A free VPN may sound appealing if you have heard about the benefits of using a VPN but aren’t quite ready for the investment. Are free VPNs really free? What may be the hidden costs? Are there any reliable VPNs to use? You’re in the right place to know more about them.
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Mind you, no VPN is truly free
Completely free VPNs are a dime a dozen on the market. The facts that most free VPNs do a fairly decent job and that it doesn’t charge you anything make it too good a bargain to resist for most unsuspicious users. But companies have businesses to run and profits to turn, if they don’t make money from you, they make money out of you in other ways. And this usually counters the very purpose that you use a VPN for.
Below are two nefarious practices many free VPNs exploit user data:
- Security violation. On a security level, proper premium VPNs protect your internet connection and online privacy by scrambling your internet traffic and re-routing it through a dedicated server. They also log minimum or no user activity so even they themselves have no access to your data. However, many free VPNs are prone to data leak due to less robust tunnels and/or poorly encrypted data.
- Data tracking, hijacking and/or selling. Setting up servers costs a fortune and they must drive revenue someway. One of the most common practices is to sell your data. When you’re connected to a free VPN, chances are you’re being eavesdropped by your own VPN service provider. They may log and monitor your online activity, your browsing habits and sell it to whoever interested in exploiting the data(advertising services, government agencies, unscrupolous individuals etc).
As people often say, there is no such thing as free lunch. VPN is no exception. We would advise you against using any no-fee VPN that doesn’t have a paid plan.
If you want a VPN just for casual use…
Some trustworthy providers offer a stripped-down version for free as a taster of the stronger premium product. They allow customers to give the service a test run while throttling the internet speeds, imposing daily or monthly data cap, or limiting the number of server stations you can access. This is usually harmless though, considering it is a more a commercial strategy than an activity conducted with malicious intent.
If you just want a VPN for occasional use, or that you can live with some of the aforementioned limitations, you can consider this option.
Below I have listed the free basic plans of four reputable VPN providers, you can compare them and decide the one that works for you.
|Free VPN||TunnelBear||ProtonVPN||HIDE.ME||Hotspot Shield|
|Level of encryption||AES 256-Bit||AES 256-Bit||AES 256-Bit||AES 256-Bit|
|Whether P2P traffic is allowed||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Number of server locations (in countries)||26 servers||3 countries||5 locations||1 (U.S. only)|
|Free data usage||500MB||Unlimited||10 GB per month||500 MB daily data limit|
|Whether it works with Netflix||No||No||No||No|
|Operating system||Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux||Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux||Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux,||Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux|
|Website||Try TunnelBear for free||Try ProtonVPN for free||Try HIDE.ME for free||Try Hotspot Shield for free|
Take a 30-day free trial with a premium VPN
A limited version can only get you this far. If you want to experience what a full-featured VPN has to offer, you can try your hands on a premium VPN. Below we have compared a dozen VPNs based on overall encryption level, jurisdiction, number of servers, price, abilities to stream, torrent and gaming, user experience and presented to you our top 3 recommendations.
1. Best Overall: ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN is our #1 VPN recommendation. It ticks all the boxes – great server coverage, fast connection speeds, industry-leading encryption security and the ability to easily unblock most popular streaming services.
Our ratings: 4.5/5
- Powerful, easy-to-use, compatible on most platforms
- 160 locations across 94 countries
- Good performance from most servers
- Advanced security features
- Excellent support
- Fastest speed on the market
- Solid security suite
- Strict no-logs policy
- Works with most streaming sites and apps, including Netflix
- Works in China and the UAE
- 24/7 live chat support
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Slightly more expensive than average
- Lack of stand-alone browser extension
2. Best known for security: NordVPN
With a user base of over eight million all over the world, NordVPN is easily one of the most popular VPNs. This is not without reasons. The VPN provides top-notch features and performance at an irresistible price. With AES-256 military-grade encryption, support for OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPSec protocols, a killer switch, split tunneling, DNS leak protection as well as a zero sensitive data logging policy, your data stays secure on the big, bad internet.
Our ratings: 4.4/5
- 5513 servers in 59 countries worldwide
- Clean, intuitive user interface
- Minimal data logging
- Blazing fast speed
- Advanced encryption policy
- Works on most devices
- Compatible with most streaming services
- Super affordable prices for long-term subscription
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Relatively high monthly fee
- Doesn’t work in China or the UAE
- Annoying customer support bots
3. Best value for its feature-packed service: Surfshark
Surfshark is a quite an affordable option for those who want to protect their online privacy but do not want to shell out too much cash. Offered at a rate as low as 2.49/mo, the service doesn’t compromise on quality. It has solid security smarts, reliable connection speeds to stream and torrent with and it also allows unlimited simultaneous connection – perfect for those with a large household.
Our rating: 4.2/5
- Very easy to use
- 3200+ encrypted servers in 65 countries
- Strict no-logs policy
- Split tunneling
- Good for torrenting
- Connect unlimited devices
- Supports all popular platforms
- Helpful 24/7 live chat support
- Excellent price at as low as $2.49/mo
- Refund anytime with a 30-day money-back
- Kill switch issues
- Connection speed left to be desired