Proxy vs VPN: What are the main differences?

While both VPNs and proxy servers can protect user identities and secure content access, they differ in their privacy protection. VPNs encrypt user data and provide privacy, while proxies do not. However, the users often get confused as to what they can select from both options. Learn more about the differences between proxies and VPNs in this article.

Proxy and VPN Defined

Both a VPN and a proxy can mask your IP address by redirecting your internet traffic through a remote server. However, while a proxy only works with one app or service, a VPN secures all your internet activity and encrypts it for enhanced security and privacy.

While both services will replace your IP address with the provider’s, only a VPN will encrypt your internet data in a secure tunnel, ensuring your online activity remains private. While a proxy can be useful for browsing, it lacks the advanced features and security of a VPN.

Understanding Proxy Servers

Proxy servers are intermediary servers that act as relays between your device and the websites you visit. They can hide your original IP address and replace it with the IP address of the proxy server, but they work only on the application level, meaning they only reroute traffic coming from a single app you set the proxy up with. Here are the three main types of proxy servers:

HTTP Proxies – These proxies only cater to web pages. When you set up your browser with an HTTP proxy server, all your browser traffic will be redirected through it.

SOCKS Proxies – These proxies are not limited to web traffic but still only work on the application level. They can handle all kinds of traffic, but they are usually slower than HTTP proxies because they are more popular and often have a higher load.

Transparent proxies – These proxies can be set up by employers, parents, hotels, cafes, companies, or home users to monitor users’ online activity, block access to specific websites, or save bandwidth. Users are usually unaware of their existence as they operate in the background to authenticate users on public Wi-Fi.

Some services offer private proxies that provide users with a single IP address that only they can use. However, these proxies are not private like VPNs as they can still trace user activity. Nonetheless, having a separate dedicated IP address can have its benefits.

What exactly is a Virtual Private Network and how does it operate?

Similar to a proxy, a VPN redirects your internet traffic through a remote server and conceals your original IP address, preventing websites from seeing your location (for further details on altering your IP location, you may refer to our article). However, a VPN functions at the operating system level, meaning that it redirects all traffic, including that from background apps and your browser.

Additionally, a VPN client encrypts your traffic between your device and the internet, safeguarding you from ISP monitoring and data collection on your internet activity.

With encryption, all that can be seen is that you are connected to a VPN server, shielding you from government surveillance, website tracking, and any unauthorized individuals who may try to intercept your device. As a result, a VPN enhances your online privacy and security.

It’s crucial to conduct thorough research before selecting a VPN or proxy service provider because not all of them are equally trustworthy.

Some unreliable providers may record sensitive user data such as IP addresses, DNS requests, and other personal details, which could be shared with advertisers or hackers in the event of a server breach. It’s advisable to avoid these providers entirely.

The main differences between VPN and proxy services

Here is a brief comparison between VPNs and proxy servers:

VPNs encrypt your internet traffic, whereas proxy servers do not. VPN services offer protection against ISP tracking, government surveillance, and hackers, while proxies do not. It’s important to note that proxies should never be used to handle sensitive information.

VPNs reroute all internet traffic through a VPN server, as they function at the operating system level. In contrast, most proxies only reroute traffic from a specific app or browser since they work at the application level.

Due to encryption requirements, VPNs may be slower than proxies. However, there are methods to improve internet speed and browsing performance.

VPN services typically require payment, and it’s not recommended to trust free VPNs as they may have limitations and may collect user data. In contrast, many proxy servers are free.

VPN connections are generally more reliable, while proxy server connections tend to drop more frequently.


Is VPN better than a proxy?

Absolutely, a VPN is superior to a proxy because it enhances both privacy and security by directing your internet traffic through a secure VPN server and encrypting it. In contrast, a proxy merely transfers your traffic through a mediating server without providing any additional protection. Additionally, VPNs operate at the operating system level, ensuring that all traffic is secured, unlike proxies that typically work at the application level. In the debate between proxies and VPNs, the latter is unquestionably the better option.

Do you need a proxy if you have a VPN?

That’s not entirely accurate. Premium VPN services offer similar features as proxies, but they provide additional security measures. While a proxy extension may be useful for a quick IP change, it’s important to note that not all proxies are secure and some may collect user data.

Can I use VPN and proxy together?

Although it is possible to use VPNs and proxies together, it requires some configuration and setup. However, we do not recommend it as adding a proxy server would only slow down the internet connection without offering significant benefits. It is better to switch between using one or the other when necessary.

Should I use a free proxy or a free VPN?

Free VPN and proxy services often come with a price to your privacy and security. As developers need to generate revenue, they may collect and monitor your data, subject you to adware, or restrict your data usage. On the other hand, premium VPN services heavily invest in their infrastructure and provide high-quality encryption, a diverse range of servers, fast VPN protocols, and 24/7 customer support. They continually improve their services to provide the best possible experience for their users. We advise against using free proxies and VPNs as the few bucks saved may end up costing you much more in the long run.


While a VPN and a proxy share similarities in that they both redirect traffic through a remote server and mask your IP address, a VPN offers superior features and benefits compared to a proxy. If privacy and security are important to you, it is recommended that you choose a VPN over a proxy server.

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