How to Determine If Your VPN Is Functioning Correctly.

Digital illustration of a detective with a magnifying glass examining a glowing VPN logo on a laptop screen in a dark room with digital data streams in the background.

Martin Kouyoumdjian |

Introduction to VPN Functionality

Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, are crucial tools that help protect your privacy when you're online. They create a secure connection over the internet between your device and the server, ostensibly to keep your browsing data private and your identity obscured. But how do you know if your VPN is working as it should? In this guide, we'll explore how to check if your VPN is functioning correctly, ensuring your online activities are as secure as you expect them to be.

Understanding How a VPN Should Work

Before we dive into diagnostic tools and techniques, it’s important to grasp what your VPN is expected to do:

  • Encrypt your data: This prevents anyone from spying on your online activity, even on unsecured networks such as public Wi-Fi.
  • Mask your IP address: By routing your traffic through a VPN server, your actual IP address is hidden and replaced with one from the VPN service.
  • Secure your location: Similar to IP masking, your geographic location should also be obscured, allowing for privacy and access to geo-restricted content.

Check Your IP Address

One of the simplest ways to check if your VPN is working is to look at your IP address before and after you connect to your VPN:

  1. Disconnect your VPN and visit a site like to see your real IP address and location.
  2. Connect your VPN and revisit the same site. If your VPN is functioning properly, the IP address and location should change to the server’s details that the VPN uses rather than your own.

Test for DNS Leaks

Even if your IP address is hidden, your device might still use your default DNS server provided by your ISP, which can reveal your browsing information. This scenario is known as a DNS leak. To check for DNS leaks:

  • Visit a website like
  • Run a standard or extended test to see if the DNS requests are being routed through your ISP or your VPN. If the test shows your ISP's DNS, then you have a DNS leak.

Assess WebRTC Leaks

WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication) is a built-in browser feature that could expose your real IP address even when you’re using a VPN. To check for WebRTC leaks:

  • Use browsers like Firefox where you can easily disable WebRTC or visit a site like to see if your real IP address is showing.

Consider the Kill Switch Function

A reliable VPN service should have a kill switch function, which instantly disconnects your device from the internet if your VPN connection drops. This is vital in maintaining security.

Check if your VPN includes this feature and test it by manually disconnecting your VPN during a session to see if your internet connection stops immediately.

Verify Encryption

Ensuring that your data is encrypted is a bit more technical but crucial. You can use tools like Wireshark to analyze your traffic and determine if the data sent through your VPN is encrypted. However, this approach requires a certain level of technical knowledge.

Test VPN Speed

While speed does not directly reflect on privacy or security, a significant drop in speed might indicate poor VPN performance. Test your internet speed with and without the VPN at a site like to see if your VPN is overly slowing down your connection.


It’s essential to regularly check your VPN’s functionality to ensure it meets your privacy and security needs. By undertaking these straightforward tests, you can confirm whether your VPN service is effective or if you might need to consider alternative solutions to protect your online identity.