If you connect to WiFi networks outside of your home or office, using a VPN is recommended. If your work or communications are particularly valuable or sensitive you should consider it mandatory.
A VPN encrypts all of the data that travels in and out of your computer, phone, or tablet, so anyone who captures the data can’t easily read it. This means WiFi operators in coffee shops or airports, or even your internet provider can’t see what you’re doing. We wrote more about the reasons for using a VPN in this post, and discussed the difficulty in choosing a VPN in this post.
We like several VPNs including NordVPN and ExpressVPN, but Disconnect is our primary recommendation.
We particularly like Disconnect for a number of reasons. It does an excellent job of meeting our core requirements by offering strong encryption, good ease of use, and a reasonable price. Moreover, it’s built by people we know (literally). Disconnect has also been well-reviewed, recommended, and awarded by folks like Popular Science, CNET, The New York Times, Wired and they include Firefox, DuckDuckGo, Tor, and EFF among its suite of partners.
Lastly, it has solid to great answers for our ’20 Questions to Ask Your VPN’ list of criteria.
Disconnect is an US-based company and, according to Disconnect’s App Store, over 50M people use their product. We’ll highlight their partnerships with EFF and Mozilla again because they’re non-profit organizations with a well-known dedication to privacy.
They also “don’t keep any personally identifiable activity logs, except payment information,” according to their FAQ.
We find Disconnect as a company surprisingly transparent, making them (and their product) easier to trust, an important consideration in the murky world of VPN products.
The Disconnect Product Line
Disconnect has versions for MacOS, Windows, iOS, and Android and they offer three versions of Disconnect; Basic, Pro, and Premium. The basic product really isn’t a complete VPN, the Pro version is our recommendation for most people in most situations, and the Premium product is great for those with higher privacy needs or who need the ability to connect to/from different countries.
Disconnect Pro offers something they call SmartVPN, which encrypts all HTTP traffic (visits to most web sites and services). However, it doesn’t encrypt traffic to streaming media and other high-bandwidth services like Netflix, Spotify, etc. By doing this they avoid routing high volumes of traffic that:
- a) isn’t really sensitive and
- b) is probably already encrypted
through the corresponding company’s servers. This saves Disconnect money and allows them to offer their product and services at an affordable price point without compromising on any important privacy protections. Netflix already knows what you’re watching and since the traffic is already encrypted, nobody else would find out by looking at your data stream. Given that, there’s no reason to pay and take the time to encrypt it again.
If you do want or need the full ‘encrypt everything’ mode, then you need Disconnect Premium. There are people with specific jobs, threat profiles, or who have other reasons to want this level of protection. If you’re one of them, we recommend the Premium offering.
Another VPN feature that many people use is the ability to log in from one country while you’re really in another one. This enables access to different services, and even lets you see different shows on Netflix. This is another feature that Disconnect only offers in their Premium version.
A Disconnect Premium subscription covers up to 3 unique devices. This means with one purchase you can use it on your phone, laptop, and some third device (a partner’s device, a home office computer, or a work computer). However, if you opt for the Pro subscription (the medium tier) it only works on devices for the operating system tied to the subscription. For example, you can have a Disconnect Pro iOS subscription but would need a separate Disconnect Mac OS subscription or Windows subscription.
Life with Disconnect
If you have another VPN product already on or installed, Disconnect won’t be able to establish a VPN connection. This is true for all VPNs so if you have a VPN already, make sure it’s uninstalled before turning Disconnect on.
When using Disconnect Premium, you can toggle between Blocking Mode and Encrypted Mode (except on Android devices — only Encrypted Mode is available) depending on how you’re navigating the internet.
Blocking Mode is not Disconnect’s VPN service and is designed to block trackers, malicious sites, and certain ads that are known to track and/or distribute malware on devices.
Encrypted Mode is Disconnect’s VPN service – it encrypts your traffic, your connections, and it masks your IP address and/or server.
Disconnect’s best quality is that your routine online behavior is hardly interrupted when it’s on. VPN products, by nature of what they do and how they work, can slow down your internet and sometimes interrupt certain services and programs such as Netflix and Spotify.
When this is the case, you usually have to turn your VPN off in order to access and use these services and products. But sometimes, you don’t want to deal with a slower or intermittent internet. When that’s the case, a VPN is next to useless.
In our experience, however, Disconnect outperformed many other VPN providers when it came to having a seamless connection and internet session. We rarely needed to turn off the VPN service, on both mobile and desktop devices. The Blocking/Encryption modes reduce this slowdown issue and provide a lot of flexibility and control as to when you want to hide all your internet activity or when you would just prefer to browse the internet with minimal tracking.
Why Disconnect is our recommendation
As we’ve discussed before, when it comes to VPNs, it’s not easy to find the best ones. Here are some of the qualities that matter most.
- Some VPNs keep logs of your activity, which means 1) there’s a potential that the information can reach someone else’s hands and 2) you’re now trusting the VPN company over your ISP.
- Some VPNs are very secretive – they won’t tell you how many users they have or even where they’re based out of. That makes them hard to trust.
- They have to work well! A VPN product you constantly have to turn off because of connection or slowdown issues is not a good VPN.
Disconnect checks off these important boxes and at a price of $50/yr (or slightly higher if you’re paying monthly) for three devices, it’s fairly affordable as well.