- Strengths & Weaknesses
- Alternatives for Windscribe
- What Is Windscribe?
- Windscribe’s Feature-Packed Browser Extension
- Windscribe on Android, Fire Stick and More
- Windscribe Features Overview
Windscribe is a popular virtual private network that made waves in the VPN scene on the back of its excellent free plan. After a handful of tests, Windscribe has earned a spot near the top of our best VPN rankings thanks to its robust list of features, low price tag and no-nonsense approach to user privacy. That said, it’s far from the fastest VPN we’ve tested, which would be ExpressVPN (read our ExpressVPN review).
In this Windscribe review, we’re going to cover the many high and few low points of the service. We’ll touch on features, pricing, user-friendliness, speed, security, privacy and more, all before giving our verdict.
If you want the short answer, Windscribe is among the best VPNs when it comes to securing your connection. It gets nearly everything right, outside of OpenVPN performance, where it lags behind other top-tier services. That said, with how inexpensive Windscribe is, it’s an issue that’s easy to overlook.
Cloudwards.net updated this review to reflect that Windscribe offers split tunneling for Windows, Android and Mac (10.15) apps.
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Excellent free plan
- Easy to use
- Gets into Netflix
- Unique browser extension
- Clear no-logs policy
- Most locations work for torrenting
- Offers split tunneling
- A little slow
- Lacking WireGuard
- Three-day money-back guarantee
Alternatives for Windscribe
- : PayPal, Credit card, bitcoin, Paymentwall
- : Unlimited
- : Credit card, Google Pay, AmazonPay, ACH Transfer, UnionPay, Crypto Currencies, PayPal (via Paddle)
- : 6
- : PayPal, Credit card, Bitcoin, regional payment systems, WebMoney
- : 5
- : PayPal, Credit card, bitcoin
- : 7
- : PayPal, Credit card
- : 10
Windscribe’s modest appearance and low price tag suggest a lack of features, but that’s thankfully not the case. It offers a range of interesting privacy features that go beyond what a standard VPN can do. That said, there’s one big VPN feature missing that we’d like to see in the future.
What Is Windscribe?
Windscribe is a virtual private network designed to keep you anonymous online. Compared to other services, Windscribe’s big claim to fame is an excellent free version, which puts the free plans of Hide.me and Speedify to shame (we’ll talk more about that in the next section).
As far as features go, the VPN is surprisingly robust, despite its minimalist interface. There’s a kill switch — which Windscribe calls a “firewall” — that will block your internet connection if the VPN connection fails. Additionally, it offers a few options for DNS servers, and it allows you to set custom API resolution and configure a proxy to use with the VPN.
Windscribe also now offers split tunneling, which allows you to control which applications do or do not use the VPN tunnel. The VPN used to offer this feature only for Android apps, but now you can use split tunneling on Windows, Android and Mac (10.15). Unfortunately it’s still not available for Linux and MacOS Big Sur, but the site promises that it’s coming soon.
Windscribe’s Feature-Packed Browser Extension
Windscribe’s browser extension is necessary to get the full experience; it isn’t a second way to control the desktop app. In fact, you can’t turn on the desktop app from the extension. Rather, the browser extension offers a second layer of VPN protection, similar to NordVPN (read our NordVPN review). Furthermore, the extension has a wide range of privacy features.
Windscribe’s browser extension is overflowing with goodies, from blocking ads to rotating your user agent to matching your browser time with your server location. It’s an ad blocker on steroids, going far beyond the competition in terms of securing your browser. Even if you don’t use the VPN, it’s still a good idea to install the browser extension.
The browser extension works alongside R.O.B.E.R.T, which is basically a fancy ad blocker. It uses DNS requests and IP addresses to block access to certain types of sites. By default, it simply blocks malicious sites. However, you can configure it to block gambling sites, fake news, social networks, porn and more.
You can set custom rules with R.O.B.E.R.T, too. For each IP or domain name you enter, you can choose to block, allow or spoof your connection. For example, if you want to block social networks but allow Facebook, you can set a custom rule for that. Free users have access to three custom rules, build-a-plan users get 10 custom rules and Pro users get 1,000.
Windscribe on Android, Fire Stick and More
With the exciting VPN features out of the way, let’s talk platform support. Windscribe has native apps for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS and Android.
It also makes its APK available so you can install Windscribe on Android devices without accessing the Google Play store. Normally, this would be used to load Windscribe on a Fire Stick or something similar. You don’t need to do that now, though.
Windscribe offers native apps for Amazon streaming devices, as well as the Nvidia Shield. These apps are built to run on Android TV, and given this VPN’s focus on streaming, that’s huge. More VPN services are starting to offer their apps on Android TV, and we’re glad to see Windscribe jump on board.
You can install the VPN on your router, too, or buy a router preconfigured. There isn’t a router app like VyprVPN offers, though. Beyond that, Windscribe has a config generator for OpenVPN, IKEv2 and a SOCKS5 proxy so you can set up the service on virtually any device.
Windscribe Features Overview
|Payment methods||PayPal, Credit card, bitcoin, Paymentwall|
|Supports split tunneling|
|Free trial available|
|Worldwide server amount||79 servers in 65 countries|
|Desktop OSes||Windows, MacOS, Linux|
|Mobile OSes||Android, iOS, Android TV, FireTV|
|Browser extensions||Chrome, Firefox|
|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, SOCKS , WireGuard|
|Enabled at device startup|
|Passed DNS leak test|
|Malware/ad blocker included|
Windscribe is already a cheap VPN without considering its generous free plan. The monthly Pro subscription comes with all the bells and whistles, all while being around half the price of Hide.me and Astrill. Additionally, the annual plan is cheap at only $50, though we’ve seen cheaper (read our Private Internet Access review for an example).
- : Per “Pro” server location
- : 10 GB
- : Unlimited
- : Unlimited GB
- : Unlimited
If you’re buying a Pro package, you have access to Windscribe’s entire network, as well as all of the features in the browser extension. For the price, Windscribe is tough to beat, but that’s only if you’re paying by the month. Even then, there are a few cheaper options (read our Mullvad review for an example).
Compared to most VPNs, though, Windscribe Pro is a deal, even when put up against traditionally cheaper options like CyberGhost. That said, the value of Windscribe doesn’t come from its set subscriptions. Rather, it comes from a generous free plan that you can build to fit your needs perfectly.
Differences With Windscribe Free
The main attraction with Windscribe is its free plan, which it has renamed to “build a plan.” If you just want the free service, you don’t have to build your plan. Windscribe gives you 10GB of data per month and a limited list of locations. You can tweet for 5GB more, as well as redeem vouchers for data if you’re lucky enough to find one.
Your data resets each month, too. Assuming you stay on top of tweeting, that’s 15GB of data for free each month, firmly cementing Windscribe as the best free VPN on the market. Other free VPNs, such as TunnelBear, look embarrassing next to Windscribe with how much it has to offer (see how the two compare in our Windscribe vs TunnelBear comparison).
There isn’t a definitive line between a free and paid plan, though, which is where this VPN really shines. You can add other Pro locations to your free plan, each of which cost $1 per month. It’s important to note that you’re purchasing access to a general location, not a specific server. That means the U.S. location, for example, includes 39 data centers for $1.
Each location you add comes with 10GB of data, and you’ll need to purchase at least two locations. Thankfully, Windscribe also allows you to buy unlimited data and the features of R.O.B.E.R.T for $1 per month, too. If you just want a VPN to, say, watch U.S. Netflix, you can get by with Windscribe for only $2 per month.
Windscribe’s flexibility is forward thinking and consumer focused, a combination we rarely see from VPNs. After all, it doesn’t make sense to purchase a subscription to a VPN with 5,000 or more servers only to use a small chunk of them. This VPN gives you the ability to tailor the plan to your use case, which is great.
Although you can download Windscribe free and try it out, there’s a refund policy in place. It’s a little more restrictive than most VPNs, though. You can get a refund if you’ve used less than 10GB of data and if you send a request within three days of your purchase. It’s not a trial period — that’s what the free plan is for — but it is a little consumer protection. If you want a trial period, sign up for an account and ask Garry, the live chat bot, for one.
Windscribe’s Take on Simultaneous Connections
Windscribe handles pricing a little differently, and it handles simultaneous connections a little differently, too. There is no limit on the number of devices you can have connected at once. However, it’s against Windscribe’s terms of service to share your account with anyone outside of your immediate family.
At first glance, the “unlimited” nature of how many devices you can connect is appealing. We’d like a little more concrete information, though. A quick browse of the Windscribe subreddit shows we’re not alone, either, with multiple threads asking the same question: will my account get banned if I go over the device limit?
In most cases, it seems the answer is no (we didn’t run into any problems hooking up nine devices at once). It’d be nice to know what Windscribe is looking for while enforcing its terms of service. We assume that any normal use case is fine, and user reports back that up. However, the threat of a ban still lurks, and we don’t care for that.
Ease of Use
Using Windscribe is a joy (and we have a guide on how to use Windscribe VPN to get you started). The minimalist application leaves little room for questions about how to get connected, all while keeping important information and settings at your fingertips. Windscribe already gets a lot right. However, ease of use is its greatest achievement.
Before getting to that, though, you’ll need an account. You can choose to either download the application first or sign up for an account. Windscribe has “get started” and “log in” buttons that follow you around the site, so you should get set up quickly. As for creating your account, it needs a username and password. After that, you’re good to go.
Once installed, the VPN automatically chooses a location for you. All you need to do is click the “on” button to secure your connection. The connection process itself is very fast, much more so than other VPN services. If you want to choose a location manually, you can expand the list of servers and select one.
Choosing a server is simple, though we would prefer the selection screen to be on the side of the application rather than below it, similar to how CyberGhost handles things. Windscribe doesn’t go as far as NordVPN when it comes to choosing a server, but the overall process is straightforward.
The settings are a little more complex, but you don’t need to mess around with anything there. IKEv2, which is enabled out of the box, is fine for most situations while providing faster speeds than OpenVPN, and the other settings are focused around advanced configurations. When it comes to ease of use overall, Windscribe is all thumbs up.
As with all of our speed tests, we tested Windscribe using OpenVPN with UDP and AES-256. This is so we can universally compare VPN services, as nearly all of them include OpenVPN. Windscribe has other protocol options, though, which can help your speed. We’ll get to those in a moment.
On OpenVPN, Windscribe is far from the fastest VPN around, with ExpressVPN and NordVPN beating it handily. That said, it was very consistent. When running our speed tests, we usually see pretty sporadic results until the final number is calculated, which can have some real-world impact. With Windscribe, it reached its max speed and stayed there, which is a good sign.
We tested four paid locations and one free one, just to make sure there was a significant difference between them. Unfortunately, there was, but not in the way we expected.
The free Chicago server actually achieved a lower latency and higher download speed, compared to one of the paid ones. We retested with some of the other locations, and it seems this is luck of the draw more than anything else, but it’s still an interesting note.
In addition to the OpenVPN tests, we ran a few tests with the IKEv2 protocol. IKEv2 is usually much faster — read our VyprVPN review for an example of that — and it is what Windscribe uses out of the box. It’s more susceptible to blocks, though, making it a poor choice for any high-risk connections. That said, it provides plenty of security for protecting against your ISP.
|Location:||Ping (ms)||Download (Mbps)||Upload (Mbps)|
|Unprotected (St. Louis)||5||455.45||21.63|
Sure enough, our speeds were faster with the IKEv2 protocol, particularly at close locations. The UK location was actually slower, though, both in terms of download speed and latency, which is interesting.
IKEv2 is the best option for speed, but it can be blocked. We’d like to see some sort of WireGuard protocol implementation in the future so Windscribe can offer the best of both worlds.
In short, Windscribe’s speeds are just okay. We’ve seen worse, but we’ve also seen better. Its OpenVPN performance is below expectations, and its IKEv2 performance — while faster — is inconsistent between locations. For the price, it’s hard to complain. Just know that there are faster options available.
Windscribe is fairly stock when it comes to security, though the VPN goes farther than some of its competitors with encapsulated protocol options. For encryption, it uses AES-256, with SHA512 authentication and a 4096-bit RSA key pair handling key management. It’s a standard setup for VPN security, as you can see in our description of encryption.
The encryption is paired with one of two protocols: IKEv2 or OpenVPN. Again, this is standard for most VPNs, as you can see in our VPN protocol breakdown. However, Windscribe also includes two encapsulated OpenVPN protocols, named “stealth” and “wstunnel,” in the application.
“Stealth” uses Stunnel to encapsulate your OpenVPN connection in a TLS tunnel. “Wstunnel” does something similar, just with a WebSocket. For most users, these options are irrelevant, and Windscribe even says that you should use them only if all other methods fail. They’re slower and, in most cases, do little extra in securing your connection.
We’re still happy that this VPN includes them, though, particularly for China and other high-risk countries. Windscribe is among the best VPNs for China because of its encapsulated protocol options.
In countries with strict censorship, there are often network traffic monitors that sift through millions of packets to detect people using a VPN. You’re essentially wrapping your already wrapped connection in another layer of encryption (just much weaker encryption, in this case). By doing so, your traffic will appear normal, meaning it should go under the nose of most censors.
Furthermore, Windscribe implements perfect forward secrecy, meaning your encryption keys are refreshed at the beginning of a session and during sessions. Even if someone were to crack your encryption key — an extremely unlikely event — they’d be able to see only the traffic history for when that key was valid.
Is Windscribe Safe?
In short, Windscribe is safe to use. Furthermore, it goes beyond what’s required of a VPN to be considered “secure.” Windscribe offers two options for an encapsulated connection, and it also uses perfect forward secrecy, which we always like to see. There are some minor problems with this VPN, but thankfully security isn’t among them.
We confirmed this by testing for DNS leaks using IKEv2 and OpenVPN. In both cases, Windscribe came out clean.
Let’s start there. When you set up an account, you’ll be asked to create a username and password, which, of course, are kept on record. You can provide an email address, too, and it’ll be logged. That said, Windscribe doesn’t require an email address. You can pay with cryptocurrency, as well, making the signup process almost fully anonymous.
Once you start using the application, Windscribe stores the last timestamp of when you were connected, as well as the total amount of data transferred in a 30 day period. This is to enforce its bandwidth limitations on the free version, as well as ensure that users aren’t running rampant with account sharing.
While you’re connected, the VPN stores certain data in its server memory, including your OpenVPN/IKEv2 username, the time of the connection and the amount of data transferred.
Although not all VPN services are forthcoming about this practice — read our Buffered VPN review to see that in action — it’s standard fare for most providers. This information is only temporarily stored in system memory and discarded immediately after your session.
Does Windscribe Keep Logs?
We’re five paragraphs in and we’ve talked only about what Windscribe collects. The VPN is still a no-logs service, though. Some basic collection is necessary to enforce bandwidth limitations, seek out inactive accounts and ensure users aren’t going nuts with account sharing. The important thing is that Windscribe makes all of this very clear.
Your IP address, browsing history and location are still private. Furthermore, any information that Windscribe collects is basically useless in identifying you.
Windscribe even maintains a transparency report detailing the number of law enforcement and DMCA requests it receives. After a few hundred thousand DMCA requests and a handful of law enforcement ones, Windscribe still hasn’t handed over any user data; there’s simply nothing to give.
Windscribe used to include a few server locations built specifically for streaming. These servers, called “Windflix,” were available in the U.S., the UK and Japan, and they touted the ability to unlock streaming platforms with ease. Windscribe has since done away with the Windflix servers, giving all of its servers the same streaming performance.
We were easily able to access Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer. Windscribe earned a spot in our best VPN for Amazon Prime Video and best VPN for Hulu guides, and based on its performance in this round of our Windscribe VPN review, it’ll retain those spots.
Speed is the largest hurdle when it comes to streaming with Windscribe. If all you’re concerned about is streaming, we recommend switching over to IKEv2 because it’s much faster in the majority of locations. This is where WireGuard would come in handy again, so we hope to see an update with this protocol soon.
Windscribe Works With Netflix… Kind Of
That brings us to Netflix. Windscribe works wonderfully with the streaming giant, beating out PIA, ProtonVPN and VyprVPN in our best VPN for Netflix guide.
While testing, we tried free and paid servers with Netflix. The free Chicago server worked, as did multiple paid options, though Netflix blocked some. Overall, Windscribe usually breaks into Netflix, and each time we booted up Netflix, we were able to stream free of proxy errors.
Windscribe has around 163 server locations — 165, actually, but the two in Thailand were disabled during our testing — spread across more than 60 countries. As for the actual server count, we don’t know. Unlike NordVPN and CyberGhost, you can’t choose the individual server you connect to. In this rare case, the lack of choice is actually a good thing.
Sifting through servers can be a nightmare, and although you may find a location with better performance, you’ll often find one that’s slower. Like ExpressVPN, Windscribe just allows you to choose the location and does the server selection in the background.
Last we heard from Windscribe, each of the locations in its network has at least three servers. For example, Argentina has two locations, meaning the country has a minimum of six servers. It seems that all of these servers are physical, too, so you’ll be tunneling to a physical server in whatever location Windscribe shows in the application.
We have no way of directly comparing the server count to other services. That said, Windscribe covers more than 60 countries, which is around what we expect from top-tier VPN services. Some go further, such as HideMyAss, but only by using virtual locations.
Windscribe’s customer support mixes a little good with a little bad. The overall customer support experience is positive, with multiple routes to get your questions answered. However, the live chat bot is annoying and, in most cases, not all too helpful.
Let’s get that out of the way first. Windscribe doesn’t use traditional live chat. It’s adopted the trend of using a bot to redirect users to knowledgebase entries and answer basic questions.
Granted, Garry — the name for Windscribe’s live chat bot — is better than most. It can even answer some questions directly. As you can see in the screenshot below, though, it doesn’t always get the answers right.
Still, Garry is a solid option for getting around WIndscribe’s dense knowledgebase. Windscribe has setup guides, general clarifications and a troubleshooting guide, though they’re not laid out in the most elegant way. For example, the “knowledgebase” section is simply a list of articles that aren’t directly related.
Thankfully, you can bypass Garry and the self-help resources with the Windscribe subreddit.
The Windscribe Subreddit
Forums are dead, Reddit is here and Windscribe gets that. Rather than using a dated forum format where user interaction is sporadic, Windscribe has a subreddit dedicated to announcements and questions. It’s a helpful resource, and it’s active, with nearly 15,000 members. If you have a question, the subreddit is the best place to ask it.
That said, Windscribe leans a little too heavily into the norms of the modern internet. For instance, the banner of the subreddit is a meme, and there’s a subreddit chat room simply called “shitposting.” These issues don’t impact the support experience, though.
Windscribe is a very impressive, very inexpensive VPN with a handful of small flaws. Among them, speed is the biggest issue when using OpenVPN. Windscribe installs with IKEv2 enabled, which will lead to faster speeds. That said, we’ve seen far better performance from other VPN services using OpenVPN.
Still, as we’ve seen in this Windscribe review, this VPN has far more positive points than it does negative ones. The user experience is great, the free plan is beyond generous and the browser extension goes beyond what other services offer. We recommend taking Windscribe out for a spin to see if you like it.
If you do, be sure to let us know about your experience in the comments below. As always, thanks for reading.