Virtual private networks (VPN) have grown in popularity during the past decade because they offer privacy and anonymity online in a time when it is needed the most. This is due to various reasons – governments spying on you or censoring content you can access, streaming platforms geographically restricting their own content, ISPs throttling your connection, hackers trying to steal your private data, you name it.
Considering all these issues, it’s no wonder many people are looking at VPNs. However, once you start searching, you realise that many such platforms offer their services for a fee. Or worse yet, they offer a free VPN service, but provide very poor service.
Luckily, not all free VPN services are low-quality or extremely limiting. Yes, limitations do apply with just about all of them, but considering you’re getting a free privacy service, it’s something many can live with.
The most important things to pay attention to when choosing the right free VPN, are the level of security it offers, whether its limitations are a deal-breaker for you, the level of privacy and the existence of the no-logging policy, as well as what kind of information do you have to give up to get access to it.
If you're looking to get maximum security, we'd always recommend a paid option – our top three choices are briefly mentioned below – but for casual browsing a free VPN can be a very useful tool to have at your disposal.
1. ExpressVPN – test out the best VPN risk-free for 30 days (opens in new tab)
We rate ExpressVPN (opens in new tab) as the overall best option for anyone looking for a VPN. It has unlimited data, over 3,000 servers, and excellent privacy features – plus its 30-day money-back guarantee means you can try before you buy.
Save 49%: Get three months free on an annual plan (opens in new tab)
2. Surfshark – the best combination of price and premium
(opens in new tab)For those looking for a cheap but fully featured VPN, Surfshark (opens in new tab) is an excellent choice. For less than $2.50 a month you'll get access to 3,200+ servers, unlimited data, and top-notch streaming and security features. Plus, it also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
3. NordVPN – powerful security features plus great streaming (opens in new tab)
NordVPN is hugely popular for a reason – and it's not just thanks to the aggressive advertising campaigns. It has excellent apps, tons of servers, and great streaming performance – plus, at just $3.71 a month with a 30-day money-back guarantee, it's good value, too.
- Get a good middle ground with the best cheap VPN
Hotspot Shield Free (opens in new tab) tops our free VPN list thanks to everything you get, no charge: 500MB of daily data traffic (that’s about 15GB per month), military-grade encryption, and beginner-friendly apps, regardless of the platform.
You will have to suffer through an ad here and there, and you can only use the one server location that the platform assigns to you, but it’s worth it if privacy is your topmost concern.
This means you won’t be able to stream Netflix (Hotspot Shield actually blocks access itself), but your sensitive information will be perfectly safe from prying eyes, which is especially important if you’re worried about shopping or conducting financial operations online.
Having said that, getting started isn’t terribly convenient. After the installation, you’ll have the option to take the 7-day free trial for the premium version (opens in new tab), but you can ignore that and just connect to the service to use the free version. If you decide to try the free trial, just remember that you will have to give your credit card details and cancel before you're charged.(opens in new tab)
TunnelBear is a VPN platform that stands out with its original design and a good sense of humor, as well as the free plan that comes with a choice of more than 20 servers.
That said, it's quite restrictive in its monthly traffic which gives free users only 500MB to use for the entire month. This means you’ll have to be very prudent with how you use it or you’ll run out before you know it. So no streaming, torrenting, or other downloads except for some really light browsing. However, you can increase this limit to 1GB by tweeting about TunnelBear.
Even as restrictive as it is in the monthly data traffic, TunnelBear is an ideal free VPN for those who want a little privacy for some of their online habits, like online banking, shopping, or other security-sensitive operations.
If you’d like to experience what TunnelBear has in store for those who pay for a full version (opens in new tab), you won’t end up disappointed. The company doesn’t even require you to provide your first name when signing up, which isn’t the case with many other platforms.(opens in new tab)
ProtonVPN (opens in new tab) has one of the best free plans on the market, mainly due to its lack of limitation on monthly VPN traffic which is a rare thing for a free VPN to have. This doesn’t come without its price though, as speeds and user support leave a little to be desired, mostly because free users are considered as low priority. Also, if you thought unlimited data traffic meant you could share as many large files as you like via P2P, you’re wrong - this provider doesn’t support P2P.
That said, users can download ProtonVPN apps for Windows, Android, iOS, Mac, and even GNU/Linux, albeit use them only on one device at the time. Also, there are only three server locations you can connect to.
The privacy offered by ProtonVPN, even in its free version, is impressive, and the strict no-logs policy guarantees no sensitive information is kept on its servers. The best part? You only need your email address to sign up. You won’t see any pesky ads often present in other free VPNs, either.(opens in new tab)
Windscribe is a strong free VPN that has apps for all the major platforms, an excellent choice of 25 servers in 11 countries, as well as a generous 10GB monthly cap on its free data traffic. You’ll even receive notifications via email every time your monthly traffic allowance is renewed.
The available locations are well spread and include the UK, Germany, Canada, Hong Kong, and the US, which should be enough for most (free) users.
To get your hands on this handy VPN service, you don’t even need to leave your email address - just create a username and password and you’re all set! Regardless, we recommend putting in an email address, just in case you forget your password. Additionally, it’s useful to know when your spent bandwidth is renewed.
As usual, the privacy levels are high, accompanied by a serious no-logging policy. The platform also includes a built-in ad blocker and firewall, for added protection.(opens in new tab)
Speedify does exactly what its name says - provides a fast VPN connection, thanks to a few handy performance boosting tools that include making use of all available internet connections. For example, it can combine your Ethernet with a tethered mobile connection.
In case there’s only one kind of internet connection available, then the provider’s turbocharging technology will step in. We tested the high speeds claim and were delighted with the results.
Users get quite a lot of servers at their disposal - over 50, but not a lot in terms of monthly bandwidth. Specifically, you only get 2GB per month for all your VPN needs, which is still four times more than TunnelBear’s 500MB, but way less than Windscribe’s 10GB or ProtonVPN’s unlimited monthly traffic.(opens in new tab)
Hide.me (opens in new tab)’s free VPN option will give you 10GB of data traffic per month, which is quite enough if you’re not keen on heavy streaming (the provider supports US Netflix, Disney+ and other streaming services) or torrenting, although the servers are P2P-friendly. Just like with Windscribe, this limit is more than enough for anonymous surfing, messaging, occasional file sharing, and so on.
There are only 5 available server locations (including in Canada and the US), so those with location-specific requirements may find this limitation unsatisfactory (unless their requirements fit the specific available locations). Still, strong privacy, security, and a no-logging policy are all there, so you won’t have to worry about any of your private data leaking into the wrong hands.
Speeds provided by Hide.me are excellent and the clients are well designed and intuitive, but even if you run into any trouble, the provider offers 24/7 tech support for everyone, free users included.
Signing up is easy, just enter your email address, click the link in your confirmation message, and register with your username and password.