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Best Free VPN of 2021

Illustration of a credit card with a line through it and some coins
Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

Simon is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times, CNet and more. Read full bio

A good VPN hides your browsing activity and protects your online privacy. It also unblocks region-restricted content. Lots of free VPNs promise to do all that at zero cost, but most simply can’t.

We tested over 100 free VPN apps, with alarming results. Over 85% of them pose serious privacy and security risks. Clearly, there are free VPNs you must avoid.

Not all free VPNs are bad, though. There are a handful that are good, and safe. The five VPNs below are fast, effective, and secure. Just keep in mind that even the best free VPNs can’t compete with good paid VPNs.

The best 100% free VPNs in February 2021 are:

  1. Windscribe Free: The best free VPN for streaming and torrenting. Read Summary.
  2. ProtonVPN Free: A highly secure free VPN with unlimited data. Read Summary.
  3. TunnelBear Free: A fully-functional free service with a 500MB data cap. Read Summary.
  4. Hide.me Free: Limited free server network and 10GB data cap. Read Summary.
  5. Avira Free VPN A basic free VPN with a 1GB monthly data limit. Read Summary.

Windscribe is the best free VPN of 2021. It has a privacy-focused logging policy and strong security features. It also works on most devices. And it unblocks US Netflix and BBC iPlayer, which is no easy feat.

We test free VPNs just like paid VPNs, and hold them to the same high standard. We never recommend VPNs that log user activity, leak IP addresses, or limit speeds. You can read our VPN testing methodology later in this article.

The VPNs we recommend on this page are completely free and safe to use. However, they are limited in their use, to persuade you to upgrade to a paid plan. They cap your data usage, fail to unblock streaming services, block P2P traffic, or suffer from slow speeds.

Using the free version of a paid VPN isn’t the best way to trial the full service. Its features and performance won’t match those of the paid version. To trial a premium VPN cost-free, see our list of the best VPN free trials.

5 Best Totally Free VPNs in February

  1. 1. Windscribe Free: Best Overall

    The overall best free VPN, great for streaming.

    Ranked #1 Free VPN
    1. Fast same-country speeds
    2. Works with 10 Netflix libraries
    3. Minimal logging policy
    4. Built-in VPN kill switch
    5. 10 server locations
    6. Unlimited simultaneous connections
    1. Monthly data cap (a generous one, though)
    2. No human live chat support

    Windscribe Free is the best free VPN we’ve seen. It consistently streams US Netflix and BBC iPlayer. It’s also a secure choice for torrenting. It has a minimal logging policy, tight security, and it works on many devices.

    The 10GB data cap is generous, but isn’t enough for heavy internet use. Only ProtonVPN Free offers unlimited data. However, ProtonVPN Free is no good for streaming Netflix, or torrenting.

    Customer service needs improving, too. There is no human live support to help with more complex issues. The online guides and unreliable chat-bot can only help with simple issues or queries.

    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. iosiOS
    4. androidAndroid
    5. amazon_firetvFire TV
    6. linuxLinux
    Data Cap10GB
    US NetflixYes
    JurisdictionCanada (Five-Eyes Member)
    Data LeaksNo
    Works in ChinaUnreliable

    Easy to Use Mobile and PC Apps

    Windscribe works well on Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and Fire OS devices.

    It also has browser proxy extensions for Chrome and Firefox. Both browser add-ons work with US Netflix and BBC iPlayer, which is impressive.

    Good for Torrenting

    Windscribe Free is also the best free VPN for torrenting. It allows P2P traffic on the most of its free servers, which is rare.

    The software uses secure AES-256 encryption, and the apps include a VPN kill switch. This is particularly rare in free VPNs. It prevents your real IP address from leaking if the VPN drops.

    And Windscribe never leaked our IP or DNS information in our tests.

    A screenshot of Windscribe passing all IP and DNS leak tests

    Windscribe Free didn’t expose our true IP address in this leak test

    Also, the VPN service doesn’t store web logs that would compromise someone’s identity.

    Works with US Netflix

    Windscribe is the only free VPN that streams US Netflix. And BBC iPlayer, for that matter.

    No other free VPN can unblock streaming content like Windscribe.

    Still, the free version of Windscribe doesn’t match the paid version. VPN speeds are about a third slower than the premium VPN. And there are only 10 free server locations available.

    You can connect to any of the following locations:

    • Canada
    • France
    • Germany
    • Hong Kong
    • Netherlands
    • Norway
    • Romania
    • Switzerland
    • UK
    • US

    For the record, Windscribe’s full VPN gives access to 110 server locations.

    Still works in China

    We tested Windscribe Free’s VPN access in China, and it’s still working.

    It’s likely thanks to its ‘Stealth’ connection protocol. It uses the open source Stunnel algorithm to obscure the VPN traffic. It’s only available on the Windows, MacOS, and Android apps, though.

    Windscribe Free works best in China when you connect to the nearby Hong Kong server.

    The VPN service will also work in other censored countries like Turkey and the UAE.

  2. 2. ProtonVPN Free: Unlimited Data

    A secure and reliable free VPN with no data caps.

    1. No payment info on signup
    2. Reliable download speeds
    3. No data cap
    4. Kill switch & DNS leak protection
    5. Minimal logging policy
    6. Privacy-friendly Swiss jurisdiction
    1. Only 3 VPN server locations
    2. Torrenting not allowed
    3. Doesn't work with Netflix or BBC iPlayer
    4. One simultaneous connection

    ProtonVPN is the only free and safe VPN you can leave on all the time. That’s because it doesn’t impose any data limits whatsoever.

    You can use ProtonVPN as much as you want, completely free, and without adverts. This is truly unique for a free VPN of this calibre.

    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. iosiOS
    4. androidAndroid
    5. linuxLinux
    Data CapUnlimited
    US NetflixNo
    JurisdictionSwitzerland (Privacy Haven)
    Data LeaksNo
    Works in ChinaNo

    Focused on Privacy, Not Entertainment

    ProtonVPN is an excellent general-use VPN thanks to airtight security and a minimal-logging policy. Sadly, the unlimited data can’t be used to stream Netflix, or for torrenting.

    The VPN service doesn’t allow torrenting on its free servers. We also couldn’t access Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and many other region-locked streaming services. The only streaming website that worked was YouTube.

    Screenshot of Netflix blocking IPVanish

    Independently Audited Apps

    ProtonVPN subjected all its apps to a full third-party security audit. It has also made them open source to allow the public to scrutinize them for vulnerabilities. This level of transparency is the gold-standard in VPN security and trustworthiness.

    You can use the free version of ProtonVPN on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices. All of the apps use OpenVPN, the most secure encryption protocol available.

    ProtonVPN is also very private thanks to a its minimal-logs policy. Plus, the built-in VPN kill switch protects your IP address, in case the VPN connection drops out unexpectedly.

    Small Server Network and One Device Limit

    ProtonVPN Free is very quick, despite a small free server network. Currently, it only covers three countries:

    • Japan
    • Netherlands
    • US

    Speeds do slow down internationally. Connecting from the UK to the Netherlands, our download speed dropped about 36%. If you live outside of Europe, North America or Japan, don’t expect great speeds.

    Moreover, you can only use ProtonVPN Free on one device at a time. On the other hand, Windscribe Free allows unlimited simultaneous connections.

  3. 3. TunnelBear Free: Most Locations

    Full premium functionality with a monthly 500MB data cap.

    1. Full VPN functionality
    2. Consistently good speeds
    3. Advanced security features
    4. Own its own DNS servers
    5. 23 VPN server locations
    6. No user logs
    1. Fairly low 500MB monthly data cap
    2. Doesn't work with Netflix or BBC iPlayer
    3. Limited customer support

    TunnelBear Free is a free VPN that’s ideal for beginners. And one that you can trust. It’s easy to use and verified to be safe, but it isn’t good for torrenting or streaming. It’s also limited by a 500MB monthly data cap.

    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. iosiOS
    4. androidAndroid
    5. linuxLinux
    Data Cap500MB
    US NetflixNo
    JurisdictionCanada (Five-Eyes Member)
    Data LeaksNo
    Works in ChinaUnreliable

    23 Free Server Locations

    TunnelBear Free has one of the biggest free server networks. It covers 23 server locations worldwide, just like the paid version. These include the US, the UK and Australia.

    The TunnelBear server list

    Unlike many free VPNs, TunnelBear also operates a India server. We suspect it will be the fastest (safest) free VPN for India. Feel free to comment below if you’ve found a better alternative, though.

    Premium VPN with 500MB Data Cap

    The only real difference between the paid and free versions of TunnelBear is the 500MB monthly data limit. TunnelBear is the only free VPN that gives you a bandwidth-limited full VPN for free.

    500MB isn’t much data at all, though. It’s only good for light web browsing, really. But, it lets you test all the features of the full TunnelBear VPN.


    Private Apps for Multiple Platforms

    Like ProtonVPN, TunnelBear has commissioned independent audits of its VPN apps. TunnelBear was one of the first services to do this. Sinced 2017, it has carried out an annual audit with the security firm Cure53.

    TunnelBear has taken important additional steps towards user privacy:

    You can rely on TunnelBear not to engage in the underhanded practices free VPNs have become renowned for.

    TunnelBear’s apps work on all popular platforms: Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. Each app is encrypted with the AES-256 cipher. We’ve also never detected IP or DNS leaks using TunnelBear’s VPN apps.

    Good for Torrenting, Not Streaming

    Sadly, TunnelBear Free does not unblock BBC iPlayer or US Netflix. It’s better for torrenting, which is allowed on all servers. However, the 500MB data cap is extremely limiting for file-sharing. Windscribe Free is a much better free VPN for P2P activity.

    TunnelBear’s free app gives you access to its ‘GhostBear’ obfuscation technology. This will be handy in high-censorship countries like Turkey. TunnelBear will not work in China, though.

  4. 4. Hide.me Free: Best for Speed

    A very fast free VPN with a 10GB monthly data cap.

    1. Minimal logging policy
    2. Strong privacy features
    3. Good same-country speeds
    4. User-friendly custom apps
    5. No bandwidth throttling
    6. 10GB data cap
    1. Very slow long-distance speeds
    2. Only 5 VPN server locations
    3. One simultaneous connection

    Hide.me Free is a secure VPN with a generous 10GB data cap.

    It’s one the fastest free VPNs on same-country connections. It also allows P2P traffic on most of its free servers. However, it doesn’t stream streaming platforms like Netflix.

    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. iosiOS
    4. androidAndroid
    5. amazon_firetvFire TV
    6. linuxLinux
    Data Cap10GB
    US NetflixYes
    JurisdictionMalaysia (Privacy Haven)
    Data LeaksNo
    Works in ChinaUnreliable

    Fast Download Speeds

    Hide.me is a fast free VPN. We experienced a 25% speed loss connecting from the UK to the Netherlands. That’s not bad at all for a free VPN.

    While Hide.me Free doesn’t collect personal web data, it does keep temporary logs of:

    • Randomly generated VPN username
    • Internally assigned IP address (for duration of connection)
    • Total amount of monthly data traffic

    It’s not perfect, but it’s a reasonable logging policy that protects your online identity and activity.

    Apps for Mobile, PC and Smart TV

    Hide.me works on most devices, including home routers. This lets you use the VPN on devices like Fire TV Stick, games consoles and Apple TV.

    The Hide.me VPN apps are all secure. They come with the IKEv2, OpenVPN, and Wireguard VPN protocols. They also never leaked DNS and IP addresses during our testing.

    Five Server Locations

    One limitation of Hide.me free is that you can only connect to five server locations. These are: the Netherlands, Canada, Singapore, and the US (East and West).

    This is a problem if you’re in India, Africa, South America or Australia. Because there are no nearby servers, speeds will be very slow.

    Hide.me Free servers

    Not Good for Streaming

    We haven’t been able to access streaming services with Hide.me’s free app. It simply won’t work with US Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, or BBC iPlayer. As with most VPNs, we did unblock region-locked YouTube videos, though.

    Despite the limitations, Hide.me is a fast option to use public WiFi securely. It’s a good alternative to Windscribe for light torrenting.

  5. 5. Avira Free VPN: Best for Newbies

    A basic free VPN with a 1GB monthly data cap.

    1. Minimal logging policy
    2. Quick download speeds
    3. Strong encryption
    4. Sometimes works with Netflix
    5. Unlimited simultaneous connections
    1. No manual server selection
    2. 1GB monthly data cap
    3. No VPN kill switch
    4. No customer support

    The free version of Avira Phantom VPN provides a basic level of privacy and security. Its privacy-friendly logging policy and strong AES-256 encryption do separate it from many second-rate free VPNs.

    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. iosiOS
    4. androidAndroid
    Data Cap1GB
    US NetflixNo
    JurisdictionGermany (14-Eyes Member)
    Data LeaksNo
    Works in ChinaNo

    Easy to Use Apps

    Avira’s free VPN apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. All of them use the OpenVPN security protocol. Apart from the iOS app which uses IKEv2, a particularly fast protocol on mobile devices.

    Avira Phantom Free’s speeds are reasonable too: 70% of the paid version’s speeds. We measured an average speed drop of 36% connecting to Avira Phantom Free from the UK.

    Very Limited Options

    Unfortunately, the user experience is limited on Avira Phantom Free. You’re automatically connected to the closest VPN server with no ability to select a country server. There is also no VPN kill switch.

    If you’re in the UK, you can only connect to a UK server, and in the US you can only connect to a US server. This also means you can’t this VPN to unblock foreign region-restricted content.

    Only 1GB data allowance

    You don’t get much data with Avira Phantom Free, either. If you provide your email address, you receive 1GB of data. If you don’t, you only get 500MB.

    Avira’s free VPN is therefore not worth using for torrenting. P2P traffic is allowed on some servers, but the lack of server selection is again an issue.

    Doesn't Work in China

    Avira Phantom VPN (free and paid) doesn’t work in China, or in other highly censored regions. It just doesn’t have the required obfuscation tools to beat aggressive web censors.

    Screenshot of a user comment on Avira's community forum

    Basically, Avira Phantom Free VPN is better suited for very occasional use. For example, if your want to secure your public WiFi connection, or mask your IP address when visiting certain websites. It’s secure enough to do that, but your free data will run out quickly.

Free VPN Comparison Table

The table below compares 25 of the most popular free VPN services. You can compare them by: average speed, security, streaming, and whether or not they work in China.

How We Test Free VPNs

We test every free VPN we review regularly. If a VPN providers offers a free and a paid service, we will often review both versions in the same review.

We run speed, security, streaming, and P2P tests. We analyze privacy and logging policies in detail. We assess ease of use and reliability.

In short, the free VPNs we recommend meet the following criteria:

  1. Doesn’t ask for payment details at signup
  2. Doesn’t collect user activity logs
  3. Strong security & no IP or DNS leaks
  4. Fast speeds with no cap on downloads
  5. Has the biggest data allowance possible
  6. Easy to use with good customer support

Are reviews and verdicts are completely impartial. We never accept compensation in return for positive coverage.

We put free VPNs through the same 10-step testing process we apply to paid VPN services.

Are Free VPNs Safe?

Many popular free VPN services can pose serious risks to your online safety.

Free VPNs are often riddled with aggressive advertising, or worse, malware. Many collect and monetize user data by selling it to third parties. Hola was caught selling users’ bandwidth to botnets.

A large number of free VPNs also leak IP and DNS data. And some are outright scams.

Many free VPNs are simply not safe. In 2019, we tested 150 free Android VPNs, of which over 85% had security flaws.

Here are the potential dangers of using an unverified free VPN:

Data Leaks.

Strong encryption and secure server network costs money. Many free VPNs are poorly maintained, and simply aren’t secure.

We see many popular free VPNs like YogaVPN and TurboVPN leak DNS and IP address information. Basically, free ‘VPNs’ like these are proxies that don’t encrypt your data.


We look into who’s behind each free VPN. We discovered that 60% of free VPNs had suspicious links to China, as well as privacy flaws.


Free VPN services need to make money to support their business. And most do it through advertising. VPN apps with ads have third-party code that can send personal data back to the ad platform.

Some free VPNs even log your web data and sell it to third-parties.

If you are using a VPN to use the internet privately, avoid those that have advertising.

Google Reviews.

Don’t trust all positive reviews on the Google Play Store and App Store. Some may be genuine, but some may be fake. Make sure that you also read the reviews from VPN experts, such as ours.

There are good free VPNs out there, of course. The five we recommend are all 100% safe. Any website claiming all free VPNs are dangerous is just trying to sell you a paid VPN.

Free VPNs to Avoid

There are several popular free VPNs that are either dangerous or invasive. You should never use these VPNs:

  1. Hola Free VPN

    Hola Free VPN is one of the most popular ‘free VPN’ services available.

    It’s an insecure peer-to-peer proxy network that’s being marketed as a VPN. But it actually isn’t a VPN. It doesn’t encrypt and anonymize your web traffic. Anyone can see your internet activity if you use Hola.

    Hola VPN also monitors everything you do online. It tracks the websites you visit and has previously sold user bandwidth without consent.

  2. VPN Proxy Master

    VPN Proxy Master is a very unreliable free VPN. It also has a history of sending confidential user information to China.

    There’s no information on how VPN Proxy Master encrypts your data. The VPN also collects and stores your IP address indefinitely. VPN Proxy Master is one of the least private free VPNs we’ve tested.

    Its apps are also filled with pop-up ads. In short, VPN Proxy Master is not worth using.

  3. SuperVPN Free VPN Client

    SuperVPN Free VPN Client is not a trustworthy VPN.

    Despite positive Google Play Store reviews, there is a disturbing lack of transparency behind the VPN. There are almost no details about the service’s operations and ownership.

    We even discovered suspicious links to China. Do not use SuperVPN Free VPN Client, or Jinrong Zheng’s iOS equivalent, LinkVPN. If you currently use one of these apps, uninstall it immediately.

  4. Thunder VPN

    Thunder VPN is one of the worst free VPNs we’ve tested.

    This Android-only VPN uses a sub-standard connection protocol (SSL), and lacks key privacy features. The company ignored our requests for more information about its encryption.

    Thunder VPN claims to be no-logs, but that’s an outright lie. It collects your IP address, your ISP, the VPN server location, and similar information.

  5. UFO VPN.

    UFO VPN claimed to be a zero-logs VPN, but it was caught storing user logs. It collected personal web usage data, including websites visited, and in some cases plain test passwords.

    This is one of the worst things a VPN can do. It totally undermines the anonymity, privacy and security of users.

    UFO VPN is a white label VPN product (the technology belongs to a third party). Six other free VPNs use the same technology: FAST VPN, Free VPN, Super VPN, Flash VPN, Secure VPN and Rabbit VPN.

Here is a list of free VPNs to stay away from:

Free VPN Owned By Risks
LinkVPN Jinrong Zheng Unsecure, no transparency, China links
Secure VPN Signal Lab Unsecure, no transparency
Snap Master VPN Innovative Connecting PTE. Limited Unsecure, China links
SuperVPN Free VPN Client Jinrong Zheng Unsecure, no transparency, China links
ThunderVPN Signal Lab Unsecure, no transparency
TouchVPN AnchorFree Extensive logging, Russia links
TurboVPN Innovative Connecting PTE. Limited Unsecure, China links
VPN Proxy Master Innovative Connecting PTE. Limited Unsecure, China links
YogaVPN Yolo Net Technology Unsecure, China links

Many free VPNs have the same owners. These developers intentionally make multiple VPNs to reach as many people as possible. They also use different company names and subsidiaries to avoid scrutiny.

Dangerous new free VPNs appear all the time. And some get popular quickly. Before using a free VPN, research it first. Or, ask you us what we think of it.

Free vs Paid VPNs

Every free VPN service varies. But, there are broad benefits and drawbacks to using free VPNs:

Free VPN Pros:

  • Completely free
  • No payment details required
  • No long-term commitment
  • Some work with US Netflix
  • Some allow torrenting

Free VPN Cons:

  • Slower speeds and data caps
  • Few server locations
  • Rare streaming and P2P support
  • Some are just proxies
  • Potential user logs and data leaks
  • Shady business practices
  • Ads can undermine privacy

Paid VPNs are typically better than free VPNs. They are faster and don’t have data usage limits. The best paid services also bypass very strict web blocks.

There isn’t a free VPN that does everything well, but some are very good for specific tasks. For example, it could be private browsing on public WiFi. Or, accessing a short geo-blocked video on YouTube.

How Do Free VPNs Make Money?

VPNs aren’t free to run. There are development, infrastructure, and staff costs, to list a few. It isn’t really possible to run a VPN for free.

How a free VPN makes its money is really important. As the saying goes: if you aren’t paying for a product, then you are the product. These are most common ways free VPNs make money:

  • Being subsidised by a paid service (another VPN or security software)
  • Advertisements
  • Selling user data

It’s safer to choose free VPNs subsidized by paid VPN services. Windscribe, TunnelBear, or ProtonVPN are good examples. These companies don’t have to monetize their free applications directly.

Other free VPNs generate income by running advertisements in their apps. This is most common with mobile-only free VPNs. These apps often prompt you to upgrade to an ad-free (paid) version of the VPN.

Advertisements aren’t ideal from a privacy standpoint. But many users make that trade-off in order to use a free service.

The worst free VPNs make money by selling your browsing data to advertisers and other third parties. Best case scenario is you’re made into a product for marketers. Worst case scenario, your personal details are for sale online.

Using a Premium VPN for Free

Paid VPNs often offer money-back guarantees and free trials. You can take advantage of these to use the service for free.

VPN services like CyberGhost and PrivateVPN offer genuine time-limited free trials. These let you try the full VPN service without asking for credit card or payment details upfront.

Other paid VPNs, like ExpressVPN and NordVPN, offer risk-free money-back guarantees. They are longer virtual free trials, but you will be charged initially. Request a full refund before the guarantee period ends, and you’ll be reimbursed promptly.


What Is the Best Free VPN?

Windscribe Free is the best free VPN we’ve tested. It’s secure, has a private logging policy, and doesn’t leak IP or DNS data.

The free VPN service also unblocks US Netflix, and it even works in China. It also allows torrenting traffic on all its free servers.

However, it only has a 10GB a month allowance. This is more generous than many competing free VPNs, though.

What Is the Best Free VPN for Torrenting?

Our number one free VPN for Torrenting is Windscribe Free. It performs well for torrenting, has a solid logging policy and a kill switch, and we’ve never seen it leaking DNS or IP addresses.

The only downside of using Windscribe free for torrenting is its monthly 10GB data cap, which isn’t enough for many downloads, particularly if you also want to use it for streaming and general privacy.

These sorts of issues are very common when you try to use a free VPN for torrenting. More often than not you will encounter data caps, which make it almost impossible to transfer anything more than a handful of bulky files before hitting the data limit.

But even if you find a free VPN without a data cap there are other issues. Speed throttling is common on free VPNs, and can leave you waiting for hours for even small torrent files to download. Other “unlimited” free VPNs aren’t actually private and either leak your true IP address or have shady logging and business practices.

ProtonVPN, a rare trustworthy free VPN with unlimited data, explicitly prevents P2P traffic on any of its free servers.

Serious torrenters may find that a free VPN just doesn’t give them the data they need.

Fortunately a paid VPN for torrenting doesn’t need to break the bank.PrivateVPN and AirVPN are both cheap premium VPNs which are highly optimised for torrenting.

If you’re willing to pay a little more, ExpressVPN is our overall number one VPN for torrenting.

What Is the Best Free VPN for Netflix?

Windscribe is the best free VPN for Netflix we have tested. In fact, it’s the only trustworthy free VPN we’ve found which works reliably to unblock region-restricted content. We found that Windscribe Free unlocks Netflix in all 10 of its server locations.

Just like torrenting, using a free VPN with Netflix is normally a very frustrating experience. Almost all free VPNs we tested were detected by Netflix’s filters and couldn’t bypass them.

If you do find a VPN that works with Netflix, it’s either a privacy-unfriendly VPN (like Hola) or the data caps will massively restrict your viewing time.

Generally, you’re better off using a premium VPN that works with Netflix.

However, we’ve found Windscribe Free’s US and UK servers work reliably with Netflix after recent update to its service. This makes it the only free VPN we recommend for Netflix.

What Is the Fastest Free VPN?

Our most recent speed tests found that the fastest free VPN was TunnelBear Free. We measured impressive average speeds of 97.73Mbps (download) and 93.3Mbps (upload) on local connections, which puts it amongst the fastest VPNs we’ve tested overall – free or paid.

TunnelBear Free’s speeds are an exception, though. This is because TunnelBear Free offers the exact same service as its paid version, just with a very restrictive data cap.

Many free VPN services implement speed caps or throttling in order to persuade users to migrate to their paid subscription plans. If the number of servers is limited on the free version, the service is also likely to be slower due to server congestion.

For this reason, free VPN speeds vary a lot depending on what time of day you connect and how many other users are connected to the same VPN server. In short, don’t be surprised if you encounter some large fluctuations in speed.

Here are the local speeds we’ve seen from our top 5 Free VPNs, testing from our 100Mbps test connection in London:

Download Speed Upload Speed Ping
Avira Phantom Free 51.03Mbps 72.87Mbps 19ms
Hide.me Free 75.31Mbps 47.21Mbps 11ms
Proton VPN Free 59.77Mbps 59.25Mbps 22ms
TunnelBear Free 97.37Mbps 93.3Mbps 9ms
Windscribe Free 53.62Mbps 67.54Mbps 15ms

As usual, if you’re looking for a reliably fast connection, it’s worth subscribing to a premium VPN service.

Are Free VPNs Legal?

Free VPN services adhere to the same laws and restrictions as their paid equivalents. VPNs are completely legal in most countries and can be downloaded and used without any issues. However, there are a few exceptions.

VPNs are currently banned in:

  • Belarus
  • Iraq
  • North Korea
  • Turkmenistan

In the countries listed below, you only use ‘government approved’ VPNs:

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

Unless you’re in one of the 10 nations listed above, you can use a free VPN without any concerns. If you’re in one of these countries, it might be difficult to download any free VPN – let alone a safe one. You might also face legal consequences for installing or using an unsanctioned VPN.

If you do manage to get a free VPN working, we recommend using it to download a safe and secure VPN with strong obfuscation technology. We have recommendations in our roundups of the best VPNs for China, Russia, Turkey or UAE.

Is Hotspot Shield Free a Good VPN?

Hotspot Shield Free is a very popular free VPN, and a few years ago it was one of the better options available. Right now, it can’t match the free VPNs we recommend the most.

It doesn’t have the streaming capability of Windscribe or the unlimited data of ProtonVPN. You also can’t use Hotspot Shield Free for torrenting.

On the plus side, it has a daily data allowance of 500MB, which isn’t bad. If you spread the data evenly you could end up with around 15GB a month. That’s one of the most generous bandwidths across safe free VPNs. But, in reality you probably won’t be able to use it quite that much.

There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with Hotspot Shield Free, but it’s not up to scratch with the free VPNs we recommend on this page.

If you already use Hotspot Shield, and are happy with it, keep using it. Otherwise, we believe there are much better free VPNs available.

About the Author

  • Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

    Simon Migliano

    Simon is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times, CNet and more. Read full bio