Which Is Better Tor Or VPN?

Which Is Better Tor Or VPN?

I have heard many people say that either Tor is better or VPN is better for online anonymity and security.

Granted, they both provide security measures and features; however, both, in essence, protect you and your data in different ways and are used for different situations. Here is an article detailing what they are, what they are not, and what situation suits them better.

Both Tor and VPN secure your online data and activity but in different ways, and one is not better than the other. Depending on the situation you are in and your needs, you would opt to choose one over the other depending. VPN is excellent for accessing region-locked content and safeguarding your personal information, such as your banking details. At the same time, Tor is preferred for complete anonymity and is used in situations where you need to be kept entirely anonymous, like whistle-blowers.

This article will go over privacy and security as a whole, explaining why we need it in today’s digital world. Then it will cover how precisely does VPN work and how precisely does Tor work. Then we will look at situations where one would be preferred over the other.

Second to last, we will cover the advantages of both Tor and VPN. Finally, we will conclude by understanding the differences and how we would use them both in different situations.

Tor and VPN security and privacy overview

When it comes to online privacy and security, the only way we can ensure anonymity is by either using a VPN or Tor. We use these services to ensure that our data, personal information, and online activity are kept anonymous from hackers, cybercriminals, governments, and corporations.

Suppose we do not safeguard against online threats, private data collection, storage of that data, spoofing, and more. In that case, we open ourselves and our lives up to a large amount of malicious intent, including identity theft, tracking, harassment, and more.  

Both Tor and VPNs help us safeguard against all these unfortunate circumstances. They are both very similar; however, one is more useful than the other in different situations.

How do Tor and VPN work?

A VPN encrypts your data before routing it to the server that is owned by the VPN service. Before reaching the server, your data is routed through a tunnel and then sent to the website you are visiting.

By doing this, your information is kept private, secured, and anonymous (even your IP address). So, if any form of malicious activity was being carried out on the website, you are visiting the VPN server would keep your data safe and secured. 

Not that a VPN is an application or software that you install onto your chosen device, run it, and choose a server to connect to.

If you are looking for security and speed, then you would prefer and select a server located close to your home. If, however, you are looking to bypass geo-blocking and censorship, you would need to choose a server located in another country.

On the other hand, Tor is free, open-source software for enabling anonymous communication by directing Internet traffic through an open, worldwide volunteer overlay network.

Tor’s software maps out a route from your device to an exit node passing through two randomly selected nodes before reaching the end.

There are more than seven thousand relays (nodes) in order to conceal your location and usage from anyone conducting network surveillance or traffic analysis. 

The process begins with your data being covered in three encryption layers, which is then sent to the first node. One layer of encryption is then removed, telling the first node where to send the data next. This process is then repeated at the second node.

The last layer of encryption is removed when the data arrives at the exit node. This reveals not only your data’s final destination but also the information it is carrying. This includes any sensitive information you may have divulged into a site initially.

Tor will usually use the same three nodes for a couple of minutes, and then it will create an entirely new path for your data to travel across

When would you use Tor, and when would you use VPN

As you can see, both services offer encryption but are different in various ways. To understand them better, let’s look at some situations when you would use one and then the other. 

VPN situations

You would use a VPN to download or seed torrents in a region where torrenting is banned, if you live in a country that censors online activity, or if your government is prone to surveillance. 

More situations include using a VPN to conceal your personal information, such as your address and banking details.

Other situations include using a VPN when you do not want corporations and companies tracking your browsing habits to target you with adverts or if you need to access your business network when you are traveling. 

A VPN can also be used in a situation where you want to bypass a firewall and prevent network admins from browsing your online activity, and if you use public Wi-Fi. This will help to keep your computer safe.

Then finally, you would also use a VPN for region locked services such as Netflix. For example, this means you could watch Netflix shows from Europe if you’re based in the United States.

Tor situations

You would use Tor if you want to make your browsing activity anonymous and live in a country or region with stringent surveillance laws.

Tor would also be used to access blocked content, bypass censorship, and speak your mind freely online. 

You would also use Tor to prevent websites from accessing your browsing history and using it to send you targeted ads.

Advantages of Tor and VPN

Advantages of a VPN

A VPN has end-to-end encryption of all your data that travels over your connection and will typically slow down your speed; however, if you are using a professional VPN service, then the speed will be negligible.

VPN is user friendly and does not need any skills or technical knowledge to be installed and run. Typically, all you need to do is sign up, then download the software, login, and choose your server to connect to. 

VPNs lets you bypass region-blocked areas because it masks your IP and makes it appear as if you are accessing the internet from the server you have chosen.

Advantages of Tor

Tor, for the most part, is the most cost-effective security solution because it is free.

You have complete anonymity because it does not keep records of your personal or financial information like a VPN does (you need to signup and pay for a VPN). Additionally, Tor does not track or log any of your browsing activity.

Tor will probably never be shut down due to its servers being all across the globe, and because it is free, open-source software, no company owns or runs it making it impossible for authorities ever ultimately to shut it down.

VPNs are businesses, which means they are susceptible to being shut down or banned. If a VPN is shut down, you would need to signup for another VPN, one that may not meet the same criteria you are looking for. Tor does not face this dilemma.


It is safe to say that neither Tor nor VPN is better than the other, but instead, we can say that they offer different forms of anonymity, security, and online activity.

You would use a VPN to stream shows from Netflix that are region locked, and you would use it to protect and keep your personal and financial information secure and private.

Tor you would use if your government or country is prone to surveillance, tracking, and censoring information public or otherwise. Another case would be to use Tor in such regions to express your right to free speech because it is entirely anonymous. 

I would suggest that if you are absolute in your search for complete online anonymity, then using both a VPN and Tor would be your best bet. 

Mark Lewis

Security nerd with a Data Privacy First mindset!

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