With a Virtual Private Network (VPN) you can use the internet more anonymously and securely by means of an encrypted connection. Most VPN providers require a monthly fee if you want to use their secure server network. However, there are some VPN providers that offer a connection for free.
In this article, you will learn more about free VPN services, how they work, and why you should be careful. Moreover, we’ll recommend five excellent free services you can start using right away.
Be Careful with Free VPN Services
You always need to be somewhat wary of ‘free’ products and services, and VPNs are no exception. Although some free VPNs will do their job very well, not all of them will be able to give you what you need. Many VPN services claim to be free, but still take something from you, even if it isn’t money. For example, some free VPNs such as Hola, sell your data connection to other customers. Other free providers even monitor the websites you visit so they can sell this data to marketing agencies. In other words, you might think your online life is protected by these free VPNs, whereas actually your privacy is being compromised even more.
Worth considering: Free trial with a premium VPN for 30 days
Free VPNs generally come with certain limitations. Premium paid VPNs are generally more secure and offer more options, such as unlimited data, unlimited speeds, proper customer support, and access to streaming services from all over the world.
If you want to try a premium service for free, there is a strong up-and-comer that we wholeheartedly recommend, namely Surfshark. For $2.49 USD per month, you get all the advantages of a premium VPN. The free trial comes in the form of a 30-day money-back guarantee. Within those first 30 days, you can get your money back without problems.
- Very user-friendly and works with Netflix and torrents
- 30-day money-back guarantee. No questions asked!
- Cheap with many extra options
If a free VPN is really what you are looking for, there are some reliable options. You might run into data limits or speed caps, but the free VPN providers in the list below are generally quite good and are completely free. You don’t have to register and provide your payment information or make use of a money-back guarantee. Free really is free with these VPN providers.
What is the Best Free VPN?
|Free VPN|| |
|Free data / month||Unlimited||10GB||500MB (+1GB if you tweet about TunnelBear)||2GB (10GB after sharing your email)||10GB (+5GB / referred paying user (max 50GB))|
|Servers in countries||3||4||26||11||3|
|Netflix USA working?||Sometimes||No||No||No||No|
|P2P traffic allowed||No||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Level of encryption||AES 256-Bit||AES 256-Bit||AES 256-Bit||AES 256-Bit||128-Bit|
|Operating system||Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux||Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux||Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux||Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux||Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux|
After extensive testing, we conclude that ProtonVPN is the best free VPN service of 2021. Other good free VPN providers are Hide.me, TunnelBear, Windscribe, and ZoogVPN. Each option has its own unique advantages and features.
How did we determine this top 5 list exactly? First of all, it is important that there are no direct or hidden subscription costs; VPNs with free trials that automatically turn into a paid subscription are not included in our list. Additionally, we feel it’s crucial that the VPNs we test do not sell customer information to third parties.
When comparing various free VPN services, we look at encryption, data limits, speed caps, the number of simultaneous connections that are allowed, and the server locations. Free VPNs often have a combination of different limiting factors regarding data, internet speeds, and server availability. In everyday practice, this does not necessarily have to pose a problem. Which provider is the best pick for you is mainly a matter of personal preference, wants, and needs.
If you want a fast VPN, you should try to find a free VPN service that has servers in your country and no speed cap. This is difficult given the limited number of server locations most free VPNs offer. Do you intend to use the VPN for streaming? Then it’s important to have a large amount of data available and good speeds. Consequently, when it comes to streaming, paid VPN services usually lend themselves better to this purpose, because of their higher speeds and the lack of data caps.
Below you will find some more in-depth information about the free VPNs on our top 5 list.
ProtonVPN is the best free VPN at this moment. Biggest advantage? No data limit and very solid security features.
|Feature||ProtonVPN free version performance|
|Netflix||Sometimes, not consistently|
|Website||Visit ProtonVPN website|
ProtonVPN can justifiably be called one of the best free VPNs on the market. This popular provider from Switzerland offers user-friendly software and applications with good encryption.
Why choose the free version of ProtonVPN? The advantages!
The free version of ProtonVPN has no data or speed limits. Compared to other free VPN services this is a big plus. Especially the absence of a data cap is unique amongst free VPN providers. This is the most important reason for us to put ProtonVPN over the others if we compare all their other features.
Another positive feature of ProtonVPN, is that this VPN functions well on all your devices. ProtonVPN works with Mac, Windows, Android, iOS, Linux, and even certain routers.
Occasionally, we succeeded in accessing Netflix with ProtonVPN’s free servers. However, there are no guarantees that Netflix will always work. Netflix is constantly trying to block access to its streaming service by VPN users. Therefore, you have to be lucky to find a ProtonVPN server that isn’t currently being blocked by Netflix. Because the paid ProtonVPN subscription gives access to far more servers, paying customers have a much better chance of getting Netflix to work.
Disadvantages of the free version of ProtonVPN
While ProtonVPN has no artificial speed limit, the connection speed can sometimes be quite low. This makes sense considering the large number of people using the limited number of free ProtonVPN servers. Internet speeds can drop as the servers struggle to handle all the data traffic. The ProtonVPN website also advertises the speed of their free VPN as “average”, while all their paid subscriptions have “high speeds”.
ProtonVPN doesn’t support torrent downloads. This means you cannot download files from torrent sites when you are connected with a free ProtonVPN server.
The free version of ProtonVPN gives you access to servers in “only” three different locations: three servers in the United States, three servers in Japan, and three in The Netherlands. This very limited selection of servers could be troublesome for some users.
You can use ProtonVPN for free on one device at a time. But seeing as it’s a free service you could theoretically register multiple accounts with different email addresses. This way you can protect every device you own with a separate ProtonVPN account.
Verdict on ProtonVPN
Our editorial team finds that ProtonVPN is currently the best free VPN available. Aside from ProtonVPN’s free service, we have also reviewed the premium (paid) version of this provider. We are very content with ProtonVPN in general, and you can read our full review here.
A trustworthy free VPN that allows torrents but denies access to Netflix.
|Feature||Hide.me free version performance|
|Netflix||Did not work in our tests|
|Simultaneous connections allowed||1|
|Data limit||10GB per month|
|Website||Visit Hide.me website|
Why choose the free VPN service from Hide.me?
Hide.me is a well-known name in the VPN landscape. This provider offers both a paid and a free VPN option. The free subscription gives you access to five servers in four countries: one in the Netherlands, Canada, and Germany, and two in the USA (East and West).
Hide.me is a zero-logs VPN. This means the provider doesn’t store any information regarding your internet activities, which is good for your privacy. The free version of Hide.me also gives you 24/7 access to customer support.
In past years, Hide.me didn’t allow people to use the free version to download torrents. But this policy has changed, and free users can now in fact download via torrent sites. This is a big advantage compared to some other free VPN providers. However, please keep in mind the monthly data limitations when downloading.
Disadvantages of the free version of Hide.me
Hide.me free VPN generally does not work with Netflix. We tested this ourselves. When you try to watch a movie or series with Hide.me turned on you get a message saying that you are using a VPN or proxy and aren’t allowed to watch it.
The free version of Hide.me has a data limit of 10GB per month. If you want to stream, you will reach this data limit quite rapidly. In such cases, the free version of ProtonVPN might be a better pick. Alternatively, you could consider a cheap paid VPN option like NordVPN or Surfshark.
With Hide.me you’ll only be able to protect one of your devices at a time. Like ProtonVPN, however, you can bypass this limitation by registering multiple accounts; one for every device you want to use Hide.me on.
Verdict on Hide.me
The free version of Hide.me works well. There however is a data limit, which is not ideal. Even though you get a lot more data than with most competitors, 10GB is still a relatively small amount. A big plus of this provider is that they allow you to torrent with their free VPN.
Roar! TunnelBear is one of the most reliable providers offering a free VPN solution.
|Feature||TunnelBear free version performance|
|Netflix||Did not work in our tests|
|Simultaneous connections allowed||5|
|Data limit||500MB per month|
|Website||Visit TunnelBear website|
What benefits does the free TunnelBear VPN application provide?
TunnelBear is another good option if you’re looking for a free VPN. The interface is clear, fun, and easy to use. The visual style is unique and very recognizable. The website is easy to navigate and the installation of TunnelBear software is quick and simple.
Additionally, security and encryption are up to par, and the free version of TunnelBear doesn’t cap speeds.
Even with its free version, TunnelBear allows you to choose from all of its available servers. This means there are over 26 servers available to you. You can choose servers in countries like the USA, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Japan, The Netherlands, Spain, France, Brazil, India and Italy.
TunnelBear is available for Windows, Mac, Android, Linux and iOS. Moreover, their free VPN can be used on multiple devices at the same time, just like their paid one. This VPN provider has some limitations but is still a very good free VPN. If you want to download the free version, click “Pricing” at the top of their website. Then select the free subscription.
Downsides of the free version of TunnelBear
The biggest disadvantage is the data limit, as you only get 500MB per month. In everyday use, most people would surpass this data limit. Especially when streaming the available data will probably not suffice. You can add 1GB of free data to this limit if you tweet about TunnelBear, but the question is whether you’re willing to do this as a user looking for more online privacy.
The customer support is limited for free users. TunnelBear says on its website that paying customers can expect ‘priority customer support’. This means you will be helped quickly and more efficiently in case you are facing any issue with TunnelBear.
Verdict on TunnelBear
The free version of TunnelBear is of high quality, but only suitable if you need a small amount of data. The unpaid package can suffice if you occasionally want to log into an unsafe public Wi-Fi network. This prevents you from falling victim to a hacker who is lurking on said public network.
Decent free VPN that works with almost all operating systems and devices.
|Feature||Windscribe free version performance|
|Netflix||Did not work in our tests|
|Simultaneous connections allowed||Unlimited|
|Data limit||2GB to 10GB per month|
|Website||Visit Windscribe website|
Why should you choose Windscribe’s free VPN?
On which operating systems does Windsribe work? Well, basically, on all major operating systems. Think of Android and Windows, but also the various operating systems by Apple.
The free version of Windscribe has fewer options than the paid package. For free users, Windscribe provides 11 servers divided amongst different countries around the world. Still, we see this as quite a big plus, because a free VPN provider having 11 servers to choose from is pretty lavish. Furthermore, the Windscribe servers are very fast.
Another advantage: you can use Windscribe on as many devices as you want. Pretty unique for a VPN that comes free of charge.
When should you not use Windscribe? The disadvantages of this free VPN
This provider has a data limit of 2GB per month. However, if you choose to share your email address with Windscribe and verify it, you get 10GB a month. Keep in mind that this is technically a payment: you pay with your email address and get more data in return. We think this is a bit odd. Probably your email address is used for marketing purposes so that Windscribe can approach you by email to get you to upgrade to a paid subscription.
Even when you manage to acquire 10 gigabytes of data, you’re likely to quickly burn through this after some days of internet use, especially when downloading or streaming.
Another downside of Windscribe is its usability. Windscribe’s software is not as easy to use as some of the other free VPN providers listed above. Most of the buttons in the software take you to your account page on their website. This is not as easy-to-use as software that lets you edit certain settings from within the software itself.
We were unable to get Netflix to work in combination with Windscribe. Torrents however were not an issue; we were able to download torrents anonymously with great speeds.
Verdict on Windscribe
The free VPN package of Windscribe is really solid. The speeds are great, although we do dislike the data limitations. Also, Windscribe isn’t a great pick for people who enjoy watching Netflix with their VPN.
A free zero-logs VPN provider with a limited number of servers that can be used on one device at a time.
|Feature||ZoogVPN free version performance|
|Netflix||Did not work in our tests|
|Simultaneous connections allowed||1|
|Data limit||10GB to 50GB per month|
|Website||Visit ZoogVPN website|
Why should you choose ZoogVPN and what sets it apart from the competition?
ZoogVPN offers users multiple encryption protocols. Free users can choose between IKEv2 and OpenVPN. Paying users have additional protocols to choose from. But for most users, OpenVPN will suffice, as this is a very suitable protocol for security and speed. The big downside when it comes to ZoogVPN’s encryption is the 128-bit encryption instead of the AES 256-bit offered by other free VPNs. Why they would purposely choose to provide their free users with lesser encryption is lost on us.
This VPN works on Windows, Mac, Apple, and Android devices.
When testing the free application of ZoogVPN we discovered there is a kill switch functionality! This is a feature you can turn on and off, and it ensures that all internet traffic is interrupted whenever the secure VPN connection unexpectedly drops. The presence of a kill switch is pretty special for a free VPN and we felt that it is definitely a feature worth mentioning.
When should you avoid ZoogVPN? Some limitations of this provider
If you have a free package with ZoogVPN, you can only use 3 servers in the entire server network. These servers are located in The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
The free version can be used on just one device at a time. However. this is the case with most free VPN providers.
ZoogVPN has a data limit of 10GB per month. You can add to this limit, but to do so, you’ll have to refer paying customers. Every paying customer you refer to them, will earn you an additional 5GB of data, up to 50GB per month.
The VPN servers of ZoogVPN are quite fast, but when the servers are under heavier load, the free users are the first to notice. When we tested ZoogVPN’s free servers in January 2021, Netflix did not seem to work.
Verdict on ZoogVPN
Even though ZoogVPN is not in the first position on our list, please keep in mind that there are more than 300 free VPN options on the market. The fact that a provider is included in this list of best free VPN services, means they meet a certain quality threshold. ZoogVPN does have its fair share of limitations, like every free product out there. But it remains a good choice for a free VPN.
Free VPN vs Paid VPN
You need to be careful when using free VPN services. A study conducted a couple of years ago, which included over 300 free VPN applications, found that many free VPNs don’t protect your data properly. Access to all kinds of unnecessary sensitive information (such as your contacts, photos, and social media) is often requested. Some free providers even infect your device with spyware and other malware.
Many free VPN services are owned by Chinese companies, which might raise suspicions about their intentions and the level of safety and anonymity. As we all make non-stop use of the internet these days, it is worth using a good and reliable VPN service.
Paid VPN services will generally be more mindful of your privacy and offer a more advanced level of security, as well as many other extra features. For instance, connections tend to be much faster with paid VPNs. You’re allowed multiple simultaneous connections (to share your subscription with friends and family or use one account on both your laptop and your phone). You might also get access to streaming services from abroad such as Netflix USA or BBC iPlayer. You can also safely download torrents and won’t have to worry about data limits or fines.
Most of these features aren’t available with free services. What’s more, paid VPN subscriptions have become quite cheap.
If you want to know which companies currently offer the best VPN services, have a look at our comprehensive top 5 of best VPNs.
There are large price differences between paid VPNs. Especially if you’re looking for a free VPN, the pricing of some premium VPN providers may shock you. Luckily, there are several VPN providers that offer very good VPN connections for low prices.
For just a few dollars a month, you can get a really good VPN and enjoy peace of mind regarding the safety of your internet connection and data. A good example of a great VPN that costs little, is Surfshark. Want to know more about the different cheap VPNs out there? You might want to check out our article:
Free VPNs Without Data Limits
As you’ve seen, most good free VPNs come with data limits. Free VPN users are restricted this way because maintaining VPN servers and VPN connections cost money. Data limits allow the provider to permit you to get to know their VPN service without it costing them too much money.
Nevertheless, there’s at least one good free VPN without data limits, namely ProtonVPN. The free version of this VPN can be quite slow at times. This is because all its free users are spread out over just three servers. When these servers get too crowded, your speed will go down. ProtonVPN hopes this makes lengthy use of its free services less attractive. If slow speeds are not an issue for you (for example, if you don’t need your VPN for streaming), ProtonVPN is certainly worth considering.
A big downside to the data limits of free VPNs is that they’ll often keep you from watching an entire movie or TV-show. When you are watching an online stream (e.g. on Netflix), you’ll hit the monthly data limit after about an hour or two. So, even if the speed of the connection isn’t an issue, your viewing pleasure will be short-lived.
Free VPNs Without Speed Caps
As most free VPNs already employ data limits, they don’t need to set speed caps. As a result, these VPNs are often just as fast as paid VPNs. Some free VPNs don’t actively set speed caps because their free servers are already slowed down by the large number of users.
Luckily, there are free providers that offer a relatively sizeable number of servers, such as TunnelBear and Windscribe. This means that, even though the VPN connection is free, speeds are still very decent. TunnelBear especially clearly demonstrates what a paid subscription would look like, as this VPN provider gives you access to all its servers, however with very limited data (500MB/month).
Free VPN For All Your Devices
Most good free VPNs offer software and apps that are compatible with the most common devices and operating systems. This means that such VPNs are easy to install on your computer, smartphone, and tablet. Some VPNs even offer software for lesser-used operating systems, making it possible to use a free VPN on Linux, for instance. We will briefly discuss the various devices below.
Best free VPN for your computer or Mac
Most free VPNs are available for Windows and Mac. There are three ways in which you could use a VPN on your computer:
- With a dedicated application for your operating system
- Through the settings of your operating system (built-in VPN support)
- Through a browser extension
Some VPNs are only available as a browser extension, for Chrome or Firefox, for example. This means they do NOT protect your other internet traffic, including torrents and emailing. The only thing a VPN browser extension protects is the internet traffic running through your browser, such as online banking via your bank’s website.
Different operating systems require different kinds of VPN software. Linux users will often have a harder time setting up a VPN connection than Windows or Mac users. Setting up a VPN connection on Windows or Mac is usually just a matter of downloading and installing the provided software. Linux users will often have to manually configure their VPN connection.
Free VPN for iOS and Android
VPNs for smartphones are becoming more popular. Not only do we use our smartphones more and more, but we also connect them to unprotected Wi-Fi networks more often than we do with a computer. A free VPN definitely adds value for any smartphone user.
Nearly all good free VPNs offer applications for both Android and iOS. All VPNs listed above as the best free VPNs of this moment offer free software for both Android and iOS.
Free VPN for tablet
Smartphones are not the only devices running on Android and iOS: iPads and Android tablets do, too. It is just as easy to install and setup free VPN software on your tablet as it is on your phone. Using a VPN is ideal if you want to watch the American version of Netflix on your iPad, for example. Just as with smartphones, all free VPNs listed above have software for both iPads and Android tablets.
Free VPN server locations
Most free VPNs grant you access to a small sample of servers compared to their paid subscription. The exception being TunnelBear, which gives you access to their entire global network of servers.
|Free VPN||Server locations|
|ProtonVPN||The US, The Netherlands, and Japan|
|Hide.me||The US (East, West), The Netherlands, Germany, and Canada|
|TunnelBear||All of their global servers including the US and the UK|
|Windscribe||The US, The UK, The Netherlands, Canada, Hong Kong, France, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Turkey, and Romania|
|ZoogVPN||The US, The UK and, The Netherlands|
Free VPNs you should avoid
There are also many free VPNs out there you should avoid. Many aim to track your data and sell it to others. Their usage harms your privacy instead of protecting it. Some free VPNs even sell your connection to other users. Usually, your bandwidth is given to premium users of the service, who in turn use your connection and IP-address as their very own ‘VPN server’.
Below is an overview of some unsafe free VPNs that are relatively popular.
|Free VPN||Why it’s best not to use it|
|Hola||Sells your bandwidth to paying users. This enables paying users to use your internet connection to access the web. As a result, your IP address could end up being connected to suspicious activities.|
|SuperVPN||Keeps track of your data to fulfill DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) requests. If you’re looking for a way to download anonymously, you’ll be better off with a different VPN.|
|Psiphon Pro||Allows partner companies to track users. Also shares data with commercial partners, other partners, and the Psiphon Pro parent company. In other words, you’ll have a hard time staying anonymous with this VPN.|
|Touch VPN||Adds different types of trackers (cookies, pixel tags, web beacons) to a user’s browser and shares data with third parties.|
|Betternet||Allows advertisers, among other third parties, to track user data.|
|AnonyTun||Allows advertisers to place cookies and build user profiles.|
These are not the only unsafe free VPN providers out there. Many VPNs in the App Store and on Google Play don’t have clear policies regarding data processing and privacy. If you encounter such a VPN yourself, always be careful. Don’t assume you’ll be able to browse the internet anonymously with these VPNs. Feel free to let us know in the comments about other VPNs to avoid and help us further protect our visitors.
There are some new free VPN services on the market that we haven’t included in our top list yet. Some providers seem promising, but they can only be called “safe to use” after they have passed the test of time. An example being AtlasVPN. In time this free VPN might be added to the list as well.
Conclusion: What is the Best Free VPN?
Free VPNs are perfect for occasional use and when you only need limited data. The free VPN services recommended in this article generally support multiple platforms and operating systems. So, whether you’re looking for a free VPN for iPad, Android, or iPhone, the recommended VPN services should work for your device.
However, the moment you start using a free VPN regularly or for streaming, you will quickly run into data limits and speed caps. Similarly, you will often experience restrictions when you try to download shows and movies with a free VPN. In such cases, you’ll be much better off with a cheap paid VPN.
If you’re looking for a free VPN service, make sure to choose one of the trustworthy providers listed in this article. Especially since many free VPN apps in the Play and App Store don’t work properly or are a threat to your privacy and security. Internet safety begins with a good VPN, and a bad VPN can have the opposite effect.
The table below contains the best free VPN providers of this moment, for specific purposes and criteria:
|Criterium||Best free VPN option|
|Ease of use||TunnelBear|
Do you have a question about free VPNs? Click on one of the frequently asked questions below to read the answer.
Many ‘free’ VPNs do more harm than good and aren’t free at all. These VPN apps store and sell your personal information. In such a case, the VPN can’t be called free, as you pay with your data. VPN providers that don’t do this and offer very decent free versions include ProtonVPN, Windscribe and TunnelBear.
If you want to check out truly free VPN providers, take a look at our ‘Best Free VPN’ article.
Because free VPNs often offer just a handful of rarely changed servers, you won’t be able to watch Netflix with many of these services. Some free versions of VPNs, such as ProtonVPN and Zoog VPN, occasionally work with Netflix, but this isn’t guaranteed. If you want unlimited access to Netflix with a VPN (to get access to American Netflix, for example), you’ll be better off with a good premium VPN.
Many free VPNs don’t do what they promise. Some won’t make you anonymous, will sell your private data to other companies, or will even install malware on your phone or computer. If you want to use a free VPN, you should always make sure you pick a safe one. Click here for an overview of the best, safest free VPNs of this moment.
Some (free) VPNs earn their money by collecting your user data and selling it to other parties. In such cases you don’t pay money to use the VPN, but you pay with your personal information instead. Luckily, not all VPNs do this. ProtonVPN, for example, has a safe free version, the costs of which are covered by their premium service.
There are a number of good free VPNs that you can use safely, although they often have data or speed limits. Your personal wishes determine which one is best for you. Do you want free protection with unlimited data? Then ProtonVPN might be a good choice. If you’d rather have a free VPN with many server locations or high speeds, other options are a better fit. Read more about the best free VPNs here.
If you want to start using a free VPN, the most important consideration is your online security. Can the VPN be trusted? Subsequently you can look at the various features different free VPNs offer. Many free VPNs have a data or speed limit. Don’t want to be bothered by these limits? Then it might be worthwhile to purchase a cheap premium VPN, such as Surfshark.