With growing cyber threats and rising work from home trend, the demand for VPNs has skyrocketed. Now, even folks that never considered purchasing a VPN service, are now using free VPNs to work safely online and for entertainment purposes.
Despite offering less security, limited server selection, and bandwidth, free VPNs are hugely popular. It is exactly why there are literally thousands of absolutely free VPNs online.
So the question is, how do you make the right pick from this endless pool of available choices? Because if you don’t know, some VPNs can inject tracking malware into your browse and sell your personal data to third parties.
Well, you have 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 one. I have tested over 100+ VPNs both free and paid over the years. In this article, I will mention 9 really free VPNs that are secure and trustworthy. I’ll also try and highlight the inherent limitations of each of the free apps that I’m going to discuss today.
Surfshark – Risk-Free 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee
If you’ve ever tried a really free VPN service, then you know that you don’t get access to premium features. You only get to choose between 2-3 server locations and play around with limited bandwidth which can run out quite quickly.
That’s the only issue I have with free VPNs.
Paid VPNs on the other hand like Surfshark lets you try out all of its features without any limitations thanks to its extensive 30-day money-back guarantee. You can test out the service for 30-days and if you’re not satisfied, you can claim a full refund.
If you want to try a premium VPN service, then you should definitely give Surfshark a try. Surfshark only costs $2.49/mo and comes with premium features like Kill Switch, Clean Web (Ad-blocker), No logs, MultiHop, and much more.
As for performance, while free VPNs are not all that fast and can rarely unblock heavily geo-restricted streaming service, Surfshark is quite fast and can easily unblock Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Disney+ among other streaming services. Overall, Surfshark is an amazing VPN service. You can read all of its pros and cons in my in-depth Surfshark review.
9 Totally Free VPN Services for 2020
Before we get on with our list of best completely free VPN services, I just wanted to mention that VPNs that offer free trials are better than totally free VPNs. You get better service without any limitations, thousands of servers and significantly better performance to unblock streaming service and download torrents.
Anyways, now that I’ve cleared that up, let’s start our list.
1. ProtonVPN – Best Free Unlimited Data VPN
ProtonVPN is a rare breed among free options in the sense that it imposes no data or bandwidth limits. You can use this VPN as much as you want without worrying about your data running out.
From a privacy standpoint, ProtonVPN is secure too. Because this VPN service is based in Switzerland which is a privacy-friendly jurisdiction, you will never have to worry about your identity getting disclosed.
When you get ProtonVPN for the first time, you will automatically get a 7-day free trial of the Pro plan depending on which country you’re from. This gives you access to over 1050 servers in 50 countries that can help you unblock quite a wide range of blocked websites.
In addition to that, It offers apps for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android. As for security features, ProtonVPN offers a kill switch, split-tunneling features and it follows a strict no-logging policy.
Overall, for a VPN that costs zero money whatsoever, ProtonVPN is pretty good, to say the least.
So, what’s the catch?
Ahh 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 the Netherlands.
Also, with the free version, you lose support for US Netflix and torrenting. Still, all things considered, ProtonVPN is great for users that just want to boost their online privacy and cloak their real IP address from third-parties.
You can learn more about this service in our ProtonVPN review.
2. Windscribe – 100% Free VPN App
Windscribe is absolutely the best free VPN service with no hidden charges or shady schemes. The services offer 10 server locations in the free version and 60 server locations with the paid version.
Moreover, the provider uses AES-256 encryption to secure network 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.
It also has very versatile compatibility with all popular operating systems and devices. Needless to say, if you get windscribe, you’ll have free VPN software for iPhone, Android, Windows & Mac as well. It worked the best on mac for me. If you’re a mac user, here are some more free VPN apps for mac.
Unfortunately, Windscribe’s free version doesn’t work with US Netflix and other streaming services with strict 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 end your VPN session.
Considering all this, Windscribe is a mighty impressive VPN to have if you don’t want to spend money on your online privacy needs.
So, what’s the catch?
Windscribe’s free version restricts your data to 10 GB per month. This might not be enough for heavy users, but Windscribe is actually one of the more generous providers in this respect. Other alternatives offer much lower bandwidth caps.
Also, as I mentioned before, the free version of Windscribe doesn’t work with Netflix and other streaming services. That’s something you won’t have to deal with in the paid version.
For more information, see this Windscribe VPN review.
3. Hotspot Shield – Reliable Free VPN Service
Hotspot Shield turned out to be one of the best free VPNs on our list due to its stable and secure VPN connections. It offers great military encryption to secure your browsing experience. During my tests, it didn’t disconnect or slowed down even once and also never leaked my IP address.
Hotspot Shield has a sleek and easy to use app interface. It has a no-logs policy and it’s also a good fit for torrenting. The VPN service’s app is compatible with most operating systems and devices. In fact, it has one of the best android apps in my opinion. Here are some more free VPN apps for android that you can check out.
It also offers a kill switch to protect your identity in-case of internet failure and offers 5 simultaneous connections too. And although it’s great for bypassing geo-restrictions on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and other streaming services, you won’t be able to stream anything because of data limits in the free version.
So, what’s the catch?
The only drawback of this VPN service is that its free version only allows you to connect to US servers. You will be required to pay for the service if you want to try different locations. However, the US servers were pretty secure, stable, and enough for me to bypass lots of geo-restrictions.
Moreover, it only allows 500mb data per day which is more than enough for casual use. But if you are an avid streamer, this might be not a good suit for you. If you want to try its premium features, it also offers a 7-day free trial that you can use without paying a single penny and enjoy all its paid VPN features.
The paid VPN also offers 5 simultaneous connections at one time. If you want to use Hotspot Shield for more than 7-days, you can try out its 45-day money-back guarantee.
For more information, check out the Hotspot Shield review.
4. TunnelBear – Totally Free VPN Provider
TunnelBear is one of the best free VPN services out there. It features cool animations of a bear burrowing underground and popping out of a new location on the world map every time you connect to a server.
Like other providers above, it offers the best free VPN app but with quite a few limitations. If you upgrade to the paid version, you’ll get access to all of its features. There are a lot of good things to be said about the free version itself, however.
It offers over 20 server locations, more than what most other providers offer for free. Furthermore, it offers additional 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 a 500 MB per 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 Client
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.
For instance, Hide.Me is equipped with a firewall (Stealth Guard), kill switch, and split-tunneling. Though the app is a bit confusing to use when configuring some settings. For instance, Stealth Guard and split-tunneling pretty much serve the same purpose i.e limiting VPN connectivity to only 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 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 and strong AES-256 encryption to help you stay safe and secure.
So, what’s the catch?
Hide.Me offers 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 per 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. That being said, you’ll have to accept the said limitations if you don’t want to opt for its paid plans.
You can learn more about this service in our Hide.Me review.
6. Speedify – Free VPN With Channel Bonding Technology
Speedify is not your average VPN service. It comes with a unique Channel bonding technology that uses different VPN protocols to improve connection speed over multiple internet connections simultaneously.
Speedify offers 2 GB of free data per month which is enough for casual usage but not ideal for torrenting or streaming content over Netflix.
As for security, Speedify uses the latest ChaCha and AES-based encryption for rock-solid privacy. In addition to that, Speedify follows a strict no-log VPN policy. They don’t monitor what you do or what sites you visit.
In terms of performance, Speedify is quite fast. In my testing, I managed to download a 500 MB torrent file within a couple of minutes.
Even the free version of Speedify comes with features like Packet loss & error correction, Automatic failover, and more.
So, what’s the catch?
The only downside of Speedify is that it offers 2GB monthly data which might not be enough for streamers. In addition to that, the free version can only be used on one device whereas the paid version can be used on five devices at the same time.
You can learn more about this service in our Speedify review.
7. OperaVPN – Browser-Based Free VPN
Unlike other free VPNs we’ve looked over so far, OperaVPN comes built into the Opera browser. You don’t have to download it separately. It’s like a free VPN extension. Since this VPN is browser-based, it will not protect the traffic sent or received via other browsers or apps. That’s something to consider with OperaVPN.
As for features, OperaVPN comes with malware protection, an ad blocker, and a few more features. Also, you get access to three virtual locations. Other than that, there’s not much that you get with OperaVPN. But it still gets the job done.
So, what’s the catch?
While OperaVPN is good for casual usage, the fact that it offers only three server locations makes it quite hard to unblock streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and more.
You can learn more about this service in our OperaVPN review.
8. Betternet – No Registration Needed
Betternet is a pretty cool free VPN service, however, it’s not my first choice. It offers 500 MB of data which is not enough to stream HD content or download large torrent files. Betternet also only lets you connect to its US server locations.
But if we talk about security features, Betternet offers 256-bit encryption, fast speeds, perfect forward secrecy, and a few more features. In terms of performance, Betternet is pretty decent. However, it is not ideal for torrenting or streaming because of data caps.
So, what’s the catch?
First off, Betternet keeps some logs. It also displays quite a bit of advertisement which I find quite annoying. Another issue with the free version of Betternet is that it only offers 500 Mb data and allows you to connect to US servers only.
You can learn more about this service in our Betternet review.
9. VPNBook – Unlimited Data To Burn
The coolest thing about VPNBook is that it offers you unlimited bandwidth. Despite being totally free, VPNBook offers AES 256-bit encryption and multiple VPN protocols including OpenVPN.
If we talk about servers, VPNBook offers servers in the US, the UK, France, Canada, Germany, and Poland. One thing I like about VPNBook is that it keeps no activity logs whatsoever.
Although VPNBook works great with torrenting as per my testing, it couldn’t help me unblock streaming services like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and few others.
So, what’s the catch?
While VPNBook is a pretty generous free VPN service, you can’t overlook its cons. For starters, VPNBook offers no dedicated apps. You can only use it if you configure it manually on your phone or computer.
In addition to that, VPNBook displays quite a few ads and doesn’t work with streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and others.
You can learn more about this service in our VPNBook review.
What’s the Best Free VPN That I Recommend?
To be honest with you, free VPNs are only good for light usage. You can’t expect to use a free VPN service to stream content in HD or download large files.
If your VPN usage involves back-to-back streaming or sharing large files online, then you’ll likely run into issues with free VPNs. You will find paid VPNs to be significantly better in such cases.
While paid VPNs like Surfshark lets you do everything you can expect from a premium VPN service, free VPNs are good for only a few selected purposes. For instance, some free VPN service might only be good for general unblocking, while some other free VPN might be good for torrenting.
I guess what I’m trying to say, you’ll have to opt for multiple free VPNs for different purposes.
If you ask me what is the best free VPN, I would suggest that you go for ProtonVPN. That being said, you can also go for any of the other free VPNs discussed in this blog.
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||20 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|
|VPNBook||US, UK, France, Canada, Germany, and Poland|
Issues With Free VPNs
While free VPNs are super tempting to use, you should never look over the obvious privacy concerns. For example, while free VPN providers don’t charge you anything, they make money by harvesting and selling your data to third-party advertisers or anyone else who might be interested.
Another major issue with free VPNs is that they come with limited features so that you may consider upgrading to the paid version. With most free VPNs, you’ll get limited bandwidth to consume and a few server locations to choose from.
Overall, free VPNs are not ideal for streaming content in HD or sharing large files. For that, paid VPNs are a much better option. You’ll only have to spend around $2-$3 a month to get access to top of the line premium VPN features.
Free VPNs For Different Purposes
As I mentioned earlier, free VPNs are only good for a few purposes. For instance, you’ll have to use one VPN for torrenting while some other VPN for general unblocking.
After extensively testing so many free VPN providers, I have come up with a table listing which free VPN provider is good for what purpose.
|VPN Providers||Server Locations|
|Ease of use||TunnelBear|
How to Choose the Best Free VPN?
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 done this for 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 providers 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 cared 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 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 a 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 as they can keep you well-protected on the web.
Free VPNs as per Reddit
Before you download a service claiming to be a completely free VPN, be sure to check out what the 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.
Now that you know which free VPNs you can use, let’s check out some of the frequently asked questions regarding free VPNs.
Is there a free VPN with unlimited data?
ProtonVPN offers unlimited data bandwidth along with lots of decent features and that’s why its one of the best free VPNs in 2020. It offers the perfect combination of speed and privacy without charging a single penny.
How to get a free VPN?
Getting a free VPN is quite easy. Although you can search for a free VPN on Google yourself, I suggest you go for the free VPNs I’ve tested and recommended in this blog post.
Is a free VPN better than no VPN?
Yes, getting a free VPN is way better than not using any VPN at all. Not only will you be able to remain somewhat anonymous on the web, but you’ll also be able to unblock some geo-blocked websites.
Can VPN steal your data?
Yes, some VPNs can steal your data. There are plenty of sketchy VPNs online that make money by harvesting and selling your personal data without your consent.
Why Free VPNs are bad?
While not all VPNs are bad, some free VPNs are infamous for injecting malware and tracking tools on to your devices. Therefore, it is super important to choose a free VPN wisely due to privacy concerns.
How free VPNs make money?
Free VPNs make money through advertisements or by selling your data. While you get to use their service for free, VPN providers that offer their service without charging you anything make money by recording what you do online and then selling that information to advertisers who use it for targeted ads.
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.
Will a free VPN keep me safe on public networks?
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 that I have mentioned above.
Can I use a free VPN to watch Netflix?
Yes, you can use a free VPN to watch Netflix but the problem with free VPNs is that they offer limited bandwidth. However, there are some free VPNs that offer unlimited bandwidth like ProtonVPN, which makes it the best free VPN for streaming.
Will a free VPN hide my activity from my ISP?
A free VPN will keep you secure from the prying eyes of the ISP by keeping your online activities hidden and anonymous. However, you have to make sure that the VPN you’re using doesn’t keep logs.
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 to 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. It’s secure because the leading brands are too big to be involved in brand-tarnishing scandals and cheap confidence tricks.