We round up the best free VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) for internet users looking for security, privacy and flexibility. Thanks to some great free VPN services, you don't have to pay for the privilege of browsing anonymously.
Used to mask your own location and give unfettered access to the web as well as offering privacy peace of mind, VPN software has long shaken its dated reputation as a tool for nefarious activities.
A VPN can give you access to Netflix content in other countries, circumvent restrictions put in place by workplaces, and offer anonymity and protection when using a public Wi-Fi network.
Are free VPNs perfect? Absolutely not. You'll have to contend with data limitations, adverts, and a small number of severs you can choose from. We believe that the best VPN software is worth a few bucks a month, but there are plenty of free offerings to try out first. We take a look at the best on the market, and what they can offer.
You'd be surprised just how good a VPN you can get for only a couple of dollars per month – if you want to step up from the limitations of a free VPN, check our Best VPNs for 2021 guide.
Which are the Best Free VPNs to Use?
There are some great choices for free VPNs that you can try out, but the ones below are among the best to go for:
- Hide Me VPN – the best free VPN we've tested
- Tunnelbear – playful approach and simple to use
- Opera VPN (web browser only) – limited, but easy
- Windscribe VPN – 2GB of data on the free plan
- Proton VPN – a little technical, with speed throttling
- Torguard VPN (7-day trial only) – an outstanding VPN
…and one to avoid: Hola VPN
Hola VPN is a name you'll come across time and again when searching for a free VPN. However, there are some serious security concerns around Hola, which makes some of your own bandwidth available for other users (see Hola's terms of service for more detail). Hola was involved in a serious data hack in July 2018. We'd strongly advise steering clear of Hola, and instead using one of the free VPNs we've recommended.
First, here's a quick look at what the VPN industry looks like as a whole. It should give you a good idea of what kind of paid and free options are available, and what the difference is between the two.
No. of Devices
No. of Servers
Zero Data Logging
Ease of Use
Help & Support
Value for Money
A beautifully simple VPN, with great security provisions
A decent option for expert users
Fun and easy to use
A super fast, massively popular VPN that slacks on security
A good, well-priced VPN
1,800+ (40+ countries)
1,300+ (61+ countries)
2,500+ (46+ countries)
1,800 + (80+ countries)
500+ (60+ countries)
Which Are the Best Free VPNs?
If you're after a free VPN, there are lots of risky options around. You could end up using a service that exposes your data, serves a ridiculous number of adverts, or upsells aggressively.
Below, we list some of the better free VPN services that you can reliably use. As ever, there are compromises to be made – you're better off by far paying just a couple of dollars per month, in our opinion.
But, for a handy VPN taster, check out the following services:
Hide Me VPN isn't the fastest VPN we've tested, but it's a decent free choice (although there is also a subscription package available, too – read our Hide Me VPN review). Go for the free version, and you're limited to 2GB data usage per month and a choice of 3 server locations.
There's a nice suite of options available, and a killswitch which automatically halts all connections should the VPN connecton drop out, preventing your activity being accidentally exposed.
It's not the fastest VPN out there (despite the claim on its website), but it's a decent offering for casual users.
- Excellent speeds
- Intuitive, well-designed app
- Excellent free plan, feature-rich paid package
- Squeaky clean privacy record
- Some features missing on mobile apps
- Not the cheapest provider out there
- Speed caps on free version
Tunnelbear distinguishes itself from the sea of VPN software by having a charming interface featuring, unsurprisingly, a cartoon tunnelling bear. While it might seem like nothing more than marketing, it actually makes the interface refreshingly intuitive, and makes the user experience a lot more enjoyable.
You get 500MB data usage per month on the Tunnelbear Free plan. But, Tunnelbear will give you an extra 1GB if you do a bit of advertising for them and mention the brand on Twitter. While there is a paid-for version, the only limit imposed on free users is this data cap – otherwise, the free version is just as effective as the paid-for equivalent we rated well in our full Tunnelbear VPN review.
The fact that it's fairly fool-proof make it a good choice for beginners, although movie buffs should be aware that it can't unblock Netflix.
- User-friendly and approachable
- Extra privacy features
- Free without annoyance or unreasonable limitations
- Can’t choose which city to connect to
- Doesn’t unblock Netflix
- 500 MB data limit on free version can be frustrating
Opera doesn't come in the form of an app, but instead is part of the Opera browser. You'll need to download it and turn on the free VPN option, so while it will mean ditching Chrome or Explorer, you will have a full functioning, free VPN.
As there is no paid-for version, there are no limitations or adverts constantly nagging you to upgrade. However, there's no app version for tablets or mobiles, and it only works in-browser.
Opera's simplicity is the key to its success. As we note in our Opera VPN review, there are very few options to fiddle with, setting it up and getting online is a breeze. It's literally a case of turning it on and forgetting about it. An icon in the browser lets you know that you're using the VPN to connect.
- Completely free
- Built into browser
- Very limited features
- Not super secure
Best Free Versions of Paid-For VPNs
Many VPNs offer free versions of their service, some of which are time-limited trials, while others can be used indefinitely. Usually these are less feature-rich than the paid-for versions, but a good sampler of what they can offer, and a decent solution for light internet users who don’t want to commit to a subscription.
The premium version of Windscribe VPN is one of our highest scoring paid-for VPNs, and while the free version has some restrictions, it’s still a great deal. You’re limited to 2GB data per month here. While that sounds like a lot, you’ll soon burn through it if you’re binging Netflix. That’s right, Windscribe is one of the few VPNs that can actually bypass the streaming giants regional protection.
You’ll only get access to servers in 10 countries, as opposed to the paid-for software’s full 55. But, American, European and Asian countries are all represented.
Windscribe also has a strict no logging policy, which means it won’t retain any of your data.
- Distinctive app and add-on combo approach
- Good free option with no nagging and no ads
- Decent speeds
- Unblocks Netflix
- Technical style
- Similarly priced VPNs are quicker
- Relatively small server network
- No 24-hour support
Another top scorer, ProtonVPN impressed us with the level of control it gave to users, and the volume of features. The free version only gives you access to servers in three countries, and throttles your speed to a low priority over those paying for the service (which is fair enough, really).
We found that ProtonVPN can be somewhat advanced, meaning it isn’t necessarily the best choice for those new to VPNs. Dab hands however, will find plenty to enjoy as they drill down through the numerous options.
As with Windscribe, ProtonVPN doesn’t log any of your data.
- Impressive interface
- Powerful features
- Based in privacy-conscious Switzerland
- Free version has no data cap
- Premium plans are expensive
- Can be intimidating
- Average speeds overall
Torguard is our highest rated VPN that offers a free trial. Unlike Windscribe and ProtonVPN, the free taster is time-limited to just 7 days, but it does mean you can get to experience the full VPN service for a week.
This means that there are no harsh restrictions on the software, and it offers servers in over 50 countries, and promises unlimited speed. Like the others, Torguard also doesn’t log your data.
We like the fast speeds and the fact that it can unblock Netflix, as well as other streaming sites, such as Comedy Central.
- Strong global presence
- Great features and control for expert users
- Impressive VPN performance
- Not great for less experienced users
- Awkward sign-up process
- Tiny text when you sign in
Are Free VPNs Safe?
There's an old adage that's a good yardstick when considering not paying for a service. If it's free, chances are that the product is you. This has never been truer than in the internet age, with companies tripping over themselves to offer you their services for free.
So what do they get out of it? Usually its your raw data that's appealing to providers, valuable to themselves and third parties. In the case of VPNs, its sometimes your bandwidth, which they can leach off to provide a faster service to customers (Hola have come under fire for doing exactly this in the past). And then there's advertising, a great source of revenue and a fair trade off for using a free product.
It's important to check the End User Licence Agreement (EULA) when signing up for a free service to see exactly what it is you're agreeing to.
There will always be a trade off to some degree when using the no-cost VPNs. That's why people opt for the unobtrusive option of paying a few bucks a month instead, removing the need to be concerned about what is happening to their data or being bothered by advertising.
Limitations of Free VPNs
As our reviews show, free VPNs can be rather limited in what they offer, presenting themselves as a taster of a service rather than the whole thing.
Typically these restrictions will be a low number of servers, which reduces your options for accessing content worldwide, as well as data caps on how much content you can view in a month. For those looking to check out the odd site here and there, it's not a big issue, but as soon as you start streaming or using them on a regular basis, it's easy to quickly burn through the data allowance.
Other VPNs will also prioritize paid-for traffic over user who aren't paying, which can lead to some very slow download speeds. In addition, the extra security features that many premium services boast are usually absent in free versions.
Best Free VPN for iPhone or Android
There are very few free VPNs for smartphones, let alone any that we would rush to recommend. It's important to be vigilant and not just download the first one you find on the app store, which might ask for odd permissions to access parts of your phone, and do who-knows-what with your data.
It's not just your personal data that can be affected by a bad VPN. Even a legitimate one could cause more headaches than its worth, slowing your internet speeds to a crawl or bombarding you with advertising.
A paid-for VPN is a Godsend if you're a heavy smartphone user, and if you're buying a package, you'll also be able to use the software on your desktop, laptop and other devices, all for one low price.
Read more on using VPN mobile apps safely.
Free VPN Trials
If you're on the fence about whether or not to use a VPN, don't forget that many offer free trials for you to try out their service, usually with no restrictions or commitment.
We think that while free VPNs have a place for casual users, anyone who wants to really open up the web, and feel protected at the same time would really benefit from a VPN, and with our highest rated package available for just $2.49 a month, it's really not a big commitment.
Using a free trial will enable you to see just what a full featured VPN can offer, from dozens of available servers, to super fast speeds and extra security functions. Chances are that once you've given on a spin, you'll wonder how you managed without it.
If you need help finding the right one for you, check out our guide to the Best VPNs for 2021.
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