NordVPN Review

OK, so with that introduction into how VPNs — and, specifically, NordVPN — works, let’s look at how to set up and install NordVPN. We’re going to do this on a Windows machine, but the practice is very similar for Macs, Linux, and mobile devices.

How does NordVPN work? Plus how to set it up and use it

NordVPN is one of our higher-rated VPNs, and we’ve had a number of chances to get to know the company. Here’s everything you need to get it, install it, configure it, and use it successfully.

david-gewirtz

Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor on Aug. 20, 2021

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The acronym VPN stands for virtual private network. Those three words tell a lot about how a VPN works.

Let’s start with network. VPNs provide network connections, meaning they move data to and from your device. Private means they make that movement private, helping prevent hackers from seeing what you’re sending. And virtual means that you’re doing it all in software. You’re not running a new set of wires. Instead, you’re creating a software-based network connection that then moves data over the physical connection (whether that’s wireless or wired).

What a VPN actually does is take data that you’re sending out over the Internet and encrypt it before it leaves your machine. That encrypted data is sent to the VPN provider’s servers, where it’s decrypted, and then sent on to, say, Google or Netflix. NordVPN, which is the service we’re talking about today, has more than 5,200 servers across the world.

On the flip side, a VPN takes data from a server on the internet, encrypts it on one of Nord’s servers, sends that encrypted data to your computer, which decrypts it when it arrives.

This is what provides protection against, in particular, Wi-Fi snoops at airports, hotels, and schools. By virtue of your data leaving the VPN provider’s server (which, for NordVPN, can be in your choice of 60 countries), your actual location can be hidden, and the final server sees as your location what’s actually the location of your provider’s server.

That’s how VPNs obfuscate your location. Although it’s sometimes illegal, many people use this capability to change their apparent region to watch blacked-out sports or region-locked TV. Far more important is that activists and those concerned about stalkers use it to hide their location for their personal security.

OK, so with that introduction into how VPNs — and, specifically, NordVPN — works, let’s look at how to set up and install NordVPN. We’re going to do this on a Windows machine, but the practice is very similar for Macs, Linux, and mobile devices.

NordVPN at a glance

  • Servers: 5242
  • Countries: 60
  • Simultaneous connections: 6
  • Kill switch: yes
  • Logging: Email address and billing information only
  • Price: $11.95 per month
  • Best Price: $89 for two years ($3.30/mo)
  • Trial: 30-day refund guarantee
  • Supported platforms: iOS, Android, MacOS, Windows, Linux, game consoles, smart TVs, more

Installing NordVPN

To kick things off, point your browser at the NordVPN website. The company does run promotions from time to time, so the promotion shown here may or may not be on the site when you visit.

Once you click in, you’ll need to choose your plan, create an account, and purchase the service.

At this point, it’s time to dig into the dashboard to get your download. Once you log into your account, you’ll see the dashboard. Unfortunately, unlike most of the other VPN services we looked at, the most appropriate download isn’t immediately presented. You’ll need to click View Details first.

There are some helpful resources shown on this next page, but what you want is the Download link.

And now, finally, you can download the Windows client.

Once downloaded, go ahead and hit the Open File link.

And tell Windows that yes, you did want to do what you just did.

And then tell Windows where to put the client program.

You can choose to add a desktop icon and a start menu entry. This is a test Windows install that was setup just for this demo, so we’ll drop both the icon on the desktop and into the Start menu. Normally, on my production Windows machines, I don’t let installers put icons on the desktop (if given the option). It’s your machine, so choose as you wish.

And just to quench your need to click even more, here’s one more screen before the install actually happens.

Nope. I was wrong. This is the last screen you have to click before the install is done.

Yes, Virginia, there really is an application at the end of all those clicks. Go ahead and log in using the same account and password you established when purchasing the service.

Checking Settings

OK, now that we’re finally in the client application, hit the almost hidden gear at the top of the window to get into the settings area.

This first page allows you to choose whether the client is always running when you start Windows and whether the screen is minimized. If you want things to happen behind the screen, turn on minimized. If you want a reminder that NordVPN is present, let it show up on you’re your screen at normal size.

Let’s move down to the Auto-connect tab. This is pretty powerful. You can decide that your computer is always routing traffic through the VPN or not. You can also turn it on if you’re using Wi-Fi instead of a hard-wired connection. You can also tell that certain Wi-Fi networks (like your home or office network) don’t need to be set up with the VPN service. That way, when you leave home and go to, say, a coffee shop, it will automatically connect via the VPN. Powerful option.

The last settings pane we’re going to look at today is the Kill-Switch. This shuts down your Internet connection if the VPN link is severed. This is important because you don’t want data to suddenly go across the network unencrypted and unprotected.

Using NordVPN

And, with that, let’s get started using the VPN service. The easiest thing to do is hit Quick Connect. You can also choose the country you want to connect via.

I’m in the US Pacific Northwest, so it makes sense that NordVPN connected me to a reasonably close server.

When done, you can punch the Disconnect button.

Finally, there’s a hidden feature under the Disconnect button. You can disconnect from the VPN for a specified period of time. This is good if you have to access something over a local network, but want to make sure the VPN is turned back on after.

So, there you go. That’s how to use NordVPN. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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NordVPN Review

A VPN that’s built for first-time users and experienced users alike.

4.8 out of 5 stars

Incredibly user-friendly
Zero traffic logs
Odd interface/connectivity quirks

John Brandon

Mar 21, 2023
5 min read

We may earn money when you click our links.

There are a lot of virtual private network (VPN) services out there, and even if you eliminate the fully free ones (you really should; VPN trials are the way to go) and shortlist the best premium VPN services, there are still at least a handful of options that are well worth considering.

And one of the top contenders in that shortlist is NordVPN. It’s a great place to start for those intimidated by VPNs, and the more you’re willing to buy, the cheaper the monthly cost becomes.

A screenshot of the NordVPN interface showing connection options in Australia as an example

NordVPN prices and plans

Compared to its competitors, NordVPN hangs around the middle for typical monthly pricing but, as is the trend, you can bring that pricing down by paying for a longer period of time. So how much is NordVPN? While the usual monthly cost of the Standard plan is $12.99 per month, you can slash that to $4.59 a month on a one-year plan or cut it back further to $3.29 a month on the two-year plan.

If you don’t mind paying more initially, NordVPN has one of the cheapest adjusted monthly fees on that two-year option in comparison to other VPN providers. Ultimately, price shouldn’t stop you from trying NordVPN. Below is a breakdown of costs for NordVPN.

NordVPN pricing and plans
Monthly price
Yearly price
Two-year price

Data effective 03/21/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

NordVPN has a few plans to choose from, there is the Standard, Plus, and Complete plans. Here’s what each plan offers:

Standard:

  • High-speed VPN
  • Ad blocker and malware protection

Plus:

  • High-speed VPN
  • Ad blocker and malware protection
  • Data breach monitoring
  • Password manager

Complete:

  • High-speed VPN
  • Ad blocker and malware protection
  • Data breach monitoring
  • Password manager
  • File encryption
  • 1TB of cloud storage

You’ll pay more with each plan upgrade, but you’ll get more features which each one. And here’s how NordVPN stacks up to the other VPN competitors in the top five.

Compare NordVPN prices to other VPN providers
Standout feature

Incredibly fast performance

Blocks ads of your choice on all devices

Data effective 03/21/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

NordVPN connectivity and user experience

This is one of the highlights of using NordVPN. Of all the VPNs I’ve tested, NordVPN is the fastest to connect. Like any VPN, sign up for an account, download the software onto your PC (or app on a supported device), then use your NordVPN login details to connect. From here, NordVPN offers a user-friendly ‘Quick Connect’ button that will find the VPN server closest to your location and connect really, really fast. NordVPN is so fast to connect that real-time online tasks like music streaming with minimal buffers don’t skip a beat, which can’t be said of Hotspot Shield.

Disconnecting is ever-so-slightly more painful in comparison to other VPNs that simply disconnect as soon as you click or tap on the ‘Disconnect’ button. For NordVPN, hitting ‘Disconnect’ brings up four options: pause for five minutes, pause for 15 minutes, pause for an hour, or fully disconnect. Given how quickly NordVPN connects, this additional disconnection step feels more like an inconvenience than anything else. To put it into context, in my months of testing NordVPN, I didn’t ever use any of the pause options.

NordVPN offered over 5,500 servers in 60 countries, and though NordVPN is very much in the top five for best VPN services, that server count is behind CyberGhost and PureVPN, while it has the lowest number of countries to connect to out of all five.

There are some quirks to using NordVPN, too. Certain servers will effectively stop you from being able to connect to particular websites – for instance, our sister site WhistleOut – which is unnecessarily limiting. This wasn’t the case when testing between NordVPN and Hotspot Shield. The other quirk was NordVPN would sometimes notify me that it was connected to a server but the dashboard would say it’s still connecting, which created doubt as to whether I was actually connected (even though my tests proved I was).

NordVPN number of devices

A single NordVPN account is enough to cover six devices connected simultaneously. NordVPN is supported on the following devices: