Best free VPN services of 2024

Best free VPN – quick menu

VPNs have become increasingly popular over the past few years, and for good reason. The best VPNs protect your data while you’re out and about, at work, and even when you’re chilling at home. They make it much harder for cybercriminals to get their hands on your sensitive info (like logins and financial details), and you can even use your VPN to access international streaming content.

I’ve been putting VPNs under the microscope for years, and I’m constantly re-evaluating my reviews to ensure my rankings stay accurate. I’ve also delved into the main differences between free and paid VPNs, and compared the speed, unblocking power, security tools, and privacy of my top picks.

Keep in mind, that even the best free services have their limitations—and be wary of any VPN that claims otherwise. Some free services use ads to make their money, and some resort to selling your data to dodgy third parties. Naturally, this defeats the purpose of using a VPN to boost your digital privacy.

A free VPN can’t do everything that a paid VPN can do. Most of them struggle when it comes to unblocking content and lack advanced features, and you’ll likely encounter data and speed restrictions, too. However, if you think of free VPNs as a sample of the full product (kind of like a free sample at a grocery store), then you won’t be disappointed.

The top paid VPNs

A paid VPN subscription comes with a ton of perks. You’ll get more servers (in more locations) to choose from, better performance, and no pesky bandwidth restrictions that can slow your streaming to a crawl.

You can even try the best VPNs on the block for free by taking advantage of their money-back guarantees. You’ll get around 30 days to put the service to the test in your own time, and see how they compare with the industry’s most impressive free alternatives.

The best free VPNs in 2024

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Here’s my shortlist of the best free VPNs today.

The best free VPN overall

The best free VPN with just a few restrictions

Specifications

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux

Data limit: 10 GB

Connections: 1

Server locations: 13

Support: 24/7 live chat, website, email

Reasons to buy

+

Unblocks US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, and more

+

Incredibly fast

+

10 GB of data a month, and unlimited low-speed traffic

+

Apps for all devices

+

Tons of customization

Reasons to avoid

Advanced features are locked behind the premium plan

Subscribe if:

✔️ You want to watch Netflix: PrivadoVPN is one of just a handful of free services that can actually unblock Netflix.

✔️ You need fast speeds: PrivadoVPN’s free plan includes WireGuard encryption, so you can expect a speedy (and secure) performance.

✔️ You want premium features: Check out features usually reserved for paying customers, including split tunneling, auto-connect, and a kill switch.

Don’t subscribe if:

You need unlimited data: you can still use PrivadoVPN after you hit the monthly 10 GB cap, but your speeds will be seriously restricted. Want unlimited data? Check out Proton VPN Free.

You need a free Linux app: PrivadoVPN has a command-line interface, but if you’re after a full GUI, you’re better off with Proton VPN.

Bottom line ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

🔒 PrivadoVPN Free is my top free VPN pick of 2024. It’s a great choice for avid streamers who don’t want to be slowed down, and you’ll get a generous amount of monthly data, too.

Want to know more?

Head on over to our in-depth PrivadoVPN review for a closer look at the service’s security tools.

PrivadoVPN is the odd one out as far as free VPNs are concerned—and that’s primarily because it packs a lot of features you don’t typically see with free services. I was also able to reliably unblock Netflix and BBC iPlayer throughout my testing, which is something that premium providers struggle with from time to time.

With PrivadoVPN, you’ll have access to servers in 11 different countries. That’s pretty generous for a free plan (which usually limit you to a measly 1 or 2 locations) and means that you should have no trouble hopping digital borders to check out content from overseas.

Check out PrivadoVPN for free

I was pretty impressed by PrivadoVPN’s performance, too. It’s not the quickest free service out there, but I recorded speeds of 740 Mbps during my testing, which is more than you need to enjoy smooth HD streams without constant buffering. PrivadoVPN owns, services, and handles its own servers, rather than handing them off to a third party, which goes a long way to ensuring a reliable and quick performance. Plus, it helps cut down on the number of users attempting to connect to a single server.

As you’d expect from a free VPN, PrivadoVPN has its limitations—and caps your data usage to 10 GB a month. The good news is that you can hit this cap and continue to use the service. You won’t be blocked, but your speeds will take a nosedive to 1 Mbps. That’s not going to be enough to stream video and you’ll notice that webpages take longer to load, but it’s still an undeniable perk that’ll ensure you’re always secure—albeit at a snail’s pace.

All of PrivadoVPN’s apps are incredibly easy to use. In fact, I often recommend the service to total VPN newbies. You’ll be able to use PrivadoVPN on your Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS devices, and there’s even a Linux app—but no GUI. Bear in mind, however, that you’ll be limited to a single connection on the free plan.

If things go wrong, or if you need a helping hand getting set up, you can reach out to the PrivadoVPN live support team. You won’t find another free VPN offering 24/7 live chat—but if you’d rather do your own troubleshooting, you can check out PrivadoVPN’s online knowledgebase.

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PrivadoVPN test results:
Attributes Notes Rating
Design Simple and clutter-free ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of use All features are where you’d expect them to be ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Performance PrivadoVPN’s free servers are as quick as its paid alternatives ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Unblocking Unblocks an impressive list of streaming platforms ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacy Robust on the surface, but lacking an audit ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer support Fantastic live chat support, but lacking on-site articles ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The best unlimited free VPN

Best free VPN services of 2024

Unlimited data from a privacy powerhouse

Specifications

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux

Data limit: Unlimited

Connections: 1

Server locations: 3

Support: Website, email

Reasons to buy

+

Unlimited data

+

Impressive server speeds

+

Includes a kill switch

+

Apps are open source and audited

Reasons to avoid

Limited to 3 server locations

Subscribe if:

✔️ You need unlimited data: other free services impose harsh caps, but Proton VPN is a truly unlimited provider.

✔️ You need a Linux VPN: with Proton VPN, you’ll have access to a free, full GUI app.

✔️ You want security you can see: Proton VPN uses open source programs, meaning you can scour the code yourself to check for vulnerabilities.

Don’t subscribe if:

You need a torrenting VPN: unfortunately, Proton VPN’s free plan doesn’t support torrenting. PrivadoVPN has you covered, however.

You need a UK server: it’s hardly a surprise, but Proton VPN limits you to locations in the US, Japan, and the Netherlands. Check out Windscribe if you need coverage in the UK.

Bottom line ⭐⭐⭐⭐½

🔒 Proton VPN is a renowned champion of digital privacy and takes your security seriously with a bevy of advanced features—including a reliable kill switch.

Want to learn more?

Visit our full Proton VPN review to learn more about one of the industry’s most privacy-focused free services.

Proton VPN, brought to you by the very smart people behind the encrypted mail service, Proton Mail, is a super-secure service with an impressive mix of features. You’ll also get unlimited data with Proton VPN’s free plan, which means you can use it as much, and as often, as you’d like without worrying about hitting a cap. You can only use Proton VPN on one device at a time, but that’s a small sacrifice to make for round-the-clock privacy.

On the subject of privacy, Proton VPN impresses with top-notch encryption that’ll ensure your online activity remains secure. Proton VPN is also a no-logs provider that utilizes open-source code—meaning you could take a look through it yourself if you’re in the mood to hunt vulnerabilities. It doesn’t happen often, but if someone does notice a weak spot, Proton VPN is fast to fix it.

Get Proton VPN Free today

Proton VPN is compatible with most devices, including mobile apps for Android and iOS, and even Linux. Each app comes with a reliable kill switch that’ll leap into action if the VPN connection drops, and the super-speedy WireGuard protocol. This is a big deal, especially as some free providers omit the protocol entirely. If you need help getting set up, you can reach out to Proton VPN’s email support for a quick response.

Currently, Proton VPN’s free plan gives users access to three server locations in the Netherlands, Japan, and the US. That’s more generous than Hotspot Shield, but bear in mind that you can only use Proton VPN on one device at a time. Sadly, free users won’t be able to check out dedicated streaming servers, ad-blocking tools, or P2P support—not without upgrading to a premium plan.

Proton VPN is wickedly fast for a free service. It raced to the top of my speed tests, hitting 740 Mbps, which makes it quicker than some paid VPNs. Still, the limitations and reduced number of servers mean that Proton VPN’s free plan is susceptible to congestion which can tank these speeds.

These downsides might mean that Proton VPN isn’t your match made in heaven, especially if you need access to a UK server, but it’s worth mentioning that few providers are as engaged in the fight for digital privacy. Proton VPN recently announced the VPN Obersavatory, a tool designed to monitor spikes in VPN usage and combat censorship. Hopefully, the tool will draw attention to sudden outbreaks of censorship around the world.

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Proton VPN test results:
Attributes Notes Rating
Design A stand-out dark mode looks awesome ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of use Could be simpler, especially on desktop, but not a deal-breaker ⭐⭐⭐
Performance Fantastic speeds for free users ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Unblocking Limited server locations make unblocking content tricky ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacy Tough encryption and audited, open-source apps ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer support Plenty of support articles and friendly agents are on-hand ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The best free VPN for unblocking

Best free VPN services of 2024

Free access to servers in several countries

Specifications

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS

Data limit: 10 GB

Connections: Unlimited

Server locations: 14 in 11 countries

Support: Website, email

Reasons to buy

+

Unlimited connections

+

Unblocks some streaming sites

+

More servers locations and countries than other free VPN services

Reasons to avoid

Slow speeds

Subscribe if:

✔️ You want unlimited simultaneous connections: use as many devices as you like with a Windscribe plan—but keep the 10 GB data limit in mind.

✔️ You need more server options: check out servers in 11 countries, including the UK, to access geo-restricted content.

Don’t subscribe if:

Speed is everything: Windscribe won’t slow you to a crawl, but it can’t quite keep up with my top picks.

You need more data: 10 GB might sound like a lot of data, but it’ll dry up fast if you’re streaming or torrenting. If you want an unlimited free VPN, you’re better off with Proton VPN.

Bottom line ⭐⭐⭐⭐

🔒 Windscribe doesn’t limit your connections and has a decent spread of servers, but it’s not as quick as PrivadoVPN or ProtonVPN.

Want to learn more?

Learn more about this free VPN service in my full Windscribe review.

If you’re looking for a free VPN that won’t keep you tethered to just one or two server locations, you’ll want to check out Windscribe. With 14 servers in 11 countries, you’ll be able to zip across continents in a few clicks to unblock geo-restricted content.

Unfortunately, free users don’t have access to Windscribe’s dedicated streaming servers. I was able to access a few Netflix regions, however, as well as BBC iPlayer, while connected to a regular server. Some free VPNs struggle to unblock any streaming platform, so this is a big plus.

Get Windscribe Free VPN now

Windscribe also lets you use as many devices as you like—and all at the same time. That’s great news if you plan on sharing a plan with friends and family, but you’ll need to be mindful of the monthly 10 GB data limit. It’s a generous amount, but if you’re an avid streamer, or if a lot of folks are using your plan, it won’t go very far.

I wasn’t blown away by Windscribe’s speed, either. It hit 140 Mbps during my testing, which isn’t a chart-topping result, but still more than you’ll need to watch Netflix content in 4K. Still, Windscribes speeds are lower than average for a free VPN.

Windscribe’s apps recently had a revamp. I have mixed feelings about the redesign—sure, the apps are sleeker in design, but they feel a little cramped, especially on mobile. It’s good to see the provider investing in its product, however, and the inclusion of a server location search function is an awesome quality-of-life update.

For any burning questions, or help getting Windscribe up and running on your device, you can ping an email across to the support team. It’s disappointing to see no live chat option—but you do have the choice to do your own troubleshooting if you’re willing to sift through Windscribe’s support articles. 

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Windscribe test results:
Attributes Notes Rating
Design Intuitive across all apps, but slightly cramped ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of use Not my #1 pick for VPN newbies ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Performance You’ll get the best performance with WireGuard, but it’s not a speedster ⭐⭐⭐
Unblocking Though it is capable of unblocking several services, it isn’t a guarantee ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacy Open-source apps that are open to user feedback ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer support On-site articles are helpful, and email tickets are resolved in a flash ⭐⭐⭐

The best of the rest

Best free VPN services of 2024

A great pick for Mac users

Specifications

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS

Data limit: 10 GB per month (2 GB per day for Mac)

Connections: 2

Server locations: 3 in 2 countries

Support: Website, email

Reasons to buy

+

Generous data limit

+

Fast speeds for a free VPN

+

Unblocks Disney Plus

Reasons to avoid

Some usability issues

No live support available

Subscribe if:

✔️ You need a free Mac VPN: ideal for Mac loyalists who need a VPN for day-to-day browsing, Atlas VPN gives you 2 GB of data per day.

✔️ You want to watch Disney+: surprisingly, Atlas VPN unblocked the popular streaming platform without any hiccups.

Don’t subscribe if:

You need unlimited bandwidth: though its limits are generous, especially for Mac users, Atlas VPN still caps your data. Check out Proton VPN for unlimited data.

You need the most reliable free VPN: Atlas VPN is slightly buggy—and I noticed usability issues across its apps. I’d recommend PrivadoVPN or Proton VPN for a more reliable experience.

Bottom line ⭐⭐⭐½

🔒 Atlas VPN is a free VPN with a few perks, especially for Mac users. However, it just can’t compete with my top picks.

Want to learn more?

I break down the good, the bad, and the ugly in my in-depth Atlas VPN review.

Atlas VPN’s Free plan is pretty generous. Most users will get 10 GB of data to play with each month, but if you’re a Mac user, you’ll get 2 GB a day. That adds up to a whopping 60 GB per month. To put that into perspective, you can stream 12,000 songs, watch 25 hours of movies in HD (or 120 in standard definition), or browse the web for about 700 hours each month.

The provider’s unblocking power is, sadly, hit-and-miss. I was able to unblock Disney+ during my testing, but couldn’t access any other streaming platform. I don’t expect many free VPNs to rival the likes of NordVPN when it comes to streaming content, but even so, being able to crack Disney+ is impressive. What’s more, Atlas VPN lets users connect and use two devices at the same time.

▶ Download Atlas VPN Free

Currently, there are Atlas VPN servers in 2 countries; the US and the Netherlands. That’s not a particularly broad spread, though you’ll still be able to check out content from the States and Europe. When I connected to these servers, I recorded speeds of 320 Mbps. That’s decent for a free VPN, and you shouldn’t notice any slowdown when browsing your favorite socials, but premium services still blow these results out of the water.

In terms of security, Atlas VPN has the basics covered. You’ll get a kill switch that performed well during my tests, so you can rest assured that you won’t leak personal information if the VPN happens to cut out. I’m also glad to see that Atlas VPN has allowed a third-party audit of its services, including its privacy policy. These audits are an awesome way for companies to prove that they have nothing to hide when it comes to securing your digital privacy—and the methods they use to do so. The only caveat here is that only the iOS app was audited. So, if you’re not an iPhone or iPad user, you may want to opt for a more secure VPN.

Atlas VPN also doesn’t come with a lot of extra features—but it does support P2P traffic. Even so, it’s not my top pick for a free torrenting. The lack of tools and torrenting customizability means that Atlas VPN loses out to Hide.me.

All in all, Atlas VPN is a solid all-rounder that has a few hiccups. It has the security tools you’ll need to shore up your digital privacy and a few handy tools, and Mac users in particular will appreciate the 2 GB data allowance. The cherry on top here, however, is reliable access to Disney+.

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Atlas VPN test results:
Attributes Notes Rating
Design Very basic, especially compared to its competitors ⭐⭐⭐
Ease of use Awkward to use and some usability issues ⭐⭐⭐
Performance Good speeds, some of the fastest for a free VPN ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Unblocking Able to access Disney+, but struggled with other platforms ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacy Standard for a free VPN with limited features and options, only allows iOS app to be audited ⭐⭐⭐
Customer support No live support and web support isn’t the best ⭐⭐⭐

Best free VPN services of 2024

A free VPN with premium perks, including torrent support

Specifications

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS

Data limit: 10 GB

Connections: 1

Server locations: 5 in 4 countries

Support: Website, email, live chat

Reasons to buy

+

10 GB of data per month

+

P2P support

+

Highly configurable

+

Live support available

Reasons to avoid

Poor connection speeds

Apps are complicated

Subscribe if:

✔️ You need a torrenting VPN: paid VPNs are generally better for the task, but Hide.me offers awesome free torrenting tools and support.

✔️ You want to remain completely anonymous: Hide.me lets you sign up for its free VPN without handing over any information, including your name.

Don’t subscribe if:

You want a speedy service: Hide.me lags behind its closest competitors when it comes to performance.

You’re a VPN newbie: Hide.me has complicated apps that can overwhelm new users. Check out PrivadoVPN for a more straightforward experience.

Bottom line ⭐⭐⭐½

🔒 Hide.me is a great pick for torrenting, but slow speeds and limited data mean you’re still going to be wanting more by the end of the month.

Want to learn more?

Visit my in-depth Hide.me review for more insight into how this sturdy VPN keeps you secure when torrenting.

Hide.me might not claim a top spot in my rankings, seeing as it’s missing a few key features, but it’s a stable mid-card pick that’s managed to catch my eye. I’m also pleased to see that the service has really improved its overall offering recently.

First and foremost, you can sign up for a Hide.me free account without forking over any personal information—including your name. That’s great news for folks who want to fly under the radar. Hide.me also offers sturdy WireGuard encryption, so you can go about your day-to-day browsing without worrying about anyone (like your internet provider or a nosy network admin) keeping tabs on your activity.

Visit the Hide.me site to download for free

One of Hide.me’s biggest selling points is its torrenting-friendly servers. With a free plan, you’ll have access to five locations, including two in the United States, that you can use to safely send P2P transfers. If you need help configuring the VPN for torrenting, or have any other burning questions, Hide.me’s live chat support is stellar. Alternatively, you can reach out to the team via email.

As you’d expect from a free service, Hide.me does cap your monthly usage. You’ll get 10 BG, which is pretty generous, but if you are using the service to torrent, you’ll have to keep an eye on your usage.

Hide.me’s apps are surprisingly customizable. The auto-connect feature is especially handy, and makes sure you’re always protected, even if you forget to turn the VPN on manually. More advanced features, like split tunneling and custom DNS, can seem a bit complex for new users, but VPN veterans will appreciate having access to staples you’d find included with any premium plan.

Unfortunately, Hide.me isn’t a speed demon. I recorded speeds of around 25 Mbps during my testing, which isn’t all that impressive. So, unless you really really need a free VPN for torrenting, I’d suggest sticking to PrivadoVPN.

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Hide.me test results:
Attributes Notes Rating
Design Simple, effective, but slightly plain ⭐⭐⭐
Ease of use VPN beginners might be stumped by advanced features ⭐⭐⭐
Performance Disappointing speeds—even for a free VPN ⭐⭐
Unblocking Average unblocking capabilities ⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacy A good selection of features and anonymity upon signup ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer support Customer support is quick and thorough ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Best free VPN services of 2024

Unlimited bandwidth (and a ton of ads)

Specifications

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux

Data limit: Unlimited

Connections: 1

Server locations: 1 in the US

Support: Website

Reasons to buy

+

Unlimited bandwidth

+

User-friendly apps

+

Impressive speeds

Reasons to avoid

Limited to one US location

Lacking a kill switch

No email or live chat support

Subscribe if:

✔️ You don’t want data limits: Hotspot Shields gives you unlimited data, every month, for folks who need more than 10 GB.

✔️ You need a fast VPN: free VPNs often keep their top speeds in reserve for paying customers, but Hotspot Shield is surprisingly fast.

Don’t subscribe if:

You need global coverage: Hotspot Shield’s free plan gives you access to one lonely location in the US. Try Windscribe if you want real variety.

You wanted added security: a kill switch comes as standard with most free VPNs but, for some reason, Hotspot Shield is missing this key tool.

Bottom line ⭐⭐⭐

🔒Hotspot Shield has been in the VPN game for a while, but its free offering falls short of the competition.

Want to learn more?

Head on over to our Hotspot Shield review for all the details about its Basic plan—and all of its security-enhancing tools.

Hotspot Shield earns a spot in my top 7 thanks, in large part, to its unlimited bandwidth. Whether you’re on mobile or desktop, you’ll be able to connect to a server and browse to your heart’s content, all without worrying about that looming monthly data cap. Hotspot Shield has decent connection speeds, too, so you won’t have to work with a super-slow browser.

Unfortunately, there’s a pretty major caveat—Hotspot Shield’s free plan is inundated with video ads. If you’re a Mac user, you won’t have to deal with these near-constant interruptions, but Hotspot Shield will try to tempt you into upgrading to a paid plan by redirecting you to its homepage each time you connect or disconnect from the VPN.

Try Hotspot Shield for yourself

I was pretty disappointed by Hotspot Shield’s selection of free server locations. There’s one—yep, just one—location in the US. That might come in handy if you’re keen on unblocking content from the States, but not if you want to check out what’s available elsewhere. Unfortunately, Hotspot Shield can’t access Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, or other streaming platforms unless you’re a paying customer

Hotspot Shield’s free plan is missing a kill switch, too, which will be an immediate point of concern for the privacy-conscious. Without a kill switch, you could leak sensitive personal information if your VPN connection drops.

To make matters worse, there aren’t a lot of support options for folks who run into roadblocks. Have a question about which server to use or need help getting setup? Well, you’ll need to comb through the Hotspot Shield site in search of answers in the form of a support article, seeing as there isn’t any live chat or email assistance. That’s not ideal, especially for VPN newcomers who might need a pointer or two.

Ultimately, it’s hard to recommend Hotspot Shield, even if it’s free. Unlimited data is a definite perk, but the VPN falls short in just about every other area—and it’s not on par with my other free picks. The missing kill switch is a huge issue, and I’d recommend sticking to PrivadoVPN or Proton VPN if you want a service that really, truly, has your privacy in mind.

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Hotspot Shield test results:
Attributes Notes Rating
Design Simple, straightforward, and breezy ⭐⭐⭐
Ease of use Ads are disruptive, but otherwise no major issues ⭐⭐⭐
Performance Speeds are decent and stable ⭐⭐⭐
Unblocking Struggles to unblock big-name platforms like Netflix and BBC iPlayer ⭐⭐
Security and privacy No kill switch, meaning your data is at risk of leaking ⭐⭐
Customer support With no live chat or email support, you’re on your own ⭐⭐

Best free VPN services of 2024

Limited, but straightforward, and great for mobiles

Specifications

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS

Data limit: 500 MB per month

Connections: 1

Server locations: 40 in 40 countries

Support: Website, email

Reasons to buy

+

Easy to use

+

Unblocks some Netflix regions (including US)

+

Allows in-depth audits

Reasons to avoid

Lacking features

Stingy data limit

Subscribe if:

✔️ Simplicity is key: TunnelBear keeps it simple with jargon-free apps that are a breeze to use—even if you’re new to VPNs.

✔️ You need proven privacy: TunnelBear allows independent audits of its apps, and conducts them more regularly than most other services.

Don’t subscribe if:

You’re always online: 500 MB doesn’t get you very far, especially if you have plans to do more than just scroll through Facebook.

You want to unblock international shows: I struggled to unblock more than Netflix US with TunnelBear, and the service has made it clear that it’s not a streaming VPN.

Bottom line ⭐⭐⭐

🔒 TunnelBear VPN might not be my #1 free pick, but it’s a secure provider that isn’t afraid of an independent audit.

Want to learn more?

Check out our TunnelBear review for more information about the service’s usability hiccups—and how it stacks up against other free providers.

TunnelBear Free isn’t interested in bamboozling you with a long list of technical terms on its site or with overly complicated apps—it’s designed to be simple and easy to use, and I like that. The desktop app is ever so slightly on the busy side, with an interactive map, but getting connected is as easy as clicking the bear. He’ll pick out the nearest server, connect you, and ensure your browsing sessions remain airtight.

The mobile apps are pretty straightforward, too, though it’s easier to navigate around the map on a larger screen. Alternatively, you can avoid the map altogether and take your pick of 40 server locations with a handy list.

In less encouraging news, I ran into some usability issues when putting TunnelBear to the test. Sometimes I couldn’t get the VPN to connect at all. I’d get hit with a “VPN not connected” message despite my best efforts, and it’s still not clear whether this is due to overcrowded servers or configuration issues. Obviously, this isn’t ideal, especially if you’ll be relying on your VPN to stay in touch with friends and family.

TunnelBear does take its security seriously, however, by allowing third-party audits of its services and privacy policy at least once a year—and sometimes more often than that. If you’re a free user, you’ll also have access to the kill switch, which is handy, and ensures that your sensitive data won’t leak if the VPN connection happens to drop.

Most free VPNs struggle to unblock popular streaming platforms, and while TunnelBear free isn’t my #1 streaming VPN, it did manage to access Netflix in the US. That’s a nice bonus in my book.

However, TunnelBear isn’t without its downsides. You’ll be limited to a stingy 500 MB of data per month—which really isn’t a lot. It’s enough to watch a 1-hour video in standard definition or browse the web for around 6 hours, but if you’re planning to use your VPN for longer, you might find yourself hitting that data cap. Ultimately, I’d recommend checking out one of my other free picks that offers a more generous monthly limit of 10 GB.

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TunnelBear test results:
Attributes Notes Rating
Design Clean and clutter-free—and with bears. ⭐⭐⭐
Ease of use Advanced users might want more customization ⭐⭐⭐
Performance Nothing to write home about ⭐⭐
Unblocking TunnelBear doesn’t support content unblocking, but worked with US Netflix ⭐⭐
Security and privacy Regular audits and a kill switch, even for free users ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer support Lack of live chat support is disappointing ⭐⭐⭐

What is a VPN?

A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is a security tool that adds an extra layer of protection to the network you’re trying to connect to. That could be your home internet, a public Wi-Fi hotspot, or your mobile connection.

A VPN routes your traffic through a secure “tunnel” that encrypts the data. As a result, nosy third parties (like hackers, cybercriminals, and even your ISP) won’t be able to read it, and you’ll be able to browse the web without worrying about who might be looking over your shoulder.

In addition to boosting your security, you can use a VPN to “spoof” your location by connecting to a server somewhere else in the world. The VPN will assign you a new, temporary IP address based in that location, and the sites you visit will think you’re really there. So, you’ll have no trouble browsing local content, bypassing geo-restrictions, and even snagging some awesome deals.

How to choose a free VPN

As with most things in life, free VPNs are not all made equal. If you’re shopping around for the best service, or weighing up your options, here are the key considerations to keep in mind before making your choice.

  • What information is required to sign up? Some VPN providers want you to create an account that includes personal information like your name, email, and a password, while others will let you use the service without forking over any information. As you’d imagine, the less information required, the better, as It helps you stay anonymous to the service.
  • What is the business model? You’d be surprised at how much money it costs to maintain servers around the world, employ developers and customer support staff, and other general expenses. The money has to come from somewhere, and if you are using a free service, where is it coming from? Some of the companies offer very limited free plans in an attempt to convert customers to their paid offerings, while other companies will include ads in the apps or sell off user data to turn a profit. You don’t want your data sold, so be sure to look into this before just signing up for a service.
  • What sacrifice do you make by using the free plan? As mentioned above, most plans include large sacrifices when you opt to go with the free option. Some have insanely low data allotments available each month to free users while others will deprioritize the speeds for non-paying customers during peak times. For some, these sacrifices are well worth it, and for others, it’s a deal-breaker.
  • Does the service log any data? Many VPNs say that they have a no-logging policy, but you’ll want to read the terms to understand what that means. It’s important to ensure that the End User License Agreement (EULA) says that everything from each of your sessions is erased after it is disconnected. You don’t want any remnants of it hanging around, because that’s almost as bad as not being protected in the first place.

How we test free VPNs

We take our job of recommending the best VPNs seriously. On top of reading the fine print of the company’s website, combing through the privacy policy with a fine comb, and downloading the services to get a feel of how they work, we put each one through a series of security tests.

When a VPN is installed and active, we put a lot of pressure on it to see if we can make it drop its protections. Some of our testers have IT backgrounds, so they know where common weak spots are and how to see leaks if they occur. Our security tests, at this level, are conducted more than once a year, so we can stay on top of any changes in security.

Whether we can force the VPN to drop or not, we still disconnect it in a way that we can test the kill switch. A VPN kill switch turns on when it senses the VPN has been compromised. When engaged, the switch keeps a shield over your information until the VPN connection is reestablished, or if your internet connection is severed. A solid kill switch will still prevent DNS leaks.

We want to make sure you have all the information you need to make an informed buying decision.

Another important test we run VPNs through is our speed test. We have test computers in both the US and the UK. We connected to several servers worldwide during different times of the day, week, and month. This is to see how fast a VPN connects during peak times and in popular locations. We rerun connection tests a minimum of 120 times per server and per test device. Using online speed websites, we track how quickly connections are made and get a fairly accurate average speed. As with security tests, we rerun speed tests throughout the year to catch anything crucial changes.

We want to verify the number of servers and locations in a VPN’s network. While the client is installed, we literally count every server location and even verify that the servers there work, and are really there (we have found some VPNs that claim they are in one country, but when we connect we’re routed through another.) Other tools and features are also verified by a) locating them in the VPN app, and b) using them. If a VPN claims to support torrenting, we try it out. If it says it has a browser extension, we use it. We want to make sure you have all the information you need to make an informed buying decision.

Free VPN FAQs

How do VPNs work?

Though it seems complicated at first, VPNs are pretty straightforward. Behind the scenes, the VPN provider routes your traffic through a set of servers that then protect the data via encryption and change its location. That means others can’t see what you are doing on public connections.

Behind the scenes, the VPN routes your traffic through a set of servers that encrypts your data, making it unreadable to any prying eyes. That means that nobody can see what you’re getting up to when you’re online.

Instead of going straight from your device to a website, a VPN adds another step for your data. So, it’ll leave your device, head to the secure VPN server, and then continue to the website in question.

All of this is done in the background once you’ve connected to a VPN server. It adds a negligible amount of lag to the process—but the benefits of using a VPN more than make up for it. You can be sitting in an airport in New York and connect to a server in Europe, without having to move an inch, for one thing, and access shows, sites, and even news sources that aren’t available in your current location.

Are VPNs legal?

In most places, yes, VPNs are perfectly legal. Some countries have put bans in place to restrict VPNs as a whole, and others have limitations on their use cases, though these generally apply to people who live there rather than those who travel there.

For the countries that do restrict VPN uses, there are oftentimes some providers that are specifically approved for use there. In countries that have restricted VPN use, there are sometimes providers that have been specifically approved for use. You might not have as many options, if this is the case, but a handful of choices is better than none. For example, in China, companies that use unapproved VPNs can be fined heavily.

On the other hand, in the United Arab Emirates, things are far more serious. The fine for using a VPN (any of them) is over half a million dollars, and you can even be sentenced to jail time.

If you are unsure of the legalities of a VPN where you live, be sure to seek some information from local authorities before installing one.

Can a VPN unblock regional content?

One of the best things about a VPN is that it can spoof your location. What does that mean? Well, you’ll be able to access all sorts of content that might not be available to you in your country. That’s great news for people who travel a lot and want to keep up with shows from back home, or anyone living with restrictive government mandates.

Depending on your service of choice, you can use it to unblock Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and much more. Typically, it’s as simple as picking a server in the same location as the content you want to watch, and then reloading the site so that it thinks you’re located there, too.

Some VPN services, particularly those with fewer servers, may have issues when it comes to unblocking some streaming content as their servers may be blacklisted by the content provider.

Should I use a VPN on my phone?

In an ideal world, you would use a VPN on every device that connects to the internet. This is the absolute best way to keep yourself and your data safe from tracking, hacking, and more.

Luckily, each one of the VPNs mentioned in this guide has dedicated mobile apps, which means you can install it on your iPhone or Android device. I’ve also rounded up the best VPNs for Android along with the best VPN for iPhone, so be sure to check those out.

We test and review VPN services in the context of legal recreational uses. For example:

1. Accessing a service from another country (subject to the terms and conditions of that service).

2. Protecting your online security and strengthening your online privacy when abroad.

We do not support or condone the illegal or malicious use of VPN services. Consuming pirated content that is paid-for is neither endorsed nor approved by Future Publishing.

Via: Androidcentral

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