Laptop on top of a speeding a rocket.

Looking around all the VPNs on the market, you quickly notice that more than a few of them like to make wild claims, like offering protection from hackers or viruses. Another of these claims is that they can improve your ping. Let’s see if that’s even possible.

Can a VPN Improve Your Ping?

Before we go into any detail, let’s make one thing clear: in most cases a VPN will not be able to improve your ping, either while gaming or otherwise. There are some very specific exceptions—we’ll go over them below—but under normal circumstances there’s no way to improve your ping using a VPN. You may want to think twice about buying from anybody claiming otherwise, as it’s a sign of an untrustworthy VPN.

The reason for this is simple: ping, better known as latency, is how long it takes for data to travel between two points. When you use a VPN, you’re rerouting your connection, making the trip longer for the data and thus increasing latency. The further away your connection is, the longer the trip will take.

On top of that, a VPN will also encrypt your connection. This is great, because it will protect you from surveillance by third parties, but it does slightly slow down your connection’s reaction time as it has to encrypt and then decrypt each signal it sends and receives.

For example, if you’re in California and make a connection with a VPN server in Utah, your ping should only increase a little bit. However, connect to a server in New York and it’ll likely shoot up, and even moreso using a server in faraway places like the UK or Japan.

During testing for VPN reviews, like our Surfshark review, we have seen a low latency of around 4 milliseconds increase to about 20ms to a local connection. Overseas connections can increase to as much as 200ms, or even over, depending on the VPN service you use. You’d be surprised how quickly these numbers rack up; numbers as high as 800ms are possible!

High Ping Pique

Ping issues can quickly annoy you as any command you give to a site will take longer to complete. Click a hyperlink? You’ll have to wait. Want to go to the next episode of the Netflix show you unlocked? You’ll have to wait. High latency is like a time machine back to the bad old days of modems and dial-up.

It’s even worse if you’re using a VPN for online gaming. If you want to use a VPN so you can access servers in different parts of the world, for example, any latency will result in lag that could make the game a lot harder to play. If other players can reach father because they have better ping, you’re going to find yourself looking at a lot of respawn screens.

When a VPN Can Improve Your Ping

However, just like with VPN claims that they can speed up your connection, there is a tiny grain of truth to boasts of improving your ping. In very specific circumstances, a VPN can improve latency. These usually have to do with any issues with your internet service provider (ISP).

When you use the internet, you first connect to your ISP’s server before connecting to the site you want. Occasionally, you’ll find a bottleneck between the ISP server and the site which can increase latency. This higher ping can be a throttle placed by the ISP to improve the network’s efficiency, or can be some kind of technical problem.

In these very specific circumstances, a VPN can improve ping since rerouting your connection can help you get around these bottlenecks. You likely won’t see too much of a gain, though—a few milliseconds at best.

These circumstances are so rare—and the benefit so minimal—it’s getting close to false advertising to claim any benefits to using a VPN to improve ping. Take our advice and stay well away from any provider making those claims; none of our selection of best VPNs do this, for example

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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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