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Strapped for cash? New to virtual private networks? Whatever the reason, there are several benefits to using a VPN that’s free. While premium services are not usually for the faint of heart, free ones tend to lend more room for trial and error.
There are hundreds of VPNs to choose from, and most will promise you the world. But we’ve found very few that can actually hide your IP address, protect your online data, and unblock streaming websites successfully.
Putting free VPNs to the test, we graded each on their overall performance. We looked at their network size, speed, and bypassing ability to come up with a list of the five best free VPNs of 2021.
Top 5 Free VPNs
Best free VPN overall with a sleek interface and strong streaming ability Read More
Best free VPN for added security Read More
Trusted free VPN with solid security and an easy-to-use app Read More
Best free VPN for Netflix with unlimited device connections Read More
Safest free VPN with unlimited data and minimal logs Read More
1. Hola VPN
Freemium VPN that easily unblocks websitesVisit Hola VPN
- Freemium VPN business model
- Up to 10 simultaneous connections
- A large network and great speeds
- Very easy to install and use
- Limited privacy features
- Freemium version logs data
- No third-party audit
With a freemium business model, we see Hola as the gateway VPN for future premium users. Hola VPN is easy to set up and has one of the best user interfaces among providers today. You can find its full compatibility list below, which is far better than most free options out there.
Hola users also gain access to over 1,000 worldwide servers on a P2P proxy network, which allows for faster speeds and easier unblocking capability for things like streaming and torrenting.
Being fully transparent, Hola VPN states that its free service is primarily to overcome censorship and help users stream shows. For airtight security and privacy, we recommend upgrading to Hola’s premium version for $2.99/mo.
For more in-depth information, read our Hola VPN Review.
2. Hotspot Shield
Ultra-fast VPN great for streaming and torrentingVisit Hotspot Shield
- Allows torrenting & streaming
- Free version available & free trial for premium version
- Large server network (82 countries)
- As of 2020, no audits or transparency reports
- Free version very limited on features
- Based in privacy-unfriendly U.S. (Five Eyes)
Hotspot Shield operates a server network with over 80 country locations and produces some of the fastest connection speeds we’ve seen thanks to its proprietary encryption protocol, Catapult Hydra. However, the one downside of this free version is that you don’t get to choose your server unless you upgrade your plan.
Despite this, Hotspot Shield still makes streaming media noticeably faster for users who find a local connection. Hotspot Shield Free also comes with unlimited bandwidth and bonus security features like a malware blocker, so you can really experience the benefits of a safe VPN.
If you want more, Hotspot offers a taste of the premium life with a vpn free trial you can test at no risk to your wallet.
For more in-depth information, read our Hotspot Shield VPN Review.
A viable free VPN and even better premium versionVisit hide.me
- Capable free tier with some limitations
- Strong security features
- Fantastic connection speeds
- Supports IPv6 traffic
- Almost no streaming capabilities & limited free servers
- Expensive short-term plans
- No WireGuard functionality for free users
Hide.me, one of the fastest free VPNs we’ve tested, is another great solution. It not only grants users a generous 10 GB data allowance per month; it also permits peer-to-peer traffic on most of its free servers.
We also like that hide.me Free works seamlessly with most operating systems and devices. Whichever way you download it, hide.me apps all use military-grade encryption and protocols that successfully hide IP addresses and secure online data. They even have a third-party audit to back up these claims.
Like most free VPNs, hide.me only comes with one device connection, which you can connect to five server locations:
- US (East)
- US (West)
You don’t need to live in these countries to access the hide.me servers, yet it’s best if you don’t want your VPN slowing down your internet connection.
For more in-depth information, read our hide.me VPN Review.
Top freemium VPN provider with blazing speedsVisit Windscribe
- Capable freemium tier
- Port forwarding and numerous additional features
- Amazing download speeds
- Decent device compatibility
- Email required to access the full 10GB of data
- Poor refund policy
- Fewer servers to choose from for unpaid users
Windscribe Free is another top free VPN, especially when it comes to streaming and torrenting. Its apps are very user-friendly and compatible with all major devices and operating systems like Android, iOS, Mac, and Windows.
Unlike most free VPNs, Windscribe users get unlimited simultaneous connections and up to 10 GB of data per month that they can use across 10 free server locations. This isn’t ideal for heavy internet users, but it’s quite generous for those in a pinch, or just getting into VPNs.
Below is a list of the free server locations available with Windscribe Free. During testing, Windscribe consistently worked with streaming sites like Netflix and BBC iPlayer. However, to binge your favorite show for hours, you’ll need more than 10 GB of data.
- Hong Kong
- United Kingdom
- United States
Windscribe also supports P2P traffic on most of its free servers and guarantees your online safety with AES 256-bit encryption, leak protection, and an automatic kill switch.
For more in-depth information, read our Windscribe VPN Review.
A strong privacy-focused VPN with a capable free tierVisit ProtonVPN
- Unlimited bandwidth with their free software
- Enhanced security and privacy features (Secure Core)
- Sleek, simple user-interface
- Faster speeds locked behind paid tiers
- Expensive to unlock premium features
- Smaller server network
While some features are locked behind a paywall, ProtonVPN Free is still a very capable service. It’s based in Switzerland and primarily focuses on privacy as evidenced by its minimal logging practices, airtight security, and multiple third-party audits.
ProtonVPN Free also offers unlimited data, DNS leak protection, and consistently fast speeds. Sadly, with only 3 free server locations in Japan, the Netherlands, and the US, you can’t actually wield its speed and data for streaming or P2P unless you upgrade your subscription to a premium plan.
For more in-depth information, read our full ProtonVPN review.
Free VPN FAQs
- What is the best free VPN?
- Are free VPNs safe?
- Can I use a premium VPN for free?
- What is the best free VPN for Netflix?
- What is the best free VPN for torrenting?
- How do free VPNs make money?
1. What is the best free VPN?
Hola VPN Free is the best free VPN we’ve tested and reviewed. It’s a P2P proxy service, making it very fast, easy to use, and accessible from almost any device.
It also works to unblock streaming sites like Netflix and BBC iPlayer and comes with 40+ server locations.
2. Are free VPNs safe?
In general, using a free service comes with trade-offs. Users that don’t pay for a VPN with their money likely pay for the service with their personal data.
Popular free VPNs tend to have weak logging and privacy practices, storing and then selling user data to advertisers and other third parties. This puts you and your online activity at risk.
Overall, free VPNs are not as safe as premium VPNs. If privacy is your number one concern, we recommend upgrading to a premium VPN service.
3. Can I use a premium VPN for free?
Premium VPN providers sometimes offer free trials or money-back guarantees for users to test out their service. However, after the trial or refund period ends, your account is usually frozen until you pay to upgrade.
4. What is the best free VPN for Netflix?
Most free VPNs for streaming are detected and blocked from Netflix sites, but a few pass the test.
Windscribe Free is the best free VPN for Netflix users. It has the ability to unblock geo-restricted content in multiple countries and offers a large network with 60 server locations and 170+ data centers.
If you want to access even more content with your VPN, we recommend checking out the five best VPNs for Netflix in 2021.
5. What is the best free VPN for torrenting?
Torrenting is typically restricted on free VPN services. But we found that Windscribe is the best free VPN for streaming that we tested and reviewed. With large networks to support P2P file sharing and decent encryption protocols, each VPN is a viable option.
6. How do free VPNs make money?
Similar to social media platforms, free VPNs allow users to access their service for free in exchange for personal data or insights. Free VPNs will package this data up and sell it to advertisers and other interested third parties.
This may not seem like a big deal, but depending on which VPN you go with, this leaves your online activity vulnerable to other hacks. It also negates the very purpose of a VPN service, which is to hide and protect your data online.
An exception to this norm is ProtonVPN Free. Unlike most free solutions, ProtonVPN explicitly states that their VPN free download is supported by their premium customers who pay a monthly subscription fee.
If security and privacy are paramount to you, we recommend using ProtonVPN or considering a premium upgrade.