Avast Academy Privacy VPN How to Check If Your VPN Is Working

How to Check If Your VPN Is Working

Is your new VPN leaking your data or giving an unreliable connection? We’ll show you how to perform a VPN test and check if your VPN is working properly to hide your IP address and protect your info. Then, find out why it’s important to protect yourself with a reliable VPN like Avast SecureLine VPN.

Written by Ivan Belcic
Published on May 20, 2021

How to tell if your VPN is securely connected

Many VPNs are far less secure than their developers admit. A quick VPN test will show you whether or not your VPN is masking your IP address, leaking your DNS info, or spilling other info that should be protected. Once you learn how to tell if your VPN is working, you’ll have everything you need to evaluate any VPN you use.

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    A VPN security test will reveal whether your VPN (virtual private network) is providing the level of protection you’re paying for — and if you’re using a free VPN, it’s probably not doing much at all. You can quickly and easily test your VPN connection and see if you’re as anonymous online as you should be.

    How do I know if my VPN is working?

    The easiest way to check if your VPN is working is to note your IP address before connecting to a VPN, and then to check the IP address again immediately after the VPN connection is established.

    Here’s how to check if your VPN is working:

    1. Turn off your VPN.

    2. Type "what is my IP address" into Google and note it or write it down.

    3. Turn on your VPN.

    4. Now check your IP address in your VPN, or Google "what is my IP address" again.

    5. Compare your actual IP address (from the second step above) to your new IP address.

    If the two IP addresses are different, your VPN is working. If the two IP addresses are the same, your VPN is not working — keep reading to learn how to fix it.

    Why your VPN is not working — and how to check

    When your VPN is working properly, it hides your identifying information from anyone online. But not all VPNs are built as securely as others, and many will inadvertently reveal information that could be used to identify you or your geographical location. If you’re trying to use a VPN to unblock websites, these leaks will prevent you from doing so.

    It’s especially important to check for leaks if you’re setting up your own VPN, since you can’t rely on a VPN provider for security. A trustworthy VPN for PC or VPN for Mac should already be leak-proof — but it helps to make sure.

    Here, we’ll review the three most common types of VPN leaks and show you how to check your VPN in each case. The best way to avoid all VPN leaks — and fix them if you find any — is to choose a secure and reliable VPN from a provider you trust to keep your data safe.

    IP address leaks

    Every device that connects to the internet has an IP address, which allows devices to communicate with one another online. IP addresses are linked to geographical locations, so if someone can see your IP address, they know where you are, down to the city or town. People can also use your IP address to track and monitor your activity online.

    One of the primary duties of a good VPN is to hide your IP address behind another one. Then, no one can identify your real IP address when you’re online.

    How to test for an IP address leak

    Any VPN worth its subscription fee should hide your IP address. It’s easy to check if yours is giving you this basic level of protection — or if you have a VPN leak.

    1. First, identify your actual IP address. Make sure your VPN is turned off. Your VPN may display your IP address, or you can search “what is my IP address” and find a number of sites that will quickly show you.

      Viewing your IP address in Avast SecureLine VPN for Windows 10

      If you Google “what is my IP,” you’ll see your IP address in either IPv6 or IPv4 format. Avast SecureLine VPN will display your IPv4 address, and many IP address lookup websites will give you both.

      Finding your IP address with a Google search

      Note your IP address — you’ll need to refer to it later during this VPN test.

    2. Turn on your VPN and connect to any server. The Virtual IP here is what your VPN IP address is, which should be different from the actual IP address you noted in Step 1.

      Viewing your virtual IP address with Avast SecureLine VPN for Windows 10
    3. Search “what is my IP” again in Google (or use an IP lookup site) and check the result against your VPN’s virtual IP address. If they match, then you know your VPN is effectively hiding your real IP address.

      Checking your virtual IP address in Avast SecureLine VPN against your public IP address in a Google search

      But if the IP check shows your actual IP address from Step 1, then your VPN has failed the VPN test and is leaking your IP address.

    How to fix an IP address leak

    If your VPN test showed your actual IP address, first try connecting to another VPN server and testing again. If that doesn’t solve the problem, choose a different VPN provider with better security. IP address tracking is one way companies like Google collect and use your data. While a VPN won’t protect against all types of web tracking, it will prevent you from being tracked through your IP address.

    Some VPNs don’t cover IPv6 connections. If you have IPv6 enabled on your computer, and you connect to an IPv6-enabled website, your VPN may secure your IPv4 address while letting your IPv6 traffic slip through. In this case, either disable IPv6 on your device, or choose a VPN that protects it. Any VPN that supports IPv6 will also support IPv4.

    Hiding your IP address is one of the primary reasons why people choose to use VPNs, and if you’re not getting this basic level of service from your VPN, take your business elsewhere.

    Avast SecureLine VPN uses bank-grade encryption on all our lightning-fast servers around the world to hide your IP address and keep you anonymous whenever you connect.

    DNS leaks

    The DNS (domain name system) is like the phone book for the internet. All websites have IP addresses, but it’s not practical to remember a unique string of numbers for every website you visit. The DNS matches a website’s IP address to its URL — such as avast.com. You can view and edit your router’s DNS settings in its admin menu.

    When you’re not using a VPN, your local ISP (internet service provider) handles your DNS requests, and the websites you visit can see where your DNS requests come from. 

    A good VPN should handle DNS lookups for you, but not all of them do. In these cases, a website you visit while connected to your VPN will still know where your DNS request came from. This also means your ISP will know which websites you visit, since they’ll be handling DNS lookups instead of your VPN.

    How to test for a DNS leak

    Checking for DNS leaks is similar to testing your VPN for IP address protection. Here’s how to test your VPN for DNS leaks:

    1. With your VPN off, head to DNSLeakTest, which will show you what your IP address is and display your general location.

      Checking one's IP address and DNS information with DNSLeakTest
    2. Now, turn on your VPN and reload the page. You should see your VPN’s IP address displayed here instead.

      Testing your virtual IP address and DNS protection with Avast SecureLine VPN on DNSLeakTest
    3. If these IP addresses match, then your VPN is protecting your IP address. Try clicking Standard Test or Extended Test under your DNSLeakTest info for more detailed results.

      Performing an extended DNS test on DNSLeakTest

    You can see that the results of the Extended Test reflect the US-based server we’re using via Avast SecureLine VPN. If these tests show DNS addresses that belong to your ISP, then your VPN is leaking your DNS info.

    How to fix a DNS leak

    If the results of your VPN test show a DNS leak, try contacting your VPN provider’s customer support. They may be able to address the issue. 

    Otherwise, switch to a better VPN with its own encrypted DNS servers — like Avast SecureLine VPN. This will ensure that your VPN won’t reveal your DNS info, which can be used to find your IP address.

    WebRTC leaks (and what is a WebRTC leak?)

    WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication) is a free, open-source solution that lets websites and apps host real-time audio and video communications, offer live streaming, and enable file sharing without using third-party software like extensions or plugins.

    A WebRTC leak happens when your browser reveals your actual IP address when making WebRTC requests while you’re connected to a VPN. A good VPN will prevent WebRTC leaks, but not all VPNs do.

    Let’s find out what happens with Avast SecureLine VPN.

    How to test for a WebRTC leak

    1. With your VPN off, head to a website that can test your VPN for WebRTC protection. Here, we’ll use BrowserLeaks. You should see your actual IP address under Public IP Address.

      Checking for WebRTC leaks with BrowserLeaks
    2. Connect to your VPN and refresh the page. If your browser is protecting you against WebRTC leaks, you’ll see your VPN-provided IP address here.

      Checking for WebRTC leaks with BrowserLeaks when using Avast SecureLine VPN

    In the screenshot above, the IP address in the WebRTC test matches that of our VPN connection — if you get similar results, then your VPN test worked and your VPN is hiding your IP address. 

    If you still see your actual IP address after the VPN test, then your VPN is leaking your IP address when your web browser makes WebRTC requests.

    How to fix a WebRTC leak

    If your browser is leaking your IP address via WebRTC, you’ve got several options. The safest, most convenient, and most effective solution is to use a VPN that protects against WebRTC leaks. As we’ve seen in our test above, Avast SecureLine VPN hides your IP address and forces your browser to use one of our IP addresses instead for WebRTC.

    And to ensure comprehensive leak protection, our dedicated privacy and security engineers built a simple VPN browser extension that’s easily launched from within the Avast SecureLine VPN app. With Avast SecureLine VPN’s extension turned on, you’ll get comprehensive protection against WebRTC leaks.

    You should be able to rely on your VPN to protect your personal data at all times: when you’re using WebRTC to video-call a colleague, banking online, sending a file, surfing over free public Wi-Fi, or trying to unblock a beloved website. Avast SecureLine VPN gets the job done every time, with bank-grade encryption and super-fast servers all over the world.

    Without a reliable VPN, you’ll need to disable WebRTC in your browser. This will stop WebRTC leaks, but it’ll also prevent you from using WebRTC-related functions at all.

    Test your VPN speed

    IP address leaks aren’t the only thing to worry about when testing your VPN. No matter how secure your VPN is, you won’t want to use it if it’s slowing down your internet connection.

    A number of factors can affect your VPN speed, and not all of them are due to the VPN itself.

    • Your internet connection: Your VPN can’t be faster than your actual internet connection. The best it can do is be just as fast.

    • Physical distance between you and the VPN server: The closer you are to your VPN server, the faster the connection will usually be. But this isn’t always true, since VPN speed can also depend on…

    • The number of people using the same server: If the closest server to you is handling lots of simultaneous connections, you might get faster service by connecting to one a bit farther away.

    • Your computer’s processing power: Your computer encrypts and decrypts data as it flows through your VPN. A struggling computer can’t support super-fast VPN speeds.

    • Local bandwidth limits: If you live in a region with bandwidth restrictions or limitations, your internet speed may suffer. The same can happen if you’re sharing an internet connection with other people.

    A quick VPN speed test will show you how well your VPN is performing. If you Google “internet speed test,” you’ll find one at the top of the search results. Click Run Speed Test to begin.

    Google's internet speed test in the search results for "speed test"

    How to fix VPN speed issues

    Is your VPN too slow? Here are a few ways you can speed up your VPN connection. But remember, your VPN can only be as fast as the speed you get from your ISP.

    • Disconnect and reconnect. You never know — sometimes a reset can make a difference.

    • Change servers. Experiment and see if you get faster speeds on a different server. Some VPNs can auto-connect you to the fastest available server at any time.

    • Try a wired connection. Wi-Fi is usually slower than Ethernet. You’ll likely get faster speeds if you connect your computer to your router with an Ethernet cable.

    • Close down other apps. The more apps that are funneling data through your internet connection, the slower everything will feel.

    • Do a malware scan. Malicious software can eat up your PC’s resources and slow it down. Try a virus removal tool to speed things up.

    What you should do if your VPN isn't working

    Has your VPN failed any of the VPN tests outlined above? If so, contact your VPN’s support team. If you’re using a trustworthy VPN, they should be available to resolve the issue.

    Otherwise, switch to a trustworthy and secure VPN that won’t leak your IP address or other personal info online. Avast SecureLine VPN hides your IP address and protects your internet traffic against DNS leaks and other privacy threats to keep you anonymous whenever you’re online.

    Protect your privacy with our trusted VPN

    There’s no reason to use a VPN that can’t keep your IP address hidden. For true online anonymity whenever you connect, choose a VPN from the cybersecurity experts trusted by over 435 million users worldwide. 

    Avast SecureLine VPN uses powerful encryption protocols to secure your internet connection against leaks of any kind, protecting you against anyone trying to access your personal data. Experience airtight online privacy today with our 60-day free trial.

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    Ivan Belcic