This year, hide.me is celebrating its 10th anniversary. In the virtual private network industry, where services come and go like petals on the breeze, 10 years is a major achievement. We thought it was the perfect time for an in-depth, clear-eyed hide.me VPN review.
- hide.me has a feature set to rival many more expensive VPNs, including a kill switch and split tunnels. However, some of the best features are limited to certain platforms.
- hide.me offers great speeds and low latency on nearby servers. However, speeds are a lot less consistent the farther you get from home.
- The hide.me free plan offers 10GB of data per month and limits server access and simultaneous connections.
hide.me may be best known for its free version, which protects 10 gigabytes of traffic per month at no cost whatsoever — you don’t even have to provide a payment method. The free version limits certain features of the VPN, but the core security measures are all there.
Of course, free stuff is always nice (check out some other great free VPN services), but do you get what you pay for with hide.me? Are its paid subscriptions worth forking out for? And does this VPN service actually do the one thing every VPN service must — keep you safe from prying eyes and let you experience the internet on your own terms? Our 2022 hide.me review has all the answers.
05/20/2021 Facts checked
Hide.me announced that the VPN has teamed up with Internex, a zero-knowledge cloud storage provider, to offer new Hide.me users 2TB of free Internxt cloud storage.
08/15/2022 Facts checked
Updated review to match changes in features and pricing.
07/06/2023 Facts checked
Added information about the new SmartGuard feature.
hide.me VPN has never been caught leaking customer information. However, its home base in Malaysia is cause for concern.
hide.me is a well-priced VPN service provider with secure DNS leak protection, but it’s not worth it for everybody. Windows users get the most for their money, enjoying access to beta features.
hide.me is based in Malaysia, a country with a history of strict internet censorship laws.
hide.me is a virtual private network used for concealing your IP address online, encrypting internet communications and spoofing locations for shopping or viewing content.
Alternatives for hide.me VPN
Average speedDownload Speed93 MbpsUpload Speed9 MbpsLatency2 ms
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Average speedDownload Speed94 MbpsUpload Speed9 MbpsLatency4 ms
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Average speedDownload Speed87 MbpsUpload Speed9 MbpsLatency40 ms
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Strengths & Weaknesses
- Includes a kill switch
- Good speeds close to home
- Fairly extensive free version
- Double-hop servers
- Can’t unblock Netflix & Hulu
- Uneven speeds farther away
- Potentially weak protocols
hide.me is rich with VPN features, but access to them is inconsistent. You’ll find basic features like auto connect, a kill switch and split tunneling, plus more advanced options like a fixed IP address and dynamic port forwarding. Unfortunately, some of the most interesting features are limited to Windows app users, and others are too vague to pin down.
If you’re looking for an all-around free VPN you can be more certain about, our Windscribe review or ProtonVPN review are good places to start.
Since the free version is such a big part of hide.me’s appeal, we’ll start with the features available to free subscribers, then move on to the ones you have to pay for.
hide.me VPN Free Version Features
Free users get access to the majority of hide.me’s important features. The free plan is mainly limited in capacity, not options.
Users can program hide.me to launch immediately upon system startup. There’s a kill switch available, which shuts down your internet connection if your VPN connection drops for any reason, keeping you from accidentally broadcasting unprotected information.
Auto connect is surprisingly deep. You can have hide.me automatically connect as soon as the app opens (so if you have “launch on system startup” enabled, you won’t have to click a thing). However, you can also program it to automatically enable or disable the VPN on certain types of networks, or ask you what to do when it encounters those networks.
Then there’s split tunneling, which lets you decide which apps on your computer use the VPN tunnel. This is useful if you want to protect certain downloads while maintaining speed or access on others — say, downloading a large file through μTorrent while watching a streaming service hide.me can’t unblock.
The split tunnel option on hide.me lets you choose between a blocklist (apps on the list never use the VPN) and an allowlist (only apps on the list use the VPN). You can keep apps on both lists and toggle between them as needed.
Stealth Guard is a somewhat unique feature that takes the typical VPN kill switch to the next level. With Stealth Guard active, either some or all of your internet-capable apps will not work unless hide.me is also running. It’s useful if you sometimes forget to connect to your VPN before opening your browser or torrenting client. It can also help you limit background data usage.
Most of these features are basic, but they’re easy to use and work well. Some other features trek a bit further into the unknown.
hide.me Lab Features
Lab features are experimental features that hide.me isn’t yet ready to roll out to all users. For now, these are only available on the latest client apps for Windows, macOS, iOS and Android. There are several lab features — hide.me regularly tests new ones — but the two most prominent are multi-hop and Bolt.
Multi-hop grants users extra protection by routing your connection through two VPN servers rather than just one. Unlike most VPN providers, which have prescribed sets of multi-hop servers, hide.me lets you choose any two locations for your double hop. It’s a great idea, and we hope it’s available to all users soon.
The Bolt lab feature focuses on speed. According to hide.me, Bolt responds to two problems: ISP throttling and poor support for VPN clients on Windows operating systems (in this one case, it makes sense to restrict a feature to Windows).
If it really can reduce throttling, Bolt should be able to improve speeds even beyond your unprotected rates. Our tests told a different story. Bolt managed to improve latency somewhat, but download and upload speeds both fell. Keep in mind that Bolt is still in beta testing, and may get more consistent over time.
Hide.me also comes with a security feature known as “SmartGuard.” If enabled, SmartGuard blocks ads, trackers and any malicious websites that might be trying to collect or steal your user data.
In addition to the automatic filtering, you can block or allow websites manually in the Hide.me application. Parents can also use the feature to set parental controls, blocking websites or apps that they don’t want their children to access.
hide.me Paid Features
Finally, let’s go over the features restricted to paid hide.me VPN subscribers. Premium users get 10 simultaneous connections (free users just get one), access to the full server network and unlimited data every month (as opposed to the free 10GB).
Premium plans include three other perks. There’s “streaming support,” a feature we couldn’t find anywhere else on the website, but which may refer to the tab on the server locations list that reports on each server’s suitability for streaming. The other two are luckily a bit clearer: dynamic forwarding and a fixed IP address.
A static IP address means your IP address will be the same every time you connect to hide.me. It’s useful for users who want to host their own web servers and protect them with hide.me, or if you want to be able to give a single fixed address to a trusted website.
Dynamic forwarding takes a bit more explanation. Port forwarding is the method by which local devices and web servers connect to exchange information. It can be used to create secure passages through a firewall, but using the same ports every time (static port forwarding) is a security risk.
With dynamic forwarding, you can connect securely to trusted servers through the hide.me VPN firewall, giving you another option for an extra layer of defense.
To recap: hide.me has a lot of great features, a few that don’t make much sense (especially Bolt) and a few more good ones that only some users can access. It’s a strong VPN, but we wish it wasn’t so patchy, especially with far stabler services like ExpressVPN on the market (find our ExpressVPN review here).
Hide.me Features Overview
|PayPal, Credit card, bitcoin
|Supports split tunneling
|Free trial available
|Worldwide server amount
|1,900 servers in 40 countries
|Windows, MacOS, Linux
|Chrome, Firefox, Edge
|Can be installed on routers
|Can access Netflix US
|Can access BBC iPlayer
|Can access Hulu
|Can access Amazon Prime Video
|128-AES, 256-AES, ChaCha20, RC4, RC5, DES
|VPN protocols available
|OpenVPN, L2TP, SSTP, IKEv2, SoftEther, WireGuard
|Enabled at device startup
|Passed DNS leak test
|Malware/ad blocker included
hide.me is best known for its free plan, but its paid plans are worthwhile and affordable. Prices have dropped since we reviewed it last, so if you’re interested in this VPN, now might be a good time to make a move.
Premium subscribers get unlimited data, access to all servers and 10 simultaneous connections. That’s a great deal, eclipsed only by services like Surfshark that offer unlimited simultaneous connections (see our Surfshark review).
All hide.me premium plans are on the cheaper side, and offer good value for what you pay. Each comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
If you go with the 24-month deal, you’ll also get 2TB of encrypted cloud storage through hide.me’s partnership with Internxt. It’s a fairly middling zero-knowledge cloud storage service, but has a much higher value as a free perk.
Several payment methods are available, including credit and debit cards, PayPal and bitcoin. One glaring omission: an anonymous payment method other than cryptocurrency.
Is hide.me an Unlimited Free VPN?
No. Free users of hide.me face several limitations. You can only use 10GB of data per month — a decent amount, but disappointing when services like ProtonVPN offer free plans with no data caps. You’re also limited to five servers, all in North America or Western Europe. Lastly, free users can only use hide.me on one device at a time.
- 5 servers
- Unlimited GB
1-month plan, 1-year plan
hide.me strikes a balance, remaining easy to use while including a variety of features. Everything is easy to find and has its function succinctly explained within every iteration of the desktop and mobile apps. The website offers a few more obstacles, but you don’t have to spend much time there.
Most of the frustration comes from downloading the app. hide.me seems to log you out of your account if you spend any time at all off the website, and requires a CAPTCHA every single time you log back in — but your account page is the only way to see all the available downloads in one place.
It’s also annoying if you happen to be using an older version of your OS. The link for the VPN app that works on macOS versions older than 10.15 is buried in a knowledgebase article.
Fortunately, that’s where the flaws largely end. Download and installation itself is seamless, and the various hide.me client apps — including mobile apps — are smooth and well designed.
On that main page alone, you can activate or disable your VPN connection, run a leak check by clicking the “details” button by your IP address, change your server location by clicking “change” or click the gear icon to open the preferences menu.
The server selection list is likewise designed to be as navigable as possible. The countries are organized in sensible alphabetical order. You can click the star by any country to favorite it and find it again quickly. The search bar works instantaneously and searches both countries and cities.
We’ve already spent some time on the preferences control panel, but haven’t yet praised how much sense it makes. Every tab has a straightforward purpose — you’ll never have to wonder where you need to go to find a certain feature. Almost every feature comes with a short explanation of what it does.
hide.me boasts one of the best-designed user interfaces we’ve ever seen on a VPN. It’s a shame the website doesn’t follow the same principles, but if you can avoid it, you’re in for a stellar experience.
hide.me advertises itself as the world’s fastest VPN. Unfortunately, all VPNs say that. Fortunately, we can test that claim!
In the table below, you’ll find our test results from six servers, checked from our home base in North Macedonia. For reference, the best VPNs — like some of the contestants in our VPN speed comparison — lose 10% or less of their unprotected download and upload speeds, no matter how far away the server. Latencies should never get higher than 130 ms.
hide.me VPN Speed Test Results
|Fastest server (Slovenia)
What we learned: hide.me’s biggest strengths are download speeds and latencies on your nearest server. Ping stayed below 75 ms in Europe, and download speed never dropped more than about 20%. Upload speeds stayed high enough for uploading and video chatting.
However, some problems can be seen at first glance. Connecting to each server took quite a while, and we were sometimes locked out altogether on our first try. When we connected to a more distant server, download speeds started extremely low — the U.S. server began around 4 Mbps before climbing to 26.
Connecting to servers on other continents caused bigger issues. Latencies skyrocketed, upload speed dropped into the 3 to 4 Mbps range and servers took far longer to establish a stable internet connection. The South Africa server was the worst; as the table shows, that connection drops all three stats.
It’s enough to prove that hide.me isn’t even close to the world’s fastest VPN. If you want the fastest VPN, your choice is really down to NordVPN vs ExpressVPN.
hide.me provides the most comprehensive security a VPN user could wish for, but introduces needless gaps with unwise VPN protocol choices.
To be fair, not all of these vulnerabilities will affect the average user. We used ipleak.net to test for DNS leaks, IP leaks and WebRTC leaks. Every protocol (even SoftEther) and every server location we tried reliably hid our IP address every time.
hide.me offers a choice of five VPN protocols. Four of them — OpenVPN, WireGuard, IKEv2 and SSTP — use AES-256, the current gold standard for encryption.
The problem lies with the final protocol, SoftEther. hide.me is characteristically vague about what makes it so fast and secure, so we went directly to softether.org. There, we discovered that the SoftEther protocol makes use of six different encryption algorithms. Four of the six, including the default choice, are based on the broken (and now unsafe) RC4 and DES algorithms.
The other two, AES-128 and AES-256, are secure, but the fact remains that SoftEther partially relies on security that any determined hacker could crack. We can’t advise using it, and it’s baffling that hide.me made it available on all devices before the much safer WireGuard.
hide.me comes with a few advanced security settings. It supports a custom DNS server, which — for users willing to set one up — can provide more stable browsing independent of your ISP. By default, the VPN connects to a random port every time it connects to a server (as long as you’re using the OpenVPN protocol).
Windows and macOS users can also designate a fallback protocol that hide.me will automatically switch to if their primary protocol fails.
hide.me’s security is strong, but a couple of details make us uncertain. We’ll always be more comfortable with a service like NordVPN that’s been tested in the real world and proven itself up to the task (learn more in our NordVPN review).
hide.me takes almost every precaution to protect user privacy, with a no-logging policy backed up by an independent audit. It’s nearly perfect, with only one flaw: the VPN’s home base in Malaysia.
From some perspectives, Malaysia isn’t a bad place to incorporate a VPN service. It’s not a member of the Five Eyes, Nine Eyes and 14 Eyes alliances, nor does it have any laws requiring VPNs to log user data, along the lines of the VPN ban in India.
However, as our internet censorship overview describes, Malaysia has a sketchy online freedom record, and is known for spying on user activity and restricting free speech. The law allows authorities to punish anyone caught spreading anti-government or anti-Islamic content. The government uses spy software like FinFisher to enforce these laws.
For now, hide.me does a lot of things right. It submitted to a third-party audit in 2015, becoming one of the first VPN services to do so (though it doesn’t seem to have recurred since then). Every year, it publishes a transparency report comprising all the legal requests it received. None of these were fulfilled (news outlets tend to cover when a VPN violates its no-logging policy), which makes us confident that hide.me is currently safe.
On the other hand, until it moves out of Malaysia altogether — or at least gets another audit — we won’t be 100% confident that hide.me can protect its users. There are also a few confusing errors on its privacy pages, including the claim that most countries in the Americas and Europe require VPN providers to keep logs.
Does hide.me VPN Sell Your Data?
Streaming providers block VPNs to avoid copyright issues. VPNs respond by obfuscating their traffic, so the streaming service doesn’t know what to block. Only the best VPNs for streaming can get around the firewalls, and sadly, hide.me doesn’t make that list.
When logging into Netflix with hide.me, we were told we had the wrong password, though it was correct. This is a common error on VPNs that can’t unblock Netflix. Hulu blocked us out the same way (a service from our best VPN for Hulu list might do better), as did Disney+.
Things went better with Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer, as hide.me unlocked both. These two services saved hide.me from total streaming annihilation, but the overall scorecard doesn’t look good.
Does hide.me VPN Work for Netflix?
No. We tested several servers and protocols, and hide.me failed to unblock Netflix every time. If you want a VPN for watching Netflix, try our best VPN for Netflix list.
It’s a little hard to tell how many server locations hide.me actually offers. According to its pricing page, the network includes 75 cities worldwide, but the server locations page lists only 62. We counted 66 cities on the app itself. The true answer is somewhere in the range of those three numbers.
The five servers on the free plan are all in North America and Western Europe, so free users are mostly limited to those regions. On the paid plan, some servers open up in less common locations, including Eastern Europe, Latin America and Africa.
Despite nominally hitting those regions, the spread of locations isn’t too impressive. There’s only one server in all of South America (Rio de Janeiro) and three in Africa (Marrakesh, Cairo and Johannesburg). Most of the Asia-Pacific servers are in Australia.
To hide.me’s credit, though, servers in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines make it a decent choice for China (though there are better ones — see our Best VPN for China list).
hide.me could do a lot more to increase its global coverage, but the servers it has are a decent start. We’d like to see it match the coverage of competitors like Private Internet Access (see our Private Internet Access review).
hide.me customers can get support in two ways: through live chat on the website, or by submitting an email ticket. We tried both, and got prompt and helpful answers to our questions. Live chat can be initiated in under a minute, and emails got responses in about 24 hours.
The best place to submit an email support ticket is from the app itself. Open the preferences panel and click the “support” tab. Just enter your email address, choose what type of problem you’re having (issue, crash or question) and describe it. You’ll send hide.me an activity log by default, but if you’re not comfortable doing that, just uncheck the box.
Don’t bother clicking on “open FAQ,” though, as that page doesn’t exist. However, there is an extensive knowledgebase on the hide.me website. The articles are well organized and mostly helpful, though many of them could use an editor. There’s also an entire section on streaming sports, which seems like it’s only there for SEO purposes.
Those in need of further help can visit the community forum, though posts are somewhat few and far between.
If we had to choose one word to describe hide.me, it would be “uneven.” Everything is patchy here, from the speed to the streaming performance to the availability of features. When you download and install this VPN, you never know what you’re going to get.
Features like the kill switch work so well that it’s frustrating how often this VPN falls short. Speeds start out great, but decline as you get farther away. It’s a roll of the dice whether you’ll be able to get into your favorite streaming service.
For us, that’s a dealbreaker. For you, it may not be, but we recommend checking out some more consistent VPNs first. Get started with our curated best VPN list. ExpressVPN is our top choice, but there are many other good options.
If you’ve got any favorites, or any questions about hide.me, let us know in the comments. Thanks for reading!