Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have been around for years, if not decades. And while the vast majority of the secure and reliable services are paid, there are some really good free VPN options worth looking at if, say, you’re working with a limited budget.
Just keep in mind that free VPNs often come with some limitations, which we’ll also cover in this guide.
What are the best free VPNs?
If you’re in a hurry, then we’ll get to the point.
Here’s the quickfire rundown of the top 5 free VPNs as picked by our editorial team:
Why do I need to use a VPN?
VPNs can be used to change location and unblock geo-restricted and censored content, such as foreign versions of Netflix and other streaming services, news sites, and more.
However, their main purpose is to keep you and your data safe as you browse the web.
VPNs are compatible with various operating systems, like Windows, Android, iOS, Mac, and others. They also often come with extensions for browsers, like Chrome, Firefox and Opera.
The majority of the VPNs recommended in this guide work with external platforms including Android TV, Amazon Fire TV sticks and Apple TV.
Are VPNs free? (Some are)
|Free VPNs exist, but with most of them, there’s usually a catch.|
For example, with the legit, free services, you’d normally get limited access where limits are imposed in the form of free trial periods, freemium plans, data and/or speed caps or restricted access to VPN servers.
The other group of so-called “free” VPNs are shady apps you simply must avoid. And that’s because they’re a genuine risk to your privacy and security.
In other words, the complete opposite of what you should be getting from a VPN.
A good VPN will almost always require a paid subscription. But we’ve tested, reviewed and ranked them so you know which one to go for without having to do a ton of research.
Check out our recommendations of the best VPNs.
That said, there are some VPNs that can be used for free and are still capable of protecting you adequately.
The best free VPN services: full analysis 🏆
|To help you pick a free VPN that will protect you and your data properly (and not record your online activities and sell them), we have tested and selected a handful of top-notch services.|
These are VPNs offering a good selection of servers, they come with a wide variety of security and privacy features, and they are located in privacy-friendly jurisdictions.
That means that they are headquartered in countries that respect user privacy better than most other nations.
As such, their laws allow these VPNs to deliver on their promises of keeping no logs of your online activities.
- Free plan with 3 VPN servers
- Strong security features
- Transparent, open source & audited company
- Allows torrenting
- User-friendly apps
- Up to 10 connections
- Great customer support
- Not the fastest
- Doesn't work in China
ProtonVPN is a Swiss-based VPN service that offers a completely free plan.
Being located in Switzerland — a country with strong privacy laws — ProtonVPN is very security-oriented.
It offers a premium VPN, but it does have a full free plan, staying true to its value in that ‘everyone has a right to privacy’.
Its free plan does come with certain limitations, however. For instance, you only get access to a few servers. Three, to be exact.
But there’s no difference as far as security features go.
Windscribe free plan: 10GB of monthly data
- 10GB of data free per month
- Ad & malware block features
- Great speeds with WireGuard support
- Works in China
- Allows torrenting
- Good support & has active user forums
- Hasn't been audited
- No RAM-only servers
Next, we have Windscribe — another VPN that lets you choose between free and premium plans.
This VPN caters well to users on a tight budget, which is why it lets you use its services for free. It is not unlimited, but it does have a generous cap that grants you 10GB per month.
However, it also offers users extra features by going Pro, such as unlimited bandwidth, the ability to unlock all locations, ad, tracker, and malware blocker, and more.
There is also a third option, for those who find themselves in need of extra features, but don’t want to go for a full plan, and that is the ability to create your own plan, with its price based on the features you want to add.
- 500MB per month free
- Fast OpenVPN speeds
- Very easy-to-use apps
- Strong encryption & no leaks
- No identifiable logs
- Works in China
- Allows torrenting
- Ad blocker & anti-tracking tools
- Limited server network
- Doesn't work on routers
TunnelBear is another VPN with premium and free plans offered side by side.
Essentially, TunnelBear’s free plan is pretty good, apart from one major downside — it only lets you use 500MB of data per month.
Unfortunately, there is not much that you can do with 500MB on a monthly basis, and chances are that you will spend this with only a handful of streamed videos.
If you wish to use it beyond the limit, you will have to go for the Pro version, which requires you to pay.
Simiilar, to our previous pick, Hotspot Shield is another VPN — and a well-known one — that offers 500MB of free bandwidth per day.
On the free plan, you’ll still get the same strong AES encryption, access to the kill switch feature as well as multi-protocol selection in the app.
However, the rest of Hotspot Shield’s free service is rather limited in comparison to its paid plans.
That said, if you can make do with 500 MB of data per day, one location (US) and a maximum connection speed of 2Mbps, then it’s probably worth trying out this VPN.
Keep in mind — you can always upgrade to one of the paid plans, if needed.
- 7-day free trial
- Great speeds
- Huge server network
- Strong AES-256-GCM encryption
- Allows torrents
- Phone support available
- Simplistic apps
- Based in UK
- Doesn't work in China
HideMyAss (HMA) is a paid VPN that offers a 7-day free trial.
With the trial, you’ll be able to use all of HMA’s features, including getting access to more than 1,000 VPN servers located in over 200 countries. Note though that some of these will be virtual locations.
Furthermore, HMA works with Netflix and other streaming services. And with a limit of up to 10 simultaneous connections, you can easily secure the majority of the connected devices in your household.
To get access to the HideMyAss free trial, you’ll still need to enter your card details when registering. But that said, you won’t actually be billed before the end of the trial.
Unlimited free VPN: does it exist?
The most well-known example of a free and unlimited VPN is VPN Gate — an academic project by the National University of Tsukuba, Japan.
Its VPN network is run by volunteers, meaning servers are deployed by various individuals. Throughput and overall connection stability also varies widely depending on the node you’re connecting to.
Before using VPN Gate for privacy purposes, you should know that all of its servers have a two-week logging policy.
Worst free VPNs you must avoid
As mentioned, there are plenty of free VPNs that you would do well to stay away from.
On its free plan, HolaVPN even harvests your web traffic data which really does defeat the whole purpose of using a VPN.
There are other providers that are equally popular, and equally bad, such as Turbo VPN, Snap VPN, and VPN Master.
They openly state that they may transfer user data to China or Singapore, and that they log almost everything.
But, users tend to ignore that if the VPN is free, and thus they put their privacy at risk.
🤔 FAQs: all you need to know about free VPNs
|Lastly, we’ll answer a number of questions that new VPN users often have. Hopefully, these will give you some extra insights into free VPNs, what they are, how they work, and whether or not you should use them.|
What is a free VPN? 🤷♀️
A free VPN, as the name suggests, is a VPN that you can use without paying for its services.
These VPNs have found ways to make money for maintaining their servers and teams in some other way, and so you do not have to spend money to use them.
They are typically available in the form of browser extensions and mobile apps, unless they end up discovered to be malicious. In that case, Google and Apple will likely quickly remove them from their app stores.
How do free VPNs work? ⚙️
Free VPNs work similarly to premium services, only they have to come up with the funds for their features in some other way, instead of receiving them from users. While this may sound great — not having to pay for it — it is only half true.
You may not be paying for their services with money, but you are likely paying with your data.
There are only a rare few VPN services that offer premium and free plans, but their free plan is limited enough for users to eventually upgrade to the premium one.
The free plan then remains for new users who wish to test the service, or for those who truly cannot afford to pay for a VPN, but need to protect their sensitive information online.
Are free VPNs safe? 🔐
Unfortunately, the large majority of free VPNs are not safe.
Even if a VPN is legitimate, and it was not set up by a malicious entity hoping to exploit users — which happens sometimes — most of of the legit ones will typically offer limited data, servers and maybe lack certain advanced features.
How do free VPNs make money? 💸
Without you paying for them, free VPNs have to make money some other way.
The VPNs that are safe to use will often offer paid services. But they’ll usually try and upsell the features available on the paid plans.
The more sinister alternative is for shady VPNs to log your data and then sell it to the highest bidder.
Usually, these are advertising firms that aim to gather your data and target you with more relevant ads.
However, the company is unlikely care about who buys your data as long as it gets the money for it, so it might be willing to sell to the government, or even some shadier entities, such as hackers.
Free vs paid VPNs: what’s the difference? ⚖️
The differences between free and paid VPN services are many, and the bad news is that free VPNs do not have a single advantage over paid services, apart from the fact that they are free.
Premium services offer better protection, more servers, more server locations, and better speed. They truly do not keep users’ logs, or at least, they keep only some essential connection logs, but usually do not record your online activity.
Things that they might record is how long you use their VPN, or other data that would only prove that you are a VPN user.
Next, free VPNs typically don’t support torrenting or compatibility with streaming services like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and alike.
Which free VPN is best? ⭐
Given that free VPNs are guaranteed to be limited, choosing the best one will depend on which limitation will be least inconvenient for you.
For example, if you need a continuously free service with no data caps, then our top pick — ProtonVPN — would be the best option.
But if you’re fine with data caps and prefer to have access to more server locations, then Windscribe is likely to be your safest bet.
What free VPN works with Netflix? 📺
With “true” free VPNs, you will likely never find any that work with Netflix as streaming support tends to be used to upsell their paid services.
To be able to watch Netflix with a VPN, you’ll almost certainly need to subscribe to a paid service.
Check out our Best VPNs for Netflix guide to find which VPN providers still actually work with Netflix.
These days, there aren’t that many.
Will a free VPN protect me when torrenting? 📁
Your free VPN will keep your torrent traffic secure as long as it allows P2P traffic and gives you enough data for all of your torrenting needs.
However, in most cases with free services, you either won’t have access to P2P-friendly servers or your data caps will be too limiting to enjoy any kind of torrenting activity.
Where to get a free VPN? 🔎
You can get any of the VPNs that we mentioned by heading to their websites.
VPNs are not blocked by Google, so you can easily find their sites and create an account.
After that, you can simply download the apps from the app stores, or add them to your browser in the form of an extension.
Pretty much all of them even have desktop apps, which you can download from their websites directly.
Free VPN services recapped
Now that you’re a little more familiar with free VPN services, it’s a perfect time to try one out.
Here’s a quick recap of the best VPN apps that you can use to some extent without having to pay or permanently part with your money.
- ProtonVPN. Access to three locations with unlimited data.
- Windscribe. 10GB of free monthly data.
- TunnelBear. 500MB of free monthly data.
- Hotspot Shield. 500MB of free bandwidth per day
- HideMyAss. 7-day free trial with all features included.