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April 15, 2021, 1:13 p.m. EDT

The best free VPN services

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By Home Media

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A VPN (or “virtual privacy network”) is a software program that helps protect your personal information when you’re surfing the web. VPNs create a unique “tunnel” that you can use to access the internet, which protects your data and IP address from being viewed by others on the network. VPNs are easy to get started with, and can add another major layer of security to your online activity if you frequently connect to public sources of Wi-Fi.

Paid VPNs can cost upwards of $12.95 per month, especially if you don’t have the money to commit to a year-long package upfront when you open your account. Thankfully, there are a range of free VPNs that you can use to protect your data without breaking the bank. Our free VPN reviews will help you learn more about choosing the best free VPN service for your needs.

We’re committed to providing you with the most comprehensive information on all VPN services on the market.  We rate services on a variety of criteria, ranging from Reputation and Credibility, to Privacy and Stability.  Our reviews and scores are unbiased to provide you with the most accurate information.

The best free VPNs: quick review

  • Best overall: Windscribe (7.5/10)

  • Best for simple access: Hotspot Shield (6.9/10)

  • Best for no data limits: ProtonVPN (6.1/10)

  • Best privacy policy: TunnelBear (5.5/10)

The pros and cons of free VPNs

If this is your first time choosing a VPN, you might wonder why everyone doesn’t use a free VPN. After all, if both free VPNs and paid VPNs provide you with the same level of data protection, why would you bother paying for a VPN?

Most experts recommend that you don’t use a free VPN if you can avoid it. Though these VPNs are free and provide you with the same basic service as a paid VPN, they typically lack the security and privacy features that draw users to VPN services in the first place. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons that come with using a free VPN:

Pros of free VPNs

  • Free VPNs provide the same basic infrastructure as paid VPNs: At the most basic level, both free and paid VPNs work using the same mechanisms. A VPN will create a personal “tunnel” that connects with a public Wi-Fi source and makes it impossible to connect your IP address with your browsing history, regardless of whether the VPN is paid or free. This means that if you have no money to spare, a free VPN can provide comparable functionality.

  • Free VPNs offer geo-location spoofing services: One of the reasons why users connect to the internet via VPN is for geo-location spoofing. When a website or third party can view your IP address, they can tell where your computer is located. Countries and companies that block certain content in regions of the world can be bypassed when using a VPN.

For example, imagine that you want to watch Netflix while vacationing in Indonesia. As Netflix doesn’t currently support Indonesia-based customers, you cannot log in to your account directly through the internet. However, if you work through a VPN, you can use a U.S.-based IP address to “trick” Netflix into believing that you’re in the United States, thus allowing you to access Netflix’s United States content. If your only interest in a VPN is streaming content from around the world, a free VPN will typically work just as well as a paid service, as long as it provides streaming compatibility.

Cons of free VPNs

  • Free VPNs often log your data: If you’re in the market for a VPN, it may be because you want to keep your data secure from prying eyes. “Free” VPNs earn their money by logging your data and selling it to third parties. For many users, this defeats the entire purpose of having a VPN in the first place. If your primary concern is data security, a free VPN might not be the best choice for you.

  • Free VPNs are often full of ads: If a VPN doesn’t log your data, it likely makes money by selling advertisements, which are served to users each time they use their VPN. These ads can be intrusive and seriously disrupt your browsing experience. Some free VPNs even come with persistent ads, which remain on your screen for as long as you have the VPN’s app installed on your browser. If you’re searching for a clean user experience, it’s better to go with a paid VPN, or a free VPN that doesn’t sell ads on its service.

  • They may have lessened security: While many free VPNs offer similar levels of encryption and security as competing paid VPN providers, this is by no means true for every free VPN. Select free VPNs cut costs by sacrificing encryption or security features or by sharing servers with other companies. If a VPN shares servers with a third party, your data is also at the mercy of the security protocols that the third party chooses, or doesn’t choose, to take.

Now that you understand both the pros and cons of free VPNs, let’s take a look at the best free VPNs:

Best overall: Windscribe (7.5/10)

Pros Cons
Strong encryption Most users will go through the two GB limit very quickly
No logging policies keep your data safe Free version doesn’t provide access to full range of locations
Between two and 10 GB of free data per month, depending on whether you enter your email or not
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