Private Internet Access (PIA) is probably the most popular VPN on the market today.
Despite being one of the cheapest VPNs, and having thousands of users, is it good enough for serious use?
In this review, we tested PIA server network performance, usability of their VPN app as well as the technology behind their VPN service (OpenVPN + 128-bit encryption).
Overall, here’s how it ranked:
Ranked #9th out of 74 VPNs
- Speed test: Fast
- Usability: 4/5
- Logging policy: No Logging
- Netflix: Yes (1 server worked)
- Torrenting: Yes
- Cost: $2.91/mo and up on PrivateInternetAccess.com
PIA Pros +
1. Fast Download Speed (81 Mbps out of 100)
One of the most important factors of a VPN is their download speed. If you’re signing up with a slow (read: bad VPN), you’ll end up with ridiculously slow speed.
However, things with Private Internet Access look quite good actually. As always, to make our PIA review accurate, I went to speedtest.net and put the following locations to the test: US, EU, Asia, and the UK.
P.S. The location I used to track the speed was in the middle of Europe: Estonia.
US Server (New York)
- Ping: 118ms
- Download: 77.56 Mbps
- Upload: 36.75 Mbps
EU Server (Amsterdam)
- Ping: 41ms
- Download: 81.46 Mbps
- Upload: 40.30 Mbps
Asia Server (Hong Kong)
- Ping: 283ms
- Download: 69.98 Mbps
- Upload: 13.04 Mbps
UK Server (London)
- Ping: 48ms
- Download: 75.67 Mbps
- Upload: 23.00 Mbps
Keep in mind, speed is an important factor and is vastly connected with the VPN software you’re using. Of course, there are some ways to speed up a VPN connection, but the main strength comes from the actual VPN servers.
2. PIA Claims No Logging
‘Logging’ is a practice used to monitor and record data points from your VPN activity.
For example, your internet service provider (ISP) will log which websites you access along with your personal information used to connect (like email or ISP). And they can actually sell that data.
Some VPN providers will log certain details, like when you log in or sign off, in order to monitor their usage to improve service.
PIA has a no logging policy that will not track or monitor traffic logs, or communication logs.
However, it does track some information, such as:
- Your email address
- Payment data
- Clients who opt to use the optional control panel will receive a temporary cookie
3. No Leaks Detected
Private Internet Access is located within the United States, a founding member of the Five Eyes Surveillance Alliance.
Not ideal right off the bat.
If they were to get their grubby hands on your data, it would end up in government databases all around the world.
Thankfully though, this is a system without leaks, which greatly hinders the government’s ability to spy on your browsing activity.
As you can see in the results below, PIA passed all of our tests, both to detect the presence of leaks and to ensure that their installation software was 100% clean.
4. Solid Encryption & Great Features
In addition to important features, such as:
- Anonymous IP
- Ability to torrent
- Kill-Switch (but people have complained about it)
- 5 simultaneous connection
- Total servers: 3059
- Total countries: 28 (last verified on 1st of March, 2018)
PIA also has several different levels of encryption:
The default settings use 128-bit encryption on your data, which is good, but not the best. However, you can step up your data encryption to 256-bit, which is the industry standard, and will give you a very secure connection (it will slow everything down a bit, though).
You can also choose the level of encryption on both your data authentication and your handshake. Both of these help your computer and the server verify the authenticity of the connection and the data being transmitted. The default settings are for SHA1 and RSA-2048, a 2,048-bit encryption key. That’s very difficult to break.
You can go all the way up to RSA-4096, though, and double the size of the data authentication key with SHA256.
Again, I recommend using the maximum settings so you get the best security possible. But if you really need extra speed, you could consider using the default recommendation. And while the Risky Business setting might seem like a good idea if you need extra speed for torrenting or streaming, we’d really recommend against it.
There’s probably not anyone trying to break your VPN encryption… but why risk it?
5. Specialized in Torrenting
If you’re looking for a VPN that won’t restrict your torrenting, PIA is a solid choice. They don’t restrict or monitor any connections, and that includes peer-to-peer file sharing.
You can use any torrenting client you like to download whatever you want, secure in the knowledge that your account won’t be blocked or your connection throttled.
While Private Internet Access’s website doesn’t specifically say that the company supports torrenting, they do say that P2P is supported. So that’s something. But the VPN has developed a reputation for being torrent-friendly, so people recognize them as being a solid choice for file sharing.
6. One of The Oldest and Well-Known VPN Providers
In the VPN world, it means a lot to have a reputation. And Private Internet Access has one of the best reputations in the business. They’ve been around since 2010, and they’ve provided reliable service ever since. In late 2017, they won the award for Most Stable VPN, which means a lot.
Was it sponsored or not? Hard to tell…
They’ve also received multiple editor’s choice award, but we can never know if they were compensated by PIA or not.
The VPN shows up in a lot of “best of” lists, and there haven’t been any serious questions about their commitment to privacy (though they’re based in the US, which can be problematic; keep reading and we’ll discuss that momentarily).
Being in business for almost 20 years is definitely a sign of prestige in the VPN world. PIA’s reputation and longevity make it a very safe choice.
The company also supports many organizations that are making the internet a better place, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Creative Commons, Blender, Inkscape, Gnome, and the Software Freedom Conservancy.
7. Decent Device Compatibility
PIA supports most popular platforms.
That includes Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and Firefox. They also have browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.
They also support routers, technically speaking. But that will require some manual setup through OpenVPN.
Not a huge fan of the extra labor. However, it does mean they’re compatible with DD-WRT, Lede, Merlin, PFSense, Tomato, and ASUSWRT routers.
Plus, you can then connect both smart TVs and game consoles to those routers. So there’s your light at the end of the tunnel.
8. One Out of Five Servers Worked
PIA’s support forums confirm that they’ve been working diligently for years to find ways around Netflix’s detection.
How have they fared?
We tested four of their servers and saw the same dreaded black screen:
Those four losers included:
- United States: New York
- United Kingdom
However, we did get a successful one in Sunny California.
Believe it or not, one out of four is pretty good these days. Especially when the majority of VPNs don’t even try to work with streaming services anymore.
But if you want a more consistent Netflix performer, take a look at this comparison.
PIA Cons –
1. No Live Chat, Tickets Only
Although PIA offers “24/7 North American” support.
They don’t actually have a live chat option.
I think that means their support personnel is located in North America. Seeing as the whole “24/7” thing means they should always be available (no matter where you’re located).
However, when I contacted them through a middle of the night, I got a response at next morning. Not so 24/7 anymore, huh?
On a positive side, they also provide a separate Twitter account dedicated to customer service. I took a look at that network to see how they interact with customers. The good news is that they will still try to provide long, detailed answers (despite Twitter’s condensed medium).
Furthermore, they have a FAQ page which might help some of you:
2. Located in The US
Private Internet Access is based in the United States, and that’s problematic for many people. The US has some of strictest, most privacy-invading surveillance laws in the developed world, and that applies to VPN providers. The government has been known to pressure VPNs to give up user data with secret warrants, and that worries privacy advocates.
Of course, the fact that PIA doesn’t keep logs means that they have very little to share with the authorities if they come knocking. But the fact is that they may not have a choice; if they have any data about you at all (such as whether you’re a customer or how long you’ve been one), they may be forced to hand it over.
Should that worry you? Maybe, and maybe not. There are rumors that the NSA has been able to break the encryption on some VPNs, which means the government could be snooping on your connection. If you’re using the maximum security recommendations, that’s less likely.
Because of the combination of surveillance laws and intelligence-sharing agreements in the US, I tend to avoid VPNs based there. But that doesn’t mean it’s completely necessary for everyone.
PIA Pricing, Plans & Facts
PIA has a single plan with tiered pricing based on the length you’d like to commit and prepay. That keeps things nice and simple. And you can also get a great deal if you’re ready to shell out a single year in advance.
- $3.33/mo ($39.95 per year)
- 2 years
- $2.91/mo ($69.95 per 2 years)
They offer a 7-day money back guarantee. So you can give the service a spin over the course of a few days. If you’re unhappy at all during those seven days, you can simply get your money back.
Interestingly, PIA accepts all kinds of different methods of payment. For starters, they’ll accept Bitcoin (which could also help you add another layer of privacy to the transaction).
But – and I’m not making this up – they also accept gift cards for popular retailers like Starbucks, Costco, Best Buy, Target, and more. So you know those random gifts your parents just bought you during the holidays? Now you just found a use for it.
Even better way to mask behind your identity?
- No logging: No activity logs, only payment and email information.
- Ease of the VPN software: Simple and smooth, installation file was over 60mb though.
- Upsells: No upsells.
- Instant access after payment: Yes.
- DNS leaks: Protection is built in (though you should always test it yourself).
- Jurisdiction: United States
- Protocols: OpenVPN, IPSec/L2TP, PPTP, Socks5 proxy.
- Kill-switch: Mixed reviews. Users can enable or disable it, and some have found that it doesn’t work as consistently as they like (I recommend testing it yourself).
Do I Recommend Private Internet Access?
Yes and No.
PIA offers excellent coverage in North America and Europe, with tons of servers centrally located. That coverage isn’t as great in other parts of the world, however, with only a few servers spread around the Middle East, Asia, Oceania, and a single, lonely one in Brazil for South American users.
PIA has all major protocols available, along with state-of-the-art encryption methods. Their annual pricing is among the lowest in the industry. And they’ve got a seven-day money back guarantee if you’d like to try them out.
No live chat and company located in the US. A lot less privacy in a Five Eyes country.
If you don’t want to go with PIA VPN, you can also find more VPN Reviews here.
Add your own review
P.S. Have you used/using Private Internet Access VPN? If so, please consider leaving a review below. Good or bad, doesn’t matter – we accept them all.
29 user reviews for Private Internet Access
Have used PIA for 3 years now and have never had any problems... I have used the speed checker and have been getting the same speed when PIA was either on or off. Net flix streaming doesn,t like PIA but I just switch it off when streaming although miss the American progs.. I used to find Gumtree here in the uk stalled at times with PIA but seems to work ok now..
I am very happy and will renew this year .. Thanks
Reliable and Secure
My friends, I have been a satisfied PIA customer for many years. The (very) few service calls I felt I needed to make to PIA over the years were always resolved promptly and courteously. I have used PIA without problems both in and outside the country. At least from my perspective, they have delivered and keep on delivering. Highly recommended. Regardless whatever VPN you are using, please make sure to check your connection often: ipleak [dot] net
Best budget vpn hands-down
PIA was my first paid-vpn about 5 years ago and have been very satisfied with it. Very reliable (keeps a connection for months at a time on linux with openvpn client) and maxes out at 80MBPS. Very consistent performance since I first subscribed, I am completely satisfied. Surprised at all the problems other reviewers have had, I guess it just depends on your location I have had no problems even on the go at relatives and hotels.
overall very good; works with all of my devices even linux PC with easy and painless install speed is decent any VPN with blazing fast speed you need to be skeptical if you really are behind it. Also- like the chrome add-in plugin option for those who want an alternative to traditional install. Lastly they accept gift cards providing additional level of anonymity.
PIA cannot be trusted
PIA is one of the worst VPNs I’ve ever used, and in a dozen years I’ve used quite a few. Terrible if not non-existent customer service, buggy software, massive doses of marketing hype, frequent lying, and many broken promises. On top of everything else they hired Mark Karpeles as their CTO, the same Mark Karpeles of Mt. Gox fame who presided over the biggest Bitcoin fraud in history. PIA is NOT a company that anyone should trust.
Not worth your money
My experience has been horrible with Private Internet Access. Frequent disconnects and I’m talking about it happening sometimes immediate. I struggled through trying to get help from their tech support without any success. Finally, I tried a free one called Psiphon, and it has far exceeded my expectations. I would never consider using Private Internet Access. It was a horrible experience and a complete waste of money.
Please, notice that PIA uses unique tracking codes in links within emails sent to their own customers. That suggests that after all, they act no differently to serious privacy offenders regardless of what they claim.
Renewed for two years
Frequent travel between US and northern Europe. I don’t even bother with a laptop any longer, and use only Android devices. PIA auto-connects on log in and has worked as advertised. No complaints!
Great VPN for a great price.
I have looked over VPNs day and night for years. I’m no expert but I am consistently reading up on the current best and worst and will try new ones from time to time. PIA is constantly proving to be my favorite.
While they are in the 5 eyes, they have proven in court time and again that they really don’t keep logs. They could be a bit faster, and could work for Netflix, but overall it’s a great one. I have used the app on Windows, Android, and iOS. I haven’t used it on Ubuntu for lack of need so far but it would probably work just fine with the track record so far.
The negative reviews probably are very fair. But I’d say that the bad reviews are more likely to be written than good ones, and the fact that there are fans like me show that generally they are great. Though I’ve never had any customer service issues, so going that rabbit hole may be a difficult road. Hopefully I won’t need that, haven’t yet in two years thankfully.
PIA last program to load in Windows 10
PIA always (for many months) is the last to load.
So I automatically connect to the Web and I have Firefox open in 15 tabs or so, all connected to the Web, but VPN takes minutes to load, so all web sites have my real IP address.
What’s the point of having a VPN then? I searched PIA forums and tried all kinds of fixes, nothing worked, so it’s time to move on, I’m planning on NordVPN or another …
PIA - Caveat Emptor
I bought and have been using a 2 year PIA plan based on the reviews here and other websites. So far so good.
I think this website should also write an article not only about VPN’s Zero Log Policies but how the VPN’s go about notifying their customers when they make changes. Changes to Policies and Zero Log Privacy Policies go hand in hand.
It may be time to look elsewhere for another VPN.
Very unhappy with PIA. Their service stopped working for me (I’m in the UAE) partway through my prepaid year of service, and their customer service basically said “Sorry, we can’t help.” I asked for a partial refund for the remaining balance of the year I prepaid for, and they refused. Unhappy with both their product and their customer service.
Meh, You get what you pay for
I used them for 2 years in a row. They were fast enough when I first joined, but over time, they just felt increasingly crowded, if their client app’s server utilization figures were to be believed. They have a lot of servers and they are all crowded was my experience.
They seemed short on IP’s too, in that I’d get “your IP address has had enough of you” errors when I clearly had yet to partake in that site’s offerings. More crowding.
Their client was smooth running, but with updates came problems. Problems I’ve never had with other VPNs like Nord or Express.
I left for good when they auto-renewed my membership when the option to auto-renew was definitely toggled to “off.” They refunded my money, but it took my time and effort to get it undone and that’s just lame…
Currently using PIA
I’m not huge into using too many VPN’s, but I’ve also tried Cyberghost and Hotspot Shield. They are a little slower than PIA and Zenmate from what I’ve noticed and they don’t have the features that PIA does but if you use Zenmate for a while, they give you free premium. I used them for about 3-4 months and eventually, they gave me 6 months premium, so they’re also a great alternative to PIA that I would definitely recommend.
Good service, all in all.
PIA has worked pretty well for me all in all. Which is good because their customer service is a joke. I had some issues early on and only email was available to have my issue remedied and it took them a few days to get back to me and then when I instantly responded, a few more days to get back to me again.
It is ridiculous that there isn’t a phone number or internet way to talk one on one in real time to your customers. I am not sure if it is still that way but when I signed up, that was how they handled things.
Difficulties in the UK
I’ve been using PIA for about 18 months now, and enjoyed it without any noticeable reduction in Mb/sec up until my move from the USA to the UK 6 months ago. Since then, in order to get around the “child block” on my Virgin Media broadband host, I’ve had to enable stricter settings in PIA that make my wireless card unuseable after turning the VPN off. The issue is fixed by running a troubleshoot on my wireless drivers, but is still a major inconvenience.
Furthermore, PIA does not work for Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime, which was the main reason I purchased. Overall, recommend if you live in the US and care about your privacy, not so much for overcoming internal media regulations.
PIA makes me happy
The PIA client works fine for me on Windows and Android. There is a nice selection of locations to choose from and the interface is easy. My native bandwidth is a few hundred meg on FTTH, and I don’t notice much of a drop when running the VPN.
On the downside, the client does sometimes disconnect, and it would be nice to just be able to tick an auto-reconnect option instead of manually having to. Also, their support can be a bit hit and miss, but when it’s a “hit”, they will do anything for you.
Initial impression - not worth it
I just installed PIA and my download speed has gone from 70+ Mbps to 27-29 Mbps. Maybe I configured something wrong but I don’t see anything to configure.
Unless I find something, I have to say that this product is not worth it. Good price, but who wants to lose that much speed?
PIA isn't so great with TOR.
One of the primary differences of VPN access through TOR or TOR Access through VPN would require in the latter case to allow & enable one to be able to pay easily through Crypto. However, this does not seem to be the case with PIA.
One of the fundamental uses of this becomes apparent when internet controls have slowly started become evident in the Middle & Far East and therefore easy ways to access the world wide web would be crucial to take things forward given the complete freedom that is being offered in the US – not monetarily but in terms of ALL-ACCESS (net neutrality debates notwithstanding.)
I guess PIA can address the “Access” aspects in a much better fashion than it is doing now and go a long way to address how neutral it is to the “net neutrality biases” which all seem to discuss the “how much access will I get for the money I pay?” The access is there, however it is the quality of access (speed) etc. which is the truly underlying issue.
I think PIA needs to address that particular aspect of giving “Easy Full” access for the money we pay better. “All Access is anyways in the nature of the VPN”.
Cheap and works great on desktop, loses points on mobile.
I’ve never had a problem with Private Internet Access, and they’re one of the cheapest providers around. Long list of locations you can route through, and the speed difference when on or off is negligible. Then again I do have ADSL2+ which means I couldn’t say for sure what the speed effect is as that’s pretty awful already.
Lost points for the mobile app which doesn’t seem to work as well and often will make the phone appear offline if the connection isn’t made straight away. If I needed it for mobile I’d use a different service, but the desktop version is my primary use and I’m happy with it.
genuine company that cares
I tried out PIA to bypass the restrictions of torrenting that were put in place by my country rather than for privacy. Admittedly, I only used it for around a week or two, as I realised that I hardly ever torrent content anymore.
It worked well enough – no speed issues, cross-platform compatibility, and had a ton of server locations to choose from, several even in remote areas. I found the price to be the most affordable among many others – with a wide range of payment methods, even gift cards.
PIA is definitely good value for money – it’s what you expect for the price you pay, nothing more nothing less, but above all the customer service is amazing. I requested a cancel and refund after a week (as allowed on their website) and they got back to me within less than a day. The process was straightforward and not once did I feel as if I was being pressured to continue with the service, which is what companies usually do – I was accommodated well to my needs.
I have a lot of respect for PIA after this and so this review is quite biased, but they seem like a genuine company that cares for its users, something that I value highly given the precarious nature of public VPNs.
Questionable logging policy
While PIA has been and is an exceptional VPN, they have recently started advocating popular political agendas.
If you’ve ever lived in an area that’s Gone from peace to war in a matter of hours, then you understand that security and privacy company advocating political viewpoints is neither private nor secure. I need to be sure my privacy is protected no matter which way the political wind blows.
PIA - The easiest VPN client to use
I love using PIA. This is actually my second year of using it and I’ve had no issues at all. I also love the fact that I can add multiple devices. That was a must with me since I use a cellphone, a laptop, and a desktop. I love how easy it is to use on my macbook especially since it runs nicely in the background. This has a really easy to use interface that makes it perfect for me.
The drop down menu on my Macbook’s toolbar allows me to toggle the location of the VPN and also whether or not I want to enable it at all. It has no gimmicks involved and is just a clean cut VPN provider that delivers.
I have used this server for years from the UK. They have fantastically fast servers which goes well with my ISP Virgin 220 Mbps down / 12 Mbps up. I have only had to contact their support dept once in many years and they were extremely knowledgeable.
They keep NO LOGS whatsoever, and there are many anonymous ways to pay if you want e.g.. Starbucks voucher.
Highly recommending this VPN provider.
Doesn't work anymore
Recently I noticed a big slow down on bandwidth while connected to this VPN, and did some investigating. What I discovered was PIA was connecting me to an Arizona server, while it said it was connected to the Toronto server in Canada. Also my ip was on full display for all to see. I created a ticket and it’s been more than a week and ZERO support! I immediately change vpn providers! Was with PIA for many years, but no more! PIA just doesn’t work as a VPN anymore, so I’ll avoid it like the plague.
ZERO CUSTOMER SERVICE.
Reported this to PayPal and many other entities. PIA needs to fold up and disappear! You won’t ever get another penny of my money for your garbage service!
PIA has virtually no customer service
In 2015 I had PIA for a year and it was pretty good. They used to have chat support that was helpful. They no longer have chat support or even a customer service phone number. I signed up after not having a VPN for a year and cancelled for a refund a few hours after ordering. PIA no longer met my needs.
Their customer support article reads that you can cancel within the first 7 days and a refund will take 3-7 days. It has now been 10 days and no refund or response other than generic auto response emails that state they are too busy to process my request and will get to it when they can. I would have recommended them in 2015, but definitely not in 2017.
A complete lack of customer support gets two thumbs down! Phone support would definitely help.
Have used PIA for three years, along with others, which never measured up. PIA has consistent connections (I have been dropped twice, and use VPN whenever connected), and a real kill connection that works. The fast speeds have kept me as a long-time user. Don’t be lulled by the “no logs” hype. No logs refers to the initial connection IP record.
All servers keep logs (IMO).
PIA is the fastest VPN that I've used.
I’ve been using PIA for a month now. Before that, I’ve tried a big variety of services (including free ones like Betternet).
None of them have such an easy UI as PIA. PIA stays minimized on your taskbar and you can just right click and connect to a server from there.
They have tons of servers, which are really quick, and if I say really, I mean a lot.
+1 from here
PIA is by far the best
Based on my knowledge, nothing can beat PIA. It’s easy and simple to use, connects within seconds and is very reliable software.
I especially like that you can keep it minimzed on your taskbar and quickly change server locations.
Furthermore, PIA connects to a server pretty much instantly while many other VPN providers can take 5-10 seconds.
PIA is a great tool – no doubts about that.