Tor vs VPN: the web privacy shootout

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What's the best way to stay anonymous online?
When you're looking to stay incognito online, VPNs and Tor should be right at the top of your privacy shortlist.

They're based on a similar principle where they protect your internet traffic with industrial-strength encryption, then shield your identity by routing it through their own servers.

But there are big, big differences, too - their encryption, what they'll protect, how they connect to servers and a whole lot more. (Check out our dedicated guides to what is a VPN and what is Tor if you need the background detail.)

Which is best? We're about to pit Tor against VPNs in seven of the most important privacy factors you should consider. Let's see which comes out on top...

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Another battle of the big boys - ExpressVPN vs NordVPN

Anonymity

Tor is free for anyone to use, with no need to register, hand over your email address, payment details or anything else. Connect to Tor and your traffic is routed through three servers, randomly chosen from thousands around the world, making it almost impossible to log your activities. Even if anyone tried, only the first Tor server has your IP address, and otherwise it has no idea who you are.

Sign up for most VPNs and you'll typically have to create an account, provide your email and maybe make a payment. Whenever you connect, the app logs in with your account details, ensuring the provider knows precisely who you are. And as you're always using servers run by the same company, it's easy for your browsing history to be connected to your account.

Result: a big win for Tor, which keeps you just about as anonymous as you can be.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Versatility

Tor does a great job of maintaining your privacy when you're browsing online. In fact, it's probably the ultimate in private browsing. But that's where the feature list stops - it doesn't try to do anything else.

VPNs encrypt all your traffic, not…
Mike Williams
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