Hide.me’s free plan is a great way of testing out the premium app, but isn’t a long-term solution due to the 2GB monthly data cap. Performance isn’t as good as the premium plan due to the fact that premium users are given priority during peak times, but speeds on local connections are fast enough for HD streaming. Unfortunately the data cap won’t allow you to stream for very long and most popular services, including Netflix and BBC iPlayer, are impossible to access due to the limited server locations. Modern, user-friendly (and ad-free) apps are available for a range of popular devices, but you can only use the VPN on one at a time.
Hide.me offers a full suite of privacy features for free and premium subscribers alike. Encryption is strong and we love the VPN kill switch, first-party DNS servers and protection against DNS and IPv6 leaks. A strict zero-logs policy goes even further to protect your personal data. The desktop apps work well in China due to specialist protocols. Customer service is better than most free providers, with 24/7 live chat support and useful online resources, but support agents often lack technical knowledge.
We want to clarify that this review is for the unpaid version of Hide.me. If you want to read our review for the premium version, you can find it here.
Speed & Reliability
Free users of Hide.me can expect mediocre performance on local connections and very slow speeds internationally. If you live far from one of the free servers, Hide.me’s free plan isn’t for you. Local downloads are good enough for buffer-free HD streaming, but high latency means it’s not a great choice for gamers.
Hide.me states that free users receive ‘best effort’ bandwidth, which gives performance priority to premium subscribers and means that free users will experience a drop in performance at peak times. It’s also worth noting that we burnt through half of our data allowance running a few speed tests, which gives you an idea of what you’ll be able to do on a monthly basis.
Considering we test from the UK, the nearest free server location was the Netherlands where we clocked peak download speeds of up to 41Mbps. This is nothing in comparison to the blistering speeds of our top-tier providers, but will be fast enough for most everyday users, especially since the data cap restricts you to not much more than general browsing.
Latency came in pretty high during our tests at 14ms on local connections. This won’t affect most, but gamers will want to look at other providers. Some offer ping times as low as under 1ms, although you should bear in mind that these are premium VPNs – but you get what you pay for.
We were disappointed with just how long it took to connect, the process taking anywhere between 10 and 30 seconds, which could be frustrating if you need to change servers regularly. We recommend activating the kill switch to prevent your IP address from being exposed while the VPN is re-connecting. Fortunately, there were no connection drops to speak of and performance was consistent, with little variation from one test to the next.
Uploads were marginally better than downloads on local connections, peaking at a decent 46Mbps in the Netherlands. They dropped to 17Mbps connecting to Canada, and barely reached 4Mbps in Singapore, but this is to be expected. Torrenters looking to connect internationally should consider other providers, especially given the data cap.
Hide.me offers decent performance to users who live near a free server, but those connecting from afar will be disappointed.
To read about our speed testing methodologies, please read How We Review VPNs.
Hide.me’s free VPN service is limited to just three server locations: the Netherlands, Canada, and Singapore. While these go some way to cover popular countries in three different continents, it won’t be enough for some, particularly if you live far from the available servers.
Offering such a limited number of server locations is fairly standard for a free service, but even Hide.me’s premium plan offers just 34 server locations. There are providers out there like HideMyAss! offering up to 190 countries, if you need a greater choice.
Platforms & Devices
Hide.me offers custom apps for a range of popular devices, including Microsoft Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, and iOS. It also has an app for Windows Phone and provides manual setup guides for several other devices such as Linux and Blackberry.
The biggest drawback for those on the free plan is that users can’t protect multiple devices at the same time – to compare, premium subscribers can use it on up to five devices. It’s possible to install the VPN at router level but the 2GB data limit will be a major hindrance if you do.
Hide.me offers browser extensions for both Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, both of which are super easy to add to the browser. These are available to free users, include protection against WebRTC leaks, and don’t come with a data cap. As well as the three free server locations, you can also connect to the US and Germany. These are great bonuses for heavy browser users looking for a more lightweight experience. Note that these are proxies, rather than full VPN extensions, so don’t encrypt your traffic, meaning they shouldn’t be a complete replacement for the other apps.
Games Consoles & Streaming Devices
Hide.me doesn’t have any native apps for games consoles or streaming devices, but its website does provide manual setup guides for a range of platforms including AppleTV, PlayStation 4, and Kodi. While these manual workarounds aren’t too difficult the real problem lies in the 2GB monthly data cap, which will severely restrict your streaming and gaming activities. If you’re looking to use a VPN for those purposes, definitely look into other providers or consider paying for the Hide.me premium plan.
Streaming & Torrenting
Due to the limited server locations and 2GB data cap, we absolutely can’t recommend Hide.me’s free service for streaming fans. Accessing Netflix or BBC iPlayer is impossible as you can’t connect to a US or UK server, and those streaming on other sites will burn through their monthly data allowance after just a couple of hours. Streaming fans can check out our latest VPN recommendations here.
Torrenting is permitted on all three free server locations – clearly marked on the server list with a green P2P symbol – but the data cap will be a massive setback once more. If torrenting is a priority, we’d suggest looking into other zero-logs providers such as IPVanish, as even Hide.me’s premium plan doesn’t permit torrenting on many of its popular servers.
Encryption & Security
Hide.me’s free plan is an excellent choice for those seeking the highest levels of privacy as it offers pretty much all of the same advanced security features as the premium version. You can choose between a range of VPN protocols within the app but we’d recommend opting for OpenVPN, which offers the best balance between performance and privacy. Encryption is via AES-256, a cipher considered ‘unbreakable’.
The free apps (excluding Android) also offer a VPN kill switch, which is an essential privacy feature that blocks your internet traffic should the VPN connection drop, therefore preventing your true IP address from being exposed. To further protect your personal data, Hide.me offers first-party DNS servers and built-in DNS/IPv6 leak blocking – it also passed all all our leak tests.
We were also pleasantly surprised to see split tunneling included in the Windows app, a feature that allows you to choose which traffic does and doesn’t go through the VPN tunnel. This may increase performance, and also means you won’t lose access to local network devices such as printers or smart TVs. Port randomization offers an extra layer of security, but you can manually select a port if you prefer.
- OpenVPN (TCP/UDP)
- DNS Leak Blocking
- First-party DNS
- IPV6 Leak Blocking
- Supports TCP Port 443
- VPN Kill Switch
- Split Tunneling
Hide.me is one of a handful of services that can still be used to access restricted content from within China, and this extends to the free version too. The Chinese government has now blocked Hide.me’s website and the Google Play Store, meaning you need to download the software from outside the country.
Hide.me offers a couple of solutions for bypassing the Great Firewall including SoftEther connections, which use HTTPS to mask the fact you’re using a VPN. The recent addition of the IKEv2 Stealth Mode protocol is another option for users connecting out of China. However Hide.me encourages users to contact tech support before attempting to use the service in the country as not all servers will work. It’s also worth noting that SoftEther isn’t available for Android or iOS, and neither is IKEv2 on the latter, so users of those devices should look into other providers that offer solutions for a wider range of devices.
These protocols should also make Hide.me a good choice for those living in other high-censorship countries, but the limited server network on the free plan means that users located far from the available locations may experience poor performance.
Free users can rest assured that they are covered by the same strict zero-logs policy offered to premium subscribers. Hide.me doesn’t collect any personally identifiable data, and only maintains non-persistent logs of connection data, which includes a randomly generated username and internally assigned IP address. This data is used for troubleshooting purposes and erased every few hours.
Hide.me does log the total amount of monthly data traffic used in order to maintain performance levels and to properly bill users on data-capped plans. Once more, this data can’t be linked back to individuals and can be deleted upon request.
Hide.me is incorporated in Malaysia where there are no data retention laws that require VPN providers to keep persistent logs of customer connections or network activities. It also puts Hide.me beyond the reach of US authorities, a jurisdiction known for intrusive surveillance and international data-sharing agreements. Hide.me also reassures users that should the data retention laws in Malaysia change it will do its best to move jurisdictions.
Hide.me states that it will comply with court orders from a recognized legal authority, but can’t be compelled to hand over information that it doesn’t have.
Ease of Use
Hide.me offers a range of well-designed, user-friendly custom apps for free users. They’re simple enough for VPN newbies, and the advanced features will satisfy more experienced users too. Unlike many free services, there isn’t an ad in sight, which is very refreshing. The main screen is stripped back to the basics – a simple on/off button in the center, your chosen location, and new IP address. You have to manually renew the free plan every 30 days, which resets the 2GB data cap.
You can find the server locations by clicking the ‘Change’ button in the bottom right. The free version shows the three available locations at the top of the list, and displays premium locations below, which are helpfully grayed out. You can find settings behind the cog symbol in the top right; they’re well-organised into clearly-labelled tabs such as ‘Protocol’ and ‘Kill Switch’.
The Windows app also allows you to route certain traffic outside of the VPN tunnel – this feature can be found behind the settings tab labelled ‘Split Tunnel’. The Android and iOS apps are equally slick but lack some of the advanced features available for desktop computer.
Downloading and installing Hide.me on any of the devices with custom apps is super easy, even for complete beginners. There are simple setup guides with helpful screenshots for each supported platform on the website, should you need them.
The process is as easy as creating a free online account, downloading the relevant software from the website or app store, and following the installation prompts. All that’s left to do after this is log on and connect.
Hide.me offers the same level of customer support to free users as it does for premium, which is not the case with many other providers. Live chat is available 24/7, and is great for answering any basic questions you may have, but not so effective for more technical queries. For those, you have to email the technical support team, but responses weren’t as quick as we would’ve liked.
Despite this, the support section of the website is well organised, and includes a helpful FAQs page and simple setup guides accompanied by screenshots. There is no search function, which means that you have to manually check articles to find what you’re looking for, but the quality of the content makes up for this.
The Bottom Line
- Local download speeds of up to 41Mbps
- Strict zero-logs policy
- Advanced privacy features
- No intrusive ads
- Simple custom apps for range of popular devices
- 2GB monthly data cap restricts activity severely
- Awful performance on international connections
- No access to popular streaming sites
- Limited to ‘best effort’ bandwidth
- Can only connect to three server locations
Hide.me is one of our top picks for privacy, even for those on the free plan, but the 2GB monthly data cap and the fact you can only connect to three locations severely restricts what you can do online. Free users receive “best effort” bandwidth, which could mean poor performance at peak times. We experienced decent local downloads of up to 41Mbps, but international performance was awful. High ping times and unimpressive uploads are far from ideal for gamers and torrenters. It’s not possible to access Netflix or BBC iPlayer but even if it were you wouldn’t be able to watch more than a couple of shows a month due to the data cap.
Hide.me is one of the best providers in the current market for privacy; it’s incorporated in a privacy-friendly jurisdiction with a strict zero-logs policy and some great security features. A VPN kill switch, first-party DNS servers, leak protection, and other advanced features make it a great choice for those seeking the highest levels of privacy. It also works well in China due to special protocols designed to bypass the firewall.
The Hide.me apps are user-friendly and simple enough for beginners while including enough advanced features to please experienced VPN users. However you can only use the VPN on one device at a time and the data cap means you shouldn’t install it at router level. Customer support is better than that offered by most free services, with 24/7 live chat support and an extensive range of online resources. Live chat agents lack technical knowledge but email support, albeit slow, is available for those queries. Overall Hide.me’s free plan is a teaser of the excellent service offered to premium subscribers, but the restrictive data cap and three-country server limit means it’s definitely not a long-term solution.