Best Free VPN Services

There are a lot of supposedly “free” VPN services. Though they’ll give you the impression that you’re being protected, most of the time you’re paying with your privacy. In some cases, you’re even paying with your online safety, with phony services such as Hola VPN wrangling users into a botnet.

To try to pierce through the dense fog that those pseudo-services have established, we scoured the internet for the best free VPN services. While they can’t contend with the top providers in our VPN reviews, they’ll keep you protected with no strings attached.

The only exception to that is Windscribe, which has legs in a free and paid market. If you’re a newcomer to VPNs and want to try something for free before investing, your best bet is to stick with Windscribe. It not only offers the best free plan we’ve seen, it’s not too shabby when it comes to paid plans, either.

Starts from $ 370 per month
Free plan available

Choosing the Best Free VPN Services

Finding the best free VPN services is simple. The VPN needs to be free and it can’t be complete garbage. Our worst free VPN guide shows that VPNs aren’t good just because they’re free and, in some cases, that can mean malware, fraud or other cybercrime unpleasantness.

Unlike our best free password manager guide, though, you’ll have to give up something to use a VPN for free. For example, LastPass offers most of the functionality of a paid password manager for free. You won’t find an equivalent option in the VPN space. Read our LastPass review if you’re in the market for a password manager.

Our first few VPN picks restrict the amount of data you can use, but provide a fully-featured service. The last two, though decent, come at the cost of speed and privacy.

In most cases, free plans are trials for paid plans. We’ll give the specifics of the free plan, including how much data you can use, restrictions, etc., talk about the possible upgrade paths and give our thoughts on whether an upgrade is worth it.

Our first pick is an exception, but the answer is usually “probably not.” Good VPNs come at a price, so keep that in mind as we go through these free offerings.

Best Free VPN Services 2019

cloudwards rating
$ per month
top features
Starts from $ 370 per month
Free plan available

The Best Free VPN Service: Windscribe

Windscribe is the exception when it comes to free VPNs. Unlike most free services, it provides a usable amount of monthly data and the chance to earn more. It’s the only VPN that gives you the full experience for free.

Free plans start at 2GB of data per month, but you can increase that to 10GB of data if you provide an email and agree to receive Windscribe announcements. Nothing is truly free, but we’re content trading 8GB of data for a little bit of advertising.

Windscribe-Slider1

You can earn more data, too. If you tweet using a Windscribe link, you’ll get an extra 5GB per month. Windscribe warns not to “be a douche and delete the Tweet after,” though.

Windscribe also allows you to use leftover CPU power to solve hashes for mining Monero. On an eight-core Ryzen-1700X, we sat around 50 hashes per second. You can use those hashes to purchase one of three rewards: a bandwidth reset, 10GB of permanent monthly data or one month of a Pro subscription.

They aren’t cheap, though. The rewards cost 1 million, 10 million and 50 million hashes, respectively. Thankfully, you can do your hashing on any computer and at any time. As long as you’re logged in to your account, Windscribe will save the amount of credits you have.

Though technically a “free” way to earn more data, it might not be the best idea. You can set CPU usage limits, but you’ll probably spend more in electricity and damaged components than the reward is worth. A monthly subscription is cheap enough as it is.

Other Reasons We Like Windscribe

Given Windscribe’s generous free plan, we expected a hefty upcharge on Pro plans. Thankfully, that’s not the case. Windscribe doesn’t have as low a monthly rate as Private Internet Access — though if you read our PIA review, you’ll see that few providers do — but it’s still cheaper than our best VPN pick, ExpressVPN (read our ExpressVPN review).

One and two-year plans have significant value, though. The monthly rate falls below $5 on both options, you can connect as many devices as you want at one time and you get access to Windscribe’s specialized streaming servers.

It recently introduced an option to build your own plan, too. On top of the free locations and 10GB of data, you can add locations for $1 per month. Each location can have any number of data centers, though. For instance, the U.S. option has 35 data centers, but Belgium only has one. Both cost $1.

In addition to gaining access to the Pro server locations, 10GB of data is added to your plan for each location. You can add an unlimited data option for $1 extra, which also gives you access to R.O.B.E.R.T.

R.O.B.E.R.T is a malware, phishing, botnet, ad, tracker and social network blocker. During our testing, we found it to be surprisingly effective, but not on the level of the best antivirus software. It’s included with any Pro plan, but for only $1 extra with unlimited data on a free plan, we don’t see a reason not to try it.

Windscribe’s pricing is confusing, but there’s a lot of value to squeeze out of the system it has set. You can learn the specifics of pricing, as well as Windscribe’s other features, in our Windscribe review.


Pros:

  • 10GB for free
  • Simple upgrade path
  • Gets into Netflix

Cons:

  • Some features aren’t useful
Starts from $ 370 per month
Free plan available

TunnelBear

TunnelBear has been our pick for the best free VPN in the past, mainly because it was the only one available that was any good. In recent years, though, it has lost its luster as newcomers, such as Windscribe and Speedify, take the market by storm. McAfee’s acquisition of TunnelBear didn’t help matters, either. Read our McAfee Total Protection review to see why.

Even so, it offers 500MB of data for free with no string attached. Unlike with Speedify, there’s no funny business going on with your security. TunnelBear uses AES 256-bit with OpenVPN, IKEv2 or IPSec and doesn’t keep logs. During our testing, it didn’t leak DNS requests, either.


500MB is usable, but it’s more of a trial than anything. Thankfully, TunnelBear’s pricing isn’t terrible, with unlimited data running $10 per month or $60 per year, but we’ve seen better. All plans come with five simultaneous connections, too, which isn’t bad.

Our hope is that TunnelBear will add more data to its free plan. The company behind it recently released RememBear, which is among the best free password managers available. As you can read in our RememBear review, it’s more or less the same as the paid version.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for TunnelBear. 500MB of data is generous, but you can easily eat through that much data in a few hours, especially if you’re streaming. As long as you approach the free plan as a trial, though, it doesn’t look as bad.

Other Reasons We Like TunnelBear

TunnelBear’s biggest strength is its interface, which is tied to an icon in the tray. It’s a tray application, though. Clicking on the icon will open a window, but not one that you can move around your screen.

Even with that downside, choosing a location is simple and reminiscent of NordVPN (read our NordVPN review). There’s a map with Mario-esque pipes in the locations where TunnelBear has presence. Clicking one will connect you to a server in that location, with a graphic showing where you’re tunneling from.

Though it’s focused on a streamlined VPN experience, TunnelBear has advanced features. There’s a killswitch, which TunnelBear calls “VigilantBear,” that will sever your internet connection if the VPN fails. Split tunneling is also offered, but, oddly, only on Android. Read our Astrill review for a provider that offers split tunneling everywhere.

If you’re new to VPNs and want to see what the fuss is about, TunnelBear is a great option. Those more familiar with how they work will probably be better off with Windscribe, though. Read our TunnelBear review to learn more.


Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Inexpensive
  • Killswitch

Cons:

  • Limited free data
Starts from $ 499 per month
Free plan available

Hide.me

Hide.me is one of the most expensive VPNs we’ve reviewed and, though the service is good, it isn’t doing anything special to justify its higher-than-average price. Thankfully, there’s a free plan available. You can use 2GB of data per month from Hide.me’s network on a single device, no credit card required.

Free users are limited to three servers, though. Hide.me’s full server network isn’t that large — 55 locations in 34 countries as of writing — but the small selection for free users is still a bummer.


Upgrading awards you access to those servers, along with more simultaneous connections and unlimited data transfer, but the price isn’t worth it. To access all Hide.me has to offer, you’ll have to pay, at minimum, $10 per month, and that’s if you buy a year upfront. If you want to go month-to-month, that rate jumps to $20.

There’s a plan between free and Premium, Hide.me’s top-tier offering, but, once again, the price isn’t worth it. Though only $5 per month, Hide.me’s mid-tier Plus plan only comes with 75GB of data transfer and support for a single device.

We can’t complain about the free plan, though. Free users can’t access streaming platforms, but the limited amount of data transfer wouldn’t allow much streaming anyway. It’s just a way to protect basic browsing.

Other Reasons We Like Hide.me

As far as the specifics of the service go, Hide.me is a middle-of-the-road option. During our testing, we noted usable, if not exciting, speeds when tunneling close to home and lackluster results when traveling far.

The server selection mirrors that, with the 55 locations covering most of the globe. The general spots are accounted for, with North America and western Europe receiving the most love. There are a few strange locations that are uncommon among VPNs, though, including Morocco.

Free users can use servers in the Netherlands, Canada and Singapore, despite the fact that Hide.me is based in Malaysia. The location of Hide.me’s headquarters makes us pause, though, as it has a bad track record when it comes to respecting its citizens’ privacy, as you can read in our best VPN for Malaysia piece.

Hide.me is a good, but not great, VPN service. The free plan is worth checking out, though. You can read our Hide.me review to learn more or sign up for a plan with a 14-day money-back guarantee.


Pros:

  • 2GB of free data
  • Fast
  • Exotic server locations

Cons:

  • Limited server selection on free plan
Starts from $ 500 per month
Free plan available Save 50 %

ProtonVPN

ProtonVPN takes a different approach to the free VPN model. Instead of restricting the amount of data you can use, it restricts speed. You can use the VPN as much as you want on a single device for free, as long as you can contend with the advertised “slow” speed of the free plan.

When we tested it, ProtonVPN automatically offered a week-long trial of its Plus service, which includes five simultaneous connections, support for streaming and torrenting, a malware blocker and dedicated Tor servers. That said, the trial isn’t advertised and, though we were able to replicate it, we can’t confirm that it will always be around.


Plus plans have decent speeds, but our results showed that some servers are better optimized than others. From our testing location in Ireland, we found that U.S. servers performed better than those in the UK, and Hong Kong had faster results than several European options. It seems your proximity to a particular server isn’t as big of a factor, at least for download rates.

We gave up, on average, around 50 percent of our unprotected speed on a paid plan, so a free plan probably averages around 75 percent. ProtonVPN’s free plan isn’t suitable for torrenting or streaming. Rather, it is a tool to protect your privacy during basic browsing, which is likely why Mozilla chose it as its default VPN for Firefox.

Other Reasons We Like ProtonVPN

Though the free plan is nice, ProtonVPN makes upgrading worth it. Paying users get access to its “secure core” servers. They route your connection through a privacy-friendly country before going to your destination. For example, if you’re connecting to Singapore, your connection may first go through Switzerland, which has some of the best privacy laws in the world.

On the high end, there’s ProtonMail, which is a secure email service. TorGuard offers a similar service, but at a far lower price, as you can see in our TorGuard review. Read our guide to email security if you’re curious about what “secure” means.

ProtonVPN doesn’t impress compared to top-shelf providers at the same price point, but its free plan isn’t a bad deal. You can read our ProtonVPN review to learn more or try a free account yourself.


Pros:

  • Unlimited data transfer for free
  • Secure core servers
  • Secure email service offered

Cons:

  • Slow
Starts from $ 500 per month
Free plan available

Speedify

Speedify is aimed at the mobile crowd, which is uncommon in the market. Though you can use it on desktop, Windscribe has faster speeds, more server locations and a higher monthly limit. That said, there are advantages for mobile users.

It uses “channel bonding” on your connection, which can use multiple internet connections for increased bandwidth, lower latency and better redundancy. You can set rules on the connection types, too, to automate your cellular data usage.


Channel bonding is available on desktop, too, but it doesn’t make much sense. Speedify can use any connection — for instance, a WiFi and Ethernet — but it’s all terminating at the same modem. It makes more sense on mobile, where you may want to limit your cellular usage and favor WiFi.

We’re not sure the benefits of channel bonding are as great as the marketing material suggests. The latency was pitiful and download speeds were lackluster. Despite testing from Germany, our best result came from a U.S.-based server, suggesting that Speedify has better optimization for servers on its home turf.

Even so, Speedify is a decent free option. You can use 5GB of data on one device each month and you don’t have to create an account to do so. That’s half the data you get with Windscribe, but you don’t need to verify your email to get it.

That has a negligible advantage, considering Speedify logs your IP address and approximate location. The website is tricky. It claims that Speedify doesn’t log the websites you visit or the data you transfer. Though that’s true, the privacy policy makes it clear that Speedify “log[s] access information about the client device, including IP address, and unique device identifiers.”

Speedify doesn’t log the IP address of websites you’re visiting, but it does log yours.

Other Reasons We Like Speedify

We wouldn’t recommend paying for Speedify, but the free version isn’t all doom and gloom. It has an excellent interface, especially on iOS, but its logging practices kept it out of our best VPN for iPhone guide. The app shows you a speed and usage chart of your mobile and WiFi connections, so you can quickly monitor how much you’re using either.

The clean “mobile-first” approach helps a lot, with Speedify clearly laying out its settings and features in the interface. Everything from the buttons and icons to the navigation and screen design makes for an intuitive experience.

It gets into Netflix, too, but it didn’t make our best VPN for Netflix guide because, well, privacy.

That seems to be the best case for Speedify. It’s for users that are unconcerned with privacy and just want to watch geoblocked content on Netflix for free. If that sounds like you, make sure to read our Speedify review for details on how to sign up.

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Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Channel bonding
  • 5GB of data for free

Cons:

  • Keeps logs
Starts from $ 417 per month
Free plan available Save 54 %

Final Thoughts

You have to be careful while navigating free VPN services, but there are legitimate options. While ProtonVPN and Speedify are decent, we recommend sticking with Windscribe, TunnelBear or Hide.me, in that order.

Those providers offer truly free VPN services, unlike Speedify, which trades 5GB of data for your personal information. Plus, Windscribe offers a clear upgrade path by purchasing a Pro subscription or adding server locations to your free plan.

Are there good free providers we missed? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.

Starts from $ 370 per month
Free plan available

6 thoughts on “Best Free VPN Services 2019: Security at a Discount”

    1. Cloudwards.net - Chief Editor

      By considering its performance and security, basically.

      1. I am still wondering if I should get a trusted paid version (like nordvpn or pie), what is your opinion on that?

  1. Is there any of these free VPN’s that offer a Japanese server? Are they all as a Chrome extension available?

    1. Cloudwards.net - Chief Editor

      Off the top of my head, I believe Windscribe and TunnelBear have Chrome extensions, while ProtonVPN does not. As for Japanese servers, Windscribe seems to have one on its paid plan, but I’m not sure about its free one; you’re best off signing up and finding out.

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