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Best VPN Services of 2019

By Simon Migliano | Updated October 14, 2019

Illustration of a podium

There are hundreds of VPN services on the market: some good, some bad, and some downright dangerous.

You really don’t want to end up using an unsafe one that puts your online security and privacy at risk.

But we can help. We tested and reviewed 78 VPN services extensively to answer the ultimate question:

What is the best VPN for 2019?

The five VPN services we recommend below are the most impressive we’ve seen (and they’re all very easy to install and use).

All of these trusted VPNs are fast, private, and safe. You’ll be able to download files safely, use public WiFi securely, unblock Netflix from anywhere, and even bypass the strictest online censorship.

Sounds great, right?

Keep reading for our honest review of each VPN provider, followed by helpful answers to popular questions from our readers.

The Most Important Factors When We Review a VPN

  1. Privacy and security features
  2. Download (and upload) connection speeds
  3. Logging policies, IP leak protection & jurisdiction
  4. Netflix, torrenting and P2P availability
  5. Ease-of-use and customer support
  6. Cost and value for money

Wondering why you should trust our reviews?
See How We Review VPNs.

The Best VPNs for Privacy & Security

1. ExpressVPN - Best Overall

Ranked #1 of 78 VPNs

  1. Exceptionally fast VPN speeds
  2. Unblocks Netflix, BBC iPlayer & more
  3. Unrestricted torrenting/P2P traffic
  4. Strong logging policy & no IP/DNS/WebRTC leaks
  5. Connect to over 3,000 VPN servers in 94 countries
  6. Very easy to install and use
  1. Shorter plans are expensive
  2. No kill switch for iOS
  • Best Price

    $6.67/mo over 15 Months

    See all plans

  • Top Speedi

    85Mbps same city speed

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

  • Servers

    94 countries, 3,000+ servers

  • Compatible with

    • Windows logoWindows
    • Mac logoMac
    • iOS logoiOS
    • Android logoAndroid
    • Linux logoLinux

The Bottom Line

ExpressVPN is a very safe and private VPN provider – in fact, it’s the absolute best VPN service on the market, and our extensive testing proves it.

As a whole package ExpressVPN simply can’t be beaten; its consistency is exceptional, with fast and reliable VPN speeds around the world.

ExpressVPN is ideal for torrenting, and it also unlocks Netflix (including the US content library), BBC iPlayer, and other popular streaming services with ease.

Not to mention that it is our number one VPN choice for bypassing censorship blocks in countries like China.

ExpressVPN comes with top-notch security features like Network Lock, which is essentially a kill switch to keep you protected if your network connection drops. This isn’t available for iOS, though.

Based in the British Virgin Islands, ExpressVPN doesn’t collect any personally identifiable logs, and we didn’t detect any IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks on any of its custom VPN apps during our tests.

In fact, ExpressVPN’s logging policy was put to the test in December 2017 when one of its Turkish servers was seized by the Turkish authorities. They couldn’t find any user connection logs.

ExpressVPN has one of the most user-friendly interfaces out there, and is very easy to install and set up on all devices including your desktop, smartphones, games consoles, and streaming devices.

At a higher, but still affordable price, ExpressVPN is our highest recommended VPN for 2019.

For a more in-depth look, read our full ExpressVPN review.

2. NordVPN - Best Alternative

Ranked #2 of 78 VPNs

  1. Very fast VPN speeds
  2. Unlocks Netflix, BBC iPlayer & more
  3. No logs & No IP, DNS or WebRTC leaks
  4. Torrenting & P2P allowed on many servers
  5. Huge server network (over 5,600 servers in 60 countries)
  6. Simple custom VPN apps for range of platforms
  1. Extra VPN protocols for Windows & Android require manual config
  2. Obfuscated VPN servers don't always work in China
  3. Streaming doesn't work on Amazon Firestick & router connections
  • Best Price

    $3.49/mo over 36 Months

    See all plans

  • Top Speedi

    90Mbps same city speed

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

  • Servers

    60 countries, 5,600+ servers

  • Compatible with

    • Windows logoWindows
    • Mac logoMac
    • iOS logoiOS
    • Android logoAndroid
    • Linux logoLinux

The Bottom Line

NordVPN is one of the safest and most secure VPN services we’ve tested.

Headquartered in privacy-friendly Panama, NordVPN has the biggest server network on the market: over 5,600 fast and secure VPN servers spread across 60 countries.

NordVPN works very well with BBC iPlayer, Netflix, and other major streaming services on desktop and mobile devices. You can expect consistently fast download speeds for fast buffer-free streaming in HD or even 4K.

However, recently it stopped working with these streaming services on Amazon Fire TV and through router connections.

Nevertheless, NordVPN has some excellent privacy features, such as a VPN kill switch, Double VPN and AES-256 encryption. NordVPN doesn’t keep any user logs, either.

In October 2018, NordVPN proved its commitment to transparency and privacy by allowing a team from PricewaterhouseCoopers AG (PwC) to inspect its VPN servers and code in order to carry out an independent audit of the logging policy.

This audit was the first of its kind in the VPN industry and has paved the way for other VPN services to do the same.

Just like ExpressVPN, NordVPN has custom VPN apps for a wide range of devices and you can use the VPN service on up to six at one time (one more than ExpressVPN).

NordVPN is a decent choice for China, but its obfuscation tools aren’t as reliable as ExpressVPN’s.

Nevertheless, NordVPN is a great alternative to ExpressVPN – and much cheaper too.

For a more in-depth look, read our full NordVPN review.

3. IPVanish - Best for Fire TV Stick

Ranked #3 of 78 VPNs

  1. Impressive VPN speeds
  2. Works with Netflix
  3. All VPN servers permit torrenting & P2P traffic
  4. Strict no-logs policy & no IP/DNS/WebRTC leaks
  5. Best VPN app for Fire TV Stick
  6. Over 1,300 VPN servers in 50 countries
  1. Doesn't work with BBC iPlayer
  2. No browser extensions
  3. Doesn't work in China
  • Best Price

    $4.12/mo over 24 Months

    See all plans

  • Top Speedi

    84Mbps same city speed

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

  • Servers

    50 countries, 1,300 servers

  • Compatible with

    • Windows logoWindows
    • Mac logoMac
    • iOS logoiOS
    • Android logoAndroid
    • Linux logoLinux

The Bottom Line

IPVanish is a very good VPN service, and one of the fastest VPNs around. It is particularly popular with torrenters, Kodi fans, and Firestick users.

The IPVanish server network isn’t huge – around 1,300 servers – but the number of IP addresses available is: there’s over 40,000.

IPVanish has a kill switch on both Windows and MacOS devices, and its strict no-logs policy is reassuring, especially as IPVanish is based in the privacy-unfriendly US.

No IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks were detected in our extensive testing, either.

IPVanish does work with Netflix but disappointingly it doesn’t work with BBC iPlayer and it won’t beat censorship in countries like China and the UAE.

Like its top rivals, IPVanish is available on all popular platforms and devices, and you can use it on a very generous 10 devices at once with just one subscription.

However, the desktop apps look fairly unpolished and may be trickier to use for beginners than those of our top two VPN picks.

The IPVanish money-back guarantee isn’t great either – you’ll only have seven days before the refund period expires.

While it’s not the best VPN for streaming, IPVanish is still a great VPN choice for privacy-focused users who seek fast encrypted connections on all their devices.

For a more in-depth look, read our full IPVanish review.

4. CyberGhost - Best Value

Ranked #4 of 78 VPNs

  1. Very fast & reliable VPN speeds
  2. Unlocks Netflix & BBC iPlayer with dedicated servers
  3. Some VPN servers optimized for P2P/torrenting traffic
  4. Strict no-logs policy & no IP/DNS/WebRTC leaks
  5. Big server network (5,600+ servers covering 90 countries)
  6. Simple, sleek custom VPN apps for range of devices
  1. Not all VPN servers allow torrenting/P2P traffic
  2. Not recommended for Kodi on Firestick
  3. Doesn't work in China
  • Best Price

    $2.75/mo over 36 Months

    See all plans

  • Top Speedi

    87Mbps same city speed

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

  • Servers

    90 countries, 6,200+ servers

  • Compatible with

    • Windows logoWindows
    • Mac logoMac
    • iOS logoiOS
    • Android logoAndroid
    • Linux logoLinux

The Bottom Line

CyberGhost is one of the oldest VPN services around, and currently one of the cheapest – it’s also very safe to use, too.

CyberGhost’s 5,600+ servers form one of the biggest VPN server networks available. It includes dedicated streaming servers that work brilliantly with Netflix and BBC iPlayer.

In fact, CyberGhost is one of the best VPN services when it comes to fast, unrestricted streaming in HD or even 4K.

CyberGhost VPN’s torrenting/P2P optimized servers work well too, but it’s a shame that Australia and a host of other country-specific servers don’t allow torrenting or P2P traffic.

A range of security features like the automatic VPN kill switch and a no-logs policy make CyberGhost a superb choice for privacy.

We’ve never detected any IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks in our comprehensive tests.

CyberGhost provides custom VPN apps for all major platforms and you can use the VPN on up to seven devices at once – that’s more than average.

Overall CyberGhost is a very strong VPN choice for those on a budget. Just don’t expect it to work in high censorship countries like China.

For a more in-depth look, read our full CyberGhost review.

5. PrivateVPN - Best Free Trial

Ranked #5 of 78 VPNs

  1. No logging & no IP, DNS & WebRTC leaks
  2. Consistently fast VPN speeds
  3. No limits on torrenting/P2P traffic
  4. Works with Netflix, BBC iPlayer & more
  5. 7,000 individual IP addresses in 59 countries
  6. Very simple, user-friendly VPN apps
  1. No browser extensions available
  2. Very small server network (150 VPN servers in total)
  3. Live chat isn't always available
  • Best Price

    $2.88/mo over 15 Months

    See all plans

  • Top Speedi

    86Mbps same city speed

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

  • Servers

    59 countries, 150+ servers

  • Compatible with

    • Windows logoWindows
    • Mac logoMac
    • iOS logoiOS
    • Android logoAndroid
    • Linux logoLinux

The Bottom Line

PrivateVPN is a relative newcomer in the VPN world, but in that short time it has become one of the highest-rated VPN service providers.

PrivateVPN’s connections are fast and reliable around the world, and unrestricted access to Netflix and BBC iPlayer (and more) make it a great VPN choice for streaming fans.

Torrenting is allowed on the entire server network, with servers optimized especially for P2P traffic too, and low pings make PrivateVPN a great pick for gamers.

PrivateVPN’s server network is very small (only 150 servers) compared to its top rivals, however this shortcoming is compensated somewhat by the 7,000 IP addresses available to PrivateVPN users.

We have found PrivateVPN to live up to its name: it’s very private and secure. PrivateVPN doesn’t log user data, it has a working VPN kill switch, and it won’t leak your true location.

PrivateVPN’s apps are available on a range of devices, including Amazon Fire TV Stick, and they’re all really easy to set up and use.

While all of our other top VPN recommendations for 2019 have 24/7 live chat support, PrivateVPN’s support is intermittent at best.

PrivateVPN has a lot going for it and we’ve been impressed with this VPN so far, although it does have some way to go before it can challenge the top four VPN services ranked above it.

For a more in-depth look, read our full PrivateVPN review.

Popular Questions

What Is a VPN?

An illustration of how a Virtual Private Network (VPN) works

In a nutshell, a Virtual Private Network – VPN for short – is a piece of software that routes your internet traffic to its own servers through an encrypted tunnel before the traffic reaches the website, service, or app you want to access.

What does that mean for you, though?

This process ensures that your browser traffic remains secure and private, preventing your ISP or any other third parties from snooping on your online activities.

You might have heard about VPNs in the context of the workplace. Business VPNs allow employees to access the office network remotely and securely.

On the other hand, personal VPNs – the ones we test and review – are slightly different.

Personal VPNs are generally used by individuals who don’t need remote access to files on a home or work network.

They are used for personal privacy and security reasons, instead.

We strongly believe that everyone should use a VPN to protect themselves online.

If you’d like to know more details about what a VPN is and how it works, please read our guide ‘What Is a VPN?’.

VPNs are clearly very useful tools, but are they really legal?

The answer is yes, VPN services are legal in almost every country except for a handful listed below.

These are the countries where using a VPN is illegal:

  • Belarus
  • Iraq
  • North Korea
  • Turkmenistan

And these are the countries were VPNs are restricted:

  • China
  • Iran
  • Oman
  • Russia
  • Turkey
  • UAE

To know more about the legality of using VPNs, read our ‘Are VPNs Legal?’ guide.

If you’re located outside of the above countries, you can download and use a VPN without any legal repercussions.

Why Should You Use a VPN?

Now you know what a VPN is you’re probably wondering: why should you use one?

Well, there are loads of reasons to use a VPN. Here are the main benefits:

1Keeps your online activities private from your ISP, the government, and snoopers

Without a VPN, your internet service provider (ISP) logs everything you do online.

If that’s not unsettling enough, under many unsuspecting jurisdictions ISPs are forced to track and store customers’ online activities and hand it over to the authorities if asked to.

That’s pretty scary.

In some countries, like the United States, ISPs are also permitted to collect, share, and sell your personal data and information about your online habits to third parties, including advertisers.

They can do this without your explicit consent. That’s a huge infringement of your privacy.

If you want to prevent this from happening you need to use a trusted VPN service.

When you connect to a VPN server, your internet provider is unable to see beyond that server and therefore can’t track what you do online.

2Allows you to bypass online geo-restrictions

You already know that the internet provides a wealth of information and content, but did you know that not all of it is accessible from where you live?

That applies to every country.

When you connect to a VPN server your real IP address is replaced with the IP address of the server.

You can unlock geo-restricted content by connecting to a VPN server in the region where that content is readily available, as the website will think you’re really in that country.

Just make sure the VPN service you choose comes with VPN servers in your desired countries or cities.

One popular example of geo-restricted content is Netflix.

Netflix libraries are different in every country, varying in size and content drastically from one to another.

If you aren’t in the US but want to access US Netflix – which has the biggest Netflix content library in the world – you’ll need to use a VPN.

3Protects you from hackers on public WiFi

Public WiFi hotspots are dangerous.

Why?

Because they can be vulnerable to hackers who might try to steal your personal information.

Hackers can conduct a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack on your device, eavesdrop, intercept your private data, or carry out a phishing scam.

While convenient, free WiFi networks in restaurants, coffee shops, department stores, and on public transport are all very risky.

Using a VPN can help stop hackers from carrying out these attacks.

This means can use the internet while out and about without the worry of being spied upon or having your details stolen.

4Helps you to beat censorship imposed by the government, your ISP, your workplace, or school

Censorship seems to be everywhere now – it’s no longer restricted to the most authoritarian regimes like China.

The owner of any internet network can impose blocks to specific websites and apps. The most common examples are in the workplace, schools, or libraries.

Governments can force ISPs to block websites and apps, too.

In China, for instance, Google, Facebook, and Twitter are all blocked at a government-level, along with thousands of other websites.
The best – and safest – way to get around censorship blocks is to use a good VPN.

Your VPN connection will take you to the censored website as opposed to your internet provider.

Not all VPNs work in China, though – in fact only a tiny minority have what it takes to beat the country’s sophisticated censorship. If you want to use a VPN in China, check out our list of VPNs that still work there.

Does a VPN Really Protect You?

Illustration of a laptop computer with a shield in front of it

Yes, using a VPN does protect you from numerous threats online.

Good VPNs can keep you safe from hackers and online surveillance by encrypting your personal data and hiding your IP address.

There are some threats that you will need a different set of tools for, though.

Some VPN services come with the ability to block pop-ups, but you’ll want to install your own ad-block extension to help with that.

VPNs are not antivirus software, either.

However, some VPNs do provide some real-time malware protection.

While a VPN may help prevent harmful or malicious software reaching your computer in some circumstances, you should always use dedicated antivirus software.

What Can’t You Do With a VPN?

Using a VPN is essential for your online security and privacy, and it allows you to access content from all over the globe.

But even VPNs come with limits.

Here are some things that a VPN can’t do:

  • Block ads. Some VPNs come with an ad-blocker, but if yours doesn’t then it’s definitely worth getting one.
  • Provide antivirus protection. So, be sure to install a trusted antivirus software, even if your VPN comes with a malware blocking feature.
  • Store all of your passwords together securely. You’ll need a password manager for this.
  • Increase your maximum internet speed, unless your ISP is throttling your connection.

Can You Trust Your VPN Service?

Illustration of two shields, one is green with a tick, the other is red with a cross

It depends.

When you use a VPN all your internet traffic flows through the VPN provider’s servers. So you want to be sure that you’re using a VPN worthy of your trust.

How do you know if a VPN service is to be trusted?

A good, trustworthy VPN service retains no logs, properly encrypts your traffic, refuses to hand over user data to those it doesn’t belong to, and is based in a secure and safe jurisdiction.

A bad VPN collects extensive user logs, mines and sells data, manipulates your traffic, and can even share your browsing data with the government and any number of third parties.

Before you make a decision on which VPN to subscribe to you should make sure you fully understand what encryption it uses, what sort of data it logs, and what legal jurisdiction it falls under (follow the links to go to the relevant guides).

We make sure to cover all of these important areas in our independent VPN reviews.

There have been several cases of VPN providers abusing their power, so here are some noteworthy VPN controversies:

Hotspot Shield

Hotspot Shield has been embroiled in a few controversies. In August 2017, allegations were made that claimed that Hotspot Shield has been injecting affiliate links into users’ traffic in order to monetize it.

At the time, this was fully disclosed in the privacy policy, and it has since been completely rewritten. In February 2018, a security researcher found a vulnerability that allowed hackers to see users’ true locations via their WiFi network name, but Hotspot Shield addressed and fixed the issue.

Hola Free

This peer-to-peer proxy service that falsely brands itself as a VPN is bad news all around. The free version doesn’t encrypt your traffic and it keeps logs of everything you do online.

Screenshot of Hola's privacy policy

Here’s a very concerning section of Hola’s privacy policy.

Hola Free also uses personal IP sharing in order to create the network, which means that your IP address will be used by strangers to do with whatever they please. You should avoid it at all costs.

IPVanish

In 2016, under previous management, IPVanish handed information over to the US authorities as part of prosecution evidence, which included user logs. However, after this breach of privacy, StackPath acquired IPVanish in 2017 and assured users that it “does not, has not, and will not log or store logs of […] users’ activity as a StackPath company”.

We’ve done our due diligence with regards to this and we’re happy that IPVanish is now safe and private, which is why it’s in our top five at the moment.

Pirate Chick VPN

Pirate Chick VPN posed as a legitimate VPN service but was in fact acting as a Trojan virus host, installing malicious payloads on its victims.

PureVPN

In October 2017 PureVPN handed over one user’s information to the FBI that included their IP address, despite the fact its logging policy stated: “We do NOT keep any logs that can identify or help in monitoring a user’s activity.” You can read the court case file here.

PureVPN subsequently revamped its logging policy, which now clearly states that it does not log users’ originating IP addresses:

Screenshot of PureVPN logging policy

PureVPN’s updated logging policy

PureVPN recently commissioned an independent body to audit it’s logging policy.

But it’s not all doom and gloom.

There are plenty of VPN services that have proven their trustworthiness and commitment to privacy:

ExpressVPN

In December 2017 the Turkish authorities seized and inspected one of ExpressVPN’s Turkish servers, but they couldn’t find any customer connection logs.

ExpressVPN also underwent an independent audit by PwC in July 2019 to verify its TrustedServer feature and privacy policy. Cure53 has also audited ExpressVPN’s Google Chrome browser extension.

NordVPN

In November 2018 NordVPN demonstrated a commendable level of transparency when PwC audited its servers and code to verify its no-logs claims.

This was the first audit of its kind within the VPN industry.

Private Internet Access

In addition to its regularly updated transparency reports, Private Internet Access’ no-logs claim has been proven to be true multiple times during court cases (one in 2016 and the other in 2018) where authorities requested user information and PIA couldn’t hand any over.

Screenshot of Private Internet Access' Transparency Report July-Decemeber 2018

Here’s Private Internet Access’ Transparency Report for July-December 2018.

Be sure to read our comprehensive VPN reviews to find out if a VPN is trustworthy or not. We’ve done the research so you don’t have to.

Can You Be Tracked if You Use a VPN?

A VPN does not make you 100% untraceable – it’s important to bear that in mind and set your expectations accordingly before downloading one.

If someone, be they a hacker or government, wants to track you down online then with enough determination they will be able to.

However, tracking someone who uses a VPN is significantly more difficult than tracking someone who doesn’t.

A proper VPN service will swap your IP address and DNS servers for one of its own, encrypt your traffic thoroughly, and then delete any connection and browsing logs that you leave behind so as to secure your anonymity.

The rule when using a VPN is simple: don’t do anything when connected to a VPN that you wouldn’t do without one.

You can reduce the chances of being tracked online by using a privacy-friendly web browser – as opposed to, say, Google Chrome – alongside your VPN.

Let’s take Tenta Browser as an example.

This privacy-centered web browser automatically blocks ads and trackers, and it vows never to sell your personal data.

You should also consider how search engines like Google and social media sites like Facebook track, log, and sell your personal information.

Illustration of Google on a web browser

If you’re concerned about being tracked online, use a more private search engine like DuckDuckGo.

Can VPNs Be Hacked?

In theory, VPNs can be hacked.

But if you use a good VPN, it’s highly unlikely to happen.

VPNs use encryption to keep your internet traffic secure and private, but not all VPNs use strong encryption.

The outdated VPN protocol PPTP is an example of weak security. Some VPNs use PPTP because it’s compatible with pretty much any device.

But its compatibility comes at a cost, and that cost is your privacy.

PPTP can be cracked in minutes, leaving your personal data vulnerable to prying eyes.

If you use OpenVPN with cipher AES-256 it would take billions of years and a whole lot of processing power to be cracked through brute force.

Stick with one of our recommended VPN services and your confidential data will be kept safe and secure. A good VPN will prevent hackers from taking advantage of you online.

Which VPN is the Safest & Most Secure?

All of the VPN services listed on this page are extremely secure and will keep you safe and private online.

Any VPN that we recommend will have the most advanced encryption technologies and security features in place.

None of them leak your IP address or DNS requests – we’ve thoroughly tested them all. If you’d like to find out more about leaks and testing read our guide here.

Additional VPN providers not listed on this page that we also recommend for security are Private Internet Access, VyprVPN, and Hide.me – follow the links to read our full review of each VPN.

Free vs Paid: Are Free VPNs Safe?

Illustration of money bag with dollar sign and stacks of bank notes

Often when you have the choice between a free product and a paid product, the free one will be worse.

Unfortunately, this is absolutely the case with VPNs.

Many free VPN services come with drawbacks like:

  • Tiny VPN data allowances
  • Speed caps
  • Limited server locations
  • Loads of ads

And unfortunately it doesn’t end there…

Some free VPNs pose serious risks to whoever uses them.

When we recently examined the 150 most popular free Android VPN apps we found that over 85% were potentially unsafe.

We 100% recommend that you use a paid VPN, if you can afford the small monthly fee of course.

Are there any good free VPNs out there, though?

Yes. Read on to find out which are the best.

Which Free VPN Is the Best?

There are only a handful of free VPNs that we recommend – you can read about them in this guide. The best free VPNs on the market are:

These free VPN services are the best available, even if they come with some restrictions.

Above all, they are safe to use.

How Much Should I Pay for a VPN?

First things first: if you can pay for a VPN service, you should.

Not because we want you to spend money, but because free VPNs are limited at best and dangerous at worst.

So, how much should you be paying for a VPN?

It really depends on your budget and whether you are willing to pay an upfront lump sum of money to make some long-term savings.

Pretty much all VPN services come with a range of plans of varying lengths, usually from one month to two years. Some even have lifetime subscriptions.

The longer the plan the greater the savings you’ll make on a monthly basis.

But what you need to remember is that you’ll usually have to pay for the whole subscription up front.

That means if you buy a two-year subscription for $2.99 a month, you’ll actually have to pay $71.76 in one transaction before you can use the VPN.

If you can’t afford to pay for a year-long subscription it’s possible to pay month-by-month. But it’ll be much more expensive in the long term.

We’ve seen month-long subscriptions for as cheap as $8 all the way up to as much as $16.

Generally, if you take out a monthly subscription you will be charged every month on a rolling contract until you cancel.

As with all products, there are cheap VPNs and expensive plans, but the quality of the product doesn’t necessary increase as the price does.

Be sure to read our independent reviews to find out whether a VPN is worth buying.

Can You Get Premium VPNs For Free?

All of the free VPNs that we recommend are ‘freemium’ VPNs. This means that, while free, they are essentially stripped-back versions of the premium product.

Screenshot of PureVPN website promoting free VPN service

Here’s a table showing the difference between the premium (P) and freemium (F) versions of our top five free VPNs:

VPN Name Server Country Locations Data Cap Simultaneous Connections
Windscribe 58 (P) / 10 (F) Unlimited (P) / 10GB p/m (F) Unlimited (P) / Unlimited (F)
ProtonVPN 40 (P) / 3 (F) Unlimited (P) / Unlimited (F) 10 (P) / 1 (F)
TunnelBear 22 (P) / 22 (F) Unlimited (P) / 500MB p/m (F) 5 (P) / 5 (F)
Hide.me 36 (P) / 4 (F) Unlimited (P) / 2GB p/m (F) 5 (P) / 1 (F)
Avira Phantom 25 (P) / 1 (F) Unlimited (P) / 1GB p/m (F) Unlimited (P) / Unlimited (F)

Freemium VPN Comparison Table

But not all premium VPNs have a ‘freemium’ option.

Don’t worry, though.

You can still use some premium VPNs for free – at least for a period of time.

Many VPNs offer free trials or money-back guarantees so that you can fully test out the VPN software before you commit to it for the long term.

Look for a 30-day money-back guarantee with ‘no questions asked’. That way you know that you’ll get a refund if you aren’t satisfied with the service.

Here are some guides for getting popular VPNs for free:

Are VPNs Easy to Use? Which Is the Easiest?

When we test a VPN service, we really download, set up, and use it.

We test every VPN app on every platform offered to make sure it’s as easy as possible to use.

Whether you’re a VPN beginner or a tech expert, our best VPN recommendations are intuitive and quick to set up, with lots of advanced features that are clearly labeled, accompanied by in-depth online support.

Take a look at the ExpressVPN Windows app, for instance:

Screenshot of ExpressVPN Windows app

As you can see, ExpressVPN’s custom app is clean, intuitive, and simple.

Just select the VPN server location and hit the big connect button – you’re good to go.

In addition to the VPNs on this page, we also recommend Windscribe, ProtonVPN, and Surfshark as VPN apps that are very easy to use.

But not all VPNs are as easy to use.

Here’s an example of a more complicated VPN app:

Screenshot of AirVPN's Windows app

AirVPN is a great VPN for experienced users, but its custom apps are unintuitive and user-unfriendly.

They’re cluttered, confusing, and even frustrating at times. But AirVPN’s apps do come with loads of configurable options that some simpler apps lack.

If you’re a VPN beginner, we recommend using a VPN service with simple custom apps before moving onto more complicated ones like those of AirVPN.

On Which Devices Can I Use a VPN?

Depending on the VPN service that you choose, you can use a VPN on pretty much any internet-connected device.

Some VPNs offer custom/native apps for a wide range of devices (like the ones recommended on this page), while others come with only mobile apps, for example.

Screenshot of NordVPN download page

It’s sometimes possible to manually configure VPNs to work on devices or platforms that lack a custom app. This is a little trickier than downloading an app, though.

Take a look at the following guides to find out the best VPNs for a particular device:

You can also install VPN add-ons for your browser, though these are proxy extensions rather than full-blown VPN connections.

These are available for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, and Opera. We have rounded up the top VPN extensions for the following browsers:

If you want to protect all internet-connected devices in your home, be sure to install the VPN at router level.

What Is the Best VPN for iPhone?

The best VPN for iPhone is ExpressVPN – it comes with a super simple custom app for iOS devices – that includes iPads – and it’s very fast, secure, and private.

Screenshot of ExpressVPN iOS apps on iPhone and iPad

ExpressVPN is currently our pick for Android too.

In fact, it’s our overall top VPN so if you can afford it, ExpressVPN won’t disappoint, whatever device you use.

How Do You Set Up & Install a VPN?

It’s easy to install and set up a VPN if it comes with custom apps.

In that case, all you need to do is download the app from the VPN provider’s website, follow the installation prompts, and log in.

If there are no native apps available for the device you’d like to protect, you may be able to use manual configuration to install the VPN.

Check out our comprehensive installation guides for the following devices and platforms:

Once you’ve installed the VPN onto your device, you should take a look at the VPN settings before you connect to a server.

Be sure to enable the VPN kill switch and any DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC leak protection.

Now select your preferred VPN server and click the connect button.

What Is the Fastest VPN?

When it comes to performance, the most reliable VPN service is ExpressVPN.

It’s not quite the fastest on nearby servers – that’s Private Internet Access – but it’s definitely the most consistent and the quickest overall.

On same-country connections ExpressVPN only slows down internet speeds by about 11%. Take a look at our speed test below:

Screenshot of speed test with no VPN connection

This is our internet speed with no VPN.

Screenshot of speed test when ExpressVPN is connected

Here is our internet speed when connected to ExpressVPN.

ExpressVPN is consistent across its whole VPN server network, and it’s fast over longer distances, like the UK to the US, too.

Will Using a VPN Slow Down Your Internet Speeds?

Generally speaking, yes, but not by much if you choose the right VPN.

VPNs work by routing online traffic through an encrypted tunnel, which slows down your internet speed a little in the process.

You can ensure that you get the fastest possible speeds by connecting to the nearest VPN server to your physical location. The farther away the VPN server is, the slower the speeds will be.

If your VPN shows the server loads of each server within the app, choosing the server with the lowest server load will produce better speeds.

Some VPN protocols are quicker than others – but be aware that speed sometimes comes at a price. For example, PPTP is a very fast protocol, but it’s not secure.

IKEv2 is an example of a very quick (and secure) VPN protocol.

The VPN providers recommended on this page will only slow your internet down by 10% or less if you connect to nearby VPN servers.

That probably won’t affect anything you do online.

You’ll be able to stream, torrent, and browse as you normally do without a VPN, but you’ll be much safer doing so with one.

In some cases, using a VPN may help you to experience faster speeds if your ISP usually throttles your connection when you stream or torrent.

Can You Use a VPN for Streaming Netflix?

Yes, you can use a VPN to stream Netflix.

But not with every VPN.

Netflix actively blocks VPN providers. Ever seen this annoying error message when you try to watch something on Netflix with a VPN or proxy?

Screenshot of the streaming error screen on Netflix

Getting a good VPN for Netflix is crucial if you don’t want to see this message every time you try to catch up on your favorite shows.

Check out our list of VPNs that still work with Netflix here.

Some VPN services like CyberGhost and PrivateVPN come with dedicated streaming services that help you to unlock video content instantly.

Others like ExpressVPN and NordVPN don’t, but they still work with most popular services.

Just get in touch with the live chat support team to find out which VPN servers to use in order to access Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Sky, or whatever your service of choice may be.

Some VPNs unlock various Netflix libraries, which is great for accessing geo-specific content.

Did you know that US Netflix has twice the number of TV shows as UK Netflix?

It’s true – and that difference can be even larger depending on where you live in the world.

Other streaming services you can watch with a VPN are BBC iPlayer (follow the link to see our recommendations), Hulu, and Pandora, among many, many more.

Do VPNs Protect Torrenting?

A secure and trustworthy VPN is an essential tool for any torrenting fan.

Why?

Because even if you aren’t engaging with copyrighted material, the moment you open up a torrent client and begin downloading or uploading files your IP address is exposed, leaving you vulnerable to hackers and snoopers.

Using a VPN will hide your true IP address and encrypt all of your traffic.

When it comes to choosing a VPN for torrenting, there are two necessities: speed and privacy.

A good VPN will make your torrenting much more private, with very minimal impact on your download speeds.

If you’re a keen torrenter then take a look at the most private and safest VPN services for torrenting.

Our top five VPNs all provide uncapped P2P traffic and speeds free from throttling. They also all come with privacy-friendly logging policies, so you know you’re in safe hands.

Some of these VPN services even have special servers designed just for torrenting.

Before you open up your torrenting client make sure to enable the VPN kill switch as this will prevent your IP address from being exposed if the VPN connection drops suddenly.

VPN vs Proxy

VPNs and proxies are often mixed up, but they are not the same technology.

Both tools help users to get around content blocks, but when it comes to privacy the two pieces of software are pretty different.

Proxies hide your real IP address and location from the website you are trying to access, but they often don’t encrypt browser traffic.

Many proxies have been known to keep logs of users’ personal data. Like VPNs, there are good proxies and bad proxies, so you should do your research before you use a free proxy (trustworthy ones are rare, and totally private ones are almost non-existent).

VPNs, on the other hand, encrypt all traffic, at an OS-level rather than a browser-level. All your personal data flows through a secure VPN tunnel, and a good VPN won’t log your online activities.

Sometimes, free services are labeled as VPNs when they are in fact proxies. One example is Hola, which we recommend you completely avoid.

VPN services often come with add-ons for certain web browsers like Google Chrome or Firefox. These browser extensions are proxies, as they work at a browser-level, not an OS-level.

The best proxy extensions use encryption to secure connections.

You can learn more about the differences between proxies and VPNs in our guide.

VPN vs Smart DNS

You can use VPNs or Smart DNS to watch streaming content, but are they the same thing?

Not at all.

Smart DNS works by changing the DNS of your device and reroutes traffic through a proxy server that will enable you to bypass regional content restrictions.

It’s primarily used to access streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.

Unlike a VPN, Smart DNS is not a privacy tool. It doesn’t encrypt traffic or hide your IP address.

ExpressVPN’s MediaStreamer tool is similar to Smart DNS.

Smart DNS is very easy to set up (including on games consoles and streaming devices) and it allows for faster speeds than a VPN connection.

But, again, it won’t help keep your personal data private.

VPN vs Tor

Tor logo on a mobile device

Tor (The Onion Router) and VPNs are both privacy tools, but they aren’t one and the same.

In fact, Tor is more of an anonymity tool than a privacy tool. It is often used by political activists and journalists in high-censorship countries.

The Tor browser directs internet traffic through a global network of volunteer-run servers.

The traffic is routed through guard nodes, middles, servers, and exit nodes (all randomly selected), so that no one server knows both what the message is and where it came from.

Because of this process, Tor is very, very slow.

One of the other issues related to Tor is that others will be using your IP address, and you don’t know what they will be doing with it.

Tor is commonly used to access the Dark Web, which is a nesting ground for criminal and illegal activity.

That’s why you should use a VPN alongside Tor for extra security. Some VPN services even come with special servers for use with Tor.

If you want to know more about Tor, read our guide to VPN vs Tor.

Business VPN vs Personal VPN

Even if you’ve never used a personal VPN you may have heard about VPNs at your workplace.

There are two main types of VPN services: business (or corporate) VPNs and personal VPNs.

While the technology is very similar, the reason you use a business VPN is quite different from how you would use a personal VPN outside of work.

Business VPNs are used by company employees in order to access the office network remotely and securely.

This allows employees to access network folders, printers, intranet sites, servers, and databases from outside of the office.

Your internet traffic is encrypted between the user’s device and the VPN server in the office, which prevents third parties from intercepting the traffic.

However, your internet traffic is still subject to your company’s policy, meaning that your boss may still see what you’re doing online, even though you’re not physically in the office.

Unlike business VPNs, you can use a personal VPN to access content from loads of different countries using a pool of different IP addresses.

Your traffic is still encrypted and if you use a trusted VPN service nobody can read your internet traffic, but you won’t be able to access network-specific files remotely.

You won’t find any business VPN reviews on this website – we just review consumer VPNs.

How We Test VPNs

Our 10-Step Review Process

We thoroughly test out each VPN reviewed on our website, and make sure to keep our recommendations up-to-date so that you can make informed decisions.

Our VPN reviews and guides are honest and unbiased – we never accept compensation in exchange for positive coverage.

We have a rigorous testing methodology that always follows these 10 steps:

  1. We actually purchase the VPN subscription. We never take press samples or freebies – unless the VPN itself is free.
  2. We then download, install, and test the VPN on multiple platforms: Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, and even Amazon Fire TV Stick.
  3. Once we’ve installed the VPN software we look at how easy it is to use and find everything we need, such as specific locations or dedicated streaming servers.
  4. Then we look into the security features and encryption. Does the VPN service come with a kill switch? Does it use AES-256 encryption?
  5. One of the most important parts of our review process is testing for IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks. We do this to find out how private the VPN really is.
  6. When you use a VPN you want it to be fast, so that’s why we test speeds manually in our office and automatically using a proprietary speed testing tool to give readers the most accurate results.
  7. Once we know how fast the VPN is we test to see whether it works with popular services like streaming Netflix and torrenting.
  8. Some countries like China block VPN connections, but some VPNs do still work there. As part of our review process, we find out if the VPN service has the tools necessary to be able to bypass the Great Firewall.
  9. One of the most important parts of our VPN testing is thoroughly reading the privacy and logging policies. We also look into who owns the VPN company and where it’s based. By doing this we are able to understand how private, safe, and trustworthy the VPN is.
  10. Finally, we put the VPN’s customer support to the test. We ask customer support agents a wide range of questions, from the most simple to the most technical, in order to see how helpful they are.

If you’d like to know more about our review process you can read all about how we review VPNs here.

In order to keep our website running and free to our visitors we receive commission fees from some of the VPN providers we refer subscribers to.

You can find out more about this by visiting our page on how we make money.

About the Author


  • Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

    Simon Migliano

    Simon leads our investigations into VPN safety and internet freedom research. His work has been featured on the BBC, CNet, Wired and The Financial Times. Read full bio