6 VPN Protocols Explained In Detail – Ultimate List

vpn protocols explained in detail
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Last Updated on March 7, 2021 by Staff Writer

VPN Protocols explained

In this article, we have 6 VPN protocols explained in detail to highlight their features. These protocols are used in a VPN network, where they enable connection of a VPN client to a VPN server.

The weaker VPN protocol, the higher the risk of security breaches in a VPN network.

Due to that, VPN protocols have evolved to establish more secure connections.

In addition, they should preserve network speeds.

Some VPN protocols come as a built-in package on your computer or mobile device but it’s safer to use reliable VPN services.

  • The overall best VPN is NordVPN as it comes with all these VPN protocols, including WireGuard and OpenVPN.
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • 30-day free-trial
  • 68% off the 2-year plan

Check out other VPNs

There are 6 VPN protocols that we look at in this article so read on. In another section you can also learn more about a VPN.

List of VPN Protocols

  • OpenVPN
  • IKEv2
  • SSTP
  • L2TP/IPSec
  • PPTP
  • Wireguard
expressvpn with modern vpn protocols

1. OpenVPN Protocol

This is an open-source protocol that available in most VPN networks. All the best VPNs offer OpenVPN protocol because of its proven high security and reliability.

In other words, of the VPN protocols explained in detail, OpenVPN is the main protocol you shouldn’t miss.

You may be worried that since it is an open-source software there are vulnerabilities. On the contrary, it is actually the opposite.

OpenVPN is open-source

An open-source protocol allows developers to quickly intervene whenever there are security issues.

However, because of the intense encryption in OpenVPN, network speed is slower than other protocols.

This is crucial when you access sites that require a high internet speed. In addition, when you use a low-end device it becomes apparent.

That should not be a concern if you are an average user. Also, you still get things done online with OpenVPN.

Third-party clients use OpenVPN

As highlighted above, most top VPNs for personal use have OpenVPN protocol. It does not come out of the box with your computer or mobile device.

Instead, you decide which VPN is appropriate for your operating system and install a client that uses OpenVPN.

Is OpenVPN secure?

This is the most secure VPN protocol currently that is why all best VPNs have OpenVPN. However, it is not advisable to set up an OpenVPN protocol manually.

Instead, the VPN service provider configures the VPN for you.

Check out these best VPNs that provide OpenVPN.

2. L2TP/IPsec Protocol

L2TP (layer to tunnel protocol) and IPsec (internet protocol security) have been around since the 90s.

They are a product of Microsoft and used in Windows PCs.

VPN network speed with L2TP/IPsec

It is hard to notice the difference in speed between OpenVPN protocol and L2TP/IPsec protocol.

If you are an average user, you should be able to browse the web without any issues.

Is L2TP/IPsec secure?

L2TP and IPsec work together because they are less secure separately. This synergistic effect makes it effective in hiding your identity online.

However, security is less effective than using OpenVPN protocol. Still, for most users’ needs, it is still excellent.

L2TP/IPsec is built-in

Modern computers and mobile devices come with an in-built L2TP/IPsec protocol. However, there are usually problems with firewalls when you try to use them.

One option is to use a VPN service with pre-configured protocols. This is because they cannot guarantee security and anonymity.

3. PPTP Protocol

Point to Point Tunnelling VPN has high speed and is a product of Microsoft. Although, the post says “VPN protocols explained in detail”, some protocols are now obsolete and are increasingly being replaced. Therefore, I will touch on them briefly.

PPTP Security

This is the least secure protocol because there is low encryption of data. In addition, it is mainly applicable to older devices.

Some players in the VPN industry are already using 256-bit encryption. On the contrary, PPTP uses 128-bit encryption and hackers penetrate it easily.

It is suitable for actions that require speed, like video streaming or slow devices. However, this comes at the expense of security.

It is not recommended to use this protocol to handle sensitive data otherwise you can use it if security is not a concern.

Is PPTP built-in?

This protocol comes already installed in Computers and mobile devices. Although PPTP is the easiest to set up, it is not secure.

Make sure you do not enter pin numbers, passwords, or other personal data subject to hacking while on a PPTP network.

Let’s move to the next VPN protocols explained in detail.

4. SSTP Protocol

Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol is another protocol that comes built-in. It is mainly for Windows computers and does not run on Mac computers.

One advantage is that it has good speed but offers no significant benefits over OpenVPN.

5. IKev2 Protocol

Internet Key Exchange comes as a built-in protocol for computers and devices. If you go to Network settings of your phone under “VPN”, you can toggle IKev2.

This is also a product of Microsoft in the past for use in a VPN. In addition, this protocol is useful in mobile devices when there is a disruption of the network.


Just like PPTP, this protocol is very fast. In addition, it is highly secure as it supports AES 256 bit encryption.

However, the drawback of IKev2 is that it is not all devices support it.

6. Wireguard Protocol

This is the new kid on the block that aims to supersede all the other protocols. To do that, it has higher speed, security, reliability, and ease of use.

This protocol is originally for use in the Linux operating system. However, all platforms now use it.

Consequently, VPN service providers regard it as the ultimate protocol. It obliterates all the other inferior VPN protocols in terms of performance.

Wireguard has the following key features:

  • Easy configuration
  • Use of high-end cryptography which makes it super-difficult to decrypt any data passing through the Wireguard VPN tunnel
  • Easy to audit as there are not many lines of code to review as compared to rival protocols like OpenVPN
  • Wireguard has superior performance
  • This protocol is also easy to deploy in mobile devices as it is light-weight while preserving its integrity.
  • Overall it is a well-thought protocol that considers and addresses every loophole.

Some VPN providers, like NordVPN, have already started rolling out Wireguard. As a result, they stay ahead in the fight for privacy and anonymity on the web.


This is a complete list of the most important VPN protocols explained in detail.

Other providers have variations of these protocols to try and outclass each other, for example, NordVPN has NordLynx which is based on Wireguard.

Leave comments below and let us know what you think about these protocols. Don’t forget to subscribe so that you receive updates of new posts.

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