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Tobby

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Mar 9, 2017
18
14
Norway
Hi



I would like to tell you my experience of using a VPN. This post is for those of you who don't subscribe to a VPN service and maybe wondering about doing so. I have used two of the major services, and I will try to only mention experiences directly correlated to a VPN service and not a specific brand of VPN provider. I am located in Scandinavia, Europe so take in account that everything I mention might not apply to you. I will like to throw out that English is not my first language so please bear with me.



You, like me, have probably seen all the web ads, YouTubers and content producers recommending some brand of VPN in a sponsored segment. It's advertised as affordable, necessary and convenient. But let's be honest, a big part of VPN subscribers only care about bypassing regional locks for streaming content on the internet.



I do not experience VPNs as a convenient, and therefor not affordable. Here is some examples of bad user experiences I have had the past 5 months.



  • iMessage and FaceTime did go bananas. My phone number got weekly disconnected to my iMessage "Send/Recieve addresses". People tried to send iMessages to my phone number, and I never received them. Turning off the VPN resolved the issue.
  • Some web pages and services won't allow you access while using a VPN, and no error messages explains why it won't load. This can be web shops, news outlets, forums and hotel booking services. But how do I know it is due to a VPN then? I turned the VPN off, it seemingly worked fine, and contacted the web service's customer support about my issue, and down the line they tell me "You cannot use a VPN while using our service". This happened several times, both with local and international services.
  • Almost all streaming services have a VPN block now. "IT LOOKS LIKE YOU ARE USING A VPN. PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR VPN TO USE BLABLABLA STREAMING SERVICE" This counts for apps on phones and tablets, but also some web pages. At least my regional app versions of Disney+, HBO MAX, Paramount+ and Blockbuster won't let me connect while tunnelled through a VPN. Almost all of my national streaming services has this block as well. Netflix works fine though!
  • While browsing on web pages that requires some sort of active session, a switch of a VPN server may cause you to loose data in your active session. I'll use the example of a web shop. I have filled my cart with items, I keep browsing for some extra items, my VPN switches a server and my cart is empty… From my knowledge of cookies my cart should have been saved locally on my browser in a cookie, but so kind of purge happens when I get a new IP-address. You can see in the diagnostics log of an iPhone/MacOS when a VPN has changed configuration.
  • Google adservices won't work correctly. Keep in mind if you work with Google adservices or like clicking the top suggested item on a Google search even if it is a sponsored result.
  • Chapta and other verification systems become more suspicious of you, and you end up using more time on some boring image verification puzzle.


These are my biggest issues with using a VPN in daily browsing. The user experience is not very good. Sure you'll get the protection of a VPN (some of you might even argue against that, I'm sure you'll let us know in this thread), but it is not as convenient as it is advertised, and therefor it is not affordable. You buy something with the expectation of it working like advertised but in my case it did not.



I hope this post was helpful. I am not saying you should not subscribe to a VPN, but now you know of some first hand experiences that may help you in the decision. In the case of bypassing regional locked streaming content you may be disappointed.



Do you have some examples of similar issues caused by a VPN, please add to this thread.



-Tobby
 

Aggedor

macrumors 6502a
Dec 10, 2020
522
464
Plus a VPN will often cause a significant performance hit and slow your data transfer rates. I have a sub to Private Internet Access but I only use it when I really need to, I wouldn't have it running all the time, it's just too much of a headache. They do, however, have servers which are specifically listed as streaming-friendly. I haven't actually experimented with that yet - it would be very useful, as most streamers I use certainly have VPN detection running and will prevent access.
 
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Prabas

macrumors 65816
Sep 14, 2010
1,097
1,029
Europe
I've had NordVPN and now I sometimes use free TunnelBear tier and everything works fine. When I had Nord I used it for Netflix and some other websites but only Netflix didn't want to work like 40% of the time, so I had to keep switching servers to find the one they haven't blocked yet. In the end I just cancelled Netflix because 🏴‍☠️ sailing the high seas 🏴‍☠️ was more convenient than paying for Netflix.

NordVPN speed was great when I had 100Mbps fiber so VPN maxed out at 100Mbps and now with 1Gbps and a free tier of TunnelBear this is what I get:

Screenshot 2022-06-14 105141.png


All in all, I was happy. If you only want to unlock content try Smart DNS services, they're way cheaper and as far as I know don't have an impact on your speed.

EDIT: Oh I forgot to mention the sheer amount of CAPTCHAs you get when using VPN is insane :eek:
 

Marco Klobas

macrumors 6502
Jul 14, 2017
350
668
Italy
I'm a VPN user and admit that the main reason I use it is to overcome geoblocking many streaming services are applying. Sometimes (rarely) I find some websites (not media related) that apply geoblocking too. They are rare, in my exeperience.

If I'd need a VPN for security purposes only, I'd be already covered. In fact my Mac has installed OpenVPN Enabler which works fine for me. No third party services/subscriptions needed.

Speaking of personal secure network: Tailscale seems interesting. I haven't used yet – I'll give a try, eventually.

As you stated, more streaming services are blacklisting VPNs making the VPN use even less appealing.

Actually I use a combo of Smart DNS/VPN which is even more expensive. The Smart DNS is sometimes needed in my case for some live streaming. It obviously depends on which streaming service you're interested in.

Just a bunch of TV examples that I'm aware of: NRK (your country, Tobby), doesn't work via VPN. A Smart DNS solution is needed. For SVT (Sweden) a VPN is enough. The same goes for DR (Denmark) or ORF (Austria). SRF (Switzerland) needs Smart DNS for its live feeds. I have a soft spot for Scandinavia... ;)

Another Apple specific issue with VPNs is Apple TV. In order to get a VPN working with Apple TV you either use a router with VPN functionality installed on it or you have to share the VPN connection from a Mac (via Wi-Fi).

The only VPN offering an Ethernet sharing (which I prefer to the Wi-Fi counterpart) that I found and use is Astrill. For the record, the Smart DNS service I use is Unlocator (they offer even a VPN service). If the VPN sharing wouldn't be needed I'd probably turn to Proton VPN.

I experienced some of the issues your listed (annoying Captcha, e-commerce payments refused, streaming kicking me off, ...).

All in all, if you really need to watch/listen something abroad it's somehow necessary. Otherwise it's probably not worth the hassle/price. You can securely surf the web with common sense and, in case, setting a personal VPN.
 
Last edited:

fanboy-ish

macrumors member
Apr 1, 2022
55
35
I'm a VPN user (Mullvad) and there are a few inconveniences that come with using a VPN:
  • some websites, mostly government, both local and national, websites and national TV channels streaming, stop working (access denied), even if I'm connected to a server located in the same country;
  • many more captchas, this is not a problem, just annoying;
  • private relay turns itself off the moment I launch the VPN app, without even connecting to the VPN;
  • Whatsapp on my iPhone stops working;
  • e-commerce websites won't recognize me and prompt me to confirm my account;
  • every interaction between iPhone and Mac stops;
I can't complain about speed, as long as I'm using a server located in my country, I use VPN basically just for 🏴‍☠️ and I'm not getting logged out of my Google account or Microsoft account and have no problems with using the Outlook.com e-mail.
 

jav6454

macrumors Core
Nov 14, 2007
20,844
4,812
1 Geostationary Tower Plaza
I have used TunnelBear and the only issue I always found is the insane amount of CAPTCHAs. However, I have not used TunnelBear for Netflix or the likes. I normally use it for certain sites that are US-specific or if I am traveling on business.
 

eyoungren

macrumors Penryn
Aug 31, 2011
25,215
20,169
I use a VPN daily…on my work Mac. :)

Work paid some IT guy to set it up. Everything goes through a company router that is 25 miles away from me in another city.
 
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fanboy-ish

macrumors member
Apr 1, 2022
55
35
I know technically it's not a VPN, but today I logged in to my debit card's issuer's website using Private Relay and the issuer company blocked my card within seconds, I had to call them to have my card unblocked.

I can appreciate the company's proactive approach, I know Private Relay is still in beta, but this can be a huge issue.
 
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Tobby

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Mar 9, 2017
18
14
Norway
I know technically it's not a VPN, but today I logged in to my debit card's issuer's website using Private Relay and the issuer company blocked my card within seconds, I had to call them to have my card unblocked.
Dude, that's hardcore security!

iCloud Private Relay, seriously?
 

Tobby

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Mar 9, 2017
18
14
Norway
Using a VPN has always had caveats so there's nothing new there. Also, the situation is dynamic…what works or doesn't work changes from month to month.
Happy for you that you don't experience the same issues as some of us. Would you like to share what VPN provider you use?! 💻👾
 

jav6454

macrumors Core
Nov 14, 2007
20,844
4,812
1 Geostationary Tower Plaza
I know technically it's not a VPN, but today I logged in to my debit card's issuer's website using Private Relay and the issuer company blocked my card within seconds, I had to call them to have my card unblocked.

I can appreciate the company's proactive approach, I know Private Relay is still in beta, but this can be a huge issue.
That's odd, as I have used Private Relay to log into my bank and nothing has been blocked.
 

adrianlondon

macrumors 68040
Nov 28, 2013
3,677
4,571
Switzerland
I use Windscribe (free) about once a month or so, as I don't live in the UK but some stupid (local government) websites refuse to load if they don't detect a UK IP.

Totally stupid of course, as people travel, but then since when has local government had an IT department that knew how to use computers.
 

MacBH928

macrumors 604
May 17, 2008
7,267
3,121
you are correct on all points you made. Still VPN is your best bet to secure (encrypt internet activity) from local network admin and ISP and whoever else is watching. VPN will give you hard time when dealing with businesses, governments, and any thing that is security protected. There is a way to make VPN disabled for some apps or websites, like not go via VPN on your bank website to circumvent this but idk how to so it.

The best way to use a VPN is to connect to a server in your country. It can bypass geo restrictions but its not its main purpose.

I recommend Mullvad and ProtonVPN (i use this and they have free tier). There are a lot of scammy VPN providers.

best way to browse the web anonymously is to use TOR browser


I'm a VPN user (Mullvad) and there are a few inconveniences that come with using a VPN:
  • some websites, mostly government, both local and national, websites and national TV channels streaming, stop working (access denied), even if I'm connected to a server located in the same country;
  • many more captchas, this is not a problem, just annoying;
  • private relay turns itself off the moment I launch the VPN app, without even connecting to the VPN;
  • Whatsapp on my iPhone stops working;
  • e-commerce websites won't recognize me and prompt me to confirm my account;
  • every interaction between iPhone and Mac stops;
I can't complain about speed, as long as I'm using a server located in my country, I use VPN basically just for 🏴‍☠️ and I'm not getting logged out of my Google account or Microsoft account and have no problems with using the Outlook.com e-mail.

heads up, vpn didn't help you from google and microsoft tracking if you are logged in. they still can track you.
 
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