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Tor vs VPN: Which is Better for Anonymous Browsing?

In a Tor vs VPN comparison, which is actually better for your online privacy, protecting your torrenting/p2p, and general ability to browse anonymously? While both can get the job done in some regards, only one of them can do everything.

Tor vs VPN: What are they?

First, let’s breakdown the acronyms:

  • The
  • Onion
  • Router

And

  • Virtual
  • Private
  • Network

Looking at their full names alone tells you a lot about them. You can picture Tor as layers and layers of different routers with you at the middle. And you can picture a VPN as a network made virtually private.

For visual learners, a Tor connection looks, in a stripped down form, like this:

tor vs vpn example

While IPVanish illustrates a VPN connection as looking more like this:

tor vs vpn diagram

A VPN is a straight path through an encrypted tunnel, while Tor is a bit more complicated and long. More on this crucial difference later.

Tor vs VPN: What a VPN does well

VPNs are the simplest, and easiest, choice when it comes to online privacy and security. You simply sign up for a VPN, such as any of the 10 we recommend, and click connect. Now all of your online activities, absolutely everything you do on the connected machine, will be encrypted and anonymous.

green thumbs upWhen comparing Tor vs VPN, here are the main strengths of VPNs:

  1. Connection speeds are much faster than Tor. Remember above where I was show how the paths for VPN and Tor differ? VPNs are direct, while Tor snakes through layers of ‘nodes’. This complexity is a huge downfall is it severely limits connection speeds, while VPN users will suffer a speed loss so minor they will not notice it.
  2. VPN clients include a number of very useful features in their clients. Examples include IPVanish’s’ kill switch technology to protect against dropped connection,and Hide My Ass’ automatic load balancing, and even malware fighting and firewall tools.
  3. VPN’s overall online security and privacy is stronger. The Tor browser isn’t really built for any serious use. Torrenting over it is a nightmare, and has not been recommended by the creators of Tor for over 8 years, and streaming video? Forget it. A VPN will protect everything you’re doing online, while still allowing for fast torrenting (here’s the best VPNs for torrenting) and pause-free video streaming.

When you’re comparing Tor vs VPN providers, it’s tough to make a real case for using Tor. In fact, the only real weakness that a VPN has is that it costs money. With a VPN like Private Internet Access you can expect to pay as little as $3.33/month.

Tor vs VPN: What Tor does well

Tor hasn’t been around as long as it has been without reasons. There are many people who use it, so what are they enjoying?

  1. With the possible exclusion of the NSA, no one can trace your IP address back to you. This is because of all the relays and split connections sent through the ‘onion’ routing.
  2. Since the network is spread out across so many machines no one government or organisation can shut it down.

Those are the only two advantages that Tor has over VPNs. The first point can be done by the right VPN, all you have to do is choose one which has a 100% no log policy, such as IPVanish.

The second point is unique to Tor in its own way, but don’t forget that VPN networks span the globe. If one is shut down in one country, as could happen, there are still hundreds of other countries which have VPN servers.

Tor vs VPN: Which to choose?

If you’re broke, so broke you can’t afford $3.33/ month for Private Internet Access, then you’d think that you would have to go with the free option: Tor. You’d be wrong. We have two highly recommended free VPNs to try out in a list of five.

Tor is good at what it does, no question about that. And there is certainly a place for it online. But compared to a high quality, no logging, VPN it simply isn’t on the same level. Try one of our top 10 VPNs to choose the right provider for your needs.

 

Image via peshkova / Shutterstock

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