Canadian-based Windscribe claims to have one of the most diverse server selections out there and to be a great alternative to US-based VPNs. Using their free trial option, I took a detailed look into whether their claims hold up in this Windscribe review.
Their added Netflix support with the Windflix feature and Firewall protection make Windscribe look like a great VPN option from the surface. But when I dove in a bit deeper, the speeds and headquarters location set off some major red flags.
With features and benefits, pros and cons, to weigh out, here’s how Windscribe really compares to some of the leading VPN providers.
Windscribe VPN Overview
|OVERALL RANK:||#11 out of 78 VPNs|
|USABILITY:||Easy to use|
|LOG FILES:||No Logging Policy|
|LOCATIONS:||60 countries, 110 cities|
|SUPPORT:||Customer Support is slow|
|ENCRYPTION/PROTOCOL:||256-bit AES, OpenVPN and more|
|COST:||$9.00/mo or $4.08/mo (yearly)|
1. You Can Watch Netflix With No Problems From Most Locations
Netflix offers content specific to your location and sets geo-restrictions on its other content, which means someone watching in the US would see a vastly different selection in their Netflix library than someone watching in the UK. Utilizing a VPN allows you to choose a server by location, thus enabling geo-locked content.
Netflix caught on to this and now shows an error if they detect an unblocker or proxy. While you may see these problems accessing Netflix with some other VPNs, Windscribe offers streaming servers through their Windflix feature. Of the four streaming servers we tested, three worked with no issues at all. As of testing in early 2020, the Windflix CA server was the only unsuccessful one, as Netflix detected a proxy.
Overall: 3/4 streaming servers worked
WINDFLIX US – Yes
WINDFLIX CA – No (Proxy detected)
WINDFLIX UK – Yes
WINDFLIX JP – Yes
2. Feature-Rich VPN Means Satisfying Usability
Windscribe offers an easy and user-friendly interface and installation process.
From the “Get Started” page on their site, Windscribe offers download options by computer OS, mobile OS, and browser. They also include download options for TVs and routers. After choosing which is the best fit for you, the installation process is extremely simple.
You’ll first be asked what type of install you would like. It’s recommended to choose “express install” for a quick and easy process, which is perfect for someone new to using a VPN app. However, if you would like more detailed options throughout setup, you can choose “custom install.” For my testing purposes, I chose “express install” as you’ll see below.
Two-click installation (Express install)
Once installed, the Windscribe app will launch, asking the user if you already have an account. Take this moment to set up your account if you don’t already have one.
Once logged in, the Windscribe VPN app interface will launch. During this first app launch, a browser window popped up for me, notifying that the installation was complete and prompting me to add the Chrome extension. This is optional, but does add features like ad blocker and secure link generator.
Windscribe’s app is non-intrusive to your desktop workspace and user-friendly. The app’s main screen shows your currently selected server, the current IP address, and the firewall/kill switch.
In the top right of the main screen, the bell icon gives you options for a number of notifications that you can choose to enable or disable depending on your personal preferences.
You’ll see I received this notification above. Out of curiosity in testing, I selected “Get the Router” to see more about what is offered with Windscribe and Invizbox’s custom-built VPN hardware. Definitely an option I haven’t seen a VPN provider offering before!
Now let’s get back to the main screen of the app. Clicking the connection bars next to the IP address allows you to rate your current connection speed in order to provide feedback to Windscribe.
Clicking on the server opens up the list of available servers to choose from. It automatically first connected to the “best location” for me, but this gives you the ability to choose here.
You will see that streaming servers are noted as WINDFLIX (these are the servers I mentioned earlier that work with Netflix), and servers that do not allow P2P sharing are noted as well.
Clicking on the hamburger menu in the top left of the app gives you a dropdown menu.
The first choice of the dropdown menu is Help Me! This will open up the Support self-help page. Here, you’ll find FAQs, set up guides, and their knowledge base. You can also submit a support ticket, go to their Windscribe subreddit, or chat with their support team.
Preferences – General
The second choice in the dropdown menu is the preferences and configuration of the VPN app. In the General tab, you’ll find options for things like app launch and language settings.
Preferences – Connection
In the Preferences Connection tab, you can configure the kill switch (firewall), as well as select protocols manually and configure DNS while disconnected. For testing purposes, I was using the default/automatic settings.
Preferences – Proxy
Under the Proxy tab, you can configure your network’s LAN proxy. Beware: They do warn you not to touch this area if you’re not sure what you’re doing.
Preferences – Share
Under the Share tab, a secure hotspot can be setup here. You’ll see, however, that my network adapter does not support this feature, but it is available to those that do.
Preferences – Debug
The last tab in Preferences is Debug, which gives you options for viewing your log and even sending it to Windscribe support if you are having an issue with the app or VPN connections.
Next on the dropdown menu is My Account. This opens up a browser tab where unique features can be accessed and applied to my device. Let’s take a look at these available features below:
R.O.B.E.R.T. is an advanced DNS and IP level blocker that works on all your devices (except for browser extensions).
I decided to test R.O.B.E.R.T. and enabled blocking for Social, as you’ll see below.
Immediately when enabling this, I’m prompted to apply these changes to my currently connected devices.
Once applied, I tested and tried to visit Facebook, but was unable to connect. Social blocking is successful.
Also with R.O.B.E.R.T., you can list custom rules, such as whitelisting IPs.
Within the My Account options and features, you’ll find port forwarding. This allows you to access services on your computer or home network remotely, while connected to Windscribe.
With unlimited data, pro features, centralized billing, and shared static IPs, Windscribe’s ScribeForce provides an easy monthly plan to configure and manage your business’ team on one VPN provider.
3. Leak and Virus Tests Show No Leaks or Viruses Detected
As with any of the VPNs I review, I do my best to verify that there are actually no IP, DNS, or WedRTC leaks and that your data protection is prioritized. Below are my findings after testing with IPLeak.net, Perfect-Privacy.com, BrowserLeaks, IPX.ac, and VirusTotal.com.
IPLeak.net Test – No Leak
Perfect-Privacy.com DNS Leak Test – No Leak
Perfect-Privacy.com IP Leak – No Leak
BrowserLeaks WebRTC Leak Test – No Leak
IPX.ac – No Leak
No viruses found.
4. Generous Network of Servers for Your Use
Windscribe claims to have one of the most diverse server selections out there, throughout 60 countries in 110 cities. With the free version of their VPN, they offer servers in 10 different countries. Their pro version offers the full 60 countries and finds the best server location for you.
5. They Keep No Logs Whatsoever
Most users are looking for a VPN to protect their data and keep their browsing activity anonymous, so what would be the point if the very VPN you’re using is logging your activity and information? Windscribe stands behind their no logging policy.
During sign up, only a username and password need to be stored (email is entirely optional in order to recover the password at a later time). No connection logs, timestamps, IPs or session logs are ever stored. The only data they do confirm that they log is the total amount of bandwidth use and the last time Windscribe was used. This is done to ensure their tier limitations are kept.
6. The Kill Switch (Which Windscribe Calls a Firewall) Works Well
Windscribe’s firewall is a big reason why our earlier testing showed absolutely no leaks. But they state that they believe their firewall is a superior feature to other VPN providers’ standard kill switch feature.
With their firewall built into the Windows and Mac applications, all connectivity outside of the tunnel you are connected to is blocked. According to Windscribe, they refer to a kill switch as a reactive feature, allowing a small period of time between the VPN disconnecting and the program detecting that connection to allow for a leak. Their firewall blocks all connectivity period, so, even if the VPN drops, nothing needs to be done to protect you as the user.
While I do understand where they view the difference, I have and may refer to their firewall feature as their kill switch, so that you are able to easily compare their features with other VPNs you may be looking into.
For testing, I had the firewall mode set to automatic, so that way, if I lose connection or switch a server, the “kill switch” is triggered and my Internet connection is disconnected.
When switching servers, the “kill switch” was engaged, and my Internet connection was disrupted. I received a notification as well that I was not connected because the firewall was on.
Once Internet connection was restored, I received another notification letting me know that I had successfully connected to the VPN.
For this feature to be successful, the Firewall/Kill Switch must be turned on. Windscribe VPN does ensure your complete protection even when you may lose connection or switch servers.
7. Selecting the Right Protocols Is Easy
Windscribe offers some of the best VPN protocols out there, including the standard OpenVPN and IPsec protocols. While I do typically see OpenVPN as the industry standard, their IKEv2 connection mode is set to default. This can be changed to any of the other connection modes stated in the screenshot below, if you choose:
Under your Connection Mode preferences, you can choose to set automatically or manually. If you have Automatic selected, this will choose the best protocol available for you.
8. You Get Very Strong Encryption
Windscribe’s encryption is on par with the highest in industry standards, with an AES-256 cypher (with SHA512 auth and a 4096-bit RSA key) for their desktop apps. As for their browser extensions, they offer TLS 1.2, ECDHE_RSA with P-256 key exchange and AES_128_GCM cipher. What’s important to know is Windscribe is double- and triple-checking that they keep your information completely secure from beginning to end.
1. Speed Tests Show Speed Takes a BIG Hit Behind the VPN
It’s no secret that your Internet browsing speeds will most always slow when using a VPN. The trick is to see by just how much they slow down. Unfortunately for Windscribe, I saw speed decreases that simply were way too impactful for a smooth online experience. Let’s take a look at some of the speed test results I saw.
As a benchmark, my Speed Test without the VPN ran as
- Ping 15ms
- 163.50 down
- 11.66 up
Auto – Best Location (New York, NY):
- Ping 19ms
- 54.61 down
- 10.54 up
US Central – Dallas – Ranch:
- Ping 52ms
- 55.12 down
- 8.48 up
US East – New Jersey – Situation:
- Ping 19ms
- 89.51 down
- 8.9 up
Canada East – Toronto – Comfort Zone
- Ping 40ms
- 36.45 down
- 8.53 up
United Kingdom – London – Biscuits:
- Ping 87ms
- 71.78 down
- 6.52 up
Amsterdam – Bicycle:
- Ping 105ms
- 80.47 down
- 8.68 up
Taiwan – Taipei – Datong
- Ping 221ms
- 1.99 down
- 1.41 up
You’ll see the download speeds barely even hit half of my initial speed on just one server. Otherwise, the speed decrease was one of the most significant I’ve seen in my recent VPN reviews.
2. Using the TOR Network and P2P/Torrenting Are Allowed, but Assistance Is in Short Supply
What I found interesting is that I found no information on their website or support pages about using Windscribe with the TOR Network. So I decided to test out their chat bot.
As you can see, they apparently allow access to the TOR Network using Windscribe and the TOR Browser. However, they do not offer further assistance with this.
Windscribe does mention in their support section that they support torrenting and P2P sharing.
On this support page, which I’ll provide below, they provide a walkthrough of the correct steps to take to ensure your privacy when torrenting:
However, on their server list, you will see servers that don’t allow P2P sharing. These servers are noted by the icon in the server list.
Windscribe also offers a specific uTorrent Setup Guide on their site, which is definitely thorough in supporting the Windscribe SOCKS5 proxy with the client:
3. Customer Support Is Slow
Chatbot – When testing the chatbot during my TOR research, their response in providing me assistance or answering my question was immediate.
In addition to the chatbot, there are plenty of support channels to utilize, as I mentioned previously in this review.
However, when I decided to go further and test their ticketing system, I ran into a less-than-ideal response time. Over a day later, I had still not received a personal response. The auto-message from their support that I received did state that a reply could take long.
Windscribe’s customer service certainly wasn’t the worst I’ve seen (at least they have a chatbot for immediate issues), but the ticketing system wasn’t ideal. While I am adding this as a con, it is minor because of the availability of other options to support you.
4. They’re Located in Canada
A VPN provider’s location can mean everything to your true privacy, especially when they are part of a jurisdiction that is required to share data when requested.
This is where a potential downfall could lie. Windscribe’s company headquarters is located in Ontario, Canada. And while VPNs are legal in Canada, it is a founding member of the Five Eyes Jurisdiction. This means that, if your data is requested by intelligence agencies, Windscribe would have no choice but to hand it over under this agreement.
While this is unlikely, it does cause a sense of insecurity when choosing this VPN.
Pricing and Payment Methods
Windscribe offers a free trial and Pro versions of their software. The “free” service is limited in the amount of bandwidth and available servers. However, if you do decide to upgrade to Pro, you’ll have more servers to choose from, unlimited data, and few additional features.
Their monthly plan begins at $9 USD per month and can get as cheap as $4 USD per month for their yearly plan. In addition, they offer a few custom options, such as a build-your-own plan and team plans. I personally love that Windscribe offers a student discount, at 40% off of their yearly subscription plans. It also looks as though Windscribe offers unlimited simultaneous connections with these subscriptions, which is surprising considering most VPNs tend to have a limit on the number of devices.
They accept all standard payment methods including bitcoin, Paypal, major credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard, and Paymentwall.
As for their money back guarantee, they strongly encourage everyone to test their free trial first. However, if you are not satisfied, you have the chance to request a full refund within three business days from the date of payment, provided that the software service was purchased directly with them and you do not exceed 10GB of global traffic volume.
You have a few things to weigh with Windscribe. Do they support Netflix? Yes. Do they offer reliable security and privacy? Absolutely. Their no logging policy and encryption are standard, and the top features are there.
Still, pricing is nothing to write home about, as there are cheaper (and better) options out there. Their lack of clear support for the TOR network and torrenting concerned me. Their customer support was a bit slower to respond than most top providers. With speeds as slow as I saw and being headquartered in Canada, Windscribe does not even fall in my top five, maybe even ten, VPN options. Remember, with poor speed performance like that, even if they support Netflix, you’ll be lucky if it loads.
While Windscribe isn’t the worst, I recommend taking a look at some of the more competitive VPN providers such as NordVPN and SurfShark.