All your childhood, you have been told not to accept stuff for free from strangers. And here you are, doing something along the lines of exactly what you have been told not to do.
But don’t worry, we are not judging you. We understand that there are times when one may need such services, and we are also glad to inform you that there are some virtual private network services which help you be safer on the internet without shelling out a single dime.
It should not come as a surprise to anyone when they realize that there are always restrictions or hidden costs associated with a free VPN service. There has to be some way that a service provider can sustain free services.
We will go through all the ins and outs of free VPN services in this article. We will not only tell you which of the free VPN services are better than the others, but we will also go through the details of how to go about picking a better free VPN service.
However, let us first serve you with what you came here looking for.
We have put together a list of few free VPN services in no particular order. Since these are available for free, it is obvious for them to have flaws. These services are not going to be the most secure, fastest, or the most reliable ones.
It is just a list of VPN applications that one may consider using if they have no other option but to go for a free service.
This is among the better options that you will get when it comes to VPN applications available for free. The free plan on the service is intended only for users to get an idea of how good the service is.
The Canadian jurisdiction on the service may raise a lot of brows, but this is still better than going with any US-based free VPN service.
With Windscribe, you will have the best protocol and encryption options that one can have for free, and some of the advanced features available on the paid version work well even with the free plan.
2. Hotspot Shield
When it comes to free VPN applications, both Windscribe and Hotspot Shield stand toe to toe. Hotspot Shield has also paid plans at forefront with the free version to give users slight idea about the capability of the application.
One noticeable feature of Hotspot Shield is that it is very fast. Even though the free version is not going to give you speeds as good as on the paid plan, it is still satisfactory.
There won’t be any disappointment on protocol and encryption too. The only concern for some users can be US jurisdiction.
It is one of those VPN applications which provide a trimmed down version of the actual app for free for users to get a feel of the service. One of the most significant advantages of such a service is that even the free version is good at taking care of user’s privacy.
hide.me comes with military-grade encryption, multiple secure protocols, kill switch and a lot of other features. The two major limitations on the free version are the bandwidth cap and availability of only three server locations for the free version.
It is a good deal for what you get in exchange for nothing. Even though it might not be among the best of experience that you will have while using the free version, there will at least be a VPN cover while browsing websites.
TunnelBear is one of the more prominent VPN services. They happen to have a free plan, which can be used by anyone to get an idea of the platform.
The service used to be among one of our favorites until they got acquired by McAfee. It is not that any massive changes were introduced in the product after the acquisition, but the change of ownership of the product makes the service providers answerable to US courts, and we all know how conducive US laws are for privacy.
If the jurisdiction is not much of an issue for you, then even the free version of the application has got a lot to offer to users. The encryption and protocol are the ones that you will get on any top tier paid application.
The application is more than capable of dealing with a lot of online privacy threats. The bandwidth limit on the plan will not let you enjoy the services for long though. TunnelBear’s free version is good enough for a lot of one-time use cases.
Speedify is mostly known for the Channel Bonding technology it uses on the platform. The feature allows the device to stay connected with more than one source of internet at once and draw data from all of them simultaneously to achieve better speeds.
Speedify comes with a free plan which allows the user to exchange up to 5GB data monthly. If you have more than one internet source to use on your device, then Speedify may help you enjoy a good quality connection of the free plan.
The service is based out of the USA, which makes it a lot less privacy-friendly. However, the application comes with satisfactory encryption and protocol, capable enough of taking care of user’s privacy.
6. Hola VPN
Hola is not one of the conventional VPN services which work based on redirection of user’s traffic to one of their servers. Instead, it uses its client’s devices for the purpose. Hola VPN is first of its kind peer-to-peer VPN application.
The methodology of their working explains how come they can avail the service for free. But before you jump into any conclusion, you should know that they log a lot of user’s browsing information.
It works mostly as a proxy service rather than a full-fledged VPN service. HolaVPN can come in handy if one’s sole purpose is to get across a few geo-restrictions and access websites. It lets one access most of the geo-blocked websites for free. The service may require one to upgrade to a better plan for specific websites, as well.
You will have a fast internet connection while using Hola VPN, but one simply can’t expect it to take care of online privacy or anonymity.
7. Urban VPN
Urban VPN feels like Hola VPN all over again but with a few changes here and there. Both the applications are available for free and work on the same peer-to-peer VPN connection model. When connected to the network, your online traffic will be routed through other users’ devices, and yours can be used to route someone else’s online traffic.
While this method helps one bypass a lot of online restrictions, there is nothing much on the security and privacy front. Urban VPN also collects user’s browsing information, which can never be a good sign if privacy is in the picture.
Another possible threat of using such a service can be the use of your IP for illegal activities. Even though Urban VPN provides a fast and quick solution to get across geo-restrictions, it is not among our favorite free VPN applications.
Betternet is one of the very few VPN applications available for free, which seems to be taking care of the user’s privacy and security. Even though the service is available for free, you can find the use of military-grade encryption and secure protocol.
They don’t log user’s browsing activity, as well. On first look, the service seems to be relying on third-party ads and affiliates to generate some revenue. But there is a catch to this free application, as well.
Their documentation is quite confusing, which points toward the fact that the service can’t be trusted much. The speeds on the platform are also not very encouraging.
Ultrasurf is a simple circumvention tool intended to help people experience a free and open internet in areas where online space is heavily restricted. Ultrasurf’s userbase comes mostly from countries with a lot of online restrictions such as China, Iran, Syria, etc.
There is nothing much on the application that would set it apart from the rest of the free VPN applications. There are only three server options, the speed after connection isn’t as good as one would want it to be, and they also log user’s browsing information since the service is based out of the USA.
It is a Mauritian VPN service which allows users to access the internet without compromising their privacy or spending a penny. The jurisdiction enables the service provider to make sure that none of user’s browsing information is accessible to anyone.
They do log some information related to user sessions, so one can’t call it a service with strict no-logs policy.
SumRando has got only a handful of server options. On top of that, the speed after the connection doesn’t seem capable of impressing anyone. There aren’t any additional features such as internet kill switch or DNS leak protection, as well.
11. Opera VPN
As exciting as it may sound, having a VPN feature on the browser itself is not a revolutionary solution to take care of one’s online privacy. In fact, Opera VPN can’t even be called a VPN service. It is merely a proxy service to get one through some geo-restrictions.
The browser would not encrypt your traffic or provide you with any other sort of online protection. All it will do is try to obfuscate your IP address, which won’t be much difficult for one to miss out.
It is a free VPN service based out of Canada. The only thing impressive about this service is perhaps that it is free. One may even consider the availability of servers in 22 different countries a pro on the service.
However, it does not offer much on the privacy front, which in our opinion, should be one of the most sought out features of a VPN service. They store a lot of information about user’s browsing activity, and you can’t expect them to create archives of such information for no reason.
Are free VPNs safe?
The Internet has become an integral part of our lives. We rely on it for both pleasure and business. It can be anything ranging from sending out work emails to playing your favorite video game online, you are always connected to the internet.
The constant connectivity and increase of the use of the internet in so many spheres of life has created so many chinks in the armor of one’s online security. One can always be cautious about what he does on the internet, but one can only be so much careful.
This is where virtual private networks come into the picture. They keep one safe from a lot of online threats by the simple task of obfuscation of one’s online identity. VPNs not only make you anonymous on the internet, but they also make it almost impossible to find out what you are doing on the internet.
What can be more disheartening for a cybercriminal other than not being able to find out who the person is and what exactly is she doing on the internet?
However, there is some substantial infrastructure needed to have such a privacy cover. There are servers involved, usually present at a lot of locations around the globe. There are a lot of other costs and charges that a VPN service provider needs to bear to keep the user safe.
Managing remote servers and implementing the latest technology doesn’t come cheap. But most VPN services are usually competitively priced.
With the knowledge of these facts, it might become difficult even for you to understand how come some of the VPN services are available for free.
We will discuss some of the ways free VPN services make money in later sections of this review. The primary task of a private network is to keeps the user’s identity and activity private on the internet, and let’s discuss if free VPNs can take care of it or not.
Free VPNs can be broadly classified into two categories; ones which work on both desktop and mobile devices like regular VPN applications and the ones which are created only for mobile devices.
Let us first talk about the latter ones. For a significant portion of mobile VPN applications, which are available for free, it would be wrong even to call them VPN applications. Proxy service would be the right choice of words.
A private network usually, encrypts and redirects the user’s online traffic. But these free mobile VPN applications only redirect the traffic to proxy servers, and there is no encryption involved. With the kind of permissions these applications acquire, things can go south very quickly.
Coming to the free VPN applications which run on desktops, it all depends upon the service provider. If you are looking for a free VPN service, a good way to start would be to know a bit more about the service provider.
If it’s a renowned VPN service and has a subscription plan available for free, but with restrictions, then there is a good chance that it will be a safer service. It would require one to get a bit deeper into privacy statements and terms of services to find how they deal with user’s online activity data.
On the other hand, if it’s a VPN service which is available for free and yet it promises to come with all the perks of a full-fledged VPN service, then it’s obvious to come across some raised eyebrows.
Such services can hardly ever be good at keeping your online activity private. If you can’t cite a clear revenue source for the service provider, then we would suggest you better stay away from such services.
There is no simple answer to whether free VPN services are safe or not. Most of the times, it will depend on the service provider. Instead of trying to find out if the service is reliable or not, if one tries to find out how the service provider makes money, then it will automatically bring out the answers to a lot of other questions.
There is always a price to pay
When you get a free VPN service, it is highly likely to be one of the three cases. The first possible case can be that you get served with ads in exchange for using the service for free. The second case can be that the application will store your browsing activity data and then sell it to make money. The last case can be that the free subscription is there only for the user to get a feel of how things work on the platform, and therefore, the plan will be accompanied with a lot of restrictions on data usage and available server locations.
You will generally come across the first case on free mobile VPN applications. However, if you see ads while using such a service, there is still a possibility of them logging your data. Going through the privacy statement can help one be clear of such doubts.
And as we mentioned earlier, a lot of free VPN services for mobile applications are nothing but just proxy services which give a false sense of security to users.
The second case is potentially the most dangerous one for one’s online security and privacy. You never know how they will use your browsing information. Sometimes it may even contain some sensitive data, and it can never be a good idea to let such information reach outsiders.
There have been a lot of reports of these free VPN services being based in China, and service providers collecting information to create profiles of users and using it for all sorts of wrong purposes.
There is not much say of outside agencies and foreign government bodies when it comes what’s happening across in Chinese cyberspace. The free service providers take undue advantage of the restrictive cyberspace and get away with all kinds of data logging activities.
Make it a rule of thumb to not go for free VPN applications based in China. One never knows if the app is hoarding more than just browsing data of the user.
Finally, we have the good ones. A lot of the prominent VPN services provide a free subscription plan for those who want to try out service. Such plans lack heavily on data caps and available server locations. However, the silver lining is that you can trust the service to not mess with your private information.
Most of these services have a strict no-logs policy, and they stick with it religiously as it is a matter of reputation for them. Such plans can come in handy when you need the VPN protection for some quick task.
Free VPN v/s paid VPN
A lot of you might be wondering why one should even bother paying for a VPN service if there are a lot of good-enough ones available for free.
Well, a free VPN service may indeed cater to some of your needs, but if you want to have the advantage of many or all parts of a VPN service, then you will have to get a paid subscription, and that too from one of the better service providers.
There can be a lot of situations which may make sense of one using a private network’s services for free. One might be in a public place and want to use the free Wi-Fi service without the fear of losing private information to someone lurking around.
It can also be the case when you are looking for cheaper hotel or flight bookings and want to obfuscate the location for the time being only, then getting a free VPN service can be a smart move.
But for other kinds of elaborate and prolonged usage plans, a free subscription can never suffice. If the private network is one of the better ones, then the restrictions won’t let the user function for sure.
If it is among the ones which serve you with ads or stores browsing information, then using such a private network defies the whole purpose of getting a VPN service. If your browsing data ends up getting into the hands of someone, then you are just as unsafe as someone using the internet without the protection of a private network.
There are plenty of advantages of a paid VPN subscription over the free ones. The paid one will have all the necessary measures to make sure no one can make out what you are doing on the internet.
They encrypt the traffic and route in through secure channels to keep the snoopers out. With free ones, you can’t be so sure of the anonymity front. Sometimes, they will only reroute the traffic but not encrypt it, so the ISP or any other monitoring body will still be able to make out what you are doing on the internet.
Paid plans beat the free ones straight out when it comes to advanced features. There is internet kill switch, IPv6 leak protect, double VPN, DNS leak protection, malware protection, tracker prevention, adblocker, and loads of other stuff that one can enjoy only with a paid plan.
The most significant advantage of having a paid plan is the number of choices you get for server locations. The different server locations reside at the core of the obfuscation strategy. Depending on how many server locations are present in the network, the user can better hide away her exact location.
All the free VPN plans will provide you only a handful of server location options. You will not only have to face the issues which arise because of the physical distance of servers from your location but the high traffic-density on these servers.
There are always a lot of people on these free servers, which ends up affecting the quality of connection for everyone. High latency rates and poor quality of connection are not new on such servers.
You will always have to sacrifice quality in one way or another if you are going for a free VPN service.
There has been a lot of backlash against torrenting from media houses around the world. They have made sure that it is not easy at all for anyone to indulge in P2P file transfer. Use of a private network is an excellent way to download files using torrent.
But trying to use a free VPN service for torrenting may not help you so much. There are often bandwidth limits which won’t allow you to download large files, and the poor quality of connection makes the whole process painstakingly unbearable.
Necessary features in a free VPN service
It is only natural for paid services to have loads of advantages over the free ones and the same holds true in case of virtual private networks. But there might be times when you will have no option but to look for a free VPN service.
There are still a few things that you can keep in mind while looking for such a service so that you can make the most out of the service and stay safe on the internet.
One of your immediate concerns with free VPN services should be privacy and security. The free ones are not always the most reliable when it comes to handling user’s browsing info. It can be a difficult task to find the one which comes with a no-logs policy in this case, but it is essential for privacy.
It should keep your information private with the use of encryption and a safe protocol. A lot of times, the free VPN services do not encrypt user’s traffic. Make sure the one you pick takes care of it.
It might not have military-grade encryption like on most of the paid applications, but there is always the possibility of one getting lucky on this front. Just don’t use one which offers nothing of the sort. Encryption is necessary to ensure that snoopers don’t get to make out the content of your online activities.
Secure protocols are supposed to hide away your online activity from the reach of anyone trying to get to it. It includes the internet service provider, government bodies, and anti-social elements. The protocol ensures that no one intercepts the rerouted traffic.
Protocol and encryption are among the essentials to keep one safe and anonymous on the internet, and one should always try first to have them in order before anything else when selecting a VPN application.
The next biggest concern can be the server network. One simply cannot expect to have access to a vast server network after getting a free application. Most of these applications will come with only a few options for server location.
You won’t get much say on the availability of the number of server locations, but you can always try to make sure that one of the available server locations is closer to your physical location. This simple step can help one deal with latency issues to quite an extent.
Apart from this, the number of server locations will also have a role to play in determining the quality of connection you get on the service. The application with more server locations for options is more likely to perform better because of reduced traffic density for each server.
The speed on a network can depend on a lot of factors. Some networks are relatively faster than others. All the free VPN applications are inherently slow but finding the faster among these can help improve the whole browsing experience significantly.
The features we mentioned until now are essentials for even a free VPN service. Anything and everything you get apart from these things can be considered a bonus.
Some of the bonus features that you may get on one these services are the internet kill switch, router support, multi-VPN, DNS leak protection, etc.
However, it will be a wise move from one not to expect a free service to have all these features.