Tor Vs VPN - Frequently Asked Questions

Tor vs VPN

Written by
Nate Williams
Backend Architecture Designer

Whether you want to unlock content, protect yourself from hackers, be invisible on the web or use the internet freely, The question whether using tor or VPN is not completely clear. This blog will help you out understand the difference between them once and for all which is better for you? Head to head - Tor VS. VPN.

Tor vs VPN: which is better?

So you have came to the conclusion – you must protect your privacy when you are online. But wait… is it better to use Tor or a VPN? In order to answer this frequently asked question we have created this guide which will show you how each of the solutions work and which is better for your situation. VPN Vs Tor, Head to head – choose your most preferred way to protect yourself. 

How Tor works

The name “Tor” comes from the acronym of the original project in which it was made – “The Onion Router”. “Onion” routers are ones in which your data is routed through multiple layers of security before reaching its final destination. Primarily, Tor protects you against “traffic analysis,” which might reveal your personal identity and location by monitoring your data at different points between your computer and the websites you visit.

how tor workshow tor works

The Tor network can be reached by downloading and installing their free browser. Once you request information using the browser, it contacts a random Tor server, or node, which is then passes your request to the next random node and so on. Your request will be passed between several nodes before reaching its final destination. The same thing happens when the data is passed the other way – back to you. These “hops” are actually the technique which helps keeping your identity safe with each node knowing only the IP address of it’s previous node and the IP of the next node. This technique makes it impossible for any one server to know where the data originally came from and what is the ultimate destination. Using this method your traffic cannot be analyzed while being transmitted. In addition, your data is encrypted while being passed between these intermediate nodes. However it is far from being perfect – By using Tor, you become exposed to a potential network vulnerability that is the exit node. This node is the last one to handle your data before it reaches the final destination. The data on this last node is completely decrypted, so if you are not using an HTTPS connection your information will be totally exposed to the organization running the exit node.

Tor advantages

By using Tor’s routing method your IP address will not be revealed to the websites you visit.
Since Tor is a distributed network run by volunteers, it is almost impossible for any organization or even governments to shut it down.
The software and network are free for use.
Allows you to access websites and content at / from geographically restricted countries.

Tor disadvantages

Compared to a VPN – Tor is very slow. Since your data is routed through multiple relays, each of them holds a different bandwidth, you practically get the speed equal to the weakest link in the chain – the slowest relay on your route. Tor is definitely not a good choice for watching streaming videos (especially not high-quality streaming videos) or doing any other thing that requires a fast connection.

VPN vs Tor - how tor worksVPN vs Tor - how tor works

Anyone can set up an exit node to spy on Tor users. Since the the exit node traffic is unencrypted, anyone (organizations, government, hacker, etc.) who is running an exit node can see your internet traffic (as long as you are not using an HTTPS connection, but that is a whole different story).

You can only access the Tor network by using their browser or from applications that have a built in Tor access. Any other browser you will use for it’s unique capabilities, will expose you to not being protected by Tor anymore without you even knowing.

The Tor nodes are free to use and so they run by volunteers. While these volunteers probably have good ambitions, they do not take the accountability on them or fund them properly in order to maintain them.

Since Tor is usually used by people and organization who want to hide extremely sensitive information, frequent use of a Tor network will probably mark you for surveillance. You can be at risk even if you do not want to hide extremely sensitive information, for example – torrenting over Tor might make your IP address visible to other peers.

Using or even opening documents that were downloaded using Tor while you are online puts you at risk of revealing your IP address as well.

Tor browser is the only browser able to access the ‘Dark Web’ or the ‘Dark Net’ (websites ending with – ‘.onion’). These sites are being used by crime organizations and cyber-criminals and being spotted as someone who have visited there can get you into a lot of trouble with both the criminals and the government.

How a VPN works

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a service which enables it’s users to “borrow” an IP address of a VPN Server and so it encrypts the connection between the user’s device (iPhone, iPad, Computer etc…) and the VPN server. The VPN essentially acts on behalf of your device when you are online, yet it is much more secure than a proxy server since it encrypts your data, and some VPN services, like Hotspot VPN, do not log browsing history. Since you can use the IP address of a VPN server in another part of the world, you can get around geographic content restrictions and mask your physical location. Click here to read our complete guide on VPN.

VPN advantages

A VPN is much faster than Tor. Since you are going directly to a specifically picked VPN server and then to your desired destination (website, mobile application, online service, etc.), it’s faster than going through the multiple stages of the Tor nodes, before hitting your final destination.

VPN services such as Hotspot VPN are also available in free version (usually supported by advertisements).

Funded by the users’ paid memberships, the VPN companies pay for maintenance of the network and so they ensure the highest possible availability and quality.

VPN protects all of your device’s internet connections, and not just the ones that are setup to work with Tor.

Using a VPN with a built-in Kill Switch, like the one Hotspot VPN has, will protect you from accidental data leaks.

VPN will allow you to access all geographically restricted websites and content.

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VPN disadvantages

Most VPN providers use the service in order to log your browsing history. We advise you not to use untrusted VPN suppliers as well as VPN services that are completely free with no ads (it means they get their money by selling your personal data to 3rd parties). Unlike others – We at Hotspot VPN do not log any browsing data.

Wanna get rid of those annoying ads and access additional features? You can also do it by becoming a premium user.

The winner of Tor vs VPN

tor vs vpntor vs vpn

In summary – the best solution for you will depend on your exact situation. While Tor is probably better for those who are transmitting ultra sensitive information, which could literally result in life threatening situations, and are willing to sacrifice speed for security, and of course, that have set up all the right processes and infrastructure required for protecting themselves from exit node surveillance. The VPN solution is the best and most recommended for the majority of the people since it provides the great balance between browsing speed, ease of use (with literally no infrastructure or installation required) and privacy. The VPN connection will also protect all of your devices’ online connections with no extra setup needed.

What about using Tor with a VPN?

Well, this is one of the most common questions that usually come up whenever we talk about Tor vs VPN. Although VPN is generally faster than Tor, using them together will dramatically slow down your internet connection and should probably be avoided… Sometimes less is more, and this situation is a great example of those times. For most people – VPN connection is the best solution both in terms of connection and protection. Still not sure which option is best for you? Download Hotspot VPN and try it for free.

Try HotSpot VPN now completely FREE!

We are so sure that you will fall in love with our service,
that we are giving it completely FREE for one week!
Claim your free week!