Proxy vs. VPN: What's the Difference? (2023)

  • What Are They?
  • Comparison
  • Do You Need Both?
  • Recap

If you’re reading this, then you probably want to change your IP address, but maybe you want to encrypt all of your web activity, as well. Which one should you use, a VPN or a proxy server? Each has its advantages and disadvantages, so we’ll help you make a well-informed and quick decision.

Proxy vs. VPN: What's the Difference? (1)

What Are Proxy Servers and VPNs?

Let’s start with the basics, what is a VPN, and what is a proxy server.


VPNs are Virtual Private Servers that encrypt all of a users’ web activity and device IP addresses. Typically, they come in the form of either an app or a browser extension. To learn more about VPNs in general, read our VPN guide.

Proxy Servers

A Proxy server, on the other hand, is a computer that stands between the user and their server that hides only their device IP address, not all of their web activity. It also works on one website or app, not several. We see the following types of proxy servers most commonly:

(Video) VPN vs Proxy: BIG Difference!

  • SOCKS5: Many people opt to use SOCKS5 for things like file sharing, video streaming, and online gaming, but it’s much slower than HTTP, coming up next.
  • HTTP: HTTP is a proxy server commonly used to access geo-restricted websites. If you live in a country with high levels of internet censorship, HTTP is a good option for you.
  • Transparent: Proxy servers aren’t just used to unlock certain websites. They can also be used for the opposite purpose. You know how you can’t go on Facebook at those computers in your public library? Well, that’s because those pesky librarians may have used a transparent proxy server, which blocks certain websites from view. Colleges and employers use these servers frequently, as well.

Proxy vs. VPN

Depending on your needs, you might want to use a proxy server or a VPN, but most likely a VPN will be more convenient. Let’s break down why.

CostUsually freeUsually paid
Number of uses1Unlimited
Encrypt IP addressYesYes
Encrypt web activityNoYes
Sells user dataYesNo
Coverage1 website or appAll websites and apps
Compatible with streaming and gamingYesYes
Can be used to bypass geo-restrictionsYesYes
Slows down browsing speedsYesYes

Key Differences

First, let’s talk about the major differences between VPNs and proxy servers.

  • Encryption: The main difference between a VPN proxy and a VPN is encryption. VPNs hide not only your private IP address but all your web activity, such as the websites you visit, using encryption. Proxy servers, on the other hand, will only change your IP address, but they won’t encrypt your online activities.
Proxy vs. VPN: What's the Difference? (2)
  • Selling data: Most proxy servers are free, and to make up for this lack of charge, many will sell user data to advertisers. Most VPNs on the other hand are paid and do not log or share user traffic data.
  • Paid vs. free: While there are many free VPNs options available, the majority have limits on how much data you can use per day, how many servers you can switch to, and more. For most people, it makes sense to invest in a paid option, whereas the majority of proxy servers are free.

Pro Tip: Many VPNs offer discounts for students, usually through Student Beans. If you’re a student who needs your web activity completely protected, take advantage of these discounts, which can range from 15 to 80 percent.

(Video) VPN vs proxy: Which one should you use? | VPNpro
  • Coverage: While VPNs encrypt all of a user’s web activity, no matter the website or app, proxy servers only hide one website or app at a time.

Key Similarities

Searching for common ground, here’s what we came up with.

Proxy vs. VPN: What's the Difference? (3)
  • Hide IP addresses: Both VPNs and proxy servers will hide your device IP address.
  • Streaming and gaming-compatible: Both work with streaming services and gaming consoles, although for proxies, you must use a SOCKS5.
  • Slow down browsing speeds: Both methods will slow down your browsing speeds at least a little (but we’ll admit that proxy connections are typically slower than VPN connections).
  • Bypass geo-restrictions: If you want to get around a government’s internet restrictions, both a VPN and a proxy server could get the job done.

Do You Need Both?

In a word, no, it’s not necessary to download a proxy if you already have a VPN. VPNs encompass what proxy servers do, so the redundancy isn’t needed.1 However, if you have a transparent proxy server that’s blocking certain websites, you may need a VPN to bypass these restrictions.2

Which One Should You Use? How To Choose

Now here comes the moment of truth, should you use a proxy server or a VPN? We’ve made the case for each and played devil’s advocate.

Why You Should Use A VPN
  • Coverage of all websites and apps: If you want more than one website or app covered, then a VPN is the easiest option.
  • Encryption of web traffic: It’s also the only option if you want your websites visited to be encrypted and not just your device’s IP address
  • No traffic logging: Most VPNs won’t log any of your traffic, which isn’t the case for proxy servers.
  • Better speeds: While speeds differ greatly from VPN to VPN, in general, they’re faster than proxy servers.
(Video) VPN vs Proxy | Which one is the ultimate anonymity tool?
Why You Shouldn’t Use A VPN
  • If you need one-time use only: If that’s the case, using a proxy server will probably be easier and cheaper.
  • May have to pay: Again, there are some VPNs that are completely free or have free trials, but in general, VPNs usually cost money while proxies are free.
Proxy vs. VPN: What's the Difference? (4)
Why You Should Use A Proxy Server
  • Only need one website or apps’ IP address hidden: If you need a one-and-one, getting a proxy server to cover a single website or app will be easier than downloading a VPN.
  • No payment required ever: No payment, no problem!
Why You Shouldn’t Use A Proxy Server
  • Doesn’t encrypt web traffic: Your Internet Service Provider will still be able to see exactly what you do online, just not your device’s IP address.
  • Logs and sells web traffic: Not only will proxy servers log your web activity, but they’ll also sell it, potentially to third-party advertisers.
  • Only works on a single website or app: Most people are going to want protection for all of their web activity.


While proxy servers certainly have their purpose, VPNs are a much more comprehensive and effective way to stay private online. If you’re not sure where to start, check out our rankings of the best VPN for every occasion.

FAQ Section

That about covers it, but we’re still with you for any final questions.

  • Is a proxy server the same as a VPN?

    Proxy servers are not the same as VPNs. While proxy servers can encrypt the IP address of a single website or web app, VPNs encrypt all web activity.

  • Is Tor a VPN or a proxy server?

    Tor is neither a VPN nor a proxy server. Rather, it’s a secure browser that hides its web activity from your Internet Service Provider.

  • Are proxy servers safe?

    Proxy servers are safe to use in that you probably won’t get a virus; however, your data may be shared and sold with third parties for advertising purposes, so they’re not great for protecting your web activity.

  • Is SOCKS5 the same as a VPN?

    SOCKS5 is not the same as a VPN. Rather, SOCKS5 is a type of proxy server that’s typically used for online gaming, sharing files or video chatting on a single website or app. VPNs, on the other hand, encrypt all web activity across all websites and apps.

(Video) What is a Proxy Server?


1. Proxy vs VPN - What is the difference?
(Tom Spark's Reviews)
2. proxy vs vpn - Which is better ? (Explained with a real life example) [2021]
(IT k Funde)
3. Difference between VPN and proxy server.
(Sikhe Sikhaye)
4. What’s the CRUCIAL Difference Between a Proxy & VPN?
5. The Difference Between a Proxy and a VPN
6. What's the difference between a proxy and VPN?
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Ms. Lucile Johns

Last Updated: 18/07/2023

Views: 6504

Rating: 4 / 5 (41 voted)

Reviews: 80% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Ms. Lucile Johns

Birthday: 1999-11-16

Address: Suite 237 56046 Walsh Coves, West Enid, VT 46557

Phone: +59115435987187

Job: Education Supervisor

Hobby: Genealogy, Stone skipping, Skydiving, Nordic skating, Couponing, Coloring, Gardening

Introduction: My name is Ms. Lucile Johns, I am a successful, friendly, friendly, homely, adventurous, handsome, delightful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.