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

Miklos Zoltan

By Miklos Zoltan . 1 July 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 noticed that using a VPN can impact my device’s battery life.

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

To mitigate the battery usage associated with a VPN, here are several strategies:

1. Use Wi-Fi Instead of Cellular Data: Wi-Fi generally consumes less power compared to cellular data, making it more battery-efficient when using a VPN.

2. Choose a Less Resource-Intensive VPN Protocol: Opting for a protocol like WireGuard, which is known for its efficiency, can help reduce battery drain.

3. Limit VPN Usage: Use the VPN only when necessary. Turning off the VPN when it’s not needed can conserve battery life.

4. Utilize a VPN Router: By setting up a VPN on your router, you can protect all your devices connected to that network without running a VPN app on each device individually.

Other Measures:

  • Replace an Old Battery: An old battery tends to deplete faster. Replacing it can significantly improve battery life.
  • Carry a Portable Power Bank: This can provide extra power on the go, ensuring you stay connected and protected without worrying about battery life.

By incorporating these tips, I can enjoy 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 conducted a series of tests to gauge the impact of a VPN app on battery consumption.

The tests ranged from light to heavy browsing and streaming content, both with a VPN (for 1 hour) and without a VPN (for 1 hour).

The outcome showed that my VPN app registered a power usage of 0.6% in one hour, which is quite negligible.

However, there was a notable drop in total battery power when using the VPN. My battery drained 5% more when the VPN was on compared to when it was off. Why did this happen?

The significant battery drain can be attributed to additional power usage when a VPN is active. These include:

CPU Usage

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

Your smartphone’s CPU manages these encryptions by performing complex calculations and algorithms, which draws significant battery power.

Older phones tend to experience more battery drain compared to newer phones. The latest phones come with chipsets that have cryptographic hardware accelerators.

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

Connection Usage

A VPN requires constant internet access to function, which can be provided through Wi-Fi or cellular data.

To connect to these networks, your phone powers its modem or Wi-Fi chip. In an idle state with minimal data transfer, the connectivity chip uses less power.

However, when a VPN is active, the connectivity chip consumes more power to maintain the connection.

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

Foreground Usage

Background apps use less power compared to foreground apps. Frequently opening the VPN app to tweak settings or change server locations will consume additional battery power beyond its background usage.

Using a buggy VPN app with unnecessary processes can also lead to higher power consumption.

If you’re looking for a VPN app that doesn’t significantly drain your battery, 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.

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