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Hotspot Shield Review

Rob Mardisalu

Rob Mardisalu

Here’s my Hotspot Shield review…

HotSpot Shield is a growing name in the top VPN providers, and for good reason. Claiming to be the world’s fastest VPN, HotSpot Shield has been in business since 2005, but has seen quite the uptick in users in the past few years.

In this HotSpot Shield review, I’ll go through exactly what pros of this VPN provider have pulled in the higher number of customers and if their claim for fastest VPN holds up. As we know, growth in numbers doesn’t always mean premier service. Are HotSpot Shield’s marketing campaigns outshining the actual service they provide? Let’s take a look.

Hotspot Shield VPN Overview

OVERALL RANK: #32 out of 78 VPNs
USABILITY:  Easy to use
LOG FILES: No Logging Policy
LOCATIONS:  80+ countries, 3200+ servers
SUPPORT: Live chat with Premium plan only
TORRENTING: Torrenting Allowed
NETFLIX: Yes 5/7
COST: $7.99 – $12.99/mo & limited free plan
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: www.hotspotshield.com

HotSpot Shield Pros

1. Signup Is Hassle-Free

HotSpot Shield’s signup is a hassle-free process. From their site, choose between the basic or premium plans. Once you create your account, the software download starts automatically after signup and is a very small 14MB download.

One thing to note is that HotSpot Shield is now part of Pango company. Creating a HotSpot Shield account means you are signing up for Pango.co.

Simply finish setting up your account with your email address and password, and you’re ready to go!

2. They Support Very Fast Speeds

According to HotSpot Shield, they’re the fastest VPN in the game! And during my testing, those speeds did not disappoint. With all of my VPN reviews, I used SpeedTest.net to ensure the accuracy of each server speed.

As a benchmark and prior to connecting to their servers, my speeds were at 11ms ping, 222.58Mbps download and 12.03Mbps upload.

Check out just how fast their server speeds were below:

United States

Philadelphia Server

  • Ping: 33ms
  • Download: 143.97 Mbps
  • Upload: 11.31 Mbps

New York Server

  • Ping: 18ms
  • Download: 161.85 Mbps
  • Upload: 11.72 Mbps

United Kingdom Server

  • Ping: 96ms
  • Download: 165.06 Mbps
  • Upload: 11.39 Mbps


Toronto Server

  • Ping: 29ms
  • Download: 146.19 Mbps
  • Upload: 11.71 Mbps

Germany Server

  • Ping: 102ms
  • Download: 153.37 Mbps
  • Upload: 11.15 Mbps

China Server

  • Ping: 218ms
  • Download: 127.45 Mbps
  • Upload: 8.76 Mbps

3. A Tremendous Number of Locations and Servers Means More Choice

Not only are the speeds fast, but you have more choices with HotSpot Shield. At over 3,200 servers in over 80 countries, HotSpot Shield gives you the option to connect to almost anywhere in the world.

4. Usability Combines Great UX, a Sleek UI, and Lots of Features

Signup isn’t the only seamless and easy experience with HotSpot Shield. That user-friendly interface translates throughout the application as well and is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen in the VPNs I’ve tested so far.

Usability / Installation

After signing up, the installation is a two-step process. Simply click “Install” and wait. You’ll be protected in less than two minutes.

Step 1

Step 2

Usability / Servers & Locations

Within the app, you’ll see that all available locations are displayed at a minimum of one connection available per country listed. Currently, the United States has the most server options with 20 available. Once you click through to a country, all cities with servers will be displayed.

Depending on your location and preferences, the fastest server connection will be automatically selected for “Virtual Location.” However, what I did find was that details on the actual server (location) are difficult to determine. You’ll see below that I was connected to a US server, but it did not go further into which of the 20 available servers I was connected to.

Not to worry though: The choice is yours if you’d like. Specific servers can be selected from within the application if you so choose. One thing I did notice and wanted to point out is that there is no mention of current server load as other VPN services might display.

Usability / Application

Talk about a clean and sleek user interface. HotSpot Shield’s application provides easy-to-use navigation menus and minimalistic design, perfect for even first-time VPN users. The only slight downfall I found in its usability was that the application window couldn’t be resized.

Once the application loads, sign in to your account directly within the app from the third icon on the left.

The account view includes details on the number of linked devices (up to five are allowed with their Premium service), with the capability of simultaneous connections and details regarding your subscription.

The last icon on the left is the gear icon for Settings. Main settings include options related to starting automatically and minimizing when your computer boots, auto-connection, app notifications, and connection quality alerts.

Also included in Settings are additional options to set up specific domains you would like to bypass the VPN service. These are domains that you know are safe and secure or domains you feel comfortable connecting to without additional protection.

In Advanced Settings is where you’ll be able to enable the kill switch, auto-protect, and prevent IP leak.

5. Their Proprietary Protocol Means Better Performance

I’m putting this in the pros section because I do believe their proprietary protocol delivers superior performance and reliability. However, be aware that, after talking with live support, I confirmed that protocols cannot be manually set as they can in many other leading VPNs.

That being said, HotSpot Shield’s proprietary protocol is Catapult Hydra. Multiple, large, cybersecurity companies use this protocol as well, such as McAfee and BitDefender. Catapult Hydra, powered by AnchorFree, is used instead of IPSec or OpenVPN to address the latency issues seen with these other protocols.

6. The Kill Switch Ensures Added Security

As with most of the well-known VPN apps, a Kill Switch feature is included. This feature, when enabled, will stop all Internet traffic if the VPN disconnects unexpectedly or if you are switching servers to ensure you are protected at all times. This feature is not automatically enabled, so be sure to go into your Advanced Settings after installing to turn on, if you prefer.

When it’s enabled, the kill switch will provide a notification and disable the service/connection until connectivity to the VPN is restored.

7. They Are Serious About Not Keeping Any Identifiable Log Information About You

As I mentioned earlier, HotSpot Shield is part of Pango.co, so I checked their privacy policies, and they’re serious about their no logging policy. While HotSpot Shield does log data of session durations and bandwidth, they keep to their no logging policy and guaranteed data protection sent over the connection in those sessions.

HotSpot Shield’s logging policy isn’t the most anonymous I have seen, but they’re definitely looking out for your identity and data protection. HotSpot Shield will keep you anonymous at all times.

8. P2P and Torrenting Are Made Easy

One of the pros of HotSpot Shield is that it openly supports torrenting and P2P sharing. They ensure that all torrent data is anonymous and private, including your IP address. No logging of your activities or online actions is kept, and every site you visit is encrypted. In addition, with the premium version of their VPN, unlimited data bandwidth is provided.

HotSpot Shield supports torrenting and P2P sharing on Windows, Mac, Android and iOS.

According to their Terms of Service, HotSpot Shield’s jurisdiction is located in San Francisco, California, in the US. While they don’t go into great detail about the laws for torrenting or P2P sharing, HotSpot Shield does in fact widely support it within their VPN service.

9. Netflix Works…in Most Places

Out of the seven servers we tested, five were successful when streaming Netflix, which is honestly quite good these days, as Netflix has become good at detecting VPN users who try to unblock their geo-restrictions. The only two that didn’t work were the Netherlands and Philadelphia servers. Take a look below at the servers we tried that were successful.

Overall: 5/7 tested work

  • Philadelphia – No (proxy detected)
  • New York – Yes
  • San Francisco – Yes
  • United Kingdom – Yes
  • Canada – Toronto – Yes
  • Netherlands – No (proxy detected)
  • Taiwan – Yes

10. No Leaks Were Detected

It’s clear that you’d want to test any leaks, as the whole point of your VPN is to keep you completely anonymous and secure. After testing with IPLeak.net, Perfect-Privacy.com, BrowserLeaks and IPX.ac, it’s great news to verify that there are actually no IP, DNS or WedRTC leaks with HotSpot Shield.

  • IPLeak.net – No Leak
  • Perfect-Privacy DNS – No Leak
  • Perfect-Privacy IP – No Leak
  • BrowserLeaks WebRTC – No Leak
  • IPX.ac – No Leak

Virus Total Report

As well, I ran a full scan for viruses on the HotSpot Shield installer through Virus Total Report. This was another success, as no viruses were detected.

11. Customer Support Is Immediate (but You Have to Pay for Live Chat)

With HotSpot Shield’s “Basic” free plan, customer support is limited to their online FAQ, which is rather extensive. Their support section includes a search feature for specific questions, guides by platform or software being used, and even troubleshooting information and release notes.

In addition, if you upgrade to their subscription Premium plan, email and live chat support are provided.

I tested it, and it’s good to say that their live chat is very responsive and helpful, as you can see below.

HotSpot Shield Cons

1. Though They Support Multiple Devices, They Don’t Support All Devices

The number of simultaneous connections or devices you can have with HotSpot Shield depends on the type of plan you are subscribed to. Free basic subscriptions only support one device on your account. Premium subscribers can add up to five devices on their account simultaneously.

Supported devices as of right now include iOS devices running 10.1 or later, Android devices running Android 5.0 or later, Macs running 10.12 or later, and Windows 7 or later. HotSpot Shield unfortunately does not support Smart TVs that are not Android, routers, gaming consoles, Windows phones, etc.

2. The TOR Network Isn’t Supported Anymore

Tor is “the onion router,” which ensures that all of your online web traffic remains completely anonymous. Because the Tor network is run with volunteers, the security is not always guaranteed. Running Tor with VPN grants you that anonymity with the security and safety of a reliable VPN. Unfortunately for HotSpot Shield, if you’re looking for that added protection, the Tor Networks are no longer supported for this VPN.

Pricing and Payment Methods

HotSpot Shield includes a “Basic” free plan that can be used for testing the service with limitations of a 2 Mbps speed limit, 500 MB total transfer, and connection to one US location.

The Premium plan comes at $7.99 per month, billed at $95.88 yearly or at one month at a time, billed at $12.99 per month. The subscription includes the VPN service, unlimited streaming, unlimited data, no browsing logs, and their military-grade encryption.

Money Back Guarantee

HotSpot Shield’s subscriptions also include a 45-day money back guarantee. You can request a refund within 45 days of the purchase date by contacting their customer support. However, as with most leading VPN providers, if you purchased your plan through iTunes or the Microsoft Store, you’ll have to contact those stores directly for a refund.

If you aren’t sure which plan to choose, the Premium plan is offered as a free, 7-day trial before purchasing.

Regarding payment methods and options, HotSpot Shield allows payment with major credit cards or PayPal. However, it doesn’t seem that they accept BitCoin if you’re interested in absolute anonymity.

Subscribing to HotSpot Shield (and Pango.co) also includes access to the following Pango services:

  • HotSpot Shield (VPN)
  • 1Password (Password Management)
  • Robo Shield (Robocall Blocking)
  • Identity Guard (Fraud Monitoring)


HotSpot Shield’s speeds absolutely met our expectations with their claim for being the world’s fastest VPN (although I can’t entirely confirm how accurate that statement is). Their speeds, torrenting ability, and user interface were among the cleanest and best I’ve tested.

In addition, their proprietary protocol for encryption is reliable, keeping your information protected at all times. Their security is on par with all the other leading VPN providers, so, if this is what your priority is, HotSpot Shield can be a great option.

However, with no access to the TOR network, this VPN falls short of other leading and inexpensive VPNs. If this is a feature you’re looking for, I’d recommend comparing other providers, such as NordVPN or ExpressVPN.

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    20 user reviews for Hotspot Shield

    D 1/10 December 6, 2020

    Can confirm they sharing your information

    Got a multiple Notice of Copyright Infringement from my ISP provider. They cut off my internet.

    DO NOT TRUST Hotspot Shield VPN. They lie when in fact they sell you out.

    Neil 4/10 August 8, 2020

    Huge privacy concerns (even in 2020)

    I would have loved to like the Hotspot Shield that I used for more than 5 years... BUT even after Pango bought them, they still retain your IP address, keep your billed information and collect aggregated activity data!

    However the speed is good and the service is reliable.

    James 10/10 November 25, 2019

    Super Fast!

    There are a variety of areas with other VPNs that are better than Hotspot Shield, but the one area Hotspot Shield is by far the best in is SPEED! By far the fastest VPN I've ever tried.

    Jay 10/10 May 29, 2019

    Best VPN on the Market.

    I have been using Hotspot Shield for almost 2 years and I couldn't be happier. I get access to all my favorite BBC content as well as US Netflix without issues. I commonly use WhatsApp to communicate with my family overseas and I'm so impressed with the quality. Anytime, I have any issues, their support team gets back to me the same day to resolve my issues. I would recommend this to anybody looking for an outstanding and easy to use VPN service. Thanks Hotspot Shield.

    Marie 1/10 May 24, 2019

    Unhappy person

    I had a lovely credit card bill from hotspot shield for a service I do not need or ask for.. after over 2 months of back and forth generic emails from them telling me they have no record of any transaction and passing the buck to other people. I have not been happy with this company at all.. I have no with for their service and would advise others to stay clear of them...

    Davis Prather 9/10 May 24, 2019

    It's... weird?

    It's a good app. I'm just looking for an explanation as to why the free version works even after the 500 MB data limit has been reached. Like, am I missing something important, or something? Because I was led to believe that it wouldn't work after the first 500 MB. But, I try it anyway, and it works like a charm. So, what's up with that?

    Jeff 1/10 April 12, 2019

    Hotspot Shield customer support

    Had HSS installed 4 months ago, seemed to work fine. A few weeks ago it stopped working. Support kept sending recorded messages to follow their instructions. Nothing fixed the problem. After 2 weeks and more than 50 emails back and forth still no result. Last email says they have a long list of inquiries and I am on the list. I have a 2 year Premium subscription, no problem taking the money, but I am still unable to use it. SOMETHING WENT WRONG. WE ARE TRYING TO FIX THE PROBLEM. IT MIGHT TAKE A FEW SECONDS. What a joke.

    Denny 1/10 April 04, 2019

    HotSpot Shield Free - Avoid

    Speed was great, no issue.

    However upon disconnecting after using my free quota I had several issues with this service. It hijacked my networking on my browsers and pages would not load. I tried stopping the services via task manager (end process tree) but the "hydra*.exe" service simply restarted itself. I had to uninstall to regain control.

    Shame as I would have probably upgraded but given the companies unethical approach to customers privacy and a blatant (almost ransomware type) attempt to force you to upgrade I simply would not deal with a company like that. I searched for reviews and their support appears to lacking and they have unethical approach to refunds where they discontinue a particular service (country) that a customer has specifically paid for.

    I gave them 10 for the speed and ease of use (when working correctly)

    Jimmy 1/10 December 30, 2018

    Consumers Beware!

    I bought a lifetime subscription to Hotspot Shield and a few months in the only country I am using the service for stopped working. Their customer support is incredibly slow and when I finally got an answer it.only confirmed it's not working anymore. As this rendered the service useless to me I asked for a refund, which I was shocked to hear I was refused. The service for the specific country is still not working and hundred of dollars down the drain for me... Please be careful with buying this service, in particular if you intend to use it for smaller countries. Do NOT buy any longer subscriptions as they may stop working and they will apparently not refund anything, even if they are not providing what you paid for.

    Jon Waite 1/10 October 8, 2018

    Startup errors - poor support

    It's a good service when it works, but every day I when try to run it I get the "Oops, something went wrong message" and I have to restart the Hotspot Shield back ground process. This happens on multiple different Windows 10 PCs. They knew about this error when I contacted support and at first they told me that it would be fixed soon in a future release. However, when I pushed them hard on a date they said that a fix wasn't actually in any schedule. I have read reports of this error from multiple users stretching back years, and so I conclude that they have no intention of fixing it.

    Sam 9/10 August 29, 2018


    Elite customer here. One important thing about Hotspot Shield is that it's fast, like super fast. I feel it even enhances my connection because when I stream videos, the stream is faster and more stable than the direct speed.

    Oh and they say they no longer use OpenVPn but their own propriety protocal named Catapult Hydra which increases speed, security, and compresses data. Cons: No linux client, no content blocking in Android client.

    Bob 8/10 August 20, 2018

    Feel Comfort with Hotspot Shield

    I'm the common user internet, spend time for surfing, streaming and sometimes gaming e.g. dota 2. Hotspot help you to access any in my experience. No issue with that. Low ping, super speed and honestly comfort with hotspot shield. I give 80 for rating, because we know no one is perfect or just maybe I don't know about the cons. Yeah, this VPN is fine for normal user like me.

    Richard 5/10 June 11, 2018

    Didn’t work in China

    I’ve used Hotspot Shield for many years, successful in UAE. However holiday in China, April 2018, connection to Hotspot wasn’t possible as it kept hanging. Tried a couple of others on free trial NordVPN & ExpressVPN and both works well in China, connected to YouTube, Netflix & NowTV UK accounts successfully with reasonable speed, not full HD. Goodbye Hotspot Shield.

    Elizabeth Murphy 1/10 December 25, 2017

    Be very wary of HotSpot shield

    I have had so many problems getting rid of Hotspot shield. First, when it came time to renew and I did not want to renew it, it hijacked my screen forcing me to put in my payment info. The only way I could stop it was through task manager and shutting down the application.

    Then after I canceled about 7 months later I see a charge of 35 dollars for hotspot shield which I don’t even have installed.

    How they got my new visa number I do not know. I’ve never had this happen to me with any other subscriptions. Avoid hotspot shield.

    Anthony 4/10 November 20, 2017

    free vpn full of ads

    Like any other freeware HotSpot shield VPN comes with ads, the ads can be quite annoying sometimes, but the VPN itself works quite well.

    I use HotSpot Shield VPN on my android (5.1.1) to be able to have access to files/software that is not available in my country. I wouldn’t mind having it open and running 24/7 if there weren’t so many ads every so often. So I still use it only when I need to.

    I’d recommend with ad warning.

    Stephen Brown 4/10 November 15, 2017

    Not as good as others until you buy the elite version

    When I first started using its free version, it was really bad. I couldn’t access almost any website, it was too slow and it always had the same error. I decided to upgrade to the elite version to see if the performance of it improved and it worked just great.

    It is a good VPN provider but only after you upgrade it to the elite version.

    Mirkual Sen 7/10 October 21, 2017

    free version is bad, paid is OK 🙂

    As a Hotspot Shield user, I have to tell you that I liked the old Hotspot a lot more. I had an elite subscription and 90% of the time the connection was super fast and I knew that my connection and informations are secure. Plus all of the locations were unlocked. Now, after the update I am using the free version and I can say that you have only 1 location and that’s Optimal Location. It’s a lot slower than before, but the interface looks cleaner.

    So should you use it, or shouldn’t you?

    From my experience, I can tell you that if you are going to spend more time using VPN, then buy the elite subscription because the connection is super fast and you have a wide variety of locations.

    If you spend very little time using VPN then go with the free plan.

    In conclusion, you should use Hotspot Shield VPN and buy the elite subscription if you spend a lot of time using VPN, and if you don’t then either go with the free plan or use another free VPN!

    Selina 9/10 October 19, 2017

    Hotspot Shield hits the spot

    I have had a mostly positive experience using Hotspot Shield, which I use on Chrome.

    When accessing certain sites, all I need to do is click the shield extension icon on my toolbar, then click the button to be connected to the VPN. It’s fast, free and super-easy. There’s a couple of things I’m not too crazy about, though. Sometimes I can’t access certain other sites once I’m connected. I occasionally have trouble accessing Google – though not every time – and some sites repeatedly log me out if I’m connected. Usually, I just have to disconnect and reconnect to get back on track, so it’s a little bit annoying.

    That said, I would still absolutely recommend Hotspot Shield, as its positives outweigh those little negatives.

    Dillon P 6/10 October 17, 2017

    Decent service, a bit slow however

    I needed a VPN when I wanted to test my website to see what it would look like in different parts of the world. I was given a 6 month promo code for premium, so I signed up for it. I downloaded it to my mac and it was actually quite easy to setup. However, after setup, the program wouldn’t open, so I restarted my mac and it did. I connected to the nearest server, which was London, just to test, and it worked a treat when I went to look at my IP. I tried different servers and they all worked. The only thing was they were slow, as if a lot of people were using them, which is fair enough for a big company, but with the amount of money they have coming in, they could invest in either faster or more servers.

    Apart from that, the program was easy enough to use, and my experience so far has been satisfactory, I still use it now and then.

    DEVESH 9/10 June 14, 2017

    Looking for a shield from your ISP, use Hotspot Shield..

    Have been using Hotspot Shield for a year now. I can say I’m completely satisfied with the unlimited version. It does not compromise the speed of my network as well as protects my privacy.

    The desktop application is user-friendly, a single push of button establishes the VPN connection. The time taken to connect to Hotspot Shield server is also very short.