It’s not easy to find a reliable free VPN, but these services do exist, as long as you know where to look. ProPrivacy.com’s experts have put together this guide on the best free VPNs – and the worst.
What are the best free VPNs?
The Best Free VPNs: Detailed Comparison
In the list below, our privacy experts analyze each of their favorite free VPN providers in detail and explain why they made it into the top 5.
Hide.Me is an awesome Malaysian VPN provider has an excellent free service. Although users are limited to just three server locations (Singapore, the Netherlands, and Canada), users get a whopping 2GB per month of free use at up to 80Mbps.
Windscribe has always been one of our favorite free VPNs. Compared to some other free services, Windscribe gives more– 10GB data allowance per month! This is pretty amazing because Windscribe is actually trying to encourage people to buy its premium service.
What’s more, this VPN has strong encryption and keeps zero logs – making it fantastic for privacy. With unlimited simultaneous connections permitted, this VPN is truly outstanding.
ProtonVPN made it two-years on the bounce to claim the award of ‘Best Free VPN’ at our illustrious awards in Las Vegas. This superb service, provided by the developers of Proton Mail, is a secure VPN that lets people use the service for free on an unlimited basis, with only slight speed capping during times of high congestion. This makes it perfect for privately surfing the web on a daily basis, unblocking content, avoiding censorship, and bypassing geo-restrictions to gain added freedom online.
This makes ProtonVPN perfect for unblocking censored news or for accessing vital social media services during times when political regimes black them out unfairly. Overall, it’s an incredibly good free VPN that provides access to servers in the Netherlands, Japan, and the USA.
TunnelBear VPN is a free service that constantly impresses people. This VPN is super-secure and even opened up its software to a third-party analysis last year. The outcome? Security researchers found the VPN to be secure and reliable. It also keeps no logs.
Unfortunately, The service is restricted to just 500MB per month. Despite this, it is brilliant for locations with severe censorship and where privacy is essential. It is perfect for securely unblocking news.
Hotspot Shield is an awesome free VPN that has helped millions of people in their time of need. It was the most used VPN during the Turkey coup and the Arab Spring. Users get free access not only to the VPN but also a Chrome extension.
The free service permits connections to the US only, but the extension permits connections to 14 countries (but not the US). The result is that Hotspot Shield users can unblock content in 15 countries for free! What’s more, Hotspot Shield’s free plan lets people have 500MB of download use per day. That is a massive usage allowance considering it is free.
Why are these the best free VPNs?
There is a lot of negative press when it comes to free VPNs. Most comparison sites urge consumers to stay away from them. At ProPrivacy, we also used to primarily dissuade people from using free services (and we still recommend being extremely careful when picking a free VPN). That’s because there are a lot of terrible free VPNs out there that take advantage of their users’ data for their own gains. About 95% of the free VPNs available on the market are either useless or even dangerous.
A free VPN can be a hugely powerful and useful tool – both on mobile and desktop
However, there are a few providers that do offer genuinely excellent free services. They do come with certain caveats compared to their premium cousins, but as long as you are aware of the differences between the two offerings, a free VPN can be a hugely powerful and useful tool – both on mobile and desktop.
The VPNs in the list above were selected by ProPrivacy.com’s experts, who carefully reviewed every free VPN on the market. All of our VPN recommendations are transparent about how they handle user data. They also provide up-to-date encryption implementation that can be trusted to protect your privacy and hide your internet activity at all times.
During our research, we considered the following attributes:
- Encryption availability and implementation
- Server locations and availability
- VPN speeds and performance levels
- Reputation and history
- Relationships with third parties such as advertising and marketing firms
All the free VPNs that we selected for you offer a planthat is completely free. None of them require you to hand over your credit card details to download and use their service.
For more information, check out our free VPNs explained video:
How a free VPN works
The free VPN app connects your device (such as a PC, Mac or smartphone) to a server run by the VPN provider. All data that travels between your device and the VPN server is encrypted to ensure that no-one else can see it. The VPN server acts as a gateway to the internet, and all your internet data is routed through it. As a result, your real location is concealed and you can pretend to be elsewhere.
If you’re new to VPNs, you can get up to speed quickly with our handy guides for beginners:
The benefits of free VPNs
A free VPN is a useful tool for people who need access to online information or websites that are blocked. When governments block websites – including social media platforms, or Voice Over IP (VoIP) messengers such as Skype – a VPN will help you to:
When you travel overseas for business or pleasure, a VPN will let you access websites from back home and allow you to:
- Use online banking services that are restricted to your home country
- Log in to online services that are only available in your home country
- Watch regionally restricted online TV channels while you are on vacation
A VPN provides online security at home and on public WiFi. No matter whether you are on vacation or using the internet in a local coffee shop, a VPN:
- Protects your login and passwords
- Stop cybercriminals stealing your credit card details
- Connect to any WiFi, at any time, without worrying about ‘evil twin’ hotspots
- Protect against KRACK vulnerability
- Finally, a reliable free VPN will stop your ISP and the government, from keeping tabs on what you do online.
Free VPN restrictions and limitations
If you decide to use a recommended free service, the VPN will be more limited than one of our recommended premium (paid) VPN subscriptions. This is because the trustworthy free VPN plans we recommend in this article are designed to tempt users into eventually upgrading to a paid (unrestricted) subscription. Thus, free VPN plans may do some (or all) of the following:
- Cap the amount of data you are allowed to download via the VPN
- Limit the bandwidth (connection speed) making your internet too slow to stream, etc
- Only provide access to a few server locations (that many people use and become congested – causing more connection speed problems)
- Limits what you are allowed to do with the VPN (blocks Netflix or disallows torrenting)
- May not provide full customer support because you are a free user
Free VPN servers
Some providers advertise connections to free VPN servers. This is to differentiate between the number of servers available on the premium (paid) plans and the free plan. Some VPNs that offer a free plan restrict access to free users to only a smaller selection of free servers. For all intents and purposes, however, a VPN with free servers is exactly the same as a “free VPN”.
Some of the worst free VPNs
If you use one of ProPrivacy.com’s recommended free virtual private networks, you do not need to worry about privacy and online security. All of our recommendations offer the same level of data protection, encryption, features (such as a killswitch or DNS leak protection), and watertight privacy policies – on both paid and free plans.
This is not always true of every free VPN provider. We’ve scoured the policy terms of all the providers and listed some free VPNs you should avoid at all costs.
|VPN||Why avoid?||Extra info|
|Hola||Can sell data to third parties* Shares emails with marketing partners. Sells traffic data to sister firm. Shared anonymized data to third parties.||Fraudulently steals & resells user bandwidth through sister company Luminati. DNS and WebRTC leaks detected.|
|Betternet||Can sell data to third parties.* Allows advertisers to cookie users’ browsers. Displays targeted advertising. Parent firm can access all data.||Lets advertisers track and log user data. IP Leak in Chrome browser extension. Contains 14 tracking libraries in total (according to CSIRO report).|
|Psiphon||Can sell data to third parties.* Allows ad partners to track users. Displays targeted advertising.||Shares data with their advertising partners. Shares data with third-party affiliates and partners. Shares all data with parent company.|
|HoxxVPN||Can sell data to third parties.* Isn’t a VPN (it’s a ShadowScos proxy service). DNS and WebRTC leaks. Tracks user activities and works with authorities.||Keeps logs and sells them to third-party partners. Shares data with third-party affiliates and partners.|
|SuperVPN||Willing to disclose information to authorities. Reports of it being infected with malware. Tracks user activities and works with authorities.||Extensive access to user’s sensitive information. Stores session logs in the UK and US.|
|ArchieVPN||Reports of being heavily infested with malware.||Performs real-time analysis (claims this is for troubleshooting only).|
|Onavo Project||Can sell data to third parties.* Uses user info for advertising and marketing. Displays ads to users.||Belongs to Facebook. Shares and sells user data with third parties.|
|VPN by Apalon||Invasive app permissions. Shares data with third parties for marketing purposes.||Displays ads.In-app purchases.|
|Tuxler VPN||Can sell data to third parties*. Uses logs to target ads at users.||Shares user browsing data with advertising firms.|
|GO VPN||Can sell data to third parties*. Admits to using customer data to build out their database. Displays targeted ads through the platform.||Belongs to Chinese firm Talking Data. Willing to sell usage logs to third parties and partners. Extremely invasive app permissions.|
|Hexatech||Can sell data to third parties*. Allows advertisers to track and log user data. Advertisers can access user data whenever they want.||Created by Betternet (belongs to a marketing firm). Displays ads to users.|
|TouchVPN||Can sell data to third parties*. Adds Cookies, Pixel Tags and Web Beacons to user browsers.||Shares anonymous data with third parties.|
|FinchVPN||Can sell data to third parties*. Reports of being heavily infested with malware.||N/A|
|Cross VPN||Reports of being heavily infested with malware.||N/A|
|VPN OneClick Free||Reports of being heavily infested with malware. Outdated PPTP encryption on Android.||Based in the UAE.|
|Flash Free VPN||Invasive app permissions.||Uses 11 third-party tracking libraries.|
|Fast Secure Payment VPN||Reports of being heavily infested with malware.||N/A|
|sFly Network Booster||Reports of being heavily infested with malware.||N/A|
|IP-Shield VPN||Contains third-party tracking software.||N/A|
|WiFi Protector VPN||Uses 5 tracking libraries.||N/A|
|TigerVPNs||Fraudulently steals and resells users bandwidth.||N/A|
|Private WiFi||Appears to have poor or no encryption.||N/A|
What can I use a free VPN for?
Using a free VPN for streaming
People who want to unblock streaming services like BBC iPlayer require a VPN service that provides high speeds. Streaming with a VPN also requires a VPN with a large network of servers that doesn’t suffer from congestion. Free VPNs usually don’t support highly in-demand streaming sites such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime Video.
If streaming is your main desire, a free service might not always suffice. However, because these recommended VPNs cost nothing – it will do no harm to try them.
There are some fantastic cheap VPN services on the market that will let you unblock content on streaming services from anywhere in the world, in HD. These services provide high speeds, strong encryption and cost less than $2 a month.
Using a free VPN for torrenting
A free VPN is not likely to be good for downloading via BitTorrent. This is because there’s no such thing as a truly unlimited free VPN (that also provides strong privacy levels). Free VPN download limits and speed restrictions can make downloading via Peer-to-Peer time-consuming and difficult. If you want a VPN to torrent with ease, you will need a VPN with unlimited data and no speed restrictions. Why not check out our Torrenting VPN to see our recommendations.
Using a free VPN service to bypass censorship
Free VPNs have shown their worth time and time again when governments around the world block websites. During times of political upheaval, as well as during protests and riots, governments often block websites. In some countries, websites may be blocked on religious or moral grounds. A VPN can help people bypass these restrictions. Free VPNs have helped many people in acute times of need.
However, please remember that accessing government-restricted content could land you in trouble with the authorities. In the very worst cases, you could go to jail, or worse. For this reason, it is wise to consider your local environment.
If you are in a ‘high risk’ location such as China, UAE (Dubai), Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea, or Pakistan – and plan to visit high-risk websites, great care should be taken to ensure you only use a secure VPN with strong encryption. The free VPNs in this guide should provide what you need to bypass censorship securely (please check each summary carefully), but if you have concerns feel free to contact us via the link at the end of this article.
If you are wondering whether a free VPN will unblock sites, such as Popcorn Time, The Pirate Bay, putlocker – or other websites blocked by ISPs – the answer is yes!