June 20, 2024


Sapiens Digital

TorGuard VPN – Review 2020

15 min read

TorGuard VPN is a solid VPN service that protects your web traffic and offers a host of add-ons to complete the package. Its impressive distribution of servers makes it well worth a look, but some will be turned off by the app’s appearance and convoluted pricing scheme. 

What Is a VPN?

A VPN creates an encrypted tunnel between your computer and a VPN server. Your web traffic travels through that tunnel, meaning that anyone snooping around on the same network as you won’t see a thing. Even your ISP, which is looking to sell anonymized user data, will be blind. Using a VPN also hides your real IP address, and allows you to spoof your location by tunneling to a server far from where you actually are.

While VPNs are enormously useful tools, they do not protect against every ill. We recommend protecting your devices with antivirus software, using a password manager to create unique and complex passwords for each site and service you use, and enabling two-factor authentication wherever it is available.

Pricing and Features

Despite its name, TorGuard is not related to the Tor Project, the digital labyrinth of proxies designed to help people stay anonymous online. Years ago, I was told the “Tor” name was to align the product with BitTorrent, although the connection isn’t as pronounced as it once was. Now, TorGuard styles itself as more of a one-stop privacy shop offering an anonymous proxy (included with the VPN, naturally), PrivateMail secure email, and routers pre-configured to work with TorGuard.

Other VPNs have begun moving in this direction. NordVPN offers the NordLocker encrypted file storage system, and TunnelBear has the Remember password manager. Hotspot Shield is particularly notable as it includes subscriptions to other privacy and security services for free. ProtonVPN is perhaps the most apt comparison to TorGuard, as it also offers secure email with ProtonMail.

If you are looking for Tor and not BitTorrent, look to the Tor Browser. This specially modified version of Firefox makes getting online with Tor super simple. NordVPN, ProtonVPN, and VPNArea are notable for being the only VPN services I’ve reviewed that provide access to Tor via VPN.

The main window of the app in three different views

TorGuard is unusual among VPN companies in that embraces a very flexible, if a bit arcane, pricing model. The Anonymous VPN Package has all the company’s VPN features, and is available for $9.99 per month. That’s a touch lower than the average price of $10.10 per month, making TorGuard a good value. You can also opt for longer-term subscriptions at a discount. The Anonymous VPN package runs $19.99 every quarter, $29.99 every six months, or $59.99 annually. While these discounts are certainly attractive, I caution against picking one right away. Instead, go with the shortest subscription available and see if the VPN works well for you in your home. If not, you saved yourself a lot of money. 

Alternatively, you can choose the Streaming Bundle, which says it includes two so-called “residential” IP addresses. These are IP addresses that (hopefully) aren’t associated with a VPN and therefore will not blocked by streaming services and other sites. I did not test this bundle, and am skeptical that any company could actually guarantee access to video streaming over VPN, let alone a claim of “no buffering.” Pricing on the Streaming Bundle starts at $21.98 per month, a significant increase over the standard plan. The inclusion of two IP addresses, however, does bring it in line with the competition.

Businesses may want to look at the Business VPN plans, which start at $69 per month for 10 users and top out at $169 per month for 20 users. Depending on the plan, these include VPN access, 3-10 dedicated IP addresses, and email accounts, as well as other goodies. There may be some limitations in these plans. The TorGuard website notes that “many VPN protocols” are supported, but does not indicate which or if it is fewer than a consumer account. I have reached out to TorGuard for clarification.

On all of these plans, TorGuard allocates eight simultaneous connections per account. That’s quite generous compared to an industry average of five. Some companies, however, have opted to simply ignore such limitations. Avira Phantom VPN, Encrypt.me VPN, Ghostery Midnight, Surfshark VPN, and Windscribe VPN place no restrictions on the number of simultaneous connections.

(Note that Encrypt.me is owned by J2 Global, which also owns PCMag’s publisher Ziff Media.)

While TorGuard is a touch below average on price, some competitors go even further. A limited ProtonVPN account starts at $5 per month, and Mullvad only charges a flat fee of €5 per month ($5.65 at the time of this writing). A few VPN companies offer free subscription tiers. You can use Hotspot Shield or TunnelBear for free, as long as you stay under 500MB per day and per month, respectively. ProtonVPN has the best free tier I’ve yet seen, as it places no bandwidth restrictions on users.

In addition to its core product, TorGuard offers numerous add-ons, each of which cost an additional $7.99 per month. This is a bit unusual, as most VPNs opt for a one-size-fits-all approach. The upside is that you can tailor your account to better meet your needs, although it may not always be clear what it’s included in your subscription. Add-ons include IP addresses in specific regions throughout the world, which are intended for streaming video. There’s also DDOs protected IP addresses, which TorGuard suggests may be useful for gamers, and an add-on that grants access to a 10Gbit network. You can also purchase dedicated IP addresses in many different countries as add-ons, but note that the TorGuard website does not include the promise of video streaming in the description.

Previously, TorGuard let you select the exact number of simultaneous connections you wanted, from one to 250. I really liked this feature, since it let you right-size your plan for your home. Unfortunately, I can no longer find this option. I have reached out to TorGuard to see if this feature can still be accessed.

You should have no trouble finding a way to pay for your subscription to TorGuard, as the website boasts numerous payment options. These include the expected major credit cards and PayPal, but also include Amazon Pay, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, Paymentwall, and prepaid gift cards for various well-known brands. Using cryptocurrency or a gift card for which you paid cash has the advantages of being totally anonymous, equivalent to a cash transaction. Notably, Mullvad doesn’t require you to enter any personal information, as TorGuard does, and even accepts cash or wire transfers directly to the company.

While TorGuard does provide basic VPN protection, it doesn’t offer additional privacy tools. Other VPNs include split tunneling, which lets you designate which apps send their traffic through the VPN connection and which travel unencrypted. Another useful, albeit niche, tool is multihop VPN connections. This routes your traffic through more than one VPN server, making it harder to track and intercept. CyberGhost VPN, IVPN, Mullvad VPN, NordVPN, ProtonVPN, Surfshark VPN, and VPNArea all offer this feature.

VPN Protocols

There’s more than one way to create an encrypted tunnel via VPN. My preferred method uses the OpenVPN protocol, which is known for being fast and reliable. It’s also open-source, so you can rest assured that its code has been picked over for vulnerabilities.

TorGuard supports numerous VPN protocols including OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP, and IPSec. TorGuard also supports so-called “Stealth” VPN protocols, which use SSL VPN in order to prevent an entity from blocking the VPN traffic. These include OpenVPN Stealth, ShadowSocks, Stunnel, and AnyConnect (also known as OpenConnect).

Screenshot of the app's network settings

TorGuard also supports WireGuard, the heir apparent to OpenVPN. This VPN technology is also open-source, but it is meant to be faster, simpler, and more secure. I did not test WireGuard with TorGuard, although it appears to be a bit more complicated than a simple push-button operation. While it appears that you can manually configure a VPN client to use TorGuard’s WireGuard servers, it is not easily available in the TorGuard app by default. A company representative tells me that it will be available in the app soon. Mullvad has fully embraced WireGuard, and NordVPN has also begun an aggressive rollout of the technology. 

Servers and Server Locations

The more server locations a VPN provides, the more choice you have if you want to spoof your location. A robust geographic distribution also means that you’re more likely to find a nearby server when traveling, and a nearby server means lower latency and better performance.

TorGuard currently offers VPN servers in 68 locations across approximately 50 countries. I appreciate
that the company’s online server list makes clear which are virtual and where certain protocols are supported. The company’s servers are fairly well distributed across the Americas, Asia, and Europe. I am happy to see that TorGuard has servers in India and the Middle East, but disappointed the company no longer offers servers in Africa—a continent frequently ignored by VPN companies. Notably, TorGuard does not have servers in China, Russia, Turkey, and Vietnam, countries that are known for their repressive internet policies.

TorGuard’s server distribution is slightly better than the average VPN, but far from the best. ExpressVPN has an excellent distribution of servers across 94 countries, including many regions underserved by VPNs, and it does so with only minimal reliance on virtual servers.

What are virtual servers? These are software-defined servers, meaning that a single hardware server can run several virtual servers on it. These virtual servers can be configured to appear to be in different locations than where they are truly located. That’s a problem if you’re concerned about where your data is headed, and if you want to avoid specific geographic regions. I don’t think virtual servers are necessarily bad, however. A company can use them to serve dangerous regions by having the physical machine in a more secure location. A company representative tells me that only TorGuard’s Brazil, Greece, Mexico, and Taiwan servers are virtual. The servers for these regions are actually located in France and the US.

More servers doesn’t necessarily equate to better service, but it’s a testament to TorGuard’s popularity that it has one of the larger collections available. Along with ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access, it’s among the few to offer more than 3,000 servers. Cyberghost and NordVPN, notably, lead the pack with over 5,000 servers.

Your Privacy With TorGuard

You need to trust the VPN you use, because the company behind it could end up with enormous insight into your online activities. That’s why when I review VPNs, I speak with the vendors and read the entire privacy policy. TorGuard’s privacy policy used to be very short and to the point. The current incarnation is a bit longer and harder to parse, and troublingly contains little information about the actual VPN service. Its terms of service are equally vague. TorGuard must do better to be more transparent with customers about its policies.

While the company’s privacy policy leaves quite a bit to be desired, a company representative told me that TorGuard does not store logs of customer usage or activity while the VPN is active. The network, the representative said, is configured such that storing individual user data or connection stats is “impossible.” Better still, TorGuard says that it only earns revenue from subscription sales, rather than selling data.

That last point is something echoed by many VPN companies, which is why it’s important to know where these companies are located and under what legal jurisdiction they operate. Some countries have more privacy-friendly laws than others, after all. The company behind TorGuard is VPNetworks LLC, under the Data Protection Services LLC holding company, which is located in the US and operates under US legal jurisdiction. Some people prefer companies based outside the US, as a foreign location may pose an obstacle to investigation by law enforcement.

Several VPNs have made efforts to secure their infrastructure against remote attacks as well as search and seizure. ExpressVPN has already made the move to all-RAM servers, and other companies such as NordVPN are following suit. One upside to TorGuard’s own server security incident is that the company says its investments meant that no data was leaked and the issue swiftly dealt with. Still, TorGuard should make more of its security precautions clear on its site.

Some VPN companies have begun publishing comprehensive audits to assure customers that the company is operating in good faith and securing their data. TorGuard representatives tell me the company is “constantly being audited for security and privacy by a team of dedicated security researchers who participate in our bug bounty program,” but did not indicate that any public audits were forthcoming. A public audit is not always an indicator of trustworthiness, but companies like TunnelBear have made releasing them part of a commitment to transparency. Furthermore, TorGuard does not appear to have released a transparency report. I have asked the company to clarify.

Hands On With TorGuard

In my testing, I installed TorGuard’s software on an Intel NUC Kit NUC8i7BEH (Bean Canyon) desktop running the latest version of Windows 10. I had some slight issues installing the app. When I first fired it up, an error message appeared informing me it had to reinstall a necessary driver. I allowed it to go ahead. It appeared to not hinder installation or use, but it didn’t inspire confidence.

Opening for the first time, I was not presented with a login screen as I expected. I thought that perhaps like ExpressVPN or Mullvad VPN, TorGuard was using some other means of authentication. I was wrong. In order to get to the login screen, you must first press the Connect button. After a few seconds, the login screen appears, a bit like an error message. This feels very backward. I felt like I had to solve a puzzle just to get online, and that’s not a great feeling.

The General settings window

The TorGuard client app is not exactly a thrill to behold. The app is minimal, looking a bit more like a mobile app than something I’d expect on a desktop computer. The fact that it has looked the same for several years does not help. There are none of the cute bears featured in TunnelBear. It doesn’t even have a map interface, which is a staple of many VPN apps. Even Private Internet Access has shed its clunky old app and launched a slick new experience. By not improving its client as the competition does, TorGuard has actually fallen further behind in this regard.

Instead of showing a map or recommending servers for particular activities, TorGuard just has a list of servers. That works, but it isn’t friendly to new users. You can sort the list of servers in a number of ways, including by proximity and “usage.” You can’t view stats, such as load or latency, for these server locations, nor can you select specific servers.

The arcane options on the app’s primary window aren’t very user friendly, either. Most people don’t need to mess with these, but networking pros will no doubt appreciate having a protocol switcher and port selector front and center. A link at the bottom of the app opens a window filled with even more byzantine options.

Previously, the company told me that it’s more focused on cross-platform support than a fancy client. That’s a commendable goal, but many other VPN services manage to have excellent (even fancy) clients across all platforms. 

TorGuard offers a Kill Switch list that automatically quits any applications on the list, should the VPN connection be interrupted. It’s a safety measure ensuring that none of your information is transmitted through an unencrypted connection. You can either type the name of an application to add to the list or select it from the comprehensive (if difficult-to-read) list of currently running programs. I would prefer it if TorGuard simply suspended internet communications to the entire machine, rather than individual apps, by default.

A rarely seen feature TorGuard does include is
Scripts. This lets you run scripts either just before or after connecting or disconnecting. I didn’t test this feature, but I am sure for someone it’s a dealmaker. The app also includes proxy settings, DNS options, and your choice of VPN protocol.

Scripts Settings

If a VPN leaks your IP address or your DNS requests, it’s not doing a very good job of protecting you. In my testing, I found that TorGuard successfully hid my IP address and ISP from the outside world. Using the aptly named DNS Leak Test tool, I confirmed that TorGuard also does not leak DNS information.

TorGuard and Netflix

Many streaming services take a dim view of VPNs. That’s because you can use a VPN to spoof your location and access content that’s not intended for your particular geographic region.

While connected to a nearby New York VPN server, I was unable to view any content on Netflix. I did not have access to one of TorGuard’s residential IP addresses, which are supposed to be better for streaming, so customers may have better luck with one of those. Of course, that might change at a moment’s notice, which is true even for VPNs that worked with Netflix in my testing.

Beyond VPN

TorGuard offers a series of services devoted to anonymity and privacy online. In addition to its basic VPN service, TorGuard offers its aforementioned Anonymous Email and Proxy services.

If you are tempted to get the Anonymous Proxy service instead of the VPN service because it is cheaper, know that the proxy is designed to filter only BitTorrent traffic, while the VPN service protects everything you do online. If you are seeding torrents or grabbing a torrent, the proxy makes sure no one sees your actual IP address. Your web browsing and other online activity, however, is not included.

Many VPNs have started to diversify their offerings, presumably to entice customers with better value. TunnelBear has an ad-blocker and the Remembear password manager. NordVPN also has a password manager, and recently rolled out a file encryption service. Hotspot Shield offers a surprising number of third-party privacy tools with its Pango account.

Speed and Performance

Using a VPN is always going to have a negative impact on your internet speeds. To get a sense of how much, I run a series of tests using the Ookla speed test tool with the VPN on and off, and find a percent change between the two. Do read my feature on how I test VPNs for more of the gritty details.

(Note that Ookla is owned by PCMag’s publisher, Ziff Media.)

In my testing, TorGuard performed well in the upload and download tests. It decreased download speed test results by 46.6 percent, and reduced upload speed test results by 46.5 percent. These were both well under the respective medians for those categories. TorGuard VPN did, however, increase latency by a significant amount—92.6 percent. 

You can see how TorGuard compares to the top nine performers from among the nearly 40 VPN products tested this year. 

The nine fastest VPNs

My testing shows that Hotspot Shield VPN leads in terms of speed, having the least impact on download test results and latency. Surfshark VPN, however, is hot on Hotspot’s heels, and actually surpassed the leader in upload test results. 

I caution readers against putting too much stock in speed test results. Your experience will surely be different from mine. Instead, I prefer to focus on price, value, and privacy when choosing a VPN.

TorGuard on Other Platforms

TorGuard offers apps for Android, iPhone, Linux, macOS, and Windows. As is always the case with VPNs, I highly recommend using the client app where possible, since it’s far easier to set up, and it gives you access to all the features a VPN service offers. TorGuard also offers proxy plugins for Firefox and Safari. These will make your browser traffic appear to come from somewhere else, but won’t use the encryption found with a VPN. 

TorGuard also offers routers preconfigured to work with TorGuard supplied by PrivateRouter, which also offers preconfigured streaming devices such as the Amazon Fire Stick and the NVidia Shield TV 4K. Using a VPN from your router uses just one simultaneous connection to protect your entire network, and pushes protection out to smart devices that can’t run VPNs on their own, such as a fridge or TV. While I am personally skeptical of the utility, it is the ideal solution for some people.

Feeling the Change of the Guard

TorGuard has a lot going for it: a reasonable entry-level price; a pretty good allotment of servers around the globe, and a collection of subscription add-ons to customize your security experience. What holds it back is its overall user experience. From its website to its client software, TorGuard VPN is a clunky and often confusing experience. Furthermore, we put an increasing importance on public audits, transparency, and clearly stated privacy policies, and TorGuard lags the best of the competition in all three areas.

We continue to recommend our Editors Choice Winners, all of whom offer a better user experience: Mullvad VPN, ProtonVPN, and TunnelBear VPN.

TorGuard VPN Specs

Allows 5+ Simultaneous Connections Yes
500+ Servers Yes
Geographically Diverse Servers No
Blocks Ads Yes
Free Version No
Server Locations 50 Countries

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