What is VPN Split Tunneling

What is VPN Split Tunneling? An In-Depth Guide

Are you tired of compromising your internet speed for security? What if we told you that you could have the best of both worlds? “What is VPN split tunneling?” you might ask. Well, it’s here to save the day, offering a perfect balance between security and performance.

Ready to dive in and learn how VPN (Virtual Private Network) split tunneling can revolutionize your online experience? Let’s go!

Short Summary

  • VPN Split Tunneling is a way to securely access both public and local networks.
  • It can help optimize usage for better streaming, faster web surfing, & access to geo-restricted content.

What Is VPN Split Tunneling?

VPN split tunneling lets you to route specific traffic through an encrypted VPN connection while other traffic goes directly to the internet. This way, you can enjoy the security benefits of a VPN without sacrificing speed for non-sensitive activities.

VPN split tunneling comes in two flavors: standard split tunneling and its counterpart, inverse split tunneling. While the former allows you to handpick which apps and services use the VPN tunnel, the latter routes all internet traffic except selected apps through a secure split tunneling VPN connection.

How Does VPN Split Tunneling Work?

The magic behind VPN split tunneling is its ability to divide your device’s traffic into separate tunnels, allowing simultaneous access to public and local networks. The traffic routed through the VPN tunnel is encrypted and secure, while the excluded traffic remains unencrypted and directly connects to the internet.

This means that sites requiring your IP address or location will continue to work as usual, without the slowdown of a VPN connection.

However, you need to be cautious with the traffic that bypasses the VPN tunnel, as it isn’t as secure as the encrypted VPN traffic. Make sure to exclude only the apps and services that do not require the high level of security and privacy provided by your VPN.

Inverse Split Tunneling

Inverse split tunneling works a bit differently. Instead of choosing which apps or services use the VPN tunnel, you specify which ones bypass it. Think of it as a green light for certain connections, while the rest of your traffic remains secure within the encrypted VPN tunnel.

This approach can be particularly useful for accessing local network resources while maintaining a secure VPN connection for all of your other data.

Advantages of VPN Split Tunneling

Advantages of VPN Split Tunneling

VPN split tunneling allows for simultaneous access to local and foreign networks, so you can stream your favorite shows while accessing files on your local network.

Furthermore, split tunneling can significantly enhance your internet speed for non-sensitive activities, as it bypasses the overhead of encryption and VPN server routing.

Enhanced Performance

The key to enhanced performance with VPN split tunneling lies in routing non-sensitive traffic directly to the internet. This reduces latency and bandwidth consumption, leading to faster internet speeds for everyday browsing, streaming, and gaming.

By determining which data requires encryption and VPN routing, you can optimize your VPN usage and minimize bottlenecks. In turn, this helps save bandwidth and improve overall internet performance.

Access to Local Network Resources

One of the most significant benefits of VPN split tunneling is its ability to grant access to local network resources, such as printers and file servers. By allowing only sensitive data to pass through the secure VPN connection, you can maintain direct access to local devices and resources without compromising security.

This means that you can:

  • Print documents from your network printer
  • Access files on your local file server
  • Stream geo-restricted content
  • Conduct secure online transactions through the encrypted VPN tunnel.

Potential Risks of VPN Split Tunneling

Potential Risks of VPN Split Tunneling

VPN split tunneling, while beneficial, can lead to cyber threats and data exposure, as unsecured internet traffic outside the VPN tunnel is vulnerable. Bypassing safeguards like proxy servers may also increase the risk of cyberattacks.

Security Concerns for Corporate Users

Corporate users must consider these risks, as split tunneling could expose sensitive information and create potential entry points for hackers. Hence, assessing these risks and implementing security measures is essential to protect data and network resources.

Resource Allocation

Properly managing which traffic goes through the VPN and which does not can be complex, requiring careful configuration and monitoring.

Setting Up VPN Split Tunneling

Now that you know the ins and outs of VPN split tunneling, you’re probably eager to set it up yourself. Depending on the VPN service you use, you can enable split tunneling through app-based or URL-based configurations.

Now we’ll delve into the specifics of each configuration type and provide examples of top VPNs that support split tunneling.

App-Based Split Tunneling

App-based VPN split tunneling lets you to choose which apps use the VPN tunnel, while others connect directly to the internet. This gives you the flexibility to optimize your VPN experience and prioritize security for specific apps and services.

To set up app-based split tunneling, you’ll need to configure the settings in your VPN app. This may vary depending on the VPN provider and app you’re using, but generally, you’ll need to:

  1. Go to the settings or advanced tab of the app.
  2. Look for an option to enable split tunneling.
  3. Select which apps or domains you want to exclude from the VPN tunnel.

URL-Based Split Tunneling

URL-based split tunneling enables you to specify which websites should be accessed through the VPN tunnel and which should use the regular internet connection. This configuration can be particularly useful for accessing local websites or streaming platforms that require specific IP addresses or locations.

To set up URL-based split tunneling, you’ll need to configure your VPN client or gateway to allow certain URLs to bypass the VPN connection. This can typically be done in the client or gateway settings by typing in the URLs you want to be excluded from the VPN.

Top VPNs That Support Split Tunneling

There are several top-tier VPNs that support split tunneling, each with its unique features and capabilities. Some of the best VPNs for split tunneling include:

  • NordVPN
  • ExpressVPN
  • Surfshark
  • PureVPN

In the following sections, we’ll briefly discuss the split tunneling features and supported devices for each of these VPNs. This should help you decide which VPN best suits your split tunneling needs.


NordVPN offers split tunneling on Windows, Android, and Android TV devices, with a user-friendly interface and robust security features. Their split tunneling feature allows you to select which apps use the VPN tunnel, ensuring that you have control over your traffic routing.

Additionally, NordVPN provides a kill switch feature that can be combined with split tunneling to protect specific apps from being exposed if your VPN connection drops.


ExpressVPN supports split tunneling on Windows, Android, and router apps, providing a versatile and reliable VPN solution. With ExpressVPN, you can configure split tunneling by app, giving you granular control over your traffic routing.

While ExpressVPN does not currently support split tunneling on macOS 11, their extensive device compatibility ensures that most users can benefit from their split tunneling capabilities.


Surfshark’s Whitelister feature enables split tunneling on Windows and Android devices, allowing users to access different streaming libraries and local websites separately.

Whitelister offers a flexible and customizable split tunneling experience, making it easy to optimize your VPN usage according to your specific needs.


PureVPN provides split tunneling features for Windows, Android, and Android TV users, but not for Apple or Mac users. Their split tunneling capability allows you to divide your internet traffic between a secure VPN tunnel and a direct connection, optimizing your VPN usage and ensuring that you only encrypt the traffic that requires it.

VPN Split Tunneling Best Practices

Incorporating VPN split tunneling into your online routine is all about finding the right balance between security and performance. You want to ensure that sensitive data is protected while maintaining optimal internet speeds for non-sensitive activities.

Balancing Security and Performance

To strike the right balance between security and performance, start by identifying which apps and services require tight security and route their traffic through the VPN tunnel. For non-sensitive activities, consider leaving them out of the VPN tunnel to reduce latency and bandwidth consumption.

Regularly check and adjust your split tunneling setup, ensuring that you’re getting the right balance between security and performance. As your needs change, you may need to modify which apps or services are in or out of the VPN tunnel.


VPN split tunneling offers an ideal solution for balancing security and performance in your online activities. By understanding the mechanics, advantages, and potential risks, and selecting the right VPN service, you can customize your VPN experience to suit your specific needs. Embrace the power of VPN split tunneling and enjoy the best of both worlds: security and speed!

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July 19, 2023 - In Privacy & Security

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