VPNBook is a free, OpenVPN-based provider that will only suit those looking to protect non-sensitive data with no regard for performance. Downloads were incredibly slow and uploads on most servers struggled to even get started, making it a no-go for torrenters. It’s not currently possible to access Netflix or BBC iPlayer, so streaming fans should give this VPN a miss too. There are no custom apps but you can download the OpenVPN client on a wide range of devices, so long as you don’t mind a small element of manual config.
In terms of privacy, VPNBook gets the basics right, but it could do a whole lot better. Strong encryption and our top-rated VPN protocol are a great start, but a lack of kill switch is a major downside, as is the fact our true IP address was being leaked in the background. The logging policy involves your IP address being collected but this is deleted after one week. Customer support is non-existent and don’t expect to be able to use the service in China. A lot to improve on.
Speed & Reliability
VPNBook is one of the slowest, most unreliable VPNs we’ve ever tested. Performance was unacceptably bad on all servers, even those closest to our physical location, meaning even standard web pages took an absolute age to load.
Peak download speeds reached a paltry 10Mbps on the German server (we test from the UK), which is fine if all you’re going to be doing online is some general browsing and maybe streaming on one device. However, it’s a fraction of what you could get with some of our top-tier providers, such as NordVPN. Don’t even bother using VPNBook if you’re planning on connecting internationally – speeds in the US only just reached 1Mbps.
Latency is another issue, so gamers should definitely not consider this VPN. Even on local connections, latency came in at a fairly high 19ms, but this should suffice for most.
We were incredibly disappointed by VPNBook’s upload speeds, especially on its Polish and German servers, which are supposedly the only ones that permit P2P activity. Both of these failed to get off the mark at all, so it would be impossible to torrent. The only location we got reasonable speeds from was the US, coming in at 8Mbps, but even this is well below average.
To read about our speed testing methodologies, please read How We Review VPNs.
VPNBook currently offers servers in just five countries – Poland, Germany, France, Canada and the US. If you live in or around these countries, you shouldn’t have any issues, but those based elsewhere should avoid this VPN.
Users in the US can choose between two different servers – one on the East Coast and another on the West Coast. While this is great for those looking to choose the server closest to them for the best possible performance, we would have traded this in for more diversity across VPNBook’s global network, such as choices in Asia, Africa or South America.
VPNBook is completely funded by advertisements and donations, and commits to adding more servers as and when it can afford it. There’s no indication of how many IP addresses it maintains in total, however it looks like one IP is shared by several users at once – while this is great news for privacy, it could partly explain the poor performance.
Platforms & Devices
VPNBook doesn’t offer custom apps for any devices, but rather can be manually configured on any device that supports OpenVPN or PPTP. PPTP is slightly easier to set up as it’s built-in to Microsoft Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android and Linux devices, but this protocol is a lot easier to crack than OpenVPN and therefore doesn’t offer as high a level of protection.
The OpenVPN client is a fairly simple tool to use, and VPNBook offers setup guides for many popular devices on its website. It’s also our recommended VPN protocol as it offers the best performance without compromising on privacy. Because the software is based on OpenVPN configurations rather than device-focused apps, you can install VPNBook on pretty much any device you’d like, including routers.
Streaming & Torrenting
If you’re looking for a VPN that offers quick, easy access to popular streaming sites, VPNBook is not the right provider for you. We weren’t able to access Netflix on either of its US servers, and the lack of a UK server makes it impossible to watch BBC iPlayer. Speeds on nearby servers were so bad that it looks almost 30 seconds just to load web pages, let alone attempt to stream any content – it’s clear that VPNBook wasn’t designed with streaming in mind.
On its website, VPNBook states that P2P activity is permitted on its Polish and German servers, however when we ran our speed tests we found that uploads struggled to reach 1Mbps, which isn’t anywhere quick enough for torrenting. The servers in Canada, France and the US expressly prohibit P2P activity, so users in those countries should look into other providers, such as our torrenting pick IPVanish.
Encryption & Security
When it comes to protecting your personal information, VPNBook is one of the better free providers we’ve seen, however it does also come with a few major flaws. You can choose between OpenVPN and PPTP servers, and we like that VPNBook states on its website that OpenVPN offers ‘the best anonymity’, as that means more people are likely to choose it. Encryption is via the most secure cipher, AES-256.
Unfortunately that’s pretty much where VPNBook’s privacy offerings end, as there are no advanced features to speak of. There’s not even a VPN killswitch, so your IP address could potentially be exposed if the VPN connection dropped for any reason.
There’s also no built-in protection against DNS or WebRTC leaks, and worryingly when we ran our tests, it showed that our true IP address and DNS requests were actually being leaked, so our ISP would be able to see what we were doing online. This makes using this VPN essentially pointless.
- OpenVPN (TCP/UDP)
VPNBook is still a relatively unknown provider in the VPN world, and we can’t find any user reports to check whether or not it’s working in China. It’s likely that you’ll struggle to bypass the Great Firewall using the OpenVPN servers as there are no extra layers of obfuscation and the well-known VPN protocol is very easy for censors to detect and block. For a VPN that offers obfuscation, take a look at StrongVPN.
VPNBook’s PPTP servers may be a good option for those living in or traveling to China, as there are reliable reports to show that PPTP is still working for most users in that country. It’s the least secure protocol though, and it’s also very easy for third parties (such as the Chinese government) to compromise, so make sure you always connect using HTTPS.
The story is much the same in other high-censorship countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey – OpenVPN is unlikely to work but PPTP will do the job in an emergency.
VPNBook states that this information is logged ‘in order to reduce abusive activities and keep this free VPN service online for legitimate users’, which is a standard statement we see from a lot of providers, both free and paid. Thankfully these logs are automatically deleted every week, which we like.
VPNBook is based in Zurich, Switzerland. While the jurisdiction itself isn’t too much to worry about, the fact that VPNBook collects your originating IP address and connection timestamp means that, if faced with a court order, the company would have to hand over your personal information to law enforcement agencies.
Ease of Use
VPNBook doesn’t offer custom apps for specific devices so it’s nowhere near as user-friendly as some of our other free picks. Because of this, there’s no ‘main screen’ to speak of, as the only way you can connect to the VPN is through the OpenVPN client icon in the taskbar at the bottom of the screen.
Right-clicking on the icon will bring up VPNBook’s server list. Clicking on one of these servers will then bring up a login screen where you have to enter a username and password – these details are available on VPNBook’s website and change every couple of weeks. You have to disconnect from one server before you can choose another, but this isn’t made clear anywhere on the site, so we had to work it out for ourselves after receiving several error messages.
There is a settings button below the list of servers that opens in a separate window – here you can configure general OpenVPN settings but nothing that relates specifically to VPNBook. This includes whether or not you want OpenVPN to launch on startup, as well as manual proxy configurations – you should stay away from these unless you know what you’re doing. It’s not the one-button experience we’re used to, but it does the job.
Getting started with VPNBook is a little more complex than just downloading an app onto your device, as it works with third-party software such as PPTP or OpenVPN.
If you decide to use OpenVPN (which we’d recommend) you’ll first have to download the OpenVPN client onto your device. You then need to download your chosen server bundles onto your device from VPNBook’s website, and make sure they’re in the correct folder (simply follow the setup guide provided). Once you’ve done this, you’re ready to start using the VPN.
If you opt for PPTP, it’s a little easier, as this protocol is already integrated into most popular devices. All you have to do is enter your chosen server address (again, found on VPNBook’s website) along with the username and password and you’re good to go. Don’t forget though, this protocol doesn’t offer anywhere near as high a level of privacy as OpenVPN.
VPNBook doesn’t really offer any customer support beyond the setup guides for OpenVPN and PPTP. There are three FAQs on its contact page, but they probably won’t solve most issues. There are no troubleshooting tips or potential problem fixes, so if something does go wrong you’ll most likely have to contact the customer support team.
There’s no live chat feature, so you can either email VPNBook directly or fill in a support form on the website. This generates an automatic response informing you that your request has been received, but due to the number of emails the company gets every day, it’s unable to respond to each one individually. We are yet to receive a personalized response to the online form.
The Bottom Line
- Uses OpenVPN and strong encryption
- Compatible with lots of different devices
- No speed or bandwidth caps
- Unreliable, inconsistent speeds
- No access to Netflix or iPlayer
- Small server network
- Collects personally-identifying logs
- DNS leaks & no kill switch
Even though VPNBook does have its good points, such as strong encryption, we’d really hesitate to recommend it for a number of reasons. Not only is performance absolutely dire, meaning gaming and torrenting are a no-go, but you’re also not able to access popular streaming sites such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer.
VPNBook leaked our true IP address and doesn’t offer a kill switch or any other advanced features. The logging policy isn’t the worst we’ve seen but is still poor, storing your originating IP address for up to a week.
There are no custom apps – instead, you have to connect to the VPN through the OpenVPN client, which is a fairly easy process but not the one-click solution some users may be looking for. For the most part, VPNBook is one to avoid.