A virtual private network (VPN) is a key tool to help you stay safe online and is one of the most popular and important tools in the digital era. The best free VPN makes browsing more anonymous, safeguards your identity, and even allows you to watch shows from other countries for free—all without cost.
However, there are hundreds of free VPNs available, and the truth is that most of them could be better. You’d be shocked at how many free VPN apps spam you with advertisements and sell your data.
Over 100 VPN services have been examined by TechRadar over its 15-year history, and we constantly test our top picks to ensure they still merit their rankings. In this post, we reach the benefits and drawbacks of free vs. premium VPN services and assist you in picking the best service by evaluating speed, server locations, unblocking capacity, privacy, and security.
The top paid VPNs
Paid VPNs provide far more than their free counterparts, and even the best free VPNs are limited versions designed to attract you into upgrading to a premium subscription.
If you want to obtain one of the best VPN services for free, use money-back guarantees and compare them to the top free solutions. If you use all of them together, you’ll receive 90 days of premium protection at no cost.
Due to its high-quality, easy-to-use, and extremely secure apps, ExpressVPN consistently ranks at the top of our rankings. It’s our go-to pick for the absolute best of the best, as it can unblock practically anything on the internet, no matter where you are.
Want to know the difference between a premium VPN and a free VPN? You may also use ExpressVPN for free by taking advantage of its 30-day no-questions-asked money-back guarantee.
If you want to avoid paying for a VPN and antivirus separately, NordVPN has you covered. You can protect yourself in multiple ways with various security products for as little as $3.29 per month.
If you want to compare our top Netflix VPN for free, you may use its 30-day money-back guarantee.
Remember that a good VPN does not have to be costly. Surfshark gives the best value for money as the best budget VPN. If you’re on a limited budget, look no further than Surfshark. It provides the same level of protection as NordVPN for less than USD 2.30 per month but at a fraction of the price. It also includes a 30-day money-back guarantee.
The problems with free VPNs
Although free VPN services may not cost anything, you must make certain concessions. It usually means that the provider will profit in some other way, usually by invasive advertising or by trading your browsing data to third parties (thus negating the entire privacy goal in the first place).
Even the best free VPN services have limits.
As a result, most of them could be more effective for unblocking content and frequently give you a false sense of security. The best free services live to give you a taste of the complete product, and they frequently limit your speed and data usage.
However, price is not always synonymous with quality, and some of the best VPN services cost as low as $2/£2 per month. The best inexpensive VPNs will provide far better protection and performance without breaking the budget.
The best free VPNs in 2023
PrivadoVPN Free has been pecking at Proton’s heels for a long time, and with recent updates, it has finally dethroned the long-standing Swiss champion. It’s one of the only VPNs with a specialized geoblocking team that can reliably unblock famous streaming services like Netflix and BBC iPlayer—most paid services can’t offer that.
Privado’s free version includes many customization and security features, such as a kill switch and always-on VPN, to protect your data and reduce internet usage if your VPN connection fails.
The free portal even allows you to access local services while streaming your favorite shows from afar. You may change your encryption protocol and use WireGuard for a faster, more secure VPN connection.
PrivadoVPN takes second place in our free VPN performance statistics with its 350 Mbps. While it cannot compete with Proton’s unlimited plan, its 10 GB unrestricted monthly allocation is sufficient for most.
If the data tap runs dry, you can access unlimited data through its “over-quota” option, which places you on a speed-restricted server giving 1Mb/sec. While this may appear slow, it is still sufficient for day-to-day internet use, and most users will not require more than 10 GB each month.
Privado is one of only a few VPN services that manages its own bandwidth and transit channels. This means you get excellent speeds and no server congestion—a free service that feels truly premium.
The choice of 13 locations across ten countries outperforms other free services, including Proton VPN Free, which only offers three. The following countries have free server locations: the United Kingdom, the United States (4 locations), Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina.
The apps are stable and dependable, but the corporation still needs to have its privacy credentials independently audited. Privado said that an audit would need months of development time, prohibiting them from meeting users’ expectations when we enquired about it. They explained that they aim to conduct an audit as soon as feasible but must first ensure that they are providing the best service possible at all times.
The service does, however, have some issues and limits. PrivadoVPN Free only supports a single connection. Therefore, you can only use one at a time if you install it on your laptop and phone.
Overall, PrivadoVPN Free is a fantastic service that outperforms the competition. Its streaming results are a noteworthy feature, and if paying for a VPN isn’t an option, PrivadoVPN will give you a premium service at no cost—or any cost at all.
|Design||Modern and uncluttered, with a tasteful color scheme||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Ease of use||Intuitive app with simple implementation means it’s perfect for beginners||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Performance||One of the fastest free VPN services||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Unblocking||A dedicated geo-unblocking team that doesn’t just work for the paying customers||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Security and privacy||Robust security on paper, but no independent audit||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Customer support||Support staff are friendly, but the site could do with more content||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
Proton VPN Free used to be at the top of our Best Free VPN ratings due to its unique combination of features, power, and app quality. While it has lost its luster, it is still a fantastic service that does not impose limits and restrictions to force you into upgrading. This is a free VPN that you could use indefinitely.
For example, there are no data limits with Proton. While practically all other free VPNs limit you to 500 MB to 10 GB of data per month, Proton VPN Free provides limitless data. That’s convenient but also a significant privacy benefit because you don’t have to choose where you use the VPN when your data runs out. If you feel there is a risk or are hesitant, connect—Proton VPN Free is always available.
Proton has not penalized free users by removing essential features. Some free providers remove the kill switch, WireGuard, and possibly even support, while Proton VPN Free includes all the necessary privacy features you need to stay secure online.
There are still considerable limits. You only have access to three locations: the United States, the Netherlands, and Japan. Although Proton VPN can be installed on as many devices as you want, you can only connect one at a time. There is no access to Proton VPN’s specialized streaming servers, no P2P support, and no bonus features such as ad and malware blocking—you must upgrade to a premium plan to use them.
However, none precludes Proton VPN Free from performing its primary function admirably and far better than most of the competition. Its well-designed, open-source, and audited apps are easy to use while brimming with useful adjustments, tools, and technology. The service also topped our free VPN speed ratings with 380 Mbps, fast enough to compete with some premium services.
Proton partnered up with Deutsche Welle (a renowned German media organization) on March 3 to provide reliable free servers to access the site’s content around the world in its efforts to combat censorship and defend free speech.
Most of Proton’s services, including the well-known ProtonMail, are free. Furthermore, on June 28, Proton Pass was released to give individuals access to trustworthy password management through its security toolbox.
Proton VPN Free may not be suitable for all users. If you really must have a location in the United Kingdom, for example, or another nation that is not on Proton’s very narrow list, PrivadoVPN, and Windscribe provide more than ten countries to choose from.
Proton VPN Free works well for the majority of users. It’s fast, secure, has great features, and is very simple.
|Design||Dark and edgy with plenty of flair||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Ease of use||Not the simplest design, but still fairly intuitive||⭐⭐⭐|
|Performance||The fastest free VPN||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Unblocking||Dedicated Deutsche Welle servers but few locations to choose from otherwise||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Security and privacy||Open-source, audited, and reliable||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Customer support||Lots of on-site support and excellent agents||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
Windscribe Free VPN is a high-quality Canadian service with an enticing set of features that more than merits its place among the top three.
The data allowance is slightly lower than our top two VPNs, at 10 GB per month. However, that is sufficient to protect most online activities, and Windscribe Free VPN has its advantage as compensation. Windscribe has no limits: you can establish and use it simultaneously on as many devices as you need. Most free services limit you to only one connection.
Another advantage is the network; with Windscribe Free VPN, users can choose from 14 locations in 11 countries. That outperforms PrivadoVPN Free (10 countries), Proton VPN (3 countries), and numerous other services.
In our most recent tests, speeds averaged 240 Mbps. That’s only two-thirds of what we saw with Proton VPN Free, but it’ll suffice in most cases.
Recent updates to the apps have simplified their look, but I still loathe how cluttered they feel. It’s a step forward, and the new server location search option is really useful.
There are some unexpected pluses as well. Although Windscribe Free VPN does not include the specific streaming servers used by Windflix, we found that the service could still successfully unblock UK Netflix and BBC iPlayer.I enjoy how it recognizes unblocking stuff for non-paying clients.
Put it all together, and while Windscribe Free VPN does not quite match Proton VPN and PrivadoVPN, it comes very close. The service may be appropriate for certain individuals, but when all these services are free, why would you pick anything less than the best service?
|Design||Simple and intuitive, albeit a little cluttered||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Ease of use||Pretty easy to use for beginners||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Performance||Not as fast as PrivadoVPN or Proton VPN||⭐⭐⭐|
|Unblocking||Not bad, but not guaranteed||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Security and privacy||Open-source and reliable||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Customer support||Email tickets are quickly resolved, but no live chat makes it somewhat inconvenient||⭐⭐⭐|
Atlas VPN Free first drew our attention with its generous data allowance. This isn’t about the 10 GB you receive with its Windows VPN, Android VPN, and iOS VPN—though those aren’t awful either—but about Mac VPN users, who may get an incredible 2 GB daily.
The service could be more accommodating with its locations. The Netherlands, Los Angeles, and New York are the only three. However, you can connect two devices simultaneously (our top two free VPNs only allow one), and our speed testing found that Atlas VPN Free attained an above-average 320 Mbps. When you consider P2P support, Atlas could be a wise torrenting choice.
We need more convincing by the apps. They cover the fundamentals, and what you get works properly (the kill switch, for example, passed all of our tests). However, they need more features, have minor usability issues, and cannot compete with PrivadoVPN.
The service does have an independent audit, which puts it one step ahead of many competitors. However, it is also very limited, as it only covers the iOS app. Meanwhile, TunnelBear Free VPN now conducts annual audits on its apps, servers, infrastructure, and other systems.
In some areas, though, Atlas VPN Free outperformed our expectations. It doesn’t support unblocking any streaming sites, for example, but we found that the service lets us into Disney Plus, and you may have better luck with other sites.
While Atlas VPN Free has certain issues, we found that it did a good job of safeguarding us online in general, and Mac users will appreciate the 2 GB per day data allowance.
|Design||Basic and generally underwhelming||⭐⭐⭐|
|Ease of use||Some usability problems and an awkward design||⭐⭐⭐|
|Performance||Decent speeds on offer||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Unblocking||Pretty good considering it’s a free plan||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Security and privacy||About industry standard, but not many features||⭐⭐⭐|
|Customer support||Decent website content but no live chat||⭐⭐⭐|
Hide. Me Free VPN is a competent mid-tier service that falls short in some areas but has more than enough notable features to make it worth a deeper look.
Installing the service grants you 10 GB of data per month and access to five P2P-friendly locations: the east and west coasts of the United States, Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands. It’s not the best VPN available, but it’s adequate for most users and handy as a torrenting VPN.
Hide. Me Free VPN also supports the high-speed WireGuard protocol, allowing you to use the most up-to-date VPN encryption technologies.
The apps have more features and customization options than most free competition, which is a significant advantage. Auto-connect when visiting untrusted Wi-Fi, custom DNS, split tunneling, a robust kill switch, complex protocol changes, and capable browser extensions are all available. This is great news for professionals, but others may feel that this makes for a more sophisticated and scary interface when compared to services like Privado and Proton.
Performance is more important. Its commercial service is one of the fastest VPN services available, yet we found Hide. Me Free VPN only provides download speeds of roughly 25 Mbps. That is less than 10% of the speeds we observed with PrivadoVPN and our other top providers.
That’s plenty of speed for browsing, streaming, and most other chores, and if you plan on using Hide. Me Free VPN’s more advanced app features could be your appropriate service. However, it’s not worth it when you factor in the competition and the non-existent price.
|Design||A simple design that’s clutter-free, but somewhat boring||⭐⭐⭐|
|Ease of use||Quite complex for beginners||⭐⭐⭐|
|Performance||Sub-par speeds in our testing||⭐⭐|
|Unblocking||Pretty average unblocking capabilities||⭐⭐⭐|
|Security and privacy||Decent security and plenty of features to pick from||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Customer support||Good customer support and an in-depth knowledge hub||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
Hotspot Shield Basic is a famous free VPN package with a significant advantage: Hotspot Shield began upgrading the service last year to provide unlimited data across all platforms. (As of this writing, Mac, Android, and iOS now offer limitless data, with Windows following suit later.)
In a world where most free VPNs limit you to 10 GB per month or less, using the service as much as you like is a major advantage. So you may be wondering, “Why is Hotspot Shield Basic not higher up on our Best list?”
One significant limitation of the service is that it only allows connections to a single US location. PrivadoVPN and Windscribe cover about ten countries, whereas TunnelBear supports about 50.
Usability issues and annoyances include mobile apps that display video adverts when you connect. The Mac software does not contain advertisements but opens pages on the Hotspot Shield website each time you connect and disconnect.
One significant privacy issue is that Hotspot Shield Basic lacks a kill switch. If your VPN connection fails, your traffic may become exposed.
Oh, and there is no live chat or email help if you have any problems. You’re on your own to search the Hotspot Shield website for a solution.
Even with unlimited data, it is tough to recommend Hotspot Shield Basic over the competition. However, it may still be useful for small activities or as a backup for another provider, and it’s worth investigating the service for yourself.
|Design||A clean and simple design||⭐⭐⭐|
|Ease of use||Intuitive apps that are easy to use but contain ads||⭐⭐⭐|
|Performance||Decent speeds, but nothing spectacular considering Hotspot Shield’s claims||⭐⭐⭐|
|Unblocking||Mediocre unblocking capabilities||⭐⭐|
|Security and privacy||Lacking a kill switch is a serious problem||⭐⭐|
|Customer support||No live chat or email support is disappointing||⭐⭐|
While other VPNs advertise long lists of complicated technical features, TunnelBear Free VPN is concerned about delivering a basic, easy service. And it pushes this to an unexpected extreme.
Most VPNs, for example, talk about all the protocols they support and provide many settings in their apps—great if you understand VPN protocols, but what if you don’t? Don’t worry; TunnelBear removes the technical complexity of VPNs.
TunnelBear Free VPN makes this easier by not mentioning protocols in its website feature lists, support sites, or most apps. This isn’t due to a lack of power; the Windows software still supports WireGuard and OpenVPN, the finest protocol options. Rather than exposing consumers to low-level facts, it just handles them.
Other complex options are available in the apps. However, TunnelBear attempts to soften them with less technical jargon. For example, VigilantBear is a kill switch, and SplitBear is split tunneling.
As a result, the service has various advantages. Easy to use, with 48 locations across 47 countries. TunnelBear’s annual VPN audits—the most thorough in the industry—provide a great deal of reassurance that your privacy is maintained.
However, there is a significant issue with tunnelbear’s meager data allowance of 500 MB each month. This may be sufficient if you only need to safely check your email on rare occasions or unblock a specific website. However, it needs to catch up to the standard free 10 GB.
|Design||Clean, simple, and who doesn’t like bears?||⭐⭐⭐|
|Ease of use||Easy to use and intuitive for beginners, but not much customization for technical users||⭐⭐⭐|
|Performance||Average at best||⭐⭐|
|Unblocking||Unblocked US Netflix in our tests, but openly admits it doesn’t support content unblocking||⭐⭐|
|Security and privacy||Regular audits give us faith, but a lack of control over encryption protocols is a double-edged sword||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Customer support||No live chat from such a large brand is quite surprising||⭐⭐⭐|
What is a VPN?
A VPN is a cybersecurity solution that secures your device from hackers, cybercriminals, and snoopers. It encrypts your data and sends it to a secure server somewhere else in the globe. Changing your IP address (a number that identifies your device and location) makes you appear in another part of the world.
When you combine all this, you get a service that protects your digital privacy and lets you access banned or restricted information anywhere in the world.
How we test free VPNs – our methodology
Our VPN reviews begin with a thorough examination of the provider’s website. What features do you receive? How helpful is the help site? Has the provider been audited, and what was the outcome? Is there anything else in the fine print?
Because VPNs differ greatly between platforms, we test and compare programs for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. We evaluate each app’s usability, features, settings, and other factors to ensure they all function as intended.
Peeking under the hood may give you a lot of helpful information about a VPN, so we also look deeper into the Windows software, analyzing the files it utilizes the settings, and if it’s properly setting up your connection for the best possible privacy.
Even with a free VPN, speed is important. We measure VPN performance using a UK cloud PC with a fast and dependable 1Gbps connection, allowing each VPN plenty of bandwidth to demonstrate its capabilities to us just how much.
Providers may reason to have a kill switch, but does this give you the protection it protects? We employ various strategies to force our VPN connection to disconnect, and we closely monitor each program to ensure it handles each case correctly.
Most free VPN plans have limited data, making them unsuitable for unblocking streaming sites. However, watching who delivers and who does not on the unblocking front will be interesting. We check whether each provider can access exclusive regional material on US Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, and BBC iPlayer (depending on the available locations).
Should I use a free VPN?
There is no simple answer to this issue. It all depends on how you intend to utilize your free VPN. They can be the thing if you want to have extra security on your laptop or mobile device when using public Wi-Fi. Join the service, enable an encrypted waitperson connection, and go about your online business confident that no prying eyes can read your personal information.
A free VPN do the trick, thoour primary goal is to utilize a VPN for streaming or to download gigabytes of torrent files. Most of them limit you to a daily or monthly data allocation that you’ll quickly deplete. While most lack the type of easy access support or server range required to make those tasks simple using a virtual private network.
How to choose a free VPN – five must-ask questions
Over the last few years, there has been an increase in worldwide challenges to individual privacy, with long-held rights to anonymity and net neutrality being challenged under the guise of legitimacy.
While virtual private networks are not a panacea for online safety, security, and privacy, they are an important tool for those who desire these liberties.
If you don’t already have one, you can get one for free without spending anything. However, not all free VPN providers are made equal, and some may compromise your security.
Here are five questions to ask yourself before downloading and installing one.
1. What is its business model? Providers are in it for the money, and running such a business is expensive, especially if it is popular. Some, just like Dropbox, may utilize their free version as a marketing tool to attract potential consumers to upgrade to a premium version once they are satisfied with the free version. Conversely, the majority will sell user data or send logging and usage information to a third party, which will once again compromise your privacy.
2. How does it protect my PC? Most providers encrypt your data while you surf the web using a desktop application that runs in the background. However, this addresses a portion of the issue. Because of the permissiveness of tracking solutions accessible on practically all pages online, your laptop can still be fingerprinted. Some, such as Windscribe, take a more comprehensive approach by incorporating the equivalent of a super ad blocker.
3. What do I lose by going free? Typically, one may anticipate a free product to have some corners cut, and this is true for all providers—this is even true for things like free antivirus. Some provide more free bandwidth than others, significant locations, and even ad filtering, P2P, and firewall with an easy paid-for upgrade path that unlocks unlimited bandwidth and additional OpenVPN Configs.
4. Does your provider log anything? Make certain that your provider does not log your online activities. Check the terms and conditions page or the EULA. Unfortunately, many providers prefer to irritate end customers with lengthy terms and conditions or privacy statements that frequently conceal important information about how they work. On the opposite end of the spectrum, providers will delete everything when your session has ended and will not store records.
5. Can I sign up completely anonymously? For optimum privacy, having a provider you can subscribe to without an email address and one that takes Bitcoin payments is usually the best you can expect online. Some providers additionally feature double hopping, allowing you to further disguise your data by doubling down on privacy.
Are free VPNs dangerous?
While the biggest complaint of free VPNs is that they are just not as useful as paid options, there are serious risks associated with some proponents (thankfully not with the providers mentioned above).
According to 2020 research, over 40% of free VPNs shown on the Google Play Store do not adequately protect their consumers’ privacy. So the additional online protection you expected needs to be added.
How to get a premium VPN for free
Need help deciding between a free VPN and a premium paid-for option? There may be a perfect compromise, as almost all of the world’s best providers allow you to try them risk-free and at no expense. You can pick the best VPN for your needs with our comprehensive guide to the best VPN-free trials.
There are a few familiar names named there. ExpressVPN, our top-ranked VPN service, is at the top of the list, allowing you to give it a 30-day trial.
It’s worth noting that you must pay for these services in advance. However, they enjoy making the money-back process as simple and hassle-free as possible, allowing you to claim a complete refund online without any inconvenience.
Why is a free vpn good?
People who cannot afford a subscription service can use free VPNs to protect themselves online and access foreign material in the face of repressive censorship. But, with so many dubious VPN services available, it takes time to determine which one to choose. That is why we have selected the best free VPNs in this article—to show you the reality of free VPNs and how they differ from premium VPNs.
Free VPN FAQs
What is the best free VPN?
Are there any fake VPNs?
There are numerous scammers out there, and many of them target major app shops to trick you into believing they’re authentic. You must pick a proven and dependable service.
Our suggested free and premium VPN services have all been thoroughly evaluated by our experts and other industry professionals, so you can try and buy with confidence that what you’re downloading does what it says on the box.