Windscribe is a privacy-focused VPN that’s a great choice for VPN newbies. Performance is fast on local connections, with speedy uploads making it appealing to torrenters. Access to Netflix is quick and hassle-free through dedicated streaming servers, but BBC iPlayer is currently blocked. The user-friendly, modern apps are available for the usual range of platforms and pack in lots of configurable options to satisfy even experienced users.
Windscribe offers some strong privacy features including a VPN kill switch and DNS leak protection, as well as a high level of encryption. Its logging policy is minimal, collecting only a limited amount of connection metadata in order to monitor server performance. The proprietary Stealth protocol means the apps can be made to work in high-censorship countries, but some users are experiencing difficulties in China. Customer support lacks live chat and can be difficult to navigate, however the information on offer is in-depth and helpful if you know where to look.
Pricing & Deals
Windscribe offers a couple of different pricing deals to help you decide on the best option. You get access to all the same features but pay less on a monthly basis the longer your subscription.
The most expensive option is the single month plan at $9.00, but this is reduced by 55% to $4.08 if you sign up to an annual package, which is fantastic value. Windscribe also recently introduced a ‘Build a Plan’ feature which allows users to pay per server location, from $1 a month.
Get 55% off Windscribe's 12-month plan
Windscribe Pricing & Deals
Windscribe offers both a free subscription and a money-back guarantee. It strongly advises potential customers to test out the free service before signing up to a paid subscription as this will give you a good idea as to whether or not you like the software. You get access to all the privacy features of the paid plans but are limited to 10GB of bandwidth and 10 server locations. The great thing about this is you can use it for as long as you want, so you don’t have to make a decision straight away.
Once you’ve signed up you have three days to apply for a complete refund, which is incredibly stingy compared to the 30 day money-back guarantees offered by other top-tier providers. Refunds are also subject to a 10GB data cap, so if you’ve used more than this you won’t be able to get your money back. Windscribe also takes up to 30 days to return the money to your bank account, so we’d advise using the free package before you sign up to make sure you’re going to be completely satisfied.
Windscribe accepts the usual range of payment methods including most popular credit and debit cards, PayPal and Bitcoin, as well as several international options through its partnership with Paymentwall.
Speed & Reliability
Windscribe offers speedy performance on local connections, with downloads that are more than good enough for HD video streaming on multiple devices at once. Quick uploads make it a fantastic choice for torrenters, with the added bonus of P2P traffic being permitted on nearly every server. Connecting internationally wasn’t as reliable, but this shouldn’t be an issue for most users. It’s worth noting that we test using the OpenVPN protocol as standard, but we did find speeds to be better using IKEv2. While we prefer OpenVPN as it’s an open-source protocol that does very well to balance performance and privacy, IKEv2- which is closed-source- will offer a good enough level of security for most.
While download speeds on local connections don’t quite measure up to those offered by top-tier providers, they’re certainly quick enough for HD streaming and speedy multiple file downloads, peaking at just over 70Mbps in the UK and averaging at around 50Mbps throughout the rest of Europe (we test from London). Connecting out to the US East Coast you can also expect decent speeds approaching 30Mbps. Performance dropped over long-distance connections, with Australia coming in at 16Mbps, but this is to be expected and won’t affect the majority of everyday users.
We found latency to be fairly average, coming in at 8ms on same-country connections. This will be more than fast enough for most, but considering that some providers boast super low ping times of less than 1ms, keen gamers may want to look elsewhere.
Windscribe connects fairly quickly each time, averaging around 9 seconds. This is by no means the fastest connection time we’ve seen, then again there are many providers that are a lot slower. Once you’re up and running, performance is very reliable with negligible-to-no connection drops, providing you have a stable internet connection of course.
Uploads are very similar to downloads in that they’re very quick on local connections, with speeds of up to 87Mbps on local connections. This makes Windscribe a great option for torrenters, especially considering that P2P traffic is permitted on the majority of servers.
Windscribe isn’t one of the best providers if you’re looking for blisteringly fast speeds across a global network, however if you’re mainly going to be connecting locally then it’s a very good choice. Both uploads and downloads are quick and more importantly very reliable, proving you don’t need to sacrifice a level of privacy for the sake of good performance.
To read about our speed testing methodologies, please read How we test for VPN speed performance.
Windscribe offers a mid-size server network with the majority of popular countries covered on its paid plan. A choice of 55 countries should be enough for most, however there are providers out there that do offer more should you need access to any exotic or unusual locations.
We were a little disappointed that Windscribe weren’t willing to tell us the number of servers or IP addresses they maintain, which leads us to believe there aren’t many. If this is the case, users may experience congestion at peak times.
A choice of 27 US cities puts Windscribe up there with some of the best providers in the current market, with complete coast-to-coast coverage across loads of states. There’s city-level choice in a handful of other countries including more traditional locations such as the UK and Canada, but also those not otherwise broadly available, including Japan and Russia.
As usual, Europe has the best coverage with 32 countries on offer, but Asia and the Middle East are also served fairly well with servers in a variety of locations including Australia, Hong Kong and Vietnam. South America’s only options are Argentina, Brazil and Colombia. African users are limited to the South African and Tunisian servers.
You can find the complete list of Windscribe server locations by country and purpose on their website below.
Platforms & Devices
Windscribe offers a good range of custom apps for the usual platforms including Microsoft Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android. They have also partnered with FlashRouters so you can buy a router with the VPN software already installed, preventing you from having to set up multiple apps on all your devices.
Windscribe additionally provides manual setup guides for those devices lacking native apps, such as Windows phones, which is nice to see. You can also find step-by-step instructions on how to manually configure your existing router to work with the software, for those who’d prefer to do that rather than buy a new one.
We love Windscribe’s browser extensions for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Opera, and actually found them much easier to use than the desktop apps. They’re incredibly easy to download and add to your browser, with the process only taking a matter of seconds if you already have the main app installed. They feature an even bigger range of privacy features, such as an ad-blocker and tracker, and you can also choose to randomly rotate your user agent, making it far easier for you to get ‘lost in the crowd’.
It’s important to remember that while these are useful bonus features, they only encrypt your browser traffic and therefore shouldn’t be used in place of the desktop client. Windscribe actually encourages using both at the same time for the highest level of security, and having done this ourselves we can highly recommend it.
Games Consoles & Streaming Devices
Windscribe can be used with a variety of games consoles and streaming devices either by connecting them to a manually configured router or sharing the VPN connection with another device also running the software, such as a laptop or smartphone. There are dedicated apps for the Amazon Fire TV Stick and Kodi but unfortunately no setup information for other devices, however as long as you have the VPN up and running on your router you shouldn’t have any issues.
The great thing about Windscribe is there’s no maximum number of simultaneous connections, so you can use the software on all the devices in your home at the same time. We’d love to see some more specific setup guides for streaming devices and games consoles in the future, but for now the process is simple enough that you shouldn’t get too stuck.
Streaming & Torrenting
Windscribe offers optimized streaming servers for fast, easy access to popular streaming sites. We’ve had absolutely no problems accessing Netflix through the ‘Windflix US’ server, but bear in mind that this location is only available on the paid subscriptions.
The Windflix UK server also worked to unblock UK Netflix, but unfortunately due to the BBC’s recent crackdown on VPN providers, we were unable to get iPlayer working. This is a common problem among VPN providers at the moment, and only a few- such as Hotspot Shield and SaferVPN– offer reliable access to the site.
Encryption & Security
Windscribe excels on several privacy fronts, offering a load of advanced features that you won’t get with many other providers. The desktop app offers a few different protocol options including OpenVPN, IKEv2 and the proprietary Stealth protocol. OpenVPN is our preferred protocol as it’s the most secure, and you have the option to toggle between UDP and TCP connections. Just beware that the app defaults to IKEv2, so change it to OpenVPN as soon as possible. Encryption is via super-secure AES-256, which is used by the US federal government and considered unbreakable.
Windscribe offers its own take on the VPN kill switch with its own Firewall feature, which essentially performs the same service in that it prevents your true IP address from being exposed should the VPN connection drop for any reason. You’re also protected against DNS and IPv6 leaks, although we were disappointed by the lack of first-party DNS servers, meaning your web traffic is routed through less secure third-party servers.
We love that you can gain an extra layer of encryption by combining the desktop app and browser extension to route your traffic through two VPN servers, making you incredibly hard to keep track of. The fact that TCP port 443 is supported is also very useful, as it means you appear online as normal web traffic rather than a VPN user.
- OpenVPN (TCP/UDP)
- DNS Leak Blocking
- IPV6 Leak Blocking
- Supports TCP Port 443
- VPN Kill Switch
Due to China’s recent VPN crackdown, Windscribe has become a less reliable options for people living in or traveling to the country. Customer support informed us that some users have been experiencing some login and connectivity issues and instead suggested downloading a new beta of the app. However, they implied that it wasn’t guaranteed to work, so if you need to mainly connect from China, there are other providers out there offering a far more reliable solution for use in the country.
Due to its proprietary Stealth protocol, which uses TCP via Stunnel to make it more difficult to detect as VPN traffic, Windscribe remains a good choice for those wishing to connect out from other high-censorship countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. A good-size server network comes in useful here, as it means no matter where you are in the world you should never be too far from a free-speech country.
Windscribe’s logging policy is practical and minimal, collecting only temporary logs of connection metadata in order to monitor server performance. This includes:
- Total amount of bandwidth consumed each month (this is deleted on a monthly basis)
- Timestamp of your last activity on the Windscribe network
- Username, chosen server, time of connection and amount of data transferred (this is stored for the duration of your session)
Windscribe operates under the jurisdiction of Canada, a less privacy-friendly jurisdiction than most, as it’s part of intelligence-sharing agreements with the US and EU. However this shouldn’t be too much of an issue for the majority, as there are no logs of who used what IP address, therefore it’s impossible to tie user activity to a single person.
Windscribe states that any request for user data, from law enforcement agencies or otherwise, would “yield nothing of value” as it only stores the bare minimum of connection information. This is great for those seeking online anonymity, as they can be sure that their personal information isn’t going to be viewed by anyone other than themselves.
Ease of Use
Windscribe’s range of custom apps is simple and user-friendly without sacrificing too many advanced privacy features. The main screen on the desktop client is compact but packs in lots of useful information, including your chosen server location, new IP address and an on/off toggle for the Firewall (kill switch) feature. There’s also a big connect button that turns the whole screen blue when pressed, making it very easy to tell when you’re connected to the VPN.
More configurable options can be found behind the burger menu (three horizontal lines) in the top-left corner, buried in the Preferences sub-section. These are organized into clearly-labelled tabs, making them really easy to navigate, and we love that the more advanced features such as proxy configuration warn inexperienced users to steer clear “unless you know what you’re doing”. There are handy links to the support pages should you need further clarification, although it’s a shame this information isn’t embedded in the app.
We were a little unimpressed with the responsiveness of the desktop client, which doesn’t feel anywhere near as snappy as it should. Choosing a location on the free version is also clunky as the included servers are intermingled with the much greater number of unavailable locations. You could ‘favorite’ each of free servers, however this would be a fairly lengthy process. We like that there is a feature on both the free and premium apps whereby you can order the server list by geography, alphabet or latency, making selecting a server a little easier. The mobile apps are sleeker and more responsive, however they don’t include some of the more advanced privacy features such as the VPN kill switch or protocols other than OpenVPN.
Even if you’ve never used a VPN before, download and installing Windscribe is incredibly easy and takes only a couple of minutes from start to finish. There are set-up guides for the majority of popular platforms on the support section of the site, including loads of helpful screenshots and video tutorials.
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.
Windscribe’s customer support can be quite intimidating in comparison to other providers. Unlike other providers at this tier, such as VPNArea, there’s no live chat and it’s hard to know where to start looking between the Setup Guides, FAQs and Knowledge Base. Once you know where to look, the content is ironically pretty accessible to inexperienced users, avoiding technical jargon but also including enough information to satisfy the more tech-savvy. The process could do to be a whole lot more streamlined to live up to the high quality of support on offer.
If you need more personalized advice, you can either ask ‘Garry’ the support bot or submit a ticket through the website. Garry seems unable to answer even the most basic of questions so we’d recommend not wasting your time and just contacting the support team straight away. Response time was swift, but it felt very scripted and the agent wasn’t willing to answer our questions about the number of servers and IP addresses. You should be able to use the Self Help section to solve most common problems, but it’s frustrating to not have the instant support offered by other VPN providers.
The Bottom Line
- Solid performance with speeds of up to 72Mbps on local connections
- Quick, easy access to Netflix through dedicated streaming servers
- Very user-friendly apps. Instant set-up on popular devices
- Decent-sized global network - connect securely to 55 countries
- Browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox offer extra privacy features
- Customer support lacks live chat feature
- Below average server performance on international connections
- Desktop app can be unresponsive
Windscribe is a great choice if you’re looking for an easy-to-use yet powerful VPN that offers some strong privacy features. If you sign up to the annual plan it works out at a very reasonable price, and the free option provides you with a generous 10GB of data to test out the service. Performance is quick on local connections, with speedy uploads making it very appealing to torrenters. However, keen gamers can experience much lower ping times with other providers. Streaming fans will love the quick access to popular sites such as Netflix through servers optimized for video.
When it comes to privacy, Windscribe is about as close to zero-logs as you can get without sacrificing on server performance. The apps pack in lots of advanced privacy features including a VPN kill switch, and we really like that you can route your web traffic through two DNS servers for an extra layer of encryption.
The software is sleek and user-friendly for the most part, although we would have liked to see some integrated support alongside the more configurable options. Windscribe’s proprietary Stealth protocol means the apps can be used to connect out from high-censorship countries, however some users in China are experiencing issues due to recent crackdowns. Customer support lacks a live chat feature, but if you’re willing to spend some time looking through the online support pages, you can find answers to most common queries. Overall, Windscribe is a secure and user-friendly VPN that’s great for fast and easy streaming.