Tips & Advice

Meet the features: When’s the right time to use a VPN?

Avast 28 Jun 2021

Make the most of a VPN's protection benefits without experiencing any downsides

When you use public Wi-Fi networks, your sensitive information can be at risk. Attackers can try to capture your Wi-Fi network traffic to gather information you’re exchanging with sites on the internet. They can also try to capture key information in order to log in as you on important sites (think of sites related to your personal banking, finances, health or work). We’ll collectively refer to these sites as “sensitive sites”.

A virtual private network (VPN) can help protect against these threats. A VPN works by encrypting your network traffic so that it’s unreadable to attackers. This also helps protect login information that attackers might try to steal to log in using your credentials.

As many of us require (and even enjoy) near-constant internet use, you may wonder if it’s worth using a VPN at all times when you’re online. While the need for a VPN is undoubtedly crucial for a safe browsing experience, it’s worth noting that VPNs can influence the results displayed on certain tools, such as weather and map apps, due to the fact that they hide your actual location. It’s also fairly well known that major sites, like video streaming sites, won’t let you connect to their services over VPNs. While these scenarios are worth keeping in mind, we recommend that you generally have your VPN easily accessible and turned on  if you forget to turn on your VPN when you’re using important sites, your information can be at risk.

The solution

Smart VPN is a feature within Avast SecureLine VPN. This mode automates the starting and stopping of the VPN, resulting in the VPN being used only when you most need it. As stated before, these are scenarios in which your personal information, privacy and security can be at risk. This automatization also means that you don't have to remember to switch it on or off, because the Smart VPN mode will take care of this for you.

Within Avast SecureLine VPN, Smart VPN is a feature located next to manual mode (more on the specifics below). These are the two modes that you can choose between when using Avast SecureLine VPN.

When you use Smart VPN, it can tell when you’re connecting to a sensitive site and automatically enables the VPN during your session, closing it when your session is done. It also detects when you’re on public Wi-Fi networks and, in these cases, turns on automatically.

Smart VPN is customizable for more advanced users  they can set their own rules for when the VPN is engaged and disengaged.

In short, Smart VPN’s functionality enables you to make the most of the protection benefits that a VPN can offer without experiencing some of the downsides. It also takes away the burden of having to remember to stop and start the VPN on your own.

How it works

Smart VPN is a feature in Avast SecureLine VPN, available for both Microsoft Windows and Apple macOS.

To enable it, open Avast SecureLine VPN on Windows or Mac.

On Windows: On the top right, select Menu. In the drop down menu, select Settings as shown below.

On Mac: On the top right, select Menu and in the drop down menu select Preferences as shown below.

On both Windows and Mac, select VPN Mode on the left and then click the Smart VPN Mode button.

All of the options for “Automatically turn VPN ON when” are automatically selected, except for “I stream videos” (which you can also choose to trigger the VPN). You should keep these defaults for best protection and performance.

In addition, you can set your own rules on both Windows and Mac by clicking on “Add Sites”. Once you’ve done that, you can enter a site on which you want Smart VPN to automatically turn on when you access the site.

Behind the scenes, Smart VPN is powered by a growing database of over 8,000 websites where Smart VPN is automatically enabled to better protect your privacy and security.

Once Smart VPN is enabled, you can see it working on the Avast SecureLine VPN dashboard.

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As you can see in the animation above, Smart VPN is an extremely straightforward and useful addition to Avast SecureLine VPN. Once you've activated Smart VPN, you're all set to enjoy a smooth (and secure) browsing experience.


“Meet the Features” is an ongoing series to help introduce you to specific features in Avast products. It’s meant to help you understand and use a specific feature by explaining the security/privacy problem the feature is meant to solve and how it works so that you can quickly understand and use the feature to better protect yourself.

Have a feature you want to meet? Let us know.