Everyone likes free things, and VPNs are no exception. These days, there are many free VPN services available in the community. However, they are not all the same. Of course, there are major risks involved in trusting a company to protect your privacy. None of them are perfect, but some are not worth using. Because of that, we’re going to take a look at some of the best options around. As privacy advocates, we take your privacy seriously. That’s why these suggestions are about companies we would use ourselves.
What is a VPN?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. The big reasons to use one are to protect your privacy and help you get around geo-restrictions. The best free service available to help you meet those needs is Privado VPN. While the company itself is relatively new on the scene, the team behind it has many years of experience in the industry. On their free plan, they offer 10GB of free data per month with no ads or data logging. We recommend them over everyone else in this case, because of the advanced features and protocols they offer. Although the paid version has 47 countries, you get access to twelve servers in eight countries with a free account.
5 Best Free VPN Services
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All five of the free VPN services we are about to mention either have a limit, either in the amount of data you can use of download speed. In other words, you can use the specified amount of data each month, but then you have to stop. All of the options are freemium, so they offer limited data and servers to users to give them a chance to test the service for free. If you like it and want more data then you can upgrade for unlimited access. They all know how competitive the market is, and hope you upgrade. VPN services are expensive to run, and every company needs a path to profit. We’d much rather see companies that have an upgrade option instead of pushing ads, tracking your activities, or selling your data. Be wary of any company that does not offer a premium plan.
Let’s take a closer look at the best free VPN services. All of them offer no-log VPN which means they will not track your usage. They also have a VPN kill switch feature to help protect your privacy. While there are lots of free VPN options, these are the only ones we have tested and trust enough to recommend.
Despite being new, Privado is one of the most trustworthy providers in the community. As we mentioned, privacy is important to us. It is also important to them. That is why the company registered its service in Switzerland. Many know the Swiss for their strong levels of privacy control and user friendly rules on online privacy. On the streaming side, they will help you unblock geo-restrictions for all the top streaming services. That includes being able to change regions for options like Netflix or using services that are region specific like BBC iPlayer. Once you see how good the service is, you can get unlimited monthly data, Socks5 Proxy, and full access to their entire network from just $4.99 a month.
Even though the company gives you the service for free, they do something unique. If you decide to sign up for a paid plan they also give you a 30-day money-back guarantee. That is unusual because you can already use the service for free and test it out. In addition to the easy to use apps they offer for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Amazon Firestick, and Android TV, they support P2P traffic and offer 24/7 customer support. If you have questions, they are glad to help. With a premium account, you can connect on up to 10 devices simultaneously.
Privado VPN’s interface is straight-forward and easy to use. You only need to click the keyhole to connect. If you want to change servers, you just need to click the arrow on the right-hand side of the console to access it. For this demonstration, we are using Windows 11.
As you can see here, the user interface is easy to navigate. To access the features, click on the menu icon in the upper left hand corner. That takes you to the preferences screen. Here, under general, you can select the Kill Switch, Auto Start, and Auto Connect features. Under the protocol tab, you’ll be very happy to see they offer three protocols. OpenVPN, IKEv2, and WireGuard. While experts consider OpenVPN ito be the gold standard, they consider WireGuard and IKEv2 to be Next Generation Encryption. The last two options will generally have lower overhead than OpenVPN.
If you elect to go with the free service, the countries you can choose servers in are the US, Canada, Mexico, France, the UK, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, and Argentina. Again, you can upgrade anytime to gain unlimited access to their network of servers in 47 countries. First though, sign up for free to test out their service. I think you’ll be impressed with the speed.
ProtonVPN has a good reputation in the VPN community. Although they mostly deal with premium plans, they offer a small free program. The company lists the servers in the free version as medium speed. It gives you access to 23 servers located in three countries. These countries are Japan, the Netherlands, and the United States. Unfortuantely, the free servers offer very little. You have slow speeds with no adblocker, streaming, or P2P support. Their hope is by limiting what they offer, you’ll upgrade the service. Even with the free account, they offer a strict no logs policy and 3rd party audited software.
Of course, upgrading will give you access to over 1400 high speed servers in 61 different countries. as you can guess, the free plan is free. the basic plan gives you access to high speed servers in more than 40 countries, 2 simultaneous VPN connections, and is $4 a month billed annually. The plus plan for $5.99 a month for the first year lets you access the highest speed servers, gives you ten simultaneous connections, allows you to do Tor over VPN for more security, allows streaming service and P2P support, and gives you access to more than 1400 servers in 61 countries. Their final plan combines ProtonVPN with ProtonMail for $24 a month. That gives you access to all plus plan features as well as a ProtonMail Visionary account.
Hide.Me is a no-log VPN based in Malaysia. The VPN service offers both free and paid tiers. As you might guess, their free accounts are limited. However, the cap is considerate. You can use up to 10 GB of bandwidth a month across the 5 countries they include. If you want access to their full network of server in 47 countries then you can upgrade to a paid plan from just $3.00 a month. As with the other services on our list, Hide.me is a strict no-log VPN. They have a kill switch feature in their Windows app which will help you stay protected anytime the connection drops. This will happen more frequently for those with unstable Internet connections.
Windscribe launched earlier this year. You have a number of options when using the service. For starters you can download their proxy extension for Google Chrome, Opera, or Firefox. We prefer a full VPN solution and Windscibe has client software for both Windows and Mac. They also have a mobile app for iOS users. Windscribe Pro users can download the StrongSwan client from Google Play to connect to their network. Pro members can also connect via Linux. You can sign up for free VPN access and upgrade at any time. We appreciate that Windsscribe accepts Bitcoin in addition to PayPal, credit cards, and Paymentwall. You will need to use PayPal or credit card for automatic renewals.
We’ve had the pleasure of watching TunnelBear grow over the years. They offer one of the best VPN services on the market and are our favorite free VPN service. As with all our free VPNs, TunnelBear has a limit on the account. You can connect to any of their server locations in 18 countries and enjoy up to 500 MB of data usage a month. The TunnelBear team offers ways to add more free usage. You can tweet about the service to earn 1 GB of data usage. Either way you have free access to their network of VPN servers around the world. Even with the download cap, the limit is high enough to protect your privacy and test the service.
TunnelBear tries to make their client software as easy to use as possible. They have developed a very nice user interface. The clean design includes a simple on / off switch to connect and a drop down list to select a server location. Let’s take a closer look at the software running on Windows 11.
As you can see the TunnelBear client has a similar look and feel to a car radio. You can see whether or not you are connected and the plan being used. In the case of the free “Little” plan which caps at 500 MB a month you can also see your remaining usage. From there you have a drop down box that let’s you select a server location. To connect you simply toggle the dial to ON. To disconnect you just toggle it back to OFF. That’s all there is to it.
The TunnelBear team takes your privacy seriously whether you’re using their free service or upgrade to a paid membership. The client interface is easy to use but that doesn’t mean they missed important privacy settings. The TunnelBear blog will give you an introduction to their more advanced features like Vigilant and IntelliBear.
Sometimes you get what you pay for so be careful when using free VPN services. You might find that while the service is free, you are actually the product. This is especially true for VPNs that don’t have any way to upgrade to a paid membership. You can bet they are making money other ways. Some VPNs will log your usage and sell it off to advertisers, data brokers, or worse as shown by Hola. That is not the case with the providers in our list. They all take your privacy seriously.
I understand if you’re in a situation where you need the privacy protection of a VPN but can’t afford to spend any money. If that’s the case, please be careful when choosing a VPN provider. There have been plenty of services that have gone from very popular free VPNs to villains overnight when users found they were selling off their data or far worse. Hola is a good example The free VPN was selling users bandwidth for use in botnet attacks. Stick with one of the free VPNs on our list and consider upgrading to a paid plan in the future. This will help support their efforts to continue offering free VPN access.