How Do I Know if My VPN is Working?

A VPN is a fantastic security tool designed to protect us from the threats of the internet. But what happens if it doesn’t work? How do you even know when it’s not working?

The last thing you want is to be browsing the web, believing you’re protected when you’re not. In this article, we look at VPN tests, how to check whether your VPN is working correctly, and what to do if it isn’t. Keep reading to find out more.

Step One: Check for IP Address Leaks

Your IP address is an essential piece of information. It shows who your ISP is and approximately where you’re located. So the first thing to look at is whether your VPN is leaking your IP address. In simple terms, this means that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and the sites that you’re visiting can see your actual IP address, not your virtual one. The testing process is simple; just follow these instructions:

  1. With the VPN off, Google Search ‘what is my IP address?’
  2. Make a note of the IP address presented to you by Google
  3. Open your VPN and connect to a server
  4. Head back to Google and search again for ‘what is my IP address?’
  5. Check that the IP address is different

If the IP address is different when connected, the VPN is working, and your IP address is secure. However, if it is the same, your IP address is leaking, and you are not protected. This could be an issue with the VPN tunneling process or due to other reasons.

How to solve an IP address leak

The easiest way to fix the problem is by connecting to another VPN server and rerunning the leak test. This should solve the issue. If it doesn’t, close the VPN, restart your computer, reconnect to the VPN and try again. If it still doesn’t work, you’re using a VPN with poor security that isn’t capable of masking your IP address.

This could be that your VPN just isn’t good enough, or perhaps you have an IPv6 IP address, and the VPN can only handle IPv4. Either way, you should invest in a better quality VPN – we recommend NordVPN.

Step Two: Test for DNS Leaks

Testing for a DNS leak is very similar to the process of testing for IP leaks, with some subtle differences. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to test for DNS leaks:

  1. With your VPN off, visit a DNS leak test website
  2. You should see your IP address and approximate location
  3. Turn on your VPN and reload the page
  4. This should now display the IP address and approximate location of your VPN server
  5. Click on ‘extended test’ to see the DNS addresses identified

If the DNS address matches the location of your VPN server, then there are no DNS leaks. However, if the DNS address shows your actual location, despite being connected to the VPN, you are experiencing a DNS leak.

How to solve a DNS leak

A DNS leak is more complicated than an IP address one, and there are many reasons it could be happening. The best way to get help is by contacting the customer support team of your chosen VPN. If they can’t help, you may need to upgrade to a VPN with better DNS leak protection.

Step Three: Check for WebRTC Leaks

WebRTC or Web Real-Time Communication is built into the most popular web browsers, such as Chrome and Firefox. It’s another step in the process of loading a website, and you wouldn’t notice it happening, but it can pose a threat. A WebRTC leak is when your browser shows your actual IP address instead of your virtual one while making a WebRTC request. Here’s how to test for it:

  1. With your VPN off, visit a leak testing website
  2. You should see your actual IP address in the results
  3. Connect to your VPN and refresh the page
  4. This time, you should see the virtual IP address

If you still see the original IP address under the WebRTC test even when connected to a VPN, you have a leak, which needs to be addressed quickly.

How to solve a WebRTC leak

Unfortunately, not every VPN comes with WebRTC leak protection, as it’s considered a premium feature. Only the best in the market have it, such as NordVPN and Surfshark. So it could be that the VPN you’re using doesn’t have WebRTC leak protection. If unsure, contact customer support and ask. If this is the case, choose a different VPN service to protect you and your IP address.

Step Four: Check That You Can Bypass Blocks

If you want to know whether your VPN is doing its job and can overcome censorship or geographical restrictions, run some of your tests. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Connect to a VPN server located where you want to unblock content (e.g., US server for US Netflix)
  2. Head to US Netflix and load a video

If the video loads fine, great, the VPN works. If you get, the ‘this content is not available in your region’ error message, repeat the process and try again. It’s worth noting that not every VPN can unblock streaming services like Netflix, as they are notoriously challenging to bypass.

Reasons why your VPN can’t bypass blocks

  • The streaming service or website has anti-VPN technology that overrides your VPN
  • You are connected to a server in the wrong location and need to switch

Step Five: Run Speed Tests

Good VPN providers will not slow your internet connection down. A VPN connection can even help with speeds and stability. If you’re worried that your VPN might be slow or that you have poor network connectivity, conduct a speed test. Here’s how:

  1. With your VPN off, visit to check your internet speed
  2. Open the VPN client, connect and refresh the page
  3. Check if the speed when connected to the VPN is faster or slower

Things that can impact VPN speed

A slow connection doesn’t always mean that there is a problem with the VPN. Some things can impact your speed, including:

  • The quality of your ISP and internet connection
  • The number of people connected to your network
  • Your physical distance from the VPN server

How to improve your VPN speed

If your speed seems significantly lower on the VPN, visit a couple of test websites. For example, load Facebook or try and open a video on YouTube to see if you’re experiencing lag. If you are, try a few of these steps below:

  • Reset your wi-fi router
  • Test with a wired connection
  • Try a couple of different servers
  • Check that there are no firewalls or blocks in place

If you have followed these steps and have still not seen an improvement in your speed, contact customer support.

Which VPN Service Protects Best against Leaks?

NordVPN is one of the leading VPN services when it comes to combating leaks and data loss. It has DNS leak protection, as well as the same protection for webRTC and IP leaks. Other great options include Surfshark, Hotspot Shield, and Private Internet Access, all of which are well regarded in the world of online security and have premium security features.

What Should I Do if My VPN isn’t Working Correctly?

There could be many reasons why your VPN isn’t working. If you have conducted VPN tests and identified IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks, this needs to be addressed immediately as your privacy is at risk. The quickest and easiest way to get help is to contact the customer support team. VPNs usually provide 24/7 technical support and can help to resolve your issues.

My VPN is Working Properly, but it’s Not Great. What Can I Do?

If you have conducted all of the above tests and the VPN is working fine, but you’re still unhappy, we suggest changing to another VPN service. There are many VPN services on the market, but one of the best is NordVPN. Not only does it protect you against DNS leaks, WebRTC leaks, and IP leaks, but it provides fast speeds and has servers all over the world. If you’re not ready to switch, you could also speak to the customer support team of your current VPN to see if they can help.

Am I at Risk if My VPN Leaks?

Yes, if your VPN is leaking, your data is not protected. It means that websites and potential hackers can identify your actual IP address. This means that your browsing is not private or anonymous, and you will leave a trail of websites you visit and information about you and your device. Such leaks essentially render a VPN useless, which is why it’s essential to run tests.

How Often Should I Do a VPN Test?

Even if you don’t necessarily suspect something is wrong, you should run a VPN test every couple of weeks to check the VPN is working correctly. This is particularly important if you’re a frequent user and have particularly sensitive or personal information you wish to keep protected. DNS leaks and WebRTC leaks can happen at any time, and just because there wasn’t one last time you checked, it doesn’t mean there isn’t now.

Am I 100% Protected when Connected to a VPN?

This depends on the VPN service. A VPN is for extra privacy and security online. Unfortunately, nothing is 100% foolproof, and unfortunately, leaks can happen, and data can get out. This just further reinforces the need for regular VPN tests for DNS leaks and IP leaks. However, some VPNs come with better security and privacy features that can protect you more than most competition.

Some of the specific features you should be looking for are AES encryption and a network kill switch. A network kill switch will cut your internet connection if the VPN connection drops; this means that there are no reconnection leaks and your VPN provider doesn’t leave you exposed.

Are Leaks More Likely to Occur with a Free VPN?

Yes, they are. By design, free VPNs come with significantly less privacy and security features than premium VPNs. They do not guarantee leak protection, and some are not even capable of adequately hiding your IP address. If you plan on browsing the internet regularly, we recommend that you avoid free VPNs altogether. They have a limited selection of servers, speed limits, data caps, and you’re much more likely to run into issues like IP address leaks.

What Do IP Addresses Reveal about Users?

Thankfully, your IP address doesn’t tell anybody who you are. It does, however, reveal which Internet Service Provider your using and can give an approximate location. This approximate location can be very accurate at times, even down to the specific street. This is why it’s essential that IP addresses don’t get into the wrong hands and that you’re using a VPN whenever connected to the internet.

Author Cliff Durward

Hi, I'm Cliff. I'm based in Cleveland, Ohio, with my wife and two kids. I have a keen interest in cybersecurity and have been writing about it for around a decade now. Due to my background in computer science, I am familiar ...
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