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Best Free VPN of 2018

Callum Tennent
Callum TennentUpdated

Given the choice between a free product and one that costs money, the decision is obvious for many. When it comes to a VPN, though, it’s not as simple as it seems.

The vast majority of free VPNs are, frankly, awful. They offer slow speeds, bombard you with pop-up ads and, worst of all, won’t even protect your privacy. That’s why we’ve taken it upon ourselves to trawl through the most popular free VPNs on the market to find out which ones are actually worth your time and safe to use.

The five free VPNs below may not be able to rival the best paid-for options out there, but they’re still top choices for anyone looking for an introduction to the world of VPNs before they commit. They’re guaranteed to keep your online activity safe and secure, with fast speeds and professional apps.

The 5 Best Free VPN Services of 2018
  1. Windscribe Free
  2. ProtonVPN Free
  3. TunnelBear Free
  4. Hide.me Free
  5. Avira Phantom Free
Read on for our detailed analysis of each VPN.
Our pick for Free VPN
Windscribe Free

The best free VPN with a strong privacy focus and user-friendly apps.

Customer Support
Email support via an online form
No. of Server Locations
10 Countries
Simultaneous Connections
Unlimited
Pros
  1. Solid download speeds: 50Mbps local average
  2. Good selection of 10 server locations
  3. User-friendly custom apps for popular devices
  4. Unlimited simultaneous connections
  5. Excellent near-zero logging policy
Cons
  1. No live chat customer support
  2. Not a great choice for streaming
  3. 10GB data cap is a little restrictive
Bottom Line

Windscribe is the best free VPN on the current market. Most importantly it’s secure, offering the same excellent levels of privacy to its free users as it does to premium ones. With a minimal-logs policy and extra features such as a VPN kill switch and DNS leak protection, you can rest assured that your personal data won’t be transferred to any third parties.

Performance is pretty impressive for a complimentary VPN too, reaching a speedy 50Mbps locally. Windscribe does impose a 10GB monthly data allowance, but this is much more generous than most secure free apps and will allow you to browse the web normally. Occasional streaming or torrenting is also possible but you’ll have to upgrade to access Netflix.

Windscribe’s free plan is a solid long-term solution for casual users, and a great test run for those after something more.


Read our full Windscribe Free review

2
ProtonVPN Free

Speedy and secure free VPN with three server locations.

Customer Support
Live chat Support
No. of Server Locations
3 Countries
Simultaneous Connections
1
Pros
  1. Fast local download speeds - up to 80Mbps
  2. Easy-to-use apps with quick setup on popular devices
  3. VPN kill switch and DNS leak protection
  4. Friendly and helpful customer support
  5. Minimal-logs policy
Cons
  1. Only 3 server locations
  2. P2P not permitted on free servers
  3. No access to Netflix or iPlayer
Bottom Line

ProtonVPN’s free offering comes in a very close second, offering top-notch privacy with none of the speed or data restrictions found with other complimentary apps. Performance is excellent, with downloads peaking at 80Mbps on local connections. Uploads are just as good but P2P activity isn’t permitted on any of the free servers – something our top pick allows.

Unlike Windscribe, you are limited to using the VPN on just one device at a time and the server network is smaller, with just three locations to choose from. However, a strong set of privacy extras such as a VPN kill switch, DNS leak protection, and a robust minimal-logs policy go a long way to make up for its downfalls.

If you’re not fussed about torrenting or streaming Netflix, ProtonVPN’s free plan is definitely worth a go.


Read our full ProtonVPN Free review

3
TunnelBear Free

Simple free VPN for beginners looking to browse securely.

Customer Support
Email support via an online form
No. of Server Locations
20 Countries
Simultaneous Connections
5
Pros
  1. Peak local downloads of up to 63Mbps
  2. Simple custom apps for four popular platforms
  3. Privacy-friendly logging policy
  4. VPN kill switch and first-party DNS servers
  5. Connect securely to 20 countries
Cons
  1. Very restrictive 500MB monthly data cap
  2. Can’t access Netflix or iPlayer
  3. Limited customer support
Bottom Line

TunnelBear Free is an ideal way for beginners to experiment with a VPN. It’s super simple and user-friendly with a light-hearted bear theme thrown in for good measure.

The free plan is fully functional but comes with a very restrictive data cap of 500MB a month. If you’re enjoying it you can tweet about it for an extra 1GB. The upside is that you can test out all 20 of TunnelBear’s server locations and browse securely with a VPN kill switch and first-party DNS servers. It also has an excellent privacy policy and has been independently audited.


Read our full TunnelBear Free review

4
Hide.me Free

User-friendly free VPN with loads of advanced privacy extras and strict zero-logs policy.

Customer Support
24/7 live chat support
No. of Server Locations
3 Countries
Simultaneous Connections
1
Pros
  1. Decent local speeds of up to 41Mbps
  2. Loads of privacy extras
  3. Strict zero-logs policy
  4. User-friendly apps for popular devices
Cons
  1. 2GB monthly data is restrictive
  2. Premium users get performance priority during peak hours
  3. No access to popular streaming sites
  4. Limited to three server locations
Bottom Line

Hide.me comes with a slightly more generous data cap than TunnelBear – 2GB per month – but you can only choose from three server locations: the Netherlands, Canada, and Singapore. It does however offer a strict zero-logs policy and loads of privacy extras, making it one of the most secure choices on the free VPN market.

During our tests performance was decent, coming in at 41Mbps locally. However, Hide.me clearly states that free users get ‘best effort bandwidth’, meaning that premium users are given priority during peak times. Outside of peak times, uploads are fast enough for torrenting, which is permitted on all free servers.


Read our full Hide.me Free review

5
Avira Phantom Free

Basic free VPN with 1GB monthly data cap - a secure choice for general browsing.

Customer Support
No support available
No. of Server Locations
25 Countries
Simultaneous Connections
Unlimited
Pros
  1. Usable local download speeds - up to 31Mbps
  2. Custom apps for four popular platforms
  3. Unlimited simultaneous connections
  4. Privacy-friendly logging policy
  5. Connect securely to 25 countries
Cons
  1. Restrictive 1GB monthly data cap
  2. No VPN kill switch
  3. No customer support for free users
Bottom Line

Avira Phantom is a simple, straightforward VPN for people satisfied with a basic level of privacy. Unlike our other top picks, it doesn’t come with a VPN kill switch unless you upgrade to the premium plan. The logging policy is minimal, though, and you can connect to 25 different countries. City-level servers are also available in the US, which is rare for a free app.

As long as you register with your email address, you can access 1GB of data. If you don’t, it’s a paltry 500MB. Even browsing the web will burn through that allowance in a matter of hours, but with peak local speeds of 31Mbps it’s not a great choice for much else. You can access Netflix but prepare for data to run out after 30 minutes of watching.


Read our full Avira Phantom Free review

How We Picked the Best Free VPN of 2018

Our top picks have the fullest functionality compared to paid VPN services, and the fewest limitations on speed and performance. Most importantly, just because it’s free doesn’t mean your VPN shouldn’t properly protect you – we look for the most transparent and fair privacy policies along with the most effective privacy features. Our top picks are easy to use, easy to install and offer a good customer support even for non-paying customers.

We recently conducted an original, in-depth investigation on a number of popular free VPNs. Still not sold on just how damaging picking the wrong free VPN can be? Our findings revealed that a huge proportion of them had questionable links to China, as well as extremely disconcerting privacy policies – you can read it here.

Free vs Paid VPN: Should You Pay for a VPN?

The free VPNs listed in this round-up all come with our seal of approval. We’ve sat down with every each one for hours at a time making sure it delivers a speedy and secure service, and we’re happy with what we’ve seen.

As you can probably tell from their overall scores, though, they still underwhelm in a lot of areas. The very best free VPN can’t hold a torch to the majority of premium options: truly top-tier speeds, server options and extra features have to be paid for.

We wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a good free VPN for newbies or casual browsers, but if you want a complete VPN experience then we would strongly suggest you subscribe to one – right after you take a look at our Best VPNs of 2018.

How to Choose the Best Free VPN: 7 Tips

  • Are there any speed or data caps?

    Check whether the free VPN you are considering caps speed or bandwidth, or even both this is the most common restriction we find when reviewing free VPNs. Think about your expected VPN usage. If you are only planning to do very light browsing then you might be able to live with the limitations just be aware that the modern web, with all of its auto-play videos, high-res images and rich web pages, is very bandwidth-hungry. If it takes 1GB of data to stream an hour-long Full-HD show on Netflix, will the free VPN youre considering really give you enough data?

  • Does the free VPN have servers in the locations you need?

    Check whether the free VPN allows you to use servers in your preferred location. Odds are youll only be offered a few, and there may not be any at all in super popular locations like the US or UK. Even a free VPN will be a waste of time if you cant connect to the location you need.

  • Will it work with your computer, smartphone or streaming device?

    Another common limitation with free VPNs is the devices you can use them on. There are plenty that are mobile only, which is as good as useless if youre trying to protect your desktop or laptop computer. Others will have a connection limit, meaning that while it may be compatible with all your devices it wont be able to run on them all at once. We check all the small print so you know just what youre getting before you download it.

  • Will it unlock Netflix, iPlayer and torrenting?

    Its no secret that a hugely popular use for VPNs is to gain access to streaming services like Netflix and BBC iPlayer. However, guaranteeing and maintaining access to them requires a lot of money and resources from a provider, so its only natural that it may not be guaranteed in a free VPN. The same goes for torrenting all that bandwidth costs money, so you may have to pay to get access to servers that allow it.

  • Will it keep you safe and secure?

    Some products proclaiming to be a VPN can be nothing more than a placebo. If it doesnt have the right security standards, like AES-256 encryption and the OpenVPN protocol, its not actually doing anything to protect your privacy. Youll rarely get as much choice with a free VPN, but as a bare minimum you should make sure that its doing its job.

  • What is its logging policy?

    This is the single biggest danger when browsing for a free VPN. Many, many providers that dont charge a free make their money by selling your data. It should go without saying that this is the exact opposite of what you want from a VPN. You can rest assured that we will never recommend a VPN, free or otherwise, that doesnt have the most transparent, stringent privacy policy possible.

  • Are its client apps and software easy to use?

    A lot of free VPNs dont put time or effort into designing a clean and simple app. The very worst will shove pop-ups in your face and fill their app with obnoxious ads. Weve tested dozens of VPNs, and weve seen the best (and the worst) programs the industry has to offer. Well always fully explain just what we do and dont like about using any VPN.