Key Takeaways: What Is the Best Free VPN?
- Proton VPN — Best unlimited free VPN
- TunnelBear — Best free VPN for a wide server spread
- Windscribe — Best free VPN with fast speeds
- hide.me — Best free VPN for Windows
- PrivadoVPN — A middling, yet secure free VPN
A virtual private network (VPN) is as essential for browsing the internet as a seat belt is for driving a car. Your VPN keeps your personal information safe from prying eyes and hides your IP address from anyone who would misuse it. If you haven’t got the funds for an app right now, you can still take advantage of the best free VPN options.
Thanks to free services like Proton VPN and TunnelBear, you don’t have to pay a subscription fee to get all the safety and freedom a VPN offers. However, there’s a dark side to free VPNs: Many less-reputable VPN services make their money by selling the very user information they claim to protect.
When picking a free VPN, it pays to be extremely careful. Even if a service isn’t malicious, it may have limitations that prevent you from getting what you need from it. Our list of free VPN services gathers the most trustworthy, high-performing apps we’ve ever tested — a few of which even make our overall best VPN roundup.
09/29/2021 Facts checked
Updated information on the top five free VPN providers’ restrictions on free users. Windscribe now offers 11 free server locations, and Hide.me has added two new free server locations and increased its data limit to 10GB. Lastly, Speedify has decreased its data limit from 5GB to 2GB.
Updated the article and ranking of the best free VPNs.
10/03/2022 Facts checked
This article has been rewritten and updated to include accurate prices, feature sets and more for the free VPNs on the list.
Removed Speedify as a free VPN option, as our WireShark testing shows it fails to fully encrypt your data.
03/21/2023 Facts checked
TunnelBear changed its free data amount to 2GB per month, up from 500MB per month.
08/08/2023 Facts checked
Removed reference to TunnelBear’s discontinued Twitter/X promotion.
Updated order of best free VPNs, moving TunnelBear to the second position due to its wide server spread options.
The Top Free VPNs
- : PayPal, Credit card, Bitcoin, cash
- : 10
$3.33 / month(save 66%)(All Plans)
- : Credit card
- : 5
Average speedDownload Speed93 MbpsUpload Speed9 MbpsLatency2 ms
- : PayPal, Credit card
- : Unlimited
- : PayPal, Credit card, bitcoin
- : 10
- : PayPal, Credit card, Coinbase, SEPA, Discover
- : 10
How We Chose the Best Free VPN
To make our list, we tested over 70 VPN services. To test a VPN, we use it actively for around a week, compiling data along the way. We take note of its usability, reliability, speeds and overall experience, as well as a slew of other factors. We also run technical tests, such as automated speed tests and DNS leak tests to verify the security of a VPN.
With free VPN services, privacy becomes even more important. Free VPNs often feel entitled to make money through underhanded channels, like selling your personal information to advertisers and even tracking your location. We put together the worst free VPN list to catalog the biggest offenders — data loggers, malware vectors and those that just straight-up don’t work.
Each of our choices has strengths and weaknesses that orient it toward a specific use case. Proton VPN is our overall favorite, built for security and with no data cap. Windscribe gives it a run for its money. TunnelBear focuses on mobile, and hide.me on Windows users — it’s one of the best free VPNs for Windows.
There’s a common caveat, though. Because none of these top VPNs make money unethically, they each limit their free version to encourage you to pay for a subscription. All of these completely free VPN options are worth trying, but if you truly want a service without limits, there are better paid VPN choices that offer money-back guarantees.
- ExpressVPN — Best overall VPN
- NordVPN — Fastest high-quality VPN
ExpressVPN is our favorite VPN on the market. It features an impeccably designed interface, great speeds, a broad server network and a perfect privacy record. NordVPN falls slightly behind ExpressVPN, but outpaces its speeds, making it a good choice for the user focused on streaming or torrenting.
Both offer unlimited bandwidth and no data limits.
You can use them for free by taking advantage of their risk-free, 30-day money-back guarantees. Now, let’s explore each of our favorite free VPN services in detail and help you find your perfect match.
The Best Free VPN Services
We’ve ranked the top services in the order we recommend them, but none of these free VPNs are bad. Each one has good qualities that help it excel in certain situations.
1. Proton VPN
More details about Proton VPN:
- Pricing: $4.99 per month (two-year plan)
- Provider website: protonvpn.com
- No data limit
- Great for unblocking streaming sites
- Easy to use
- Free users get slower servers
- No malware blocking for free users
- Only 3 locations on free plan
Proton VPN is the second security product from Proton, a team gathered from staff members at the famous European Institute for Nuclear Research (CERN). After building Proton Mail, the first popular email client with end-to-end encryption, Proton brought its experience to the VPN world.
The result is a top-tier free VPN that gives Windscribe (which ties for best free VPN) a true rival. Proton VPN Free has no data limit at all, allowing users to enjoy the free VPN as much as they like. If you want a VPN for streaming, especially of U.S.-based libraries like Hulu, this lack of limits makes Proton the best choice by far.
The trade-off is that free users are limited to servers in only three countries, resulting in heavier loads that slow these servers down. That said, our speed tests revealed that the free servers are still fast enough for video and chatting on most connections.
The lack of a data limit makes Proton VPN the best free VPN for streaming and technically more free than Windscribe, but we found that Windscribe has superior speeds and more free servers. Windscribe also makes ad and malware blocking free, while Proton VPN restricts it to paid plans. Get the details from our full Proton VPN review.
Other Free Proton Products
Proton VPN isn’t the only Proton product you can get without paying. The company’s flagship privacy feature, Proton Mail, is also available free of charge. However, it comes with a few restrictions: only 1GB of storage, one email address and no more than 150 messages per day.
The other two products — Proton Calendar and Proton Drive — are currently unavailable without a paid subscription.
Proton VPN only comes in two tiers: Free and Plus. Plus users unlock all 60 server locations, 10 simultaneous connections and special features like Secure Core (a double-hop VPN connection). Plus costs $9.99 per month, $5.99 per month ($71.88 total) for a year, or $4.99 per month ($119.75) for two years.
If you want multiple Proton products, you can also choose a Proton Unlimited bundle to save money. For $11.99 a month, you get full access to Proton VPN, Proton Mail, Proton Calendar and Proton Drive. You can get a full year for $9.99 per month ($119.88 total) or two years for $7.99 per month ($191.76 total).
- Unlimited GB
- Unlimited GB
More details about TunnelBear:
- Pricing: $3.33 per month (three-year plan)
- Provider website: tunnelbear.com
- Streamlined, friendly UI
- All features on free plan
- Audit-guaranteed privacy
- 2GB monthly data cap
- Can’t change protocols on macOS or Android
- Can’t change servers within countries
TunnelBear isn’t as flashy as some premium VPN options, but it’s quietly one of the most usable in its field. User-friendliness is the watchword here, from the carefully designed interface to the appealing, omnipresent bear mascots. Both the desktop and mobile apps are immensely welcoming to newbies, and can be downloaded, installed and run in under a minute.
Lest the cuteness fool you, this VPN service is just as dedicated to features and freedom for its users as either of the top two choices. Unlike Proton VPN or Windscribe (our third pick), TunnelBear even makes all of its servers available for free to users, and opens up all features without a subscription fee.
The catch: TunnelBear imposes a tight data cap. You get only 2GB a month, which sadly isn’t nearly enough for streaming. If you’re on macOS or Android, you also can’t change VPN protocols, and nobody can choose a server location within a country — it’s one location per nation, no exceptions.
With all this in mind, we’ve decided TunnelBear is best as a mobile VPN — even with the lack of protocol options. If you need to check something on public WiFi but don’t want to expose any personal data, it’s got everything you need. For sustained use, you’re better off with Proton or Windscribe. Visit our full TunnelBear review if you want to know more.
VigilantBear and GhostBear
TunnelBear’s free plan comes with its full feature set. As it’s a “beginner” VPN, the full set isn’t much, but two features stand out: VigilantBear and GhostBear.
VigilantBear is a fairly standard kill switch, but it’s nice to see such a well-constructed feature in a free VPN. A kill switch is a safety shutoff for using unsecured WiFi connections. If your connection to the VPN drops, TunnelBear cuts your device off from the internet, saving you from accidentally revealing some compromising information.
GhostBear is an obfuscation protocol (unavailable on iOS) for use in countries like China, India, Turkey and Malaysia, where the government blocks VPN usage and censors information. Like all obfuscation features, it’ll slow your connection down some, but we’re still happy to see VPNs making important online liberty tools available for free.
TunnelBear’s paid options include Unlimited and Teams. Unlimited removes the data cap and allows five simultaneous connections. It costs $9.99 per month, $4.99 per month for a year ($59.88 total), or $3.33 per month for three years ($120 total).
If you’re buying TunnelBear for a company, you can use Teams to get subscriptions at $5.75 per user per month. It’s cheaper than the Unlimited plan if you subscribe month-to-month, and comes with an account manager and centralized billing.
- Unlimited GB, five devices, priority customer service
- Unlimited GB
- Unlimited GB, five devices per user, centralized billing, account manager, price per user per month
- Unlimited GB
More details about Windscribe:
- Pricing: Free; $5.75 per month (one-year plan)
- Provider website: windscribe.com
- 15GB free every month
- Ad & malware blocker
- Build-a-plan option
- Needs browser extension for complete coverage
- Email & tweet required for full free data allowance
Windscribe has a free version that’s not just generous, but also intelligently designed. You can access servers in 10 countries and enjoy advanced features without paying a cent. With 10GB of free traffic allowed per month (15GB if you tweet about it), Windscribe’s free version can handle most online activities with ease.
The other reason is that Windscribe is an excellent VPN, period. It’s fast enough to stand against the top paid VPNs in our speed comparison, beating out several fully fee-based opponents. It also boasts R.O.B.E.R.T., a customizable blocker that protects you from ads and malware on the free version.
Windscribe’s security was tested in 2021, when two servers confiscated by police in Ukraine turned out to be running an outdated — and thus, unsafe — version of OpenVPN. Windscribe took full responsibility for the leak, even though it wasn’t actually that serious (several additional things would have had to go wrong for the police to see any user activity).
It’s clear that Windscribe is willing to be honest about threats to the safety of its users, even if that means admitting to wrongdoing. This transparency with its security — combined with its rapid speeds and commitment to its free version — make Windscribe the best free VPN on our list.
See our full Windscribe review to learn more. We also have a Proton VPN vs Windscribe comparison guide.
Windscribe Stealth Protocols
In addition to the usual VPN protocols (OpenVPN over TCP and UDP, WireGuard and IKEv2), Windscribe offers a couple more protocols designed to protect you from censors that block VPN traffic, as with China’s internet censorship. Stealth and WStunnel use different methods to obfuscate the fact that you’re using a VPN at all.
Both are available on the free version, though neither can be used on iOS. Although the additional encryption means that speeds take a hit, these protocols make Windscribe a strong VPN for China.
Getting obfuscation for free is doubly awesome because we advise that foreign travelers bring at least three VPNs to China, in case one doesn’t work. All the better, then, if you don’t have to pay for one of them.
Windscribe’s free version starts with a 2GB data limit per month, which increases to 10GB if you agree to join its email list. It goes up to 15GB per month if you tweet about it. If you choose to go with the Pro plan, you can get a year of unlimited data for $5.75 per month, or pay $9 for one month at a time.
One last thing that sets Windscribe apart is the build-a-plan option, which lets you pay for only the servers you need. Each server costs $1 per month, and you have to sign up for at least three, making $3 the cheapest monthly price for Windscribe Pro. All custom plans add an extra 10GB per month, and you can remove the data limit altogether for an extra $1.
- Up to 15 GB free with email confirmation and Tweet
- Unlimited GB
More details about hide.me:
- Pricing: 10GB free plan; $5.83 per month (six-months plan)
- Provider website: hide.me
- Lots of features on free plan
- Rich programming options
- Free split tunneling
- Can’t access Netflix or Hulu
- Uneven speeds
- Based in privacy-unfriendly Malaysia
hide.me is a solid alternative VPN that includes 10GB of data per month free of charge. With five free VPN server locations, the hide.me free plan is not as generous as Windscribe or TunnelBear, but more so than Proton VPN. Its traffic cap is fairly roomy, but not as liberating as Proton VPN’s unlimited data or Windscribe’s 15GB.
What we’re getting at is that hide.me is a second-tier free VPN in our eyes. For everything it does, there’s a competitor that does it slightly better. There are also some safety concerns around hide.me’s home base in Malaysia, a country known for using internet censorship to enforce the government’s will.
Nevertheless, we’re happy hide.me exists. It’s as user-friendly and security-conscious as any free VPN on this list, with a visually pleasing interface and a set of expert-vetted protocols for encrypting and transporting your data. Our hide.me review has the full story.
We especially like the addition of smart rules into the surprisingly deep auto-connect feature, allowing users to program how the VPN will behave on certain WiFi networks.
Beyond simply auto-connecting when the VPN starts, you can determine what hide.me does when it encounters secure networks, unsecured networks, ethernet connections or known and trusted networks. You also get split tunneling for free, and Stealth Guard, which prevents online apps from working unless hide.me is connected.
hide.me has only one paid plan. Buying a subscription gets you 10 simultaneous connections, access to the full VPN server network and unlimited data. You can get one month for $9.99, 12 months for per month ( total), or 26 months for $5.83 per month ($34.99 total).
Any paid subscription also includes 2TB of cloud storage from Internxt.
- 5 servers
- The 2-year plan comes with 3 extra months free.
- Unlimited GB
More details about PrivadoVPN:
- Pricing: Free plan; $4.99 per month (one-year plan)
- Provider website: privadovpn.com
- Unlimited speeds for the first 10GB
- Unlimited data
- Based in Switzerland
- No advanced features
- Cumbersome mobile UI
- Poor customer support
PrivadoVPN isn’t the best VPN we could recommend, but it’s free and secure, and it’s based in one of the most privacy-friendly jurisdictions on the planet. While its free plan is technically unlimited, you get unlimited speeds for your first 10GB of data, then the connection becomes much slower.
Although its paid plans give you 10 simultaneous connections, the free plan gives you only one, meaning you’ll have to choose between protecting your mobile device or laptop. While PrivadoVPN comes with all the basic necessities, like a kill switch and split tunneling, the only thing it offers in the way of advanced features are its P2P servers dedicated to torrenting tasks.
Swiss Privacy Laws
Despite its lack of features, PrivadoVPN is a secure VPN, offering only modern and reliable VPN protocols (OpenVPN, WireGuard and IKEv2). Plus, it’s based in Switzerland, which has the best privacy laws in the world. Coupled with its no-logs policy this guarantees the safety and privacy of your online traffic.
Besides the free plan, PrivadoVPN offers monthly and annual plans. The monthly plan costs $7.99, while the yearly subscription will set you back $4.99. Read our full PrivadoVPN review for more details.
- Unlimited GB
Honorable Mentions With Money-Back Guarantees
Now that we’ve run down all the free VPNs that are worth your time, let’s look at a couple of alternatives. These VPNs cost money, but each comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee with no questions asked. In essence, you can use them as free VPNs for 30 days, and get the full array of services while you do.
Be careful — both of the services below require you to enter a payment method. If you let the 30-day money-back guarantee period lapse, you’ll have to pay for another month. Unless you’re willing to pay, only use either of these VPNs as a short-term solution.
ExpressVPN is our overall favorite VPN. It has impenetrable security (ExpressVPN has never been successfully hacked) and an interface that’s accessible without being stripped-down.
It’s definitely a VPN for the masses — you won’t find certain high-level features like static IP addresses — but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it for everything you love, from browsing to streaming to torrenting.
ExpressVPN’s encryption barely makes a dent in your internet speeds, and with its broad server network, almost anyone in the world can use it at peak efficiency. It can unblock all major streaming services. Backing all this up is a no-logs policy that has never been blemished. To learn more, visit our full ExpressVPN review or try the 30-day money-back guarantee.
NordVPN is constantly vying with ExpressVPN for the title of our favorite VPN here at Cloudwards. It has a lot to recommend it. It’s slightly faster when close to home, and offers lower prices. Furthermore, it also comes with specialty servers optimized for streaming, torrenting or using Tor (though we should mention that all ExpressVPN servers allow those activities).
There are a few downsides, including a lack of servers in Africa, and a decline in speeds when spoofing a distant location. Its interface isn’t quite as well designed as ExpressVPN’s.
However, NordVPN remains one of the best-performing VPNs money can buy, and an excellent alternative to any other service. See our full NordVPN review for all the details, or try its 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Unlimited GB
- Unlimited GB
- Unlimited GB
Free VPNs That Didn’t Make the Cut
Sitting between the worst free VPNs and the best free VPNs are some services that you could use for low-risk activities, like simply obtaining an IP address for another country or streaming. However, they should be avoided because they might not provide the encryption and security you think you’re getting.
More details about Speedify:
- Pricing: 2GB free plan;
- Provider website: speedify.com
- Vastly improves speed
- Gets into Netflix
- Free users can access all servers
- Possible to turn off encryption
- Logs user IP addresses
- Can’t unblock other streaming apps
- Does not fully encrypt data even when encryption is on
Similar to the other free VPN apps on this list, Speedify offers a fully usable free plan that you can upgrade with a subscription fee. As a free user, you’ll get 2GB of data per month — better than TunnelBear, but still not all that much when you consider that Speedify is aimed squarely at streamers.
Speedify is a unique VPN. Like all the others, it provides a network of servers you can use to protect yourself online; unlike the others, protection isn’t its primary objective.
The main purpose of Speedify is to make your internet connection as fast as possible using channel-bonding technology, which runs your internet traffic along several types of connection at the same time — for example, WiFi, an Ethernet cable and cellular data could all merge. As this implies, you need at least two connections available for channel bonding to work.
Unfortunately, Speedify gives users the option to cut out encryption, DNS leak protection or IP leak protection altogether. This will indeed supercharge your internet speed, at the expense of any sort of security. The service is marketed toward live streamers, who need to avoid lags and slowdowns at any cost.
There’s nothing wrong with that in theory, as long as the user is making that choice with all the information. However, Speedify often treats encryption as an optional encumbrance, which makes us worry that users who need it might be misled into turning it off.
However, we recently tested Speedify’s encryption via WireShark, and we discovered that — even with encryption on — it fails to encrypt all your data. This is a huge security risk that landed it in this “disqualified” section. Check out our Speedify review if you need more help deciding.
- Unlimited GB
- Admin dashboard, 5 users
- Unlimited GB
- Price per user, Pay per number of users, 5 devices per account, $120 per month for a dedicated server; $900 per year
- Unlimited GB
The Problem With Completely Free VPNs
Whether it’s a data cap, a limited server network or a restriction on simultaneous connections, every free VPN on this list is constrained somehow. If you’ve done any research of your own, you might have run across free VPN software with no restrictions at all, and wondered why we aren’t recommending those.
It’s simple: They aren’t safe. As always, if you pay nothing for the product, it’s because the product has another way of making money off you. Usually, this means selling your personal data or physical location — the very information we look to VPN services to safeguard.
We’ve collected a few of these wolves in sheep’s clothing on our worst free VPN list. Some of the biggest offenders include Hotspot Shield, whose free version harvests user data for ads, and Hola VPN, which makes your computer part of a botnet. All this said, even if you don’t see a certain free VPN on that list, it pays to be suspicious.
Of course, our top free VPNs aren’t the only ones that are safe. For example, Atlas VPN has its pluses, as we explored in our Atlas VPN review (you can find how to take advantage of its premium features in Atlas VPN free trial for mobile).
We’re not advocating paranoia, just a healthy skepticism.
Final Thoughts: Best Free VPNs
That wraps up our list of the best free VPNs. We’ve recommended many strong contenders, touched on two standout 30-day free trials, and explained why it’s vital to be skeptical of any free VPN. We hope this write-up helps you find a free VPN that fits your needs and your budget.
To recap: Windscribe leads the list of best free VPNs, but if its 15GB data cap isn’t enough for you, Proton VPN is an ideal free VPN alternative with unlimited data. TunnelBear has excellent mobile service and it’s one of the best free VPNs for Android. Lastly, hide.me offers exciting features and a generous data allowance.
Do you know of any trustworthy free VPNs we didn’t mention? Which other free VPNs do you vouch for? Have you used any of the free VPNs on our list? Tell your story and share any questions in the comments below. Thanks for reading!
No VPN provides a complete feature set for free, unless it’s selling user data to make ends meet. The closest things to a totally free VPN are Proton VPN and TunnelBear, neither of which restrict any features to paid users.
The VPNs on this list are free, with no strings attached, and they’re very clear about the limitations of their free plans. A VPN that claims to be totally free is likely to have a hidden catch somewhere.
Windscribe is the fastest free VPN that encrypts your data fully.