Tracking down the best VPNs can be an excellent way to give yourself an extra layer of protection in today’s digital age without spending a fortune.
VPNs are becoming increasingly popular as people strive to protect their identity and browsing habits. Plus, access to a VPN can also help you to unlock more of the benefits of the internet by allowing you to stream content from different countries. By 2026, experts say the VPN market will be worth a massive $33.95 billion, representing a 15.57% growth.
Unfortunately, for today’s consumers with various pre-existing bills and expenses to consider, VPNs can be a difficult expense to justify. Free VPNs offer a budget-friendly alternative, but like any freebie, these products come with their limitations.
Today, we’re going to be looking at the best free VPNs you can use to protect your browsing.
Is a free VPN good enough?
A free VPN (Virtual Private Network) seems like the perfect alternative to expensive online protection at first. You get access to essential anonymity online, unblocked streaming, and a more private browsing experience, without the enormous expense.
Unfortunately, there are always limitations to getting something for free.
Unsurprisingly, even the best free VPNs aren’t going to compare with leading paid solutions. Providers can only afford to offer limited functionality without asking for a subscription fee in return. The more you’re willing to pay, the more your provider can reward you with bonus features like extra firewalls, or better data limits.
Though free VPNs are limited, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re risking your security by using one. There are a few decent offerings out there, but you’ll need to be extra cautious you’re not signing up for a fraudulent service.
For most people a free VPN will only be enough to test the basics of what the technology can do. If you really want to leverage the potential of a virtual private network, you’ll need to upgrade to a premium service. The good news is most of them can be quite affordable.
So before we get stuck in to our list of the best free VPNs, it’s worth looking at some of the leading paid VPNs that can cost as little as around $2 per month and will give you much better performance and protection.
We have reviewed more than two hundred VPN providers, both free and paid, and our top recommendation right now is ExpressVPN. Given the risks of using free VPNs, we think the price is absolutely worthwhile – plus, it comes with a no-questions-asked 30 day money back guarantee, too.
Chances are, even if you don’t know a lot about virtual private networks you may have heard of NordVPN. It advertises on TV, sponsors sports teams and has been a leader in the market for over seven years. Nord doesn’t quite lead the way right now but it’s still a fantastic service and currently $3.31 USD per month.
Still too expensive? Then look no further than Surfshark. From just $2.21 USD per month it’s a fantastic, premium option that’s unbelievably simple to use and has become one of our favorite VPNs. It offers most of the same features as the other top services, just for less money.
What are the best free VPNs?
While there are dozens of free VPNs, some are definitely safer and more beneficial than others. We’ve tested some of the top-rated VPNs with free functionality available today, to bring you this list.
What We Like
What We Don’t Like
ProtonVPN is one of the most popular VPN solutions on the market today, both for its paid and free versions. The free offering from this company is one of the most generous on the market, with a host of amazing features to explore, and an unlimited data allowance.
The ProtonVPN free package is the only official provider we’ve found which offers unlimited data, which means you can set your system running and essentially forget about it.
Based in Switzerland, the VPN will shield your data without taking any logs of your content whatsoever. This offers excellent peace of mind for today’s browsers. The secure core servers route your traffic through privacy-friendly countries to reduce the risk of sophisticated attacks too.
There’s a dedicated kill switch to protect your IP address if you lose access, and DNS leak prevention built-in. Plus, you’ll have comprehensive “WireGuard” control, which protects your traffic using some of the most well-respected protocols available.
While the global network offered by ProtonVPN can’t access regional-exclusive Netflix content on the free plan, you can watch Netflix originals, and YouTube videos from around the world. Upgrading to a paid plan will take your streaming to the next level.
While, like all free VPNs, there are limitations to what you can do with ProtonVPN’s free package, they’re not deal breakers for beginners. You’ll find speeds drop during peak times, even with your VPN accelerator technology in place. You’ll also only have access for one device at a time, though the platform can support all operating systems.
It’s also worth noting there’s no P2P or secure core support included with the free package of ProtonVPN and you’ll only be able to switch between three locations.
On the plus side, compared to the competitors in the free VPN space, it’s hard to find a solution as comprehensive or generous as this. ProtonVPN’s free package, with its unlimited data plan, custom DNS servers, split tunnelling, and zero-logging policy, makes for a highly compelling offer.
What We Like
What We Don’t Like
Delivering one of the best paid VPNs on the market, Hotspot Shield has already earned the attention of countless companies and consumers, including names like Bloomberg, PCWorld, and WSJ. Hotspot Shield is currently ranked as the world’s fastest VPN for 2020, and it has millions of downloads worldwide.
The free version of the application is also surprisingly impressive, with many great benefits to offer people with a limited budget. Though you won’t get the same level of speed you’d expect from the paid version of the VPN, you’ll still get a great overall performance.
Additionally, the 500mb daily data allowance is pretty generous compared to what you can expect from most VPN providers. If you don’t have a lot of demands with your browsing habits, you’ll probably do fine with this service.
Perhaps the most impressive factor of Hotspot Shield’s free VPN, is how easy it is to use. From the moment you open the app, you’ll get an ultra-professional bit of kit, perfect for managing your VPN services. You’ll also be able to see all the premium servers available in-app, though as a free user you’ll only be able to use a single location.
Despite a number of benefits, Hotspot Shield’s free VPN does have some issues. For instance, users have reported problems with accessing Google Search previously – although this seems to be less common of late. Additionally, Hotspot shield also blocks Netflix for free users. This means you can’t watch anything via streaming when you have your VPN switched on.
There have been some additional concerns about advertising and logging raised about this VPN system too. Some people believe the technology injects ads into your browsing experience, which might help them to make some extra money off free users. However, you might not notice any real difference if you’re used to seeing ads around the web anyway.
The primary issue for most users will be the information the provider collects about users, such as the bandwidth used, the operating system, and the time you connect to the VPN. Although the free package from Hotspot Shield is pretty capable, there are more flexible and secure options out there, particularly if you’re worried about logging.
What We Like
What We Don’t Like
Though lesser-known than some of the other best free VPNs on this list, PrivadoVPN is gaining attention fast in the current market. Today’s online browsers can use the technology to easily protect their online data, without spending a penny. The free service has proven to be very capable, and it features a number of useful capabilities.
To begin, you’ll have access to a fantastic 10GB monthly data limit, which is a lot more generous than you can expect from some alternative companies. As an added bonus, the browsing experience is also wonderfully straightforward. You shouldn’t have to deal with annoying CAPTCHAs whenever you’re searching on Google and similar sites.
Privado has been recommended by a host of leading technology companies, in part thanks to its Swiss location. Because the VPN is located in Switzerland, like ProtonVPN, you don’t have to worry about any logs at all. There’s also the option to safely access the VPN on any device.
You’ll have access to a total of 12 global servers with this VPN, and you can sort your server list in a variety of different ways. For instance, you might decide to list by alphabetization, or latency. There’s also the auto connect feature and kill switch to make things even easier for you when you get online.
Overall, PrivadoVPN might not be the fastest VPN solution on the market when you’re accessing the free service. However, the speeds you get will be more than enough in most cases to keep you smoothly browsing online.
4. Hide.me Free
What We Like
What We Don’t Like
The Hide.me free VPN provider and proxy browser is a compelling recent addition to the free VPN space. The solution promises a lifetime free VPN, so you don’t have to worry about having to pay a fortune as soon as a trial period runs out. The system is also P2P supported on all 5 free locations, which isn’t an option with all providers.
Like some of the other top free VPNs listed here, the Hide.me ecosystem comes with access to a decent amount of data, starting with 10GB of usage per month. There’s no speed throttling to worry about, no ads, and no trackers. What’s more, the company promises absolutely no logs.
Although Hide.me isn’t quite as advanced as some of the other standout providers on the market today, it’s really worth considering, particularly as a freebie. Hide.me is perfect if you like to mess around with your systems and settings as a VPN user, with various customizable features.
The custom features available to free users include a favorite list for servers, so you can reorder and adjust your server options to suit your needs. There’s also split tunnelling, and a kill switch, as well as a stealth guard for extra protection.
With various protocols and customization options to explore, Hide.me is quickly gaining attention as a powerful pick for anyone who doesn’t have a fortune to spend on new technology. However, there are some limitations, including the 10GB data limit per month.
However, if you can get beyond the fact there’s no unlimited data option, and you like having the opportunity to experiment a little more with your tech, Hide.me could be the right choice for you.
What We Like
What We Don’t Like
Windscribe is one of the better-known VPN providers on the market today, with a phenomenal premium service. In fact, the paid version of Windscribe is one of the top-rated VPNs on the market. This excellent functionality translates to the tool’s free VPN offering too.
When you sign up, you’ll have an opportunity to choose either 2GB per month if you don’t want to provide your email address, or 10GB of data per month if you’re willing to share your information. You’ll also be able to select from a wide range of servers on any plan, including Europe, North America, and Hong Kong.
Upgrading to a paid plan definitely gives you more options with Windscribe, but the free VPN is extremely generous all the same. You can also access Netflix in most cases, but it’s worth remembering that access guidelines keep changing, so you might not be able to find the streaming service you want from time to time.
Still, whether you’re using Netflix or not, you’ll have access to an extensive ad-blocker with Windscribe, as well as a firewall, and the promise of absolutely no logging for your data.
On the other hand, it’s worth remembering any free application won’t be perfect. The interface for Windscribe is a little tricky to navigate and changing your settings can be quite a headache. You can always stick to the recommended settings and simply turn things off and on when you need them.
Perhaps the biggest problem for most people will be that neither the free nor premium versions of the Windscribe VPN come with 24/7 support. This means it’s hard to find extra assistance if something goes wrong with your connection.
Despite this, Windscribe is still a powerful free VPN, whether you choose to go free or otherwise, so it’s worth doing some additional research.
How to choose a free VPN?
Research is crucial when choosing any VPN. Around 68% of adults in the US are now using one of these services, and 96% say their service is somewhat, or very effective. This should mean if you’re willing to do your homework, you’ll end up with decent results.
However, the last couple of years has led to a rising number of digital security and privacy issues, particularly during the pandemic. As a result, the number of companies offering access to VPNs has increased, as brands look to take advantage of a rising demand for safety online.
When comparing your options, ask yourself:
#1. What is the business model?
Providers don’t just offer free things out of the goodness of their heart. If you’re going to be accessing free services from someone, find out what the company gets in return. For instance, they might regularly push you to upgrade to a premium package, which is fine, or they may attempt to sell your data to third parties.
#2. How does it protect you?
VPNs are all about security and privacy, so make sure you know exactly how your VPN is going to keep you safe. Most providers offer technology which simply runs in the background of your desktop or your smartphone. This can only solve part of the problem, however. Look for a solution like Windscribe, which offers additional protection in the form of an ad-blocker too.
#3. What are the limitations?
There will always be limitations on a free VPN service, so ask yourself what you’re going to lose by choosing a free product. You can usually expect a free product to cut more corners, giving you less data, reduced ad blocking, and perhaps even removing access to P2P solutions.
#4. What is the logging policy?
Ideally, you’ll want to ensure your VPN isn’t storing any crucial information or internet activity. You can usually check this in the terms and conditions page or the end user license agreement. However, a lot of providers can try to hide significant details about their operations, so be prepared to do some hunting.
#5. Can you sign up anonymously?
If you want to avoid handing your email address over to your VPN provider, you’ll need to look for this option when finding the ideal provider. Some solutions will give you this option for absolute privacy, while others will need at least some basic contact details from you.
Free VPN FAQ
Finishing thoughts on the best free VPNs
Ultimately, free VPNs are only ever going to be capable of so much. When you’re not willing to pay for your service, you’ll need to give up on some things, like access to insane speeds, or additional customer support, security, and privacy.
However, if you’re just looking for a taste of what’s possible, you can start with a VPN and work your way up to a paid service from there.