Andrey Doichev

Andrey is a VPN enthusiast who analyses and tests different VPN Software. In this article, he compares best free VPN services.

free vpnWho likes FREE VPN Software?

I sure do. And I reckon you do too.

In times where ISPs can sell your Internet browsing history to the highest bidder, Internet privacy has become an imperative.

We all know that.

What better way to protect ourselves, than to do it 100% free of charge? Why should we add yet another monthly payment to our bills, no matter how small it is?

I certainly could use a bit of “free” in my life.

When it comes to protecting your data, the best paid VPN providers are obviously better than free ones. However, sometimes you want to test things out or perhaps use VPN only once.

We did all the heavy lifting and went on to compare the best free VPN services with each other to see how much they differ.

Are free VPNs really free? How seriously do they take my safety? Are there any logging caps? How much do they throttle my Internet speed?

Let’s find out!

 

Best 7 Totally FREE VPNs (+ Reviews)


VPN Service Cost Data Cap
Download Speed (out of 100 Mbps) # Servers Rating + Usability

1. WindScribe VPN

WindScribe Logo

FREE 10GB/month 39.40 Mbps Servers in 8 countries ★★★★

Win, Mac, Android, iOS

2. Hide.me VPN

FREE 2GB/month 45.69 Mbps Servers in 3 countries ★★★★

Win, Mac, Android, iOS

3.  ProtonVPN

ProtonVPN Logo

FREE No Data Cap 34.40 mbps Servers in 8 countries ★★★

Windows only

4. HotSpot Shield

Hotspot Shield Logo

FREE 2GB/month 26.82 Mbps Servers in 3 countries ★★★

Win, Mac, Android, iOS

5. Tunnelbear

Tunnelbear Logo

FREE 500MB/month 15.09 Mbps Servers in 3 countries ★★

Win, Mac, Android, iOS

6. Avira Phantom

Avira phantom free logo

FREE 500MB/month 6.98 Mbps Servers in 20 countries ★★

Win, Mac, Android, iOS

7. Betternet

Betternet VPN logo

FREE No Data Cap 3.63 Mbps Servers in US only

Win, Mac, Android, iOS


1. WindScribe VPN: Best FREE VPN, 10GB/mo Data Cap, Servers in 8 Countries.

Windscribe Free VPN

Windscribe is a Canadian VPN provider founded in 2015.

They’re new, but highly respected in different VPN communities like reddit (/vpn/).

Data Cap: 10GB/mo (a lot)

Windscribe offers you a very generous 10GB (month) bandwidth for you to test them out.

If you tweet them out, you’ll receive another 5GB.

It’s a lot, as many free VPNs don’t give out that much bandwidth and the ones with no data cap tend to be VERY slow.

Let’s see how WindScribe handles my 100 Mbps connection:

Windscribe VPN Connection Speeds

Windscribe download and upload speed

  • Ping: 61ms
  • Download: 39.81 Mbps
  • Upload: 19.77 Mbps

For a free VPN, these speeds are nothing to scoff at. In fact, they’re well in my TOP 3 for free VPNs.

For comparison, the free VPN that ranks in #7th (Betternet) comes with <5 Mbps download speed.

Features: Adblock, built in firewall, 46 locations, no logging.

Windscribe VPN client

As a free user, you will receive access to some features such as WindScribe’s built in firewall & adblock as well as P2P capabilities – but no OpenVPN Configs and the array of other Pro features.

Server-wise, you can connect to one of their 8 out of 46 locations: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, France, Germany, Luxembourg & the Netherlands.

WindScribe are clear and straightforward. They do not log and store any of your VPN data and you can sign up to their services without email and pay via Bitcoin anonymously.

If that’s not taking privacy to an extreme, what is?

Windscribe’s app (available on Win, Mac, iOS & Android) is minimal, sleek and intuitive to use.

Do I recommend Windscribe?

Absolutely.

Abundance of locations, torrenting possible and a huge data cap.

I do love their progressiveness and innovative nature. They do seem to be one of the few legitimate free VPNs out there.

Pros: 100% free, zero logging, max connection speeds, 8 different server locations, ad block + firewall
Cons: 1 simultaneous connection max.

Get WindScribe (FREE)

 

2. Hide.me: 2GB/mo Data Cap, 3 Countries, Free

Hidem vpn review

Founded back in 2011 by Malaysian eVenture Limited, Hide.Me is a fairly popular and well-known VPN service.

Data Cap: 2,000MB/mo

Next to their $5 and $10 plan, they offer a “free forever” option. Unlike WindScribe, Hide.Me unfortunately restricts your bandwidth to a 2GB monthly maximum.

Hide.Me VPN Connection Speeds

hide.me performance

  • Ping: 61ms
  • Download: 45.69 Mbps
  • Upload: 28.60 Mbps

Things look a lot rosier when it comes to Hide.Me’s connection speeds. These are more than adequate speeds for a free plan. Then I remembered – fast speeds mean little with a data cap like theirs.

Features: 3 locations, smooth app (Win, Mac, iOs, Android), no logging.

Hide.me VPN software

You’re offered a choice of only 3 locations (Netherlands, Singapore & Canada). None of those servers are geo-block optimized, meaning they are unlikely to circumvent Netflix restrictions.

What disappointed me more is their protocol policy on free plans. No OpenVPN. A controversial choice I strongly disagree with. Free or not – there is no compromise for maximum security, if you have the capabilities.

They don’t keep any logs (stated clearly in their policy).

Their software client is more than acceptable. The straightforward, minimal client (Windows, Mac, iOS & Android) gives you a glimpse of what you can expect should you chose to convert to a paying customer.

And, of course, that was their goal from the get go.

Do I recommend Hide.Me?

Yes.

If you don’t care about their 2GB/month data cap. It’s just meant to give you a taste of what they can do.

If you’re using their free plan to test them out, go right ahead, for everybody else – try WindScribe instead.

Pros: 100% free, zero logging, no ads and a good client.
Cons: 2GB data cap, 1 connection max.

Get Hide.me (FREE)

or read my Hide.me review

 

3. ProtonVPN: No Data Cap, Windows Only

ProtonVPN Free VPN

ProtonVPN is one of the newest VPN providers in the industry, Proton AG are a group of CERN & Harvard scientists and privacy advocate, set out to change the world of cyber security forever.

No Data Cap

Following their earlier success with innovating and disrupting the privacy industry, ProtonVPN continue their effort by imposing no bandwidth caps on your traffic.

That’s right – you can use it as much as you want.

ProtonVPN Connection Speeds

  • Ping: 44 ms
  • Download: 34.40 Mbps
  • Upload: 23.15 Mbps

ProtonVPN speed

Certainly good enough speeds for a free plan – with no data cap.

With free plans it’s either low data cap and super-fast speeds, or no data cap and extremely slow speeds. Seeing such fast speeds, without a data cap is certainly refreshing.

Important: Don’t expect these speeds to last. As Proton becomes more and more well-known and used throughout the globe, speeds for free users will suffer.

Free Plan Conditions, Privacy & VPN Client

ProtonVPN Client

As a free user, you will have access to servers in Netherlands, USA Switzerland and Japan. All in all about a half a dozen servers. None of those are enabled for geo-circumventing (Netflix) or P2P optimized (torrenting).

Next to only one max connection, you won’t have access to any of their unique features such as high-priority servers, their Secure Core, Tor integration etc.

Situated in Switzerland and with so many privacy accolades under their belt, Proton is 100% the single most privacy-conscious VPN provider in the world, with no logging.

Being a very new VPN service, Proton have yet to develop standalone clients for operating systems other than Windows.

For Mac, iOS & Android you will have to go through a lengthy 3rd party software installation and configuration process and won’t be able to make use of many ProtonVPN features.

Do I recommend ProtonVPN?

As a free VPN service? 100%.

Get in while they are still new and haven’t changed their terms. Even if you’re using a Mac, the workaround is worth the unlimited bandwidth and top free VPN speeds.

Pros: No data cap, decent download and upload speed
Cons: No app for Mac, iOS and Android (3rd party software installation is required)

www.ProtonVPN.com

or read our full ProtonVPN review

 

4. Hotspot Shield VPN: 500MB/day Data Cap, 20 Countries, Free

Hotspot Shield VPN Review

One of the oldest public VPN providers, Hotspot Shield was created by the US company AnchorFree.

Neither the fact they are based in the USA nor that they backed by $52 million financing by Goldman Sachs makes me feel very safe.

Data Cap: 256Mb for Android, 750Mb for Desktop

Until very recently Hotspot Shield did not impose any bandwidth limits on their free users. You were instead monetized by being displayed ads.

That said, in June 2017, Hotspot implemented the following data caps:

  • AndroidData Cap is 256MB per day and resets every 24hrs.
  • DesktopData Cap is set to 750MB per day and reset every 24hrs.

At 500MB, you will lose access to video sites for 24 hours and will be prompted to “share Hotspot Shield with 10 friends to restore access”

Hotspot Shield VPN Connection Speeds

  • Ping: 66ms
  • Download: 26.82 Mbps
  • Upload: 30.95 Mbps

This speed, for a free plan that has been offered for over a decade and used by presumably millions of users is quite good.

Features: 20 countries, Free Plan Conditions, Privacy & VPN Client

Hotspot Shield Software

Hotspot Shield were mindful not to share too much about their free plan on their website, instead baiting you into just “giving them a go”.

As a free user, you will have access to 20 of their locations (US, UK, JP, IN, AU, CA, CN, TR, UA and more) and limited access to their features such as geo-circumvention and basic malware protection.

Hotspot clearly state in their prominently displayed Privacy FAQ that they do not log or store any user data.

The client is a bit more clunky than I’d like. It looks unpolished and isn’t as intuitive as other clients.

The ads which display don’t really help the situation. At least it’s supported on all major (Win, Mac, iOS, Android) operating systems and even some browsers (Chrome)

Do I recommend Hotspot Shield?

Yes, with a caveat.

For very basic users, who are in need for safe and anonymous browsing, not looking to watch videos, Hotspot Shield are a solid choice.

Pros: Good download and upload speed, works on all devices.
Cons: Data cap limitations.

www.HotSpotShield.com

or read our full Hotspot Shield review

 

5. Tunnelbear: 500MB/mo Data Cap, 3 Countries, Free

Tunnelbear VPN review

Without a doubt the cutest VPN service, the Canadian Tunnelbear Inc have been making the round ever since their 2011 inception.

Data Cap – 500Mb/mo

A strong emphasis on putting forth an extremely beginner friendly VPN service, Tunnelbear offer you a monthly 500MB free data to test out their servers

PS: Hit them up on twitter, tell us we sent you and they’ll throw in another 1GB in free data.

The first thing you should think of when you see such a low data cap is “this isn’t meant for regular use; they are trying to sell me”.

You’d be right of course. This is all marketing. Which make the following very, very strange.

Tunnelbear VPN Connection Speeds

  • Ping: 98ms
  • Download: 15.09 Mbps
  • Upload: 7.49 Mbps

Clearly, a very unimpressive result. Say goodbye to productivity and hello to headaches and frustrating buffering.

Free Plan Conditions, Privacy & VPN Client

Tunnelbear VPN client

Tunnelbear are minimal to a fault – their website provides almost no information. No protocol, encryption, max connections, servers & countries or bandwidth info. The almost hidden “20+ countries” is about the extent of what they deem worth sharing.

At least they had the sense to lay out their privacy policies in which they clearly and fully state the extent of their information collecting – absolutely zero IP and data logging.

Their Tunnelbear client, available on Mac, Windows, iOS and Android, is very simple to use and further builds on their ideals of less is more. The free app even provides some basic options like a kill switch.

Do I recommend Tunnelbear?

No.

All in all, while they have done everything right, their speeds and low data cap make this a poorly executed marketing trick and nothing more.

If you’re looking for a long term free VPN, Tunnelbear is not what you’re after.

Pros: 100% free, zero logging, works on all devices.
Cons: Data cap, very slow connection speeds, no torrenting allowed.

www.TunnelBear.com

or read our full Tunnlebear review

 

6. Avira Phantom: 500MB/mo Data Cap, 20 Countries, Free

AviraVPN reviewA subsidiary of famous German antivirus company Avira, Phantom is their new VPN.

Data Cap – 500MB/mo

Should you decide $5.95 a month isn’t a price you’re willing to pay, Phantom is offering you a 500MB data cap per month for you to use free of charge.

Avira Phantom VPN Connection Speeds

  • Ping: 41ms
  • Download: 6.98 Mbps
  • Upload: 9.02 Mbps

Avira Phantom VPN performance

Not a surprise for such a massive corporation, it seems like Avira didn’t put in enough effort to ensure fast speeds.

Free Plan Conditions, Privacy & VPN Client

With low data caps and abysmal speeds, Avira instead banked on converting you by showcasing many of their premium features.

DNS leak protection, geo-block circumvention and over 20 server locations will be available to you as a free user.

As should be expected, Avira do not track anything other than the amount of data you consume as a free user. No IP logging or websites tracked.

Avira Phantom Software

Offered to all major operating systems (but only the latest versions), Phantom’s connection client is both straightforward and easy to use.

Do I recommend Avira Phantom?

No.

A bottom shelf data cap and some of the slowest speeds around, what could you possibly do with Phantom?

With so many better options around, Avira have a lot of catching up to do.

Pros: 100% free, zero logging, works on all devices.
Cons: Very slow connection speed, small data cap

www.Avira.com

 

7. Betternet: No Data Cap, US Servers only, Free

betternet reviewFounded in 2015 by Canadian Betternet Technologies Inc, Betternet used to be a “free only” VPN which has recently switched over to a premium model.

Data Cap

One of Betternet’s “Free forever” promises went hand in hand with their lack of data capping. The way they monetized their users (ads) allowed them to offer unencumbered use of their networks.

This hasn’t changed. You can use Betternet’s VPN for as much and as long as you want – no data caps, hooray.

Betternet VPN Connection Speeds

  • Ping: 64 ms
  • Download: 3.64 Mbps
  • Upload: 12.41 Mbps

Oh, here’s the catch then – the VPN is practically useless. Their was so slow, even on repeated speed tests attempts we could not get an upload measurement.

Free Plan Conditions, Privacy & VPN Client

Betternet VPN Software

As a free user, you do not seem to have a choice of servers. Should you attempt to change the server location, you will be greeted with a “Upgrade now!” page.

In our tests, Betternet defaulted to connecting us to a US server.

Additionally, Betternet do not seem to have implemented many features for their free users such as kill switches, DNS leak protection etc.

Betternet do not collect, log, store or share any identifiable personal information. This translates into a no logging policy as with most other VPN providers.

Perhaps one of the simplest clients for free users, void of even mandatory user login, Betternet’s software is a breeze to use.

Betternet clients are available for Mac, Windows, iOS, Android as well as for both Chrome and Firefox

Do I recommend Betternet?

No.

Absolutely not. With less than 1% efficiency, just forget streaming video or torrenting anything bigger than a song file. Waste of your time.

Pros: 100% free, zero logging, works on all devices.
Cons: Slowest connection speed, no torrenting is possible

www.Betternet.co

or read our full Betternet reviewe

 

The Flaws of (Many) “Free” VPNs

Thanks for having the prudence and desire to protect your data. You’re already way ahead of the curve and well on your way towards worry free Internet browsing.

Identity theft, drained bank accounts, defamation – just a tidbit of the misery that thousands of people undergo every year because their data has been taken advantage of by hackers and scammers.

Ugh, no thank you…

While you’re on the right track with using a VPN to avoid exposing your sensitive information, using a free service to do it is as counterproductive as mopping your driveway during a hurricane.

Once things go south, a free VPN will cost you a hundred times more than you would ever have saved.

1. FREE VPNs might log and sell your data

If there’s one thing you must know, it’s that there’s no free in business.

Not truly. In fact, that’s the very first lesson Harvard economics students are taught in their 101 class: there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

You don’t think businesses actually provide you a service free of charge out of sheer compassion do you? Youtube, Facebook, Google Search, Instagram, Reddit. What do all of these have in common? They’re free.

And what do they sell? Nothing. Right? Wrong. They sell YOU.

If you don’t have to pay for a product, you are the product.

In short, free VPN can service can sell your data. Please be sure to read their TOS before downloading/installing/connecting.

2. FREE VPNs throttle your speeds a lot

Oh, you didn’t really think free VPN services would provide you access to the full power of their servers?

I mean, really, just because you’re not paying for the servers, doesn’t mean they aren’t. They still have to pay for all the server upkeep and maintenance. The more you use their network, the higher the costs.

They want as much of our data, as cheaply as possible. Of course they’re going to throttle you.

In fact, in our tests, the average free VPN download speed was 15 Mbps, and that’s with our 100Mbps raw connection.

It’s done on purpose too. Some do it to simply keep their costs as low as possible. While others use it as an incentive for you to upgrade to their paid options. Get comfortable with slower speeds than usual – it’s unfortunate when using a free VPN.

3. No support available for FREE VPNs

I don’t know about you, but the first time I had to install and use a VPN I had a few questions.

Tunnel protocols, TAP Drivers, TCP vs UDP, RSS vs ECC Handshakes etc. Networking isn’t exactly something you pick up during your lunch breaks.

Well, forget having any of those answered by your free VPN service. They couldn’t care less about you and your questions. Good luck figuring it out on your own, that’s their motto.

What are Free VPN alternatives?

Here are two alternatives to free VPNs that have similar functionality.

1. Proxies (no encryption)

What is Proxy

Imagine proxies as being VPN’s smaller, less talented brother. They’re a perfect alternative for budget conscious Internet users who aren’t concerned with having an iron-clad wall between their personal data and the outside world. Both free and paid proxies are available.

Proxies act as a buffer between your traffic and the network you’re trying to access. Instead of connecting directly to the network you’re trying to access, the proxy will relay, re-route and bounce your data packets through anonymous servers before sending it off to your target network.

That way the origin of said data packets, your IP address, is hidden and inaccessible to the target network. Your traffic will appear to come from the proxy server, effectively negating any attempts at snooping out who you are via your IP address.

There are of course drawbacks of proxies, such as

  • Lack of functionality
  • Slow speeds
  • Low security

 

If you want to learn more about proxies, make sure you check out our comprehensive Proxy vs VPN comparison article.

2. TOR (slower than VPN)

What is TOR?

TOR, named after the original project “The Onion Router” is a free software which anonymously connects you to a volunteer-operated network of servers. This enables you to be assigned a new IP address, on the same basis as a VPN client.

Here’s TOR and VPN compared.

It works in a similar way to proxies but with the added benefit of being a decentralized system. TOR is preferred over proxies as your data will be encrypted and securely relayed through the network.

Due to its security benefits, TOR is preferred over proxies and used by journalists and activists to circumvent government censorship and restrictions.

However, TOR tends to be slow.

These long loading times are predicated on the inefficient and long-winded routes that your data packets are sent on, relayed from server to server, until they finally hit their destination. This, of course, is all done in the name of safety.

 

Conclusion – Is FREE VPN Worth it?

As with most things in life, the old adage you get what you pay for holds true here. Especially so when it comes to the vital aspect of cyber security. You simply can’t afford not to take this seriously.

If you’re satisfied with the slow speed, restrictions and limitations of a free VPN then sure, go for it.

To recap, here are 7 best free VPNs:

  1. ProtonVPN – FREE, No Data Cap, 3 Countries
  2. HotSpot Shield – FREE, 500mb/day Data Cap, 20 Countries
  3. WindScribe – FREE, 10GB/mo Data Cap, 8 Countries
  4. Hide.me – FREE, 2GB/mo Data Cap, 3 Countries
  5. Tunnelbear – FREE, 500mb/mo Data Cap, 3 Countries
  6. Avira Phantom – FREE, 500mb/mo Data Cap, 20 Counries
  7. Betternet – FREE, No Data Cap, US Only

However, if you strongly care about your online privacy, it’s much better to go with best premium VPNs, such as PIA or ExpressVPN.

Either way, you’ve got to do something. Don’t leave you and your family exposed to the dangers of the internet.

Which FREE VPNs have you used? Leave your comments, questions and feedback in the comment form below.

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    • Hi Arthur,

      Good point. Though, Opera VPN is built-in VPN inside browser and for using a VPN you’ll need to use their browser. Which keeps things kinda a limited..

    • Hey Damian – good question. We didn’t list Betternet as “Best free VPN” as it’s just too slow. We did several performance tests and the download speed was below 5 Mbps. In our opinion, this is just too slow for proper use. It’s good for hiding your IP address, but not much else.

      If you’ve had other experience with Betternet – let me know 🙂

  1. Thanks for the list and detailed analyses. I’m thinking of trying out CyberGhost (currently using NordVPN which is pretty expensive). Do you think CyberGhost VPN is suitable for abroad use? I’m located in the US, but I’m travelling a lot hence the reason I need a reliable, cheap (preferably free) VPN client. Any thoughts?

  2. You say that no business is free and that these free VPNs would sell “US” as their product? So if that is true that means they could be selling our browsing history to the highest bidder i.e. the government,ISP,FBI etc… which is what people are really trying to prevent in the first place. SO then what is the point of actually using a free VPN?

    • Hey Eden!

      Aha! You just hit the nail on the head – using free VPNs is always a gamble. The only free VPNs you should even consider using are those that offer free plans in addition to premium plans. Those are legit and trusted providers who have chosen to offer you a free plan as their first step of convincing you they are worth paying for.

      The downside on most premium VPNs who also offer free plans is that you’re usually restricted to a small amount of bandwidth and/or slow speeds. Still, there are some (few and far between) who are both trusted providers AND are generous with their restrictions!

      I’m currently editing this article and the new version should go up in a few days. Check back soon to see exactly which VPNs are a) trusted and b) offer free plans worth using!

      Hope that makes things clearer 🙂

      Andrey