Are you looking for a reliable free VPN service?
In this article, we’ve rounded up the only five you need to know about if you don’t want to stump up any cash.
I’ll be honest, free VPNs aren’t my favourite. They usually have a lot of issues.
However, if you don’t have the resources to pay for one, then it’s critical you choose one that’s as secure as possible.
As you may know, free VPNs are usually not recommended. They lack in several areas, and they tend to have significant privacy and security flaws, but more on that later.
However, as with all VPNs – not all of them are the same, and some can occasionally be suitable for short use.
One thing that they share with paid VPNs is the difficulty when it comes to choosing the right one, which is why we will help you out by listing the best ones out there.
So let’s check out the five top choices.
Top 5 VPN services that cost nothing
The first on our list is ProtonVPN – a Swiss-based VPN service who’s free plan is generally considered to be one of the best that you could use.
While they’re known to be reliable, their free service comes in quite a limited form, so it’s a trade-off.
ProtonVPN understands that not everyone can afford a VPN, but for them to continue providing a good service, they have to limit what you can do with their free version.
This is why its free mode only allows you to connect to three different server locations, and use it only on one device at one time, with medium speeds, at that.
Even so, ProtonVPN offers decent security, even when it comes to its free version, although the premium versions do a much better job.
It has three premium plans which unlock additional features – Basic ($4 per month), Plus ($8 per month), and Visionary ($24 per month). However, all of these are charged yearly, so keep that in mind.
Next, we have Riseup.net – an advanced free VPN that is recommended by security professionals.
Riseup believes that it is essential for people to use a VPN and protect themselves. It’s why they offer a VPN app for Mac, Windows, Linux, and Android, entirely for free.
Riseup ensures anonymity and secure connections, and while it does keep some logs – those do not contain IP addresses of users, nor browsing information, installed plugins, DNS requests, and alike.
However, there are other limitations, primarily the fact that Riseup may be difficult for beginners to handle, as it is aimed more at advanced users.
If you’re technically capable, give them a whirl, but if you’re a beginner, you may need a little more hand-holding from your provider.
However, the fact remains that it doesn’t offer a premium service, although they do accept donations. Donating around $60 per year helps the team, but keep in mind that it is not a requirement, only a sign of appreciation by those who can afford it and are willing to donate.
In the third spot, we have Windscribe, another VPN that offers a free version, as well as a premium one.
Windscribe provides a comprehensive set of features, including secure encryption, security protocols, a vast network of servers that spans throughout 60 countries and 110 cities, an ad-block, and more.
Its apps are user-friendly, and you can install them on Windows, Mac, Android, iPhone, Linux, as well as in Opera, Chrome, and Firefox as browser extensions.
The free tier does come with some limitations, however, including only 10GB of bandwidth per month, slower servers, and only 11 locations available, out of 110 in total.
To access all of these locations, you will need a premium version of the VPN, where you can choose a yearly plan for $49 per year ($4 per month), or a monthly plan which costs $9 per month. You can also build your own plan and pay $1 per location.
4. Cloudflare WARP
Then, there is Cloudflare WARP, which is a new service, although you should think carefully before using it. Although it is technically a ‘VPN’, it does not disguise your IP address.
In other words, every site or service you access will see who you are. Additionally, this makes this VPN pretty much useless when it comes to unblocking restricted and censored content.
Even so, it does feature strong encryption, as its primary goal is to ensure that your data will be secure while in transit. Your ISP or public Wi-Fi connection won’t be able to spy on you, and data sniffing will be a thing of the past, thanks to it.
Now, WARP is free, but reports suggest it can be hit and miss. It also features no bandwidth caps. However, if you pay for a premium version, which costs around $5 per month, you can achieve greater speeds.
Finally, we have Tunnelbear – a VPN service that is all about security, and, of course, bears.
Its free version provides decent enough protection and ensures online privacy, as well as access to global content. However, it comes at a different kind of price, which is a significant bandwidth cap.
If you choose to use Tunnelbear, there’s a 500MB data limit per month. That is, as you will agree, bear-ly enough to do anything (see what I did there? – Tunnelbear would be proud!).
In other words, its more of a free trial only suitable for testing out the VPN and seeing if it fits your needs.
On the other hand, there is a premium version, which you can pay on a monthly ($9.99) or yearly ($59.88 per year, or $4.99 per month) basis.
With it, you get unlimited data, five simultaneous connections, priority customer service, access to servers in 22 countries, and more.
Negatives of VPNs that cost nothing
If you were wondering why everyone is constantly saying that free VPNs are a bad idea, there are a few reasons.
As we have seen in these examples, free VPNs often come with limitations and drawbacks, such as bandwidth, a limited number of servers, inability to unblock geo-restricted content, and more.
While they may be suitable for some uses, the majority of your needs won’t be covered.
While all five providers listed above are reputable. Unfortunately, the ‘free’ VPN market is not as honest.
There have been many free VPNs that were discovered to be incapable of protecting users from malware, at best, or that they were malicious themselves, at worst.
Some examples include OkVPN, EasyVPN, SuperVPN, CrossVPN, Betternet, and more.
Services that offer free VPNs often need to find an alternative way to make money, since their profits do not come from you, as their user.
This is why they usually inject ads, which slow your system, eat up your data, and annoy you all the time.
4) Privacy dangers
Finally, we have privacy risks, which is quite an obvious downside. After all, these VPNs often have unknown owners, who might turn out to be anyone from Chinese hackers to sketchy data-hungry firms.
They can access all of your data, record it, sell it to advertisers (or whoever pays the most), and more.
Free VPNs to avoid
As mentioned, there are several VPNs that you would do well to stay away from.
We have already mentioned some examples, such as OkVPN and SuperVPN. Betternet and EasyVPN, but there are many others out there.
sFly Network Booster is another example, as well as:
- Archie VPN
- Fast Secure Payment
- One-Click VPN
New ones are continually being discovered, so do proper research about a VPN service before choosing it and trusting it with your data.
Is a paid VPN more secure?
The answer is simply – yes.
While you should be careful with paid VPNs also, many of them are very well-known and respected services. Many have been audited which has confirmed their legitimacy and that features such as their no-log policy are correct.
Paid VPNs offer much larger server networks, often offering hundreds or even thousands of servers across the world.
They allow you to connect multiple devices at once, they use the strongest encryption and security protocols, and they can unblock streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and more.
As mentioned, a lot of what a VPN can do or what it has to offer depends on the VPN in question, as not all of them are the same.
When you’re paying for a VPN, you’re paying for them to provide that service. When you use a free VPN that company needs to make money via other means.
Which free VPNs work with Netflix, Spotify, iPlayer, etc.?
Unfortunately, the answer is – pretty much none.
These VPNs are slow and filled with users, which is why it is easy for services such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and others to identify which IP addresses belongs to a VPN.
As they are always on the hunt for VPN IPs, they can block them, and no one can access them again.
In other words, if you wish to watch foreign Netflix or unblock similar services – you are pretty much limited to using a premium VPN.
And, as mentioned, free VPNs are slow, so even if you could access these services, you would likely be plagued by buffering, making it difficult to watch anything.
Recommended paid VPNs
So, if you have decided to use a paid VPN after all, we can recommend 3 top choices.
They have plenty of advantages, such as a massive network of servers that feature thousands of servers in over 60 countries in the case of NordVPN, and over 90 countries in case of CyberGhost and ExpressVPN.
They also feature stronger security features, including 256-bit encryption and proven no-log policies.
Besides, they are super fast, and prices stretch to just a few dollars. In case you change your mind, you can also get a full refund within 30 – 45 days.
If you really must use a free VPN, then the five above are our top picks.
They’re some of the most reputable and reliable services – but don’t forget they often come with significant limitations.
In the end, while free VPNs are attractive because you don’t have to pay for them, they are also not nearly as good as what you might expect.
They are limited, and sometimes even dangerous.
But, apart from posing a security risk, they are also often slow, and in most cases, they can’t unblock geo-restricted content.
So if you’re going to choose a free VPN, ensure it’s one of the five above. Most others aren’t reputable and could put your privacy and device at serious risk.
In all honesty though, check out our Best VPN Guide and for just a few dollars or pounds you can get a much better service.
Illustrations © Hiranmaybaidya & Poenya200 | Dreamstime.com