Tor vs VPN – All you need to know

Last Updated on May 15, 2024

More and more people are becoming privacy aware and are looking to keep their data safe. Tor vs Vpn is a question that often come to people’s minds. So what are the main differences between these two services?

Tor creates a connection that uses 3 random computers on the internet and each one only knows about the next one. A vpn creates a connection between your computer and a server, and makes the world think you are on the same network as the server.

I understand this explanation might give you even more doubts but let me explain in detail and i’m sure you’ll fully grasp these ideas.

Tor vs VPN: what you’ll learn in this article

  • How tor works
  • How a vpn connection works
  • Differences in speed
  • How much each cost
  • Anonymity differences
  • Which one to choose
tor vs vpn

How tor works

Tor is a network of computers and in order to use it you need to install a special tor browser. You can’t just use chrome.

This network of computers is maintained by volunteers and has over 80.000 machines

When you access the internet via tor, what happens is that your special browser selects a random computer (also called node or relay) from the network as an entry node. The entry node does the same and selects a middle node, and then the middle node selects an exit node. This selection is always random so your final node (the exit node) is beyond your choice. A node only knows about the next node.

When you access a website or other service, the website thinks you are the exit node and has no way of discovering who you really are. In the eyes of that website your ip is the ip of the exit node.

How a vpn connection works

A vpn is like a tunnel between your computer and the vpn server. When you turn on the vpn, every service you use, including chrome, sends the data through that tunnel as encrypted data.

When you turn this vpn on, you get assigned an ip from the vpn server and to the outside world it looks like you are a computer on the same network as the vpn server. This is good if you want to say to the world that you are located in some other country. It’s also good to send data safely between you and the vpn server’s network, for example in a corporate environment. This way you can work from home just as if you were inside your company’s network.

Differences in speed

Tor is generally slow. If you use is to whatch youtube videos for example it will be a nightmare. Remeber that data is flowing through 3 random computers on the internet until it reaches you and those computers are providing the same service to many other users, so as you can imagine they get slow!

Vpn is usually fast, at least if you’re paying for it or using a “private” vpn. Paid vpn providers usually let you choose your connection point and show you the faster ones at every moment.

Cost of tor vs vpn

Tor is free! The tor network is supported by volunteers and the latest numbers point to over 80.000 computers all over the internet serving as potential nodes.

Vpns can be free but usually are paid services. If you need to connect to your corporate network for example, they are going to have their own vpn server inside the company’s network and it will be a free service for you. If you need a vpn to mask your ip, say for example for gambling purposes, you will probably use a paid service because free services from random providers are usually slower and more unstable.

Anonymity on tor vs vpn

This is where things get interesting. By now you probably already understand the big differences beween the two services so probably you already know the anonimity differences. But let me sum things up.

With tor, it’s nearly impossible for anyone to know who you are or what’s your real ip. When connecting to some service or website, all the service knows about the connection is the ip of the tor exit node, and that node only knows about the next node and not a thing about you. So you are trully anonymous.

With vpn, if you browse to the same website, the website thinks you are some computer on the vpn server’s network. They see the ip of the vpn.

You can however be tracked! The vpn service knows your real ip and logs information about everything you do on the internet.

Tor vs Vpn – which one to choose

If you are doing something that requires you to be really hiding from the world, like maybe you’re in north korea and don’tt want the government to know you like collecting legos, you should use tor. This way no one can track you.

On the other hand, if you are a guy in Portugal and want to use a gambling website that only serves Spanish clients, you should use vpn. The vpn server knows you are in Portugal but the gambling website thinks you are in Spain. This is why most people use vpns for anonymous betting!

Vpn is great in this situation because you can choose the server and say for example: i want to look like i’m in Canada!

Now you know what’s best for you. I hope i helped. Let me know if you have any other questions and i’ll be happy to help.