We regularly test every free VPN we review. If a VPN service offers both free and a paid versions of their apps, we will often test both versions as part of the same review.
In other words, we put free VPNs through the same rigorous testing process we apply to paid VPN services.
We test for speed, security, streaming, and P2P. We analyze every privacy and logging policy in detail, as well as assessing a VPN’s ease of use and reliability.
All the free VPNs we recommend meet the following criteria:
- No payment details required at signup
- No user activity logs
- No IP or DNS leaks
- Strong encryption
- Fast speeds with no cap on downloads
Security is especially important when testing free VPNs. That’s because dangerous and ineffective free VPNs are much more common than dangerous paid VPNs.
We make sure every free VPN we recommend is free of malware, actually encrypts your data, and does not collect any compromising information.
Our reviews and verdicts are completely impartial. We never accept compensation in return for positive coverage.
Here’s a more specific look at the factors that go into our free VPN testing process, and how we weigh each individual category:
1. Data Cap: 30%
Minimum Requirement: 500MB per month.
We Recommend: 10GB a month or higher.
Data caps are one the most common drawbacks of safe, free VPNs.
The vast majority of free VPNs place restrictions on how much data you can use, which can hugely inhibit what you’re able to do with the VPN.
We thoroughly check every VPNs data allowance policy, and explore ways you can claim ‘bonus’ data for free (e.g. through ‘refer a friend’ schemes or by registering an email address).
The very best free VPNs will let you use at least 10GB of data per month. One or two have no limit at all.
2. Speed: 25%
Minimum Requirement: No more than 40% loss in download speeds on local connections.
We Recommend: Local speed loss less than 30% and reliably quick international speeds.
A VPN slows down your internet speeds, at least a little. This is because your connection goes via the VPN server, so it takes a longer round trip.
High data encryption can also slow down the speed at which the data travels through the VPN tunnel.
With free VPNs, the speed loss tends to be bigger than with the best premium VPNs. However, that doesn’t mean you have to endure painfully slow connection speeds.
We run regular manual speed tests, measuring each VPN’s download speed, upload speed, and ping time.
We conduct speed tests around the world, connecting to local and international VPN servers, in order to get a full picture of the VPN’s performance.
The best free VPNs are almost as fast as many of the premium VPNs we review. You’re unlikely to notice huge drop-offs in speed, and you’ll able to stream high-quality video or torrent quickly.
3. Logging Policy: 15%
Minimum Requirement: Any connection logs must be anonymized.
We Recommend: An absolutely zero-logs policy.
We only recommend free VPN services that respect your privacy.
Also, we look for transparent and detailed policies, written in plain language.
A VPN shouldn’t collect unnecessary or personally-identifying information, including your IP address or records of your online activity.
The most private VPNs operate a strictly no-logs policy. Ideally, they’ve also been independently audited by a trusted third-party.
4. Server Locations: 10%
Minimum Requirement: A choice of VPN server locations.
We Recommend: A number of VPN servers spread across the globe.
Larger VPN server networks give you greater chances of unblocking streaming content and enjoying fast connection speeds. Servers will likely be less congested, and closer to your physical location.
We analyze each VPN’s server network in detail. We pay particular attention to the total number of servers, how well distributed they are across the world, and any specialized servers (e.g. P2P-, streaming- or Tor-optimized servers).
Free VPNs tend to have rather limited server networks, but there are services with 10+ global server locations.
5. Streaming: 10%
Minimum Requirement: Can sometimes unblock global streaming libraries.
We Recommend: Reliable access to US Netflix and BBC iPlayer from anywhere in the world.
One of the most common reasons to use a VPN is for streaming. By hiding your IP address, you can access TV shows and movies usually blocked in your geographic region.
Sadly, free VPNs are notoriously bad for streaming. Most content platforms, such as Netflix, dedicate many resources to blocking VPN users – and free VPNs are often the easiest to identify and ban.
We’ve run thousands of tests to see which VPNs unblock which streaming services. We regularly check multiple Netflix regions, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, Prime Video, Hulu, HBO Max, and DAZN.
Although free VPNs have a very low success rate when it comes to unblocking streaming sites, the best ones are able to stream US Netflix and BBC iPlayer.
6. Torrenting: 10%
Minimum Requirement: Permits torrenting on some of the free servers.
We Recommend: P2P-optimized servers and an average bitrate of at least 4MiB/s.
Using a VPN is key for safe and private torrenting. We first examine each service’s P2P policy, as many don’t allow free users to torrent at all.
We then check for P2P-optimized servers, and make sure the VPN is using airtight AES-256 encryption.
We also run IP and DNS leak tests to ensure the VPN won’t leak your true torrent IP address while you’re in the torrent swarm.
Finally, we run a series of P2P performance tests. Most importantly, we record the VPN’s average torrenting bitrate. Just because a VPN is fast for streaming, it doesn’t mean it’ll deliver fast P2P speeds.
The best free VPNs have an average torrenting bitrate of at least 4MiB/s.