Tor and VPN aim at protecting your online privacy and both are great anonymity tools to stay anonymous and private online. Though Tor and VPN are quite similar, both are not the same and they serve different purposes.
While the majority of the population uses the internet, most of them are concerned about their privacy online. They think about ways to make sure their data does not leak. They turn to proxies, VPNs, and private networks. However, most are unaware of the kinds of anonymity tools that are available and how the tools must be used. We created this guide to help you understand the differences between VPNs and Tor.
VPN and Tor mask their users’ IP addresses and their original locations, thereby making them almost untraceable online. They also encrypt the data they send and receive. Now, you might wonder what is the difference between the two and which one you should use. This article explains how the two technologies differ and how you must use them.
What is Tor?
Tor is nothing but the acronym of “The Onion Router.” The Tor browser is available for different platforms like Windows, Mac, mobile phones, and Linux. This browser is used to protect one’s identity and privacy online. When you connect to the internet using the Tor browser, your online activities will be kept private, as everything you do online will go through Tor’s encrypted network.
Tor is known as an “onion” router as your data will pass through multiple security layers and finally reach the destination. The Tor browser will encrypt your traffic at all these different layers so that you can enjoy as much privacy as possible. Basically, this is how the Tor browser works. This browser will protect your online identity.
How Does Tor Work?
The Tor browser will disguise your online identity by routing your internet traffic through different Tor servers. No one will be able to track your online movements as your traffic will run through multiple encrypted servers. Just like the layers of an onion, the Tor browser has multiple layers of privacy.
The anonymous browsing network, Tor, consists of several relays. Whenever a connection is established, the data will be transferred through three relays in the Tor network. The three relays are called Entry guard, Middle relay, and Exit relay, and all these relays will be operated by volunteers. This way, multi-layer encryption will be created. This, in turn, will keep the users’ identity safe and private.
At each Tor relay, one encryption layer will be decrypted in order to disclose the next relay’s location. The remaining data will move to the next Tor relay and will finally reach the destination. When your data reaches the final node, known as the exit node, the last encryption layer will be removed. The exit relay, the final Tor node, will appear to be the point from where the data originated. The different paths through which the data passes will be generated randomly and these relays will not retain any records. This complex Tor network makes it close to impossible to track the users’ identity or the server through which the data passed.
Pros of Tor
- The Tor browser is just like any other browser we use for our regular browsing activities. It is user friendly and anyone can easily use it. You can quickly configure the Tor browser in any operating system; be it Linux, Windows, or Mac.
- The Tor browser is free for all. You can freely download the Tor browser for any platform.
- The Tor browser will keep your browsing data private. It will not reveal your IP address to the websites and streaming services you visit and use. You can use Tor to keep your information safe from the government and other third-parties.
- The Tor browser is run by volunteers, so it cannot be shut down so easily.
- This browser routes your traffic in such a way that it will keep your IP address hidden.
- It will let you access content blocked in your location. This includes blocked websites and deep dark internet websites.
- You can use the Tor browser to open .onion websites that cannot be opened using other regular browsers.
- There are web pages that are not indexed by popular search engines like Google, Bing, etc. You can use the Tor browser to access such pages.
Cons of Tor
- You will experience slow speeds as the internet traffic passes through multiple layers. You might face difficulties while loading photos and videos.
- The Tor network’s security is meant only for the Tor browser and the apps that can be used with Tor. This Tor security will not be extended to all the applications that you might run on your computer. Basically, the Tor network cannot secure your computer.
- Uploading or downloading large files may not be possible.
- As the Tor network is used for illegal activities, you need to be careful while using it for torrenting, streaming, and for other purposes.
Know which are the Best VPN for TOR Network
What is a VPN?
Virtual Private Network, VPN, is an anonymity tool that will encrypt your internet traffic by changing your IP address. It is used to keep your online activities secure and private. When you are connected to a VPN, you need not worry about hackers, the government, or any third-party spying on you.
How Does a VPN Work?
The VPN software installed on your computer will encrypt all the data you send and receive. This data will be sent through a secure connection, i.e., through the VPN’s encrypted tunnels. The VPN server will decrypt the encrypted data sent from your computer and send it to the internet. It will receive a reply through the same VPN server. The VPN server will then send this reply back to you through a secure encrypted connection. Once you receive it, the VPN installed on your computer will decrypt this data so that you can access it. This way, your IP will be kept hidden.
VPNs have a vast server network across the globe. When you send data, it will pass through one of those global servers and reach the internet. As your data goes through different servers, your IP will be changed. This way, your identity will not be revealed as your data will reach the internet through one of the VPN’s servers.
VPN will protect your identity and make it appear like you are in a different place. You can access blocked content from anywhere in the world. For instance, if you try to access Hulu, Netflix US, or some other blocked streaming service from your location, you will not be able to do so because of geo-blocks. But a VPN will let you access all blocked services by connecting your device to the internet through one of its servers in the country where the streaming service is available.
Pros of VPNs
- VPNs are faster than the Tor browser. You will just go to your destination directly through the VPN server and will not pass through multiple layers like Tor. So that you will not experience slow connection speeds.
- VPNs come with a kill switch. This VPN feature will protect you from accidental data leaks.
- You can access any geo-blocked content using a VPN, including websites, streaming services, games, and more.
- Using a VPN, you can protect all the devices like mobile phones, laptops, tablets, TVs, and routers connected to the VPN.
- Free and premium VPN services are available, but the free services are not that reliable.
- ISPs generally limit their users’ bandwidth, which in turn will result in you experiencing slow internet speeds. You can avoid such ISP throttling using a VPN.
- A VPN will help you bypass all kinds of firewalls. Some VPNs like NordVPN and Surfshark VPN are even capable of bypassing the firewall of China.
- You can securely torrent files without endangering your privacy.
- VPNs will protect you from DDoS attacks and make your online gaming experience better.
- You can expect excellent device compatibility as VPNs come with apps for almost all devices.
Cons of VPNs
- Not all VPN services are safe and some log their users’ browsing history.
- For security and online privacy, you will need to pay for the VPN service as free VPNs are not trustworthy.
- VPNs can slow down your network speeds but it may not be noticeable.
Can I Use Tor with a VPN?
You can use Tor with a VPN, but it could slow down your internet speed. To use the Tor browser with a VPN, you just have to connect your device to the VPN and then use the Tor browser to browse the web. This way, your traffic will first go through the VPN and then the Tor network. Using Tor with a VPN will add more security and make it more challenging for third parties to track your online activities and identity. When you use Tor and the VPN, no one will be able to make out that you are using the Tor browser. Even your ISP will not be able to detect that you are using the Tor browser.
There are some VPN services like NordVPN that come with the Onion over Tor feature. Using this feature, you can connect to the Tor network without the Tor browser as NordVPN will create a connection between the Tor network and its servers. This way, your traffic will be routed through a VPN server and it will then pass through the Tor network. When you use NordVPN, it will not just secure the traffic that passes through the Tor network but it will protect your device as a whole.
How About VPN Over Tor?
When you choose to use VPN over the Tor network, your traffic will first go through the Tor network and then through the VPN. In this case, you will have to configure the VPN to work with the Tor network. When you use a VPN over Tor, your traffic will not reach the final destination through Tor’s exit node but through a secure VPN server. You can use VPN over Tor to transfer sensitive information.
When you connect to the Tor network first, even the VPN will not be able to see your original IP address. Though your online activities will be encrypted and kept hidden, your ISP will be able to make out that you are using Tor for your online communications.
Your internet traffic will get an extra layer of security when you use the Tor network and VPN together. That is because your IP address will be kept hidden throughout the entire process and your data will remain encrypted.
Tor vs VPN – Which is Our Recommendation?
You can choose between the Tor network and VPN, depending on your situation. We would recommend going for VPNs, though both VPNs and Tor are used to protect your privacy online and keep you anonymous. For complete online anonymity, we would suggest using a top-rated VPN as it is not possible for anyone to use the Tor browser as their primary internet portal. You can maybe use it as a second web browser,
Though Tor will secure your browsing activities, you cannot expect fast connection speeds. VPNs, on the other hand, offer fast connection speeds. VPNs encrypt all your internet traffic and let you access any website or streaming service. Likewise, you can connect to a server in any location of your choice.
However, make sure you choose a top-rated VPN like NordVPN that has a strong track record of unblocking websites and offering secure connections. Install the VPN on the device you wish to secure using the installation guide the VPN service offers. You can take a look at our detailed VPN reviews to choose the right VPN service.