In our previous Windscribe review, the VPN delivered a performance worthy of the top spot in our best free VPN list. Besides the generous free plan, we liked the affordable yet feature-rich paid version, stellar security and solid privacy. However, we had reservations about its speed, user interface and streaming capability. Luckily, Windscribe has made recent improvements.
- Windscribe is one of the fastest VPNs around, and its security rivals top-tier services such as ExpressVPN and NordVPN.
- Windscribe pricing is as flexible as it gets. You can choose a solid free version if you are on a tight budget, pick the premium version for the whole VPN experience, or build a custom plan to use specific premium locations.
- Its continued unreliable unblocking capability — and data cap on the free plan — means Windscribe isn’t a great option for streaming.
Since our last review, the Windscribe VPN has since made some changes, such as the addition of the WireGuard protocol. The provider has also improved its speeds.
In this Windscribe VPN review, we tested Windscribe on various fronts, from speed and streaming to security and features, to see how its performance has changed. Read on for the full details about its strengths and weaknesses.
05/25/2022 Facts checked
We completed a fresh review of Windscribe. Since our previous review, Windscribe has added the WireGuard protocol, released a new app design and improved its speeds. The provider has also open-sourced the desktop apps and browser extensions.
Yes, Windscribe is a good VPN with stellar security and privacy, and a comprehensive feature set.
Although we don’t often root for free VPNs, we like Windscribe free VPN because it’s safe.
Windscribe has a no-logs policy and doesn’t collect, store, share or sell your data.
Average speedDownload Speed89 MbpsUpload Speed9 MbpsLatency119 ms
- : PayPal, Credit card, Google Pay, Amazon Pay
- : Unlimited
Average speedDownload Speed89 MbpsUpload Speed8 MbpsLatency140 ms
- : Credit card, Google Pay, AmazonPay, ACH Transfer, UnionPay, Crypto Currencies, PayPal (via Paddle)
- : 6
Average speedDownload Speed72 MbpsUpload Speed8 MbpsLatency145 ms
- : PayPal, Credit card, Bitcoin, regional payment systems, WebMoney
- : 5
Average speedDownload Speed48 MbpsUpload Speed8 MbpsLatency136 ms
- : PayPal, Credit card, bitcoin
- : 7
Average speedDownload Speed46 MbpsUpload Speed9 MbpsLatency134 ms
- : PayPal, Credit card
- : 10
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Generous free plan
- Flexible paid plans
- Comprehensive suite of advanced features
- Stellar security & privacy
- 3-day money-back guarantee
- Poor user interface
Windscribe VPN covers the basics well and offers a suite of advanced features that go beyond what some top-tier VPNs provide.
Windscribe VPN Device Compatibility
Windscribe offers native VPN apps for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, routers, Amazon Fire TV, Nvidia Shield and Kodi. In addition, there are extensions for Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge and Opera web browsers.
You can also install Windscribe on devices that don’t support the native app using the config generator for OpenVPN, IKEv2 and WireGuard. The config generator requires a Pro account.
Windscribe’s apps are open source and its code is publicly available on GitHub. If you’re a seasoned programmer, you can access the code, see how it works, look for bugs or change a few lines to customize it.
Windscribe VPN Features
There are plenty of feature options to tinker with, from always-on protection tools such as firewall and network allowlist, to split tunneling and share options.
The firewall (Windscribe’s version of a kill switch) blocks internet access when the VPN connection drops and prevents any internet traffic from bypassing the VPN tunnel. Conversely, the network allowlist auto-disconnects your device from the internet when you join an unsecured WiFi.
Windscribe also offers split tunneling, which allows you to control apps, IPs or hostnames to access the internet directly or use the VPN tunnel. That split tunneling is available on Windows, Mac and Android apps.
Another feature is the “share” option, a Windows-only tool that lets you configure a secure WiFi hotspot on your computer (with a compatible wireless adapter). This way, family members and friends can use Windscribe VPN without having to install it on their devices.
In addition, Windscribe comes with a custom tool called R.O.B.E.R.T. By default, this privacy tool blocks ads and malware. However, if you’re on a Pro plan, you can configure it to block social media, gambling sites, fake news, clickbait and crypto miners. It also lets you create up to 1,000 access rules for custom content filtering.
Windscribe Browser Extension Features
Windscribe’s browser extension is a stand-alone app that’s key to getting the VPN’s full experience. For example, Windscribe apps don’t come with a double VPN tool, but you can achieve that with the browser extension.
All you need to do is connect to a server on the desktop app and a different one in the browser extension. This way, the desktop app acts as the entry node, whereas the browser extension assumes the role of the exit node. Doing so routes your traffic via two locations, such that the websites you visit only see the IP address of the server you’re connected to in the extension.
In addition, Windscribe’s browser extensions work in unison with R.O.B.E.R.T. Then there’s the social distancing tool, an antisocial feature that strips out social trackers from the websites you visit.
What’s more, the “split personality” feature randomly rotates your user agent to thwart browser fingerprinting, thus preventing advertisers from collecting information about your device.
Windscribe Features Overview
|Payment methods||PayPal, Credit card|
|Supports split tunneling|
|Free trial available|
|Worldwide server amount||servers in 69 countries|
|Desktop OSes||Windows, MacOS, Linux|
|Mobile OSes||Android, iOS, BlackBerry|
|Browser extensions||Chrome, Firefox, Opera|
|Can be installed on routers|
|Can access Netflix US|
|Can access BBC iPlayer|
|Can access Hulu|
|Can access Amazon Prime Video|
|VPN protocols available||OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard|
|Enabled at device startup|
|Passed DNS leak test|
|Malware/ad blocker included|
Affordability and flexibility are exemplified in Windscribe’s pricing. It has one of the best free plans on the market, and the affordable paid plans also qualify it as one of the best cheap VPNs.
Windscribe Free VPN Plan
Windscribe’s free version comes with only 2GB of data per month, but you can increase that limit to 10GB when you confirm your email address. It offers VPN servers in 10 countries, and you can only set three access rules with R.O.B.E.R.T.
Beyond these limits, the free version lets you use all the other tools in Windscribe’s arsenal. You also get unlimited simultaneous connections and unlimited bandwidth.
Windscribe VPN Paid Version
The paid plans grant access to unlimited data and server locations. The monthly plan costs $9, which is as low as it gets — it’s nearly $4 cheaper than ExpressVPN and Surfshark.
The one-year plan sets you back $4.08 per month, which is nearly a dollar cheaper than NordVPN — our best cheap VPN (read our NordVPN review) — and less than half the price of ExpressVPN (read ExpressVPN review).
- : Unlimited GB
- : Unlimited
If getting the full Windscribe suite is more than what you’re looking for, consider the build-a-plan option. The custom pricing model lets you save money by purchasing server locations individually.
For $1 per server per month, you get one Pro server location, access to R.O.B.E.R.T and 10GB of extra data on top — there’s a $2 minimum purchase. If the monthly data allowance isn’t enough, you can also upgrade to unlimited data for $1.
If you’re on Windscibe’s Pro plan or the unlimited build-a-plan, you can buy static IP addresses, which come in two types. One is the residential IP address, which costs $96 per year or $8 per month, and the other is the static data-center IP that costs $24 per year, or $2 per month.
A static IP allows you to enable port forwarding on Windscribe — a great option for business use cases. Using these tools in combination allows you to restrict access to critical resources while letting employees access the things they need to get work done. Even better, the static IPs reduce the likelihood of getting blocklisted by streaming and other online services.
Another unique Windscribe add-on is ScribeForce, which goes for $3 per team member per month. ScribeForce is a managed VPN team account that lets you give remote employees the same protections, while simplifying VPN billing.
Windscribe Money-Back Guarantee
The only sore side of the Windscribe pricing model is the money-back guarantee. The vendor deviates from the industry-standard 30-day money-back guarantee and instead offers a three-day money-back guarantee for paid plans — though it’s understandable considering the availability of the free plan.
When it comes to payment options, Windscribe accepts credit cards, cryptocurrency, PayPal and local payments.
Ease of Use
Using Windscribe is a joy for advanced users, though beginners might find its interface cluttered and confusing. While the apps are straightforward to use, the home screen is chock-full of non-essential information and toggles for its various options. The UI also features unintuitive icons that bear no description of their purpose.
Hands-On With Windows App
The UI has a flag of the selected server in the background, a connection button and an expandable locations tab. In addition, it displays details about your IP address, the server you’re connected to, the kill switch toggle, the active protocol and the network you’re using, to name a few.
While the details keep you in the loop about the connection status, it’s much more than you need. Actually, cramming all the details in such a small UI ends up making the home tab look cluttered.
Windscribe lets you sort the server locations by “all,” “favorites,” “static IP” or “configured,” though the tabs are displayed as icons and you’ll have to hover over them to see their names. You can also search a location by country name to find an ideal server. The locations are listed in alphabetical order and some are expandable to the city level.
Windscribe gives you many options to fine-tune the VPN connection to fit your preferences. The options are clearly labeled, though they’re tucked away in tabs that use the same cryptic icons as the servers.
Further, the advanced options come with descriptions about what they do, so it’s easy to configure the app. It’s also easy to find your way around; if you hit a snag, check out our guide on using Windscribe.
Windscribe Mobile Apps
The mobile apps mirror the design of the desktop version. As a result, if you know your way around the desktop app, you won’t struggle to use the mobile apps.
That said, there are some differences in terms of capabilities. For example, split tunneling on Android only offers an app-based option (no URL or hostname split tunneling).
The firewall is also missing; instead, you have an “always-on VPN” feature that requires additional configuration to prevent data leaks on Android. Interestingly, the iOS and Android apps still offer the Windflix servers, which Windscribe scrapped from its desktop apps, though we believe this is only because the labels haven’t been removed yet.
Windscribe is one of the fastest VPNs, and it’s number five on our list for a good reason. It reaches 91% of unprotected download speeds and 90% of unprotected upload speeds in the U.S.
For comparison, Windscribe is one of the fastest VPN for upload and downloads in the U.S. Moreover, it increases ping rate by an insignificant amount — typically less than 5 ms.
Its low ping rate, coupled with excellent speeds, means that if you’re playing games online you won’t experience the lag that ruins your gameplay. Plus, if you’re streaming movies or downloading torrents, you’ll have an interruption-free experience.
That said, Windscribe’s speeds can sometimes be inconsistent across locations, and that’s the only minor quibble we noted during our testing. Moreover, the speed may vary based on the protocol you select. For the best overall performance, we recommend using WireGuard.
Like many top-shelf services, Windscribe offers secure VPN protocols: OpenVPN (TCP and UDP), WireGuard and IKEv2.
Out of the box, Windscribe uses the “automatic” protocol, meaning the VPN picks the best protocol based on your connection. However, you can change the connection option to “manual,” which lets you tinker with all the available VPN protocols.
If you want a great balance of security and performance, OpenVPN is your best option. It’s a tried-and-tested protocol that works seamlessly on all networks. On the other hand, WireGuard is a modern, lightweight protocol that matches OpenVPN’s security and delivers better speeds. IKEv2 is an excellent option for mobile devices.
As far as encryption goes, Windscribe uses AES-256 cipher, with SHA512 authentication and a 4096-bit RSA key. This setup is the gold standard of encryption and VPN security, as you can read in our decryption of encryption guide.
Windscribe Stealth Technology
Windscribe has Stealth and Websocket Stunnel (WStunnel) protocols. Stealth protocol functions as an obfuscation tool; it uses Stunnel to encapsulate your connection in an SSL layer to conceal the fact that you’re using a VPN.
Sadly, the Stealth protocol isn’t available for iOS users due to Apple’s App Store policies. WStunnel, on the other hand, encapsulates your OpenVPN connection in a web socket.
The encapsulated protocols help bypass internet censorship and VPN bans in restrictive countries. In fact, it’s a big reason Windscribe made it onto our best VPNs for China list. However, the Stealth protocol is slow and doesn’t match OpenVPN’s or WireGuard’s security. For this reason, Windscribe recommends using them only when all other VPN protocols fail.
Is Windscribe Safe?
Our WebRTC, DNS and IP leak tests using IPLeak.org proved that Windscribe is as secure as VPNs come. After several tests, we found no WebRTC, IP address or DNS leaks. In other words, when you use Windscribe, your internet service provider (ISP), hackers, malicious snoopers and surveillance agencies won’t know your physical location or what you’re doing online.
Windscribe uses perfect forward secrecy, meaning your traffic’s encryption keys change every time a new data transaction occurs. In the unlikely event a hacker gets hold of the session key, they would only be able to decrypt that session and not your entire communication. Even decrypting that session would be near impossible, because AES-256 is virtually unbreakable.
Windscribe Ukraine Security Breach
In late 2021, Ukrainian authorities confiscated two Windscribe’s VPN servers in the country. This is not the first time a restrictive regime has seized VPN servers; ExpressVPN suffered the same fate in Turkey.
However, Windscribe’s case was unique in that the company had not encrypted the Ukrainian servers. As a result, the Ukrainian authorities could imitate the servers, as well as monitor and decrypt their traffic.
The silver lining to Winscribe’s server seizure is that no user data was exposed because the service does not log VPN traffic or customer data.
However, the company has since introduced dynamic certificates for each data center, with a 90 day expiry. It also removed the vulnerable setting to leave no backdoor to attackers. In addition, Windscribe is working on a new in-memory system that will ensure data passing through the servers is ephemeral.
When you visit the Windscribe website, the vendor collects relevant data about your browser user agent, language, a subset of IP address and referring domain.
As for using the VPN, you don’t have to hand in your email address during sign up, but the provider keeps the transaction ID when you pay for the premium plans.
In addition, Windscribe logs the data it needs to enforce free version limitations, including details about data usage throughout the month and the timestamp of your last activity on its network.
Beyond that, when you connect to a Windscribe server, it records the protocol username, the amount of data transferred and connection time in its memory, but deletes this data from its RAM servers when you disconnect.
Does Windscribe Keep Logs?
It’s standard practice for a VPN to gather some of the information we described above to streamline service delivery. In this case, Windscribe needs the information to enforce free tier limitations, prune inactive accounts and bar rogue users from running rampant with account sharing.
There’s a transparency report to back this claim. As per this report, Windscribe has faced data requests from DMCA and law enforcement over the years, and in all cases, it didn’t comply with the requests since it had zero data to share.
Windscribe used to offer streaming-optimized servers called “Windflix” servers, though it has since removed them and given all servers in its fleet the same streaming capability. We tested the servers’ streaming performance and got mixed results.
Windscribe unblocked Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer on the first attempt. Beyond that, we had to switch servers multiple times to unblock the Netflix, Disney Plus and HBO Max libraries.
Unfortunately, due to our testing location in Africa, the speeds we received were almost too slow to watch content on most of the streaming services. Windscribe’s speed is excellent when you’re close to its servers, but it creates a major challenge if you’re trying to access servers further away from your home location, as you can see from the table below.
We also had a strange error pop up with Disney Plus, which showed error code 83, which suggests the Disney Plus algorithm thought we were using an “incompatible” device.
Additionally, if you’re on the free plan, you’ll quickly blow through the 10GB of data. If streaming is your cup of tea, we suggest opting for a paid VPN from our best VPNs for streaming list. If you want an apt VPN for specific streaming services, check out our best VPN for Netflix, best VPN for Hulu and best VPN for HBO Max guides.
When it comes to the VPN server locations, we evaluate the server count, geographical spread and the availability of specialty VPN servers. Windscribe doesn’t disclose the total number of servers it maintains, so it was difficult to compare it to other VPNs on this front.
As far as the server spread goes, Windscribe has VPN servers in 112 locations spread across 69 countries. It still doesn’t stand up to ExpressVPN’s impressive roster of 160 server locations in 94 countries, but it’s treading the right course.
Windscribe’s server spread is Euro-centric, covering more than 35 European countries out of 69. There are servers in three North American countries, but that doesn’t paint a clear picture of the server spread in this region. In total, 52 Windscribe server locations (out of 112) are in North America. Asia-Pacific is also well represented, as is South America.
Moreover, Windscribe covers some perennially overlooked regions such as Africa, where it has servers in Kenya, Ghana and South Africa. It even has a VPN server location in the Middle East (Israel). All Windscribe servers are physical — read our virtual vs physical servers to learn the difference.
If you run into trouble when using Windscribe, multiple customer support options are available. The support page is an excellent place to start if you want to learn about Windscribe’s features or get past billing and VPN setup hurdles. There’s a comprehensive FAQ page and a library of helpful guides for your devices.
Unfortunately, there’s no live chat option. Instead, Windscribe has a chatbot called Garry to engage users. Garry acts as an intermediary between the support page and ticketing system. The bot provides automated responses when you submit a query and suggests links to helpful guides.
When you type “human agent” (which is a quick way to request the bot to connect you to a human agent), it does present a “talk to a human” button. However, the bot creates a ticket when you click this option instead of opening a live chat. You’ll have to wait for a response via email, though in our experience, response times are fast.
Windscribe VPN: The Verdict
Windscribe is a great VPN service, whether you use the free or paid version. Its comprehensive feature set, solid security and privacy are hallmarks of a reliable VPN service and the reason it gets a spot on our list of best VPN providers.
The only blemishes on Windscribe’s performance is the inconsistent streaming unblocking experience and the crowded UI. Of course, before upgrading to a paid version, you could start with the free version to get a firsthand feel for the service.
What do you think of our Windscribe VPN review? Have you used Windscribe before? Is there a category in which we overrated or underrated Windscribe? What would you recommend Windscribe for? We’d like to hear about it in the comments. As always, thanks for reading.