private Internet Access Keep Logs?
Private Internet Access keeps no logs of any user as they are using the VPN service.
Does PIA Auto-Renew?
However, most PIA accounts auto-renew ones created using Crypto, Gift Cards, or any region-specific options via a Payment wall will not auto-renew.
Does Private Internet access have a kill switch?
Private Internet Access offers an effective Kill Switch in case you lose your VPN connection. It will stop all IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks. You may need to enable this as it could be off by default.
How do you update private Internet access?
- Locate the latest Private Internet Access (PIA) update on the Downloads page.
- In the app beneath the connect Power Button
- In the app settings Menu (a green arrow shows up above the three dots)
- Right-click on the app icon in the System Tray. If there’s an update, you will see the new version number.
Where is PIA VPN based?
Private Internet Access is located in the USA which is a co-founder of the 5 Eyes Alliance.
Is This VPN Service for You?
Our PIA VPN review is unlike any previous as there are considerable differences on the surface and under the hood. There is much to like about Private Internet Access as it is moving away from its roots.
The website still looks dated, yet this is no reflection on the apps of the VPN service. They now have WireGuard as well as OpenVPN. There is split tunneling, and it can now access US Netflix better than several other VPNs can. Add in the 24/7 support team with live chat, and it’s like a new VPN.
It still has downsides, yet if you need security over streaming, you will be happy browsing knowing no traffic logs are sitting anywhere, or your data is there for the US government.
PIA has the largest number of servers, which is impressive, and for the price, this service could be convenient for a backup when travelling rather than clashing with your primary VPN.
If you wish to compare, use the 30-day money-back guarantee as a free trial before deciding.