Free VPNs have a bit of a negative connotation, especially in comparison to paid platforms. Many free VPNs are plagued with constant advertisements, and many more aren’t very secure or privacy-focused since they collect and sell your data to third-party advertisers in order to make money.
However, not all free VPNs are complete wastes of time. In fact, some free VPN platforms are quite good, especially when you take their features into account and remember that they don’t cost anything to use.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at the best free VPNs for all users and see whether they’re worth the hassle of a download.
Want to jump straight to the answer? The best free VPN for most people is Hotspot Shield.
Why Choose a Free VPN?
The most obvious reason to target a free virtual private network instead of a paid VPN, like NordVPN, is the price difference. After all, if you could get free anonymity as you browse the Internet or access restricted content that your government doesn’t normally allow, all without spending a penny, wouldn’t you?
While this sounds like a great deal on the surface, there are some issues with free VPNs you should be aware of before downloading one.
For starters, remember that all VPN companies have to turn a profit in some way. If they offer their VPN services for free, that usually means that they are collecting something else from you – like your data. In fact, many of the best free VPNs will sell their users’ data to third parties in order to turn a profit.
This somewhat defeats the purpose of browsing anonymously and stands in stark contrast to many peoples’ reasons for turning to VPNs in the first place. Furthermore, many free VPNs will include data caps or otherwise limit the amount of stuff you can download or browse. This means that some free VPN services aren’t great for streaming video or torrenting: two popular activities that take up the majority of private downloading time for free VPN users.
Free VPNs also normally suffer when it comes to customer support or extra features. Many of these services are necessarily bare bones since their operators aren’t very profitable compared to their paid counterparts.
This doesn’t mean that free VPNs aren’t worth your time. It just helps to know what you’re getting into. Don’t download a free VPN service expecting the best of the best or unlimited bandwidth. Instead, use free VPNs as limited and temporary tools.
It’s often great to use a free VPN to see if it actually works for your needs before purchasing a paid tier of service. Or you use a free VPN for a very minor or brief foray into private browsing – for instance, maybe you really want to unblock an episode of a TV show that is geographically limited in your country, and don’t want to use the VPN beyond seeing that episode. Free VPNs are also useful for adding some protection while you browse on public wifi: a dangerous gambit at best.
Additionally, free VPNs can vary dramatically from the best to the worst. Keep reading if you want to see the top free VPNs available instead of scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel.
The 6 Best Free VPN Providers (2020)
Hotspot Shield Free VPN is a phenomenal example of a free VPN service. There’s a lot to like right out of the digital box, including a 500 MB daily data allowance. This isn’t enough to watch tons of YouTube or stream a lot of television, but it’s great for general browsing and downloading some pictures. Since the limit refreshes daily, you may never feel the real restrictions of this cap. This limit is also fairly generous compared to many of the other free VPNs on the market.
Hotspot Shield Free VPN also offers military-grade encryption for users’ security. What this actually means is kept somewhat secret, as the Hotspot Shield Free VPN site only offers generalities. Still, it does assure users that their data will be safe from government snooping or from malicious hackers or malware. It’s also one of the fastest VPNs you can get for free.
Most users will appreciate that Hotspot Shield Free VPN is very easy to use and features an intuitive interface. You can access the VPN features via mobile devices, like an iPhone or Android phone, or your Mac or Windows desktops, and either way, you’ll be able to start browsing anonymously or from different IP addresses quickly and smoothly.
Hotspot Shield Free only offers a single US-based VPN server for connecting to, however, which is very limited compared to the 70+ countries you can choose from with the paid version.
One other thing to note is that all Android users will have to put up with ads. Even with these minor downsides, Hotspot Shield Free VPN offers a lot to like and is one of the most generous free VPN services you can find.
- 500 MB daily cap
- Intuitive user interface
- Anchors users to a single US-based location
- Support for all major platforms/OS
Hotspot Shield Free VPN is a phenomenal example of a free VPN service.
Many folks have heard of TunnelBear, and for good reason; it’s one of the most user-friendly free VPN services on the market. This is bolstered by its colorful and simplistic design, which can help set your mind at ease if you are just getting into using a VPN for the first time. TunnelBear unfortunately has a cap of 500 MB per month. This is a serious limitation and means you should only use the free version of TunnelBear for brief browsing activities or when you must be anonymous on short notice.
This also means TunnelBear is a poor choice for streaming and torrenting Netflix or other media, as you’ll blow through that monthly allowance pretty quickly. The good news is that TunnelBear only collects the bare minimum of data from its users, so you don’t have to worry too much about your data being exploited by third-party advertisers. You don’t even have to supply your first name when you sign up.
TunnelBear offers desktop and mobile clients for all users, and both run very well. They also offer a plethora of anchor locations, both domestically and internationally. Ultimately, we’d only recommend using TunnelBear if you only need to rely on a free VPN once in a while.
- 500 MB monthly data cap
- Has both mobile and desktop interfaces
- Interface is intuitive and user-friendly
- Doesn’t collect a ton of user data
Many folks have heard of TunnelBear, and for good reason; it’s one of the most user-friendly free VPN services on the market.
ProtonVPN Free is most distinguished from other free VPN providers by a lack of data restrictions. That’s right – you can use this free VPN app as much as you want, making it the prime choice for streaming and torrenting to your heart’s content. Unlimited free data is incredibly rare for any free VPN provider to offer, so consider it if you want to use a VPN for the above activities more than anything else.
However, there are some restrictions. You can only use ProtonVPN Free on a single device, and there are only three anchor locations. Furthermore, all free users have lower data download priority compared to any of the paying subscribers, so you may see spikes and dips in your data download speeds.
But they also don’t log your online activity, so you won’t have too much data scooped for use by third-party advertising companies. You only need to supply your email address to sign up. We also like that there aren’t any incessant advertisements to sit through.
All in all, it’s a fantastic free VPN with advantages that help to offset many of the traditional downsides to using these affordable services. If you can stomach slow download speeds from time to time, ProtonVPN Free is a great choice.
- No data cap
- 3 anchor locations
- Only use it on one device
- Paid users get traffic priority
ProtonVPN Free is most distinguished from other free VPN providers by a lack of data restrictions.
Windscribe is one of the few free VPN services that are available for Linux, but it’s also noteworthy since it offers a relatively high data download limit of 10 GB per month. This is much higher than TunnelBear’s. To make things even better, Windscribe offers 10 anchor locations, including several in international locations like Germany, Switzerland, Canada, and Hong Kong.
Thus, you don’t have to worry about your data being surreptitiously gathered and used against you at any point. The downside is that traffic speeds are notoriously inconsistent. While this can be a decent pick for torrenting or streaming services, it’s far from the most reliable on the market. All in all, it’s a good free VPN service for those concerned about privacy more than anything else.
- 10 GB data cap
- Works for Linux, Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android
- Inconsistent download speeds
Windscribe is one of the few free VPN services that are available for Linux, but it’s also noteworthy since it offers a relatively high data download limit of 10 GB per month.
Speedify, as befitting its name, is a pretty fast VPN for general browsing and small file downloads. You get a 2 GB per month data limit, which is low but not as restrictive as TunnelBear. It boosts regular browsing speed by using the best available Internet connections based on your anchor point. It also uses “turbocharging” technology to improve this even further, though the technical specifics are a bit hard to determine.
Regardless, the free version of this VPN offers high speeds due to some choice servers in their collection. You’re still limited by your data cap, of course. Interesting, Speedify isn’t a great choice if you want to stream – this is partially because of the data cap, but there’s something about its servers that makes it uniquely bad for transferring streaming data from server to server.
Speedify is also pretty solid when it comes to privacy, though Windscribe is a bit better on that front as well. Ultimately, Speedify is a great choice if you mostly want to use a VPN for private browsing and aren’t concerned with torrenting or streaming shows from other countries.
- Fast browsing speeds
- Good privacy settings
- Bad for streaming
- 2 GB per month limit
Speedify, as befitting its name, is a pretty fast VPN for general browsing and small file downloads.
Hide.me, as the name suggests, is a free VPN largely concerned with offering its users fantastic privacy and totally anonymous browsing. You get 2 GB of data per month to use with the free plan, and there are other limitations like device limits (one maximum) and a low number of server locations (only five between the US and Canada). However, they never throttle your connection speed and, most importantly, Hide.me doesn’t store user logs or data, nor does it pass any of that onto third parties.
Even better, there aren’t any advertisements to suffer through at any point. Hide.me’s client, regardless of the operating system you use, is slick and smooth, and they offer 24/7 technical support for all their users, even free ones.
It’s best to think of Hide.me as the ideal choice if you don’t want your data to be sent to any advertising agency period. There are better free VPN options in terms of download limits and anchor server options, but few do privacy and anonymity better than Hide.me.
- No ads to sit through
- 24/7 technical support
- 2 GB of data per month
Hide.me, as the name suggests, is a free VPN largely concerned with offering its users fantastic privacy and totally anonymous browsing.
How to Choose the Best Free VPN for Your Privacy Needs
Finding a handful of great free VPN’s is one thing – determining the best free VPN for your unique privacy or downloading needs is another. Let’s focus on the aspects you should consider as you select your free VPN.
Why Do You Need a Free VPN?
The first thing to think about is why you want to use a free VPN in the first place. Generally speaking, people use VPNs for one of three reasons:
- To browse the Internet semi-anonymously
- To download and/or stream shows and other media they can’t access due to geographic restrictions for their home IP address
- To enjoy better browsing security against hackers
More private internet access is becoming more popular, through unblocking streaming is also quite important for most users. Each of these reasons is perfectly valid, and neither is more important than another. However, they each require different things from a VPN provider.
For instance, some free VPNs prioritize anonymity and use special channels or servers that are excellent at allowing their users to browse anonymously. They’ll also prioritize things like data log deletion, or even refuse to gather data logs and other privacy information from their users. Instead, they may use advertisements or other methods of generating revenue. Hide.me does this very well.
Some VPNs are better for streaming and usually come without data caps. That’s because streaming and media downloads can quickly run up a data limit. You’ll want to prioritize VPNs like ProtonVPN if this is what you’re interested in.
Still more VPNs are excellent in terms of security and are good choices if you suspect that your identity is at risk or you don’t want to be hacked when visiting a sketchy website. Hotspot Shield VPN is a good example of one of these services.
In short, figure out why you want to use a VPN and you can find the best free VPN for that purpose from the list above.
Does the VPN Have a Paid Version?
It’s also smart to see whether a given free VPN has a paid version you can upgrade to in the future. While you may not want to pay money for extra features or better bandwidth limits right now, you might come into more money later and decide to go through with an upgrade.
It’s often easier to upgrade within the same VPN provider that it is to switch providers outright. Thus, check to see whether a free VPN only comes as a free version or if there’s a better premium service available you can take advantage of later. Some premium VPNs have a 30-day money-back guarantee – this is almost as good as free VPN if you remember your time limit to spare your credit card.
Performance and User-Friendliness
Naturally, the user interface and performance quality of a given free VPN can impact how well you enjoy using the software or platform. Some VPNs, like Hotspot Shield Free VPN, have particularly slick user interfaces that are easy for beginners to grasp and fully take advantage of. Hotspot also has excellent performance rankings across the board, so you shouldn’t experience too much lag or sputtering, even when watching your favorite media.
Performance is most important if you want to stream or download media frequently. Nothing ruins a good show like rendering or buffering every few seconds. Most of the VPN services that have high data download limits also have good performance specifically for this reason, while others, like Speedify, aren’t very good in terms of streaming performance and are better for general but anonymous browsing.
The available servers or anchor points that a given free VPN offers essentially determines which places you can disguise your IP address as coming from. More servers mean more opportunities to find smooth connections to the servers you are trying to reach, and a better overall traffic load.
For instance, if a free VPN only has a single server for its free users, you can expect lots of buffering or poor performance since all the free users will be clogging that server, trying to download stuff or browse the Internet.
Multiple available servers are also important if you want to download or torrent media that is outlawed in your home country. Services like TunnelBear are great for this, offering a plethora of foreign servers so there’s almost always a place available where you can access and download media without too much trouble.
If you’re just interested in regular anonymous browsing, server variety isn’t quite as important.
Some VPNs offer browser extensions, which allow you to combine the VPN’s services with some kinds of browsers. Browsers like Chrome, Explorer, and Edge are notorious for collecting user data, while others, like Firefox, don’t need a VPN as much thanks to their user-friendly data logging policies.
As mentioned earlier, many of the best free VPN services turn a profit by selling the browsing or log data of their users. If this is something you don’t want to happen to you, focus on a free VPN like Hide.me, which doesn’t log data from its users and doesn’t sell any data to third-party advertising or marketing companies.
This can be important if you’re committed to lowering your digital presence on the web, or if you just don’t like the idea of your activity being tracked by any organization, whether it’s government or private. On the flip side, if you only want to avoid being easily hacked or you just want to download media from another country, privacy may not be quite as important and you can focus on other issues.
The last big thing to keep in mind is security. This most important if you want to use a free VPN to lower the likelihood of attracting a hacker or identity thief as you browse a sketchy website. Some services, like Hotspot Shield Free VPN, are particularly good on this point, while others don’t put as much of a priority on it.
Ultimately, Hotspot Shield Free VPN is the best of the bunch thanks to its excellent security, intuitive user interface, and relatively generous daily data limit of 500 MB per day.
However, readers might also appreciate Proton VPN Free, which offers unlimited data transfer all without costing a penny. Others might want Hide.me, which is the best of the best when it comes to total privacy and protecting its users’ personal data and personal information. There are plenty of other VPNs we haven’t even mentioned, including OpenVPN, ExpressVPN, SurfShark,
The great news is that you can try any and all of these services as much as you like since you don’t have to put any money down upfront. Give them a shot and let us know what you think!