Socks5 VPN: What It Is & Why PIA Is the Best

Posted on Jan 23, 2023 by Kristin Hassel

Replace your IP address without sacrificing speeds via secure login with a SOCKS5 proxy. The latest SOCKS technology, SOCKS5, includes secure sign-in to your proxy server. Using SOCKS5 has become so popular, some VPNs are now offering it in-app – including PIA.

So, is a proxy or a VPN better to use with SOCKS5, and how do you decide? Frankly, it can be confusing. Discover what SOCKS5 is, what it does and doesn’t do, and when to use it. We simplify SOCKS5, so you can choose the right options for your needs – whether you’re a tech pro or a newbie. 

What is SOCKS5 & Does It Improve Online Security?

SOCKS5 is the newest version of SOCKS and is compatible with the user datagram protocol (UDP). The previous version of SOCKS, SOCKS4, isn’t. UDP makes it possible to watch IPTV channels with non-multicast players, so it’s essential for streaming on mobile devices, gaming consoles, and smart TVs. 

The ability to use UDP isn’t the only upgrade SOCKS5 has over SOCKS4. It’s also more secure than its predecessor. Unlike SOCKS4, SOCKS5 relies on a secure socket shell (SSH) for tunneling. SSH increases connection security while accessing devices over unsecured networks using a password or secure key authentication. SOCKS5 can also form a full connection via transmission control protocol (TCP) to increase data integrity.

What Is A SOCKS5 Proxy?

A SOCKS5 proxy creates a connection using TCP or UDP. The most popular protocol for proxies is UDP, but many offer TCP as an alternative. As you can see in the diagram below, your device isn’t directly connected to the internet while using a proxy. Instead, your traffic is routed through the proxy server first.

A SOCKS5 proxy generates a new IP address much like a VPN.

When you use SOCKS5, it generates a random IP address to replace your true IP. The SOCKS5 IP address is the only IP websites and services see because it’s generated before your traffic reaches its destination. Your location remains hidden, increasing your privacy while using the internet. 

SOCKS5 Proxy Pros & Cons
Pros Cons Best Use Case
Fast Speeds
Change your IP address
Increase online privacy
Secure access to the proxy
No traffic encryption
Manual setup
Store user data
Stability issues
P2P, gaming and steraming
Maintain location privacy online
Browse the web free of censorship
Avoid geo-blocks

Choosing Your Proxy Provider

The first thing you need to set up SOCKS5 manually on your device is an IP address and port number for a SOCKS5 proxy. Unfortunately, it can get expensive fast if you want a trustworthy and reliable service. One of the more affordable options is a service called BestProxyAndVPN – a SOCKS5 proxy costs around $6.99 a month at the time of writing. 

Compared to the average premium VPN service offering SOCKS5, good proxies are quite expensive – especially when you consider the value of what you’re getting.. Prices can also vary depending on what your needs are, here are just a few of the most popular SOCKS5 proxy services:

  • Bright Data – Offers excellent security, a user-friendly interface, and boasts 99.99% network uptime. You can choose to pay only for what you need monthly with no commitment. Bright Data also offers a 7-day free trial. On the downside, it’s spendy, but you do get access to several proxy options. The Starter plan costs a whopping $500/mo.

  • OxylabsGreat for bandwidth-intensive tasks like streaming and gaming. You get unlimited simultaneous sessions and bandwidth. The Starter plan lets you choose between access to 60 IPs worldwide or 100 IPs in the US, and costs $180/mo.

  • BeeProxy – An affordable, basic bells and whistles option for those who want SOCKS5 to bypass online censorship and browse without borders. BeeProxy can get expensive for bandwidth-intensive tasks. Plans start at $18 per GB. 10GB costs about the same as Oxylabs’s Starter plan, and Oxylabs includes unlimited bandwidth. 

  • ProxyEmpire – Offers the same great features for bandwidth-intensive activities like gaming, streaming, and P2P as Bright Data, but at a better price. You can get 100GB on ProxyEmpire’s Hobby plan for $55/mo. The plan includes compatibility with HTTPS and SOCKS5 – it also offers IP addresses in 10 countries. Your bandwidth even rolls over to the next month if you don’t use it, so you’re never paying for bandwidth you don’t get to use.

What About a Free SOCKS5 Proxy?

Plenty of sites offer SOCKS5 port numbers and IP addresses to use for free. You can find them in any country, but is a free SOCKS5 proxy really worth it? No, it isn’t. Using a free proxy of any kind can put your privacy at risk. 

Free proxies may store your online data for long periods, and anyone with access to the server can use it for nefarious purposes. They could even sell your data to make improvements to their service. Additionally, many free services cut corners while building their networks, so you could be dealing with slow speeds and unreliable connections. It’s far better to use a paid SOCKS5 proxy service or, the ultimate weapon, a SOCKS5 VPN. 

How to Set Up SOCKS5 On Your Computer

Setting up SOCKS5 on your computer manually is time-consuming – it’s far easier and safer to use PIA as it comes with SOCKS5 built in. But if you do want to do it manually, let’s take a look at how you can set up SOCKS5 on your desktop devices.

How to Setup SOCKS5 on Windows 10

  1. Get the IP address and port number for your SOCKS5 proxy, then click ‘Settings’.

  2. Access the Settings menu on Windows to get started.

  3. Click on ‘Network & Internet’.

  4. You can modify connections in the Network and Internet section.

  5. Click on ‘Proxy’ in the menu on the left side of the window.

  6. Choose Proxy to setup up your SOCKS5 proxy.

  7. Turn off ‘Automatically detect settings’ under ‘Automatic Proxy Setup’, then scroll down to ‘Manual Proxy Setup’ in the same window.

  8. You need to turn off .’Automatically detect settings’ for your SOCKS5 proxy to work.

  9. Turn on ‘Use a proxy server’. Enter your SOCKS5 IP and port number in the appropriate fields and click the ‘Save’ button.

  10. Once you enter the information for your SOCKS5 proxy setup is complete!

  11. Run an IP address check online to ensure the changes are in place.

How to Setup SOCKS5 on macOS

Go to ‘System Preferences’ on your macOS device and click ‘Network’. Under the ‘Advanced’ tab, select ‘Proxies’. Select ‘SOCKS5 proxy’ from the protocol menu, then enter the proxy’s IP and click ‘OK’ to connect.

How to Setup SOCKS5 on Linux

Open your Linux GUI and go to ‘Settings’. Choose ‘Network’ from the menu, then click on the cog next to ‘Manual’ in the ‘Network Proxy’ area. The Network Proxy window will open. Select ‘Manual’, and then enter the proxy’s IP. Your proxy server settings apply automatically after you exit.

Avoid the Hassle of Manual Setup with a SOCKS5 VPN

A SOCKS5 VPN is simply a VPN offering the option to use SOCKS5. Many VPNs don’t offer SOCKS5 proxy servers, but the option is useful for speed-centered tasks where security isn’t the main priority. 

Using SOCKS5 VPN often means your proxy address and login information are provided and you can connect via the VPN’s dedicated app. Choosing a trusted VPN provider with a No Logs policy is a good place to start when you’re looking for a SOCKS5 VPN. Since your data isn’t as protected as it is with Shadowsocks or a VPN, it’s important the service doesn’t collect, store, or sell user data for privacy reasons.

If you want to skip the high costs and cumbersome setup, use PIA SOCKS5 VPN. You get a reliable SOCKS5 proxy and full-service VPN — for when you need more security and privacy online. We also have a court-tested, independently verified No Logs policy, so what you do on our VPN remains private.

Why PIA is the Best SOCKS5 VPN

Our desktop VPN allows you to use the Multi-Hop feature to connect to a VPN server using a SOCKS5 proxy. The feature is called Shadowsocks and it’s located in ‘Settings’ under ‘Multi-Hop’ in the ‘Proxy’ section. Shadowsocks provides encryption for your traffic while still allowing you to use SOCKS5. Since the feature encrypts your traffic, it can affect your speed – don’t worry it’s hardly noticeable.

We also offer a standard SOCKS5 connection for anytime speed is the most important item on your checklist. You get faster speeds using the SOCKS5 proxy directly, but your traffic won’t be as secure as it would using Shadowsocks. This is primarily because Shadowsocks uses encryption and SOCKS5 doesn’t. Regardless of which option you choose, setup is a breeze.

Quick & Easy SOCKS5 Setup with PIA

  1. Download and install Private Internet Access on your device. Then log into your Client User Panel on PIA’s website.

  2. Your Client User Panel is located on our website. You can’t access it on the app.

  3. On the menu to the left, click on ‘Downloads’.

  4. Downloads is located on the menu to the left of your subscription information.

  5. Scroll to the bottom of the page to SOCKS5 and write down your SOCKS5 username and password.

  6. PIA provides separate login information for SOCKS5 access.

    NOTE: If you’re using Shadowsocks start from here.

  7. Open the PIA VPN app on your computer. Click on the three dots in the upper right-hand corner of the app window, then choose ‘Settings’ from the menu.

  8. Switch to PIA’s app to complete SOCKS5 setup.

  9. Choose ‘Multi-Hop’ from the ‘Settings’ menu.

  10. Socks5 is located in our Multi-Hop settings.

  11. Check the box next to ‘Multi-Hop’ to activate the feature, then click ‘SOCKS5 proxy’. (For Shadowsocks, click on ‘Shadowsocks’. The VPN automatically selects the best server based on your location and you can stop here!)

  12. SOCKS5 Proxy isn’t your only option. You can also use Shadowsocks.

  13. In the next window, enter the SOCKS5 IP address and enter 1080 in the port field. Next, enter the username and password for SOCKS5.

  14. Finalize your Socks5 Proxy information to complete setup.

  15. Click ‘OK‘. That’s it, you’re now using SOCKS5!

Increase Your Privacy & Security with PIA SOCKS5 VPN

SOCKS5 does offer more security when using a proxy, but your online data is still at risk. A proxy can be a goldmine for cybercriminals because they often collect and store information for long periods. A SOCKS5 VPN is just as risky if you don’t choose a trustworthy provider. Pay close attention when choosing a service and make sure you read its logs policy before committing.

Get PIA SOCKS5 VPN and protect your online information. We give you access to Shadowsocks and SOCKS5 proxy via our Multi-Hop feature. You can switch between the two with just the click of a button once your SOCKS5 proxy is all set up. Need full VPN protection? Just turn off Multi-Hop and connect as usual


What is a SOCKS5 proxy?

A SOCKS5 proxy replaces your current IP address with a random one before your traffic reaches its final destination. When you use a SOCKS5 proxy, websites and services can only see the random IP address generated by the proxy server. This helps you bypass online censorship and stop tracking.

Is a free SOCKS5 proxy a good idea?

No. It’s actually a bad idea to use one of the hundreds of free SOCKS5 proxies available on the internet. 

You have no idea who manages free proxy servers and many free services can store your online data for a long time. Anyone with access to the server could use your personal or financial information to commit fraud.

Using a premium SOCKS5 provider like PIA is a better option. Our strict No Logs policy means we’ll never collect or store your usage data. You can use Shadowsocks to encrypt your traffic and still get secure authentication via SOCKS5, or connect directly via the SOCKS5 proxyall without worrying someone is monitoring your online activity.

What is a SOCKS5 VPN?

SOCKS5 VPNs provide access to SOCKS5 connections. Unfortunately, not all SOCKS5 VPNs are built equally. Make sure you do a bit of research before settling on a SOCKS5 VPN and never use a free one. Most free SOCKS5 VPNs cut corners during development and come riddled with malware and security holes

PIA’s app is 100% open-source, so you can see how our 10+ years of experience in VPNs went into building a secure, trustworthy VPN. Our open-source philosophy makes it easier to spot and resolve security issues faster. You also get a 30-day risk-free money-back guarantee.

How do I use PIA’s SOCKS5 feature?

You can connect to PIA SOCKS5 Proxy in a few minutes. Log into your account on our website, then go to ‘Downloads’ and write down your SOCKS5 username and password. Just open the app and complete the SOCKS5 proxy setup under Multi-Hop.

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