Windscribe Free might just be the best free VPN you get can get right now. It barely strips anything away from the full, premium version, meaning that you get a remarkably secure and professional experience.
It has a data cap of 2GB, but it can be bumped up to a healthy 10GB per month if you just provide your email address. Limits are never ideal, but it’s one of the most generous allowances we’ve seen. There’s an equally charitable range of servers and server locations, and it’s all wrapped up in an intuitive and presentable package.
This is a terrific introduction to the VPN world, and one that casual users may not even need to upgrade to the premium version from.
If you’re looking for the paid product, click the link to read our full Windscribe review.
Speed & Reliability
For a free VPN, Windscribe Free’s speeds are very impressive.
We test from the UK, and were treated to average download speeds of 50Mbps and upload speeds of 83Mbps. Even venturing further afield to German servers yielded a very serviceable 35Mbps down and 78Mbps up. UK latency averaged 15ms, which isn’t anything special, while the German ping of 38ms is par for the course with free VPNs.
Speeds were far less consistent when connecting to the US and Canada. US download speeds fell anywhere between 13 and 40Mbps, while upload speeds ranged between 42 and 64Mbps. Still, when at its best those are some strong figures.
It’s never convenient having a data cap, but as far as they go 10GB per month is generous. You’re initially given just 2GB, but can bump it up to the full figure by confirming your email address.
Considering that this is a free version of its full VPN, the server list on offer from Windscribe is actually rather generous. 10 countries is a good start, with options in North America, West and Central Europe, Scandinavia and East Asia, but it’s the choice of city-specific servers that really impressed us.
The ‘US East’ location, for example, allows you to pick between servers in Chicago, New York and Washington DC, plus two in Miami. There are two options each in the US Central, US West and UK locations, too.
Sadly, there are still a few global black spots. There’s no local options for those based in South America, Africa or Australia, and the entirety of Asia is funneled through one server in Hong Kong. If you want access to servers in those locations, plus dozens more, you’ll need to splash out on the premium version.
It’s not apparent just how many individual IP addresses are available between the 22 location choices, but when we asked a Windscribe customer support agent they told us it was over 5,000.
Platforms & Devices
Windscribe, even in its free version, is available on just about every platform you could hope for. We tested it on our full suite of operating systems and devices, including Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android and Linux, and were consistently impressed throughout.
You can also install it at router level, with a comprehensive guide on the Windscribe website available to walk you through the process. There’s no limit on the number of simultaneous connections you can have, even on the free version, although a router install would drain your data cap far too quickly.
Windscribe also has browser extensions for Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Opera Browser which work extremely well, with a vast array of options and features. That said, it’s important to remember that they aren’t a full VPN, and will only encrypt your browser traffic. Use them in conjunction with the full Windscribe Free desktop program, though, and you’ll be as secure as possible.
Games Consoles & Streaming Devices
Windscribe Free is even available on a whole host of extra devices, like the Amazon Fire TV Stick and Apple TV. Be warned though – it will still eat data from the same allowance as all the other devices you have it installed on. Running it on everything that you own may see you hit you cap sooner than expected.
Streaming & Torrenting
A real mixture of good and bad, this is probably where Windscribe Free most shows its deficiencies compared to its paid-for version.
Torrenting worked for us in testing, and appears to be permitted on all servers, which is a great start. Of course the data cap, however generous, will always be a limiting factor here, but it’s still nice to know you can torrent with it if needed.
We were also able to access UK Netflix through one of the UK servers, although this is most likely due to us being based in the UK. When we attempted to watch US Netflix via a US server we were denied. BBC iPlayer also refused to work.
Encryption & Security
There’s an impressive number of security options when using the Windscribe Free desktop application. In fact, once again it’s the exact same array of settings you’re granted in the full version.
That means you have a selection of five different protocols: IKEv2, UDP, TCP, Stealth and WStunnel, each with its own range of ports. You can choose to set an IP address manually, and there’s the trusty kill switch to top it all off. Windscribe refers to it as a Firewall, but it functions the same as any other – should the VPN’s connection drop at any time the Firewall will trigger, severing the internet connection and protecting your true identity.
There’s even advanced settings, from complicated extras like proxy configuration to simple preferences like how you’d like your servers sorted. It’s just a shame that almost all of the security features mentioned in this section are unavailable on the mobile app.
We also tested it for IP and DNS leaks – and it passed both with flying colors.
- OpenVPN (TCP/UDP)
- DNS Leak Blocking
- IPV6 Leak Blocking
- Supports TCP Port 443
- VPN Kill Switch
With the sheer number of protocols available, at least on desktop, Windscribe Free should be a fine option for bypassing privacy in places like China. When we asked Windscribe directly how effective it believes the service to be it informed us that it can be ‘hit-and-miss’ on mobile, but trouble-free on desktop.
Windscribe Free’s logging policy is a joy to behold, as it outlines in no uncertain terms just how little is truly collected. It collects the amount of data transferred in a 30-day period, resetting at the start of each new month, and the timestamp of the last time you used Windscribe to prevent abuse.
When you’re actively connected to a server, the server itself stores your OpenVPN/IKEv2 username, time of connection and amount of data transferred. Once you end your session that information is deleted. A ‘central location’ stores the number of simultaneous connections and the amount of data uploaded or downloaded in a 30-day period to prevent abuse.
That’s it. Zero identifiable or personal data is stored or even monitored, making Windscribe (even in its free version) one of the most private VPNs out there.
Windscribe, as a company, is based in Canada. Canada is part of a data-sharing agreement with several other major Western nations, which is less than ideal for a VPN. In this instance, though, we’re not too concerned: there’s so little data retained by Windscribe that even if it were forced to turning over its logs by the government there would be nothing to see.
Ease of Use
Regardless of platform the Windscribe Free application looks exactly the same as its paid-for counterpart. That means you get a simple, intuitive and slick user experience. There’s no ads, either, which is a welcome breath of fresh air in the world of free VPNs.
It presents you with a list of locations and a power button: simply choose your location, switch it on and you’re up and running as quick as can be.
Installing Windscribe Free is as about as simple as installing a piece of software can be. If you’re setting it up on a device that isn’t a computer or smartphone it’s a little trickier – if you struggle, though, you can always refer to the guides on the Windscribe website.
The process is as simple as downloading the relevant software from the website and following the prompts given to you by the installation wizard. These are very straightforward to follow so you shouldn’t get too stuck, however if you do then you can always refer back to the set-up guides. After you’ve finished installing the software, all that’s left to do is enter your login details and you can start using the VPN.
Disappointingly for a provider the size of Windscribe, there’s no live chat. The closest thing you get is an automatic chat bot – which proved utterly useless whenever we asked it a question. Fortunately there’s an array of handy help guides and FAQs online, plus you can always submit a support ticket if you still can’t find what you need.
The Bottom Line
- Average local download speeds of 50Mbps
- Good selection of servers
- Extremely easy to use
- Terrific logging policy
- Available on lots of devices
- Data cap, while generous, is still restricting
- Not too useful for streaming
The free offering of Windscribe is one of the very best going – to get a more complete experience than this you’ll almost certainly have to pay a subscription.
It’s fast, has a nice selection of servers around the globe and is super secure. It falls a little flat with its hit-and-miss streaming, and a data cap is never welcome, but these can be overlooked for the well-rounded package on offer.