Mullvad VPN Review
We like Mullvad a lot. It's relatively cheap and seems to work great without much of a loss in speed. What it lacks in server spread, it makes up for in its easy-to-use apps and dedication to keeping you as private as possible.
- By VPN Team
Mullvad has been around since 2009. When it comes to privacy, it's absolutely one of the best VPNs out there, if not the best. It's not the cheapest option on the market, but it's close, and the ~$5 /month price has never changed, which probably can't be said for any of its competitors.
Privacy and cost, although important to most of us, aren't the only areas of interest we should focus on. Below is an in-depth look at everything else about it, including its speed, what it's like to use the apps, where the servers are, and lots more.
Everything to Know About Mullvad VPN
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What Are the Pros and Cons?
- Uses auto-generated account numbers in place of email addresses
- Simple pricing structure (one option)
- Lets you pay with cash or cryptocurrency
- It's easy to find the latest app audit
- Makes it clear they don't pay anyone to write good reviews about the service
- Shows your new IP address
- Supports port forwarding
- Command line interface options for those who want it
- Smaller network than other well-known providers
- Apps have high system requirements
- Hard to remember the account number
- Blocks several ports (25, 137, 138, 139, and 445)
- Useless if you need a dedicated IP address
- You have to ask for the 1-day trial (and it's not guaranteed you'll get it)
- We're unable to get it to work with Hulu or Disney+
How Much Does Mullvad VPN Cost?
Short Answer: There's one option: 5.00 EUR /month.
A Mullvad subscription is a little over $5 /month (listed as €5). We really like how simple this is.
While it's true that some VPNs can be had for less than that, the payoff here is that you're not confused a year later when the introductory price wears off, and you're charged more than you were used to paying. Plus, you're not encouraged to buy a few years at once at a discount, so even if you try it month-by-month and like it enough to subscribe for a year, you won't be bothered that you missed out on discounts.
Most VPNs list gobs of options when it comes time to pay. A great example of this can be seen with NordVPN. Not only does that service have multiple subscription types to pick from, but each has its own set of prices, depending on how much you want to pay up front. There are new-user discounts and odd subscription lengths, making it tough to decide which tier to go with.
This VPN service is far simpler. You pay for however long you want the service. If you buy one month, it's 5.00 EUR, but if you want to pay for more than that at once, it's still the equivalent of 5.00 EUR /month (e.g., ~60 USD for a year). That said, there might be discounts if you buy through a reseller.
There are several accepted forms of payment, from traditional methods like credit card, a bank wire, PayPal, giropay, and Swish, to cryptocurrency, physical voucher cards, and even cash. You can add time to your account whenever you want, using whatever payment type you find suitable at the time.
Can You Use Mullvad VPN For Free?
Short Answer: No, there isn't a free option.
Mullvad doesn't have a free plan. Their website has a convincing reason why:
"Free" services nearly always come at some cost, whether that be the time you spend watching an intro ad, the collection of your data, or by limiting the functionality of the service. We don't operate that way – at all.
We were also told by their support team that they used to have a free one-hour trial, but that it was abused. Now, they stick to a 30-day refund guarantee, though if you ask, they might be able to send you a one-day test account to try out.
TunnelBear and Atlas VPN are some examples of VPNs that have a free version. But be sure to see our VPN FAQ for some examples of why a no-cost VPN might not be for you.
Is Mullvad VPN Private?
Short Answer: It's very private. Only the absolute minimum data is collected and stored, and that doesn't include the sites you visit or even your email address.
Privacy is at the heart of a great VPN service. It's one of the biggest reasons people pay a premium price for one VPN over another, or why someone avoids (or should avoid) a VPN despite its amazing speeds or unique features.
Fortunately, Mullvad is one of the most private VPNs you can get.
User accounts work differently than they do with most other services. Instead of having you sign up with your name and email address—things you have to fake if you want to help hide your identity—an account has two properties: an account number and the time remaining on that account.
We'll look more at what that looks like when you sign up below.
So if your name and email aren't used, what does the company know about you when you sign up? What all do they collect and store about your activity when you're using the VPN? Those are important questions that you should have answered before deciding which VPN to pay for.
For starters, if you're familiar with the 14 Eyes, you might not be pleased to know that Mullvad is based in Sweden, which is part of that coalition. That said, you can read more about how Swedish legislation is relevant to Mullvad. Even so, if your data is ever handed over to authorities, it's crucial to know what, exactly, Mullvad would be able to report about you.
Here's a breakdown of all the important pieces of data they'll know about you when you use the VPN:
- Your account number
- Your account's expiration date
- Total simultaneous connections
- Traffic logs
- DNS requests
- Connection details, such as when or for how long you connect
- Your IP address
- Your bandwidth usage
- A password or email address
As you can see, this is an excellent example of a truly private VPN. That account number they collect is automatically generated upon signup and isn't tied to your identity (not that it matters anyway, because they don't store your traffic logs). Account expiration is a given that any VPN needs to know so they don't let a user on the VPN for longer than what they've paid for.
Mullvad doesn't store how many devices you've used on your account; it just monitors it in real-time (to make sure you're not exceeding the 5-device limit). Because of this, they can't tell you how many connections your account had at any time in the past. This is good. It means greater privacy for you.
Their servers do send generic system metrics, like CPU load and total bandwidth used by the server, to their monitoring systems, but those details still don't include your traffic logs. They also don't send usage stats to external parties like Google Analytics.
Shared IP addresses are used, so your traffic is mixed in with other users to make it harder to pinpoint what you, specifically, are doing on the VPN. Most VPNs do this, too, and will only offer dedicated IP addresses for a fee. According to Mullvad, dedicated IPs aren't aligned with privacy since it has to be linked to a user.
If you're curious how they deal with your payment information while keeping your personal data safe, see this snippet from their website:
Some types of payment mean that personal data will be processed (such as e.g. bank account number and PayPal-ID). If you choose a payment method where you are providing your personal data to Mullvad, such as PayPal, we will process and protect your information according to the GDPR and other applicable legislations.
You can even pay with cryptocurrency or cash if you want to relay the least amount of personal information to them that you can. If you do use cash, it's sent to Sweden, and Mullvad will actually shred the envelope when they're done with it!
This company is so serious about keeping your data out of the wrong hands, that they also permanently delete all emails sent to their support address after six months. They make it clear on their website that they use a third-party email service, so if that's a concern for you, they explain how to use PGP-encrypted email to contact them.
The most recent server audit was conducted in May 2022. The consulting firm Mullvad used were asked to verify whether or not they log customer activity. You can read more about this audit here, but the firm "found no information leakage or logging of customer data."
Here's a comment from Mullvad about the audit:
We are satisfied with the independent auditors concluding statements, where they say that “…the configuration is sound and did not display signs of any direct customer information“, and “In summary; externally the deployments have quite a strong posture“
As for ownership, Mullvad is operated by Mullvad VPN AB, a subsidiary of Amagicom AB. Both companies are wholly owned by the two founders, Fredrik Strömberg and Daniel Berntsson. Some VPN providers don't divulge this sort of information, so it's refreshing to see this out in the open.
How Secure Is Mullvad VPN?
Short Answer: There's nothing to worry about when it comes to encryption, DNS leaks, or hacks.
Privacy is important. But so is security. There are a few things we can look at to determine how secure Mullvad is.
Let's start with encryption. If no encryption is used, then anyone monitoring your traffic (e.g., your ISP or government) will see everything you're up to. Fortunately, basically all the big VPN providers use strong encryption, Mullvad included. OpenVPN uses AES-256-GCM and WireGuard uses ChaCha20.
With encryption out of the way, there's still the question about DNS leaks, which if Mullvad suffers from, could mean the web pages you visit aren't protected by the VPN. The company claims that if you're using their app, you're "automatically safe from DNS leaks," and that all your DNS requests are "rerouted to our own non-logging DNS resolver instead of to your ISP or a public DNS provider."
We put this to the test using the mobile app and the desktop app, and we're happy to report zero DNS leaks. Mullvad as their own connection check page that identifies whether you're currently using their VPN and if WebRTC or DNS leaks are detected.
Here's the test before connecting to Mullvad:
Below is the DNS leak test result after we connected to Mullvad. As you can see, all those servers were replaced with this one that Mullvad uses. We also used DNSLeakTest.com for a second opinion, and it confirmed again that there were no DNS leaks.
Another area to focus on is hacks. Although a server hack wouldn't uncover anything important, as we established above, you don't want to use a VPN company that's isn't secure enough to prevent intrusions.
We asked their support team this very question:
Q: Has there ever been a data breach by hackers?
A: We haven't had any breach of customer data or private information.
Some of Mullvad's servers run on RAM only, instead of a typical hard disk drive. The company cites several reasons for how this increases security:
- If the computer is powered off, moved or confiscated, there is no data to retrieve. On servers running from disks, this is also the case as we encrypt all of them to secure their data. Regardless there would still be no logs or customer information.
- We get the operational benefits of having fewer breakable parts. Disks are among the components that break often. Therefore, switching away from them makes our infrastructure more reliable.
- The operational tasks of setting up and upgrading package versions on servers become faster and easier.
- Running the system in RAM does not prevent the possibility of logging. It does however minimise the risk of accidentally storing something that can later be retrieved assuming the server has not been powered off.
Where Are Mullvad's Servers?
Short Answer: There are over 800 servers spread over 40 countries.
Server spread is important if a VPN service is to be as speedy as possible for the widest range of people. It's also useful when it comes to bypassing georestrictions. This is why some VPNs offer loads of servers, like ExpressVPN's 3,000+ servers that are in over 90 countries.
For comparison, Mullvad operates over 800 servers in over 60 cities located in 40 countries. Check out Mullvad's Servers page for a complete listing.
As you can see, the table on that page is quite transparent, showing which servers are offline or have messages, and which are rented versus owned. The list can be filtered by those things—server type, status, message, and ownership—as well as by country and city. This is a great way to get a full look at how and where the network is running.
While not all of Mullvad's servers are wholly owned by them, they are dedicated servers, meaning they're not shared with anyone else. Though, they do admit that while all the servers they use are encrypted, the ones they own "tend to be faster and more secure." None of their servers are virtual servers.
Several more answers about their servers are provided on Mullvad's About Our Servers page.
What Does Mullvad VPN Unblock?
Short Answer: We were able to access Netflix libraries from other countries, but other major streaming sites did not work.
- Netflix: Yes
- Hulu: No
- Disney+: No
- BBC iPlayer: No
Some people like to use VPNs to access content unavailable where they are physically. For example, if you're in the United States, and you want to log in to German Netflix to see a film only available there. But even if not for that reason, it's nice to know if Mullvad will block Netflix and other sites when the VPN is turned on.
Fortunately, the VPN severs are spread over dozens of countries, so there are opportunities for lots of people to switch up their virtual location and access content abroad.
Here's an example of how this works with Netflix...
When we're connected to a server in the United States, we see the US library:
But when we switch to a German server and refresh the page, the content changes because Netflix thinks we're in Germany:
This means you might have luck watching movies and shows only available in other countries. And if you want to keep Mullvad running all the time, you should have no problem also streaming Netflix.
We also tested Hulu, which is available only the US. We confirmed that when connected to a server in a different country, such as Germany, Hulu's website would load just fine but not let us play anything. When we switched over to a server in the United States, the play button immediately showed up. However, we were met with a large "Hulu is not available in your region, or you may be using a VPN" message. We tested a handful of other servers in the US, and none of them worked for us. The mobile app wouldn't let us log in at all.
Disney+ works in North America, Europe, and other places, so we put that to the test as well. Unfortunately, no pages would load for us when we tried in a desktop browser. When using Mullvad from a phone, the Disney+ app appeared to work fine. However, we tried a number of servers in countries where we know it shouldn't have worked, like Hong Kong, and we didn't run into any problems.
Another streaming service we tried was BBC iPlayer. We tried several servers in London and Manchester, and none of them were able to fool the website into letting us stream, since that works only in the UK.
How Much Data Can You Use?
Short Answer: This is an unlimited-data VPN, so there's no cap.
A VPN doesn't need to be on all the time, depending on why you're using one in the first place. But if you do plan to use it for everything you do online, having no data cap is very important, or you risk running out of data before it renews (usually at the start of the next billing cycle).
Mullvad, like most other premium VPN, doesn't restrict your usage in terms of monthly allowance. This means you can turn it on once and keep it on indefinitely, or turn it on and off based on your activity. It really doesn't matter.
With this VPN specifically, not only is data unrestricted, but bandwidth usage isn't even recorded, so they don't know how often you're using it. Download 10 GB, 100 GB, or 10 TB of data in one day if you want to. They won't know, and they don't care.
How Fast Is Mullvad VPN?
Short Answer: Our starting speed was 114 Mbps, and it dropped to 111 Mbps after establishing a VPN connection. Although a speed decrease is reasonable for any VPN, you might notice a larger drop if your initial speed is much higher than ours.
We experienced a 2.6% drop in speed after connecting to the nearest server in the Windows app. That's quite small. If the same drop could be expected for, say, a 300 Mbps connection, that's a reduction to only 292 Mbps.
To find that number, we ran a series of tests both off and on the VPN to compare the differences.
Here's the result without using the VPN:
- Download: 114 Mbps
- Upload: 25 Mbps
- Ping: 4 ms
Note: We used a 125/25 Mbps network for three back-to-back tests (here, here, and here), and then trimmed the high and low result to come up with that number. See How We Test & Rank VPNs for more on this process.
We then did the same test moments later, this time while using Mullvad. Here's the median result of those tests (here, here, and here):
- Download: 111 Mbps
- Upload: 7 Mbps
- Ping: 77 ms
Those tests were performed from our physical location in the U.S., while connected to the server Mullvad chose for us after choosing the U.S. from the list of server options. We ran a few additional speed tests to see how this close server compares to servers that are physically far from us:
- Canada: 102 Mbps download / 77 ms ping
- Norway: 68 Mbps download / 236 ms ping
- Singapore: 72 Mbps download / 431 ms ping
It's evident from these results that the download speed wasn't completely unacceptable. This is decent news for anyone wanting to access streaming content from across the world, though, as you can see, the ping responses were pretty slow.
If you're interested in trying out some other fast VPNs, we recommend ExpressVPN, VyprVPN, and NordVPN.
Are Torrents Allowed?
Short Answer: Yes. There's no restriction put in place for using torrents.
Mullvad doesn't intentially block P2P traffic like torrents, so you're free to use them while connected to a server. And since there's no data cap, you won't have to worry about shutting down the VPN after you've hit a certain data threshold.
One reason people like to use a VPN when they download torrents is because VPNs help stop ISPs from seeing what you're doing. Some internet service providers like to control their users' internet speed if they detect bandwidth-heavy activity like torrents. Mullvad helps prevent this since it's encrypted.
Remember, though, that despite the fact that Mullvad is extremely private and secure, VPNs don't give you permission to infringe on copyrights (which is a problem with lots of torrents).
Which Devices Are Supported?
Short Answer: There's a VPN app for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android. The Firefox browser extension is not an actual VPN.
The Mullvad apps works on these devices:
- Windows 10 and newer
- macOS Mojave (10.15) and newer
- Linux (Ubuntu 20.04+, Debian 10+, Fedora)
- Android 8 and newer
- iOS 12 and newer
There are also OpenVPN and WireGuard configuration files for devices that supports them.
Something that separates this app from most other VPNs is how you log in. Instead of choosing a username or entering your email address, and pairing it with a password, you're given one item upon signup: a numerical string called your account number.
There's a screenshot of this in the app review below. It's this number you'll use to log in on the devices where you want to use the VPN.
Something else we appreciate is the user interface continuity between the various platforms. You can switch between the mobile and desktop apps without having to adjust to new screens or layouts.
You can log in to your account in a web browser (just type your account number) to see all the devices that are currently using your account. It's easy to disconnect any of them, which is great if you run into a situation where you need to log in to the VPN but you've already maxed out the 5-device limit.
Mullvad Desktop App Review
Upon opening the app, you're met with a login screen. Just enter your account number to sign in. Yes, it's really that easy! It's the random number created when you first signed up, and there's no password to remember.
After connecting to your account, you can immediately jump on the VPN or choose a different location.
Like most VPN apps, this one lets you pick which apps you want to exclude from using the VPN (split tunneling), start the app and auto-connect to a server with your computer starts, and swap between using WireGuard and OpenVPN. There's also a kill switch, but unlike most apps, Mullvad's can't be disabled (this is smart, honestly).
Hidden in a menu on the start screen is your new IP address so you can confirm that you're really connected.
Those options, and everything else you can do in the desktop app, is accessible through the settings:
- View your account number, device name (what Mullvad uses to identify the device you're logged in on), and date and time of when your subscription will end
- Block ads, trackers, malware, adult content, and/or gambling related websites
- Enable or disable local network sharing to control whether you have access to printers, file sharing, etc.
- Turn system notifications on or off
- Unpin the app from the taskbar so you can move it around the screen
- Opt in to beta updates
- Enable IPv6
- Force the app to block the internet if you quit or disconnect from the app
- Enable multihop with WireGuard
If you prefer using apps through the command line, there are directions for using the Mullvad CLI on their website.
Mullvad Mobile App Review
The mobile app looks and feels identical to the desktop version. You enter your account number on the start screen to log in, and you can pick from any of the available locations or drill down to a specific server. You don't need to deal with the settings if you don't want to, but in there are details like how many days are left on your account, the app version, and links to help if you need it.
For anyone wanting to toggle things on and off to make the app better customized to their needs, there are several things you can do:
- Auto-connect when the app launches
- Turn on local network sharing to access printers and other devices
- Adjust the WireGuard MTU value
- Pick apps that you don't want to use through the VPN (aka, split tunneling)
- Use custom DNS servers
As you can see, just like with the desktop app, you can't turn the kill switch on or off at will. If the VPN is on but gets interrupted for whatever reason, your connection to the internet will pause until you the connection is restored or until you turn off the VPN.
Unfortunately, unlike other apps that let you easily control the VPN from your home screen through a widget, such functionality isn't allowed with Mullvad.
Mullvad Browser Extension Review
The company has a Firefox extension called Mullvad Privacy Companion. While you're encouraged to use it with their VPN, you don't have to. It's useful even if you don't subscribe.
However, if you do pay for Mullvad and you're connected to one of their servers, a proxy button appears in this extension that forces your browser traffic to exit to the internet at a different location than the one to which you're connected. It's useful if you want to keep your VPN on for your whole computer, but then access web pages in a different location. It might also even help you avoid seeing so many CAPTCHAs.
Normally, some proxies don't secure your traffic, but instead just give you a different IP address. But to stay true to its privacy committment, Mullvad's SOCKS proxy only works when the VPN is on, so everything you do is still encrypted.
Here are the extensions other features that work for both customers and non-paying users:
- Easily disable WebRTC to protect against IP address leaks
- See directions for turning on HTTPS-Only Mode in Firefox
- Access links to privacy extensions they recommend, like an ad blocker and an automatic browser cookie eraser
Mullvad On Routers & Other Devices
There isn't a router app for Mullvad that lets you install it at that level to provide the VPN to all your connected devices. But, depending on the router you have, you might still be able to use the VPN there.
Mullvad's website has extensive guides on using the VPN from a router.
Mullvad VPN Support Options
Short Answer: You can email them with questions or concerns, or browse through their self-help pages.
Some VPN providers let you reach out to them in all sorts of ways, including by phone, email, social media, and live chat. Those options are usually great, depending on the urgency of your comments.
Mullvad provides two methods: email address and self-help documents. Granted, those are probably enough for most people, especially considering how exhaustive their help guides are. Even the option to recover your lost account doesn't require that you contact them.
They also have a physical address on their website, so you could probably also opt for an old fashioned letter.