Hola VPN Review (2022): Free but Puts Your Safety at Risk
If you’re looking for a free VPN service, you may have come across Hola VPN , which markets itself as the first “community-powered” or “peer-to-peer” VPN. These innocuous words are, in fact, major red flags that warn of Hola VPN’s security and privacy issues. We’ll discuss these issues in our full Hola VPN review below.
The most important thing to know is that this service is not really a VPN. Instead, it’s a peer-to-peer proxy service. Hola VPN does not meet any criteria you should look for in a good VPN. It logs all your online activity and does not encrypt your connection.
Using Hola VPN puts your privacy, identity, and online security at major risk. If you want to browse the internet safely, we highly recommend going for a top premium VPN or one of our tried and tested free VPNs to browse safely online.
Hola VPN – Short Review
|Works on a variety of devices/platforms||Logs all your data|
|30-day money-back guarantee||No secure encryption|
|Sells free user bandwidth to premium users|
|Doesn’t work with Netflix or torrenting|
Hola VPN is available for various platforms, including Windows, macOS, iOS, and smart TVs. It’s no longer available on Google Play Store because of suspected malware.
A single Hola VPN subscription can work on up to 10 devices. It also has a free version. Hola VPN promises to help you access almost any website from across 190 countries, thanks to its massive network of thousands of servers and millions of IPs.
But don’t let all these cool features fool you, because Hola VPN is a highly risky service. Its “community-powered” model means that the VPN shares your idle bandwidth with other users, permitting unauthorized activity to occur on your network. Plus, although it claims to unblock Netflix, none of our tests proved this claim true. It worked intermittently for a few other services (such as BBC iPlayer) but ultimately is neither a reliable nor a safe way of unblocking content.
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Speed – How Fast is Hola VPN?
Since Hola VPN is essentially a peer-to-peer proxy service, it maintains pretty good speeds. We tested Hola VPN for varied activities, from browsing the web to streaming videos and online gaming. The overall takeaways are as follows:
- Hola VPN barely affects connection speeds.
- The high speeds come at the cost of security as there’s no data encryption.
- Most usual online activities such as browsing and streaming occur without delay.
Speed test results for Hola VPN
The following table summarizes our Hola VPN speed test results.
|Server||Download (Mbps)||% Download||Upload (Mbps)||% Upload||Ping (ms)|
As you can see, Hola VPN barely affects speeds. This is because it’s not slowed down by encryption that other VPNs use to protect your data. However, even genuine VPNs offer pretty good speeds while also encrypting your data. We recommend NordVPN as the best option.
Speeds during daily use
There were no slowdowns when using Hola VPN for browsing, streaming, and gaming. Webpages loaded quickly, and videos did not need any buffering time.
Safety – How Secure is Hola VPN?
Safety is a major concern when using Hola VPN, especially for free users. The service works on the premise of “sharing resources,” which means your bandwidth is shared with other users. Here’s a summary of the security risks of Hola VPN:
- Hola VPN offers secure protocols only to premium users.
- Hola VPN claims to encrypt data, but this is only available for premium users.
- Hola VPN collects a lot of user data for both free and premium users.
- Hola VPN doesn’t have a kill switch.
The Hola VPN app and website do not clearly list which protocols the service uses. But we looked through its FAQ section to find that premium users have access to IKEv2, IPsec, PPTP, and L2TP protocols. There is no clarity on what protocols free users have access to.
VPNs use secure protocols to transmit data through a connection. For reference, the most widely used protocols include OpenVPN, Wise TCP, Wise UDP, IKEv2, and WireGuard. You can learn more about VPN protocols in our guide here.
According to the FAQs, premium users’ data is secured by the industry-standard AES 256-bit encryption — however, free users’ data is not secured at all.
On the whole, the service is not transparent about how it keeps you safe, making it highly suspicious and risky. You could unknowingly become complicit in cybercrime if someone uses your bandwidth to perform illegal activities online using Hola VPN.
In fact, Hola VPN has been in the news before for its malpractice of selling users’ bandwidth to botnets. Additionally, the Hola browser extension has been removed from the Google Chrome web store due to the associated risks.
Logging and privacy
The best VPNs do not collect user data to maintain privacy and help you browse anonymously. Such services are known as “no-logs” VPNs. Unfortunately, Hola VPN is on the other end of the spectrum and collects virtually all your usage information, including:
- Your IP address
- Your name and email address
- Browser type and operating system used
- Web pages visited and time spent on them
- Payment information, and more
To create a Hola VPN account, you can use your email or an existing Google, Facebook, or Apple account. You can pay for a subscription using credit cards, PayPal, Google Pay, and a few other options. But it’s not among the VPNs that accept cryptocurrencies.
Even if you pay for Hola Premium, your data is still collected. The only way a paid subscription protects your privacy is by removing you from the shared peer-to-peer network. So, you pay to benefit from other users’ resources without sharing your own.
Hola VPN does not offer a kill switch.
As the name suggests, a kill switch automatically “kills” or disconnects your internet if the VPN connection is unexpectedly lost. This prevents leakage of your IP address and other personal information.
Most VPNs offer this feature to bolster your privacy, but given Hola’s lack of security features, we aren’t surprised that it doesn’t include a kill switch.
Usability – How User-Friendly is Hola VPN?
Hola VPN has attractive branding that is perhaps meant to distract users from its lack of features and security. It’s a breeze to install and use, which is perfect for beginners, but it lacks most features required in a VPN. Here are our main takeaways:
- The website is well-designed but lacks detailed information.
- The installation process is quick and easy on all devices.
- Hola VPN has a free version, but it’s highly risky to use.
- Even the premium versions lack adequate security.
Hola VPN website
The Hola VPN website has a bright and attractive design that’s easy to navigate. But it lacks detailed information about the service and features. Instead, it’s aimed at getting users to try the free version.
There’s a lot of misleading marketing on the website, such as Hola VPN’s claims to be “community-powered.” This is just a cover-up for the risk that users are exposed to because they will be sharing their bandwidth with other users.
Moreover, the website lacks a page explaining all of the app’s features and what VPN protocols or other safety measures it employs. The link to the pricing page is also mentioned once then hidden at the very bottom, almost as if visitors aren’t encouraged to buy a subscription at all.
At the top of the site is a call-to-action to “get unlimited VPN for free.” When you click on the “Next” button, you are prompted to directly download the installation file to your system.
You can then open this file and follow the on-screen instructions and complete the installation process.
Ironically, the Hola VPN app displays a message claiming the company cares for your privacy while listing all the information they collect about you.
Once you agree to the terms, you will have to sign in or create a Hola account using your email address or your Google, Facebook, or Apple ID. You will also need to verify your email before using the service.
Hola VPN’s appearance and ease of use
We tested the HolaVPN app on Mac, and it has a simple, easy-to-use interface. After you register and login, you will see a list of servers and you can select which one you want to connect to.
As we explained above in the section on Hola VPN speeds, the connection is quite fast with most servers. We did not notice any impact on system performance and could use the VPN effectively.
However, there is a lack of other options or settings within the app. For instance, there is no kill switch or a way to choose protocols as is typical of most good VPNs.
Another odd thing we noticed is that there is no option within the HolaVPN Windows app to stop it from launching automatically when you start up your system. For this, you will have to go into your Startup configuration settings and disable HolaVPN, which can be confusing or inconvenient for some users.
Moreover, beware that your online activity is tracked by this VPN and that your data is not encrypted when using the free version. Free users will even see a pop-up warning that you are sharing your bandwidth with other users (which is a major security risk). If you want to opt out of this, you have to upgrade to a paid Hola VPN subscription. But even after doing that, the service will still collect all your information.
So, although Hola VPN seems very attractive with a free, easy-to-use app and decent speeds, we do not recommend going with this VPN due to its safety and privacy issues.
Pricing and payment methods
Apart from the free version, Hola VPN offers a range of subscription options — but these still pose a privacy risk as the company collects data on premium users too. The advantage of a paid plan is that your data is encrypted and routed through secure protocols.
There are three subscription options:
- $14.99 per month
- $7.69 per month for a year
- $2.99 per month for three years
You can pay using a credit card, PayPal, Google Pay, or a few other methods which do not include cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. However, the pricing is on the expensive side, and there are plenty of affordable VPNs that offer much better features and protection.
Although Hola offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, it also states that it cannot refund any purchases made through Apple’s App Store. This information is hidden away in the extensive FAQ section of the HolaVPN website and can prove to be quite inconvenient for Mac or iOS users.
The Hola VPN website and app have a Help section where you can find some general troubleshooting information. But there’s no live chat or ticketing system to reach their customer support team.
Instead, you can reach out through email, and the response is pretty hit or miss. We did not receive quick or adequate email support, which is yet another red flag indicating you should avoid Hola VPN.
The FAQs page also doesn’t invite the most confidence. We saw one question where the answer was poorly written. For instance, the brand name “Google” didn’t have a capitalized first letter, and a sentence ends with a comma instead of a period.
Server Network Hola VPN
Hola VPN works as a peer-to-peer service, so it has a sizeable global network. This ensures great speeds but is a safety risk.
Number of servers and locations
Hola has quite a large global peer-to-peer network of over 1000 servers, though it does not disclose the exact number of servers available. You probably won’t have any trouble finding a server near you in most parts of the world.
But as we’ve already explained, it’s risky to use Hola VPN due to its lack of security features. The wide server network hardly matters when your personal information is at stake.
Hola VPN’s Options
Hola VPN lures users by claiming that it can unblock almost any geo-blocked content on services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, etc. However, it did not work for us when we tested the VPN with different streaming services.
- Hola VPN does not unblock Netflix.
- It works at times for other services like BBC iPlayer but not all the time.
- Torrenting is not allowed.
Hola VPN and Netflix
In our tests, Hola VPN did not unblock American Netflix or other regional versions of the popular streaming service. This is probably because Netflix has very advanced anti-VPN technology that could detect and block Hola’s connections.
Note that some users have reported that the service works for them. However, given the security risks involved, we recommend staying away from Hola. Instead, you can use trusted premium VPNs that work with Netflix and other streaming services while keeping you safe online.
Hola VPN and torrents
To torrent anonymously, you should use a VPN with solid encryption and security features that can protect you from government surveillance or snooping hackers. Hola does not offer any security measures, and in fact, blocks BitTorrent connections.
If downloading through torrents is a priority, you should opt for one of our best VPNs for torrenting instead.
Conclusion – Our Experience with Hola VPN
Om the whole, Hola VPN is a dangerous and unethical service that compromises users’ privacy and security. It shares the bandwidth of free users with paying users, which puts free users at risk. It also collects a lot of information about users, even those who subscribe to a paid plan.
Although it’s easy to use, there are no secure protocols for free users or a kill switch to prevent IP leakage. Moreover, it does not support torrents or unblock Netflix. To top it all off, the customer support is lackluster.
Got a quick question about HolaVPN? We’ve got you covered in our FAQ section below. Click or tap on a question to view the answer.
HolaVPN is not a trusted VPN because it’s in fact a peer-to-peer proxy service. It collects all your information and lets other users utilize your bandwidth. It does not encrypt data or use secure protocols, which makes it a highly risky choice.
HolaVPN is bad because it poses many security and privacy risks. It lets other users access your bandwidth which means that if they do any illegal activities online, they will be linked to you. Further, it does not encrypt your data and collects all your personal information, which are big red flags. Read more in our full HolaVPN review.
Yes, HolaVPN has a free version but it is highly risky to use because it lends your bandwidth to other users. This means that if another user does some unscrupulous activities online, they can be linked back to you. You can unknowingly become complicit in cybercrime. So, it’s better to use a trusted free VPN instead.
HolaVPN was removed from the Play Store and the Google Chrome web store for its malpractices that can pose security and privacy risks to users. It’s still available on other browsers such as Opera and as apps on a range of platforms including Windows, macOS, and iOS.