One question regarding WireGuard seems to be more prominent than others: is WireGuard faster than OpenVPN? We answered it by performing more than 100 VPN tests using 5 different VPN providers.
WireGuard seems to be the future of VPN protocols due to its simplicity and performance. Several VPN providers were involved in testing and supporting the development of WireGuard during the last few years. And now, WireGuard is ready to conquer the World of VPN. But, is it faster than OpenVPN? Let’s find out!
WireGuard vs. OpenVPN speed test results [Summary]
- WireGuard was the fastest in 58.8% of the download tests.
- On average, WireGuard was 14.6% faster than OpenVPN on UDP and 56.1% faster than OpenVPN on TCP.
- The average speed loss was 19.1% for WireGuard, 20.6% for OpenVPN on UDP, and 58.1% for OpenVPN on TCP.
- There were significant differences between VPN providers regarding WireGuard performance.
Why is the speed of WireGuard important?
The VPN speed represents the speed of your Internet connection while connected to the VPN. It depends on a lot of factors (your regular Internet connection, network configuration, location of the VPN server, available bandwidth, encryption level, etc.). One of them (an important one) is the VPN protocol used for data encryption and transfer.
Thus, speed is a fundamental attribute of a VPN protocol and one of the criteria for judging its performance.
As a new VPN protocol, challenging the position of standard VPN protocols, WireGuard makes no exception: its speed comes under the spotlight, and everyone is interested in how fast WireGuard is.
Why WireGuard vs. OpenVPN?
For many years, OpenVPN has been the de-facto standard of VPN protocols. OpenVPN is open-source, offers good performance, excellent encryption, it is reliable, and, very important, has passed various independent audits.
WireGuard is the new VPN on the block, and it is seen as the next-gen VPN protocol, after years of OpenVPN domination, due to its characteristics:
- It is free and open-source.
- It has about 4,000 lines of code.
- It uses the latest and most robust encryption algorithms.
- It runs at Layer 3, and it was recently included in the Linux kernel.
- It uses less memory and CPU than other protocols.
As WireGuard challenges the OpenVPN leading position, it is inherent to compare the two VPN protocols.
As WireGuard works from within the Linux kernel, it can process data faster, eliminating latency associated with other VPN protocols (e.g., OpenVPN). But is WireGuard really faster than OpenVPN?
It is important to underline that it was not a scientific approach. We have not used any automatic testing tools or scripts. We connected to various VPN servers and performed speed tests in the same manner a regular VPN user would have done.
To match the experience of a regular VPN user, we ran the speed tests on a wireless connection using two test machines (a MacBook Pro and a Windows laptop). We connected on VPN servers located all over the World at various distances from our location.
Also, we have tried to avoid answering the question: Is the WireGuard client app better than the OpenVPN app? Thus, we decided to proceed using VPN apps that offer access to both protocols (provided by NordVPN, Mullvad, PrivateInternetAccess, IVPN, and StrongVPN) and have (almost) the same conditions for WireGuard and OpenVPN.
The testing process consisted of the following steps:
- For each test, we established the baseline by testing the Internet connection with no VPN at the moment of the test. The speed test (using Speedtest.net) was performed on the Chrome browser from our current location (middle of Transylvania) to a Speedtest server sometimes located near the VPN server and sometimes located near our location.
- Next, we tested the VPN connection using WireGuard to the Speedtest server from the previous step.
- We switch to OpenVPN with UDP and tested the connection speed in the same conditions.
- Further, we tested the VPN connection using OpenVPN with TCP.
- Finally, we compared the results.
Of course, the results need to be regarded with (a little bit of) caution as:
- For certain VPN providers, we could not make sure that we were testing the same server for all protocols, even though it was the same location. This could have been given some wrong results due to hardware differences between servers, server load, server bandwidth, etc.
- A test could have taken several minutes. Meanwhile, both the speed of our Internet connection and the speed of the VPN server could have fluctuated.
- Additionally, we had not had access to Speedtest server parameters at any particular moment. And this could potentially add more uncertainty to the test results.
However, taking all this into consideration, we still consider the test and the conclusions valid.
Is Wireguard faster than OpenVPN? Test results
Many VPN users have started to switch to the WireGuard protocol due to various reports that state that WireGuard is faster than OpenVPN. Is this true?
WireGuard was the fastest in 58.8% of the download tests
Yes, on most VPN connections, no matter the location, distance, operating system, WireGuard was the fastest (for download). However, OpenVPN on UDP was unexpectedly close.
Although the download speed is seen as the main criterion for measuring the VPN speed, it is worth mentioning that OpenVPN on UDP was the clear winner for upload.
WireGuard was 14.6% faster than OpenVPN on UDP and 56.1% faster than OpenVPN on TCP
On download speed tests for which WireGuard was faster then OpenVPN we were interested in finding out how fast was it compared to OpenVPN. The difference to OpenVPN on UDP is surprisingly small, but significant compared to OpenVPN on TCP.
Speed loss – WireGuard vs. OpenVPN
An important aspect when measuring the speed of a VPN connection is the speed loss compared to the regular Internet connection. As seen below, WireGuard and OpenVPN on UDP are neck-to-neck (19.1% average for WireGuard and 20.6% for OpenVPN UDP), while OpenVPN on TCP is cleary the protocol that cuts off most of your usual Internet speed.
Differences between providers
As explained here, the implementation of the WireGuard protocol is slightly different for every VPN provider. Additionally, the OpenVPN configurations may be quite diverse. Thus, the speed of the VPN connection for each protocol varies from one VPN service to another (we have included the VPNs for which we have conducted most of tests):
Conclusions & takeaways
Is WireGuard faster than OpenVPN? We think it is: on average, WireGuard was about 14% faster than OpenVPN on UDP and 56% faster than OpenVPN on TCP, on all devices, across all the locations, on all apps we tested.
During the tests we have also noticed that:
- WireGuard was able to connect (much) faster than OpenVPN. We have not measured the connection time (maybe, we will do it for another article). However, it was noticeable.
- NordVPN, besides being a valuable VPN, proved to be the ideal testing tool for this project. The NordVPN apps are fast, stable, and very easy to use. And, as seen above, the WireGuard implementation is fantastic.
- Surprisingly, WireGuard was most of the time slower than OpenVPN UDP during the tests conducted with the VPN clients provided by PrivateInternetAccess.
- Not much to say about StrongVPN. We have performed several tests, but we found the overall experience unpleasant.
Have you compared WireGuard with OpenVPN? What were your results? Let us know in the comments below.
We will continue to update this article as we perform more tests. Would you like to be notified? Subscribe to our newsletter! It will make a Transylvanian baby-bat 🦇happy.