What Is WireGuard? (And Why Your VPN Experience Isn’t the Same Without It) (2024)

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Today, virtual private networks (VPNs) have taken off, gaining popularity with those looking for extra security, privacy, and flexibility. VPN software masks your device's IP address, encrypts your most sensitive information, and allows you to "relocate," maintaining internet access and anonymity from anywhere you choose.

Pretty convenient, right? It's not hard to understand why VPNs are so popular — but what drives these next-level internet connection pathways?

VPNs rely on VPN protocols which are sets of rules governing communication and how data moves between our devices and a network's servers. Until recently, VPNs relied on older, slower, and less secure protocols based on outdated cryptography. WireGuard's VPN protocol is changing that: making headlines, winning fans, and positioning to dominate the market by connecting users to VPN servers with superior speed, simplicity, and security.

In this article

What is WireGuard?
WireGuard advantages
WireGuard disadvantages
WireGuard compared
VPNs that support WireGuard
WireGuard FAQ
Bottom line

What is WireGuard?

WireGuard is a new, open-source VPN protocol designed with state-of-the-art cryptography, which is the practice of coding sensitive information so only the intended recipients can interpret its meaning. It provides faster, easier-to-use, and more secure pathways for user devices to connect with VPN servers worldwide.

Developer Jason A. Donenfeld created the WireGuard VPN protocol in 2015, specifically for the Linux kernel. WireGuard's VPN protocol is currently available across desktop or mobile applications for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS deployments.

Many view WireGuard's VPN protocol as the long-awaited next-gen solution capable of replacing the older, slower, less secure protocols like OpenVPN with its outdated 2001 cryptography.

Why you should use WireGuard

WireGuard's VPN protocol is undoubtedly making a splash and collecting fans in the VPN universe for several legitimate reasons. The advantages you can expect from WireGuard's VPN protocol include the following:

Increased speed

If you need speed, then WireGuard could become your go-to VPN protocol. WireGuard is faster than older VPN protocols for a few reasons — starting with the fact that the protocol's components reside within the Linux kernel, which allows for faster speeds. Also, WireGuard only supports User Datagram Protocol (UDP) and doesn't employ the handshake protocols used by OpenVPN, which can slow down the process due to the need for frequent checks.

Most importantly, advanced cryptography solutions like Curve 25519, ChaCha20, Poly 1305, and BLAKE2s help boost WireGuard's increased rate of speed.

Ease of use

Working with WireGuard couldn't be easier. Users start by locating the WireGuard application in an online storefront, then follow simple download and installation steps. The WireGuard app is available for desktop and mobile devices for added convenience.

WireGuard keeps it simple by operating with fewer than 4,000 lines of code compared to older VPN protocols that typically use thousands more. Fewer lines of code make the protocol's connection, use, and troubleshooting easier, especially for lower-capacity routers and mobile devices.

Once connected, WireGuard continues to please with reliability. The protocol's fast and seamless connection works across networks while maintaining connectivity under conditions that can often cause other VPN protocols to fail.

Enhanced efficiency

The high speeds and data transmission capacity you can expect with WireGuard is real. And the numbers back it up.

WireGuard transmits more data in megabits per second according to recent testing — up to 20% more than IPSec protocols and significantly more than OpenVPN, which transports only about a quarter of WireGuard's data transmission load.

What does this mean for you? In a given amount of time WireGuard can transmit three times more megabits of data per second than OpenVPN protocols. The end result is your device moving significantly more volume and accomplishing more work in the same amount of time.

WireGuard works quicker than traditional protocols, demonstrating a faster ping time in recent testing. Ping time is the time it takes for data to leave your device, reach a server, and bounce back to your device again. WireGuard’s ping time in milliseconds proved slightly faster than IPSec and roughly three times faster than OpenVPN.

Stronger security

Last on this list, but certainly not last in our minds, is security. WireGuard sets the industry bar high regarding security with the use of state-of-the-art cryptography. Today’s next-gen cryptography solutions arrive with advanced default security settings, providing a security boost right out of the box.

Also, WireGuard's simplified design translates into more security benefits. The protocol's simple, less-is-more configuration presents a smaller attack surface for cybercriminals to target and fewer lines of code come with fewer bugs and potential vulnerabilities.

What's the most secure VPN encryption?

Find out how a VPN secures your personal info, as well as the most secure encryption keys in our VPN encryption guide.

Why you shouldn't use WireGuard

WireGuard prioritizes speed, ease of use, and network security, but, some might say, at the expense of privacy. WireGuard does lack some standard features and practices many other protocols offer to enhance user privacy protection, such as:

  • Dynamic IP addresses
  • Auto-deletion of user IP addresses upon disconnection
  • Traffic obfuscation to combat deep packet inspections (DPI)
  • Changing default encryption keys periodically to prevent hackers from breaking the code

WireGuard works best with Linux but does support other platforms. Unfortunately, most platforms (besides some Linux models) will require added software to operate WireGuard, and currently the protocol isn't an option for devices unable to install applications.

WireGuard compared

WireGuard has a widening fan base, and most view it as a significant upgrade over the many older VPN protocols that still rely on outdated technology and design.

But is WireGuard the best VPN protocol today?

Like many questions, it boils down to the priorities of those you ask.

WireGuard certainly could be a top choice for the lovers of speed and ease, but not so much for users prioritizing online privacy, where it falls short.

WireGuard is generally considered one of the safest protocols today with its simple design, less code, and fewer possible bugs. This, coupled with its faster, state-of-the-art cryptography running within the Linux kernel, delivers a very easy-to-use VPN protocol that's tough to beat for speed, volume, and safety.

WireGuard vs. OpenVPN

Both protocols are open-source, have relatively few vulnerabilities, and need additional configuration files to install on most devices.

The similarities end there, as WireGuard's advanced cryptography transfers more data faster, which becomes more evident when handling larger data downloads. Also, WireGuard allows your computer battery a longer life, where OpenVPN seems to consistently drain computer batteries faster.

WireGuard vs. IKEv2

Again, the WireGuard protocol proves superior by transferring more data at a consistently quicker speed than the IPSec protocol. There is a notable exception: IKEv2 switches between Wi-Fi and mobile networks easily, which makes it a great option for cell phones.

An important note for those not wanting to download extra software: Remember that most devices support IPSec protocols by default, while almost every device will require you to download additional software to install and operate WireGuard.

VPNs that support WireGuard

As WireGuard becomes more popular, more mainstream VPNs are beginning to offer the protocol. If you have a favorite VPN provider, there's a strong possibility they already offer WireGuard's VPN protocol or will very soon.

NordVPN

One of the most popular VPN services,NordVPN, was the first of the larger VPNs to offer WireGuard's protocol. NordVPN thought so highly of WireGuard that it took things further and modified the open-source offering to create NordLynx, its customized protocol that offers one of the fastest VPN connections.

5.0

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Editorial Rating

Learn More

On NordVPN's website

VPN

NordVPN

Up to 74% off 2-year plans + 3 months extra

  • What Is WireGuard? (And Why Your VPN Experience Isn’t the Same Without It) (3)Ultra-secure, high-speed VPN complete with malware protection and automatic blocking of intrusive ads and third-party trackers
  • What Is WireGuard? (And Why Your VPN Experience Isn’t the Same Without It) (4)Other benefits include a premium password manager, dark web monitoring, and access to IP-restricted content
  • What Is WireGuard? (And Why Your VPN Experience Isn’t the Same Without It) (5)3 plans to choose from for custom protection on up to 10 devices
  • Too many confusing plans

Surfshark

Surfshark, another prominent player in the VPN universe known to favor state-of-the-art security solutions, currently offers WireGuard to connect users with its global fleet of network servers while maintaining fast connection speeds. Pairing Surfshark and WireGuard is an excellent choice for users seeking more internet privacy, as Surfshark provides users with dynamic IP addresses.

4.6

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Editorial Rating

Learn More

On Surfshark's website

VPN

Surfshark

79% off + 2 months free

  • What Is WireGuard? (And Why Your VPN Experience Isn’t the Same Without It) (8)All-in-one VPN app with 24/7 protection thanks to 3,200+ RAM-only servers in over 100 countries
  • What Is WireGuard? (And Why Your VPN Experience Isn’t the Same Without It) (9)Real-time malware defense, webcam protection, alternative ID creation, ad blocking, and more
  • What Is WireGuard? (And Why Your VPN Experience Isn’t the Same Without It) (10)One subscription covers unlimited devices for your entire household with access to 24/7 support
  • Headquarters in Nine Eyes Alliance

CyberGhost

CyberGhost is a third VPN with an extensive worldwide server fleet that chose to team up with WireGuard in an affiliation beginning back in 2020. WireGuard is currently available on the Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android versions of the CyberGhost VPN app.

4.6

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Editorial Rating

Learn More

On CyberGhost's website

VPN

CyberGhost

Save 83%

  • What Is WireGuard? (And Why Your VPN Experience Isn’t the Same Without It) (13)High-speed global servers offering industry-leading 256-bit AES encryption and no data logs
  • What Is WireGuard? (And Why Your VPN Experience Isn’t the Same Without It) (14)Unlimited bandwidth, DNS and IP leak protection, and automatic kill switch available for up to 7 devices
  • What Is WireGuard? (And Why Your VPN Experience Isn’t the Same Without It) (15)Configurable with your router, smart TV, Amazon Fire TV stick, or gaming console
  • No split tunneling feature

WireGuard FAQ

+

Is WireGuard secure?

WireGuard is considered by many to be one of the safest, most secure VPN protocol options available today. Simplified design using less code equals fewer bugs and security vulnerabilities, while WireGuard's faster state-of-the-art cryptography employs superior default security settings.

+

What are the most common VPN protocols?

Common VPN protocols besides WireGuard include:

  • OpenVPN
  • Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP)
  • Internet Key Exchange Version 2 (IKEv2)
  • Point to Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP)
  • Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP).

+

Is WireGuard free?

Yes, WireGuard is a free, open-source software application.

Bottom line

VPNs provide an excellent option for individuals and organizations looking for a safer, more private connection to the internet. Whether transmitting sensitive data, using public Wi-Fi, enjoying entertainment options, or relocating with a remote server, VPNs can be just the ticket to add convenience with an extra layer of security to your internet experience.

Unfortunately, many current VPN protocols are slow, outdated, and not exactly secure. That's where WireGuard comes in. Though not perfect, as many privacy sticklers point out, it undoubtedly provides a significant upgrade with advanced, state-of-the-art cryptography able to transmit more data at faster speeds.

Better yet, odds are the free app will be offered by your favorite VPN sooner rather than later — in fact, most of the best VPNs already offer WireGuard. So get ready to enjoy the next-gen speed, simplicity, and security WireGuard can bring to your VPN experience.

Customizable Coverage That is Simple to Use

5.0

AllAboutCookies writers and editors score products based on a number of objective features as well as our expert editorial assessment. Our partners do not influence how we rate products.

Editorial Rating

Learn More

On NordVPN's website

VPN

NordVPN

Up to 74% off 2-year plans + 3 months extra

  • What Is WireGuard? (And Why Your VPN Experience Isn’t the Same Without It) (18)Ultra-secure, high-speed VPN complete with malware protection and automatic blocking of intrusive ads and third-party trackers
  • What Is WireGuard? (And Why Your VPN Experience Isn’t the Same Without It) (19)Other benefits include a premium password manager, dark web monitoring, and access to IP-restricted content
  • What Is WireGuard? (And Why Your VPN Experience Isn’t the Same Without It) (20)3 plans to choose from for custom protection on up to 10 devices
  • Too many confusing plans

Author Details

Mark KnowlesAbout the Author

Mark Knowles is a freelance tech content writer specializing in cybersecurity. His expertise includes DevSecOps, cyber risk management, and Zero Trust model security. Mark has completed numerous case studies, blog articles, and e-books for leading technology companies over the last eight years, with a focus on the cybersecurity vertical over the last five years.When not interviewing experts in the field or creating fresh cybersecurity content for organizations, Mark enjoys pushing the limits of fitness and personal growth while planning his next traveling adventure.

What Is WireGuard? (And Why Your VPN Experience Isn’t the Same Without It) (2024)

FAQs

What Is WireGuard? (And Why Your VPN Experience Isn’t the Same Without It)? ›

WireGuard is a new, open-source VPN protocol designed with state-of-the-art cryptography, which is the practice of coding sensitive information so only the intended recipients can interpret its meaning. It provides faster, easier-to-use, and more secure pathways for user devices to connect with VPN servers worldwide.

How is WireGuard different from VPN? ›

WireGuard offers a more reliable connection for mobile users than OpenVPN because it handles network changes better. OpenVPN adds a data overhead of up to 20%, whereas WireGuard uses just 4% more data (compared with not using a VPN). VPN services need to include mitigations to ensure user privacy when using WireGuard.

What is the point of WireGuard? ›

WireGuard is an open-source communication protocol for setting up secure Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). Using advanced cryptographic primitives to secure exchanged data, it seals it within an encrypted tunnel.

Does WireGuard change your IP? ›

During this process, the client creates a new key pair and uploads a new key to the server, and we provide the client with a new IP address. The new key is distributed to our servers and the client switches to using it and the new IP address.

Why is WireGuard so much faster than OpenVPN? ›

However, WireGuard is newer and faster than OpenVPN, because it was designed with modern devices and processors in mind. It is also easier to maintain. NordVPN is one of the providers that use the WireGuard protocol – so it's no wonder that it's one of the fastest services out there.

Do I need WireGuard VPN? ›

WireGuard is considered by many to be one of the safest, most secure VPN protocol options available today. Simplified design using less code equals fewer bugs and security vulnerabilities, while WireGuard's faster state-of-the-art cryptography employs superior default security settings.

Is WireGuard not a VPN? ›

WireGuard is a VPN protocol, a collection of rules that determine how data is encrypted and moved within a virtual private network, or VPN. VPNs are digital tools that hide user IP addresses and protect internet traffic from unwanted exposure.

Can WireGuard be detected? ›

Can WireGuard be detected? Yes, WireGuard can be detected. It doesn't do VPN obfuscation, mostly because of the insistence on UDP transmission mode.

Does WireGuard cost money? ›

Cost and Licensing

Since WireGuard and OpenVPN are free software, there is no expense associated with using them. Though there are some free solutions, you'll still need to pay for a VPN subscription. Since WireGuard and OpenVPN are free software, there is no expense associated with using them.

What does WireGuard Allowedips actually do? ›

The keyword allowed-ips is a list of addresses that will get routed to the peer. Make sure to specify at least one address range that contains the WireGuard connection's internal IP address(es).

Does WireGuard mask your IP? ›

As explained above WireGuard does not allocate a dynamic IP address to the VPN user. And, it indefinitely stores user IP addresses on the VPN server until the server reboots. So, there is no anonymity and privacy in WireGuard.

Does a VPN disguise your IP? ›

A VPN can hide your online identity by masking your IP address. It encrypts your location and the data you send and receive, helping protect your personal identifiable information (PII). This data can come in the form of your bank information, as well as Social Security and driver's license numbers.

Does a VPN reroute your IP address? ›

A VPN replaces your actual IP address to make it look like you've connected to the internet from a different location: the physical location of the VPN server, rather than your real location. This is just one reason why so many people use VPNs.

Is WireGuard the best VPN? ›

WireGuard is a secure tunneling protocol. In fact, owing to its use of modern, well-vetted cryptography, WireGuard is one of the safest VPN protocols out there. Without compromising either the VPN server or your client device, an external attacker can't figure out much about your browsing.

Is Ping better with WireGuard or OpenVPN? ›

Performance and speed

Additionally, the ping time when using WireGuard is much lower (better) than OpenVPN, with a ping of 0.403 ms compared to 1.541 ms.

What port does WireGuard use? ›

What ports do you use for WireGuard? UDP ports 53, 80, 443, 1194, 2049, 2050, 30587, 41893, 48574, 58237.

Is WireGuard the fastest VPN protocol? ›

WireGuard – The Fastest VPN Protocol

High speeds. Open-source code base. Less bandwidth usage.

Does NordVPN use WireGuard or OpenVPN? ›

NordLynx is NordVPN's revolutionary technology built around the WireGuard® VPN protocol.

Is WireGuard not secure? ›

WireGuard is not, by default, post-quantum secure. However, the pre-shared key parameter can be used to add a layer of post-quantum secrecy.

Does private Internet access use WireGuard? ›

PIA VPN automatically uses WireGuard® and you can switch between WireGuard® and OpenVPN in our app.

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