• Home
  • VPN
  • Does a VPN Drain Battery Life?

Does a VPN Drain Battery Life? – All You Need to Know

Miklos Zoltan

By Miklos Zoltan . 27 January 2024

Founder - Privacy Affairs

Justin Oyaro

Fact-Checked this

A VPN uses some percentage of your smartphone’s battery when protecting your online privacy and security.

Unlike most apps, a VPN usually works in the background; hence, it should have less impact on your battery life.

However, you will notice increased power consumption when using a VPN. The heavy power consumption is usually due to other battery usages.

Continue reading below to learn more about heavy VPN battery usage and how to conserve your battery power when using a VPN.

Summary: As a smartphone user, I’ve observed that employing a VPN can impact the battery life of my device.

The direct power consumption of the VPN app may be minimal, but it can indirectly lead to increased CPU workload, more frequent data connections, and prolonged app activity in the foreground. These factors contribute to quicker battery depletion.

To reduce the battery usage associated with a VPN, several strategies can be employed. Using Wi-Fi instead of cellular data can be more battery-efficient, as Wi-Fi generally uses less power.

Opting for a less resource-intensive VPN protocol like WireGuard can also help. Additionally, limiting VPN usage to only when it’s necessary, or using a VPN router, can further conserve battery life.

By implementing these tips, along with other measures such as replacing an old battery or carrying a portable power bank, I can maintain the security benefits of a VPN without significantly compromising my smartphone’s battery life.

Why Does My Battery Drain Faster When Using a VPN?

I performed a series of tests to determine how much a VPN app uses battery power.

The tests included light to heavy browsing and streaming content. I did these tests with a VPN (1 hour) and without a VPN (1 hour).

The outcome: my VPN app registered a power usage of 0.6% in one hour. This is a negligible consumption than I had anticipated.

However, there was a drop in total battery power when I tested with the VPN. I had lost 5% more battery power than when the VPN was off. How did this happen?

The significant drop was due to another battery usage simultaneously when a VPN is active. These usages include:

CPU usage

To protect your connections and traffic, a VPN relies on protocols that usually determine how encryption is done.

Your smartphone’s CPU handles these encryptions by performing complex calculations and algorithms. This process draws significant battery power.

Older phones will experience more battery drains than newer phones. The latest phones have chipsets with cryptographic hardware accelerators.

These accelerators speed up the encryption and decryption processes while drawing less power.

Connection usage

A VPN constantly requires internet access to work. Internet access can be provided through Wi-Fi or cellular data.

To connect to Wi-Fi or cellular networks, your phone powers its modem or Wi-Fi chip. In an idle state, when there’s minimal data transfer, the connectivity chip draws less power than in an active state.

When a VPN is active, the connectivity chip draws more power to meet the connection demands.

Power consumption will also increase if you are far from the Wi-Fi source or have a weak cellular signal.

Foreground usage

Background apps use less power than foreground apps. If you keep opening the VPN app now and then to tweak some settings or change the server location, it will consume extra battery power in addition to its background usage power.

If you are using a buggy VPN app, its unnecessary process will also use more power.

If you would like to pick a VPN app that does not drain a lot of battery power, then please check out my roundup on the best VPNs for Android.

How to Minimize VPN Battery Usage?

You will always have to trade between security and saving your battery power when using a VPN on your smartphone.

Here are some tips to help you minimize power consumption when using a VPN.

Use Wi-Fi over cellular data

Your smartphone draws more power when using cellular networks than Wi-Fi. Power consumption increases when you have a weak signal. On Wi-Fi, ensure you are close to the access point.

Use the right VPN protocol

VPN battery usage varies according to the protocol in use. The OpenVPN protocol uses more battery than other secure protocols since it has heavy encryption ciphers.

The WireGuard protocol, on the other hand, is lightweight and draws less power. The IKEv2 protocol will give you better stability on cellular networks but with some power tradeoffs.

Use the VPN when necessary

Unless you are surfing the internet 24/7, there’s no reason to have the VPN always on. Even in the background, the battery usage will amount to a significant drain.

Only use the VPN when doing sensitive tasks on your phone or bypassing geo-restrictions. You can also optimize the VPN app (put it to sleep) when not in use.

Besides saving power, you will also save your mobile bandwidth when using a VPN with cellular data.

Use a VPN router

A VPN router will do all the power-hungry heavy lifting, such as encryption and decryption. Your phone will only use battery power for connectivity, and you will not worry about background or foreground VPN power usage.

Additionally, a VPN router can protect other devices that don’t support the installation of VPN apps. You will also do away with limited simultaneous VPN connections.

Other than minimizing VPN battery usage, you can take the following measures to ensure you can use a VPN without worrying much about your battery.

Replace your phone battery

An old battery doesn’t keep power for long. Using a VPN with an old battery will accelerate the rate at which your battery loses power.

Replacing the battery will give you more usage time. Go to certified dealers to get the recommended battery change for your device.

Carry a power bank/battery case

An extra power backup will ensure you have enough battery juice if you use a VPN or rely on cellular data. This is essential when you are traveling.

Wrap Up

A VPN will constantly consume a significant percentage of your battery life. You can always minimize VPN power usage while protecting your online security and privacy.

Leave a Comment