When it comes to a VPN that protects your privacy, Sweden-based Mullvad is the best we’ve ever seen. The company wants to know as little about you as possible and doesn’t require an email address or even a password. Instead, the company randomly generates a unique code for your username. This username sans password is what you use to top off the credits on your account, and log in to the desktop apps.
Note: This review is part of our best VPNs roundup. Go there for details about competing products and how we tested them.
If you’re worried about not having a password, Mullvad says it’s statistically very safe. “A newly created Mullvad account number is a 16-digit decimal...This allows for a total of 8.99 quadrilion possible account numbers,” the company said in a 2017 blog post. “Assuming our customers are actively using 100,000 different accounts with us, one would need to guess on average 45 billion times in order to find a working account. This is practically impossible.”
Besides, any risk inherent in that tradeoff is probably worth it to those who want to stay as anonymous as possible. That is the key advantage of this VPN. Mullvad even lets you send cash through the mail to pay for your account, making it one of the best options for anonymity online.
Mullvad: Security, software, servers, and speed
Mullvad for Mac with a live connection.
Mullvad is run by Amagicom AB and is based in Gothenburg, Sweden. The company was founded by Fredrik Strömberg and Daniel Berntsson who, according to the Mullvad about page, “are actively involved in the company.” The rest of the team is also listed on this page.
During a session Mullvad says it has to store your account number, your account’s paid time remaining, and how many simultaneous connections are being used per account. This is all kept in temporary memory that is purged after you log off. Mullvad allows up to five simultaneous connections per account. Other than that Mullvad logs the total number of current connections for a given server, the CPU load per core on each server, and the total bandwidth used per server. All of these items are in the name of network maintenance and do not contain any personalized data.
Mullvad on Mac uses OpenVPN by default with the following settings:
- Data encryption: AES-256-GCM (default)
- Data authentication: SHA384
- Handshake: 4096-bit RSA
On Mac, Mullvad also supports WireGuard, and the latest version of the app makes it simple to use the protocol by going to Settings > Advanced > Tunnel protocol > WireGuard.
Overall, the Mullvad app is very simple and easy to understand. It has two buttons at the bottom of the primary view. Click the first one to choose your location, with some countries such as the UK and U.S. having multiple options if you’d like to drill down to a specific region. Then you simply click the Secure my connection button to activate the VPN. It would be nice to see the country list support ping times or report the load of each server, but currently it does not.
The Settings area doesn’t have much in the way of options, but Mullvad makes some excellent choices in terms of defaults. There are options to launch the app on startup and use local network sharing, but both of these are off by default. That leaves it to the user to decide whether to use them or not. There’s also an auto-connect option that automatically connects to the VPN when the app is launched. That, in my opinion, is annoying, but you can turn it off in the settings.
Mullvad offers connections in 38 countries with 315 servers that are all owned or rented, and operated by the company. Mullvad says it does not use any virtual servers, which enable a single physical device to operate as if it were multiple devices. Virtual servers are not uncommon in cloud-based services, including VPNs. But with Mullvad, all VPN connections are running on physical hardware in the stated location.
As for speed, Mullvad surprised us with some mixed results. On Windows, Mullvad was very fast, and our first day of Mac testing was no different with the VPN maintaining nearly 32 percent of the base speed. The following days the speeds dropped dramatically, with the VPN retaining around 22 percent of the base speed after three days of testing. The results were brought down by poor performance in Australia and Asia, while European and North American speeds were generally good. We’re going to give Mullvad the benefit of the doubt here, but if speeds are your top priority, perhaps commit to a single month at first to see how it performs for you.
We tested Mullvad using OpenVPN, though we intend to test WireGuard in the near future.
Mullvad’s pricing is very simple. The company charges €5 per month, which at this writing was about $5.55. There are no discounts for prepaying for additional months or anything like that. Still, at around $67 per year you’re getting good value.
Mullvad is excellent. Speeds are good for the most part, and privacy and anonymity are top-notch. You’d be hard pressed to find anything better for privacy short of running your own server at a secret location guarded by a three-headed dog. It doesn’t have all the extra features that other services do such as guaranteed compatibility with Netflix, double-hop VPNs, Onion over VPN connections, and other features. Still, for a simple and solid VPN connection with a trustworthy company backing it, Mullvad is hard to beat.
Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission.
Sweden-based Mullvad is an excellent choice for anyone whose top priorities from a VPN are privacy and anonymity. Mullvad makes it a point to not learn anything about you, with no email or password requirement. While it doesn't offer any special features, this no-nonsense VPN is a solid choice.
- Higher level of anonymity possible than with most VPN services
- WireGuard support
- Not guaranteed to work with Netflix
- No password protection for your account
Mullvad offers an anonymous, private VPN service for securing your Internet connection. They use OpenVPN and WireGuard VPN protocols.
You can buy this software completely anonymously as they do not want your email for the sign up process. The only reason for concern is their strict Sweden jurisdiction and no live chat option.
Amagicom AB, the company behind Mullvad, was founded in 2009 in Göteborg, Sweden by Fredrik Strömberg and Daniel Berntsson.
Mullvad Pros +
Every single VPN provider claims to not log any of your data as you make use of their networks.
We’ve discovered this to be anything but true; VPN providers do log and provide your data to authorities.
Sounds awfully Swiss-Bank-Secrecy like, eh? I’ll explain this amazing feature later on. You do not want to miss it!
In short, you don’t sign up with an email and password. You get a numbered account and that’s it!
Mullvad’s No-Logging Policy is perhaps the single strongest we have ever seen and it makes so much sense.
Their lack of login information gives them the ability to offer you unprecedented anonymity! Just fantastic!
Additionally, Mullvad’s website does not track you accross their web, as shown via Privacy Badger!
2. Strong Tunneling Protocols – OpenVPN & WireGuard
It was rather interesting to discover that Mullvad only uses OpenVPN and a very new crypto-based protocol that is still in development: WireGuard.
WireGuard is an in-development secure networking tunnel with a very promising whitepaper. It’s very likely to become the next big thing in the VPN world. Due to a very minimalist and streamlined codebase, this crypto-based protocol is said to be able to deliver up to 5x faster connections and 0 connection delays.
As of today, Wireguard is already available for Linux and is currently in beta for both Windows and Android.
Very exciting stuff!
Mullvad also supports the SOCKS5 protocol.
3. Safe and Secure – No IP Leaks
Right, we agree that Mullvad has our best interest at heart.
Step 1 – Check.
It does seem, however, that disastrous data breaches are happening more often than ever before!
Mullvad follows standard practices here and utilizes industry standard AES-256 Encryption via a UDP.
Mullvad also provides simple access to WireGuard, an in-progress open source VPN.
Nothing out of the ordinary here. I would have liked some more info on those subjects on their website.
It’s very scarce.
Has a Kill Switch
A kill switch allows the VPN to cut your internet connection if its own tunneling process fails.
Mullvad has such feature available which further adds to the overall security.
DNS & Malware Proof (With One Caveat)
The systems that connect a domain like “TheBestVPN.com” to it’s actual IP address are known as Domain Name Servers (DNS).
A DNS can have a perfect map of your browsing history, which is precisely the problem that VPNs were initially designed to overcome. However, some VPNs encounter issues when trying to hide your browsing from a DNS server.
When this information is attacked and accessed, we call it a DNS leak.
Here at TheBestVPN.com, we put all of our VPNs through a series of tests, ensuring that IP leaks are not a threat. We initially tested Mullvad and found it to be free of leaks. We ran these same tests again in July 2019 and found that it still received perfect marks across the board.
Mullvad prudently offer DNS Leak protection by default.
We also ran Mullvad’s setup file through 67 different Anti-Virus programs.
Interestingly, Baidu (Chinese Conglomerate) reports a virus, which we are confident to be a false-positive.
Either way, the other 60+ well-respected antivirus programs agree with us — Mullvad can be trusted!
4. Faster Than Average Speed
Common sense suggests that, if you’re taking the long road around, it’s going to take longer to go from A to B.
No difference here!
Any time you chose to utilize a VPN, you’re going off the beaten path.
Slow-downs are unavoidable!
That said, some perform much better than others. How fast a server is, depends on a billion things, not least among how much it is being used.
Cheap VPNs skimp out and let their servers be overused and bogged down.
One of our most important and extensive tests are to measure connection speeds. We perform many hundreds of them every day with the single goal of finding the fastest ones!
As usual, we used our Europe based 100 Mbps up & down connection as a benchmark.
We connected to both EU and US servers and measured how much our speeds slowed down.
Usually, we don’t like to see more than a 20% speed reduction. Here are Mullvad’s results:
Mullvad Europe Speed Test
- Ping: 62 ms
- Download: 83 Mbps
- Upload: 34 Mbps
Mullvad USA Speed Test
- Ping: 109 ms
- Download: 59 Mbps
- Upload: 20 Mbps
Compared with our fastest VPNs, this puts Mullvad in 10th place out of a total of 78 different VPNs!
Really impressive stuff, especially for domestic servers.
5. Torrenting And P2P is Allowed
With torrenting being one of the biggest reasons people use VPNs, you’d think all providers would allow them.
Not if you’re based in countries where you can get sued into the ground.
You won’t find too many torrent friendly VPNs operating in any of the 14 eyes jurisdiction.
Especially not Sweden. Ya know, the blokes who charged and jailed the The Pirate Bay Founders.
Mullvad is one of the few that DO support torrenting.
While they do not state so explicitly, their detailed and straightforward Bittorent guide suggests they are A-OK with you doing your thing!
6. Unblocks Netflix, But Only Some Servers
Back a few years ago, when cyber attacks and data breaches weren’t as common, VPNs were an amazing tool to watch Netflix from everywhere in the world.
Netflix geo-blocks its content, meaning that the Netflix someone watches in New York City would be different from the Netflix one in Rome Italy. VPNs became your go-to solution because of these restrictions.
Unfortunately, Netflix is very quick to identify VPN connections and block access to their services today.
Remember, a VPN hides your traffic, but not always the fact that you’re using a VPN.
We tested a selection of Mullvad servers to check how many of them provide full access to the US Netflix library (the biggest one).
When we first reviewed this product the server in New York managed to unblock Netflix. But sadly, the company has caught on and Netflix no longer works on any of the US servers that we tested.
- New York – Blocked
- Illinois – Blocked
- Arizona – Blocked
- Texas – Blocked
- Washington – Blocked
Blocked servers are inevitable, but with Mullvad’s limited US server locations (29 in total) no direct connection supports Netflix.
That was not the case everywhere, however. We connected to a server in London England and fired up Netflix, only to be met with happy results.
Netflix fired right up and started playing Stranger Things with no lag whatsoever.
So while Mullvad’s Netflix functionality might falter in the US, there are other markets where you’re still able to break through.
That’s not the best Netflix support we’ve seen, but it’s far from the worst.
7. Solid Server Network
When it comes to servers: the more a VPN has, the better. You want options and Mullvad delivers them.
When we first reviewed this product, Mullvad had a minimalist website where users had to work hard to find server information. And when you did, it was difficult to understand.
Mullvad has turned all of that around, however, presenting a more streamlined site with a clearly defined server list, separating all of its server options into three categories.
There are 311 OpenVPN servers on Mullvad’s system, located in 38 countries around the world.
Wireguard servers are located in 27 different countries. There are 60 in all.
Mullvad also features 14 Bridge servers which are located in nine different countries.
In total, Mullvad offers 385 servers across 38 countries and allows for five simultaneous connections.
8. New User Friendly App
When we first reviewed Mullvad, we were dismayed by how poor the app’s usability was, particularly for newbies who were not VPN experts.
The company has clearly responded well to criticism, because they came back with a brand new user interface and simple design that someone with absolutely no technical experience could operate.
Signing up was simple. They don’t ask for any personal information. You just enter your payment method and pre-pay for the amount of time you want. I paid $5.61 for one month of service. We will go more into payment methods in a later section.
Once payment is received, Mullvad gives you an account number. After that, you have to download the application onto your device.
The download was simple and quick. It failed once, but I rebooted it and it went through perfectly.
The app launched and immediately connected me to a server in Sweden. If you don’t want to app to connect automatically upon launch, that setting can be changed by clicking on the gear icon in the upper right hand corner.
You can connect and disconnect from the service with the push of one button. If you want to switch your location, click on the “Switch Location” button and you will get a menu featuring every country included in Mullvad’s server list.
For countries with multiple options, click on the arrow next to its name and a drop-down menu will appear that will allow you to select individual servers by city.
Clicking on the country itself will assign you to a random server.
This is a great course correction, making what was once a product that was borderline unusable unless you were an expert into one of the simplest and most user friendly VPNs we’ve encountered.
Mullvad Cons –
1. Super Strict Swedish Jurisdiction (14 Eyes)
After WW2, the UKUSA Agreement changed how intelligence communities worked forever. What started as an intelligence-sharing agreement between two countries over 70 years ago has now become an alliance of 14 western countries which share intelligence between each other.
Scary? You betcha.
If you think the NSA only spies on US citizens, think again.
Unfortunately, Mullvad is based in Sweden, which is one of those 14 nations. In fact, Sweden has exceptionally active and considered at the forefront of information sharing.
Would this usually be a dealbreaker? Almost certainly.
Is it with Mullvad? No!
Remember how you don’t need to provide any information to register? If you make sure to pay for their services anonymously (Bitcoin), there is nothing that the 14 eyes could possibly use to identify you.
That said, I would highly suggest you to look elsewhere, if you’re not into cryptocurrency and would prefer a more convenient payment process.
2. No Live Chat Support
You don’t plan on breaking your arm next Sunday, but you still have health insurance.
Do you agree?
It’s not a question of if, but of when you’ll need to reach out and require assistance from your VPN provider. Mullvad or not.
With Mullvad, you’re going to be limited in how quick you’ll receive assistance.
Unfortunately, our favorite Swedes do not provide any sort of live chat or ticketing system. What’s more, their knowledgebase offers very poor access to help articles. You’ll have to dig and scroll to find one that may or may not answer your question.
You can reach them through their email: [email protected]
Here’s a quick CS test I performed, to gauge how they would respond to a couple of basic questions.
As you can see, I made sure to be vague and really went heavy on the “I don’t know anything” angle.
They got back to me in two hours!
Sadly, their response was just as vague and lacking in context. A bit of a disappointment.
For good measure I tested them again, this time through Facebook.
I asked a very probing question, about an abusable loophole in their system (nothing to fear). As a professional courtesy I have redacted the details to avoid people abusing their good nature.
I was amazed to receive a response only an hour later and what a response! They didn’t try to spin a story or anything, but flat out admitted what I already knew to be true.
Really impressive! I just wish this level of quality would extend to their official support channels.
One more band-aid to rip.
This one may hurt; they only provide support during and around Swedish work hours.
3. Not All Devices Are Supported
Devices Mullvad supports one way or another:
Usually, we like to see VPN providers develop their standalone apps and programs for the big 5 operating systems: Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS & Android.
Mullvad has developed apps for only Mac, Windows and Linux. You’ll have to go through a lengthy 15 step process via OpenVPN setup your mobile devices.
There is also no information regarding smart TVs, router assistance and other less often used internet devices.
Mullvad Pricing, Cost and Payment Methods
You know their pricing is simple, when they don’t even have a dedicated pricing page.
It’s so simple.
You make an account, which takes a couple seconds.
After that, 30 days of access costs €5 (about $5.61).
No monthly plans, no gated features that require “Premium” accounts – nothing.
It’s 5 euros a month and that’s it.
Among the 9 different payment methods like Paypal and Credit Cards, Mullvad accept two cryptocurrencies for anonymous payments: Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash.
This, coupled with their numbered accounts ensures 100% secrecy.
As for Mullvad’s refund policy, it’s solid yet can be confusing if you opt for the crypto payment route.
Make sure you carefully read it over and ensure you can provide a signature for the original address which you used to make the payment.
Oh, and don’t pay via cash. Apparently, the Swedes are not big on that when it comes to refunds…
Do I recommend Mullvad VPN?
Yes, I do.
We once referred to this service as “close, but no cigar.” Directing VPN rookies to services like NordVPN instead. That was mostly due to usability concerns which have all been washed away with these recent updates.
Mullvad, you have earned that cigar!
Unfortunately, the support department is still mediocre and their Netflix functionality is shoddy at best. Adding dedicated mobile apps for Android and iOS platforms is something that we’re hoping to see in the future, but for now they’ve done enough to earn our endorsement.
For anyone who cares about their anonymity, Mullvad VPN is an interesting option. While the actual VPN service doesn’t provide any unusual features and is fairly bare-bones, the payment plans are highly unusual and compelling. You can pay with Bitcoin (and receive a 10 percent discount), PayPal, or even by sending cash in an envelope (with a secure token key you print out). You never have to enter your name or other personal information and you use a 16-digit code to register and pay, not your email.
Mullvad VPN offers a very unusual lifetime plan:
This VPN only offers a monthly plan and no annual plans. Check out how our other top VPN recommendations compare.
- Unusual flat-rate monthly payment plan
- 10% discount when you use Bitcoin
- Alternative payment methods
- Does not offer a long-term subscription
Mullvad VPN prices and plans
Mullvad VPN offers one of the most unusual payment options around
If you’re wondering which payment plan to pick with Mullvad VPN, here’s the good news. There’s only one. You can skip all of the usual tiers and features available with basic or pro plans—this VPN only offers a monthly plan at a flat rate of 5 euros, which is $5.42 in U.S. dollars. (The company operates out of Sweden so their pricing is in euros only.) There is a 30-day money-back trial. But with an on-going subscription, your plan renews each month or you can pay for only one month, but the price is the same either way.
Unusual flat-rate monthly payment plan
No other VPN we’ve found offers such a simple pricing plan.
Mullvad VPN stands out for one simple reason—it only costs $5.42 per month no matter how you pay or for how long. That’s not as cheap as some VPNs if you pay for the annual plan, but it is one of the most affordable options around if you pay by the month. It doesn’t matter if you renew the service each month, and paying for the full year at once is not available. If you do pay for a month, you can cancel within 30-days for a full refund, which is fairly typical with most VPN services.
10% discount when you use Bitcoin
A good discount if you prefer to pay with cryptocurrency.
Another unusual perk is that, if you pay with Bitcoin, you will receive a 10-percent discount. That means your final price will be only $4.88. Since Bitcoin is highly secure—you never have to reveal your identity—it is also a smart way to use a VPN. Mullvad VPN offers the Bitcoin plan at a discount because their processing fees are less.
Alternative payment methods
Few VPN providers offer so many unusual payment options.
With the possible exception of Private Internet Access and Windscribe, the one additional feature with Mullvad VPN that is highly unusual has to do with how you can pay. Private Internet Access does allow you to use a gift card from companies like Starbucks or Target to pay for the service, and Windscribe lets you add individual servers one by one for a low fee, but Mullvad VPN goes a few steps further. You can pay with Swish, a bank wire transfer, PayPal, a credit card, Bitcoin, or even send the company cash in an envelope (you print out a token to match it with your account).
The best Mullvad VPN plan: Flat rate
Who it’s best for: Best for those who want flexible payment options.
Why we recommend it: Paying monthly means you can decide if you really like it.
|Flat rate||$5.42/mo.||Unusual flat-rate monthly payment plan|
Recap: Is Mullvad VPN good?
Mullvad VPN is not the most powerful or feature-rich VPN (if you’re interested in one of those, check out our best VPN providers list), and that is reflected in our review score. However, if you simply need a VPN to protect your connection, Mullvad provides a lot of flexibility in how you can pay—even by sending cash in an envelope.
Mullvad VPN prices and plans:
- Flat rate – $5.42/mo.
Mullvad VPN standout features:
- Unusual flat-rate monthly payment plan
- 10% discount when you use Bitcoin
- Alternative payment methods
Why send cash?
You may have noticed Mullvad VPN allows you to send cash in an envelope as a way to pay for the VPN. That’s extremely rare, but the reasoning is that it is extremely difficult (or even impossible) to trace. Someone would have to conduct a DNA analysis of the cash or the envelope, which would likely not last in shipment anyway. So if you’re looking for the ultimate anonymous payment method, this is it.
Before you plunk down your cold hard credit card number, however, there are many questions to ask. Can you trust the company? What are the speeds like? Is there a desktop app and is it easy to use? How many country locations are there, and can you still watch Netflix while connected?
Let’s take a look at two of the most popular VPN choices—Mullvad and NordVPN (the former is our current top pick for a VPN)—to help you understand how they differ and figure out which one is right for you.
The Windows app
The primary way we interact with a VPN is through its desktop app. A bad app may not be a deal breaker, but something that’s easy to use just makes things simpler.
Mullvad recently overhauled its desktop app, moving from something extremely utilitarian to a sleek, single-pane app with a non-interactive map. It’s a vast improvement over what the company had before, but it doesn’t quite rise to the excellent mix of simplicity and power-user complexity that NordVPN offers.
A VPN is useless if your internet connection slows to a crawl. In our tests, both VPNs busted out high speed performances, with Mullvad squeaking ahead by a few points. In our most recent tests, NordVPN kept 49 percent of the base speed across five different country locations, while Mullvad hit 52 percent.
Privacy and anonymity
Both Mullvad and NordVPN are big on not tracking you. NordVPN says it doesn’t log any of your activity, though it does maintain a timestamp of your session status which is deleted within 15 minutes after you terminate a connection. Mullvad also has a no-logs policy and says all data is sent to
dev/null, a nonexistent directory on Linux machines.
When it comes to protecting your identity, Mullvad really excels. NordVPN only requires an email, which is already pretty good, and you can easily use a throwaway address to manage your account.
Mullvad, however, doesn’t even want that much information. When you sign up it assigns a random account number that is your only way to access your account. No passwords that might accidentally reveal identifying information, no email address, nothing.
A key component to trusting a company with your data and privacy is identifying who runs the company and where they are in the world. That’s easy with Mullvad, but NordVPN’s founders and managers remain anonymous.
NordVPN did try to improve the trust situation with a recent third-party audit of its no-logs policy. The report validated most of the company’s claims; however, the audit was contracted in such a way that NordVPN is prevented from publishing the audit in full to the public—though NordVPN customers can read it online from their account dashboard. So we have anonymous leadership and a report that validates most of NordVPN’s claims but cannot be published for everyone to read.
When it comes to price, NordVPN has the cheaper plans, if you pay for three years upfront. The company’s three-year plan will cost a little less than $108, working out to just under $36 per year.
If you choose to pay year-by-year instead, it comes out to about $84 per year; a per-month plan is $12 per month.
Mullvad’s pricing scheme is much simpler. The company charges you €5 per month, which at this writing was about $5.70.
So where does that leave us? Overall, NordVPN has the cheapest plans, but if you need a month-to-month VPN at a reasonable price it’s hard to beat Mullvad as most VPNs charge $10-$12 for a single month.
A popular use for a VPN when you’re overseas or just securing your connection away from home is watching Netflix. Mullvad doesn’t make any promises about being able to view Netflix, but NordVPN does. The last time we checked, NordVPN was making good on its promise. Mullvad users may occasionally find they can connect to Netflix, but it’s more of a happy accident than a guaranteed feature.
NordVPN lets you choose servers.
Mullvad runs its own network of servers and offers 33 country locations and more than 300 servers. NordVPN is closer to double that at 58 countries and more than 3,000 servers.
Mullvad offers apps for Windows, Mac, and Linux. You can also use Mullvad on Android and iOS, but the company doesn’t provide customized apps for those platforms.
NordVPN also has apps for Windows, Mac, and Linux, as well as apps for Android and iOS.
If you do a straight count of the categories above, NordVPN is ahead by one (or two if the call on pricing upsets you). Still, the speed, privacy, and trust categories are weighted more heavily since they are the key components of a VPN in our book. For that reason, we’re recommending Mullvad, which should come as no surprise since it’s the top pick in our VPN roundup.
The bottom line is that Mullvad checks almost every box and there are numerous reasons to trust its service with your data. NordVPN has a long track record of service, but anonymous owners encourage rumors about what’s going on behind the scenes—as witnessed in August 2018—and is a problem that’s so easily solved. Not to mention the head-scratcher of obtaining a third-party audit of your systems that can’t be made public when the whole point is to validate your claims to the public.
By our calculation there’s just no question. When it comes down to NordVPN vs. Mullvad, the latter is the clear winner.
Mullvad is a fast, anonymous and secure VPN that allows torrenting and P2P traffic on every server. While it's a good VPN to use with PC, Mac and iOS devices, it doesn't have an Android app, which is a shame. Also, it's not a good VPN for streaming as it won't unblock Netflix or BBC iPlayer.
On its website Mullvad states that “privacy is a universal right,” but does this VPN service do enough to protect you? We put Mullvad’s VPN applications through our rigorous and extensive tests to find out.
In this detailed Mullvad VPN review, you’ll find all the information you need about this Swedish VPN service, including:
- Is Mullvad a good VPN?
- Who really owns Mullvad?
- Is it as private as it claims to be?
- Does it work with Netflix?
- Does Mullvad allow torrenting?
Let’s begin our review by highlighting Mullvad’s main pros and cons below:
Mullvad VPN Pros & Cons
- Outstanding speeds
- A great VPN for torrenting
- Minimal-logging policy
- Advanced security features
- Easy-to-use desktop app
- No custom iOS and Android apps
- Unreliable access to Netflix & BBC iPlayer
- Small server network
- Support is slow and limited
Mullvad VPN Key Summary
|Logging Policy||Anonymous Server Usage Data|
|Jurisdiction||Sweden (14-Eyes Member)|
|Works in China||No|
|Support||Email & Online Resources Only|
Now that you’ve seen Mullvad’s benefits and drawbacks, plus some of its key features, lets take a close look at Mullvad’s VPN speeds.
Who is Mullvad VPN?
About & Logging
Mullvad VPN is owned by Amagicom AB and run by its CEO Jan Axel Jonsson. It’s incorporated in Sweden, a nation which belongs to the ‘Fourteen Eyes’, an intelligence alliance made up of 14 countries who collect and share mass surveillance data.
This is a potential red flag, but considering Mullvad’s minimal-logs policy, no data requested by the authorities can be linked back to an individual user.
We say it’s Mullvad will keep you private (more on this further down).
Mullvad shows a clear dedication to privacy, with a minimal-logs policy that only collects anonymous connection metadata relating to server usage.
No personal details are needed to create an account, and you are simply assigned a randomly-generated account number, further protecting your identity.
Mullvad VPN does not log any traffic, user bandwidth, or originating IP addresses. Mullvad does monitor a user’s total number of simultaneous connections, but this data is never stored.
Mullvad does collect some anonymous usage stats, such as CPU load per core and total bandwidth used per server, which is used to maintain reliable server performance. This data is stored indefinitely, but it won’t affect your privacy since it cannot possibly identify you.
Outstanding speeds, one of the best
Speed & Reliability
Mullvad VPN’s speeds are exceptional – it’s extremely quick and very consistent.
Local Speed Test Results
Before using Mullvad VPN:
When connected to Mullvad VPN:
Download speed without Mullvad: 91Mbps
Download speed with Mullvad: 86Mbps
Our download speed loss when Mullvad is running: 6%
As you can see, when connecting to nearby servers, the speed loss is minimal.
There’s almost nothing you can’t do with these speeds.
We put all the VPNs we review through a detailed speed testing process, to work out the average connection speeds from different locations around the world.
These are the download and upload speeds for these popular countries:
- USA: 44Mbps (download) & 85Mbps (upload)
- Germany: 83Mbps (download) & 90Mbps (upload)
- Singapore: 38Mbps (download) & 76Mbps (upload)
- Australia: 38Mbps (download) & 8Mbps (upload)
We were very impressed with speeds connecting out to the US East Coast from the UK, which is more than enough for HD streaming. The same applies to Australia and Singapore too, reaching above-average speeds for such distant connections.
We were particularly impressed by Mullvad’s exceptional upload speeds on local connections, making it a great choice for P2P users.
So what’s the catch?
Well, latency is a let down in comparison. Mullvad’s ping reached 23ms for Germany and 14ms for UK – which was the lowest ping we recorded (which isn’t very low), and that was connecting to a server within the same city as us.
For this reason, we can’t recommend Mullvad for avid gamers. Instead, we recommend these gaming VPNs.
We also experienced a few connection drops during our testing, particularly when selecting a city-level server rather than connecting to a country, which was frustrating.
Thankfully Mullvad’s VPN kill switch kicked in each time to ensure our true IP address wasn’t exposed and this seems to happen less and less.
Limited server list
Mullvad only operates VPN servers in 38 countries. This is a narrow range.
Most of these countries are located in Europe, so Mullvad may not be the best choice for users located elsewhere. If you’re located outside of Europe, you might find the best suited VPN service for you to be NordVPN.
Mullvad VPN currently operates a decent 410 servers, but with just one IP address per server users may experience slower speeds during times of high congestion. Thankfully, this hasn’t been the case during our testing experiences.
It’s good that Mullvad allows the user to access city-level servers in six countries, with an impressive 13 cities in the US.
Also, there are six city locations across Australia:
Many VPNs only cover Melbourne and Sydney, so it’s great to see all these Australian cities in Mullvad’s server network.
However, other regions are not so lucky – South America (Brazil) and Africa (South Africa) only count one country each.
Mixed results, but works with Netflix
Streaming & Torrenting
We’ve had mixed results with Mullvad in our streaming tests.
It has, in the past, unblocked both Netflix and BBC iPlayer. However, our most recent tests failed to unblock BBC iPlayer on either its London or Manchester server.
Mullvad doesn’t have any dedicated streaming servers, so we tested each and every US server location to see which ones work with US Netflix.
Frustratingly, we only managed to watch American Netflix with the Charlotte and San Jose servers.
These US Mullvad servers didn’t work with Netflix:
- Los Angeles
- Oklahoma City
- Salt Lake City
- San Francisco
- Sioux Falls
- St. Louis
Honestly, you should consider using better streaming VPNs for watching Netflix and for BBC iPlayer.
Mullvad VPN allows torrenting and P2P activity on all of its servers.
Mullvad is a secure and reliable option for torrenters, thanks to its fast and reliable speeds, minimal logging and a range of privacy features, including a built-in kill switch.
Mullvad VPN has even created a guide to use BitTorrent with the VPN.
No guarantee to work in China
Due to China’s recent crackdown on VPN providers, we can’t recommend Mullvad as it often simply won’t work.
However, customer support suggests using the Shadowsocks proxy to bypass censorship. It’s not as secure as a VPN connection and should be avoided if privacy is your priority.
There are also claims that the WireGuard protocol works in China, which is worth trying, although it is not guaranteed to work.
Away from China, Mullvad is unlikely to work in other high-censorship countries, such as Turkey, Iran, UAE, Russia and Saudi Arabia.
If you need a VPN that works in highly censored nations, then choosing a VPN service such as VyprVPN is a safer bet.
Lack of mobile apps is disappointing
Platforms & Devices
Mullvad VPN provides user-friendly custom apps for:
- Microsoft Windows
Mullvad launched an app for iOS in April 2020, meaning you no longer have to manually configure your devices with the OpenVPN software. At least iPhone users don’t. Android users are still waiting on announcement of a custom Mullvad app.
That’s frustrating for people wanting a quick and easy VPN setup on their Android mobile.
Until then, mobile users should see our Android VPN and iOS VPN recommendations.
Games Consoles & Streaming Devices
Amazon Fire TV
Mullvad VPN doesn’t provide custom apps for games consoles and streaming devices.
One method to use Mullvad with your gaming consoles or streaming devices is to ‘piggyback’ off the VPN connection from another device that is already running the Mullvad app (such as a desktop computer).
Mullvad generously allows five simultaneous connections, so you can protect all your own devices and your family members’ too.
Alternatively, you can install Mullvad VPN on your router (check whether it’s compatible) and connect your home devices to it. This means that every internet-connected device in your home will be protected by the VPN, without having to install individual VPN apps to each one.
Mullvad doesn’t make available any VPN browser extensions.
If you like using browser add-ons, other top VPN providers have great VPN extensions – see our best VPNs for Chrome and best VPNs for Firefox for more information.
Plenty of security features
Encryption & Security
DNS Leak Blocking
IPV6 Leak Blocking
Supports TCP Port 443
VPN Kill Switch
Please see our VPN Glossary if these terms confuse you and would like to learn more.
The Mullvad VPN apps have many extra security features and are a great choice for anyone seeking top-level privacy.
Encryption is via top cipher AES-256 and you can also choose between two VPN protocols: OpenVPN and WireGuard. Using WireGuard with Mullvad used to require manual configuration, but they’ve recently incorporated it into the MacOS and Linux apps.
Windows users still need to manually configure to use WireGuard, but Mullvad have promised an update to amend that in the near future.
The built-in VPN kill switch, which prevents your true IP address from being exposed should the connection drop, is a must-have and we like that it doesn’t require manual activation like some other VPNs do.
All of Mullvad VPN’s servers have SOCKS5 proxy connections enabled as back up (in case you forget to turn on the VPN app), but you will have to configure your web browser accordingly. For more information, we like Mullvad’s guide to its SOCKS5 proxy.
Mullvad also offers integrated DNS leak protection and operates its own DNS servers, meaning your web traffic isn’t routed through potentially less secure third-party servers.
WebRTC leaks on the Chrome browser have been a common issue and Mullvad recommends using Firefox instead, but we didn’t pick up any leaks in our tests, as you can see:
Mullvad VPN leak test from broswerleaks.com. We test from the UK.
Mullvad VPN also provides split tunneling, which allows you to route sensitive data through the VPN and other data (like programs and apps) through your normal internet connection. This can help with any connection issues that might arise with online programs and games.
Mullvad was included in a report by the CDT (Center for Democracy & Technology) investigating the ‘Signals of Trustworthy VPNs’, in which it revealed the extra steps it takes to ensure user privacy. This includes developing its apps in Rust, a programming language made for building secure programs, and also using code signing for app and server code.
Nice apps, easy to use
Ease of Use
How to Install & Set Up Mullvad VPN
Get a randomly-generated account number and click the Download button on the website.
Click ‘Install’ to begin the installation process.
Click ‘Finish’ to complete the installation process.
Log in using your randomly-generated account number.
After the free trial, top up your account on the website using your preferred payment choice.
This is the main screen of the desktop app. The server location is clearly displayed.
When you are disconnected the top of the app turns red and states ‘unsecured connection’.
Click ‘Switch Location’ on the main screen to see a list of all country and city choices.
Choose your preferences, such as auto-connection, from the settings menu located in the top right.
Check your connection and DNS/WebRTC leaks by going to am.i.mullvad.net while connected to the VPN.
Report a problem in the settings menu.
Mullvad VPN has a sleek and simple desktop client for Windows, Mac and Linux users. The main screen is clutter free, displaying only your connection status and selected server.
When connected, the banner at the top turns green and the app reads ‘secure connection’. A red banner indicates that the VPN is not connected. The app disappears in your toolbar whenever you click elsewhere, which is annoying.
Changing VPN server location is simple and is done by clicking ‘Switch Location’ on the main screen – you can drill down to city level in some locations and even choose a specific server.
The main settings are located in the top right corner, but there is no access to many of the advanced features, such as split tunneling, which require manual configuration. The app’s advanced settings only allow you to toggle between UDP and TCP and select your preferred port.
Our biggest gripe about Mullvad’s usability is that there are no mobile VPN apps. You can only manually configure your device with OpenVPN. This makes it harder to recommend Mullvad VPN to VPN beginners.
Limited customer support
Mullvad VPN currently has no live chat feature and the speed of email replies is variable, from a couple of minutes to 12 hours, which is frustrating if you need quick answers.
However, the customer support agents were friendly and helpful when they did reply.
Should you have any urgent queries, most answers can be found in Mullvad’s comprehensive FAQs, guides and blog. There’s no search function, though, meaning you may have to look through a few different articles before you find what you’re after.
No contracts – a pay-as-you-go VPN
Mullvad VPN accepts most standard forms of payment, such as:
- Credit/debit card
- Bitcoin Cash
- Bank wire
Other popular international payment methods, such as Alipay, aren’t yet available.
Mullvad is one of the very few VPN providers that allow you to pay in cash, which is great for those seeking total anonymity. Just mail it an envelope containing an amount of money, in any currency, along with your account number and it will top up your account accordingly.
Do We Recommend Mullvad VPN?
The Bottom Line
Mullvad is popular for a reason: it’s a fast, secure VPN that’s easy to use – we recommend it off the strength of all that alone.
It’s not perfect, though – it’s great for torrenting, but it doesn’t work well with Netflix or BBC iPlayer.
And, we’ve had issues with slow customer support in the past.
If none of that bothers you, though, then Mullvad is a solid option, otherwise take a look at the two VPN alternatives below.
Mullvad VPN is owned by a Swedish-based Amagicom AB, a cybersecurity company well-known in the Nordic region. Mullvad is the Swedish for a mole – a suitable name for a VPN company.
Why Choose Mullvad VPN
With 100+ servers in 22 countries across the world, Mullvad sets itself apart from the competition. They don’t just say they respect your privacy – they actually do something about it. It’s one of the few really private VPN providers that allow you to stay as anonymous as you can get when using a VPN. If privacy is your thing, check it out.
Best VPN for
- Netflix, Hulu, and streaming online
- Torrenting and downloading
- Three-hour free trial
- No registration, even for paid members
- Accepts anonymous payments
- No logs
- Solid security and doesn't leak DNS
- Simple UI, cross-platform client
- Unblocks Steam US libraries
- Allows P2P and up to five simultaneous connections
- No native mobile apps
- Didn’t unblock Netflix or BBC iPlayer in my tests
Pricing and Plans
You get three hours of a free, unrestricted trial, and you don’t need to register. In fact, you don’t need to register with Mullvad at all. Instead, once you fill out a captcha, Mullvad assigns you a unique 12-digit code you then use as your account identifier.
The free trial gives you the access to all features so you can test the app performance, speeds, run leak tests and get an overall idea of how well it suits your needs.
After that, there’s only one plan – Mullvad charges 5 euro per month in any currency based on the current exchange rates. That’s $5.89, at the moment.
They accept wire transfers, PayPal, credit card, Swish, Bankgiro, and even cash. Place your money and your account number in an envelope and mail it to Sweden. You never need to identify yourself other than by the account number.
If this isn’t fair enough, Mullvad tops it off with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Mullvad provides a proprietary software for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Since it relies on OpenVPN, you can download config files and set it up on pretty much anything, including Android and iOS. It’s not necessarily a con that they don’t have native mobile apps, and setting up OpenVPN on a mobile device isn’t nearly as intimidating or difficult as it sounds. Still, a native mobile app would be a welcome addition to the host of Mullvad apps.
The desktop app is quite bare-bones. The style is reminiscent of Win XP era, but truth be told, I like simplicity and functionality over fashion. That said, the functionality of the app is basic enough if you’re a beginner, but allowing manual customization if you’re that savvy.
There are two tabs only – Status and Settings. “Status” gives you the general information on your IP address, ports, and the protocol. “Settings” is where everything else is located, including the list of servers.
I’m not a big fan of how Connect/Disconnect buttons are in one tab, and the list of servers in the other. This feels counter-intuitive, but I got used to the awkward placement quickly.
Overall, their software will not win any design awards, but it’s intuitive and gets the job done.
The FAQs and guides are short and aim at covering most relevant topics. Their customer support is email-based, and they’ve garnered an excellent reputation for being prompt, fair and helpful.
Mullvad’s straightforward client features robust privacy and security with OpenVPN and AES-256 encryption, a kill switch enabled by default, a leak protection, and IPv6 tunneling.
You can set it up to run at system startup, but other than that the customization requires manual input of parameters with a true/false value. This might not be all that difficult, especially with the extensive guides on their website, but I’d rather see toggles or check boxes instead.
Mullvad allows up to five simultaneous connections, and the network of 100+ servers in 22 countries is enough to cover most VPN needs. Top that off with the fact that they own their servers and keep no logs, and you get a good deal.
Mullvad’s performance and speeds were impressive in my tests. Understandably, based on proximity to my physical location, the US servers were fast while the UK servers displayed an acceptable drop.
Here are my speed readings in synthetic tests before connecting to Mullvad:
Mullvad doesn’t log your IP address – they only know you by the account number. They don’t log your traffic, DNS requests, or the amount of bandwidth you’re consuming.
Mullvad monitors – but doesn’t log – the total number of simultaneous connections per account, the CPU load and total bandwidth used per server to ensure you’re not exceeding the allowed five simultaneous connections per account.
Their website has no ads and trackers but the three cookies to keep you logged in, remember your language choice, and protect users against cross-site request forgery.
The bottom line is you don’t need to worry about data retention laws in Sweden because Mullvad has nothing to hand over to law enforcement if they receive a court request.
They own their servers, never ask for your personally identifiable information, and even accept Bitcoin and cash. The software relies on OpenVPN, 256-bit encryption, DNS leak protection and a kill switch – a robust combination for a VPN.
Mullvad is a truly anonymous and private VPN providing decent speeds, reliable performance, clean-cut client, robust security and a clear no-logs policy. I’d say, take that three-hour trial for a spin.
- Requires no email or account information
- Radically transparent
- Extremely affordable
- Some advanced features, like multihop connections
- Cramped, awkward desktop interface
- Servers in a small range of countries
- Account number system may confuse some customers
In the confusing and chaotic world of VPNs, where the companies sometimes seem as untrustworthy as the forces they protect against, Mullvad is different. It is hyper-focused on offering secure and affordable VPN protection from a radically transparent company. You won't get upsells, a huge variety of servers, or a breathtaking interface, but you will get online securely, for surprisingly little money. In fact, Mullvad is our Editors’ Choice for cheap VPNs.
What Is a VPN?
When you switch on a VPN, your web traffic passes through an encrypted tunnel to a server operated by the VPN provider. This prevents anyone from spying on your local network and even stops your ISP from keeping tabs on you—that's good, because they've been given the green light to sell anonymized user data. Once your data exits onto the web, spies and advertisers will only be able to see the IP address of the VPN server, not your machine's true IP address. This makes it harder to track you across the web, and helps obscure your true, physical location. You can also spoof your location by tunneling to a distant VPN server.
VPNs are enormously powerful tools for improving your privacy online, especially when you're using public Wi-Fi. They cannot, however, protect against every ill. We still recommend that you use local antivirus, create unique and complex passwords with a password manager, and enable two-factor authentication wherever possible.
Pricing and Features
Mullvad breaks with the competition by offering an extremely affordable, flat pricing model. An account costs €5 per month, which at the time of writing is $5.42. There are no other pricing tiers, no additional upsells, no free versions. Just one price: €5 per month. You can pay for your Mullvad account with major credit cards, PayPal, Swish, and Bitcoin (at a 10 percent discount).
Mullvad also lets you pay via bank wire transfer or cash mailed directly to the company's offices in Sweden. These are excellent options for anyone with qualms about privacy or the global credit system. TorGuard, notably, lets you apply prepaid gift cards from other establishments (Starbucks, for example) as an alternative to anonymous cash payments.
That €5 fee is significantly less than the average monthly price of a VPN, which currently sits at $10.10 per month. Only FrootVPN and Kaspersky Secure Connection offer cheaper VPN plans. Many worthy VPN services do charge more than the average, and significantly more than Mullvad, but balance that cost with extra features and excellent user experience. Surfshark and NordVPN, for example, charge $11.95 per month but also offer many privacy tools not found in Mullvad.
The only thing cheaper than cheap is free, and, while Mullvad does not offer a free version, there are a few free VPNs that are worth your time. Unfortunately, many come with restrictions. TunnelBear's free subscription limits you to 500MB per month, and Hotspot Shield raises the limit to 500MB per day. ProtonVPN, however, has no data restriction on its free subscription and offers affordable paid tiers that can accommodate most needs.
Nearly all VPNs aside from Mullvad offer longer-term subscriptions at a steep discount. Across the services I've reviewed, this works out to be an average $73.06 per year, up front. Over the course of a year, Mullvad will cost only about $65. Many other services beat both those price points, however. TunnelBear, for example, is only $59.88 per year. Note, though, that its monthly price is $9.99.
In any case, I recommend that readers avoid long-term subscriptions. VPN performance and compatibility can change suddenly, and a fast available service could quickly become useless. Instead, consider using a free or short term subscription to test a service in your home environment before considering a longer commitment.
Mullvad allows five devices to connect simultaneously with a single account. That's the industry average, but a few companies have started offering more tempting options. CyberGhost allows seven devices out of the box, and TorGuard has a sliding scale that you can adjust to fit your needs. Some don't even bother setting such limits. Avira Phantom VPN, Encrypt.me VPN, Ghostery Midnight. Surfshark VPN, and Windscribe VPN all place no limit on the number of devices you can use at a time.
While Mullvad will protect your connection with a VPN, it doesn't include additional tools for enhanced privacy and security. For instance, NordVPN and ProtonVPN provide easy access to the Tor anonymization network through their VPN servers.
Mullvad does provide multihop connections by enabling bridge mode in its apps. A multihop connection means your data travels through two servers before exiting to the internet, instead of just one. This can be used to circumvent VPN blocking, but also to add an additional layer of security to your connection. Notably, ProtonVPN takes extra steps to ensure the physical security of its multihop servers, hardening the connection against potential eavesdropping. I'm glad Mullvad includes this feature, but accessing it is a bit obscure.
ProtonVPN, and other VPN services, also offer split tunneling. This lets you designate which apps send their data through the VPN connection, and in some cases even let you access some URLs outside the VPN. This is handy if you're engaged in a low-security but high bandwidth activity, like gaming, or accessing a service that blocks VPNs, like your bank or Netflix.
All these features are valuable and go a long way justifying the cost of other VPN services. But given that Mullvad offers the rock-solid basics at a fraction of the price, it's hard to argue that they're necessary.
There are many ways to create a VPN connection, but I prefer the OpenVPN protocol. This is an open-source project that has been thoroughly picked over for any potential vulnerabilities. I am happy to see that Mullvad supports OpenVPN in all of its apps.
WireGuard is the heir apparent to OpenVPN. It's also an open-source project, but uses newer technology and is intended to be faster and simpler than OpenVPN. I have not done extensive WireGuard testing as the technology is very new, but my anecdotal experience has been overwhelmingly positive.
Mullvad has invested heavily in WireGuard, putting it in a great position for the future. For Mullvad's Android and iOS apps, WireGuard is the only option. It's the default for the Linux and macOS apps, too, although these support other protocols as well. In my testing, the Mullvad Windows app had support for WireGuard, but defaulted to OpenVPN.
Servers and Server Locations
Mullvad has servers in 36 countries across the globe. That's a decent offering, but one far below the average of 52 countries I've seen across competitors. A large distribution of servers is good, since it gives customers a lot of choices for spoofing their locations and also increases the likelihood of finding a VPN server near wherever you might be at the time. ExpressVPN leads among the VPNs I've reviewed, offering servers in 94 countries without relying heavily on virtual servers (more on this later). Mullvad also doesn't have enormous diversity among its server offerings, with only one country in South America and no coverage in Africa or Central America
The smaller number of countries covered by Mullvad likely won't be an issue for most readers, who will probably need servers near to their locations for better performance. Notably, a full third of Mullvad's 669 servers are in the US. Many other VPN companies overshadow that overall server count. ExpressVPN, TorGuard VPN, Hotspot Shield VPN, and Private Internet Access VPN all boast more than 3,000 servers, while CyberGhost and NordVPN have over 5,000. The number of servers can have more to do with the number of customers, so a larger fleet doesn't necessarily equate with better performance.
Many VPN companies employ virtual servers, which is where a single hardware server can play host to many software-defined virtual servers. These, in turn, can be configured to appear as if they are in a country other than that of their host hardware. This can be a good thing, as it allows companies to quickly spin up servers in response to demand or provide coverage for an unsafe country by placing the physical hardware in a safer location. The issue is when VPN companies are not transparent about where your data is heading.
This isn't an issue for Mullvad, A company representative told me that it uses only dedicated servers, located exactly where they say they are. That's great, but Mullvad goes even further. Its server list shows you the country and city of its servers, as well as the company operating the data center and whether Mullvad leases those servers or owns them outright. That's an unmatched degree of transparency.
Your Privacy With Mullvad
When you use a VPN, the company potentially has access to all of your web traffic. That requires an enormous amount of trust, so it's important to understand the measures a VPN company takes to protect your privacy. I found that Mullvad has gone to great lengths to protect user privacy, setting an example for others to follow.
Mullvad tackles the thorny issue of privacy with radical transparency. In its article on data logging, it actually breaks down exactly what information is transferred during a credit card transaction, who sees it, and so on. It's a remarkable, and educational, experience. The downside is that there is a lot of highly technical information. The company does an admirable job of writing in plain, understandable language, but brevity is not its strong suit. Personally, I empathize (this review is well over 3,000 words).
One feature of the policy that I really like is its use of a Q&A format. Did you ever wonder how Mullvad enforces a limit on simultaneous connections without logging? Well:
Each VPN server reports to a central service. When a customer connects to a VPN server, the server asks the central service to validate the account number, whether or not the account has any remaining time, if the account has reached its allowed number of connections, and so on. Everything is performed in temporary memory only; none of this information is permanently stored to disk.
The company is emphatic that it does not log user traffic, DNS requests, any kind of connection timestamp, IP addresses, or bandwidth use. That's all excellent, and slightly edges out much of the competition in terms of what information is stored.
To its credit, Mullvad is very clear about its business practices. The company does not pay for reviews or support affiliate partners. When I asked if Mullvad had revenue from sources beyond VPN subscriptions, the answer was a simple, "No." Mullvad is organized under the parent company Amagicom AB, and is based in Gothenburg, Sweden, and operates under Swedish law. Understanding what laws apply to your VPN provider is useful for understanding how your data is protected. Mullvad goes far beyond others by offering up an extensive list of legislation that applies to the company.
The company says that while it would comply with a legal request for information by law enforcement, it would only do so after investigating the claim, and points out that it retains very little information that could be obtained. It also goes further by committing to "shut down the service" if it's ever legally required to spy on its users. I cannot say I have seen any other company make the same commitment.
Many VPN companies have commissioned third-party audits to establish their trustworthiness. In general, this is a good development for the industry, although not all audits are as useful as others. Mullvad was last audited in 2018 by Cure53, and focused on penetration testing of its apps (PDF link). While Mullvad has gone to lengths to make its practices transparent, I would still like to see public evaluations of its server infrastructure. TunnelBear, for example, has committed to exhaustive annual audits.
Security is really an issue of trust. Even if a company does everything right, it doesn't matter much if you, the customer, don't trust them. I recommend that consumers consider this information, and choose a service based on which company they feel they can trust.
Hands On With Mullvad
I tested Mullvad on an Intel NUC Kit NUC8i7BEH (Bean Canyon) desktop running the latest version of Windows 10 and had no trouble installing the app. Creating an account and logging in were a different story. Mullvad eschews usernames and passwords and instead issues a really long number. It's much simpler than a password and username, but it is unfamiliar and the process can be disorienting if you're not expecting it. This is your sole means of identification and authentication with the service. It's a system that's similar to ExpressVPN, which uses activation codes for its app, but still uses a traditional login system for its online portal.
On its website, Mullvad espouses the privacy benefits of this system: "We ask for no email, no phone number, no personal information whatsoever." I thought this might make account recovery impossible, but I was surprised to find that Mullvad has a variety of ways to get your account back. Most are time-sensitive, and many are more involved than a simple password recovery. This could be an issue for anyone nervous about technology.
Mullvad's website impressed me with its clean graphics, which are in a bit of a cartoony style. They’re more playful than NordVPN, but not as cute as TunnelBear. I had expected that the app would offer a similar experience, but I was disappointed.
When you launch the app, it immediately connects to the server it thinks is best. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it's a frictionless experience. On the other, it might not be clear to users that the app is doing anything at all, since they haven't clicked anything. You can disable this behavior in the settings.
I am pleased that the app echoes the look of the Mullvad website, with large text and bold blocks of color. The app is centered around a map, but this creates a problem. There are city locations marked on the map, and sometimes this is overlapped by the connection status text. This renders it unreadable.
Another issue: the app is vertically oriented, making it look very much like the design of the mobile app was simply brought to Windows. The large buttons and text would be great on a phone, which has a small screen held a good distance from your face, but this is a desktop app. The result is a cramped, almost claustrophobic experience. It's as if you’re looking at the application through a mouse hole in the baseboard, and you have to manipulate it with a long stick. A coherent design across platforms is a great thing to strive for, but this app needs room to breathe.
Once connected, the app displays your real IP address, your new VPN-induced IP address, the name of the server you're using, and the protocol used to secure your connection. That's handy, but not particularly useful.
Click the Switch Location button to do that thing. You're presented with a list of countries, which can be expanded to show cities, and that in turn open to show the individual servers in that area. I really like the level of control this allows. If you find yourself blocked, you can poke around and find a server that works. It would be better if the Mullvad app included information about each server, such as its current user load. All the app offers now is a green dot (you can use it) or a red dot (better not). It would also be useful to be able to favorite those servers so you can come back to them later.
The app's settings are simple enough, with an option to enable local network sharing. The Advanced section has juicier options, such as a kill switch to block internet access if your VPN disconnects as well as the option to change VPN protocols, along with some other more arcane options. What you won't find are additional tools such as split tunneling, or advanced network settings. Mullvad is laser-focused on a private, affordable VPN service, so it's hard to fault them for lacking these features.
For a VPN to be useful, it needs to keep your IP and DNS information safe from prying eyes. In my testing, I confirmed that Mullvad did successfully change my public IP address. Using the DNS Leak Test Tool, I confirmed that my DNS information was likewise secure. That's great, but note that I only tested one server in Mullvad's fleet. Others may be incorrectly configured.
Mullvad and Netflix
One reason people may want to spoof their location with a VPN is to access region-locked streaming content. For instance, if you're traveling in the UK, you may find that you can't watch your favorite show on Netflix. With a VPN, you can tunnel back to the US and pick up where you left off. Netflix, however, is wise to the scheme and actively works to block access from VPNs.
Unfortunately, you might not be streaming much with Mullvad. In my testing, Netflix was blocked while I was connected to a local US server. This might not last, however. I've found that a VPN that works today may not tomorrow, and vice versa.
My impression is that Mullvad is far more concerned with providing a secure and affordable VPN service than one that will let you watch the BBC for free. For some people, that's just fine, but if accessing region-locked content is your goal, Mullvad may not be the best choice.
Some VPN companies have begun bundling extras along with the primary VPN tools. TunnelBear, for instance, offers an ad-blocking browser extension and a password manager aptly called RememBear. The Pango account included with a Hotspot Shield VPN subscription grants access to a number of privacy services, and NordVPN has expanded its reach with a password manager and encrypted file vault.
Mullvad has no such aspirations. Its VPN is its sole product. The service does allow P2P and BitTorrent, but does not provide ad-blocking at the network level. That last point is a non-issue, since a standalone ad-blocker does a better job anyway.
Speed Test Results
A VPN makes your internet traffic jump through more hoops, which almost always means a hit to performance. To try and get a sense of that impact, I use the Ookla speed test tool to find a percent change with and without a VPN. You can read more about my testing, and its limitations, in the aptly named "How We Test VPNs." Note that Ookla is owned by J2 Global, the parent company of PCMag's publisher Ziff Media.
Keep in mind that these results are only accurate for a particular time and place, and not an evaluation of each VPN's overall performance. It's useful for comparison, but your experience will almost certainly differ.
My tests showed that Mullvad had minimal impact on internet performance, beating the median results for download, upload, and latency. Using Mullvad increased latency by 41.5 percent, and reduced upload and download speeds by 20 percent and 59.5 percent, respectively. The upload scores are particularly impressive, placing it among the top four contenders in that category.
Note that Mullvad supports WireGuard extensively. In my testing, the app defaulted to OpenVPN and I chose to leave it at the default settings. You can see how Mullvad compares to the nine fastest VPNs out of the nearly 40 we tested.
While there is clearly a difference in performance between these services, I maintain that speed should not be a major factor when choosing between VPNs. Privacy and value are far more important, as is the ability to test a service in your own environment to make sure the speeds are tolerable in your area.
Mullvad on Other Platforms
Mullvad offers apps for Linux, macOS, and Windows, with instructions on how to configure other devices to use the VPN service. An Android app remains in Beta, and an iOS app was recently released with support for WireGuard. In fact, Mullvad only uses WireGuard for its mobile apps.
A Lot for a Little
Mullvad does much correctly. It's remarkably transparent, providing information we rarely see from any company, with an excellent stance on consumer privacy and security. It's extremely affordable, and while it may not offer the kitchen sink it offers a lot for less than half the average price. It maintains fewer servers in fewer locations, but its main issue is an app that's in need of a refresh.
Despite that, Mullvad is still an emphatically excellent service, and we suspect that most consumers will be willing to tolerate a little UX frustration in exchange for secure, cheap VPN protection. I
Are you looking for a private VPN for 24/7 protection? Mullvad claims to be the right choice for you. WireGuard and OpenVPN protocols will hide your online activity from hackers and trackers. To purchase this VPN, you don’t even need to provide an email: everything is done anonymously.
In this Mullvad review, we’ll go over privacy, security, logging policy, speed, customer support, and pricing. We’ll also test its ability to access the geo-restricted content on streaming platforms and P2P compatibility. Thousands of users trusted Mullvad with their protection. What but does this software have to offer that others don’t? Let us find that out together, starting with the basics.
Privacy and security features
AES 256-bit, OpenVPN
Money Back Guarantee
no money back
Bank Transfer, Bitcoin, PayPal, Visa/Mastercard
Usability and Support
Windows, Mac, Android, Linux, IOS
Pros for compare page
- Zero-logs policy
- Impressive connections speed
- Excellent service for torrenting
- Industry-leading encryption
- Kill Switch; DNS leaks protection
- One of the most private VPNs
- No need to provide an email for registration
- They accept Bitcoins
Cons for compare page
- The HQ is located in Sweden
- Not quite user-friendly interface
- No apps for iOS and Android
- Customer support leaves a lot to be desired
Mullvad was developed by Amagicom AB, a Swedish company, founded in 2009. Yes, the HQ is in Sweden, a member of 14 Eyes. Every country in this alliance is known to spy on Internet users and share their personal data with government agencies around the world. However, since the service doesn’t require you to provide any personal data, it doesn’t matter which jurisdiction the VPN belongs to.
Overall, the users have ~350 servers to choose from. They are located across 31 countries: compared to, say, ExpressVPN and its 160 cities in 94 countries, this isn’t much. On the other hand, those 350 servers are enough to get a relatively stable connection in the US and EU. Mullvad can simultaneously protect up to 5 devices. The list of supported platforms includes Windows, Mac, and Linux. It also works on mobile devices, but you’ll have to set everything up manually.
Installation is fast and easy: just download the tiny installer and follow the instructions. Still, the Win, Mac, and Linux apps are the least friendly ones out there. The dashboard isn’t at all straightforward, and all the available settings are hidden in two menus.
For a regular user, this will be a big turn-off, especially compared to the “trendy” UIs of the leading VPNs. Only users with experience will be able to make sense of it all without confusion and frustration.
What Do You Get with Mullvad VPN?
- Zero-logs policy
- Impressive connections speeds
- Excellent service for torrenting
- Industry-leading encryption
- Kill Switch; DNS leaks protection
- One of the most private VPNs
- No need to provide an email for registration
- They accept Bitcoins
- The HQ is located in Sweden
- Not quite user-friendly interface
- No apps for iOS and Android
- Customer support leaves a lot to be desired
Thanks to top-notch encryption protocols and special features like Kill Switch and leaks protection, Mullvad is a highly secure VPN. Although the HQ is in Sweden, this is a very private service that follows a zero-logs policy. Furthermore, you can use Bitcoins to pay for it, which makes it an even better pick for people that want to stay as anonymous as possible.
Privacy and Security
The #1 task of any modern-day VPN is to encrypt the traffic generated by the user’s device, thus keeping his/her online activity hidden. That is precisely why it’s important to always check which protocols the Virtual Private Network supports. Mullvad is an excellent choice both for privacy and security: with it, you can rest assured that your data will stay private.
Encryption and Protocols
OpenVPN is the most popular and user-friendly encryption protocol, and we were expecting to find it in Mullvad. This is open-source software and can be accessed by regular users across the globe. It’s continually improving, thanks, in many ways, to the users reporting bugs and flaws. Along with OpenVPN, you can also choose the WireGuard protocol: it is crypto-based, still in development.
WireGuard is also open-source and free; initial tests prove that it is more effective than OpenVPN and IPsec. The experts claim that this is the future of encryption protocols; Mullvad allows the users to test it in real life. With zero connection delays and up to 5x faster connections, it’s already looking very promising. Currently, WireGuard is fully compatible with Linux and partially with Windows and Android.
Hopefully, Mac OS and iOS will start supporting it soon. By the way, the SOCKS5 protocol is also available with Mullvad. Add AES 256-bit encryption (also known as the “Military Encryption”), and you’ll get one of the most secure VPNs on the market.
Kill Switch is a highly useful feature that every single VPN should have. As the name suggests, it shuts down your Internet connection the moment the VPN goes off. Without the VPN’s encryption, third parties (including hackers and government agents) will be able to monitor your internet activity. By cutting off the network, Kill Switch prevents that from happening.
Mullvad Logging Policy
In this technological age, you can’t make two steps without someone logging your behavior. This is especially true for the Internet: the ISP, the governments, the hackers, and various companies trying to sell their product – they all want access to your personal data. That is why almost every single Virtual Private Network claims to follow the zero-logs (also known as the no-logs) policy.
Sadly, most VPN services do log users data and share it with the authorities. We already talked about the 14 Eyes alliance: Sweden is a part of it, and since Amagicom AB’s HQ is in that country, they have to provide your data to the government. However, that doesn’t really matter, as the company won’t have anything to share with them in the first place.
Here is a list of things that Mullvad does not log:
- DNS requests
- IP address
- Time stamps (connection start, end, and duration)
On top of that, users don’t need to create an account and sign up with an email and password to start using the VPN. All they have to do is generate a random account, and that’s it! In many ways, this is the most private VPN we’ve ever tested. Since you don’t share your email-password, and no important data is being logged, there will be nothing for the authorities to use against you.
We picked a number of servers located in the EU and the US and tested them multiple times to figure out the average level of performance. By the end of the tests for our Mullvad VPN review, we were pleased by how stable the connection was. While it’s not on par with the best VPNs in this regard (ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, IPVanish, and others), it’s still quite decent.
For these tests, we used a 100Mbps download-upload connection. This is important: a speed reduction of +/- 20-30% (when connecting to a domestic server) is considered to be the average for modern-day VPNs.
The following list includes the results of our tests. While your experience will most likely be slightly different, these results are still a good representation of what Mullvad is capable of:
As you can see, on the EU servers, we only had a 15% drop in download speed, which is very impressive. On the US servers, the drop in connection speed was 40% but that’s also an excellent result. Summing up, we need to say that while these test results are well above average, with the low number of servers, the connection won’t always be stable.
Besides, it takes Mullvad a long time to connect to a server: up to 18 seconds. Most of the servers are located in Sweden and the US, which is why we achieved such impressive test results. In Asia and South America, there are only a few server locations. This means if you like to travel or connect to far-away VPN servers, this provider won’t be the best bet for you.
No Leaks Detected
To make sure there are no DNS leaks, our team ran several tests with Mullvad. When a user is trying to visit a website, he/she automatically sends a URL (also known as a request) to the DNS server. Next, the server sends his/her browser the IP that allows it to access this particular website. Without a VPN, the ISP can quickly check your request history and know which sites you visit.
A DNS leak is when this “browsing history” is attacked from the outside. Mullvad features DNS Leaks protection that will ensure the privacy of your online activity. On the company’s official website, you can check whether your connection is free of leaks or not. We also checked this VPN’s setup file through dozens of antiviruses, and they all confirmed: it can be trusted.
Torrenting and Streaming
If you don’t want to have any problems with the authorities, it would be best not to download torrents. Alternatively, you could use a VPN: it will turn you into a digital shadow and hide your P2P traffic. Streaming geo-restricted content is also something that you won’t be able to do without a decent VPN. Netflix won’t give you access to its content unless you’re living in the US.
Thankfully, by connecting to a server located in the States, you’ll outsmart the service and get to enjoy your favorite shows and movies. Still, we want to stress out that many providers are known to block and throttle torrenting. Furthermore, it’s not rare for platforms like Netflix to deliberately prevent VPN servers from gaining access. Let us see whether Mullvad is an excellent choice for these tasks or not.
Is Torrenting Allowed?
In some countries, torrenting is not only illegal, but you can get sued for downloading torrents. And, any member of the 14 Eyes alliance, Sweden included, is firmly against the use of P2P traffic. It was the Swedish government that put the founders of the most popular torrent website – The Pirate Bay – behind bars. Regardless, Mullvad fully supports torrenting: not openly, of course.
On the official website, there’s a detailed and easy-to-understand guide on how to use BitTorrent securely. If you follow the instructions in that article, you can rest assured that no government agency will ever come knocking at your door.
What About Netflix?
A couple of years ago, if you had any type of a VPN, watching Netflix was like a walk in the park. Not anymore: as we just said, Netflix (and other streaming platforms) are continually blocking VPN servers. The most extensive library of Netflix content is in the US; that’s why we tested a series of servers in America. The results weren’t very promising, because of the six servers, only two gained access to this service.While this can’t compare to the best VPNs (CyberGhost, ExpressVPN, and StrongVPN, to name a few), it’s still better than nothing. Besides, with Mullvad, you can also watch BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. The situation can change at any moment, and Netflix might block more servers in the future.
Other Streaming Options
FireStick, Kodi (on Firestick or another device), and Popcorn Time are all compatible with Mullvad. These popular streaming platforms are vulnerable to attacks, but with a VPN you can enjoy a trouble-free experience. Mullvad is a good fit as it won’t slow don’t the connection dramatically.
How Much Does Mullvad Cost?
While most VPNs offer monthly and more affordable long-term subscriptions, this is not the case with Mullvad. The only available package is the monthly 5-Euro ($5.58) plan, and it is not much for the performance this VPN demonstrates. Definitely, you’ll find some cheaper options, but other services with comparable features will cost you $9-11 per month.
All you need to do is generate a Mullvad account number, choose one of the available payment options, and that’s it! You can pay with Bitcoins, Bitcoin Cash, PayPal, Swish, bank wires, credit cards, and real cash.
Cryptocurrency is the most private payment method, but, if you’re planning on getting a refund, Bitcoins aren’t the best pick. Refunds aren’t available with cash either. The refund policy is a bit complicated; still, as far as you can provide a signature for the payment address, you will get those 5 Euros back.
Customer service is one of the worst aspects of this VPN. On the official website, you won’t find a Live Chat, even though this is the fastest and the most effective form of support. There isn’t even a ticket system available: to contact the company, you’ll need to use the following email: [email protected]
There is a FAQ section, just like with any other service. However, it’s not quite easy to use: navigation is difficult, and to find a useful article you’ll have to spend some time making sense of the search system.
On the bright side, it doesn’t take the support agents more than 2 hours to come back to you with a response. They’re also available on Facebook and Twitter, and, while the answers can be a bit vague at times, in most cases, you’ll get a clear (and helpful) reply.
The lack of a Live Chat, the ticket system, and phone calls are a big drawback. But the agents are very friendly and don’t try to hide anything, which is excellent news.
Do We Recommend Mullvad?
If privacy is the #1 concern for you, then Mullvad should definitely be on your list. This company’s zero-logs policy is one of the most transparent ones in the industry. Add the account generating system that doesn’t require you to provide an email and the ability to pay using Bitcoins, and you’ll get a highly private and secure VPN.
The cons include the customer service that is average at best, lack of iOS and Android support, and a less-than-friendly user interface. Users that only need protection for their desktop devices and don’t mind the somewhat complicated interface will appreciate this service. And to them, we do recommend Mullvad.
Mullvad is one of the most privacy oriented VPN services on the market. It is also one of the most technically sophisticated, and offers a range of advanced anti-censorship technologies.
For all that, its software is simple to use. This means that more casual VPN users will also be happy with the service, although somewhat slow support is an issue.
Mullvad offers the following features to all users of its service:
- Five simultaneous connections
- SOCKS5 proxy connections
- Port forwarding
- Port selection
- OpenVPN protocol
- P2P torrenting permitted
- Obfsproxy and Shadowsock bridges (anti-censorship technologies)
- Secure Shell (SSH) and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) (stunnel) tunneling (anti-censorship technologies)
- Multi-hop VPN
- Full Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) routing
- Servers in 22 countries
Most servers are in Europe, but Mullvad also has servers in North America, Australia, and the UK. Compared to other, more commercial services, this is a somewhat limited, and may restrict Mullvad’s usefulness for users in places such as Asia.
On the plus side, all Mullvad’s servers are bare-metal servers (not Virtual Private Server instances) under the close control of Mullvad. You can connect up to five devices to Mullvad at once, which is generous.
It is also worth highlighting the fact that Mullvad is the only VPN service I know of to properly route IPv6 connections through the VPN tunnel. Most other good VPN services simply disable IPv6 in order to prevent IP leaks. This is not a major problem at present, but kudos to Mullvad for looking to the future here.
Port Selection and Port Forwarding
It is rare for VPNs to be blocked, but it happens in places such as China and Iran (although this is usually only partially effective). Mullvad allows you to counter such measures by running the VPN over almost any port (a few ports are blocked to address spam and security issues).
The most common use for this is to run OpenVPN traffic over Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) port 443. This is the port used by HTTPS, the encrypted protocol that secures websites. Without HTTPS, no form of online commerce, such as shopping or banking, would be possible. It is therefore very rare for this port to be blocked.
As an added bonus, VPN traffic on TCP port 443 is routed inside the Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption used by HTTPS. This makes it much harder to spot using deep packet inspection (DPI). TCP port 443 is therefore the favored port for evading VPN blocks.
SSL and SSH Tunneling
If switching to TCP port 443 is not enough to evade censorship or otherwise hide the fact that you are using a VPN, Mullvad offers SSH and SSL (stunnel) tunnelling. This wraps your VPN data inside an additional layer of SSH or TLS/SSL encryption.
As DPI techniques are unable to penetrate this “outer” layer of encryption, they are unable to detect the OpenVPN encryption “inside.” For more details about this technique, please see my guide on How to Bypass VPN Blocks.
Mullvad also supports Shadowsocks. This “is an open-source proxy application, widely used in mainland China to circumvent internet censorship.” It is an open source anti-Great Firewall tool/protocol/server created by a Chinese developer. Basically, it’s a special Socket Secure (SOCKS5) proxy.
It is also worth noting that by connecting to one of its bridging servers, Mullvad users can multi-hop their VPN connections. This is primarily useful in complicating traffic analysis attacks.
Again, for more information please see my guide on How to Bypass VPN Blocks.
Please see What Is a Proxy Server? for a full discussion on what a SOCKS5 proxy is. They are particularly useful to P2P torrenters, as you can either configure just your BitTorrent client to be protected (rather than using a full VPN connection), or you can use both SOCKS5 and VPN together for “double protection” while torrenting.
Mullvad also uses SOCKS5 to pull off some neat tricks, such as enabling stunnel connections and for split tunnelling (setup guide available).
Speed and Performance
All tests were performed on my Virgin Media UK fiber connection, using the OpenVPN User Datagram Protocol (UDP).
The graphs show the highest, lowest, and average speeds for each server and location. See our full speed test explanation for more details.
Transatlantic speeds are a little uninspiring, but on my connection should still be fast enough to stream content without any buffering issues. Speeds within Europe are excellent. Mullvad runs many servers in its home country of Sweden. As we can see, these actually performed better than servers that are geographically closer to me.
I detected no IP leaks
Please note that Private Use RFC IPs are local IPs only. They cannot be used to identify an individual, and so do not constitute an IP leak. Unfortunately, my Internet Service Provider (Virgin Media UK) does not support IPv6 connections, so I am unable to test for IPv6 leaks at this time. This is a situation that should change in the near future.
Mullvad was blocked by Netflix on every US server that I tried, but worked fine for BBC iPlayer on a UK server.
Mullvad's pricing could not be simpler. It costs €5 per month (approx. $5.75 USD at the time of writing), and that’s it. Unlike most VPN services, there are no discounts for buying longer subscriptions. The only kink is that payment in Bitcoin gets a 10% discount “due to lower fees and less administration.”
A rather short, three-hour free trial allows you to check that the service works as it should. In addition to this, Mullvad offers a 30-day money-back guarantee (except for payments sent in cash, due to anti-money laundering regulations).
Mullvad accepts payment via credit/debit card (via PayPal), Swish, bank wire, and Bitcoin. It is also unique among VPN providers as it accepts cash sent by post. In addition to this, Mullvad accepts vouchers that can be purchased from certain stores, which can be paid for in cash. This means that Mullvad has no direct contact with the purchaser.
These almost unique payment options alone give Mullvad a good claim to be the most privacy-oriented VPN service out there.
Ease of use
I would describe the Mullvad website’s aesthetics as functional. The layout is clean and information is presented in a clear, easy-to-access manner. The information itself is informative, well-written, and covers most questions I had about the service.
The various guides, in particular, are very useful. This includes both setup guides and more general guides to things such as setting up split-tunneling, configuring pfSense, and how to get the best performance from your BitTorrent client.
Mullvad also publishes interesting blog articles on a monthly basis.
Other than the great setup guides, support is limited to an email address. When I contacted Mullvad I had to wait three days for a reply. It must be said, though, that when it eventually came, the reply was excellent. Many VPN services are extremely vague or are completely unable to answer when pressed on details of the encryption they use. Mullvad, by contrast, provided a very detailed and knowledgeable response to my questions.
Signing up to Mullvad
The Mullvad signup process is very unusual, in that you do not need to supply either an email address or a password.
All you need do is prove that you are human with a CAPTCHA, and you will be issued with an account number.
This number is the only way in which Mullvad identifies your account. It is used to sign in to the client, to manage account payments, and so forth.
The Windows Client
Once you have generated an account number, you can download Mullvad’s Windows VPN software.
As soon as you start to use the software, your three-hour free trial timer starts to tick. As you can see, I don’t have an IPv6 connection.
Note the firewall-based DNS leak protection and kill switch (“Block the internet on connection failure”). You can also tunnel IPv6 connections through the VPN. If this option is not enabled, IPv6 is simply disabled.
If you know what you are doing, you can manually tinker with advanced connection settings to your heart’s content.
While the client is fairly stripped-down, it works flawlessly and has all the features you really need.
Mullvad has dedicated clients for Windows, Mac OS and Linux, which are all essentially identical. The Linux VPN client is worth noting in particular, as fully-featured graphical user interface (GUI) Linux clients are still quite rare.
The Mullvad Linux Mint client
Full setup instructions for the Linux client are available for Ubuntu/Debian, Fedora 23/24, Fedora 25/26, Mint/Debian, and Elementary Freya.
Detailed manual setup guides (mainly OpenVPN) are provided for Windows, Mac OS, Linux, iOS, Android, Qubes OS, and a selection of routers (including DD-WRT and Tomato).
Mullvad is a big fan of the experimental WireGuard VPN protocol.
"WireGuard performs significantly faster than OpenVPN, often 5-20x faster on small consumer routers, and it handles roaming better."
This is not something that I have come across before, but hard-core techies might be interested. Mullvad supplies WireGuard setup instructions for Linux and routers (which requires installing new firmware on your router).
Privacy and security
Privacy is an area in which Mullvad truly shines. It basically keeps no logs at all, and its no logging data policy is the most clear and comprehensive such document I have ever encountered. Crucially, there is no logging of:
- Domain Name System (DNS) requests
- connections, including when one is made, when it disconnects, for how long, or any kind of timestamp
- IP addresses
- user bandwidth
- account activity except total simultaneous connections and the payment information detailed in the policy
The website also includes no tracking or analytics scripts whatsoever.
Mullvad is based in Sweden. This is not ideal from a privacy standpoint, as Sweden suffers from some government surveillance issues. Critically, however, VPN providers in Sweden are not required by law to keep any logs.
As I have already mentioned, Mullvad accepts anonymous payment via Bitcoins or cash sent by post. As we shall see in a moment, Mullvad is also the only company I know of that doesn't require an email address at all!
This is great, and speaks a great deal for Mullvad’s commitment to privacy. Always remember, though, that as with any VPN service, Mullvad will still know your real IP address.
One final point I think worth mentioning is that Mullvad is very open about who owns and runs the service. The physical address of its parent company (Amagicom AB) is prominently displayed on the website, as are the real names of its owners and team members.
This level of transparency is very refreshing in an industry where VPN company owners and operators like to keep to the shadows. It also helps to inspire a great deal of trust in Mullvad.
The real test of a VPN provider’s technical security is in the details of the OpenVPN encryption it uses. By default Mullvad uses the following settings:
Control channel: an AES-256-GCM cipher with RSA-4096 handshake encryption and HMAC SHA-1 hash authentication. Perfect forward secrecy is provided by a DHE-4096 Diffie Hellman key exchange, which is re-keyed every 60 minutes.
Data channel: an AES-256-GCM cipher. HMAC hash authentication is not required because GCM ensures both confidentiality and integrity. GCM attaches a so called authentication tag instead of a HMAC hash.
Hash authentication on the control channel can be upgraded to SHA-384 by manually editing the configuration files. Even at default levels, however, this is an extremely secure setup
All custom software is fully open source and is digitally signed, which is great.
Want to know more? Please check out my VPN encryption guideand 5 most secure VPNs for 2017 (which will probably include Mullvad the next time I update it).
All in all, I am a very big fan of Mullvad. Few, if any, other VPN services can match its dedication to privacy. Mullvad backs this up with cast-iron technical security and a wealth of sophisticated anti-censorship technologies.
If you are a more casual user, however, don’t let any of this put you off. Mullvad’s software is very easy to use and works flawlessly. A three-hour trial might not be much, but it is enough to ensure the service works for you. If you still have problems, then the 30-day money-back guarantee should have you covered.
This is just as well, as support seems rather slow. Given the speed test results and server locations, it is also probably worth suggesting that Mullvad is best suited to European users.
If you can live with these limitations, I consider Mullvad to be one of the very best VPN services out there.
Mullvad's apps aren't the best, and there are much cheaper services around, but this VPN's anonymity and technology are major plus points, and you get great speeds, too.
- Truly anonymous accounts
- Excellent speeds
- Solid kill switch and leak protection
- Unblocks Netflix
- Apps lack features
- Doesn't unblock iPlayer, Amazon, Disney+
- No discount for long-term subscriptions
- Last security audit was 2018
Mullvad is a Swedish-based VPN which doesn't just talk about protecting your privacy – it actually does something about it.
Signing up, for instance, is as simple as clicking a button to generate an account number. The website creates a unique account number for you, and you're done. Mullvad doesn't need your email address, your name, country, or any personal details – the account ID is enough.
The company goes on to recommend that you pay via cash, Bitcoin or Bitcoin cash, which ensures it will know almost nothing about you. If that's a step too far, you can pay as usual via card, PayPal, bank transfer or Swish.Mullvad's core service is powerful, up-to-date, and absolutely stuffed with high-end technologies. It only uses OpenVPN and WireGuard protocols, for instance. There's industrial strength encryption (AES-256 GCM, 4096-bit RSA certificates with SHA512, perfect forward secrecy). There are multiple layers of DNS and IPv6 leak protection, you get multiple stealth options to bypass VPN blocking, port forwarding support is built in, and the list goes on.
The network is a reasonable size. Mullvad may 'only' have 606 servers (NordVPN has a massive 5,500+) , but they're well spread across 58 locations and 36 countries.
The company has its own client for desktops: Windows, Linux, and Mac. Unusually, this is open source, so developers who are suspicious about Mullvad's motives, or just curious about the quality of the code, can check it out for themselves.
Mullvad took a long time to develop mobile apps, but there are now Android and iOS builds to try (these don't quite have as many features as the desktop clients, but cover all the essentials). Whatever you're using, there's support for connecting up to five devices simultaneously.
Pricing is extremely simple at €5 ($5.40) a month, no long-term contracts required. That's half the price you'll pay for monthly billing with some providers, and cheaper than many annual plans, but sign up for longer elsewhere and there's a lot of money to be saved. Surfshark is only $1.99 a month on its two-year plan, for instance, a fraction of the price.
Still, the fact that Mullvad isn't trying to tie users into long-term contracts seems a very positive sign. If the company knows that many of its customers can leave at any time, you can be sure it will make real efforts to keep them happy.
Figuring out a VPN's logging policy is often a real challenge, but again, Mullvad is different, spelling out the fine detail in an excellent policy page.
The key point is that nothing is logged that can be connected to a specific account. No traffic, DNS requests, IP addresses, not even connection times, dates or bandwidth used.
Mullvad explains that it monitors the current number of connections to each account, to ensure no-one can use more than the five allowed. But this isn't saved, so there's no way to tell how many you were using five months, weeks, or even minutes ago.
The end result of all this is you don't have to worry about how Mullvad handles court requests to access your usage data, because, well, there isn't any.
Mullvad hasn't put itself through a public audit of its infrastructure to confirm it's following these procedures, unlike some competitors. That said, the company did have its desktop client audited back in 2018, and that's a welcome step. But others have gone further, and for example TunnelBear now has annual audits of its apps, backend systems and even its website.
Still, when a company gives us this level of detail on its procedures, and provides very real privacy advantages elsewhere (no need to hand over your email address, open source desktop client), these are very positive signs. Audit, or no audit, we think Mullvad looks far more trustworthy than most of the competition.
Getting started with Mullvad is as easy as generating an account number and buying some time (cards, PayPal, Bitcoin and others are supported, as mentioned). The website presents this clearly, and gives you far more control than is normally seen. You're not signed up to a PayPal subscription without realizing, for instance – there are separate options to make a one-off payment, subscribe, or end an existing subscription.
A comprehensive Download page prompted us to download the Windows client, but also included links to the Mac, Linux, iOS and Android apps, along with options to download OpenVPN and WireGuard configuration files.
We grabbed and installed the Windows client in a few seconds. We activated it by entering our account number (Mullvad doesn't require usernames or passwords) and it was ready to go.
While some VPN's apps look and feel very different across all platforms, Mullvad takes a more unified approach. Whether you're using Windows or Android, Mac or iOS, or indeed Linux, each app is almost identical, with little more than a few settings varying between versions.
The app looks good, with a colorful panel, a map highlighting your current location, and a 'Secure my connection' button.
Tapping the location name lets you choose another from a list. There's no 'Fastest' or 'Automatic' option to select the best server for your current location, no search box, filters, Favorites system or server load indicators; it's just a simple menu with country and city options.
Connection times are only average, but within a few seconds the app displays your new virtual location and protocol (WireGuard or OpenVPN).
Once you're connected, a new Switch Location button appears. Tap this and you're able to choose and connect to a new location, without having to close the current connection first (a common annoyance with many VPN apps). But this isn't just a timesaver; what is really interesting is what's happening underneath.
With most VPN apps, if you choose a new server while you're connected to another, the app simply closes the existing connection and opens a new one. Sounds obvious, right? But it means that in the time between disconnecting from server #1 and connecting to server #2, you're exposing your real IP address.
When we switched servers with Mullvad, that didn't happen. We saw no sign of any IP leaks when switching from one location to another. That's very good news, as it suggests Mullvad understands and is addressing common VPN app issues that many providers don't even realize exist.
The app has a scattering of settings, including basic protocol choices (WireGuard, OpenVPN UDP or TCP), the ability to launch with Windows, a kill switch, the ability to enable or disable IPv6, and assorted advanced connection tweaks (OpenVPN MSS value, WireGuard key and MTU, plus more besides).
It's missing some handy features we regularly see elsewhere – such as the ability to automatically connect when you access particular networks or network types, for instance – but there's enough to get by.
The app has one other unusual expert-level extra in a very flexible command line interface, which enables building scripts to tweak settings, connect to your chosen locations, view status or disconnect automatically. That'll be way too much hassle for most people, but if you want to do something advanced – perhaps create a script which automatically connects to Mullvad before launching a specific app – it could be very helpful.
Our performance testing began with a close look at Mullvad's kill switch. We forcibly closed both OpenVPN and WireGuard connections in various ways, but the app handled each situation perfectly: it immediately displayed a 'Reconnecting' message alerting us to the problem, blocked our internet connection to prevent any IP leaks, and followed up with a 'Secured' notification, seconds later, when the connection was re-established.
Mullvad is more focused on privacy and security than unblocking every website in the world, but our tests revealed a little good news. Sure, it didn't get us into BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video or Disney+, but Mullvad did unblock US Netflix, along with YouTube and the less well defended sites.
The service scored full marks in our privacy tests, with the Windows client successfully blocking DNS and WebRTC leaks.
The positivity was maintained to the end, with our performance tests showing excellent download speeds of 68-69Mbps on our 75Mbps UK test line, and up to 270-310Mbps on an ultra-fast US connection. That's trailing behind speed champion Hotspot Shield (450-580Mbps), but it's a great result, and puts Mullvad well ahead of most VPNs in the performance stakes.
Mullvad's app has few features, it's not especially configurable, and prices are above average for long-term users, but otherwise there's a lot to like here. You can open an account without handing over any personal data, speeds are excellent, and a top-quality VPN engine protects your privacy at all times. So while not up there with the likes of ExpressVPN, it's still well worth a look.