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Proton VPN Free Review

 100% 
2 user reviews
Screenshot of Proton VPN's desktop app
Simon Migliano

Simon Migliano is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times and more. Read full bio

Ask Simon About Proton VPN Free

Our Verdict

7.67.6/10
How is this calculated?

Our overall rating is reached by combining several subcategories. The subcategories are weighted as follows:

  • Logging & Jurisdiction: 30%
  • Speed & Reliability: 25%
  • Security & Features: 20%
  • Streaming: 10%
  • Torrenting: 5%
  • Ease of Use: 5%
  • Support: 5%

See our full methodology in how we review VPNs.

We absolutely recommend the free version of Proton VPN as a good VPN. It’s safe to use, its apps are open-source, and it comes with unlimited data. But, it only offers three server locations and it doesn’t work with Netflix or torrenting. Nevertheless, it's a top free service for high levels of privacy.

Ranked #26 out of 71 VPNs

Proton VPN Free Category Ratings

  • 0.80.8/10
  • 0.10.1/10
  • 9.89.8/10
  • 7.27.2/10
  • 33.0/10
  • 33.0/10
  • 5.85.8/10
  • 8.48.4/10
  • 8.18.1/10

Proton VPN Free Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Private logging policy
  • Includes a kill switch & other security features
  • Fast short distance speeds
  • Open-sourced & audited apps
  • No payment details are required

Cons

  • Only three server locations
  • Doesn't work with Netflix
  • Blocks all torrenting traffic
  • Doesn't bypass Chinese censorship
  • No live chat customer support

Proton VPN was founded in 2017 and is operated by the company behind the encrypted email service ProtonMail.

From the images of its underground Swiss data centers, to its regularly updated transparency report, Proton VPN wants users to feel safe using its free product.

But are Proton VPN’s claims of “transparency,” “honesty,” and “security” true? Do free customers get the same level of online security and privacy as its paid subscribers?

We tested every aspect of this free VPN to create the most comprehensive Proton VPN Free review.

Out of hundreds of free VPNs we’ve tested, Proton VPN Free is the only safe free VPN with an unlimited data allowance.

Combined with a privacy-friendly logging policy and AES-256 encryption, Proton VPN is one of the best free VPNs available.

The free app doesn’t require any payment details on signup, and it doesn’t feature any ads.

However, we can’t ignore Proton VPN Free’s several limitations.

There are only three free server locations available, and the VPN only allows one simultaneous connection per account, too.

Moreover, the free VPN can’t bypass Netflix and other streaming geo-blocks, and it blocks torrenting traffic.

Overall, Proton VPN Free secures public WiFi connections and anonymizes your web traffic cost-free. But, it can’t compete with the paid version in terms of torrenting and streaming.

Read our review of Proton VPN’s premium version

EXPERT ADVICE: Proton VPN Free is no good for streaming and torrenting. To stream and torrent without restrictions, try ExpressVPN.

ExpressVPN comes with a 100% 30-day refund guarantee, so you can effectively use ExpressVPN for free for 30 days.

Proton VPN Free Key Data

Data CapSpeedLogging PolicyData LeaksJurisdictionServersIP AddressesCountriesUS NetflixTorrentingSimultaneous ConnectionsWorks In ChinaSupportCheapest PriceOfficial Website
Premium
Free
UnlimitedUnlimited
96Mbps95Mbps
Anonymous Server Usage DataAnonymous Server Usage Data
NoNo
Switzerland (Privacy Haven)Switzerland (Privacy Haven)
1,778163
1,778163+
633
YesNo
PermittedNo
101
NoNo
Email & Online Resources OnlyEmail & Online Resources Only
$6.63/mo over 24 MonthsFree
ProtonVPN.com

Proton VPN Free is private and safe

Logging Policy & Jurisdiction

9.89.8/10
How is this calculated?

We dissect the logging and privacy policies of every VPN. A VPN should never log:

  • Your real IP address
  • Connection timestamps
  • DNS requests

A base of operations outside of 14-Eyes or EU jurisdiction is preferable.

Proton VPN does not collect any logs that can be used to identify you from your online activity. The only thing Proton VPN Free collects is the timestamp of your last successful login attempt, and this gets overwritten each time you connect to the VPN.

The privacy policy for the paid version of Proton VPN also applies to Proton VPN Free. The logging policy is as close to no-logs as you can get without sacrificing VPN server performance.

The connection data that is collected is used to protect user accounts from password brute force attacks, and also to determine that nobody else is using your account.

Proton VPN’s logs don’t contain any identifying information such as:

  • Your true IP address or physical location
  • The apps and websites (DNS requests) you visit while connected

Proton VPN also operates under the jurisdiction of Switzerland. This allows you to benefit from some of the world’s strongest privacy laws, which are outside of EU data laws and the 14 Eyes surveillance alliance.

This, along with Proton VPN’s private minimal-logs policy, means that nothing you do while connected to Proton VPN Free can be linked back to you.

Proton VPN is a trustworthy service

Proton VPN is a very trustworthy and reputable VPN service. The VPN is provided by the same team as the highly-respected encrypted email service, ProtonMail.

The company is active in the privacy community, making donations to protect digital freedom in Hong Kong, and even influencing Swiss surveillance law.

Unlike many free VPNs, Proton VPN Free does not make money by collecting and selling user data.

Instead, the VPN generates revenue from its paid VPN, with these paying customers offsetting the costs of running the free service. This business model is ideal for a free VPN, since it does not invade your privacy.

Proton VPN is a fast free VPN

Speed & Reliability

7.27.2/10
How is this calculated?

Speed ratings are calculated using upload speeds, download speeds, and ping (latency).

We test average speeds regularly using a dedicated 100Mbps connection in London, UK. Local download speed is considered the most important factor.

Proton VPN Free performs a lot better than most free VPNs. We measured a speed loss of just 5% connecting to the nearest VPN server (UK to the Netherlands), which is the fastest local speed result of any free VPN we tested. Long-distance connections are slower, but as streaming is blocked on these servers, the slower speeds aren’t a significant drawback.

Unlike many free VPNs, Proton VPN does not impose any data or bandwidth caps to slow you down. Our tests have measured slower speeds during peak times, though, as there are not many servers to share the load.

Here are the full results we recorded when connecting to all three Proton VPN server locations from London, UK with a 100Mbps internet connection:

Server Location
Download Speed (Mbps)
Upload Speed (Mbps)
Ping (ms)
Distance (miles)
No VPN
100
100
1
0 mi
Netherlands
95
69
14
328 mi
USA
61
39
154
4,484 mi
Japan
15
1
211
5,870 mi

As Proton VPN Free only offers three server locations, your speeds will depend on how close you are to these locations. For example, you can expect very slow speeds if you’re connecting from Africa, as there is not a single server in the continent.

These free servers are less advanced than the plus servers, too, with each having a server capacity 90% smaller than those available to paid users. As Proton VPN only provides 163 servers for free users, these servers are often congested — which can lead to further slowdowns and buffering.

EXPERT TIP: For the fastest speeds, enable ‘VPN Accelerator’ in the app’s settings.

Only three free Proton VPN server locations

Server Locations

33.0/10
How is this calculated?

The global spread and coverage of the VPN server network is the most important factor here.

We also consider the number of city-level servers, plus how many IP addresses are maintained.

This rating does not directly contribute to the Overall Rating, but instead makes up a portion of the Security & Features rating.

The free version of Proton VPN only allows you to access three different VPN server locations — the US, Japan, and the Netherlands. Although this is an extremely limited selection, the servers are well spread out. The biggest drawback of Proton VPN's servers is overuse and congestion, which was more common than we've seen with other VPNs.

Globe with a blue flag
3 Countries
Image of a city landscape
3 Cities
Image of a pink marker
163+ IP Addresses

Proton VPN Free’s servers are spread out as follows:

  • The Netherlands: 11 servers
  • US: 9 servers
  • Japan: 3 servers

Speeds are reasonably fast near the three VPN server locations above, but we experienced slower speeds connecting from further away.

It’s also not possible to drill down to city-level VPN servers, which you can only do with a premium Proton VPN subscription (with access to 63 countries, including 11 US cities).

Although the 16 VPN servers seems like a very small amount, each server is actually a load balancer that reroutes traffic to a pool of over 200 servers.

That said, the free servers are still often overly congested, resulting in slow speeds and connection interruptions.

A congested and slow Proton VPN server

Proton VPN’s free servers are often congested and slow.

Impressively, Proton VPN Free’s server network benefits from the same level of security as the paid service.

All the free servers are in fact bare-metal servers, physically located in the countries they claim to be, and are leased from trusted data centers that allow the VPN to maintain its minimal-logs policy.

Proton VPN Free is bad for streaming and torrenting

Streaming

0.80.8/10
How is this calculated?

Streaming is rated by the number of different services unlocked, how many regional libraries are viewable, and how consistently the VPN can access them.

Netflix, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, DAZN, and Amazon Prime Video are all tested on a weekly basis.

Proton VPN is useless for streaming. Our tests confirm Proton VPN Free doesn't work with US Netflix or BBC iPlayer. The VPN is not suitable for unblocking content and won't work with any streaming service.

Proton VPN Free can access YouTube and other open video platforms, as these don’t typically detect and block VPN connections.

However, the free VPN didn’t work with Netflix, Prime Video, HBO and many other streaming services. We recommend other free Netflix VPNs verified to work.

To unblock geo-restricted streaming content with Proton VPN, you’ll have to upgrade to one of the service’s paid plans.

In fact, the paid version of Proton VPN consistently worked with US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Disney+ in our streaming tests.

Streaming US Netflix with Proton VPN

Streaming US Netflix with the paid version of Proton VPN.

Proton VPN Free isn't suitable for torrenting

Torrenting

0.10.1/10
How is this calculated?

We calculate the average download bitrate of every VPN using a bespoke torrenting setup.

Testing also factors in the percentage of servers which permit P2P, plus useful features like port forwarding.

Proton VPN Free cannot be used to torrent files. The VPN provider blocks all P2P traffic on its free servers. It does this to limit server congestion and to encourage subscriptions to its premium service.

While Proton VPN is safe and secure enough for P2P, it blocks torrenting traffic on all its free servers.

When we tried to download a torrent file using BitTorrent, the Proton VPN app blocked our traffic and issued an error message: “Torrenting is a feature reserved exclusively for paid subscribers.”

P2P warning pop-up on Proton VPN Free app

Torrenting is blocked on all Proton VPN Free servers.

Similarly to streaming, you’ll have to use the premium version of Proton VPN for torrenting. Or, use a secure free VPN that allows torrenting.

Proton VPN Free doesn’t work in China

Bypassing Censorship

33.0/10
How is this calculated?

Our remote-access server in Shanghai, China routinely tests if a VPN can beat restrictions and access a free, open internet. Obfuscation technologies and nearby servers are also a contributing factor.

This rating does not directly contribute to the Overall Rating, but instead makes up a portion of the Security & Features rating.

We found that Proton VPN Free does not work in China and is no good for bypassing censorship. It doesn't include any obfuscation technology, so it's also not a good choice for use in other high censorship countries, like Turkey, Russia, or the UAE.

Just like the paid version, Proton VPN Free doesn’t work in China. Our regular China VPN tests on our Shanghai server confirm this has been the case for many months.

However, the paid version of Proton VPN includes dedicated Tor servers, which we found to work every now and again.

The problem is that Tor is much slower than VPN traffic, and therefore isn’t a practical solution in our opinion.

Secure apps for popular platforms and devices

Platforms & Devices

How is this rated?

A quality VPN should maintain functional, fully-featured applications and extensions for as many platforms and devices as possible.

This does not directly contribute to the Overall Rating, but instead makes up a portion of the Ease of Use rating.

Proton VPN Free is available on almost every platform. You can download the VPN on Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. There’s a Linux GUI app, which is rare, and the VPN can be installed on specialist internet routers.

Apps

Proton VPN Free is available on the following platforms:

  1. Windows
  2. Mac
  3. iOS
  4. Android
  5. Linux
  6. Router

Proton VPN’s free Windows app

The Windows VPN client is the most fully-featured, including many configurable options, including a kill switch, WireGuard, and VPN split tunneling.

Proton VPN's free server list on Windows

Proton VPN’s free server list on Windows.

Proton VPN’s free macOS app

The Mac VPN application has most of the Windows settings, although it lacks split tunneling.

Proton VPN's free app for Mac

Proton VPN’s free app for Mac.

Proton VPN’s free Android and iOS apps

Proton VPN’s free mobile apps are more limited compared to its computer software. This is commonplace among VPN services, though.

The Android app lacks a kill switch, while the iOS application only offers WireGuard as choice of VPN protocol.

Proton VPN's free mobile application

Proton VPN’s free mobile application.

Proton VPN’s free native Linux client

Surprisingly, Proton VPN is the only service with a native free VPN client for Linux. It comes with a full GUI, so it’s very easy to use and we highly recommend it to Linux users.

Proton VPN app home screen on Linux

Proton VPN’s free Linux app is simple and intuitive.

Streaming Devices

Proton VPN Free has native apps for the following streaming devices:

  1. Amazon Fire TV
  2. Android TV
  3. Chromecast

Proton VPN Free has native apps for Fire TV Stick, Android TV, and Chromecast with Google TV.

Proton VPN’s free plan won’t unblock streaming apps, so the VPN’s TV app is only useful for hiding your IP address while using Kodi and IPTV apps.

Proton VPN Free's Fire TV app

Proton VPN’s app on our test Firestick.

Proton VPN’s free VPN router support

Proton VPN’s free plan only allows one simultaneous connection, but by setting up the VPN on your home router you can removes this connection limit.

Additionally, VPN router setup lets you use Proton VPN on your Amazon’s Fire TV Stick, Xbox and PlayStation.

See the full list of compatible router models on the support section of Proton VPN’s website.

Free version offers same robust security as premium VPN

Security & Features

5.85.8/10
How is this calculated?

Top-rated VPNs offer OpenVPN or WireGuard protocols, AES-256 encryption, and a functional kill switch. We also consider additional security features and the global spread of VPN servers.

Proton VPN is an excellent choice if you’re serious about privacy and you want to stay safe online. Users of Proton VPN Free benefit from exactly the same level of security as its premium VPN subscribers, making it the safest free VPN available.

Protocols
  1. IKEv2/IPSec
  2. OpenVPN (TCP/UDP)
Encryption
  1. AES-256
Security
  1. DNS Leak Blocking
  2. IPv6 Leak Blocking
  3. VPN Kill Switch
Advanced Features
  1. Split Tunneling

Proton VPN is one of the first VPN services to publish its source code and become wholly open-source. This means Proton VPN can be inspected by anyone, ensuring user data is not being mishandled and that Proton VPN’s encryption and security techniques are watertight.

On top of this, Proton VPN published a third-party security audit of its VPN service on all platforms, with all vulnerabilities being either accepted or fixed.

The free VPN comes with a range of security features, including a VPN kill switch. This prevents your true IP address from being exposed in case of an unexpected connection drop. Split tunneling is also available, allowing users to exclude some internet traffic from the VPN tunnel.

Enabling Proton VPN's kill switch in the app

Proton VPN Free includes a kill switch

Data is encrypted using the unbreakable AES-256 cipher and all its use OpenVPN. OpenVPN is the most secure VPN protocol, so you can be sure that your personal information will be protected.

Proton VPN Free also protects you against DNS and IPv6 leaks, as confirmed by our IP and DNS leak tests.

Screenshot of leak test results using Proton VPN Free

Proton VPN Free concealed our true IP address.

Sadly, there are a handful of features that are limited to paid users, such as Proton VPN’s Secure Core servers. This feature increases privacy by routing traffic through multiple VPN servers, so its absence makes the free version less secure than the paid offering.

Nevertheless, thanks to its use of best-in-class encryption protocols and ciphers, Proton VPN Free is the most secure free VPN we’ve seen and you can rely on it to encrypt your online traffic.

Proton VPN's free apps are easy to set up and intuitive

Ease of Use

8.48.4/10
How is this calculated?

This rating mainly consists of the intuitiveness of setup and everyday use.

Device or platform compatibility and customization options are also a factor.

Getting started with Proton VPN Free is easy and will only take you a couple of minutes from start to finish. Once downloaded, Proton VPN’s free apps are easier to use than its premium apps, as there are fewer features and settings to configure.

How to Install & Set Up Proton VPN Free

We’re not used to seeing any sort of configurable options from free VPNs, so it made a refreshing change to be able to configure the VPN kill switch feature, DNS leak protection, and toggle between UDP and TCP protocols.

Contextual information can be found next to most of these settings, which will be particularly helpful for new VPN users.

The only drawback is the app’s map interface, as we prefer a simple server list. Thankfully, you can collapse the app down to a single column, which helps usability.

Online resources but no live chat support

Customer Support

8.18.1/10
How is this calculated?

This rating is based on our assessment of each VPN’s:

  • Email support
  • Live chat support
  • Online resources

Not every VPN offers all of these, and they often vary in quality and response time.

Proton VPN's customer support is far better than that offered by most of our other free providers. The only drawback is that there is no live chat, which is common among paid VPN services. You'll have to wait longer for a reply, but Proton VPN's support team is knowledgeable and helpful.

EmailYes
Online ResourcesYes

There’s an online support center that will cover basic VPN queries and troubleshooting issues, and there are also step-by-step installation guides for all supported devices, including those that need to be manually configured.

The best way to get assistance, though, is through Proton VPN’s email support. The email support team is very knowledgeable and answered our technical questions without any problem. The disadvantage to this method is that they are slow to respond. We sometimes had to wait over three days for an answer.

Do We Recommend Proton VPN Free?

The Bottom Line

Proton VPN Free is one of the best free VPNs we’ve tested. It comes from a highly-respected cybersecurity firm, it’s very safe to use, and all the apps are open-source.

As we mentioned in the review above, Proton VPN Free is also the only safe free VPN with unlimited bandwidth. You can also install it on your home router, letting your secure all your household’s devices.

But, Proton VPN Free has some significant downsides compared to its paid offering.

Most notably, the free VPN can’t unblock content platforms and torrenting activity is blocked on its three free server locations.

Nevertheless, Proton VPN Free remains an excellent choice if you don’t want to spend a cent. Although it lacks many advanced VPN features, it’s faultless for hiding your web activity from your ISP and for securing unsafe public WiFi networks.

Proton VPN Compared to Other Free VPNs

The table below compares Proton VPN to two alternative free VPN services, Windscribe and TunnelBear.

As you can see, Proton VPN Free is a high-quality free VPN. Its streaming and torrenting performance is bad, but it’s the only safe free VPN with no data caps whatsoever.

Additional research by Luke Williams

Alternatives to Proton VPN Free

Windscribe

Windscribe

8.68.6/10

Windscribe is our favorite all-round free VPN. Windscribe Free reliably unblocks UK Netflix, and is secure enough for safe torrenting. Windscribe also protects P2P traffic with a VPN kill switch and DNS leak protection. It comes with a 10GB monthly data allowance, though, so you won’t be able to secure all of your traffic. Read Windscribe review

TunnelBear VPN logo

TunnelBear

7.47.4/10

TunnelBear's free VPN service allows you to choose between 23 server locations, which is the most generous we've seen for a complimentary service. It's safe, secure, and easy to use, but it comes with a stingy 500MB monthly data cap. Read TunnelBear review

About the Author


  • Simon Migliano

    Simon Migliano

    Simon Migliano is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times and more. Read full bio


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