Windscribe’s Free VPN claims to offer a “generous” free service for those “on a tight budget”, but is it possible to offer a premium product at absolutely no cost?
We put the free version of Windscribe through its paces in order to discover:
- Why is Windscribe free?
- How secure is Windscribe VPN?
- Does Windscribe have a kill switch?
- Is Windscribe good for torrenting?
- Does Windscribe hide your IP?
We reveal the answers to all of these, along with lots of other important questions, in our full-length VPN review.
This review is just for the free version of Windscribe VPN. You can check out our review of the full, premium version of Windscribe here.
Windscribe Free Pros & Cons
Windscribe Free Key Summary
|Top Download Speed||54Mbps|
|Logging Policy||Anonymous Server Usage Data|
|IP, DNS or WebRTC Leaks||No|
|Jurisdiction||Canada (Five-Eyes Member)|
|IP Addresses||Not disclosed|
|Works in China||Unreliable|
|Support||Email & Online Resources Only|
Read on to find our more details about Windscribe Free, as well as the results of our in-depth VPN testing.
About & Logging Policy
Who is Windscribe Free?
Windscribe was founded in 2016 in Ontario, Canada, and it still has its headquarters there today.
Usually this would be far from an ideal location for a VPN service, as Canada is part of the Five Eyes data-sharing alliance. However, thanks to Windscribe’s minimal logging policy, however, this isn’t really a concern at all.
There’s so little data retained by Windscribe that even if it were forced to turn over its logs by the government there would be nothing to see.
Windscribe’s VPN logging policy is good, as it outlines in no uncertain terms just how little is truly collected. It only collects:
- The amount of data transferred in a 30-day period
- Timestamp of your last VPN connection
These figures are reset at the start of every month.
When you’re actively connected to one of Windscribe’s VPN servers, the server temporarily stores:
- Your OpenVPN/IKEv2 username
- Time of connection
- Amount of data transferred
Once you end your Windscribe session, the VPN connection information is deleted.
This information is only collected to ensure Windscribe’s service can operate smoothly and with as few issues as possible – none of it can be used to trace your online activity back to you.
Speed & Reliability
Local speeds approaching 30Mbps
Despite the high percentage speed loss, for a free VPN service, Windscribe’s speeds are still very promising – even if they don’t quite match up to the premium version of Windscribe.
Overall the speeds we recorded with Windscribe Free were good, although if minimal speed loss is fundamental to your needs then you may want to consider Hotspot Shield VPN instead.
Speed results from our physical location in London (100Mbps fibre optic connection) to a London test server.
Before using Windscribe Free:
When connected to Windscribe Free:
Download speed without Windscribe Free: 98Mbps
Download speed with Windscribe Free: 28Mbps
Our download speed loss when Windscribe Free is running: 71%
Windscribe Free’s upload speeds were, in most cases, even quicker than its download speeds, making it a good choice for torrenting (be aware of the data cap, though). Same-country latency of 18ms isn’t ideal for lag-free gaming, however.
Connecting out to the US from the UK you can expect speeds of just over 20Mbps, which isn’t bad at all. Windscribe’s European speeds are largely similar to those we measured in the UK.
Thankfully, just like its paid counterpart, Windscribe Free was pretty consistent and speeds didn’t tend to change much from one test to the next. We also didn’t experience any connection drops during our tests.
We currently test speeds using the OpenVPN protocol, as this is widely available among VPN services and therefore helps us maintain a high level of consistency in our results.
It should be noted, however, that Windscribe’s apps default on startup to IKEv2, which it claims is the best protocol, so you could see slightly faster speeds if you connect this way.
If you’d like to know more about how we test VPN performance, take a look at our VPN speed testing methodology.
Servers in 22 cities spread over 10 countries
Considering that this is a free version of the premium Windscribe VPN service, the 10 server countries provided is a very good start, but it’s Windscribe’s city-specific server choice that really impressed us.
The ‘US East’ location, for example, allows you to pick between Windscribe’s VPN servers in Chicago, New York and Washington DC, plus two in Miami.
There are two city-level options each in the US Central (Atlanta & Dallas), US West (Los Angeles & Seattle) and UK locations, too.
Sadly, Windscribe doesn’t have any server options available in South America, Africa or Australia, and the entirety of Asia is funneled through one VPN server in Hong Kong. There’s also no indication of exactly how many VPN servers or IP addresses it operates, which is disappointing.
If you want access to servers in those locations, plus dozens more, you’ll need to upgrade to the premium version of Windscribe VPN.
Streaming & Torrenting
Won’t work with streaming but torrenting is allowed
A mixture of good and bad, this is where Windscribe Free VPN most shows its deficiencies compared to the paid version.
Windscribe’s streaming servers (known as ‘Windflix’) are reserved for paid users, so it’s hardly a surprise that we haven’t been able to watch Netflix for a while.
BBC iPlayer is also difficult to stream, and we weren’t able to access it in our most recent tests. We’ve has more luck streaming through Windscribe’s browser proxy, though, but this doesn’t offer the same kind of security as the full VPN.
There’s no information in Windscribe’s FAQs about accessing streaming services, nor was ‘Garry’ the live chat bot very helpful, so it’s a case of checking back regularly to see if the situation changes.
If streaming is very important to you then you should really think about using a paid VPN service. Check out our best VPNs for streaming, or alternatively take a closer look at our overall best VPN, ExpressVPN.
It’s hardly surprising, then, that Windscribe is our current favorite free VPN for torrenting. The 10GB monthly data cap will always be a limiting factor here, though.
Reliable option on desktop but less so on mobile
When we asked Windscribe how effectively it believes its VPN apps can bypass censorship blocks, Windscribe told us that it can be ‘hit-and-miss’ on mobile, but should operate trouble-free on desktop.
When we checked Windscribe’s subreddit, it looked promising for users in China, with some stating it’s the most reliable service for the country there is.
This means that the free version of Windscribe should also be an effective VPN solution for those in other high-censorship countries such as Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, although the limited server network means your speeds will probably suffer.
Platforms & Devices
Compatible with all major platforms
You can also install Windscribe at router level, and there’s no limit on the number of simultaneous connections you can have, although a router install on your home network would drain your data cap far too quickly.
Games Consoles & Streaming Devices
Windscribe Free shares firefox and chrome browser extensions with its premium equivalent. They’ve been updated and we really like how they work and feel.
Unlike a proper VPN, the proxy won’t fully protect your data and it will only redirect traffic which passes through your browser. On the other hand it is much better than nothing at all, and is an effective measure to spoof your location.
The add-on includes some great, privacy focused features, like an ad blocker, a firewall and tools to prevent you from being tracked by advertisers online, alongside advanced tools to help you spoof the location and time of your browser.
You can randomly allocate your user agent, too, which prevents your browser from being able to determine what OS and browser you are using.
All these features are available for both free and paid accounts – the only difference is the number of locations available.
We really like this privacy and security focused suite. Plus its minimal design allows it to feel lightweight even with all these features.
One feature we would like to see more of is desktop app integration. As of right now the add-on only lets you see whether or not your computer wide VPN is running. Hopefully this will eventually be upgraded to allow full VPN control from your browser.
Encryption & Security
Just as secure as the paid version
DNS Leak Blocking
IPV6 Leak Blocking
Supports TCP Port 443
VPN Kill Switch
Please see our VPN Glossary if these terms confuse you and would like to learn more.
Windscribe Free allows you to access exactly the same array of privacy settings granted in the full version of the app, meaning you can choose from four different VPN protocols:
- OpenVPN (our favorite)
Windscribe Free also comes with a VPN kill switch feature, protecting you from any potential connection drops, and you can even choose to set an IP address manually.
There are also some advanced VPN settings on Windscribe’s desktop app, from proxy configuration to how you’d like your servers sorted. It’s just a shame that almost all of these features are unavailable on the mobile app.
We also tested Windscribe Free VPN for IP and DNS leaks and it passed both with flying colors, proving it will keep you safe online.
Windscribe also recently announced the introduction of a new ad-tracker and malware-blocker, known as R.O.B.E.R.T, which is available on both the free and paid apps. This differs from those offered by other VPN services as it includes eight individual blocklists as well as a custom whitelist feature. You can read more about R.O.B.E.R.T. here.
Ease of Use
Modern and easy to use
How to Install & Set Up Windscribe Free
Regardless of platform, the Windscribe free VPN app looks exactly the same as the premium version. 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.
Windscribe presents you with a VPN server network and a power button: simply choose your location, switch it on and you’re up and running in seconds.
Handy online resources but no live chat
|Email support via an online form||Yes|
Windscribe has no live chat support, which is disappointing for a VPN provider of its size. The closest thing you get to live chat support is an automatic chat bot – which proved utterly useless whenever we asked it a question, and simply directed us to submit a support ticket so we could ‘speak to a human’.
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. We also found Windscribe’s subreddit to be particularly useful, asking our more specific queries in great detail.
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Easy to install, start/stop and operate. For intermittent use, monthly data cap is no problem. DNS Leak tests have always been successful.