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Proton VPN vs Windscribe in 2023: Which Free VPN Is Best?

Windscribe and Proton VPN are both well-built VPNs that make security accessible to everybody. We compare them to see which one is worth your download. From speed to security to pricing, who wins the battle of Proton VPN vs Windscribe?

Samuel Chapman
By Samuel Chapman (Editor)
— Last Updated: 2022-10-14T04:00:54+00:00 Facts checked by Jasna Mishevska

Proton VPN vs Windscribe: They’re the two champions of the free VPN world. Much like ExpressVPN and NordVPN consistently battle it out for the top spot among paid VPNs, Canada-based Windscribe and Switzerland-based Proton VPN fight for the hearts and minds of the budget-conscious VPN user. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Both Proton VPN and Windscribe are excellent services. Choosing between them isn’t about finding the best VPN, but about deciding which features are important to you.
  • Windscribe’s paid plans are cheaper and provide access to more servers. Its widely available split tunneling makes it a better choice for torrenting.
  • Proton VPN doesn’t cap traffic on its free plan. It’s better at both accessing streaming services and giving you enough data to watch content.
  • Both VPNs are private and secure, but Windscribe has proven its security chops through its rapid response to a server seizure in Ukraine.

For those who want to stay safe and anonymous online without paying through the nose, both Proton VPN and Windscribe are two of the best VPNs to consider — but they’re far from identical. When the two VPNs face off in the arenas of speed, feature quality, pricing, security and more, there’s often a clear winner.

If you’ve been wracking your brain trying to figure out which of these free VPNs is better for you, follow along as we pit Proton VPN against Windscribe in 10 different categories. We hope we can help you figure out which free VPN will meet your needs.

  • In our opinion, Windscribe is the better service, but only by a little. It’s the best VPN choice for torrenting, customer support and saving money.

  • Yes, Proton VPN is a strong, secure VPN with a free plan that goes far beyond most of the competition. It’s the only free VPN that doesn’t limit how much data you can use.

  • Yes. Windscribe VPN leapt into action when two of its servers were seized in Ukraine, closing any security holes that might have made it possible to spy on user traffic. Also, after years in business, it’s never been caught violating its no-logs policy.

Proton VPN vs Windscribe: Comparison & Tests

Scoring is simple for this free VPN matchup. We’ll compare Proton VPN and Windscribe in 10 areas: speed, features, pricing (including free plan limitations), security (protection from third parties), online privacy (protection from the VPN provider itself), streaming, torrenting, server locations, user-friendliness and customer support.

Each time a VPN service wins or ties in an area, it gets one point. Whichever VPN service ends with the most points is the winner. 

We’d like to caution you, however, that the winner isn’t necessarily the VPN everybody should use. Some internet users might place a priority on areas that others ignore. If you don’t torrent, for example, the best VPN for torrenting won’t help you much. Here’s a quick rundown of each round’s winners.

Round:Proton VPNWindscribe
1. Speed✅ Wins
2. Features✅ Wins
3. Pricing✅ Wins
4. Security✅ Wins
5. Privacy☑️ Tie☑️ Tie
6. Streaming✅ Wins
7. Torrenting✅ Wins
8. Server locations✅ Wins
9. User-friendliness✅ Wins
10. Customer support✅ Wins
Overall Points5 total points6 total points

As you can see, it’s a very close battle. Both VPNs have their excellent points — we even had one draw in privacy. The fact that Windscribe technically “won” is less important than knowing what each VPN service does well. The best VPN is whatever the best VPN is for you.

If you’re a new VPN user, you want to watch a lot of streaming content or speed is important to you, choose Proton VPN. If you do a lot of torrenting, want a free version with more server locations, or you’re on a budget, pick Windscribe.

For more helpful content on both services, see our Proton VPN review or our Windscribe review.

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1. Speed

Speed depends on whether you’ll be using the VPN for free or paying for premium service. Both VPNs limit free users to certain servers: Proton VPN offers three country locations and Windscribe offers 10. Because they’re accessible to more people, free servers tend to have higher loads and slower speeds.

We tested the free and premium servers on both VPNs, then compared their performance to our unprotected speeds. The winning VPN is the one with the fastest speeds and the least lag.

Proton VPN vs Windscribe: Free Server Speed Test

First, let’s test the free servers. Windscribe doesn’t have a free server in Japan, so we used the nearest server in Hong Kong instead.

LocationWindscribe latency (ms)Windscribe download (Mbps)Windscribe upload (Mbps)Proton
VPN latency (ms)
Proton
VPN download (Mbps)
Proton
VPN upload (Mbps)
Unprotected1827.665.891827.665.89
U.S.5315.135.2015513.994.06
Netherlands34513.524.913639.535.39
Japan25722.705.27
Hong Kong4837.455.58

The numbers mostly favor Windscribe’s free servers, but it’s a small advantage. On the closest servers in the United States, Windscribe increased latency by a factor of three, and dropped download speed to about 55% of our unprotected rates. However, compared to Proton VPN — which increased latency 8.5 times and dropped speeds below 50% — Windscribe looks better.

The only exception is on extremely different servers. Proton VPN looked better in Japan than it did in the United States, while Windscribe’s speeds dropped sharply in Hong Kong.

The fact that Proton VPN did worse in the free VPN speed tests isn’t surprising, as it promises only “medium” speeds on the free servers.

Proton VPN vs Windscribe: Paid Server Speed Tests

On the paid plan servers, it’s a different story.

LocationsWindscribe latency (ms)Windscribe download (Mbps)Windscribe upload (Mbps)Proton VPN latency (ms)Proton VPN  download (Mbps)Proton VPN upload (Mbps)
Unprotected1827.665.891827.665.89
U.S.4112.275.413323.435.39
U.K.3227.152.5645327.054.23
Brazil3895.001.9541512.454.55
South Africa6873.693.8462817.881.68
Singapore4919.852.2849120.165.58
Australia3902.112.6931616.984.96

Proton VPN looks faster in just about every location. Its speeds still aren’t incredible, especially in Brazil, Australia and South Africa, but it beats out Windscribe at every turn. Given that the difference on the free servers wasn’t quite so stark, we’re prepared to call Proton VPN the winner in this category.

2. Features

Both Proton VPN and Windscribe strike a good balance with their feature sets, feeling neither bare-bones nor overstuffed.

Proton VPN’s Features

Proton VPN does an excellent job of integrating its features into its core functionality. Everything is there to make you safer, directly or indirectly. Its Secure Core servers go beyond a traditional multi-hop VPN connection by ensuring that at least one of the data centers you connect through is a highly secured physical location in Switzerland, Iceland or Sweden.

protonvpn secure core servers
Other than its unlimited free version, Secure Core is Proton VPN’s most significant differentiator.

It’s also got a malware and ad blocker, NetShield, though it doesn’t use machine learning to predict attacks — it just blocks any website on a database of known offenders. There’s also a kill switch, and Windows and Android users get access to split tunneling.

Windscribe’s Features

Windscribe has a slightly different feature set, but you’ll see some of the same hits. There’s a kill switch (called a “firewall”) and split tunneling on Windows, macOS and Android. Some more unique features include the ability to use a Windows computer running Windscribe as a secure hotspot, and a browser extension that allows anyone to use a double-hop connection.

windscribe proxy gateway
If you run Windows, you can use Windscribe as a secure hotspot. On macOS, this is all you’ll see.

Other than the VPN, though, Windscribe’s most characteristic offering has to be R.O.B.E.R.T. On the free version, R.O.B.E.R.T. is a customizable blocker of ads and malware that lets you come up with blocklists and allowlists for specific domains. 

Upgrading to Windscribe Pro or using the build-a-plan option adds lists for social media, porn, gambling sites, fake news domains and more.

So far, so similar. However, Proton VPN pulls ahead by offering specialty servers, much like the ones available on NordVPN. These servers are optimized for certain tasks, including P2P file sharing and Tor servers for the popular anonymity network. Windscribe has nothing of the sort, though torrenting and Onion over VPN are allowed on all its servers.

Proton VPN also gets a few bonus points for being integrated into the Proton family of privacy tools, which includes Proton Mail (email with strong end-to-end encryption — read our Proton Mail review). Then there’s the profiles feature, which saves configurations for easy repeat access. 

All in all, there’s just more you can do than with Proton VPN, and it’s all executed well.

$4.99 / month (All Plans)30-day money-back guarantee$5.75 / month (All Plans)3-day money-back guarantee
ProtonVPN ReviewWindscribe Review
General
Payment methodsPayPal, Credit card, Bitcoin, cashPayPal, Credit card
Accepts cryptocurrency
Simultaneous connections 10 Unlimited
Supports split tunnelingWindows & Android
Unlimited bandwidth
Free trial available
Refund period
Worldwide server amount1700+servers in 69 countries
Desktop OSesWindows, MacOS, LinuxWindows, MacOS, Linux
Mobile OSesAndroid, iOSAndroid, iOS, BlackBerry
Browser extensionsChrome, Firefox, Opera
Can be installed on routers
Streaming
Can access Netflix US
Can access BBC iPlayer
Can access Hulu
Can access Amazon Prime Video
Security
Encryption types256-AES, RSA-4096, ChaCha20, HMAC-SHA384256-AES
VPN protocols availableOpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuardOpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard
Enabled at device startup
Allows torrenting
No-logging policy
Passed DNS leak test
Killswitch available
Malware/ad blocker included
Support
Live Chat
Email support24/724/7
Phone support
User forum
Knowledgebase
Round: Features
Point for Proton VPN
Visit ProtonVPN2
Visit Windscribe 0

3. Pricing

We’ll start this round by comparing the free plans offered by Windscribe and Proton VPN. Both are known to be generous free VPNs, and both come with unlimited bandwidth (though not data). Which one comes with more?

Proton VPN Free is one of the few free VPNs that doesn’t impose a data cap. You can use it as much as you like without paying. However, you’re limited to a few servers in the United States, Japan and the Netherlands. You also can’t use most of its features; Secure Core, Tor servers and NetShield are all off-limits.

Windscribe’s free VPN takes a different approach. It does have a data cap, but it’s one of the highest caps in the business — up to 15GB if you provide an email address and tweet about the VPN service. You can use servers in 10 countries and get limited access to R.O.B.E.R.T., plus unlimited bandwidth. 

Windscribe even offers unlimited simultaneous connections for free (Proton VPN only gives you one). Many competitive VPN providers only support up to five devices (Surfshark is a notable exception), so this makes Windscribe very attractive.

Proton VPN Plus costs $9.99 per month, $5.99 per month for a year, or $4.99 per month for two years. Paying unlocks 10 simultaneous connections and the complete server network.

ProtonVPN pricing
In addition to these plans, you can get package deals on all of Proton’s products.

Windscribe is cheaper, costing $9 per month or $5.75 per month for a year. There’s no two-year option, but you can save even more by building your own plan. This option costs $1 per server location (with a minimum of $3), plus an additional $1 for unlimited data. That’s far cheaper per month than any Proton VPN plan — and you only have to commit for a month.

windscribe-pricing-plans
Both of Windscribe’s paid plans cost less than their Proton VPN counterparts, but it lacks a two-year plan.

Windscribe wins out here for most users. The only reason to prefer Proton VPN’s pricing is if you do a lot of HD streaming and can’t afford a VPN account. In that specific situation, the lack of a data limit on this service will come in handy.

Round: Features
Point for Windscribe
Visit ProtonVPN2
Visit Windscribe 1

4. Security

The core VPN security features of Windscribe and Proton VPN are almost indistinguishable. Both are built around the same VPN protocols: OpenVPN, WireGuard and IKEv2. All three of these protocols are known to be secure, featuring the strongest encryption currently available to the public. Both VPNs passed all our DNS leak tests.

However, Windscribe is the winning service for two reasons: It’s got additional protocols for obfuscation, and it’s been tested in the real world.

Windscribe offers Stealth and WStunnel, two protocols that conceal your VPN connection from anyone who blocks or censors all VPNs equally. This strong encryption makes it a great VPN for China if you’re planning a visit.

windscribe protocols
It’s not easy to find out how to change protocols on Windscribe. Go to the connection tab, then change the mode from auto to manual to see the dropdown menu.

Windscribe also faced a real-world security test in 2021, when police in Ukraine confiscated two of its servers. After realizing that a perfect storm of bugs might have let the police spy on user activities, Windscribe overhauled its certification process for data centers to ensure the incident never happened again.

That response makes us a bit more confident in Windscribe’s security than in that of Proton VPN, which has never undergone an equivalent trial by fire.

5. Privacy

This round is where we’ve got our first tie, as Proton VPN and Windscribe have functionally identical privacy policies.

Windscribe claims that it keeps the minimum logs possible on user behavior, and deletes them all as soon as you disconnect from the server. Its regular transparency report tracks requests from law enforcement, none of which have been fulfilled.

windscribe privacy policy
Windscribe’s privacy policy makes its pro-user philosophy clear.

Proton VPN claims about the same — that it doesn’t keep any data that could be used to incriminate a user on any charges. 

Its own transparency report cites a Swiss legal case in which Proton VPN could not provide evidence because its logs didn’t exist (however, we couldn’t find a news story that directly named the case in question). It also recently passed an independent audit of its no-logs policy.

protonvpn privacy policy
This assurance opens Proton VPN’s well-written, audit-backed privacy policy.

Although Windscribe hasn’t been audited recently, its very infrastructure makes it impossible for it to keep logs, so we’ve no doubt it would pass any test. Proton VPN is built the same way, so we’re giving both services the win.

Round: Privacy
No clear winner, points for both
Visit ProtonVPN3
Visit Windscribe 3

6. Streaming

To succeed at streaming, a VPN needs to check two boxes: the ability to bypass firewalls on Netflix and other platforms, and high enough download speed to watch videos without stuttering.

We tested both VPNs on six streaming platforms: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max and Disney+. 

Proton VPN was able to access all six with great video quality, even on the U.K. server. Windscribe did as well, but we had to try more servers, and the whole process generally took longer. Therefore, Proton VPN is our winner for streaming.

Round: Streaming
Point for Proton VPN
Visit ProtonVPN4
Visit Windscribe 3

7. Torrenting

Both Proton VPN and Windscribe are fine VPNs for torrenting, especially when you compare their free plans to other free options. That said, can we crown a winner here?

To start, both VPNs allow torrenting. Proton VPN has some specialized servers adapted to encourage torrenting, though they’re only available on paid plans. Windscribe supports torrenting on any server without a “no P2P” icon.

Since we already know Proton VPN has better average download speeds, you might ask why we’re giving Windscribe the edge. Two words: split tunneling. Both VPNs offer split tunneling on all plans, letting you run your torrent client through the VPN while using the internet at full speed without protection. However, Windscribe makes it available on more platforms.

Round: Torrenting
Point for Windscribe
Visit ProtonVPN4
Visit Windscribe 4

8. Server Locations

For this category, we’re not just comparing the strict sizes of each VPN’s server network, but also how well-distributed the server locations are. It’s hard to get adequate performance without a server relatively close to you.

Windscribe has more server locations in general, with 112 data centers in 69 countries. Proton VPN lags slightly behind with 89 locations in 64 countries. Windscribe also offers far more servers on its free plan, with 10 locations, compared to Proton VPN’s three.

protonvpn desktop ui
Proton VPN has plenty of server locations in Latin America, and even a few in Africa, but not as many as Windscribe.

Both services have several locations in areas that other VPNs often overlook, such as Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. Since both networks are equally expansive, Windscribe wins on sheer numbers.

Round: Server Locations
Point for Windscribe
Visit ProtonVPN4
Visit Windscribe 5

9. User-Friendliness

Downloading both VPNs is straightforward — it happens almost automatically once you’ve paid for it. It’s when you start using the apps that they begin to diverge.

protonvpn home screen
Proton VPN thoughtfully integrates its features into its desktop interface.

Proton VPN has one of the best VPN interfaces. Its visually pleasing, dark-hued apps pack a lot of features into a small space without ever feeling overstuffed. Using Proton VPN feels like navigating a perfectly arranged room. It connects quickly, even to slower servers.

Windscribe isn’t nearly as well-designed. Its desktop apps are so compressed that they look like mobile apps, and even the mobile apps look cluttered. Features are listed haphazardly without much explanation of what they do. It’s daunting for the non-technical user, and it doesn’t help that connecting to servers can be inexplicably sluggish.

windscribe bucharest
Windscribe’s UI is a jumbled mess.

However, this category is closer than it might seem. It’s also important to consider how many devices and platforms the VPN works on. Both VPNs work on Windows, macOS, Linux, Android and iOS. Windscribe regains some points here by having browser extensions (Google Chrome, Firefox, Edge) and apps for smart TVs, neither of which you’ll find on Proton VPN.

Windscribe also sells pre-configured routers. Meanwhile, Proton requires you to set up a router VPN manually. It’s not quite enough to overcome its misguided interface, but Windscribe’s wider variety of apps does make up some ground.

Round: User-Friendliness
Point for Proton VPN
Visit ProtonVPN5
Visit Windscribe 5

10. Customer Support

Neither of these VPNs has great customer support. Windscribe has a decent knowledgebase, but there’s no live chat; you’ll have to make do with an auto-responding bot. The articles are mostly useful, but they frequently try to be funny at inappropriate times.

At least it’s possible to submit a support ticket, and response times are quick.

Proton VPN is worse, though. The knowledgebase is scant, with no clear system for producing helpful content. It seems that new information is added only when a user reports a specific bug. Its website often seems to be hiding the support ticket form on purpose. At least on Windscribe.com, it’s easy to find, so Windscribe wins by default.

The Verdict

Deciding the battle of Windscribe vs Proton VPN isn’t easy. Both VPN providers are strong, and the competition has clearly made them both stronger.

In general, Proton VPN is faster and easier to use. It unblocks streaming platforms more consistently, and unlimited data means you can actually stream more than an hour of video per month on its free VPN.

Windscribe, despite being harder to use and slightly slower than Proton VPN, rises above it in a number of ways. Its security is more battle-tested, its server network more expansive and its customer support more humanist. It may fall behind in certain particulars, but overall Windscribe is the stronger VPN, on both the paid version and the free.

In the Windscribe vs Proton VPN contest, which do you prefer? Or do you use another one altogether? Leave a comment with your opinion. Thanks for reading!

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