Does a VPN drain battery life?

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VPN Battery life

VPNs have become an essential tool for the privacy-conscious. By encrypting your data and giving you a different IP address, VPNs shield your online activity from prying eyes and unlock censored content. But as many VPN users will know, battery use does increase.

How much battery does VPN use: Our battery drain tests

To conduct our experiment, we used the latest iPhone 15, Google Pixel 6A, and Macbook Pro. 

Our methodology was as such: 

  • We charged each device to 100% 
  • We connected all devices to ExpressVPN’s USA-Los Angeles-3 server 
  • We streamed Netflix for 60 minutes on all devices 
  • Then, we turned off VPN on each device, charged it to 100% again, and streamed Netflix for an additional 60 minutes 

Note that each device had notifications and other system activity running in the background, but conditions were the same whether VPN was on or off.

iPhone 15 VPN battery drain test

We used an iPhone 15 running iOS 17.3.1 for this drain test. Here are the results:

VPN on VPN off
Initial battery level100%100%
Final battery level76%90%


Our tests have shown that using a VPN connection on your iPhone has a minimal impact on battery consumption. This means that using a VPN should not affect the battery life of your iPhone. However, it’s important to note that these tests were conducted on the latest model of the iPhone, which may have strong battery health.

Google Pixel 6A VPN battery drain test

For the Android VPN test, we used a Google Pixel 6A, running Android 14. Here are the test results:

VPN on VPN off
Initial battery level100%100%
Final battery level65%79%


Although overall battery use was higher, the difference in the Android device’s battery consumption with VPN vs. without VPN was comparable to the iPhone.

MacBook Pro VPN battery drain test

For this test, we used a MacBook Pro running macOS Sonoma. Below are the results:

VPN on VPN off
Initial battery level100%100%
Final battery level63%82%


Given that the MacBook has a larger and brighter screen than both smartphones we experimented with, it’s no surprise that the battery drained much more quickly. Laptops generally have more features, like hardware components, graphic cards, and multiple storage drives that require more processing power.

Why does using a VPN drain battery quicker?

While all smartphone apps will expend battery while you use them, there are some specific reasons a VPN drains your battery faster:

Encryption power

VPNs encrypt your internet traffic to increase your online security. This encryption process requires extra work from your device’s processor, which consumes more battery power. The stronger the encryption (like AES 256-bit), the more battery drain you’ll experience.

Data routing

When you use a VPN, your data takes a detour. Instead of going directly to the website you’re visiting, it gets encrypted, sent to the VPN server, decrypted, and then forwarded to its destination. This extra routing adds to the workload and increases battery drain.

Constant connection

Most VPN apps stay active in the background, even when you’re not actively browsing. This means they’re constantly maintaining a connection with the VPN server, which needs battery power.

Factors that increase battery drain with VPN

There are certain scenarios that will make your VPN drain your battery faster. If you want to minimize battery usage, you could consider improving the conditions in which you use a VPN.

  • Mobile signal strength. A weak cellular signal forces your device to work harder to maintain a connection, which can be amplified when using a VPN. This extra strain can lead to a more noticeable battery drain. 
  • Background services. Even with a VPN disabled, background services, like location tracking and app refresh, running on your device can silently consume battery on your devices. When using a VPN, these services may need to work harder to keep up with the increased data traffic, further impacting battery life.
  • Location and network conditions. Your physical location and the overall network conditions can play a role. Crowded networks or areas with limited bandwidth may require your device to work harder to maintain a connection with the VPN server, leading to higher battery drain.
  • CPU usage. VPNs rely on encryption and decryption processes, which utilize your device’s CPU. The combined workload can significantly drain your battery if you run other CPU-intensive tasks, like video editing, gaming, and compiling large software programs, alongside the VPN.
  • Device hardware and software. Newer devices with more efficient processors and optimized software will generally handle the extra workload of a VPN better than older models. Additionally, some phone manufacturers include battery-saving features that can help mitigate the drain caused by VPNs.

How to reduce VPN battery drain

If you’re trying to minimize the battery drain caused by a VPN, there are several things you can do.

Close unnecessary background apps

Multitasking with several apps can contribute to battery drain, especially when using a VPN. Close any apps you’re not actively using to minimize the overall workload on your device’s CPU. You could also restrict unnecessary apps from refreshing in the background in the Settings menu on your device while using a VPN. This can help conserve battery by reducing overall data usage and background processes.

Use Wi-Fi

Cellular data usage generally consumes more battery than Wi-Fi. A weak cellular signal forces your device to work harder to maintain a connection, amplified when using a VPN. If you must use a VPN on a weak signal, consider prioritizing other tasks that don’t require a strong connection. Whenever possible, connect to a Wi-Fi network when using a VPN to reduce the overall workload on your device. 

Choose a closer VPN server instead 

Selecting a VPN server located closer to your physical location reduces the distance your data travels. The farther the distance your data needs to travel to reach the VPN server and back, the longer it takes. This extended travel time translates to your device’s wireless chip working harder to maintain a stable connection. Choosing a server closer to you minimizes this distance, allowing your device to transmit data more efficiently and reducing the strain on the battery.

Use split tunneling

Some VPNs offer features like split tunneling or app filtering. These features allow you to selectively route specific apps or websites through the VPN while leaving others on your standard connection. This is a great way to prioritize security for sensitive tasks like online banking while allowing other apps to go without VPN. ExpressVPN offers split tunneling on Windows, Mac, and Android apps, as well as on our router software.

Try a different VPN protocol

With ExpressVPN, we offer several protocols for you to choose from, including standard ones like OpenVPN and our very own Lightway. We designed Lightway to have fewer lines of code than other protocols, meaning it uses less battery. It is also built to offer a faster, more reliable, and more secure VPN experience.

Use a VPN router 

For home users who constantly rely on a VPN, a traditional app-based setup can drain your devices’ batteries quickly. Here’s where a VPN router like ExpressVPN’s Aircove comes in as a battery-saving hero. 

Aircove takes the workload off your phone, laptop, or tablet by handling the encryption and decryption processes directly on the router itself. This eliminates the constant battery drain of running a VPN app in the background on each device. With Aircove, all your home devices connected to the Wi-Fi automatically benefit from VPN protection, letting you enjoy the security and location changes of a VPN without sacrificing battery life.

Keep your VPN app updated

Keeping any app updated helps identify and address security vulnerabilities, which hackers could exploit. However, updating your VPN app can also address inefficiencies within the app that contribute to battery drain.  Developers may introduce optimizations to the encryption and decryption processes, or streamline background operations, leading to a more battery-friendly VPN experience.

Upgrade your device

Newer devices boast more efficient processors and improved battery technology. Plus, many newer devices have larger battery capacities than their older counterparts. These advancements allow them to handle the encryption and decryption processes associated with a VPN with less strain, leading to a noticeable improvement in battery life.

Use VPN only when it’s necessary

While a VPN download offers security and privacy benefits—and we recommend keeping your VPN always on—its constant use can mean more challenging management of your device’s battery life. If your battery is running low, turning off your VPN is one way to keep it going for longer.

Replace your device’s battery

If you are using an older battery that does not last long, consider a new battery. Most phone batteries have a 2-3 years lifespan, and their capacity to hold a charge diminishes over time. Replacing an aging battery can be a cost-effective way to breathe new life into your device and significantly improve battery life, even when using a VPN.

Read more: How to make your phone battery last longer

Does battery saver mode affect my VPN?

Yes, being in battery saver mode can interfere with your VPN connection. In some cases, being in battery saver mode might throttle overall performance to reduce power consumption, which could slow down your VPN connection and every other app on your phone. This could impact your browsing speed and video streaming.

To limit the effect that battery saver has on your VPN, choose a lightweight protocol that could be more battery efficient than others. If maintaining a secure connection is crucial, it’s recommended to disable battery saver mode while using a VPN. However, if you’re prioritizing battery life and only need the VPN occasionally, you can manually connect and disconnect the VPN as needed.

FAQ: About VPNs draining battery

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