VPNs provide anonymity, privacy, security, data protection, and access to restricted websites. This is why the number of users who are using a VPN is only expected to grow. It’s no surprise that so many users are relying on VPNs already, including you! As it is the case with any software, some glitches and bugs appear from time to time.
To make sure that your VPN client is fully operational, you can perform online tests. Your VPN client can malfunction for multiple reasons, and we’ll cover each of those reasons in this article. Stick around, and you’ll find out how you can test your own VPN client for any potential issue.
How do I test my VPN? IP address leak test
VPNs are known for their ability to hide your IP address effectively. This allows you to protect your identity while being active online. A study by CSIRO in 2017 showed that 84% of VPN providers leak their user’s data. What does this mean? It means that the VPN failed to hide the user’s IP address properly from prying eyes.
When you’re trying to access geo-restricted content with a VPN, you start your VPN client and change to a server in a region where the content isn’t blocked. That’s usually enough to convince the website that you’re located at a supported country. If you’re connected to the VPN and you still can’t access the geo-restricted website, it means that the website was able to track you and identify your original IP address. In other words, your VPN is leaking your original IP address.
Let me explain this:
- How a VPN hides your real IP address: VPNs hide your real IP address from the moment you’re connected to the VPN client. The way it does that is by acting as an intermediary between you and the online destination. When your data reaches the VPN, the VPN provides you with its own IP address. The websites you’re searching for will only be able to see the IP address granted to you by the VPN.
- Why IP leaks happen: An IP address leak is the leaking of a user’s real IP address while connected to a VPN client. IP leaks can happen when the VPN connection suddenly drops for a few moments (while you’re on the web) and reveals your true IP address. They can also happen through IPv6 leaks through your browser, which is more common, which has nothing to do with your VPN.
- How to test your VPN for IP leaks: To check whether your VPN client is doing its job properly, you can test your VPN by going to ipleak.net or ipleak.org. If these sites show your real IP address while you’re using the VPN client, then there is an IP address leak.
As I mentioned, in most cases, IP leaks happen as a result of sudden drops of the VPN client. Keep in mind that this is not a usual trait among VPN service providers. That’s why it’s vital to find a VPN provider with a high up-time. We’ve tested some of the top VPN service providers on our website, and here are the top two that our team recommends now:
[affilioProvider max=”2″ top=”n” cat=’home’]
Yeah, your VPN connection might just drop and your computer keeps sending traffic.
A simple software firewall mostly prevents this as well. Many VPN providers actually offer some sort of "kill switch" feature.
— jomo 🐳 (@0xjomo) March 23, 2018
While users have the option to turn this feature on or off, the idea here is to turn the kill switch feature on at all times to prevent IP address leaks from happening. The kill switch will automatically shut down your entire network connection so that your real IP address doesn’t get exposed.
How do I test my VPN? DNS leak test
A DNS or Domain Name System is a naming system that translates website names into a set of numbers called an IP address. The system basically translates the complex and hard-to-remember numeric addresses of web servers into easily understandable names. Each time you’re on the Internet browsing web pages, and you enter a specific domain name, let’s say “www.bestvpnprovider.co,” your computer first contacts a DNS server and requests the unique IP address for this website. This video below shows all you need to know about DNS, what it is, and how it works.
By using a VPN, your computer doesn’t send the data request directly to the DNS server. First, it reaches the VPN tunnel before it goes to the DNS server. A DNS leak happens when the DNS requests still go to the default DNS server instead of the VPN’s server. The DNS leak means that your ISP knows what you’re doing online; DNS leak also gives your IP address and location to the ISP.
However, this may not be your VPN provider’s fault. Your operating system (especially Windows) can actually ignore the fact that you’re using a VPN and routes DNS requests to the default server. The effect of a DNS leak is two-fold:
- Exposes your online activity: It gives your ISP a clear snapshot of what you’re doing online. Even though your ISP won’t know everything that you did (such as what items you bought online or what are your web preferences), the information it can get is enough to create an online profile of you, which in turn can be sold to data brokers, used by the ISP for its ad targeting campaign, or stolen by hackers to use for attacks.
- IP address leaks: It may leak your ISP’s IP address and location to the website you’re visiting. Even though it’s not your IP address that is directly leaked, this information is enough to trace your IP address.
Basically, a DNS leak exposes the websites that you visited, the files you downloaded, and the services you used while the leak occured. The thing about DNS leaks is that unless you test DNS leaks yourself, you won’t even know that a DNS leak happened.
So, how can I test my VPN for DNS leaks, you may ask? The way to test your VPN for DNS leaks is easy. You just need to follow these three simple steps:
- Go to dnsleaktest.com
- See if the displayed IP address and location match your actual ones
- For a DNS leak test click on either Standard or Extended test.
If you’re connected to the VPN and the test doesn’t display the actual ISP, your online traffic is safe. However, if the displayed IP address and location match your real ones, then either the VPN is not connected, or the VPN service is not working properly.
How do I test my VPN for DNS leaks while offline
I know what you’re thinking; there is an obvious catch about the method we mentioned above. Testing your VPN for potential DNS leaks while you’re on the Internet is risky. Why? Because if there really is a DNS leak, you are putting your personal data up for grabs to hackers and other malicious users. That’s why, other than the above method, there is another one that will allow you to test your VPN while offline.
Here’s what you need to do to test your VPN for DNS leaks while offline:
- Open the command prompt and type: ping [server name] -n 1.
- Choose any of the following server names.
Now just wait for the results to finish loading.
The image above is a screenshot from my own testing. While I covered the parts where my IP address was shown, this test showed my real IP address. I placed the following command: ping whoami.akamai.net -n 1. (Remember: you can type either one of the server names listed above.) After you do the test yourself, if you see your real IP address in any of the places that I covered with “IP address,” it means that there is a DNS leak.
Given that a DNS leak is a serious issue that contradicts the role of a VPN to protect and secure personal information, many VPN service providers have made great efforts to prevent DNS leaks from ever happening. Here’s what types of features you need to look for in your ideal VPN provider:
- DNS leak protection: Some of the top VPN service providers have a DNS leak protection feature. This is usually listed as one of the strengths of the VPN service provider, and it ensures that the DNS requests remain within the encrypted VPN tunnel.
- VPN with its own DNS server: Some VPNs have their own DNS server and have a “Zero Knowledge” policy. This practically means that even if a DNS leak were to happen, all your personal information would be safely stored on their DNS server.
Other than these things, you should also look for a VPN that is IPv6-capable. Make sure that you disable Teredo if you’re using Windows, and change the DNS settings on your device or router. Also, if you’re using a VPN with the latest OpenVPN protocol, you can simply add this line to .conf or .ovpn file to prevent DNS leaks: block-outside-dns.
Note that free or low-quality VPN service providers rarely have the DNS leak protection feature. You can only expect to see this feature in a top-quality VPN service provider. We have reviewed the best VPNs, and the best providers all take anti-DNS leaking measures that prevent DNS leaks from happening.
How do I test my VPN? WebRTC leak test
WebRTC allows video chat, real-time voice, and P2P sharing within browsers without you having to install browser extensions. However, since WebRTC reveals your IP address, it poses a privacy and security threat to VPN users. Here’s what you need to know about WebRTC leaks:
- What is WebRTC: WebRTC stands for Web Real-Time Communication. It is a collection of technologies which allow web browsers to establish communication with each other directly without the need for an intermediate server.
- Benefits of WebRTC: With WebRTC, you’ll have faster speeds and fewer lags for online activities such as video chatting, live streaming, and file transfer.
- How WebRTC detects IP addresses: WebRTC uses a special protocol, called the Interactive Connectivity Establishment (ICE), to detect IP addresses.
The thing about WebRTC is that the techniques that it uses to establish communication also reveal your IP address. To make sure you avoid WebRTC leaks, you can go to ipleak.net.
When you’re using a VPN, and you perform one of the tests above, you shouldn’t see your real IP address in the results. If you do, it means that your VPN is leaking WebRTC requests. To avoid WebRTC leaks, you should disable WebRTC in your browser in the following manner:
- Chrome for Android: In Android, there is a built-in capacity to disable WebRTC for Chrome.
- Chrome for desktop: Unlike in Android’s Chrome, desktop Chrome has no built-in capacity to disable WebRTC. You can only do the disabling through extensions.
- Opera browser: Like in desktop Chrome, you can only disable WebRTC in Opera through extensions.
- Firefox: There are two ways to disable WebRTC in Firefox: with extensions or through the browser’s setting.
The links above will show you how you can disable WebRTC in different browsers.
How do I test my VPN speed?
If your VPN is slowing your device down slightly, there is nothing wrong with the VPN. An acceptable level of latency is always expected when using a VPN. If your device is unusually slowing down, you might want to check up on that.
- Location of the VPN server: The further away your virtual VPN server is, the bigger the chances that you experience slower connection speeds. Given that it takes time for the data to travel, it is recommended to choose a server that is nearby.
- Speed of your ISP: If your Internet connection is slow to begin with, adding a VPN will make things slower. Keep in mind that ISPs throttle the speed of your connection when you visit certain entertainment and gaming sites. Using a VPN can actually speed up your connection in this case.
- Level of encryption: There is a trade-off between speed and security because the encryption process takes time. The heavier the encryption, the more time it takes to complete.
- Number of users on the VPN server: If there are a lot of cars in the lane, traffic will naturally be slower. The same applies to VPNs. The more users there are on the VPN server, the slower the connection will be. With a good VPN provider, you can always choose a server with fewer people. Some VPN providers will even do this for you automatically.
All these factors have an impact on the speed of your VPN. To test the speed of your VPN, you can simply go to speedtest.net, or speedof.me. These websites accurately show the speed of your connection.
What if these VPN tests prove there’s a leak?
The first and primary role of a VPN is to protect your security and privacy. If you find out that there is a leak in the system, then why are you even using a VPN? Regardless of whether there is an IP, DNS, or WebRTC leak, know that all of them can potentially reveal and expose your personal data, which is not something that you want. If you detect a leak, make sure to contact the VPN’s customer support team and see if there’s an issue on their end that causes the leakage while you’re using a VPN.
If the customer support service doesn’t resolve the issue, save yourself the hassle, and choose a high-quality VPN service provider that guarantees no leaks will ever happen. Below you can see some of the best VPN service providers in the industry!