NordVPN is one of the best-known VPN services while Windscribe, a self-described, “meme-focused VPN” is less known. But both of these services have impressive feature sets above and beyond the typical VPN service. In this comparison today, we’ll see how Windscribe stacks up against NordVPN, arguably, the leading VPN service in the world today.
Before we hit on the test results, we’ll first cover the basics in the table below.
|Logs||No logs (audited)||No logs|
|Torrenting||All servers||All servers|
|Support||Knowledge Base; 24/7 chat||Knowledge Base; Email|
|Apps for||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS|
|Price||$3.29 (with coupon)||$5.75|
|Coupon||63% Off NordVPN Coupon >||N/A|
Here are the specific categories we are going to compare in this comparison of NordVPN vs Windscribe:
- VPN apps
- Speed tests
- Feature Sets
- Security and encryption
- Privacy and logging policies
- Simultaneous connections
- Netflix and streaming
- Customer support
- Prices and refund policies
VPN apps: Windscribe vs NordVPN
Since Windscribe is the challenger in this showdown, it is only fair to start with them. Windscribe offers VPN apps for a good range of operating systems and devices. These include the big four: Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS/iPhone.
Beyond these, Windscribe has recently added a GUI interface for Linux to go along with their older CLI. In addition, they have an app for FireTV. They apparently had an app for Huawei devices, but with Canada joining the rest of the Five Eyes countries in blocking Huawei devices, that app is no longer available.
We found the Windscribe apps to be user-friendly and visually interesting. At the same time, they include some interesting features and options. Here’s the free Windscribe Windows VPN app we tested with (you can see we had 1.9GB of data left of our free monthly quota):
Here’s the Windscribe Android app. Other companies could learn a thing or two from Windscribe about making their apps interesting:
Windscribe is looking good so far.
NordVPN are user-friendly and well-designed. The NordVPN macOS and Windows VPN desktop apps aren’t as flashy as the Windscribe apps, taking a more conservative and professional approach as you can see here.
You can click a location on the map and the VPN will connect you to the best server at that location. Alternately, you can click the down arrow in the connection box on the top left for access to all of NordVPN’s specialized server types and server locations, even down to specific cities or specific servers in those cities. And all NordVPN apps come with a built-in kill switch to kill message traffic in case the VPN connection fails.
No need to open a new window – all NordVPN’s features and servers are accessible directly from the app, making NordVPN even easier to use.
Meanwhile, here’s what the NordVPN Android VPN app looks like. It is shown in Dark Mode.
There really is little to distinguish between the apps provided by these two services beyond aesthetics. Some people will like the looks of the Windscribe apps, while others like NordVPN. We’re going to call this category a tie.
Winner for VPN apps: Tie
Speed tests: Can Windscribe run with the best?
For our Windscribe vs NordVPN speed comparison, we ran tests with servers in the US and UK.
Test #1: New York, USA
Here we have NordVPN connecting to a server in New York, with a very speedy result of 280 Mbps.
We also checked Windscribe connecting to a server in New York. The results were bad:
Next up was a server in the UK.
Test #2: United Kingdom
Here we have NordVPN connecting to a server in the United Kingdom, with an impressive result of 295 Mbps.
How did Windscribe do when connecting to a server in the UK? Not so great, turning in a speed of about 30 Mbps.
Since I am currently traveling in South America, we won’t have any new “official” Windscribe speed test results anytime soon. But I do have a very informal test result for you. Here are the speed test results I got when testing NordVPN with NordLynx and connecting from the South American country of Ecuador, to New York on a 200 Mbps line:
Compare NordVPN’s speed of 183 Mbps on a 200 Mbps connection to NYC, to Windscribe’s 10 Mbps on a 160 Mbps line, and you can get a better sense of how much faster NordVPN running NordLynx really is.
Winner for speed tests: NordVPN
Features: Is NordVPN or Windscribe best?
Unless your need for a VPN is very basic, understanding the feature sets of Windscribe and NordVPN will figure into your selection. Windscribe has a few features beyond the most basic, while NordVPN has
NordVPN specialized servers and advanced features
One of the reasons NordVPN is a leading VPN service is the way it is jam-packed with more features and advanced server types than most other VPNs can deliver. Let’s start with servers. As of February 2023, NordVPN has over 5,400 servers in 60 countries.
Among these thousands of servers, NordVPN has a large number of specialized servers for various use cases. For example, NordVPN has the following specialty server types:
- Double-VPN servers encrypt your traffic twice by passing it through two different VPN servers in different locations.
- P2P servers are optimized for secure, high-speed torrenting. We rate NordVPN as the best VPN for torrenting thanks to its great speed and tight security.
- Obfuscated servers are servers that disguise (obfuscate) your VPN traffic to make it invisible to internet censors and other unsavory characters. Obfuscated servers are only available when you are using the OpenVPN protocol.
- Dedicated IP servers function like regular VPN servers, but provide you with a consistent IP address that is dedicated to your personal use. Dedicated IP servers are available at an additional cost, and only appear in the Specialty Servers list when you are using the OpenVPN protocol. NordVPN is one of the best options if you need a VPN with a dedicated or static IP address.
- Onion-over-VPN servers add an additional layer of protection to your regular VPN traffic by passing it through the Tor (Onion) network.
We tested each of these specialty servers for our NordVPN review. We found them all to perform as specified.
One of the newest of NordVPN’s advanced features is called Threat Protection. This is a specialized filtering system that goes way beyond a simple VPN ad blocker. Threat Protection will block ads, trackers, malware, and phishing domains. It will also scan downloaded documents and delete malicious ones. And it will protect your computer even when you are not connected to a VPN server.
Threat Protection works on Windows and macOS desktops. NordVPN offers Threat Protection Lite for users of Linux, Android, and iOS devices. It offers a subset of Threat Protection’s features, but only protects traffic that passes through a VPN server.
Split tunneling is another powerful NordVPN feature. With this feature, you can send some of your traffic through the VPN server and some of it directly to the internet outside of the VPN. NordVPN offers split tunneling in their Windows, Android, and Android TV VPN apps.
Perhaps the most popular feature of NordVPN is NordLynx, NordVPN’s custom implementation of the WireGuard VPN protocol. NordLynx is considered to be more secure than OpenVPN, as well as much faster. We recommend you enable NordLynx, which is easily done on the Connections page of NordVPN Settings:
DNS, the Domain Name Service, is an important consideration for internet security use that many people don’t think about. ISPs and other snoops can watch your DNS calls to see what websites you visit. NordVPN provides a private DNS service that cannot be monitored by outsiders, removing this privacy weakness.
In addition, NordVPN includes SmartPlay, a feature that combines the best of smart DNS with the security and privacy of NordVPN. Smart DNS is a technology that can give you access to geo-blocked content such as streaming media services located in another country. But smart DNS technology doesn’t provide any of the security and privacy that a VPN does.
NordVPN’s SmartPlay incorporates the benefits of smart DNS while retaining the benefits of a VPN. You can unblock geo-blocked content while still protecting your privacy. And you don’t need to do anything at all to put SmartPlay to work. Whenever you use NordVPN you automatically get the benefits of SmartPlay too.
Windscribe specialized servers and advanced features
It is reasonably safe to say that NordVPN has more servers than Windscribe. But we can’t be sure because Windscribe doesn’t give a concrete answer to this question. According to their website, “There’s no concrete number we can really give here because the amount of servers fluctuates…” All we can say for sure is that Windscribe has hundreds of servers in 62 different countries worldwide. Ten of those servers are accessible to users of the free version of Windscribe.
While NordVPN has more types of specialized servers and more advanced features than virtually any VPN, Windscribe has some tricks up its metaphorical sleeves too.
Windscribe doesn’t have the same range of specialized servers that NordVPN does. However, they do have some Static IP servers. With these servers, you get the same IP address every time you connect to one. However, that IP address is not uniquely assigned to you. Everyone using that server gets the same static IP address.
Windscribe offers their own version of double-VPN servers. It is called Double Hop and it works differently than a double-VPN server combination. In Double Hop, you can route your traffic through any two locations in the Windscribe network. You do it by connecting to one VPN server using the Windscribe desktop app, and a different VPN server using the Windscribe browser extension.
Windscribe also has R.O.B.E.R.T., their IP address and domain blocker that is somewhat similar to Threat Protection Lite. One thing that makes R.O.B.E.R.T. more interesting than the typical VPN ad blocker is that you can control the block lists that this feature uses to protect your device. What kinds of block lists are there? Here is a partial list of the available block lists:
This ability is a great idea since it gives you control over which types of sites are blocked and which are accessible. But Windscribe took this customization even further. They give you a Custom Access Rules list so you can add specific IP addresses and domains that the VPN will block or that it will allow through the filter.
If having in-depth control over the domains and IP addresses that appear on your devices, Windscribe is definitely a service you should consider.
Other advanced Windscribe features that we don’t have room to discuss in detail here include things like Cookie Monster, Split Personality, and Location Warp round out their offering.
Windscribe’s feature set is more extensive and advanced than most, but NordVPN’s feature set is a bit stronger overall.
Winner for feature sets: NordVPN
Security and encryption
Security for your data is one of the key features of any VPN service. Using strong encryption is necessary for that security, but by itself is not sufficient. As we will discuss here, while both of these VPNs have strong encryption, only one of them can be considered truly secure.
NordVPN goes to great lengths to ensure that your data is secure. All NordVPN apps have a built-in kill switch to prevent any data leaks if the connection between your device and the VPN server is lost. We’ve already talked about how Threat Protection and Threat Protection Lite work to keep malware and trackers at bay. But NordVPN goes even further.
NordVPN has updated all VPN servers to run in RAM-disk mode. In other words, the servers have no physical disk drives. No disk drives mean it is impossible for any user data to get saved on a server, even by accident. Even if a hostile power seizes a physical VPN server, there will be no way to get user data from that server.
Next for NordVPN on the server front is the ongoing rollout of colocated (self-owned) servers for all server locations. Colocated servers are servers that are located in a third-party’s data center, but owned and maintained by NordVPN. Owning and maintaining all their own servers lets NordVPN eliminate yet another potential risk to the security of their servers.
As far as the encryption goes, NordVPN secures all VPN traffic with an AES-256 cipher and HMAC SHA256 hash authentication while using the OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols. When you use NordLynx, your data is encrypted with modern encryption algorithms and the ChaCha20 cipher.
To confirm that everything is secure, NordVPN has commissioned third-party security audits by Versprite Security Consulting Services. These audits covered NordVPN infrastructure and included penetration testing to surface any vulnerabilities.
Windscribe uses quality encryption algorithms, and their apps include kill switches. So all is good as far as that goes. But as far as we can determine, Windscribe does not have diskless servers or colocated servers. More important for this discussion is that Windscribe had a disastrous server security breach in 2021.
Without getting deep into the details, two Windscribe servers were seized by a hostile force. Worse, the data on those servers was not encrypted, leading to the attacker getting a copy of Windscribe’s private key. That key gave the attacker the ability to “impersonate a Windscribe VPN server and capture VPN tunnel traffic.” In other words, the failure to encrypt the data on the servers broke the security of user data.
Windscribe has since come out with a plan for corrective actions, but the fact that they didn’t bother to encrypt all their servers in the first place is hard to forget. If the security of your data is important to you, think long and hard about using this VPN service.
Winner for security and encryption: NordVPN
Privacy and logging policies
As far as we are concerned, protecting your privacy is a vital function of any VPN. The world is full of individuals and organizations that want to get their hands on your private information. In this section, we take a look at how well each VPN protects your privacy.
An important factor in how a company protects your privacy is their logging policies. If logs of your activities exist, your privacy is at risk.
NordVPN privacy and logging policies
NordVPN is a no-logs VPN provider that does not log user activity or connections. NordVPN is one of the few VPNs that has had their logging policies audited and verified multiple times. The most recent audit was conducted by Deloitte, and completed in December 2022. The auditors concluded that,
These kinds of third-party audits are important. Some VPN services that have claimed to be no-logs have in fact logged user information, in some cases turning it over to the FBI. Examples of this include PureVPN, IPVanish, and HideMyAss,
These kinds of third-party audits are important. Some VPN services that have claimed to be no-logs have in fact logged user information, in some cases turning it over to the FBI. Examples of this kind of activity include HideMyAss, IPVanish, and PureVPN.
Windscribe privacy and logging policies
Windscribe has a privacy problem in that it is based in Canada. This jurisdiction is not a good choice for someone who wants online privacy. We’ll discuss why this is so in the next section.
Windscribe’s logging policies aren’t as good as a no-logs guarantee, but they make a lot of sense, particularly for a company offering a free VPN with monthly data limits. But what knocks them out in this section is their jurisdiction. Check the next section to see why.
Winner for privacy and logging practices: NordVPN
Jurisdictions: Are these VPNs safe?
When we talk about privacy, it is also essential to consider the jurisdiction where the VPN is based. This is crucial as it determines the laws and the governments the VPN company has to follow. Generally, it is best to avoid services that are situated in countries that are part of the Five Eyes alliance (United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand).
NordVPN’s jurisdiction is Panama
NordVPN is headquartered in Panama, which is an ideal jurisdiction for a VPN. That’s because Panama is not part of the European Union (EU) or a territory of the United States (US). Those governments have been known to force private email and VPN service providers to record user data and submit it to the relevant authorities. This has even happened in Switzerland (a country once famed for privacy). You can learn more about this data scandal in our ProtonVPN vs NordVPN comparison.
Windscribe’s jurisdiction is Canada
Canada is a bad privacy jurisdiction for several reasons. As I mentioned in the last section, Canada is one of the Five Eyes countries. These countries gather and share intelligence on other countries, and reportedly on each others’ citizens.
Canada also has laws that impose mandatory data retention requirements on companies within their jurisidiction. In recent years, the government has passed laws that effectively make it legal for government agencies, local telephone companies, even your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to spy on your online activities. Combatting copyright infringement is just one of the reasons the government claims that records of your online activities must be gathered and handed out to powerful interests, personal privacy be damned.
Note: See our guide to the best VPNs for Canada if you want more specifics.
Winner for jurisdictions: NordVPN
Finally, a category that Windscribe wins. As more and more of us use more and more internet-connected devices, we need to have more devices connected to the internet simultaneously. Here we look at how many simultaneous connections each VPN supports.
NordVPN allows you to have six simultaneous connections to their VPN servers. While you can install NordVPN apps on any number of devices, only a maximum of six devices can be connected to a VPN server at any one time.
Windscribe allows you to have unlimited simultaneous connections to their VPN servers. If you need more than six simultaneous connections, Windscribe could be your best option.
Note: While the Windscribe website doesn’t put a fixed limit on the number of devices you can have connected at one time, they do remind you that their service is for personal use only, and they reserve the right to ban you if they think you are misusing the service. See this page for the not-so-specific details.
Winner for simultaneous connections: Windscribe
Netflix and streaming
If you are one of the millions of people who wants a VPN to give you access to Netflix and other streaming services, this section is for you. We concentrate on two issues: download speed, and the ability to unblock geo-blocked content.
High download speed is important to ensure smooth video and audio. Streaming video using a low speed VPN on a slow internet connection can lead to reduced video resolution, as well as stuttering and pauses in the stream.
The ability to unblock geo-blocked content is important since most streaming services try to control access to their content based on your geographic location. While this ability may be important to the streaming services, most people simply want to be able to stream the content they want to see, without being blocked because they happen to be in the “wrong” location at the moment.
NordVPN for Netflix and streaming
NordVPN is one of the best VPNs in the world for streaming in general, and Netflix in particular. Here’s why:
- NordVPN is extremely fast, which leads to smooth HD video streaming, without any playback issues.
- Our testing has shown that NordVPN can unblock most streaming services and Netflix regional libraries, letting you stream the best content around the world, regardless of your current geographic location.
NordVPN works so well with Netflix that it is on our list of the best VPNs for Netflix. It handles other streaming services so well that it is also on our lists of the best VPNs for Amazon Prime, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, among others. In other words, NordVPN is one of the best VPNs for streaming.
Windscribe for Netflix and streaming
Windscribe is not the worst VPN for Netflix and streaming. In our tests, the company’s Windflix US and Windflix Canada servers could indeed unblock Netflix. That is more than most VPN services can claim.
The problem with using Windscribe for Netflix was the speed of the service. As you can see in the image above, the Windflix servers were extremely slow, which sometimes led to poor playback quality. Using Windscribe for occasional Netflix viewing should be fine, but this is certainly not among the best VPNs for Netflix.
The same could be said for using Windscribe with Amazon Firestick and Fire TV. Windscribe offers a dedicated app for this, but the poor download speed of Windscribe will likely give you less than optimal results.
When it comes to other streaming services, we’ve seen lots of reports that Windscribe has trouble reliably streaming services like Amazon Prime and Hulu. And even if you can get connected, there is still the speed issue to content with. Compare these issues with the impressive performance of NordVPN, and you know who is the winner in this category.
Winner for Netflix and streaming: NordVPN
When it comes to torrenting, the #1 priority is protecting your IP address. Because torrenting has an uncertain legal status in many jurisdictions, it is best to torrent with a VPN that can hide your IP address. Both Windscribe and NordVPN do a good job here.
That being the case, we move to the #2 priority when torrenting, which is download speed. If you know your IP address is safe when torrenting, your next priority will almost always be to get the torrent done and move on. With its vastly greater speed, NordVPN is easily the better choice here.
Winner for torrenting: NordVPN
The best VPN services offer 24/7 live chat support lines staffed by experienced personnel. This isn’t because they have lots of problems. It is to get your problem resolved as quickly as possible. If you ever have a problem with your VPN, it is likely that getting it fixed immediately will be vital. Waiting hours or days for email support, or dealing with poorly trained support personnel won’t get the job done.
NordVPN provides 24/7 live chat support with the support line staffed by experienced personnel.
Windscribe provides 24/7 AI bot support. Their support bot, called Garry, can handle some issues.
But in our testing, Garry became confused, and we eventually needed a human involved. At that point Garry gave us the option to open a ticket for email support. Someone replied within 24 hours, but this doesn’t compare to the NordVPN support experience.
Winner for customer support: NordVPN
Prices and refund policies
Now that you’ve seen what these two VPNs can do, you’re probably wondering what they cost. Let’s compare the subscription prices and refund policies.
Windscribe price and refund policy
Windscribe pricing is okay. It certainly isn’t a cheap VPN, but it isn’t horribly expensive either. One oddity of their pricing is the Build A Plan option. With this plan, you specify the Windscribe server locations that you want access to and the company charges you $1.00 per server location per month. Depending on your use case, this could either be an incredibly expensive option, or an incredibly economical one.
While Windscribe pricing is acceptable, their refund policy is pretty horrible.
First, you must request a refund in the first three days. The VPN industry standard is 30 days.
Second, you can get a refund only if you purchased directly from Windscribe.
Third, you can only get a refund if you have used less than 10GB of data.
While we think this refund policy is terrible, we do need to remember that Windscribe offers a free version of their service that you can use to thoroughly test the VPN before buying a subscription. Still, three days?
Note: You can learn more about the free version of Windscribe in our detailed Windscribe VPN review.
NordVPN price and refund policy
With all the performance and features packed into NordVPN, you would expect it to be expensive. But it isn’t. If you are willing to sign up for a 2-year subscription, NordVPN is actually a cheap VPN, with a price under $4.00 per month, assuming you use this NordVPN discount coupon.
Not only is NordVPN less expensive than Windscribe, NordVPN has a vastly superior refund policy. It is a very simple: 30-day money-back guarantee.
With better pricing and a better refund policy, NordVPN wins this final category too.
Winner for prices and refund policies: NordVPN
Conclusion: NordVPN wins in 2023
The conclusion here is clear. While Windscribe has some nice features and would do well against many of the VPNs on the market, NordVPN is the easy winner. It is better at most functions than Windscribe and most other VPNs, resulting in NordVPN appearing on our list of the best VPNs. To be thorough, here is a summary of our results for each category:
- VPN apps: A tie
- Speed tests: NordVPN
- Feature sets: NordVPN
- Security and encryption: NordVPN
- Privacy and logging policies: NordVPN
- Jurisdiction: NordVPN
- Simultaneous connections: Windscribe
- Netflix and streaming: NordVPN
- Torrenting: NordVPN
- Customer support: NordVPN
- Prices and refund policies: NordVPN
Given these results, there is really only one thing to do–try NordVPN now. You’ll get the best pricing possible for this leading VPN when you use this didcount coupon:
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If you still aren’t ready to take the plunge, check out these related articles. They’ll give you more insight into how NordVPN performs against other, VPN services.
This Windscribe vs NordVPN comparison report was last updated on February 16, 2023.
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