Free VPN services are a dime a dozen. There are over a hundred of VPN services that claim to be completely free with no hidden charges. Moreover, what’s even funnier is that every single one of these free VPN apps claim to be the best that you can have but obviously, that’s just an overeager promotional line.
Finding a free VPN that has no hidden charges and lets you bypass content Geo-blocks, access Netflix and keeps your online activities secure has become a daunting task. So, how do you make the right pick from this endless pool of available choices?
There are two options: you can either test and use scores of free VPNs yourself or take the advice of someone crazy enough to have already done that legwork.
I am that crazy. I have tested over a 100+ free VPNs and in this article, I will mention 5 of the best free VPN services currently available and discuss why they are safe and legitimate and shine light on the inherent limitations of each of these free apps.
Best Free VPN Services for 2020
The following providers offer completely free VPN apps with the exception of one (explained below) These have some limitations, but are totally safe to use if you’re as privacy-conscious as you need to be in 2020:
1. Surfshark – Unlimited Data With 30 Days Free
Highlight: Unlimited simultaneous connections, with a 30 day free unlimited trial.
Surfshark is our top choice for this list of VPNs. This provider has as an impressive network of 1700+ servers located in 63+ countries. You can unblock pretty much any popular streaming service with these servers including US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and much more.
If you want to access torrenting websites and download these securely, you can rely on Surfshark for this purpose as well. The no-logs policy and advanced encryption of AES-256 ensures watertight privacy and security of users while you surf the web.
With valuable features like WhiteLister, CleanWeb, MultiHop, and kill switch to boot, Surfshark is the best VPN you can have for free for a month.
So, what’s the catch?
Strictly speaking, Surfshark is NOT a totally free VPN service. In fact, it offers a 30-day money-back guarantee which you can utilize to access this VPN free of cost for a whole month, if you claim a refund within this period.
Since it costs only $1.99/mo for a 2-year subscription anyway, you’ll probably find it well within your budget to continue your subscription for the long-term. What’s more it offers unlimited simultaneous connections.
Thus, although Surfshark is not free, it offers the perfect balance between performance, features, and affordability. So, if you are serious about obtaining all the benefits of a VPN that no free VPN has the capacity to provide, Surfshark is the safest, fastest and most trustworthy option.
For more information, see this Surfshark review.
2. Windscribe – Popular Free VPN App
Highlight: Powerful ad and malware blocker free of cost.
Windscribe is absolutely the best free VPN service that with no hidden charges or shady schemes. The services offers 10 server locations to choose from which are always ready for an instant connection to take place.
Moreover, the provider uses AES-256 encryption for all traffic passing through its VPN tunnel, giving you robust security on the web from potential online threats. In addition, it offers ad and malware blocking as well as a firewall (kill switch) without any additional charges.
Windscribe’s free version doesn’t work with US Netflix and other streaming services with strict firewalls and VPN-blocking technology (though you get this functionality with the paid plan). However, it does support torrents for free, which is great for users that are looking for better privacy while downloading torrents.
The logging policy of this VPN is one of the best among free providers as it only stores minimal information (username, server, and bandwidth) which is removed within three minutes after you stop end your VPN session.
Therefore, Windscribe is a mighty impressive VPN to have if you don’t want to spend money for your online privacy needs.
So, what’s the catch?
Windscribe is free restricts your data to 10 GB per month. This might seem small, but Windscribe is actually one of the more generous providers in this respect, as most other alternatives offer much lower bandwidth caps.
The paid version also offers additional settings especially with the R.O.B.E.R.T feature which allows you to configure automated rules for blocking websites. For instance, you can configure it to block gambling websites but allow porn while using the VPN.
The provider has every right to charge for these features and it generously offers much for free that the majority of the freemium providers out there don’t. For this reason, Windscribe is one of the best free VPN you can have in 2020.
For more information, see this Windscribe VPN review.
3. ProtonVPN – 100% Free VPN Service
Highlight: Unlimited data transfers every month.
ProtonVPN is a rare breed among free options in that it is an unlimited & safe free VPN. That is, you can use this VPN as much as you want without worrying about your data running out or your identity getting disclosed.
When you get the free app, you will automatically get a 7-day free trial version of the Pro plan. This gives you access to over 40 sever locations with torrenting and Netflix specialty servers as well. It offers free VPN for windows, android, IOS and chrome extensions as well.
In addition, it offers kill switch and split-tunneling features. The provider follows a strict no logging policy, which will appeal to users looking for enhanced digital privacy. That’s pretty good for an option that costs zero money whatsoever!
So, what’s the catch?
Ah yes. The catch. ProtonVPN has a few. For instance, once the 7 day trial expires and you choose not to upgrade to the paid plans, you will be downgraded to the basic free version.
The totally free version still enforces no data caps, but will give you access to only 3 server locations which include: US, Japan, and Netherlands.
Also, you lose support for US Netflix and torrenting in the free version. Still, all things considered, ProtonVPN is great for users that primarily want to boost online privacy on the web and cloak their real IP address from third-parties.
You can learn more about this service in our ProtonVPN review.
4. TunnelBear – Totally Free VPN Provider
Highlight: Over 20 free VPN server locations.
TunnelBear is one of the best free VPN services out there. It features cool animations of a bear burrowing under ground and popping out of a new location on the world map every time you switch your server.
Like other providers above, it offers a free VPN app with some limitations that disappear when you upgrade to the paid subscription. There are a lot of good things to be said about the free version itself, however.
It offers a over 20 server locations, more than what most other providers offer for free. Furthermore, it offers additionally security and functionality with VigilantBear (kill switch) and GhostBear (for dealing with connection problems).
The VPN uses OpenVPN TCP as the default protocol, but you can change it to UDP by toggling off the “TCP Override” feature. However, it doesn’t work with Netflix and torrenting support is also virtually useless in the free version:
So, what’s the catch?
The most disappointing fact about TunnelBear is that it only offers 500 MB/month limit. If your VPN usage requirements are unusually low, then this limit is workable.
For instance, if you only use a VPN before performing bank transactions and other activities where data transfers required are very low, TunnelBear can be quite useful.
You can learn more about this service in our TunnelBear review.
5. Hide.Me – Feature-Rich Top Free VPN Download
Highlight: Advanced features such as split-tunneling and Stealth Guard require no extra charge.
Hide.Me is another absolutely free VPN provider. With this VPN, you get access to a lot of interesting features without paying a single penny extra.
For instance, Hide.Me is equipped with firewall (Stealth Guard), kill switch, and split-tunneling. Though the app is a bit confusing to use when configuring some settings such as the fact that Stealth Guard and split-tunneling pretty much serve the same purpose i.e limiting VPN connectivity to only a certain apps while allowing others to directly use the internet.
Moreover, it is one of the fastest free VPN in the industry. Hide.Me offers advanced protocols such as OpenVPN, IKEv2, SoftEther, and SSTP totally for free. It supports torrenting websites, but doesn’t have the unblocking strength to work with streaming apps like Netflix, iPlayer, and others.
Finally, the provider has a good logging policy, decent speeds, and the strong AES-256 encryption offers strong protection to users.
So, what’s the catch?
Hide.Me allows a lot for free VPN. Nonetheless, its major limitation is that the free plan only supports 5 server locations: Singapore, Canada, Netherlands, US East and US West. What’s more you have no control over the server you want to connect to. The app does that automatically for you.
Furthermore, the data transfer is capped at 10 GB/month, but you can renew it after every month, giving you an endless free run for as long as you want to use Hide.Me, but you’ll have to accept the said limitations if you don’t want to opt for the paid plan.
You can learn more about this service in our Hide.Me review.
Free VPN Risks and Dangers
You might have heard reviewers and experts warning against the use of free VPN services.
Truth be told, there are a lot of good reasons why free services aren’t recommended. Consider the following:
- Data retention, sharing, and selling: Free VPNs do not have any direct means of making money. Since they do not charge anything upfront, they resort to shady practices like selling your data to third parties in order to make money and bear the costs of keeping their servers up and running.
- Malware, invasive permissions, & security problems: A research analyzing mobile VPN apps available on the Play Store found that more than 30% of the free VPN apps tracked users through malware, 18% didn’t encrypt user traffic, and 80% requested permissions to sensitive information such as messages and user account information.
- Speed and bandwidth limits: Since these providers don’t usually have paying customers, they usually impose bandwidth limitations on the VPN service. This makes them unsuitable for most practical purposes.
- Weak unblocking capabilities: The small server networks that free providers operate renders them unable to access websites that are Geo-blocked and which use proxy/VPN detection techniques to deny access.
- Unavailability of advanced features: Even the best and reliable free VPNs only offer basic IP-changing features along with standard encryption. The advanced features such as multi-hopping, obfuscation etc. are almost always unavailable in free versions of VPN apps.
With these problems, an absolutely free VPN doesn’t feel like such a great idea after all. This is why paid VPN apps are preferred because a provider taking money from you has much weaker incentive to sell your information, because he already has a legitimate revenue stream through his customers.
Nonetheless, the VPNs that I have mentioned above, while all limited in their own way, are unquestionably legitimate and reliable. If nothing else, you don’t to worry about having your privacy ripped off by using these VPNs and they actually can keep you well-protected on the web.
How to choose the Best Free VPN?
3 Essential Questions to Ask Before Getting a Free VPN App
I strongly encourage users who are serious about their privacy to do their own research when looking for a free VPN service. Since I’ve doing this a long time, there are a few questions that I always ask myself before I include a VPN in my bucket list.
While you’re absolutely welcome to design your own criteria, you might want to take some ideas from questions that I think everyone should be asking before deciding on a VPN:
1. How does the provider make money?
Operating a VPN service is expensive. You need a network of servers distributed across different countries. Some VPNs rent their servers from other companies, and a few actually own their entire network.
Either option isn’t very cheap and there’s no way anyone would be willing to bear these costs and deliver their service for free in the name of public service.
So, you need to ask yourself if the provider is offering their VPN for free, how are they making the money? Unless they are reputable provider operating on a freemium model where they use their free version as a marketing tactic to convince you to buy their paid version, there’s a good chance the provider is engaging in shady practices that are not good for your privacy.
2. What is the catch?
I’ve literally never used a free VPN that worked without any limitations. I’ve care to mention these limitations for all my VPN mentions lest you should be misled into assuming something that isn’t true about the VPN.
What’s really sad is that most providers aren’t exactly forthcoming when it comes to disclosing these snags in their service when offering their free versions.
It is only upon digging further that you realize that the VPN has capped data transfer, a shady logging policy, locked features, and a small server selection if you opt for the free version.
Of course it would be foolish to expect a full-fledged service for free, you still have to make sure you know what to expect when getting the VPN.
3. What is the logging policy?
Privacy statements are tedious to read and some providers deliberately make it so in order to hide the fact that they store information of user activity and other confidential details that a VPN least of all should have no business storing.
Providers recording your real IP address, traffic, and other personally identifiable information must be avoided like the plague.
Free VPN Reddit Reviews
Before you download a service claiming to be a completely free VPN, be sure to check out what Reddit community has to say about. The experience of actual users is important to consider before you decide to pick a VPN. Here’s one Reddit user endorsing ProtonVPN.
Here’s another Reddit user who is satisfied by Windscribe VPN.
For more information, see this article on free Reddit VPN.
Which one is the best free VPN?
Surfshark is the best & fastest free VPN service since it has a 30-day money-back guarantee (for desktop apps) and 7-day free trial (for smartphones). It offers the perfect combination of speed and privacy at the most affordable costs.
Are these VPNs completely free?
There are several absolutely free VPN apps available, but be very careful as only a few of these are safe. The reliable ones include Winscribe, ProtonVPN, TunnelBear, and Hide.Me.
Are free VPNs safe?
Free VPNs usually may not be safe, but the ones I have mentioned are absolutely safe and secure. Always do your research before deciding to use a free of cost VPN on your device.
Nothing in this world is for free. Most free VPN services have bandwidth limitations, show you loads of ads, or sell your data to third parties.
The good news is that it is not all hopeless. There are still a few free VPN providers that are reliable and safe to use. Just make sure you know what you’re in for before you decide get one for yourself.
If the risks associated with free VPN apps are too much for you to tolerate, you can always go for a paid option where the leading brands are too big to be involved in brand-tarnishing scandals and cheap confidence tricks.