A VPN logo superimposed over an illustration of a global network.
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If you’re using a VPN or planning to sign up to one, there are a few easily overlooked features that will help you make the most of your new virtual private network. Let’s take a look at six of them.

A Killswitch

We’ll kick off with one of the most important features any VPN can have: a killswitch. In short, a killswitch will “kill” your internet connection whenever your VPN fails, for whatever reason. This is important because, while a VPN isn’t working, your traffic can be identified. A killswitch prevents this.

A killswitch is particularly important for people that are using a VPN to escape censorship and torrenters, though they’re useful for just about anybody. Thankfully, most VPNs have them enabled by default, though some don’t have one at all—while others, like NordVPN, require you turn it on. To see how to do that, check out our NordVPN guide.

Streaming Service-Cracking

Though we realize a good proportion of VPN users already know you can crack Netflix’s regional libraries using a VPN, we have a feeling not everybody realizes exactly how many other services you can access, too.

For example, European users can access U.S.-only service Hulu (though they’ll still need a U.S. credit card), while watchers the world over can use a VPN to access BBC iPlayer and watch the British broadcaster’s library for free. All you need to do is enter a fictitious British address and you’re good to go.

You can also use your VPN to access any number of other streaming services, including some that specialize in sports. No matter if you’re a European fan of American football or a U.S.-based fan of soccer, you can find a game to watch at any time.

Modern VPN Protocols

Another important thing to check about your VPN is to see which VPN protocol it uses to connect to the internet. A VPN protocol is the set of rules with which machines talk to each other, and in the case of VPNs it can influence the security as well as the speed of your connection. The best VPN protocols will keep things moving fast while also keeping you safe.

The best VPNs usually use OpenVPN or even a proprietary protocol, but it’s definitely something you want to check and make sure of. You can usually find protocols in the settings menu and we recommend that you try different protocols to get the best results. That said, make sure to focus only on proven protocols like OpenVPN so you can be sure to stay secure.

Split Tunneling

Another cool feature is split tunneling, the ability to decide which programs or apps use the VPN connection and which don’t. It may not seem all that useful at first glance, but it’s perfect in several scenarios. For example, you could download a Steam game on an unsecured connection and get good speeds while still browsing securely with the VPN on.

It’s also good for BitTorrent usage, as it means you can seed a file securely while still browsing at your normal speed. If this feature sounds good to you, make sure that your VPN of choice has it as not all VPNs include it. For example, NordVPN and ExpressVPN have it, while several others do not.

Multiple Simultaneous Connections

If you want to make the most out of your VPN subscription, you may want to keep in mind that almost all providers allow you to have multiple simultaneous connections active. This means you can have the VPN active on several devices at the same time.

This is great if you have a desktop as well as a laptop and smartphone, but it also means you can share your subscription with others and defray the costs a little. Some VPNs allow as many as 10 connections at any given time, meaning you could have every member of your family browsing securely without spending an extra penny.

Performance Checks

Lastly, one important thing you should always do when trying out a new VPN is to check its speed and security. While some, like ExpressVPN, offer built-in tools, we prefer to use independent measurements to see how your new piece of software performs. To do a VPN speed test you could try using speedtest.net, for example.

Besides speed, you should also test whether or not a VPN is working properly by conducting leak tests and some other security readings. Taking your new VPN through these motions will take just a few minutes and it’s a great way to make sure you’re getting what you paid for, so we recommend everybody do it.

The Best VPN Services of 2023

Best Overall VPN
Private Internet Access
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Profile Photo for Fergus O'Sullivan Fergus O'Sullivan
Fergus is a freelance writer for How-To Geek. He has seven years of tech reporting and reviewing under his belt for a number of publications, including GameCrate and Cloudwards. He's written more articles and reviews about cybersecurity and cloud-based software than he can keep track of---and knows his way around Linux and hardware, too.
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