Both ordinary people and organizations rely on VPNs for a number of reasons. A secure connection to a shared network; keeping up to date with sports, news, and popular TV shows, accessing console exclusives, P2P sharing. The reasons are endless. But online safety and anonymity is what everyone expects VPNs to provide. Some are really good at it too. The level of technology services are working with means that we’re now more protected against snooping than ever.
Although some services are more expensive than others, there are a lot of free ones out there too; some better than others. But choosing one that gives the right level of protection and performance is going to be difficult. Although you’re saving money, you won’t get the performance you’re bound to expect from it. And you won’t experience anywhere near the benefits a paid user would, even if you choose one of the better names. Another thing to consider is that the app you’ve installed might not be one you can trust. Some will use your data against your will, operate on a peer-to-peer format, and many don’t offer the level of encryption you would expect.
Main issues that users face with free VPNs
Limits and restrictions on data usage: It’s worth keeping in mind that many of these providers will have usage restriction – some of which go as low as 500 MB – and it’s common for them to intentionally slow your connection to encourage you to use its paid service. If you’re only going to be using it for a short period, you should know that most of the best providers offer a money-back guarantee for up to 30 days.
Privacy risks: There are hundreds of VPN apps out there, and when you’re choosing a free service, there’s a good chance you may stumble upon some that are hosts to malicious and invasive activity. Many are known to contain malware, sell your information to third parties, and use tracking libraries to store all your browsing information. Many mobile apps also want access to private material such as text messages and email. And a number of free VPN apps have been found to not provide any level of data encryption at all.
The best free VPNs
There are tons of great providers out there offering free versions of their service that we regularly review on this website. Below is a list of some alternative free VPNs available at the moment, along with their limitations.
TunnelBear: TunnelBear is at least the most visually pleasing of the bunch. It’s well designed and simple to use, making it a popular choice among users. Now that it’s been acquired by McAfee, it’s got the support, stability and innovation that a company on that level can offer. It works well across all platforms, and its strong speeds make it a good choice for basic browsing.
Negatives: The real flaw in this VPN is the level of traffic. Free users only receive 500MB of traffic for each month, which is hardly enough to cover the average person’s activity. To get an extra 1GB on top of the monthly 500MB, you just need to tweet about them.
Windscribe: This is a great VPN for anyone skimping out on the paid service. It offers generous data allowance – 10GB to be exact – and users have the chance to increase it. Add 5GB by tweeting about the service and 1GB for each friend you refer. With such a large number of servers across the world, Windscribe maintains a steady level of performance across all devices.
Negatives: Although it has many servers placed worldwide, free users don’t have access to all of them. This will affect some users worse than others. The options when switching between servers becomes limited too, and Windscribe is known for having an overprotective firewall and adblocker.
ProtonVPN: Brought to you by the minds behind ProtonMail, ProtonVPN is a relatively new service that comes with the same commitment to security. With no limit on traffic and a sophisticated interface, it’s one of the more attractive free VPNs. It has servers in major locations like the United States, as well as more obscure countries like Switzerland and the Netherlands. And with a no-log policy, you’ve got better privacy.
Negatives: As mentioned before, some VPNs will intentionally restrict your connection, as a means to encourage users to opt for their paid service. ProtonVPN is one of them. ProtonVPN has an unlimited data allowance, so it has to make its paid service seem desirable somehow.
The important thing to remember is that you’ll always have to sacrifice something if you’re not willing to pay for the service. Some might offer a large amount – or even unlimited – traffic, or connection to their servers based worldwide, but there’s a lot that you won’t get. Enhanced security features such as DNS leak protection, an automatic kill switch, and a 256-bit encryption; the best level of performance through a connection to thousands of worldwide servers, unlimited bandwidth and no throttling; as well as access across multiple platforms and devices simultaneously.
If you’re considering a free VPN – or any VPN at all – then you’re aware of the need to be safe online. Just know that using a free VPN comes at a cost. And in many cases, the level of protection and performance they provide; compared to what you expect from them, it means they’re often flawed.