It’s tempting to use a free VPN service, but the reality is most can’t be trusted.
Many free VPNs have serious security flaws, are infested with advertising, and share your data with third-parties.
Our recent investigation into free VPNs revealed that more than 500 million people could be using an unsafe VPN without even knowing it.
Free VPNs are often the first port of call for those wanting to change their IP address or to bypass online censorship. It’s crucial that you choose a secure free VPN rather than the first one you find.
We tested hundreds of free VPNs as part of our investigations, and we can tell you that the free VPNs below are the safest, fastest and most trustworthy we’ve seen.
You will enjoy fast speeds, generous data caps, and your online privacy and security will be protected.
A few will also work with streaming sites like Netflix.
Here’s a sneak peek of our top three free recommendations:
What We Look for in a Free VPN
- Doesn't ask for any payment details at signup
- No-logs policy & no IP, DNS & WebRTC leaks
- Strong privacy & security features
- Has the biggest data allowance possible
- No cap on download speeds
- Easy-to-use apps & good customer support
Wondering why you should trust our reviews? Take a look at How We Test VPNs
Read More Information on the 5 Best Free VPN Services
What is a VPN and Why You Need One
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, creates a secure, private internet connection (otherwise known as a VPN tunnel) between two or more devices.
A standard internet connection routes traffic from your device, through your internet service provider (ISP), and on to the website or app that you’re visiting.
Instead, a VPN routes your web traffic to a secure VPN server in a location of your choice, and then on to your desired website or app.
The result is that your ISP can no longer see or monitor your online activity, and your internet connection is encrypted and secure.
If you care about your online privacy, and want to enjoy internet freedom, you really need to use a VPN. A good VPN service will:
- Keep your online activity private
- Access restricted websites and apps
- Encrypt your connection for safe data transfer (especially on public WiFi)
You can read more about VPNs in our comprehensive ‘What is a VPN’ guide.
Are VPNs Legal?
The short answer is yes. VPN services are completely legal and can be used without a problem in most countries around the world.
There are a few exceptions, though. VPN services are currently banned in:
The country sees them as a method used exclusively to undermine the law. Anyone caught using a VPN will be charged an unspecified fine.
VPNs have been banned in the country since 2014, apparently to stop terrorist organizations from influencing civilians using social media.
The country banned VPNs in 2015 to try and censor foreign media. Using a VPN could lead to a fine and an invite to the Ministry of National Security for a ‘preventative conversation’.
VPNs have been illegal in North Korea for a long time – the fine for those caught using one remains unspecified.
There are six more countries where you can only use ‘government approved’ VPNs:
VPN services have to be approved by the ruling Chinese Communist Party before they can operate – using an unauthorized VPN service can result in a fine of up to $2,200.
Only government-approved VPNs are allowed in Russia to prevent citizens gaining access to ‘unlawful content.’ The fine for using an unapproved VPN in the country is $5,100 for the user and $12,000 for the VPN provider.
VPN use has been restricted in Turkey since 2016 in an attempt to ‘fight terrorism’.
You can only use sanctioned (and heavily monitored) VPN services in Iran – the punishment for using a non-approved VPN is up to one year in prison.
Only corporate VPNs are permitted in Oman, and anybody caught using a VPN for personal reasons can be fined up to $1,300.
6United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Since 2012, only government-approved VPNs have been permitted in the UAE. If someone uses a VPN to commit a crime, they could face either jail or a fine of up to $136,000.
Use a non-authorized VPN in these nations at your own risk, and make sure you check our guides to safely use a VPN in these countries before you travel.
You can read more about the countries that have banned or restricted VPNs in our ‘Are VPNs Legal?’ guide.
Are Free VPNs Safe?
The reality is that many free VPN services are not safe and you shouldn’t trust them with your personal data.
We recently investigated the top 150 free Android VPN apps and we concluded that an extremely high number are potentially unsafe (see Android section below).
We also published an in-depth investigation on who’s really behind the most popular free VPNs and we discovered that 60% had very questionable links to China, as well as worrying privacy flaws.
Don’t worry though, we rigorously tested the free VPN apps we recommend in this guide and we can say that they are 100% safe.
The Worst Free VPNs
Here’s a (non-exhaustive) list of free VPN services that you should definitely avoid:
1Hola Free VPN
Hola Free VPN is one of the most popular ‘free VPN’ services we’ve seen, but that doesn’t mean you should use it.
It’s actually an extremely insecure peer-to-peer proxy network that’s being incorrectly marketed as a VPN, when it actually doesn’t provide any encryption whatsoever.
Hola Free VPN also monitors everything you do online, including the websites you visit, and has been known to sell user bandwidth without consent. Avoid Hola at all costs.
2VPN Proxy Master
VPN Proxy Master is a very unreliable free VPN service that has a company history of sending confidential user information to China.
There’s no information to tell how VPN Proxy Master is encrypted, and your IP address is collected and stored for an indefinite period, which is bad news for privacy.
VPN Proxy Master’s apps are inundated with loads of pop-up ads and reminders to rate the company in the App Store, too. Not worth the time taken to download it.
We can’t recommend Turbo VPN to anyone who values their privacy. Not only does it send user information to China, it also incorrectly brands itself as a no-log network.
Turbo VPN offers no privacy features, and customer support is non-existent – the apps are full of annoying pop-up ads, too.
It’s a potentially dangerous free VPN service that outright lies to its users.
Thunder VPN is without doubt one of the worst free VPN services we’ve tested.
This Android-only free VPN uses a sub-standard connection protocol (SSL), lacks essential privacy features, and ignored our requests when we asked more questions about encryption.
Like most free VPNs, Thunder VPN claims to be no-logs but does in fact collect lots of information, including your IP address, ISP, VPN server location, and loads more.
Snap VPN is an incredibly untrustworthy free VPN service that funnels all of your personal data through China and logs tons of unnecessary information.
We also noticed that appears to be almost identical to two other VPN services in this list, Turbo VPN and VPN Proxy Master, suggesting they’re all potentially owned by the same company.
Even for a free VPN, Snap VPN’s approach to privacy is totally unacceptable, and we wouldn’t advise taking a chance on it when there are much better options out there.
How Can I Get a Free VPN?
A good free VPN usually comes from a reputable premium VPN service. This means that all you have to do is visit the VPN service’s website and download the free custom VPN app for your device.
There are a lot of free VPN apps available to download directly from the iOS App Store or Google Play Store, but these are usually not to be trusted – as we found out in our recent investigation.
Free vs Paid VPNs: Should You Pay for a VPN?
The free VPN services listed above all come with our seal of approval. We’ve thoroughly tested each VPN, making sure it delivers a speedy and secure service, and we’re happy with what we’ve seen.
The very best free VPN can’t compete with the majority of paid VPNs, though: fast speeds, extensive server options and extra features cost money.
A good free VPN is great for newbies or casual browsers, but for the best experience we strongly suggest you subscribe to a paid VPN service – our best VPNs of 2019 or our best free VPN trials are good starting points.
How Do Free VPNs Make Money?
A common question we see is: how do free VPN services make money?
Well, it varies from one VPN to another, but if you choose a free VPN that’s provided by a premium service, it usually subsidises its free service with the monthly subscription fees provided by paying users.
Alternatively, other free VPN services make their money by running advertisements within their VPN apps. This usually applies more to mobile-only free VPNs that can be downloaded directly from the App Store or Google Play Store, and they often prompt you to get rid of these ads by upgrading to the paid service.
Watch out for any of our ‘Worst Free VPNs’ listed above, though, as many of these make money by selling your data on to advertisers and other third parties.
Avoid any free VPN services without extensive privacy policies and you have nothing to worry about.
On What Devices Can I Use a Free VPN?
You can use free VPNs on most popular devices. Select your device below and see our recommendations:
Free VPNs are also very easy to set up – follow these step-by-step guides to install and run a VPN on your:
Your chosen VPN service will most likely have setup guides for most platforms on its website, too, or you can contact the support team if you need more detailed instructions.
What Is the Best Free VPN for Android?
There are lots of free VPN services for Android, but that doesn’t mean they’ll keep you safe.
We recently investigated the top 150 free Android VPN apps and we concluded that 85% of them contained alarming security and privacy flaws that could put you at risk.
What is the Fastest Free VPN?
A lot of free VPN services tend to have speed caps in place, but the (consistently) fastest free VPN we’ve seen so far is Hide.me.
It’s worth noting that free VPN speeds tend to vary a lot, though, depending on what time of day you connect and how many other users are connected to the same VPN server location.
With free VPNs, speed can often come at the expense of security, too, so be sure to stick to our recommendations to keep yourself safe online.
Can I Use a Premium VPN for Free?
You can use a paid VPN for free by taking advantage of the money-back guarantees offered by most top-tier VPNs.
This means that you can use their VPN service free of charge for the duration of the guarantee period (usually 30 days).
For example, if you sign up to ExpressVPN, our current top VPN service, and cancel your subscription before the end of its 30-day refund period, it will refund you quickly and with no questions asked.
Other high-quality VPN services you can try for free are:
- NordVPN – full use of the service for 30 days with no restrictions
- IPVanish – seven-day free trial plus a further seven-day money-back guarantee
This is a good way to use a top-rated VPN service free of charge if you only intend to use a VPN for a short period of time.
Just be sure to set yourself a reminder if you’re relying on a money-back guarantee, though, or you might end up unknowingly entering into a long-term subscription that you can’t get out of.
What Is the Best Free VPN for Torrenting?
Using a free VPN service for torrenting is difficult, due to the harsh data caps they often put in place.
These data caps make it almost impossible to transfer anything more than a handful of bulky files before hitting your free VPN data limit – speed throttling doesn’t help, either.
Some free VPN services, such as ProtonVPN, don’t allow torrenting on their free servers at all, which obviously poses a huge problem.
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