Many people who are new to VPN services start by looking for a free VPN in order to save money. And of course, we all like saving money. Others simply can’t afford the price of a premium VPN service, which can be upwards of $6 per month or more.
Unfortunately, free VPNs often have serious limitations and risks. And in the worst-case scenario, you may actually be “paying” for the service with your private data and browsing activity, which can be sold to advertisers for profit.
The risks and limitations of free VPNs (why we don’t recommend them)
Over the past 6+ years, we’ve kept a very close eye on the VPN sector, testing and researching hundreds of VPN apps for both mobile and desktop operating systems. While VPN services come and go, one thing has remained the same: a free VPN is probably not a good idea.
Here are a few of the drawbacks with free VPNs:
- Free VPNs are very limited:
– Fewer servers
– Bandwidth caps
– Limited devices
– Short time window
- Free VPNs may collect and sell your data
- Free VPNs can infect your devices with malware
- Free VPNs often leak private data (IP leaks)
Free VPNs have earned a bad name over the years, especially in the privacy and security community. And these issues are widely confirmed by security researchers. One in-depth study examined over 270 free VPN apps and confirmed all of the risks above. Here are some key points from the study:
- Over 38% of free VPNs contain malware
- Over 84% of free VPNs leak user data (IP addresses and/or DNS requests)
- 75% of free VPNs contain tracking libraries
When you are using a VPN to protect your privacy and secure your data, then the problems above basically make the VPN useless. After all, what good is a VPN that collects your data or exposes your identity to third parties? In other words, you would be better off with no VPN than using a dangerous free VPN.
But you are here because you are looking for the best free VPN — and we want to help you in that endeavor. With that being said, we will never recommend VPN services that exploit their users, such as by collecting and selling user data to advertisers.
So let’s take a look at the best free VPN services that are safe, secure, and trustworthy — although many of them are also limited.
The best free VPN services
- NordVPN – Best Free VPN with a 30 Day Trial
- Trust.Zone – Free VPN with 1 GB of Data
- ProtonVPN – Best Unlimited Free VPN
- Windscribe – Free VPN Offering 10 GB of Data
- TunnelBear – Limited Free VPN with 500 MB of Data
So without further delay, let’s examine each of these free VPNs in more detail.
1. NordVPN – Best free VPN with a 30 day trial
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Let’s just get this out of the way: NordVPN is not a typical “free” VPN that you can always use without paying a penny. Instead, NordVPN is a reputable and affordable VPN service, while still being less than $4 per month — and there’s a way you can get it for free.
How to get NordVPN for free
NordVPN offers a generous 30 day risk-free trial offer. If you are not satisfied with your NordVPN subscription, simply cancel it in the first 30 days for a complete 100% refund. This allows you to test out and use NordVPN for free during the trial window, and then cancel if it’s not to your liking.
Based on this risk-free 30 day trial window, we will call NordVPN a potentially “free” VPN service for users who cancel. And unlike all of the other free VPNs below, NordVPN gives you full access to the service without any limitations:
- No limits on bandwidth
- All servers are accessible (no restrictions)
- All features are available
- Full support for all streaming services and torrenting
- 24/7 live chat support with a 30 day refund on all plans
Why NordVPN is the best option among “free” VPNs
Right now we rank NordVPN as the best VPN in our overall rankings. But you are here looking for a free VPN and are probably concerned about price, so let’s start there. NordVPN is one of the cheapest VPN services you will find that is still a high-quality product. It comes in around $3.30 per month with the two-year plan and also offers a good coupon (see further below).
Speeds: very fast (fastest VPN tested)
In terms of speeds, NordVPN is currently the fastest VPN we have tested. It fully supports the WireGuard VPN protocol, which delivers blazing fast speeds along with upgraded security and encryption. Here is a NordVPN speed test where we were able to get up to 445 Mbps download speeds:
Now let’s look at streaming support. NordVPN is currently the best all-around VPN for Netflix, providing access to over 15 different regional libraries. It is a great VPN for Disney Plus, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. It effortlessly unblocks BBC iPlayer, while other services struggle with access, as we pointed out in our ExpressVPN vs NordVPN comparison. With excellent speeds and 5,500 servers in 59 countries, you will be able to stream your favorite content in HD quality — without any interruptions.
Maximum security and privacy
In terms of privacy and security features, NordVPN also leads the pack. Here’s what they offer:
- Built-in leak protection with all VPN apps (no data leaks in our tests)
- Double VPN servers that encrypt traffic over two separate locations.
- Tor-over-VPN servers that add an extra layer of encryption and anonymity with the Tor network.
- Obfuscated servers that conceal VPN traffic and also get through any VPN blocks (useful if you need a VPN for China or any other restricted network).
- CyberSec feature to block ads, trackers, and malware domains.
- WireGuard protocol support within all apps, making your connection faster and more secure than with legacy VPN protocols.
You will simply not get the same level of security, privacy, streaming, and performance with your average “free VPN” that you get with NordVPN. It delivers, and for a very reasonable price. And if you want to test it out for free, then take advantage of the 30 day trial window, along with the coupon below:
- User-friendly and reliable apps for all operating systems and devices
- Double-VPN and Tor-over-VPN servers
- No logs (audited twice)
- Strongest encryption standards with full support for WireGuard
- Works with Netflix and many other streaming services
- CyberSec feature to block ads, trackers, and malware domains
- 24/7 live chat support
- Split tunneling on desktop and mobile apps
- Dedicated RAM-servers with 10 Gbps bandwidth channels
- Big discounts only available with long-term subscriptions
Our NordVPN review has more info and test results.
2. Trust.Zone – Free VPN with 1 GB of data
Trust.Zone is a free VPN that gives you 1 GB of free data, or three days, whichever comes first. It is a privacy-friendly VPN that is based in the Seychelles, which is a good jurisdiction for privacy. Aside from monitoring bandwidth usage (for the free VPN trial), Trust.Zone is a no-logs VPN service that does well in terms of privacy.
If you need a VPN for streaming, Trust.Zone is not a bad option. They have dedicated servers that work for Netflix and Hulu streaming, with support for other services as well. And while the network is not as large as Surfshark or NordVPN, Trust.Zone still offers 200+ servers in 98 regions around the world.
Trust.Zone performed well in the tests for the Trust.Zone review. We found the speeds to be good, but not quite as fast as some of the other top performers, such as Surfshark and ExpressVPN. Another drawback we found is that there are no VPN apps for Mac OS, but Mac OS is still supported through third-party apps. However, we still recommend other VPNs for Mac OS.
We were also happy with some of the extra features that Trust.Zone offers:
- Dedicated IP addresses are a low-cost feature you can add on to your subscription (one of the best VPNs for a static IP)
- Double-VPN servers
- P2P torrenting supported on all servers
- 10% discount for cryptocurrency payments
Overall, Trust.Zone is a good free VPN with a 3 day / 1 GB trial. Yes, this trial is short, but they also have a 10 day refund policy. If you want a 30 day refund window, then consider going with NordVPN above.
- Competitive prices
- Great speeds and reliability
- Good leak protection settings
- Can try the VPN for free
- P2P torrents allowed
- Dedicated IP addresses are available
- Fewer features than competitors
- No custom VPN clients for Mac OS (but still supported)
EXCLUSIVE COUPON CODE
Use this coupon code for 10% off any subscription plan:
3. ProtonVPN – Best unlimited free VPN
ProtonVPN is arguably the best unlimited free VPN on the market. There are no limits on bandwidth, but it still comes with lots of other limitations and restrictions:
- Only 3 server locations to choose from: Japan, Netherlands, and US
- Restricted (slow) speeds
- Only 1 device / connection allowed
- No torrenting
- Does not work with streaming services
The biggest thing going for ProtonVPN is that it is a free and unlimited VPN in terms of bandwidth. While Trust.Zone, Windscribe, and TunnelBear all impose data limits on the free plan, ProtonVPN takes a different route. You get an unlimited amount of data, but the free VPN comes with the restrictions noted in the list above.
We ran lots of speed tests for the ProtonVPN review — and the results were not very good. While some servers were better than others, the speeds with ProtonVPN were generally slow. Here was a test that we ran on a 500 Mbps connection:
This is really slow when you consider that the baseline connection is 500 Mbps. We also noted the slow speeds in our ProtonVPN vs NordVPN comparison. The big drawback here is that this will affect torrenting and also HD streaming, which could suffer from buffering and playback errors.
Another drawback with ProtonVPN is that torrenting is not allowed with the unlimited free VPN. ProtonVPN monitors traffic and will block connections for those who are found to be torrenting. Check out these best torrenting VPNs instead.
Overall, despite all the drawbacks and limitations, ProtonVPN is one of the better options in the free category. And while it can make the claim to be an “unlimited free VPN” due to no bandwidth limits, it still comes with many restrictions.
+ ProtonVPN Pros
- Useful privacy features (no leaks)
- Secure server network (secure core)
- Good privacy jurisdiction and data protection policies
- User-friendly VPN apps
- Responsive and professional support (via email)
- Transparent company with a good track record
– ProtonVPN Cons
- Slow speeds
- High prices (for access to all servers and features)
- Torrenting restrictions
4. Windscribe – Free VPN with 10 GB of data
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Next up on our free VPN list is Windscribe. This is a free VPN that is based in Canada, which unfortunately is a member of the Five Eyes surveillance alliance. While there are many people who need a VPN for Canada, we would never recommend a VPN that is legally based in Canada due to the privacy issues.
In comparison to the other free VPN’s we’ve looked at, Windscribe is pretty generous with the bandwidth data caps. They give you 10 GB of monthly data with the free VPN, which is a lot more than Trust.Zone and TunnelBear — but Windscribe still comes with some noteworthy drawbacks.
Free VPN speeds: slow
One of the biggest issues we noted in our Windscribe review was the slow speeds. Take for example this Windscribe server in Chicago (USA), which only gave us 5.95 Mbps:
And of course there are privacy issues with the Canada jurisdiction. While Windscribe claims to not keep logs, we noted in the Windscribe review that they are still collecting a fair amount of data. In short, Windscribe is not a verified no-logs VPN provider, such as NordVPN above, which has been audited twice. Instead, Windscribe keeps some logs:
Streaming – When we tested out Windscribe’s ability to stream Netflix, it did not work well due to playback errors and buffering (caused by slow speeds). Therefore this is not a free VPN for streaming that we would recommend.
Limited refund window – Another noteworthy drawback with Windscribe is that the refund window is very limited. In fact, there is no refund if you exceed:
- 10 GB of data
- 3 days of use
Once again, this is another drawback and limitation of free VPNs. And as we can see, even the best free VPNs are limited in various ways — another reason we recommend going with a well-rounded option.
- User-friendly applications
- Good leak protection features
- Ad blocker (ROBERT)
- Free plan with 10 GB of data per month
- Browser extensions
- Slow speeds
- Uses IKEv2 as default protocol
- Based in Canada (Five Eyes)
- AI-based support system
- Issues with professionalism
See our Windscribe review for more info.
5. TunnelBear – Limited free VPN with 500 MB of data
Next up on our list is TunnelBear, another free VPN that is based in Canada. As we noted above with Windscribe, there are privacy issues with Canada and its data collection policies.
TunnelBear is definitely not an unlimited free VPN. In fact, it limits bandwidth (data) more than any option we’ve seen. The free VPN plan with TunnelBear is available for ” — and it is also severely limited with data at only 500 MB.
With only 500 MB of data, you will burn through this free VPN in a matter of minutes. It’s no wonder they describe the free plan as being for “testing and limited usage.”
Even if you decided to go with the premium (paid) version of TunnelBear, there are still many different problems that we discovered in our TunnelBear review.
TunnelBear is a slow VPN based on our tests. It is far behind other leading VPNs, as you can see in the TunnelBear vs NordVPN comparison. Below is a TunnelBear server we tested in the UK with speeds under 5 Mbps:
This is definitely not the best UK VPN if you need fast servers. We also observed slow speeds in our tests with TunnelBear servers in the US and Canada.
No refunds – One big problem with most free VPNs is that there is a very bad refund policy if you upgrade to one of the paid plans. TunnelBear is probably the worst option on our list if you want a free VPN that offers refunds on their paid plans. In fact, with TunnelBear, they basically have a no refunds policy:
Another problem we found in our TunnelBear review is that that the VPN simply does not work well for routers or Linux operating systems. With routers, TunnelBear does not provide any config files to use. With Linux, support is very limited with no dedicated app (use one of these VPNs for Linux instead).
Limited servers – Another major drawback with TunnelBear is that there are not many servers to choose from. This problem is the same for both the free VPN and paid plans. In all of North America, you have only two servers to choose from: one in Canada and another in the US. Most VPNs offer dozens of North American servers to use.
Not good for torrenting or Netflix – In our tests, TunnelBear was blocked by Netflix. We also found the speeds to be a big limitation for torrenting. Therefore this free VPN is not a good option if you want to stream Netflix or torrent files.
While we consider TunnelBear to be a safe free VPN, all of the limitations and drawbacks prevent us from recommending it. Check out our TunnelBear review for more details.
- User-friendly apps and browser extensions
- Passed a third-party audit in 2018
- Free plan (500 MB of data)
- Slow speeds
- Based in Canada (Five Eyes)
- Limited payment options
- No refunds
- Does not work well with Linux or routers
- Small server network
- Not a good choice for Netflix or torrenting
- Limited customer support
Free VPNs to AVOID
Above we discussed some free VPNs that we consider to be safe — even though they come with drawbacks and limitations. Even ProtonVPN, which claims to be an unlimited free VPN, impose lots of limitations with its free plan.
There are also many bad apples that should be avoided. These are free VPNs that we do not consider to be a safe and secure option – for various reasons. Here are some free VPNs that we would recommend you avoid:
1. Betternet free VPN (data leaks and malware)
We tested out this VPN for the Betternet review and found some big problems. Aside from slow speeds, we also found Betternet VPN to have IP address leaks. But that’s not all. The free VPN study we noted above also called out Betternet for embedding malware in their VPN apps:
If that’s not enough, the fact that Betternet leaks your real IP address (in our tests) is reason enough to avoid this free VPN like the plague.
2. Hotspot Shield (free VPN apps with tracking)
Hotspot Shield is another free VPN that has attracted lots of negative attention. The study also called out Hotspot Shield because its free VPN app was found to contain tracking libraries.
In our Hotspot Shield review, we noted many other problems:
- Slow speeds
- Leaks and problems with the Android VPN app
- Does not work well with Netflix or torrenting
- Limited payment options and refunds
- Misleading server count
This is simply another free VPN we do not recommend using.
3. Opera free VPN (data collection issues)
Opera started out as a secure browser run by a team in Europe — but a lot has changed. In our Opera VPN review, we basically noted that this is not a real VPN, but instead just a browser proxy. If that’s not enough to turn you away, we also found these problems:
- Extensive data collection
- Now owned by a Chinese consortium
- Private data can be transferred to others and used for targeted ads
- Limited server network
This just goes to show that most free VPNs are not good for privacy. In fact, they are dangerous if you really care about your privacy, since your browsing data is probably being collected and sold to others.
4. All free VPN apps in the Google and Apple stores
Based on all the research and tests we have conducted here at Restore Privacy, we basically recommend avoid all free VPN apps. In other words, all of the free VPN apps in the Google and Apple stores should just be avoided.
Various studies and our own research show that free VPN apps are dangerous and insecure. Recent news also confirms the risks of free VPN apps, which can deliver malware. If you care about your privacy and security, you should consider other options.
So now that we covered some free VPNs to avoid, let’s answer a few questions:
What exactly is a free VPN?
A free VPN is a service that gives you access to a VPN server network, along with the necessary software, without having to pay anything.
Of course, nothing is completely free, since hosting a network of VPN servers incurs monthly expenses, along with app development and support. Given the high recurring costs of running a VPN service, why are there so many free VPNs?
The truth is that these free VPN services are actually cashing in on their user base – usually by collecting user data and then selling it to the highest bidder. When you route your traffic through a free VPN app on your device, the VPN can easily collect your online activity and sell this to third parties and advertising networks.
In short, many free VPN services have been proven to be both dangerous and invasive.
Fortunately, for those wanting to test out a VPN risk-free, there are free trial VPN services that offer a limited amount of free bandwidth or a risk-free trial period.
Types of free VPN services
Free VPN services can be broken down into two distinct categories: unlimited free VPNs and freemium VPNs.
Unlimited free VPNs
These VPNs give you unlimited access to the free VPN server network. Extensive testing and research have generally found this category to be dangerous (read malicious) and should be avoided. We’ll examine the dangers of unlimited free VPNs further below and the alarming statistics.
Who pays? The VPN service in this case is usually monetizing the user in some way. This is mostly done by collecting user data and selling it to third parties. So basically, you are still paying for the free VPN with your private data, which is being sold for profit. We discuss this more in our ProtonVPN review.
Free VPNs with limited data (freemium VPNs)
These VPNs are basically giving you a small “free sample” in the hopes that you upgrade to a paid VPN account. This generally means that the VPN will offer a limited amount of bandwidth over a given period of time. This is often the case with VPNs that offer a free trial.
Who pays? With freemium VPNs, the paying VPN customers will be left covering the costs for all the free VPN users. This is a drawback if you are a paying customer, since you will be footing the bill for all the free-riders and sharing network resources that you pay for. Additionally, the server network, speeds, and support staff may also be put under strain by the free users.
As you can see above, there are problems with both of the free VPN business models.
What is the best free VPN?
Given all the risks, dangers, and limitations of most free VPNs, it’s difficult to recommend any of them. That’s why we simply recommend that you check out a good paid VPN service, such as NordVPN. You can use NordVPN for free within the 30 day window, and then simply cancel for a full 100% refund, thereby allowing you to use the VPN for free.
Check out our list of the best VPN services here.
Risk-free VPN trial
At the end of the day, if you want a safe, secure, and fast VPN service, you will need to pay for it.
Even with the free trial VPN services, you will quickly burn through the free data, which forces you to stop using a VPN or pay for the service. In other words, you still end up at the same point: using a paid VPN service.
With that in mind, the best option, in my opinion, is to go with a VPN that offers a long, risk-free trial period, thereby allowing you to cancel your service and get a refund if you find the VPN does not meet your needs.
Below are the top two VPNs that offer a 30 day risk-free trial. With this option you pay up front for your subscription, but if you find any issues or concerns within the first 30 days, simply cancel for a full 100% refund.
- NordVPN – NordVPN is also a good option, and it is quite cheap with the 70% discount coupon. You can get this VPN for only $3.30 per month.
- Surfshark – This is one of the cheapest VPNs on the market, with similar features and performance to NordVPN. You can get this VPN for only $2.49 per month if you use this 81% discount coupon.
There are also other VPNs with a free trial you may want to consider.
Conclusion on free VPN services
We’re not big fans of free VPNs simply because they are not worth the hassle or risks. And who wants to take risks when there are so many scammers exploiting people in this new age of remote work. Even virus-tracing apps are in the news for problems.
That’s why we started out this free VPN guide by recommending NordVPN. It is a safe, secure, and reputable VPN service that still gives you 30 days for free, allowing you to test out the service with the risk-free trial.
In contrast to NordVPN, even the other best free VPNs we described above come with severe limitations. Even ProtonVPN, which claims to be an unlimited free VPN, limits the number of devices, servers, and also throttles speeds. And with the exception of NordVPN, we found all of these other free VPNs to have slow speeds in our hands-on testing.
So if you are ready to take the plunge with a risk-free VPN service, then give NordVPN a shot. In fact, they are offering a great deal right now that can save you money on a paid subscription:
This concludes our roundup guide on the best free VPN services.
Stay secure and keep your data safe by going with a reputable VPN provider!
Last updated on June 11, 2021.