Looking for a free Windows VPN? We’ve got four of the best.
These days, there’s a growing awareness about the usefulness of VPNs. Whether you want to unblock geo-blocked content, bypass censorship, or protect your privacy, you’ll need a VPN. Many of the top-rated VPNs are only available with a subscription, often putting them out of our reach.
While free VPNs exist, as the saying goes, there is no such thing as a free lunch. If a provider offers an entirely free service, you should assume that your data is the payment. That said, there are a handful of free VPNs for Windows that are worth considering if you don’t want a subscription-based provider.
If you’re after the best free VPN for Windows, we’ve got you covered.
ProtonVPN is a free VPN brought to you by the privacy-focused team at ProtonMail. Their privacy-focused email service can send and receive encrypted emails. ProtonMail is even one of the most secure and encrypted email providers. It makes sense, then, that the company would offer a VPN. ProtonMail is available as a limited free service, with premium subscriptions available. Their VPN offering is similar; ProtonVPN offers free and premium tiers too.
ProtonVPN Free allows use on a single device, which works out well if you are in search of a VPN just for your Windows computer. You get access to a limited range of servers in three countries. You’ll also notice that speeds are slightly slower compared to ProtonVPN premium users. However, the service mirrors the subscription accounts in all other ways.
Your data is AES-256 encrypted, and your encryption key renews for each session. This means that even if your key were compromised, it wouldn’t be possible to decrypt your previous sessions, keeping your browsing history secure. Many free VPNs take your data as payment for the service. However, ProtonVPN premium accounts subsidize free users, allowing the company to make money without selling your privacy away.
TunnelBear is another credible contender for the title of best free VPN for Windows. The Canadian company started in 2011, and it has since become well-known in the VPN market. TunnelBear is available for free, but with limits; free users are capped at just 500MB per month. This data allowance doesn’t roll over to the following month either, so you can’t accrue data.
While the free tier is more like a trial of the paid product, you may still find some use in unblocking geo-blocked content (although you won’t be streaming with just 500MB), bypassing censorship, or adding privacy to some of your browsing. TunnelBear’s VPN traffic is AES-256 encrypted, and the company keeps no usage logs. Like ProtonVPN, TunnelBear also offers premium subscriptions. Although the company doesn’t explicitly state this, it is likely the premium accounts subsidize the free ones as well. Free VPNs are always a difficult area to navigate. However, a good rule is if the service offers a premium tier it might not sell your data.
The security company McAfee acquired TunnelBear in early 2018. There is no evidence that this has changed the nature of the VPN service. While McAfee is 49% owned by Intel, it otherwise remains independent. However, the company is one of the largest antivirus companies in the world, so it’s worth being cautious. That said, given you only have a 500MB limit for free accounts, you aren’t likely to use TunnelBear for the majority of your web browsing anyway.
Hotspot Shield is another freemium VPN provider, where premium subscriptions subsidize the free accounts. The free tier offers unlimited-data allowances, unlike TunnelBear, but you are limited in server choice. Most users note that Hotspot Shield is fast. However, this is due in part to their use of virtual servers; a physical machine located in one place pretending to be in another.
The company claims to use military-grade encryption, which is a slight red flag as the term is nothing more than marketing. That said, they are one of the few providers to offer a Transparency Report. The report shows how many legal requests were made to the company to hand over user data. It also states that Hotspot Shield is not able to comply with any of these requests as they collect no activity logs and can’t tie your IP address to VPN activity. It is worth noting, though, that the report is produced internally and is not verified by a third-party auditing company.
Windscribe is also a freemium VPN, although one with greater freedom than the rest. Free users get up to 10GB of data allowance every month, and that is the only restriction. In almost all other ways, free accounts are the same as premium ones. While the company has servers in over 60 countries, free users are limited to just 10. However, they do cover many significant regions, including; the USA, UK, Canada, and a selection of European countries.
There’s a range of software options too. If you elect to use the desktop app, you get some additional features. These include a built-in ad blocker, removal of social media tracking, and the prevention of ad beacons and trackers. The app is available for all major desktop and mobile operating systems. This versatility means that it is one of the top no-cost VPNs for Windows 7 too. They even have an edition with support for Windows Vista and Windows XP!
If you want to know more, check out our review of Windscribe VPN.
The Best Free VPN for Windows
Free VPNs sound like a good deal; all the features you could want but at no financial cost. However, many do come with a trade-off. You can still get use out of these good free VPNs, but you should be aware of the downsides. You need to be comfortable with the fact that if you choose a free VPN for Windows, you get the features, but not the privacy benefits.
That said, the services we listed are among the best free VPNs for Windows. While ProtonVPN is the best choice here, it’s far from perfect. In general, free VPNs are not good privacy tools. They’re best used for bypassing regional restrictions on streaming video. If you think a free VPN isn’t the right choice, you may be interested in these VPN alternatives for protecting your privacy instead.
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