Virtual private networks (VPNs) are specially designed to connect computers to each other through a secured connection. With a VPN it is possible to safely and anonymously surf the web, stream content and download. In general, there are few free VPN services of decent quality. Some providers offer a free basic application with the option (and intention) to upgrade this free application to a more complete paid version. In this article, we discuss which free VPN services are available and we highlight their possibilities and shortcomings.
Be careful with free VPNs
Be careful with free VPN services. A recent investigation among over 300 free VPN applications has shown that a large proportion does not work well, and demand unnecessary access to all kinds of sensitive files, like your contacts, your photos and your social media. And they may infect your device with spyware and malware.
The safest bet is to choose a premium, paid VPN provider. For instance, ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer competitive packages, and with both providers you can profit from unlimited bandwidth, military-grade encryption, multiple simultaneous connections and great streaming and downloading compatibility. These are features you will generally not get with a free VPN. Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN have a 30-day money-back guarantee on all their packages; no questions asked and hassle-free. And you’ll get significant discounts when you opt for a 1-year or 2-year subscription.
If you really don’t want to spend any money on a VPN subscription, there are luckily still some free VPN services that are pretty good. These free VPN services can sometimes have some limitations. Think of; data limits, speed limits, download limitations, waiting times and adverts. Besides it is important to realize that there is no such thing as truly free. All services are profit based. It is possible that they are trying to get information for the purposes of selling advertisements for example. Also by limiting the quality and possibilities of a free service, you might eventually be persuaded to switch to a paid service. We managed to make a list of several good reliable free VPN services.
Free VPN services
What are the hallmarks of a good free VPN? If you are interested in a free VPN the following services could be interesting for you. The first service we discuss (Goose VPN) is one of the best VPN services on the market. It is a paid service but you can have a month trial period for only €0,45. The next five VPN services in the list offer a free basic application that is free and remains free with the possibility to upgrade to a better paid version.
GOOSE VPN (Highly recommended)
Goose VPN is perfect for people who want to try all the advantages of a VPN. Goose VPN is a paid VPN service but you can try it a month almost for free (there is a €0,45 verification cost at registration that you can claim back if you are not satisfied). Our advice is to start with the unlimited package straight away. With the unlimited package, there is no data limit and you can anonymously surf, stream and download torrents without limit for your first free month.
Don’t forget to use the discount code: PRIVACY during registration. If you decide to remain a member, you can benefit from 30% discount on the unlimited package. With Goose VPN you have worldwide access to the American Netflix library. Also they have fast and stable servers and an excellent helpdesk. Goose VPN is suitable for Android, iOS, Windows and Mac OS.
TunnelBear is a strong player in the market of free VPNs. The interface is clean and simple to use and the installation is fast and easy. We were able to use all online streaming services we tried out – Hulu, BBC iPlayer and YouTube. Also, the security and encryption were good. The speed was unsatisfactory and there is a 500 MB data limit a month. But you can up that to 1.5 GB with a tweet. You can choose virtual locations in the US, UK, Canada, Germany, Japan, The Netherlands and Italy. TunnelBear is available for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS. For a free VPN service TunnelBear is fine even though it has a few restrictions.
CyberGhost has a clean installation process and the interface looks fine. There are no limits to the data or the speed that you can use. They have an extensive list of options concerning IP locations with virtual locations in Germany, Spain, Romania, Luxemburg, France, Italy as well as the usual American and British locations. CyberGhost is available for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and Linux (with some effort). For a free VPN service Cyberghost is not a bad option. Obviously, it has some limitations. Here are few things to watch out for:
- As soon as you want to change a setting in the program, you get a pop-up with the announcement that you must pay, this can get quite annoying after a while.
- The speed of Cyberghost is a bit higher of the speeds of the other free services here discussed. But they have blocked all p2p torrents. So if you want to download anonymously (for example via the PirateBay) this free service is not suitable for you.
- At standard time intervals you will get advertisements across your screen. After having been online for three hours the connections will be automatically disconnected. These problems won’t arise with the paid version.
- It always takes a while before you can connect with the free VPN servers of Cyberghost. Each time you try to connect you will have to watch an advertisement first. Usually you can use the VPN connection immediately afterwards but it is also possible that the free VPN servers have reached their capacity. In that case you must wait until space becomes available in one of the free servers.
SurfEasy is another free VPN server. The speed that is offered is Good. The installation simple, and the encryption is good and they clearly state that they don’t log activities. You can select regions with servers in Brazil, the USA, Singapore, UK, Germany and Canada. The biggest deal breaker is that their IP-addresses are black listed by some streaming services. There is also a monthly data limit of 500 MB for free accounts and bit torrent is not supported. So you can’t download with torrents. SurfEasy is available for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS after you register for an account.
Hotspot Shield is possibly the most well-known and most used free VPN service around. Hotspot Shield contains all the basic functions while offering an average speed, it is almost good enough for streaming Hulu’s videos with an average resolution. All communication is encrypted and there is no data limit whatsoever. However, you will have to endure advertisements while you are surfing the web (which can be a privacy and safety risk). Make sure to turn off the option to; ‘change your home page’ during the installation process. Hotspot Shield is available for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS. If you are on budget and you are looking for a free VPN service, Hotspot Shield is worth your consideration.
Spotflux is yet another company which is offering a free to use VPN service. This VPN connection also comes with advertisements and is without any broadband limits. The expected internet speed is more or less the same as you will get with Hotspot Shield, meaning it is not the fastest of the bunch. Other than encrypting your internet traffic they also promise to protect you from malicious online advertisements, cookies and malware. The client is easy to use without the use of any settings. Their IP-addresses are similar to those that are based in the US which means that you can’t use any services from other countries. It is also worth mentioning that, at the moment, they are black listed by Hulu. The free VPN service by Spotflux is available for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS.
By conclusion: What is the best free VPN?
A free VPN is a good option if you are only planning to use a VPN occasionally, and without to use of too much data. Most of the free VPN services mentioned in this article support multiple operating systems. So if you are looking for a free VPN service for you iPad, your Android device or your iPhone. These above-named services should work for you. The moment you want to use a free VPN service for Netflix or Popcorntime, you will quickly run into data limits and speed limits. You will also face restrictions if you want to use a free VPN for downloading films or series. So if you would like to use video and audio streaming services or download a lot of data, you will most likely end up with a paid VPN service, such as GOOSE VPN.
It is hard to give a recommendation for the best free VPN service. If you are going to choose a free VPN service, we would recommend to choose one of the services listed in this article, such as Tunnelbear or Cyberghost. This is because most of the free VPN apps offered in the Play store and the App store don’t work properly and can even be harmful (malware). We would recommend not to install any random VPNs you come across. Safety on the internet starts by having a good VPN.