If you use Linux-based hardware and apps in your home entertainment setup, you might be looking for a VPN service that works across your system.
Here are the best VPNs to use with Linux while streaming.
What Is the Best VPN for Linux?
There are many VPN providers out there, and a bunch of them support Linux. Frankly, there’s no such thing as any one provider that is better than all others. Which one you choose depends on what you value most.
So I won’t dive into benchmarks; these services mostly offer decent speeds. Also, all of these Linux VPN providers promise not to keep logs (which makes sense—if a VPN provider doesn’t keep records, all they can hand over to law enforcement are timestamps of when and where an IP address connected to a server). Each service offers a similar set of security features to limit the chance of your identity leaking.
Instead of these factors, what’s that special something that might make one Linux VPN stand out to you?
1. ProtonVPN: A Trustworthy Free VPN for Linux
ProtonVPN comes from the folks behind ProtonMail, an encrypted email service that draws income from payment plans rather than ads. Both services are based in Switzerland, a country with relatively strong privacy laws.
You can use ProtonVPN for free with no data restrictions, which sets it apart from the others on this list. When it comes to free VPNs, you need to be suspicious when the business model isn’t transparent. In this case, you know how ProtonVPN gets its money. While the service is only a few years old and hasn’t yet received an independent audit, its mail offering has established some prior goodwill.
The free option is limited to one device. Paid plans are on the costlier side. A $4 a month plan doubles that to two devices and gives you access to all the available servers. $8 dollars ups you to five devices.
2. Private Internet Access: An Affordable Community Supporter
Private Internet Access (PIA) is a well-established VPN provider that has long donated money to various projects and organizations within the Linux ecosystem. The company has yet to open itself to external audits, but it has funded audits for other open source projects that it depends on, such project as OpenVPN.
PIA comes with a graphical Linux VPN client that takes the complexity out of establishing a connection. This app isn’t yet open source, but that is in the process of changing. The company announced in 2018 plans to open source all of its client software, and you can visit its Github page to track the progress.
Purism has announced that PIA will ship by default on the Librem 5 GNU-based smartphones.
PIA costs $6.95 a month or $3.33 per month if you pay by the year. That makes it one of the cheaper paid options out there.
3. Librem Tunnel: From a Linux PC Maker
Purism’s partnership with PIA extends beyond the Librem 5. The company offers a bundle of online services to complement its full range of privacy-focused hardware, including the Librem 13 and Librem 15 laptops. This bundle includes a VPN service called Librem Tunnel.
On the backend, Librem Tunnel is part of a collaboration between Purism and PIA. But for you, the payment model is different. You can get Librem Tunnel as part of the Librem One bundle, which includes a Chat, Mail, and Social client plus already announced future add-ons such as Librem Dial.
Prices start at $7.99 a month or $71.91 for the year. Purchasing Librem One is a way to get a Linux VPN while also supporting a company working to make Linux, free software, and online privacy more accessible.
4. ExpressVPN: Great for Streaming Media
While VPNs provide a way to get around regional restrictions to watch content such as BBC anywhere in the world, this doesn’t always work. Netflix blocks PIA, for example. ExpressVPN is one alternative that’s better able to stream what you want.
ExpressVPN supports numerous distros, including Ubuntu, Fedora, Arch, and Raspbian. The Linux app works via the command line, but you only need to know a couple of commands to get up and running.
ExpressVPN has opened its doors and services to an independent audit. It is a highly-regarded service that, unlike PIA, isn’t based in the US. ExpressVPN’s headquarters are located on the British Virgin Islands.
ExpressVPN costs $12.95 per month, but that drops to $6.67 a month if you purchase a full year of service.
5. AirVPN: The Activist’s Open Source Tool
AirVPN began in 2010 when a group of activists, hacktivists, hackers, two free lawyers, and a company with an open wallet came together to create a free service that protected people’s privacy. It soon added a commercial side, which became the product available today.
One of AirVPN’s strengths is that it comes with a graphical interface, making the service more welcoming if you don’t want to dive into the terminal. The source code is available on GitHub. The network relies on OpenVPN.
You can use AirVPN for as short as three days if desired. A monthly plan costs $5.59, whereas a yearly commitment comes out to $4.56 a month. Three years goes for $3.08 a month.
6. NordVPN: Good All Around Linux VPN
NordVPN is based in Panama, a country that doesn’t require logs and does not take part in the Five Eves and Fourteen Eyes alliances. NordVPN received an independent audit in 2018 affirming that it didn’t keep logs.
NordVPN Linux downloads are available as in the DEB and RPM formats. The software runs in the command line, but all you do is login and select a server to get started.
NordVPN costs $11.95 a month, or $6.99 if pay by the year, and $3.99 if you commit to two years. That company also offers a 3-year arrangement for $2.99 a month.
7. TorGuard: For More Servers
Connection points matter. The less distance between you and the nearest server, the faster your connection. Connecting to a VPN’s server on the opposite side of the globe isn’t likely to provide the best experience.
TorGuard provides over 3,000 VPN servers in over 50 countries. No matter where you live, there is unlimited bandwidth and no throttling. TorGuard offers a few other perks, such as private email that uses OpenPGP encryption.
TorGuard’s Linux app is another one of the relative few that has a graphical interface. Plans start at $5.95 a month, which goes down to $46.95 if you pay for the year.
8. Mullvad: For Anonymous Accounts
Many VPNs will accept anonymous payments in the form of Bitcoin as one way to fund an account. Mullvad goes further by actively encouraging you to pay anonymously, even going so far as to accept payments in cash (though that means mailing money to Sweden, if you don’t already live there). Mullvad gives you an account number, which is all you need to connect to the service’s servers. The service does not ask for an email address.
Mullvad’s website explains subjects in a conversational and easy-to-follow way, even if you’re new to VPNs. The blog contains posts highlighting coreboot and other open-source software on the servers used, plus the need for VPN transparency. Mullvad has also released findings from an independent security audit.
Pricing is straightforward. You pay €5 a month (roughly $5.60). Mullvad gives you some flexibility in the number of months you pay for at once, but you won’t receive a discount if you do.
On the downside, Mullvad uses the untested WireGuard protocol, however. Some security researchers have criticized the decision, although no exploits have yet been discovered. In comparison, OpenVPN has been extensively tested and audited.
How to Add a VPN
If your VPN doesn’t provide a Linux app, that doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t compatible with Linux.
OpenVPN is free and open source software used to establish VPN connections. Most of the major VPN providers support the protocol.
You can generally add a VPN manually using configuration files for OpenVPN. If you use GNOME (the most popular free desktop environment, which also ships on computers from Linux PC providers System76 and Purism), you can add a VPN in the system settings app. Go to Settings > Network > VPN. Then click the + sign.
You can also use Qomui, which provides a way to manage and monitor VPNs that use on OpenVPN.
These two approaches are fallback options if your chosen Linux VPN doesn’t provide an installer that works on your Linux distribution. But for most new Linux users, such tinkering won’t be necessary.
Learn More About VPNs and Streaming
VPNs are not the only option available to you. Some VPN alternatives will still offer both security and geo-blocking benefits.
And remember, although free VPNs are not recommended from a security standpoint, you can still use them to stream video safely if you know how. If you only need to unblock content, you only really need a proxy server.