With growing cyber threats, the demand for VPNs has skyrocketed. Despite offering less security, limited server selection, and bandwidth, free VPNs are hugely popular. It is exactly why there are literally thousands of supposed best free VPNs online.
But when there’s an endless pool of reliable and sketchy VPNs, how do you decide which one to pick.
We have tested over 60+ VPNs, both free and paid, over the years. In this article, we bring you 10 really free VPNs that are secure and trustworthy. We’ll also try and highlight the key features and limitations of these free VPNs that we have discussed below.
If you don’t want to be bothered by the limitations or privacy risks of free VPNs, we would suggest getting ExpressVPN that offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. You’ll be able to test out all of its features, such as unlimited bandwidth, 3,000+ servers, military-grade 256-bit encryption, and much more. Another cool thing about this VPN is that it also offers a 3-months free subscription if you go for its 12-months plan.
Why We Don’t Recommend Free VPNs
Free VPNs are highly discouraged by most privacy-conscious users. The reason is that free VPNs sell user data to third parties, who then use it to target us with annoying ads. Free VPNs are also infamous for:
- Collecting user’s browsing data and selling it to third parties.
- Offering limited servers that can be annoyingly slow.
- Bombarding your browser with unwanted ads.
- Offering limited bandwidth that is not sufficient for streaming or torrenting.
This is why paid VPNs are always the best option. Paid VPNs don’t collect user logs and offer top-notch security features that won’t compromise your privacy. You’ll also get access to unlimited bandwidth, which is perfect for endless streaming and torrenting.
- 3,000+ Servers in 94 Countries
- Hard disk free infrastructure (RAM only)
- 256-bit Military-Grade Encryption
- Excellent unblocking capability for Netflix, Hulu & more
- 5 Multi Logins
- Zero-knowledge DNS
10 Best Free VPNs in 2021 (September 2021 In-Depth Analysis)
After testing 60+ free VPNs on various criteria like data allowance, speed, server access, and security, we bring you the 10 best free VPNs in 2021 that are safe to use. Here is a detailed analysis of these top 10 free providers:
1. Windscribe VPN – Best Free VPN
Windscribe is absolutely the best free VPN service with no hidden charges or shady schemes. The services offer 10 server locations on its free version.
It offers 10 GB of data per month. To receive the 10 GB data, you will have to register with an email address. Otherwise, you will only receive 2 GB of monthly bandwidth. You can also receive 5 GB extra bandwidth by just tweeting about Windscribe.
The provider offers a lot of the security features on its free version, including the Internet Kill Switch, ad blocker, and even multi-hop, allowing you to connect through more than one VPN server. Windscribe also offers protection against DNS and IPv6 leaks.
Even though its headquarter is based in Canada, the provider offers military-grade AES-256-bit encryption and a zero-log policy for utmost security and privacy. It also features a “Stealth protocol” that obfuscates your VPN traffic and makes it look like normal HTTPS traffic. This cool feature allows the VPN to work in countries with high internet restrictions like China.
Almost all the major streaming services are accessible with this provider. In fact, Windscribe is also among the best free VPNs for Netflix. Windscribe also supports torrenting on its free servers and keeps no logs of user’s browsing activities.
It is compatible with iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac as well. There are also extensions for Google Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and MS Edge. However, you can only connect one device at a time.
For more information, check out our Windscribe VPN review.
2. ProtonVPN – Free VPN with Unlimited Bandwidth
ProtonVPN is the most popular free VPN with unlimited bandwidth and data. ProtonVPN offers unlimited data so you can download and stream as much as you want. This is amazing as most free VPNs offer 500MB to 10GB of data at max.
Also, free users can connect to servers in three countries (Japan, the US, and the Netherlands) only. It does not work with Netflix, but we could unblock other platforms like YouTube, Spotify, and more. However, you cannot download torrents on ProtonVPN’s free version.
ProtonVPN’s power lies in complete security, offering you military-grade 256-bit encryption and the safety of the OpenVPN protocol. There is also an automatic kill switch that keeps you protected at all times.
Another great thing about ProtonVPN is that it’s based in Switzerland, which does not belong to the 14-Eyes Alliance. As this free VPN has no obligations to store user data, it keeps no activity logs.
Most of ProtonVPN’s features are saved for paid users. Only those who subscribe to premium subscriptions get to enjoy P2P file sharing, NetShield, Secure Core VPN, Tor Over VPN, and the possibility to access geo-blocked streaming services.
If you create a free ProtonVPN account, you can only use it on one device at a time. It offers apps for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android.
If you run into any obstacles while using the app, you can fill in the support form or explore the self-help section of ProtonVPN. Unfortunately, there’s no live chat support even for paid users.
You can learn more about this service in our ProtonVPN review.
3. Hotspot Shield – Best Free VPN for torrenting
Hotspot Shield is the best free VPN for torrenting. The only drawback of this VPN service is that its free version only allows you to connect to U.S servers. Moreover, it only allows 500 MB of data per day which is not enough for avid streamers.
Hotspot Shield offers a distinct feature called Catapult Hydra protocol that is designed to offer fast-speed connections on long distances. During testing, it managed to deliver a speed of 44.63 Mbps on a 100 Mbps connection. It was more than enough to download torrent files, however, we did run out of daily data very quickly.
Hotspot Shield is not a good option for streaming as it does not work with popular services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and more. Similarly, with such a low data allowance of 500 MB per day, you can only stream for about 1-2 hours.
Hotspot Shield is safe to use as it offers 256-bit AES encryption, a kill switch, and IP leak protection. With leak protection it makes sure no one can see your online activities, including your ISP. Hotspot Shield is another quality service that offers impressive features while being easy on the pocket You can check more affordable VPN services.
Although Hotspot Shield’s headquarters are located in the US, it still supports a zero-log policy for its users and protects against all sorts of IP and DNS leaks. Upon further investigation we found out the Hotspot Shield does log some user data like timestamps, the device you are using, and bandwidth consumed. However, none of this data can be used to identify you online.
The VPN service’s app is compatible with most operating systems and devices. The sleek and easy-to-use app interface makes it easy to get started on macOS, Windows, Android, and iOS devices.
However, the free version of Hotspot Shield is supported by ads, so it gets really annoying as during testing we encountered a lot of ads while browsing. If you want to use Hotspot Shield, we recommend getting an ad blocker so you don’t experience constant pop-up ads.
For more information, check out the Hotspot Shield review.
4. TunnelBear – User-friendly Free VPN
TunnelBear is the most user-friendly free VPN offering easy-to-use apps that are best for beginners. It features a cute, animated bear that guides you through the app, making the interface very pleasing.
The free version of TunnelBear only allows 500 MB per month of data which is very little for streaming and other data-intensive tasks. If you tweet about TunnelBear or refer them to a friend, you can receive 1 GB additional bandwidth for free.
It is one of the most reliable free VPN services with a lot of servers as compared to other VPNs on this list. It offers over 23 server locations, more than what most other providers offer for free. These servers are available in countries like the US, Australia, the UK, India, and more.
During testing, we got a decent speed of 55.81 Mbps on a 100 Mbps connection. Since TunnelBear has a large server network, you can connect to any server you want and you will get decent speeds.
Furthermore, it offers top security and greater functionality with VigilantBear (Internet Kill Switch) and GhostBear (for dealing with connection problems).
It is probably the only free VPN provider that has been audited independently. Like other providers on this list, it also uses AES 256-bit encryption and guarantees no data logging. Although its headquarter is located in Canada, a part of Five Eye Alliance, it has proved to be quite a secure and reliable service for protecting online identity and privacy.
You can use TunnelBear on various devices such as Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. Sadly, TunnelBear does not work with popular sites like Netflix, Disney+, and more. But you can use it for browsing and general tasks.
The most disappointing fact about TunnelBear is that it only offers a 500 MB per month limit. If your VPN usage requirements are met, then this limit is workable. Still, if your purpose includes streaming, torrenting and P2P download, then you might want to consider subscribing to a premium VPN provider.
You can learn more about this service in our TunnelBear review.
5. Hide.Me – Secure Free VPN
Hide.Me is the most secure free VPN offering 256-bit encryption along with additional features for privacy and security. It offers 10 GB of free monthly data and access to 4 server locations. These servers are located in Canada, the US (East and West), Germany, and the Netherlands.
These servers don’t work with Netflix US and other popular streaming platforms, Hide.Me does support torrenting on its free servers. It supports torrenting but doesn’t have the unblocking strength to work with streaming apps like Netflix, iPlayer, etc. However, you are limited to the amount of file-sharing you can do with the 10 GB data cap.
It comes equipped with advanced features such as a firewall (Stealth Guard), Internet Kill Switch, and split tunneling. Hide.Me offers advanced protocols such as OpenVPN, IKEv2, SoftEther, and SSTP for free. Its headquarter is based in Malaysia, and the service fully supports a zero-log policy for complete anonymity and privacy.
It can be easily configured on Windows, Android, iOS, macOS, or Linux. You can also set up Hide.Me VPN on your Amazon Fire TV and routers. Hide.Me also offers free router configuration files so you can even connect devices that don’t have native support for VPNs like Smart TVs, gaming consoles, and more.
There are easy-to-follow setup guides available on Hide.Me’s official website along with 24/7 live chat support. It is fast as we got a response in less than 20 seconds.
You can learn more about this service in our Hide.Me review.
6. Speedify – Free VPN with 2GB data/ month
Speedify is one of the fastest free VPNs on this list. Speedify offers 2 GB of monthly data. While 2 GB monthly data is enough for web surfing and social media, it is nowhere enough for streaming or torrenting.
It does offer access to more than 1,000 servers across 53 countries. So, you can get the IP address of any country you want with such a large collection of servers. Unfortunately, it does not work with Netflix and other popular sites like BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and more.
It comes with a unique Channel bonding technology that uses both Wi-Fi and cellular data (4G) to boost your connection speeds. However, you might run out of data as it sends twice as much traffic as compared to a normal connection.
As for security, Speedify uses the latest ChaCha and AES-based encryption, Packet loss and error correction, Automatic failover, and more. In addition to that, Speedify follows a strict no-log VPN policy.
The provider is committed to keeping the free version ad-free. This is great for your security because it means that Speedify doesn’t have to share any of your information with third-party advertisers. However, it is based in the US, which might be concerning for some users considering America’s data retention policies.
It is currently compatible with all the major platforms such as macOS, Windows, Android, iOS, Linux, and more. However, Speedify free can only be used on one device at a time.
Speedify provides support via a knowledge base, social media, and email. However, there is no live chat feature available.
You can learn more about this service in our Speedify review.
7. OperaVPN – Unlimited Free Data
OperaVPN is the name of a built-in VPN extension that is available in the Opera browser. It is not a full-fledged VPN. It masks your IP address while you are browsing different sites and restricted content.
To use this VPN, you will have to enable the VPN in the browser settings. Think of it as a browser extension that will secure your internet activity while surfing the net. However, as it is a browser extension, it only encrypts your Opera browser traffic. Anything you do outside will be unencrypted.
You can choose from only three virtual locations: America, Europe, and Asia. It does not allow users to connect to specific countries, meaning, you cannot efficiently unblock geo-restrictions with Opera VPN.
We tried accessing BBC iPlayer on its European server but had no luck. We could unblock HBO Go and YouTube on its American server.
It also offers an Optimal Location feature that lets you connect to the fastest server available, but it’s still slow as compared to other free services on this list. On its American server, we received a speed of 34 Mbps on a 100 Mbps connection.
It does feature a built-in ad blocker and malware protection. While using any public Wi-Fi network, this VPN is essential for hiding your online identity and keeping you anonymous.
Opera offers encryption through HHTPS/SSL, which is not a recommended encryption level offered by the VPN industry. Opera‘s official website does not provide clear information regarding encryption and protocols. Although their encryption level is not up to the standard, it was still enough to pass different IP and DNS leaks that I conducted with it.
Opera VPN is currently only available on macOS, Windows, Android, and more operating systems. You can download the Opera browser on iOS, but it doesn’t come with Opera VPN.
As for customer support, there is only an FAQ section and no chat support, or ticketing system.
You can learn more about this service in our OperaVPN review.
8. Betternet – Free VPN with 500 MB free data/ data
Betternet is an anonymous free VPN that requires no registration. It offers 500 MB/ day of data which is not enough to stream HD content or download large torrent files. With this much data, you can only stream for about 1-2 hours.
With a single available location on the free account (The US), you can’t access geo-restricted websites of other regions or countries. However, it does not work with popular American streaming sites like Netflix US, Hulu, HBO Max, and more.
But if we talk about security features, Betternet offers 256-bit encryption, fast speeds, and perfect forward secrecy. It also offers IPSec and OpenVPN protocol with both AES 256-bit encryption and AES 128-bit AES-CBC encryption. It does lack an Internet Kill Switch feature, which is quite a common feature in VPNs these days.
Betternet also keeps some logs. Its headquarters are located in Canada, which is not ideal for online security and privacy as it is a member of the 14 Eyes alliance. It also displays quite a bit of advertisement, which we found quite annoying.
It is pretty decent in performance across popular operating systems such as macOS, Windows, Android, and iOS. But with its free subscription, you can only connect a single device at any given moment, which is very annoying. Also, on its free version, you cannot access customer support either.
You can learn more about this service in our Betternet review.
9. Avira Phantom VPN – 500 MB free data per month
Avira Phantom VPN offers 500MB of data per month on its free plan. It is not enough for streaming movies or shows. However, you can use it for social media and browsing.
If we talk about servers, Avira Phantom VPN offers servers in 36 countries. However, it’s not the best choice for streaming geo-restricted sites as we could only unblock Netflix US on its US servers, and it failed to unblock other regional libraries and local content.
Avira Phantom VPN is not the fastest out there as we experienced more than 70% speed loss on its server. During testing, it managed to deliver a speed of 25.63 Mbps on a 100 Mbps connection, which is not the fastest we have seen in this guide.
Avira Phantom also works great with torrenting, as per our testing. Also, this service proved to be safe and secure on all the IP and DNS leak testing that it went through.
It operates from Germany, a member of 14 Eyes. It collects minimal logs including bandwidth consumed, connection time, and more. It does not log important information like your IP address, sites you visit and server location you connect to.
It is compatible with operating systems such as Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux and you can connect as many devices as you want, which is a huge pro of this VPN.
You can learn more about this service in our Avira Phantom VPN review.
10. Zenmate – Free VPN with Unlimited bandwidth
Zenmate offers a free version for Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge. There is no free version of the app available, so you cannot test all its features.
It offers 4 server locations, including Germany, Romania, Singapore, and the US. There are no data or bandwidth limitations with this provider. However, it does throttle your speeds to 2 Mbps only. Meaning, you cannot enjoy HD streaming and more.
Surprisingly during testing, Zenmate managed to unblock Netflix US on its American server, however, the speeds were very slow for bufferless streaming. The video kept loading after every 5 minutes or so.
Its headquarter is also located in Germany, which is a part of the 14-eyes alliance. Therefore, it wouldn’t be our first recommendation to trust your online security and privacy. If you want fool-proof privacy, we recommend using ExpressVPN as it is based in the safe jurisdiction of the British Virgin Islands, a place outside 5/9/14 Eyes.
You can learn more about this service in our Zenmate Review.
Testing Methodology: How we tested the best free VPNs in 2021
We have tested 60+ free VPNs to bring you the top 10 best free VPNs in 2021. These VPNs were selected on the following performance criteria:
⚠ Free VPNs you should avoid in 2021
While researching, we found a couple of untrustworthy free VPNs that you should absolutely avoid. For privacy reasons, we strongly suggest avoiding the following dangerous VPNs:
Major Risks of using Free VPNs
While free VPNs are super tempting to use, you should never look over the obvious privacy concerns. For example, free VPN providers make money by harvesting and selling your data to third-party advertisers. Also, with most free VPNs, you’ll get limited bandwidth to consume and a few server locations to choose from.
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 resort to shady practices like selling your data to third parties to make money.
- Malware, invasive permissions, & security problems — Research found that more than 30% of the free VPN apps tracked users through malware.
- Speed and bandwidth limits — Free VPNs implement bandwidth caps to throttle your internet connection speeds.
- Weak unblocking capabilities — Due to small server networks, free VPNs are unable to access geo-blocked websites.
- Unavailability of advanced features — Advanced features such as multi-hopping, obfuscation, etc. are almost always unavailable in free versions of VPN apps.
Overall, free VPNs are not ideal for streaming content in HD or sharing large files. For that, paid VPNs such as ExpressVPN are a much better option.
Server Locations Offered By Free VPN Providers
Unlike paid VPNs, free VPN providers only let you use a few server locations. For instance, other than TunnelBear and Speedify, all other VPNs discussed in this blog offer few server locations. Check out this table below to get an idea of what I mean:
|VPN Providers||Server Locations|
|ProtonVPN||US, Netherlands, Japan|
|Windscribe||US, UK, Netherlands, Canada, Hong Kong, Germany, France, Switzerland, Norway, Romania|
|Hotspot Shield||The US only|
|Tunnelbear||23+ server locations including US and UK|
|Hide.Me||US, Netherlands, Germany, and Canada|
|Speedify||North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania|
|OperaVPN||Americas, Europe, and Asia|
|Betternet||The US only|
|Avira Phantom VPN||US, UK, France, Canada, Germany, and Poland|
People’s Opinion about free VPNs
So we decided to see what people think about free VPNs and headed to Quora for some answers. Below are some answers to different questions people asked about free VPNs on Quora.
Here, we see a Quora user “Oral Knox” in response to a question, sharing his personal opinion about free VPNs. The user says that they would pass on any free VPN because it will be slow or sell your personal information or online activity logs to some third-party organization.
In response to another question of the same nature, Quora user “Daniel Janiak” confirms that it is not a wise decision to use a free VPN. He further adds that free VPN providers will profit from your personal details and information.
A recent study also revealed that 40% of the free VPN apps were found leaking user data. Also, a study by CSIRO discovered that 75% of the free VPNs have at least one third-party tracker embedded in their software. Therefore, free VPNs are not recommended at all.
FAQs – Best Free VPN
Now that you know which free VPNs you can use securely, let’s check out some frequently asked questions regarding free VPNs.
ProtonVPN is the best free VPN with unlimited data. It offers unlimited bandwidth along with lots of decent features. It also offers a perfect combination of speed and privacy without charging a single penny.
Yes. Similar to premium VPNs, free VPNs also keep you safe on public networks found in locations like airports, universities, libraries, etc. However, not all free VPNs are secure, that is why you should only use one of the secure free VPNs mentioned in this guide.
Yes, it’s completely legal to use a free VPN in most countries. While the VPN technology isn’t illegal itself, few activities carried with VPNs help can be considered illegal. Also, few countries such as Russia, Seria, and China have banned VPNs, and using a VPN can be considered illegal by the law.
To be honest, there isn’t any straightforward answer to this question. Ultimately it depends on your purpose for using a free VPN. If you are looking for something that can offer you a tiny bit of encryption when using an unsecured Wi-Fi connection, it is worth it.
But if your main purpose is to unblock streaming services or download torrents, a free VPN just isn’t going to do the trick. Most free VPNs assign a data and bandwidth limit to your accounts that are not sufficient for carrying out high-bandwidth tasks such as torrenting, streaming, and gaming. At the same time, most don’t have the easy access support or server range required to make those activities easy with a virtual private network.
We have discussed the 10 best free VPNs in 2021 with Windscribe taking the lead as it offers 10 GB/ month bandwidth, works with Netflix, and compatibility with major platforms.
However, all of the totally free VPNs we’ve discussed in this blog lack some features or the other, we can only recommend using a premium VPN provider like ExpressVPN, which offers all the features that free VPNs lack.
Most free VPN services have bandwidth limitations, show you loads of ads, or sell your data to third parties. If the risks associated with free VPN apps are too much for you to tolerate, you can always go for a premium option like ExpressVPN that offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
You can purchase ExpressVPN, try out all of its premium features, and if you’re not satisfied, you can claim a full refund within the 30-day period.