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ProtonVPN Free Review

ProtonVPN Free screenshot
Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

Simon 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, CNet and more. Read full bio

Ask Simon about ProtonVPN Free

Our Verdict

If you’re looking for a free VPN we absolutely recommend ProtonVPN Free. It’s very safe to use, its apps are open-source, and it comes with unlimited data. ProtonVPN free comes with just three server locations and it doesn’t work with Netflix or torrenting, but it is a top choice for those seeking high levels of privacy without spending a cent.

From the images of its underground Swiss data centers to its regularly updated transparency report, ProtonVPN Free definitely wants users to feel safe using its product.

But do ProtonVPN’s claims of “transparency,” “honesty,” and “security first” add up? Do free customers get the same level of online security and privacy as its paid subscribers?

We’ve tested every aspect of this VPN to create the most comprehensive ProtonVPN Free review. Here are some of the key questions we’ll answer:

  • Is ProtonVPN Free safe?
  • Does it work with Netflix?
  • How fast is ProtonVPN Free?
  • Is it a good VPN?
  • Can you torrent using ProtonVPN Free?

We found that ProtonVPN Free is one of the best free VPNs on the market. Its use of AES-256 encryption with OpenVPN provides an affordable way to protect your online traffic.

Though its unlimited bandwidth is impressive, the VPN comes with just three server locations and it doesn’t work for P2P activity or unblocking Netflix. Overall, ProtonVPN Free is good enough for private web browsing but it cannot compete with the paid version.

Read our detailed review of the paid version of ProtonVPN here.

Before we go into more details about ProtonVPN’s free VPN, let’s look at its main pros and cons:

ProtonVPN Free Pros & Cons

  1. Unlimited bandwidth — no VPN data cap
  2. Minimal logging policy
  3. VPN kill switch & no IP/DNS/WebRTC leaks
  4. Great short-distance speeds of 60Mbps
  5. User-friendly VPN apps (open-source & audited)
  1. Only three VPN server locations
  2. Torrenting not permitted on any servers
  3. Doesn’t work with Netflix or BBC iPlayer
  4. Doesn't work in China

ProtonVPN Free Key Summary

Data CapSpeedLogging PolicyData LeaksJurisdictionServersIP AddressesCountriesUS NetflixTorrentingWorks in ChinaSupportCheapest PriceOfficial Website
PremiumFree
UnlimitedUnlimited
85Mbps60Mbps
Anonymous Server Usage DataAnonymous Server Usage Data
NoNo
Switzerland (Privacy Haven)Switzerland (Privacy Haven)
8018
801+8+
503
YesNo
RestrictedRestricted
NoNo
Email & Online Resources OnlyEmail & Online Resources Only
$4.00/mo over 12 MonthsFree
ProtonVPN.com

Often free VPNs are frustratingly slow, but ProtonVPN proved otherwise. Before we reveal how well ProtonVPN did in our speed tests, let’s take a look at who’s behind the VPN and its logging policy.

Who is ProtonVPN Free?

About & Logging

ProtonVPN was founded in 2007 and is operated by ProtonVPN AG. It has close ties to Proton Technologies AG, the company that owns encrypted email service ProtonMail.

ProtonVPN AG is based in Geneva, Switzerland, meaning its users are protected by some of the world’s strongest privacy and data protection laws.

In its privacy policy, ProtonVPN does state that it will “disclose the limited user data we possess when requested by a Swiss court” but, as this can’t be linked back to you as an individual, it’s not a privacy risk.

Logging Policy

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

The only thing ProtonVPN Free collects is the timestamp of your last successful login attempt, and this gets overwritten each time you successfully connect to the VPN.

This information is used to protect user accounts from password brute force attacks, and also to determine that nobody else is using your account.

ProtonVPN’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

This means that nothing you do while connected to ProtonVPN Free can be linked back to you.

Pretty quick for a free VPN

Speed & Reliability

Proton VPN Free is pretty fast for a free VPN, and there are no data caps to slow you down either. However, we have experienced slower speeds during peak times, as premium users are granted priority.

While a speed loss of around 36% connecting to the nearest VPN server (UK to the Netherlands) isn’t that fast in comparison to the top paid-for VPNs, ProtonVPN is still quick for a complimentary service.

Local Speed Test Results

Before using ProtonVPN Free:

  1. DownloadMbps

    94

  2. UploadMbps

    98

  3. Pingms

    3

When connected to ProtonVPN Free:

  1. DownloadMbps

    60

  2. UploadMbps

    59

  3. Pingms

    22

Download speed without ProtonVPN Free: 93.78Mbps

Download speed with ProtonVPN Free: 59.77Mbps

Our download speed loss when ProtonVPN Free is running: 36%

Speeds do take a hit if you’re connecting to VPN servers further away from your physical location – we experienced a 78% drop-off connecting from the UK to the US.

Here are the average speeds to expect from the UK to ProtonVPN’s other free VPN servers:

  • USA: 21Mbps (download) & 15Mbps (upload)
  • Japan: 19Mbps (download) & 15Mbps (upload)

While ProtonVPN’s speeds on nearby servers are sufficient for streaming and torrenting, these services aren’t supported on the free apps.

To find out how we test VPN speeds you can look at our How We Review VPNs page.

Limited to three VPN server locations

Server Locations

Globe with a blue flag3Countries
Image of a city landscape3Cities
Image of a pink markerUndisclosed number ofIP Addresses

The free version of ProtonVPN only allows you to access three different VPN server locations – Japan, the Netherlands, and the US.

Screenshot of ProtonVPN Free Server in App

While this may not be a problem for users nearby to the free VPN servers, those elsewhere in the world will naturally experience slower speeds when using ProtonVPN Free.

There are a total of eight individual VPN servers available to free users, a very small number which will also slow down speeds at peak times.

It’s not possible to drill down to city-level VPN servers, but if you upgrade to a premium ProtonVPN subscription you’ll be treated to 11 US cities and a total of 43 countries worldwide.

While ProtonVPN does not have any virtual servers, it does rent some of the bare-metal servers in its network. ProtonVPN leases these servers from trusted data centers that allow the VPN company full access in order to ensure its minimal logs policy is maintained.

Bad choice for streaming and torrenting fans

Streaming & Torrenting

Our manual and automated tests found that ProtonVPN Free does not work with US Netflix or BBC iPlayer.

ProtonVPN Free failed to unblock US Netflix, Disney+, HBO, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu on its US server. As it’s not possible to connect to a VPN server in the UK, you won’t be able to watch BBC iPlayer, either.

If you want to unblock geo-restricted streaming sites with ProtonVPN — you’ll have to upgrade to the paid plan. The paid version of ProtonVPN regularly unblocks US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Disney+ in our testing — all while maintaining fast enough speeds for HD streaming.

Torrenting

While ProtonVPN is safe and secure enough for P2P, it doesn’t support torrenting on any of its free VPN servers – this is a feature reserved exclusively for paid subscribers (Basic, Plus and Visionary plans).

P2P warning pop-up on ProtonVPN Free app

If you try to torrent while connected to one of ProtonVPN’s free VPN servers, this warning message will pop up.

If you need a free VPN to keep you safe while torrenting, check out our top recommendations here.

Doesn't work in China

Censorship

ProtonVPN’s free VPN is no good for bypassing censorship in countries that block VPNs, least of all in China.

Not only does ProtonVPN operate on OpenVPN, the protocol that’s easiest for the Great Firewall’s censors to detect and block, free users also don’t have access to the Secure Core servers.

Secure Core is designed to provide an additional layer of obfuscation by routing traffic through multiple VPN servers, but even then it’s not always enough to get past China’s censors.

If you need a reliable VPN for China, you’ll likely have to pay for it – here are our top recommendations.

Due to ProtonVPN’s tiny free server network, it won’t be a good VPN choice for those in other high censorship countries like Turkey, Russia, or the UAE.

Custom VPN apps for main platforms & works with routers

Platforms & Devices

Apps

Windows LogoWindows
Mac LogoMac
iOS LogoiOS
Android LogoAndroid
Linux LogoLinux
Router LogoRouter

ProtonVPN’s free VPN is available on:

  • Microsoft Windows
  • Apple MacOS
  • Android
  • iOS

All of the VPN apps are open-source and have been audited by consulting firm SEC Consult, making ProtonVPN super transparent.

There’s also a simple manual workaround for Linux users.

Unlike its premium VPN plans, ProtonVPN’s free plan only allows you to connect on one device at a time.

 

Games Consoles & Streaming Devices

AppleTV LogoAppleTV
Amazon Fire TV LogoAmazon Fire TV
Chromecast LogoChromecast
Nintendo LogoNintendo
PlayStation LogoPlayStation
Roku LogoRoku
Xbox LogoXbox

ProtonVPN Free doesn’t have any native apps for streaming devices or games consoles, but there is a workaround.

Since ProtonVPN’s free plan only allows you to use the VPN service on one device at a time, installing it at router level is a good move if you want to protect multiple devices, including streaming devices like Amazon’s Fire TV Stick and games consoles like Xbox or PlayStation.

You can find the full list of compatible router models on the support section of ProtonVPN’s website.

If you’re a Fire TV Stick user, though, we suggest you take a look at these free Firestick VPN apps, for a much simpler and quicker setup.

Browser Extensions

ProtonVPN doesn’t provide browser extensions for free or paid users. If you’re looking for a free VPN with browser extensions, check out Windscribe.

Free version offers same robust security as premium VPN

Encryption & Security

Protocols

IKEv2/IPSec

OpenVPN (TCP/UDP)

Encryption

AES-256

Security

DNS Leak Blocking

IPV6 Leak Blocking

VPN Kill Switch

Advanced features

Split Tunneling

Please see our VPN Glossary if these terms confuse you and would like to learn more.

Users of ProtonVPN Free benefit from exactly the same level of security as its premium VPN subscribers, making it one of the safest free VPNs around.

Screenshot of ProtonVPN Free Settings Menu in App

The desktop apps run exclusively on OpenVPN, the most secure VPN protocol, so you can be sure that your personal information will be protected. Encryption is via top cipher AES-256. The Android app gives the option to connect with either OpenVPN or IKEv2, which is also very secure, while the iOS app is IKEv2-only.

The VPN kill switch feature is absolutely essential, as it 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.

ProtonVPN Free also protects you against DNS and IPv6 leaks, as confirmed by our independent leak tests.

Screenshot of leak test results on browserleaks.com

Leak test results on browserleaks.com while connected to a ProtonVPN free US server. We test from the UK.

Unfortunately, there are a handful of features that are limited to paid users, such as ProtonVPN’s Secure Core servers, which increase privacy by routing traffic through multiple VPN servers. ProtonVPN Free also lacks servers optimized for use with Tor.

Nevertheless, it’s one of the most secure (and safe) free providers we’ve seen.

Easy setup & intuitive custom apps

Ease of Use

How to Install & Set Up ProtonVPN Free

Getting up and running with ProtonVPN Free is super easy and will only take you a couple of minutes from start to finish.

Once downloaded, ProtonVPN’s free apps are exactly as easy to use as its premium apps, with fewer server locations the only noticeable difference.

Unlike many free VPNs, which come with restrictive data caps, ProtonVPN gives free users unlimited bandwidth.

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 VPN newbies.

Plenty of online resources & intermittent live chat support

Customer Support

EmailYes
Online ResourcesYes

ProtonVPN Free’s customer support is far better than that offered by most of our other free providers, but it hasn’t got a patch on premium services as there’s no live chat.

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

ProtonVPN has email support too and it’s helpful, if pretty slow, making it fairly easy to get the assistance you need.

Do We Recommend ProtonVPN Free?

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a free VPN we absolutely recommend ProtonVPN. It’s very safe to use, all the apps are open-source, and it comes with unlimited data, which means that you can protect as much or as little of your online activity as you want.

There are some drawbacks, like the limit of three server locations and lack of streaming and P2P support, but ProtonVPN should be a top choice for those seeking high levels of privacy without spending a cent.

Alternatives to ProtonVPN Free

Windscribe

Windscribe

Windscribe is our favorite free VPN. Windscribe Free unblocks US and UK Netflix, and also is secure enough for safe torrenting. Windscribe protects P2P traffic with a VPN kill switch and DNS leak protection. Read Windscribe review

TunnelBear Logo

TunnelBear

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, too. Read TunnelBear review

About the Author


  • Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

    Simon Migliano

    Simon 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, CNet and more. Read full bio


User Feedback for ProtonVPN Free

User Questions & Answers

Typical questions asked are:

  • Does this VPN have a free trial?
  • Is this VPN safe from logging?
  • Does it unblock Netflix?

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User Reviews for ProtonVPN Free

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  1.  100% 

    Great VPN for those who put security first

    I've been using ProtonVPN for almost a year now. It's super easy to use and they are adding news servers which increase speed. I wish they had live support but other than that, great service. Btw, this product was built by the same team who built ProtonMail. You can't go wrong with Mr. Robot!