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.
Hide.me offers strong ecryption and we love the kill switch, first-party DNS servers, and protection against DNS leaks. A strict zero-logs policy goes even further to protect your personal data.
We want to clarify that this review is for the unpaid version of Hide.me. You can find our full Hide.Me premium review here.
Speed & Reliability
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 how little you’ll be able to do on a monthly basis.
We test from the UK – our nearest free server location was the Netherlands where we clocked peak download speeds of 41Mbps. Speeds dropped significantly over longer distances.
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 of which offer ping times as low as 1ms.
To read about our speed testing methodologies, please read How We Review VPNs.
Hide.me’s free VPN service is limited to just five server locations: the Netherlands, Canada, Singapore, and the US (with a choice of both East and West Coast).
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 Microsoft Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS. It also provides manual setup guides for other platforms such as Linux.
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 free of charge. They include protection against WebRTC leaks, two extra server locations (US and Germany), and don’t come with a data cap.
These are SOCKS proxies rather than full VPN extensions, meaning that while they spoof your IP address they don’t encrypt your traffic unless used alongside the desktop app.
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 monthly data cap, which will severely restrict your streaming and gaming activities.
Streaming & Torrenting
We absolutely can’t recommend Hide.me’s free service for streaming.
We could access Netflix through the West Coast US server, but watching BBC iPlayer is impossible as you can’t connect to the UK.
Streaming will burn through your monthly data allowance after just a couple of hours, anyway. If it’s a priority, check out our latest VPN streaming recommendations here.
Torrenting is permitted on three of the free server locations, but the data cap will be a massive setback once more.
For torrenting we’d suggest looking into other zero-logs providers – one of our favorites is IPVanish.
Encryption & Security
Hide.me’s free plan is an excellent choice for those seeking the highest levels of privacy. Encryption is via AES-256, considered to be the ‘gold standard’, and you can choose between a range of different VPN protocols.
The free apps (excluding Android) also offer a VPN kill switch along with first-party DNS servers and built-in DNS/IPv6 leak blocking, which our leak tests confirmed to be working.
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. 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 offers a couple of solutions for bypassing China’s Great Firewall including SoftEther connections, which use HTTPS to mask the fact you’re using a VPN. It’s worth noting that SoftEther isn’t available for Android or iOS, though.
Users are encouraged to contact tech support before attempting to use the service in the country though, as not all servers will work. The Chinese government has also now blocked Hide.me’s website, meaning you need to download the VPN before you travel.
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.
Hide.me doesn’t collect any personally identifiable data, and only maintains non-persistent logs of connection data, including:
- Randomly generated username
- Internally assigned IP address
- Total amount of monthly data traffic
This data is used for troubleshooting purposes and erased every few hours. Even better, it 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. 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’s apps are 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, and you can find the server locations by clicking the ‘Change’ button in the bottom right, with the free locations helpfully displayed at the top of the list. You can find the well-organized settings menu behind the cog symbol in the top-right.
Downloading and installing Hide.me on any device is super easy. 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.
Hide.me’s 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 organized and includes a helpful FAQs page and simple setup guides accompanied by screenshots.
The Bottom Line
- Reliable local download speeds
- Strict zero-logs policy
- Advanced privacy features
- No intrusive ads
- Simple custom apps
- 2GB monthly data cap
- Awful international performance
- Limited to ‘best effort’ bandwidth
- Only five 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 severely restricts what you can do online. Local speeds are decent, but international performance was awful.
Despite its flaws, 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. A VPN kill switch, first-party DNS servers and other advanced features set it apart from the competition, and it also works well in China.
If you want to see some of your other options, take a look at our Best Free VPNs of 2019.