When it comes to free VPN downloads, a lot separates the best from the worst. Here are our best free VPN tips.
Downloading a VPN has become a very popular way to get an extra layer of online security. While also providing extra perks such as unblocking restricted websites – so the prospect of getting a free VPN is understandably attractive.
The good news is that there are stacks of free VPN options around these days and some of these some are actually fairly good. They’re never going to match the overall best premium services. They’ll still help keep your online communications as private as possible by encrypting all internet traffic to and from your computer.
If all you need from your VPN is to keep you encrypted when checking emails or browsing on public Wi-Fi, then grabbing a free VPN can pay dividends.
However, if you’ll be using it for any extended period of time your data limit is soon going to run dry – and don’t even think about streaming Netflix with it.
Is a free VPN worth it?
Completely free VPN services often come with hidden prices. If it isn’t getting money from you, it’s getting funds from someone else – sometimes by selling your browsing history, borrowing your bandwidth or injecting ads into the sites you visit.
We would always recommend paying to upgrade to one of the best paid-for VPNs. They have full plans without any hidden costs, are totally secure and, crucially, have no limits on use. When you can pay as little as $2 a month for a fully featured service like Surfshark, there’s little reason to limit yourself with a hamstrung free VPN.
However, despite their drawbacks, free VPNs still prove popular. In fact, there’s far too great a selection to trawl through yourself – and that’s why we’ve rounded up the best free VPN services and apps out there right now.
Our rigorous testing found Hotspot Shield Free VPN to be the best free VPN online. That’s largely thanks to the 500Mb free use you get per day, amounting to roughly 15Gb per month, and it provided quick connections, too. However, read on for the full list of the best free VPN services available today.
The best VPN in the world right now is ExpressVPN, thanks to its rapid and robust connection, watertight security, huge amount of servers and apps for a whole host of devices. ExpressVPN even comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee trial, meaning you can effectively get it free for a month to give it a try. Sounds like the option for you? Sign up for 12 months and get an extra 3 months absolutely free!
Want to make your money go further? Check out the best cheap VPNs
1. Hotspot Shield Free VPN
- The best free VPN you can get right now
- Number of servers: 1 | Server locations: 1 | Maximum devices supported: 1 | Data limit: 500MB per day | 24/7 live chat: No500MB daily data allowance
- Easy to use
- Good security
- Set up can be difficult
We think Hotspot Shield Free VPN is the best free VPN for many reasons, including the ability to use up to five devices on the service at once with a daily data serving of 500MB, aka 15GB per month. On top of that, you’re protected by top-notch encryption so you know your online shopping is going to be in safe hands no matter what connection you’re on.
Once installed, Hotspot Shield Free VPN is really simple to use and just works, exactly what you want with a free service – and that applies to desktop and mobile app use. Everything zips along swiftly with a good connection you can largely rely on.
The only downsides are that you’ll have ads, are limited to automatic server location selections and need to go through a seven-day free trial of the premium version which requires your credit-card details, though it won’t be charged. And because the parent company is based in the U.S., it can’t turn away the FBI if it comes a-knockin’, although a 2017 transparency report says the company had never given law enforcement anything.
- Great identity protection for free
- Number of servers: 1,000 | Server locations: 20+ | Maximum devices supported: 5 | Data limit: 500MB per month | 24/7 live chat: Yes
- Totally user-friendly
- Excellent security guarantees
- Available on desktop and mobile
- Tiny data limit
The company behind TunnelBear is none other than security software giant McAfee, meaning you get a whole lot of development behind this service without paying a penny. That also means a clean and easy-to-use app that works on mobile or desktop.
There is very little personal data required for sign-up, meaning this is more secure than ever, especially considering it’s free to use. So this is a great free VPN for minimal use when you want access fast, like to check emails while travelling.
Do not think that you only get up to 500MB per month of free data. That’s a tiny amount – forget using your VPN for Netflix or, to be honest, for anything much more than checking your emails on public Wi-Fi.
- Generous on data and secure too
- Number of servers: 10+ | Server locations: 10+ | Maximum devices supported: 1 | Data limit: 10GB per month | 24/7 live chat: No
- Excellent privacy
- up to 10GB per month of free data
- Some of the fastest connection speeds
- Limited servers
Windscribe is among our top picks for paid VPN services, so it’s natural that its generous free tier would shine as well. It offers a whopping 10GB per month of free VPN use if you provide your email address when signing up – that’s much more than most other free VPNs can muster.
The free services also includes access to a choice of over 10 server locations, a built-in ad blocker and firewall, no-logs storage for security, and the option to use just a username and password to sign-up. Discretion is a keyword for Windscribe.
4. ProtonVPN Free
- The best data offering out there for a free VPN
- Number of servers: 3 | Server locations: 3 | Maximum devices supported: 1 | Data limit: Unlimited | 24/7 live chat: No
- Unlimited data allowance
- Great privacy
- Widely compatible
- Minimal server locations
If you want a free VPN and don’t want to be limited on data, then ProtonVPN’s free VPN is perfect for you. The unlimited data allowance makes this ideal for watching sports and shows that are geo-blocked.
The limitations, which may prompt you to upgrade, are access to just one device at a time, no P2P support, only three locations and lower speed prioritisation compared to paid users. On the plus side, there’s no logging in, making it very private, and there aren’t even ads you have to put up with. This works on a wide range of platforms, including Android, iOS, Windows, Mac and Linux.
Sounds too good to be true? Well, kind of. Expect speeds to drop at peak times when the paying users will get more of that precious bandwidth. There’s also a dearth in server locations with ProtonVPN – you’ll only have three to choose from with the free plan.
- Super secure speed
- Number of servers: 1000+ | Server locations: 50+ | Maximum devices supported: 1 | Data limit: 10GB per month | 24/7 live chat: No
- Performance boosters
- Superb privacy
- Needs multiple connections to use
Speedify, as the name suggests, is a VPN that offers great connection performance across more than 1,000 servers in over 50 countries, without scrimping on security.
You can enjoy a full encryption security system while the software’s turbo-boosting technology is able to make sure speeds stay at their maximum possible performance throughout your connection time.
This smart software lets you use multiple connections to enhance speed, for example both Wi-Fi and 4G data connections when on a mobile device – ensuring top performance speeds. The catch is that the mobile-data use might eat up your carrier’s allocation if it’s capped monthly.
Every month, Speedify allows you 10GB of free data, which refreshes every 30 days. This is a U.S.-based company, meaning it’s subject to federal search warrants, so be warned.
Who are free VPNs best for?
Even the best of these services are good for only occasional use, such as when traveling or in a café. They simply don’t provide enough data usage or speed for 24/7 home VPN connections. If you want to encrypt all your home internet traffic, all the time, you should pay for one of the best VPN services.
If a VPN service is based in the United States, it will be subject to search warrants presented by U.S. law-enforcement agencies. All free VPN services log user connections, no matter what the service claims.
Many of the services we review here are based in Canada, Switzerland or Germany, which have stronger privacy laws. But one of the Canadian services, TunnelBear, was recently bought by a U.S. company and will have to honor U.S. warrants and subpoenas under a new U.S. law.
The best free VPN downloads at a glance:
1. Hotspot Shield
How free VPNs work
Free VPN services encrypt your data while it’s in transit, creating a virtual tunnel through the internet that separates your data packets from the bazillions around them until they reach the service’s exit nodes many miles away from where you are.
Not only is the data encrypted, as it would be during a normal secure web session, but the routing information about the sender and intended recipient is hidden as well.
Today, the most popular VPN protocols are OpenVPN and various implementations of Internet Protocol Security (IPsec), which include IPsec by itself or in combination with Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) or Internet Key Exchange versions 1 and 2 (IKEv1 and IKEv2).
Some VPN protocols, including OpenVPN, use the Secure Sockets Layer/Transport Layer Security (SSL/TLS) protocols, which are also the standards to encrypt non-VPN connections between your web browser and secure websites (those that begin with HTTPS).
A VPN’s scrambling and unscrambling of your data can sometimes slow internet traffic to a crawl. The best free VPN service providers have fast servers connected to huge data pipes to minimize this performance decline. They also have thousands of servers located in scores of countries, ranging from Albania to Zimbabwe.