Top 5 Free (or Freemium) VPNs That Actually Work

You know you need a VPN to access your favorite Netflix content, hide your browsing habits from ISPs and governments, or protect your data from third party advertisers. But how does it actually work?

How VPNs Work

To put it simply, VPNs (which stands for Virtual Private Network, in case you’re wondering) work by connecting you to a secure network of servers. When you’re connected to this network, your traffic (Google searches, for example) is routed through the network to a server that acts as an intermediary. This server then sends your traffic request to the site you’re trying to access.

All while encrypting your data.

By doing this, both your computer (your network and anybody watching, such as your ISP) and the site you’re visiting can only see the VPN server. This detaches your internet activity from your IP address and keeps you hidden and secure.

Some VPNs do a better job of this than others. That’s why it’s always a good idea to check if you’re using a good, trusted, and secure VPN, especially when it’s free.

Why use a free VPN? What’s the difference between free and paid?

Glad you asked.

With our extensive testing of various VPN services, we’ve learned that there’s a distinct difference between free and paid VPNs. The bottom line is that you’ll always be better off with a paid VPN. In most cases, you get what you pay for.

Some VPNs start as low as $5-10 per month. If you’re serious about your privacy, this is a worthwhile expense.

But if paying is not an option, read on.

Generally speaking, free VPNs are the same as regular VPNs, but with restrictions such as:

  • Limited bandwidth
  • Limited access to servers and locations
  • Slower performance
  • Limited protocols and encryptions
  • No access to Netflix or torrent-friendly servers

Found a free VPN with high data allowance? It’s probably very slow and useless for streaming. Got a free VPN with good speeds? You’ll probably only have enough data allowance for one episode of your favorite Netflix show. Two if you’re lucky.

Since these VPN services need to earn money somehow, they’re also more likely to mine your data so that it can be sold on to third-parties like marketing agencies.

Not all free VPNs are like this and you’ll be pleased to know that there are some fantastic ones out there. We’ve tested these so that you don’t have to—just download them and go!

It’s worth noting that these are freemium VPNs. This means they have free plans in addition to their paid, premium options. This is because VPNs that are 100% free tend to be really bad because they have no way to make money, which means they have limited resources to develop their service.

Best Freemium VPNs

Without further ado, here are the 5 best freemium VPNs we’ve tested. For in-depth reviews on each one, check out our full list of VPN reviews.

1. Windscribe

Windscribe is our favorite freemium VPN service. It’s very popular with their users, too. A Canadian-based company, Windscribe operates servers all over the world and was founded in 2015 by Yegor Sak (who is quite active in talking to the community!).

Freemium Plan Details
Windscribe’s free version is pretty good as far as free VPN plans go. With the free plan, you get 10GB/month with access to servers across 10 different countries. You also get the same speeds as their premium users, and none of your information is monitored, mined, stored, logged, or sold on to third parties. Plus, there’s a built-in firewall and ad blocker.

Freemium Plan Limits
Limitations with Windscribe do begin to show up when you start to look at what’s on offer to premium members. For premium members, Windscribe offers over 50 different locations and there are no data caps.

Read our verdict of Windscribe here
Get Windscribe Free

2. Hide.me

Another relatively good freemium VPN service is Hide.me. The company’s based in Malaysia and calls itself the “world’s fastest VPN” that lets you “take back your freedom.” Bold statements, right?

Freemium Plan Details
When using Hide.me’s free service, you still get the good stuff like IP leak protection, a kill switch, one-click connect, and split tunneling. Malaysia is not part of any intergovernmental agreements (e.g. 5 Eyes) either, so your information is safe. Also, the connection speeds are respectable, and you won’t be bombarded with ads.

Freemium Plan Limits

On their free plan, you can only connect to certain countries and none of these include Europe or the United States. This might be a dealbreaker for some of you. In addition to this, your data transfer is capped at 500MB that only renews every two weeks.

Read our verdict of Hide.me here
Get Hide.me Free

3. Hotspot Shield

Hotspot Shield is a well-known VPN provider and you have probably come across them in one form or another before. They have apps for virtually everything, including browser extensions and mobile devices. While they don’t exactly get the best press online, it’s far from being a ‘bad’ freemium service, particularly when you compare it to what’s available!

Freemium Plan Details

When using the free version of Hotspot Shield, you will still manage to pull impressive download speeds and your traffic is protected and encrypted to the same extent as their premium plan.

Freemium Plan Limits

You’ll only be able to use one of their servers based in the United States, and this can only be accessed from a single device. When accessing content from certain sources, (e.g. the BBC or Hulu) you’ll see a premium payment wall. As for Netflix, it doesn’t work at all. They’ve also opted to include banner ads as part of the freemium plan, and you’re limited to 500MB per day. Still, this is far better than Hide.me’s 500MB every two weeks.

Read our verdict of Hotspot Shield here
Get Hotspot Shield Free

4. ProtonVPN

ProtonVPN hasn’t been around for all that long, but they’ve certainly made an impression on us. It’s a private and secure service that’s available across several devices, including Linux and iOS. Their founders are scientists who met each other at CERN and started the secure ProtonMail project, so they don’t mess around with their technology.

Freemium Plan Details

Built with security in mind, ProtonVPN has an ultra-secure core architecture that is backed up with AES-256 encryption, supplemented with 2048-bit RSA, HMAC, and SHA256. It uses the OpenVPN protocol, too, which is the industry standard for security. All this is available for both free and premium users. Unlike the other freemium plans we’ve looked at, ProtonVPN doesn’t have any data caps or limitations.

Freemium Plan Limits

Although there are no data limits, you can only use ProtonVPN’s free version on one device and, at the time of writing, there are only three countries that include free servers. It also doesn’t work with Netflix. Speeds are OK, but they’re not the best.

Read our verdict of ProtonVPN here
Get ProtonVPN Free

5. TunnelBear

One of the most newbie-friendly VPN services in existence, TunnelBear is known for all the right reasons. The best thing about TunnelBear by far is how easy it is to use; it’s a plug-in-and-play VPN that works without you needing to configure settings or manually install additional components. It’s worth noting that TunnelBear is now owned by McAfee, A US-based company, which brings with it some potential concerns.

Freemium Plan Details

Aside from how easy it is to use, TunnelBear’s free users benefit from not having any of their data or information logged and disseminated. Unlike Hotspot Shield, there are no ads, and the speeds are respectable.

Freemium Plan Limits

Data transfer is capped at 500MB per month on the freemium plan. Tweeting about the company gets you an extra 1GB (clever, right?). Like the other freemium VPNs we’ve reviewed, you can only access a small handful of locations and servers, and it doesn’t work with Netflix.

Read our verdict of TunnelBear here
Get TunnelBear Free

VPNs With Amazing Free Trials

Most VPN providers will offer some form of free trial for their premium VPN service. In almost all cases, a free trial will give you complete access to the VPN product for a certain amount of time. That means anywhere between 1 and 30 days. After the trial period, you’ll have to subscribe to a premium plan to keep using the service.

These VPNs offer the full premium product during their free trial period:

1. Trust.Zone

Trust.Zone’s free trial lets you use their VPN service for 3 days. You’ll be able to access 141 locations—not quite as many as the 164 offered to their subscribers—and unlimited bandwidth.

Also included is 1GB of data transfer and one simultaneous connection at any given time. (Premium subscribers get unlimited data transfer and can have three simultaneous connections.)

Although the Trust.Zone trial is only for 3 days, it still provides you with an opportunity to try out their VPN and test out over 140 different locations.

Read our verdict of Trust.Zone here
Get Trust.Zone Free

2. HideMyAss

HideMyAss is owned and operated by McAfee, the California-based security technology company. There’s a 7-day free trial on offer for all new customers. After the 7 days, you will be automatically billed for a 12-month subscription, so make sure to stop this by canceling before the trial period ends.

During the trial period, customers can access the full HideMyAss VPN product. This includes total privacy and protection, strong encryption, OpenVPN protocol, and consistent server speeds in locations all around the world.

Read our verdict of HideMyAss here
Get HideMyAss Free

3. VyprVPN

VyprVPN offers a 3-day trial for either one of their paid plans. So you can choose between the regular plan for up to 3 devices, or the premium plan which gives you a 5-device limit, access to the cloud server, and the Chameleon protocol which blocks VPN blockers.

Its slick desktop app is easy to use and VyprVPN delivers on speed, features, and a variety of locations. Full access to the VyprVPN product includes all the great security features paid-up members get, such as the choice of encryption or protocols used.

Read our verdict of VyprVPN here
Get VyprVPN Free

VPNs With Perfect Money-Back Guarantees

Instead of a free trial, some VPNs offer money-back guarantees. This may be a better option since the “trial period” tends to be longer. As long as you’re willing to pay upfront and get the money back later, this is essentially a type of free trial you can take advantage of.

Typically, the money-back guarantee is valid between 7 to 30 days. If you purchase a VPN subscription and aren’t satisfied, you can get your money back simply by asking for a refund within the given time period.
By doing this repeatedly, you can use premium VPN services for months without spending any money.

Here are three great VPNs that have awesome money-back guarantees:

1. ExpressVPN

Often called the best VPN money can buy, ExpressVPN offers their first-time customers with a 30-day money-back guarantee, no questions asked. Their guarantee lasts for exactly 30 days: if you place an order on the 1st of the month, you can contact customer support for a refund at any point before the 30th.

Money-back guarantees are often much better because you get to access the full product rather than a watered-down version, and this is the case with ExpressVPN. You’ll be able to access awesome features such as:

  • Foreign Netflix content
  • Super-fast speeds on ultra-secure servers
  • Worldwide locations
  • 24-hour live chat support

Read our verdict of ExpressVPN here
Visit ExpressVPN

2. NordVPN

Just like ExpressVPN, NordVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee that lets you explore the full NordVPN service without any restrictions (they also have a free trial, but this is only for 7 days). Their customer support team is available 24/7 and you can get your money back without any questions asked.

NordVPN is another fantastic VPN service that is virtually identical to ExpressVPN in all but name. It regularly features highly on VPN review sites because of its:

  • Secure, strong encryption and protocols
  • Compatibility with Netflix
  • No logging and torrent-friendly policy
  • Double data protection

One downside is that NordVPN is more expensive if you want to pay month-to-month as opposed to annually. So that’s something to consider if think you might subscribe to their service long-term.

Read our verdict of NordVPN here
Visit NordVPN

3. Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access is a well-known VPN provider that offers new customers a 7-day money-back guarantee. Although this timeframe pales in comparison to Express or Nord, it’s still enough time to get familiar with the service and decide whether it’s for you.

All refund requests must be made in writing and submitted via email to helpdesk@privateinternetaccess.com.

Private Internet Access offers fast speeds, a variety of locations, and a budget-friendly price. They don’t log or keep any information. You can also make Bitcoin payments.

Read our verdict of PIA here
Visit PIA

VPNs Don’t Need to Cost Money

If you look around and do your research, it’s easy to get all the benefits of a VPN without paying any money. While we do recommend investing in a good VPN if you plan to use one in the long-run, for occasional or temporary use there are many options available.

Free VPNs, free trials, and money-back guarantees all let you access a VPN at no cost. Obviously, the quality of the service, as well as the service limitations, will vary greatly depending on which plan you go with (hint: premium VPNs are always better). We hope we’ve helped you go over some of these differences in this post.

For those of you that simply want the best with no hassle, check our list of the best VPN reviews.

ProtonVPN Review

This is a review we’ve been dying to write.

ProtonVPN was founded by the world’s foremost security experts. And as such, it has a reputation for being great on privacy and encryption. In fact, their secure core servers are located in countries chosen specifically for their strong privacy laws.

On top of that, they have stellar product documentation and a slick product interface–all of which made us want to test this out for ourselves ASAP.

ProtonVPN Specs & Offers

VPN Name ProtonVPN
Leak Test No Leaks
Logging Policy No Logs
Speed Fastest
Torrenting Torrenting & P2P Allowed
Netflix Unblocks Netflix
Jurisdiction Outside of Eyes
Servers / Countries 450 / 33
Max Connections 2-10
Kill Switch Has Kill Switch
Anonymous Payment Methods Crypto
Free Trial Available
Refunds 30 Days
Customer Support Email, Ticket (Quick Response Time)
Price Starting From $4.00

ProtonVPN Pros

Servers and Locations: Quality over quantity with over 450+ servers to choose from

The quantity of servers is a valuable measurement since a VPN organization can turn up new servers with the end goal to meet clients’ needs. Since our last update, they’ve gone above 450 servers—up from 300.

The more servers an organization offers, the more likely it is to find a fast and stable connection.

ProtonVPN offers its users a gaunt option list for its servers located in 33 different countries. Users all over the world still find it fascinating and worth their money.

It’s probably because of the Secure Core Servers that they offer. Not all servers have this feature. These servers “defend against network attacks that other VPNs cannot defend against.” We studied up on this subject and for the layman, it simply means they have multihop servers. The initial traffic is simply sent to a server out of any censorship and surveillance-heavy countries like China, Russia, or the ones in Five Eyes.

That’s one way to stay ahead of the competition!

VPN Speed and Performance: One of the fastest we’ve seen

When you utilize a VPN to anchor your web activity, your information won’t take the fastest, most ideal course. Going through the motions of a VPN server and the additional information links tends to build latency while lessening transfer and download speeds.

ProtonVPN’s speeds didn’t seem so good when we ran our initial tests in late 2018…

We ran a speed test in 2018 and got some terrible results.

But as we do go back and check in on VPNs from time to time, we found ourselves testing ProtonVPN’s speeds again…

Fantastic news! Our speeds with ProtonVPN on is nearly identical to our baseline speeds without a VPN turned on.

We probably connected to a bad server or was just having a bad day in the previous testing round.

It’s safe to say, ProtonVPN is among the fastest VPNs.

Sign-Up Process: Easy peasy

ProtonVPN has a very simple, user-friendly process.

To sign up for a free trial, simply go to their website, click on any of the plans and fill out the necessary details.

You only need to fill in your email address, username and password to create a free account.

After that, a verification code will be sent to your email. Just type that up and hang tight… you’re almost there!

Once your account is verified, download the application, connect and enjoy the 7-day free trial.

Product Interface: Simply beautiful

ProtonVPN has an eye for clean and straightforward interfaces.

From their website to the actual application itself:

Their layout is neat and functional, allowing users to filter their server options or just freely scroll down through their server list.

It takes a few seconds to initialize the connection and assign an IP but once you’re connected, it should look like this:

There’s so much information packed in this VPN client.

We can start from the top left where it shows your account status. If you’re using a free trial account it will count down until expiration. In our case, we have a subscription so this information isn’t displayed.

Then there’s your session information – the server name, IP and the load it’s under. It also shows a brief upload/download speed.

On the “map” portion of the client, you can see some additional traffic information including the total downloaded and uploaded figures. There’s even a nice graph that visually shows your session activity.

If you have any concerns or issues, you can always click the upper left corner of the application to find settings. Customize according to your preference and you’re good to go!

What we really love about ProtonVPN’s client is the profiles.

You can set a custom profile to use a specific protocol and server(s) you want to use.

The smart thing is to set up profiles for specific purposes. For instance, you can have one profile for:

  • Netflix/streaming
  • P2P/torrenting
  • Visiting the Dark Net
  • Etc.

And it’s all just one-click connect from the lefthand side.

Why haven’t other VPNs caught onto this feature? We don’t know but this is something we’d like to award 10/10 points to. It’s one of the reasons why ProtonVPN is one our top picks.

Torrenting Policy: Torrent away to your heart’s content?

Torrent addicts may rejoice because this VPN allows P2P connections! All you have to do is make sure you’re connected to a server that supports P2P traffic.

In case you’re on a non-P2P supported server, ProtonVPN has a firewall in place to keep your information private. They’ve really thought of everything, so you can rest easy…

The only downside is the speed. We know people love fast download speeds. In that case, check out these best VPNs for torrenting.

Logging Policy: As reliable as a Swiss watch

Swiss law directly exempts ProtonVPN from having to save any user connection logs. Neither can it direct them to perform targeted logging.

What this means for users is that their private browsing history actually really stays private and under no circumstances can be transmitted to any third parties. So you can browse away, free from any worries!

IP and DNS Leak Test: Squeaky clean

There have been some known leaks for ProtonVPN, but we made sure to still try it out for ourselves.

Still, situations may vary from time to time. Don’t forget to test it for yourself to be extra secure!

The results are pretty clean for the IP leak tests. The same can be said for the DNS leak test.

Device Compatibility: Wherever you go, I will follow…

You can use ProtonVPN on desktop and mobile devices like Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. And for iOS users that have been waiting… the beta version just launched, so you’re good to go!

Customer Support: Extremely fast and knowledgeable emails and tickets

What we like about ProtonVPN is their incredible library of support documents, in addition to the resources and tutorials already on the web.

To be honest, we could use some more content on the FAQ page. They’re also reachable through various social media channels, including Reddit and Facebook. One bummer is that ProtonVPN does not have a Live Chat system. Instead, users may email them for inquiries.

One neat feature we’d like to show is the VPN client’s built-in bug report feature. You won’t have to create a new ticket or start composing a new email—you can just do it all straight from ProtonVPN. It will automatically attach your local log files and you’ll have the chance to write your own feedback.

We had a slight technical issue on our end when we were testing various servers (don’t worry, everything works out of the box) and had to contact ProtonVPN’s support this way. Their response was incredibly fast and professional. Not to mention filled with knowledge!

ProtonVPN’s support team is legit!

Even though we didn’t talk via live chat, the whole conversation sort of felt better. We didn’t hold our necks out for a response (because we expected slower response times due to them using a ticket system) but to our surprise, they replied within 5 minutes every single time.

Kill Switch: Keep one handy at all times

Both ProtonVPN’s desktop and mobile applications come with an implicit Kill Switch feature.

We expected as much from a company like ProtonVPN. It’s a simple concept yet so many fail to deliver. ProtonVPN will keep you safe.

ProtonVPN Neutral Points

Netflix Test: USA only

We’ve read that this VPN doesn’t allow Netflix. But with a glint of hope, we tested it out to find out if it truly blocks that precious site that allows us to binge-watch and relax through an Asian server.

With an unwavering spirit to find a VPN that works with Netflix, we decided to try and run another server. We chose the United States of America, the country where this blessed streaming website is based…

And it does work, though not all servers may give you access to Netflix. But hey! At least the USA does.

If you want more options than just the US, we recommend our top picks for VPNs that unblock Netflix. Or just go straight to NordVPN who has Netflix for 5 countries.

Refund policy: 30-day money-back guarantee

In the event that you’ve decided that there’s no use for security in this crippling place called the Internet, you may sever your ties with ProtonVPN through a 30-day money-back guarantee!

However, the company is only obligated to issue a prorated refund in the original currency of payment and only if you’ve signed up through their website. Refunds will be processed within 14 days of the request in the original currency of payment.

They do state they may consider refunds beyond a 30-day window…

Payment Methods: Go classic or go crypto

Users may pay through PayPal and other card services that are generally fuss-free.

It’s safe to say ProtonVPN offers a decent amount of options for users… even for those who own cryptocurrency.

ProtonVPN may accept cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

It would be a little strange if they didn’t offer Bitcoin payments since they are pushing for privacy.

Product Documentation: A treasure trove of tutorials

ProtonVPN has a great blog where users can learn about basic terms in the VPN industry like hacking and encryption, as well as read tutorials on how to unblock websites such as Youtube, and yes… even porn.

They frequently update users with what’s new in the VPN industry, with lots of tips about how to protect your private data.

In line with this, they also provide information on getting started, how to use the VPN service, basic troubleshooting, and guides for your devices.

Encryption and Protocols: Extra-secure, just in case

As a service, ProtonVPN prioritizes the highest encryption methods and protocols. According to their site, the system activity is encrypted with AES-256, key trade is finished with 2048-piece RSA, and HMAC with SHA256 is utilized for message validation.

They deliberately choose their encryption cipher suites to incorporate ones that have Perfect Forward Secrecy.

Basically, every new connection generates a new encryption key, so even if the key gets compromised, you’ll be safe as soon as you connect to a new session. It’s like changing the lock every time you use the door.

ProtonVPN utilizes OpenVPN standards. On Windows applications, the default is set to the UDP protocol, but you can change it to TCP as well. For iOS, macOS, and Android, you’re stuck with IKEv2 with no option to change protocols. We want more control!

ProtonVPN Cons

Pricing & Plans: Cheaper if you buy in bulk

This VPN allows Netflix (only on the USA server) and torrenting, as well as outstanding privacy protection. ProtonVPN is a premium VPN service in all regards.

Their prices are somewhere in the middle of expensive and affordable, starting at $4 per month with limited features. You’ll save a lot more money if you go with the long-term plan, as usual. The yearly plan takes off a whopping 25% off your bill.

That gives you a solid VPN deal for as low as $48 per year!

If you’re here for privacy, as one should expect from the team behind ProtonMail, you should definitely sign up for the Visionary plan. The Visionary plan includes ProtonMail Visionary and costs $24 per month.

If you don’t require a secure email client and are fine with Gmail or some other alternatives, then the Plus plan is the one to get. Averaging around $8 per month, it’s still not as cheap as some premium VPNs but you are only signing up for a year. Other VPNs can charge low prices because you have to pay 2-5 years in advance with zero promise of good performance for the entire duration.

If you’re still undecided, you can check out their free trial which will get you 7 days of use after one quick sign-up process.

ProtonVPN as a Business

ProtonVPN is a VPN built by the people behind ProtonMail who operate under Proton Technologies AG.

The organization is solid on the security basics. Although it “only” offers servers in 33 nations, a considerable number of these countries are chosen for their strict security laws.

The individual servers are claimed and set up by ProtonVPN and associated with the web utilizing the organization’s own system.

The whole organization builds products around securing communications. Whether it’s email or VPN, they want to encrypt your communications channels so people can’t snoop about. They are in the business of privacy and offer some very capable services.

Jurisdiction

ProtonVPN is based in Switzerland, a country with very strict privacy laws.

You can rest easy knowing that it is not part of the Five, Nine or Fourteen Eyes Alliance, the massive international surveillance operation.

ProtonVPN Conclusion: Strong choice for security

Compared to other options like ExpressVPN, ProtonVPN doesn’t have the same vast selection of servers. That may be a downside for some of you, but the service definitely makes up for the lack of numbers in the quality department. We don’t need 100 different servers in the same area if we can do with 10 that perform at the highest level.

ProtonVPN is a developing VPN service, so it has a lot of great potential to match those at the top of the market. They’ve even tested out a partnership program with Firefox. That said, this VPN has a long way to go for entertainment options (should they want to pursue it).

ProtonVPN has staked its claim on being a security-centered organization. This makes it distinct from other VPNs that underline fastest speeds or having Netflix access, yet they somehow offer lightning-fast speeds and Netflix access better than those who do promise such features.

Another differentiating factor is the VPN’s surprisingly smart layout. Everything makes sense.

All in all, the company’s emphasis on security protocols, a reasonable price range, and a brilliant interface make ProtonVPN a very nice option—especially if your priority is privacy.

For these reasons, ProtonVPN is ranked amongst the best VPNs. We highly recommend using ProtonVPN.

Visit ProtonVPN

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