differences between a vpn and a proxy

6 Big Differences Between A VPN And A Proxy You Should Know

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Last Updated on January 4, 2021 by Calvin C.

You probably wonder what you should use to protect yourself on the web. Do you use a VPN or you use a proxy? Are they interchangeable? In this article, I look at the differences between a VPN and a proxy. 

You will learn which one of the two is superior in protecting your identity and gives you the ability to unblock sites that are geo-restricted.

Although both are used for online security, they are not the same.

Both allow you to access the web like you are in another country and have the ability to use remote servers to change your IP address.

Consequently, any site you visit sees the IP address of the server not your actual IP address.

differences between a vpn and a proxy

Definitions of VPN and Proxy


A proxy hides your IP address, bypasses restrictions and most proxies encrypt traffic, although this is limited to web traffic.

If a network blocks your IP address, changing it with a proxy re-establishes access to that network. 

A proxy is configured at an individual-app level. You have to go to the settings of the app and configure the proxy. All the other apps are not affected.


Like a proxy, a VPN reroutes traffic via a remote server and changes your IP address.

Unlike a proxy, a VPN works at operating system level, thus re-routes traffic at all levels, from background apps and browsers. 

You can learn more about VPN services on this site.

  • At a glance, these are the best VPNs for maximum security and privacy:

3 types of protocols used by a Proxy

1.HTTP proxy

Is used to reroute web traffic and change the IP address. You usually configure it in your web browser or via a proxy website.There is no extra encryption that is offered when connecting to the site you want to visit.

2.HTTPS proxy

Encrypts web traffic with the SSL protocol. If you connect to a website with an HTTPS proxy, your connection with that site is secure.

3. Socks5 proxy

Supports any type of traffic whether it is streaming, online chat and other apps. There is no encryption within the socks protocol. You need some form of encryption built into the app to add more security.

One thing to note is that the app you want to use the Socks proxy with has to support it. To understand the differences between a VPN and a proxy let’s look at the features.

Key features of a Proxy:

  • No re-routing of all your web activity. Only traffic from your web browser is re-routed, as in Opera VPN
  • Works only on a device it’s configured on. It won’t cover your entire devices.
  • No encryption of all web traffic. According to Wired, 79% of all proxies don’t support basic encryption
  • Faster network speed because data encryption is limited.
  • Mostly free, and proxy services may inject ads to monetize the service and keep it free.
  • No guarantee about privacy or security.


In addition to changing your IP address, a VPN also encrypts all your traffic. You get to access the internet through your chosen, secure server instead of your ISP. A VPN tunnel is created so that only you have access to your traffic.

Key features of a VPN:

  • Re-routes all web activity, be it from apps and browsers
  • It works on more devices than a proxy e.g. router, computers, consoles and more
  • Encrypts all traffic
  • Lower network speed because traffic has to be encrypted
  • Good VPNs have paid plans
  • Reliable security and privacy

Which is better? VPN or Proxy

This depends on what you are using the service for. If you want to stream a movie, a proxy takes too long to buffer. In that case you need a VPN. 

If you want to bypass a firewall, you need a VPN as it does the job much better.

For online activities that need speed, definitely you go with a VPN.

Security concerns are addressed effectively by a VPN, even on public WiFi. A proxy only hides your IP address and does not encrypt all web traffic.

However, proxies are easier to set up than VPNs but after all is up and running, you are more secure with a VPN.

You should realize that some proxies identify themselves as proxies, making it easy for sites that detect proxies to block them.

In addition, some proxies also transmit your real IP address along with a new IP address. In that case, it is easy for you to be identified.


These are the differences between a VPN and a proxy.

You can start using a VPN to secure your traffic by choosing the best VPN:

Let me know what you think in the comments and don’t forget to share with your friends.

Tech writer and VPN expert. DIY enthusiast and loves anything to do with space science.

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