UDP vs TCP VPN

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Updated September 12, 2022

If you are one of the many remote workers, you’ve doubtless become familiar with VPNs. A top-tier VPN provides a strong layer of safety between internet users and those looking to harvest data for nefarious reasons. But what many don’t know is that VPNs come in various forms of network protocol, which impacts the speed, reliability, and overall safety of users’ connections. Below we’ll compare the significant differences between two standard protocols — UDP vs TCP VPNs.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • UDP and TCP are VPN protocols that control data transfer from one computer to another.
  • TCP is known for its highly reliable and error-free data exchange process.
  • UDP provides lightning-fast data transfer but often faces issues concerning accuracy and reliability.

An important thing to note is that specific protocols work better for different devices. You can check out our fantastic guides on the best free VPNs for firesticks.

Insider Tip

With OpenSource VPN, you can easily switch between TCP and UDP whenever you choose.

VPN Protocol: UDP vs TCP

Before descending into the gritty detail, it’s essential to understand what a VPN connection protocol is and why choosing the right one matters. VPNs establish a connection from a user’s computer to a private server so that their data can be encrypted and securely travel as it transfers to public internet servers. The various internet protocols determine how this data travels from one place to another.

The acronym “TCP” stands for Transmission Connection Protocol. It ultimately is a way of setting up back-and-forth communication between separate computers. A TCP connection establishes a solid two-way signal before any data transfer occurs. Once the connection between the two computers is acknowledged, data is sent. With each TCP packet of data sent, there’s an error-checking system to ensure that all the data arrives without issue. For example, suppose the transmitted data fails to arrive or does so with missing information. In that case, an error correction mechanism will alert the computer on the sending end, and the data will be resent.

UDP stands for “User Datagram Protocol.” The key difference between UDP and TCP is that UDP doesn’t establish a back-and-forth connection session. Therefore, when data is sent, you don’t know if the data has been received or arrived correctly.

As online gaming continues to boom, gamers are always looking for the best possible ways to transfer data. We have a guide covering the top-rated gaming VPNs and more practical guides, like how to use a VPN on a PS4.

Online Security

While many assume that TCP is the safer option, this isn’t true. TCP and UDP are unique methods operating under the OpenSource VPN protocol. Because of this, they share the same safety measures, which are highly secure.

To know more about some of the notable private network brands, you can check out our article comparing ProtonVPN vs ExpressVPN.

Warning

Failing to use a VPN dramatically increases the risk of malware infection and data harvesting.

Data Transfer Speed

UDP connections are among the fastest out there, but that’s because there is no system controlling or verifying the data transfer. On the other hand, TCP has an established data flow control system that requires acknowledgment every time a data packet is sent and received. While this leads to fewer errors, it does slow down the speed.

STAT: VPN users surged by over 27% in 2020. (source)

Connection Reliability

TCPs have incredibly reliable connections, which makes VPN traffic stable. Of course, UDPs aren’t always unstable. Still, the connection can get spotty because there is much less overhead and no verification process.

UDP vs TCP VPN FAQs

What is the fastest VPN protocol?

UDP's low overhead and lack of error correction is the faster protocol between UDP and TCP. That said, NordVPN states that WireGuard is the fastest protocol overall.

Which is better for gaming: UDP or TCP?

UDPs are often the preferred choice of gamers because of their faster speeds.

Do VPN services allow you to switch between different protocols?

Many services offer a range of protocols that users can use. But always check which protocols are offered before subscribing to a service.
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