WireGuard and OpenVPN are two top contenders for the crown of the best VPN protocol. While WireGuard’s newborn status is seriously a downside, its merits leave little to be desired. Can it dethrone the two decade old champion in OpenVPN? Let’s jump right into the famous argument–WireGuard vs OpenVPN–to decide the greatest among the two.
In the present times of cybercrimes, data theft, and privacy invasion, having a VPN is indispensable.
A VPN acts as your mask in the digital world. It keeps your IP address private and shows the IP of its servers instead.
Every VPN service makes use of a VPN protocol to provide its users with the desired anonymity. There are various VPN protocols like OpenVPN, IPsec, IKEv2, PPTP, WireGuard, etc.
Till 2016, OpenVPN was the undisputed king of VPN protocols. It was fast, secure, private, and much more than its competition.
All that slowly started to change after the birth of a new VPN protocol: WireGuard, by Jason Donenfeld.
That said, WireGuard has its own set of issues that need to be addressed before any widespread adoption. And, OpenVPN still remains a strong choice.
So, I’ll briefly introduce them before presenting a comparison on several critical factors. Just so as you know, when I say OpenVPN here, I’m talking about the OpenVPN protocol and not the OpenVPN service.
OpenVPN is an open-source VPN protocol developed by James Yonan in 2001. With Francis Dinha, he founded OpenVPN, and it saw its first public release in 2002.
Its TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) and UDP (User Datagram Protocol) give flexibility unlike any other VPN protocol out there.
It is based on SSL/TLS (Secure Sockets Layer/Transport Layer Security) to provide secure connections to its users. This same technology powers HTTPS websites. So, it’s difficult to tell that a person is using a VPN at all while using this protocol.
It is almost 20 years old. So, you can rest assured that it has stood the test of time.
WireGuard is the new entrant in the world of VPN protocols. Like OpenVPN, this is also open source.
Originally it was developed only for Linux users, but now it is being made compatible with other platforms as well.
WireGuard is very small, just over 4000 lines in code. This small footprint makes sure it’s easily auditable and has an extremely small attack surface.
It lives within the Linux kernel, making it extremely fast. Even its application in Windows and other operating systems has shown decent connection speeds.
WireGuard uses cryptographic primitives with secure defaults to make sure even a technical novice stays safe. It eliminates the risk of misconfiguration.
Now that you know both, let’s weigh them up against each other on some crucial parameters.
WireGuard vs OpenVPN
WireGuard is the faster of the two.
NordVPN tested NordLynx (modified WireGuard) and OpenVPN with 8200 tests per day for a month, and they came up with the same conclusion.
No matter the distance between the client, the VPN server, and the content server, NordLynx always outranked OpenVPN considerably.
OpenVPN gives you plenty of options on the encryption front. It has AES, ChaCha20, Blowfish, etc., in its arsenal. It uses the OpenSSL library for supporting various encryption ciphers.
In contrast, WireGuard has just one ChaCha20 for encryption and Poly1305 for authentication.
If you’re raising your eyebrows, you must know Google too adopted ChaCha20-Poly1305 in 2014, citing its security and speed.
Conclusively, WireGuard and OpenVPN are both secure. And, an average user should not bother about safety while deciding between the two.
OpenVPN wins here. It’s more private than WireGuard. Because WireGuard needs to keep logs until a reboot.
Because of this very reason, some VPN service providers are developing their own version of WireGuard, like NordLynx by NordVPN.
So, I’ll recommend checking with your VPN service provider about this problem.
But for privacy-focused users, picking OpenVPN is a no-brainer.
Not all users opt a VPN for safety; some also use it for steaming land-locked content.
OpenVPN has the TCP protocol which takes advantage of port 443 which is the same port used by most HTTPS websites. So, OpenVPN is more capable of bypassing geo-censorship.
So, go for OpenVPN, especially if you’re planning to stay in a country like China or Russia.
Connection Drops and Data Usage
Use WireGuard if you frequently switch between mobile data and WiFi. It is better at handling network transfers without dropping the encryption.
In addition, WireGuard consumes less data than OpenVPN.
WireGuard was found to consume an additional 4.53% while OpenVPN was using 17.23% extra data with its UDP protocol. For TCP, this figure was 19.96%.
So, try to avoid OpenVPN if you’re on a limited data plan.
Ease to Set Up
WireGuard, due to its limited options, is easier to manually set up.
But, since WireGuard is yet to be adopted by all VPN service providers, you won’t find a one-click activation in every VPN app.
So, for the foreseeable future, OpenVPN remains the easier option to set up, as it’s natively supported by almost all VPN applications.
Conclusively, both OpenVPN and WireGuard have their own set of merits and use cases.
So, there is no clear winner of “WireGuard vs OpenVPN”.
But generally, choose OpenVPN for privacy, geo-unblocking, and ease of setup. And, go with WireGuard for everything else.