Hotspot Shield Review 2024: A Secure, User-Friendly VPN

Our Hotspot Shield review explores the pros and cons of its security measures, speed, compatibility, and user-friendliness.
We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.
Editorial Rating
Learn More
On Hotspot Shield's website

Hotspot Shield
  • Extremely fast with easy controls
  • Helpful customer service
  • Logs some data and headquartered in the U.S.

Hotspot Shield is a virtual private network (VPN) service under the umbrella of parent company Aura, a digital security company.

The service covers a wide range of devices including Windows, Android, iOS, macOS, Linux, and a number of smart TVs and routers. It boasts the fastest VPN speeds of any of its competitors and backs it up with data from Ookla Speedtest.

Hotspot Shield VPN is a great option with a few chinks in its armor. The product itself is top-notch based on the speed, variety of servers, additional features, and overall performance. Like most pieces of software, the performance can be buggy when used on operating systems other than Windows, but the customer service team is knowledgeable and ready to help.

Overall, Hotspot Shield is a solid paid and free VPN option. But is it one of the best VPNs available?

  • Extremely fast
  • Easy controls
  • 1,800+ server options
  • Additional features like a kill switch
  • Helpful customer service
  • Keeps some logs
  • Potentially expensive
In this article
Our experience
Who is it best for?
Prices and subscriptions
Test results
Customer support
Bottom line

Hotspot Shield overview

Price $7.99–$12.99/mo
Free version Yes
Max # of connected devices 10
# of servers 1,800+ in 80+ countries
VPN protocol Catapult Hydra, OpenVPN, IPSec (IKEv2), Wireguard
No-logs policy Some logs
Headquarters Redwood, CA
Netflix access Yes
Learn more Get Hotspot Shield
Prices as of 06/25/2024.

How we test and rate VPNs

We complete standardized hands-on tests for each VPN we review so we can put their claims to the test. This includes vigorous third-party testing by comparing our internet speed while connected to different servers, checking for DNS leaks, making sure the kill switch actually works, and more. We also make sure we can comfortably access popular streaming sites, like Netflix, and still do our day-to-day work without interruption.

Once we’ve completed the testing, our editorial rating is calculated by taking into account key features you’d expect from a good product. We score each VPN in the following categories and use a weighted average to calculate the final rating out of 5 stars: price, server count, speed, security, and features.

To learn more about how we test, check out our full VPN methodology here.

Our experience

Our experience with Hotspot Shield was overall positive. We had no problem installing the software and getting connected to a server right away.

Hotspot Shield home page

We liked that the app suggests which server to connect to, even going so far as to suggest streaming and gaming optimized servers.

Hotspot Shield server list

The one thing we would change about the server list is more filtering and sorting options. They have this helpful "Load" stat on the app's home page, which shows how busy the server is. It would be convenient to be able to sort the servers by lowest load for higher reliability.

Hotspot Shield's homepage when connected

When it came to connecting to a server, it did take about 30 seconds to make the full switch. Once connected, though, we got some pretty impressive speeds, so it was worth the wait in our opinion.

The app even comes with its own speed test, which was convenient. We tested it against the trust and got similar results.

We thought Hotspot Shield was thoughtful with their popups, which included browser notifications when you were connected to a server, an info panel when we first installed the program that explained their policy policy, and even a notification when the kill switch was active.

Overall, this was a good experience with very little bumps along the road.

Who is Hotspot Shield best for?

  • Hotspot Shield is best for people looking for a solid VPN option without a ton of technical know-how.

In addition to blazing-fast speeds, Hotspot Shield has several great features and a user interface that makes operations easy.

Military-grade encryption, 24/7 support, and a 45-day money-back guarantee all make this a solid VPN service. The user interface is clean, simple, and easy to use without lengthy tutorials.

Hotspot Shield prices and subscriptions

Hotspot Shield VPN is not the most expensive VPN on the market but it’s not the least expensive either. It falls right in line with NordVPN, ExpressVPN, and Private Internet Access. One of the upsides is the performance you get with the free version of Hotspot Shield.

The free plan is always free and is good on the fly, especially if you’ve found yourself in need of public Wi-Fi and don’t have time to shop for VPN options.

The Premium Plan costs $7.99/mo (billed annually) if you purchase an entire year at once but $12.99/mo if you pay month-to-month.

Plan Monthly cost
Best Value
Yearly cost
Hotspot Basic Free Free
Premium $12.99/mo $7.99/mo (billed annually) 
Prices as of 06/25/2024.

Hotspot Shield comes with a free tier and a 45-day money-back guarantee on paid tiers.

Hotspot Shield accepts debit and credit cards including Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, JCB Payment, Diners Club, as well as PayPal.

Hotspot Shield plan comparison

Features Basic Premium
Simultaneous connections 1 10
Compatibility Windows, Android, iOS, macOS, Chrome, TV, Linux, router Windows, Android, iOS, macOS, Chrome, TV, Linux, router
Virtual locations 1 (US only) 125+
Data limit Unlimited Unlimited
Streaming mode
Gaming mode

Hotspot Shield features

First and foremost, it has to be mentioned that the download and installation aspect of Hotspot Shield is a breeze. We tested on a macOS Ventura 13 Macbook Pro, as well as a Lenovo laptop with Windows 11. Usually, most software comes with complicated processes for Mac download and installation, but this was user-friendly and required minimal effort.

Here's a look at some of the other main features offered by Hotspot Shield.

Server count and countries

  • 1,800+ in 80+ countries

Hotspot Shield advertises its 1,800+ in 80+ countries front and center in its sales specs. As far as server and country count go, this is on the higher side of average. Having a vast number of server options has benefits, particularly the ability to connect to a variety of servers to maintain fast internet speeds. Any VPN worth paying for has at least 1,000 servers to route traffic through.

On the other hand, having a mass amount of server options is only helpful if the VPN service is of good quality. There’s a difference between IP address types, with certain types being recognizable as VPN IP addresses and others looking like organic machine IP addresses.

The fact that Hotspot Shield has servers in over 80 countries is a positive. Not only does the service provide the ability to automatically route you through the fastest possible server, but it also allows for movement between regions to access local content.

The next impressive feature was the ability to not only choose a region or country but also specific cities. If you’ve ever been on vacation in California and are unable to stream a Cleveland Browns game because it’s the wrong region, this could be your saving grace.

No-logs policy and headquarters

  • Hotspot Shield logs policy: Some logs
  • Hotspot Shield headquarters: Redwood, CA

So this is where Hotspot Shield hits a major problem. First, the company is headquartered in Redwood, California, and its parent company Aura is headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts. Being a United States company headquartered in the U.S. means Hotspot Shield is under the jurisdiction of the United States, a founding member of the Five Eyes alliance, and a member of the Nine and Fourteen Eyes alliances.

What this means is that, at any time, the U.S. government can require Hotspot Shield to turn over all logged data on any user. That’s why a no-logs policy is important. If the company doesn’t log any user data, then there’s nothing to turn over.

Unfortunately, Hotspot Shield does log some data. Here’s the breakdown from their website of what they log:

“Our VPN products log:

  • The duration of VPN sessions and the bandwidth consumed. We do this to monitor, support and optimize our VPN services, as well as enforce free app usage limits.
  • The domains that have been accessed by our users, but on an anonymized basis such that we do not know which user accessed which domain, nor the full URL that would indicate which web pages were visited. We also aggregate this domain information on an approximately monthly basis. We do this to monitor, support and optimize our VPN services.
  • Device hashes, which are used to identify devices and associate them with other data we collect (such as for measuring bandwidth use, providing support, understanding how you interact with our VPN, and other analytics and marketing purposes). Device hashes are not linked to VPN browsing activity. We use device hashes because we do not require users to register an account to use some of our products and need a way to distinguish between different users and carry out the activities above.” [1]

The first bullet point explains that duration and bandwidth are logged for all tiers of the product. Though they mention the free version's usage limit, that limitation was actually removed so there's no real reason why this is logged.

In the second bullet, Hotspot Shield explains it’s collecting the domains accessed by all users. Their claim is that they use the data to optimize VPN services. They also claim they only log this domain information on a partial and anonymous basis. This would be a lot easier to digest if not for the last bit of information.

The third bullet point notes Hotspot Shield logs device hashes. This is where the privacy guarantee gets a bit dicey. Even though the device hashes aren’t linked to browsing activity, they do log some activity like domains accessed by users.

The explanation behind the reason for these logs is that Hotspot Shield uses the information for performance, marketing, and to regulate users of the free program. We'd prefer that they find ways to deal with this that doesn't involve logging this information.

Hotspot Shield's privacy statement notes that it doesn't keep logs of online activities, but does collect a small amount of data.

Kill switch

A kill switch disconnects your internet connection if, for some reason, you lose connection to the VPN. This protects your IP address from becoming discoverable. The entire point of a VPN is to mask your IP address, so this is a pretty important feature.

Like internet service itself, VPNs have the potential to randomly drop throughout the day. It happens mostly during high-traffic times and you may not even notice if you’re immediately reconnected to another server. But this drop has the potential to expose your IP address briefly. A kill switch prevents this data leak.

You can find Hotspot Shield's kill switch in Settings > Advanced:

Hotspot Shield kill switch

Split tunneling

Split tunneling is where you route some of your internet traffic openly and other parts through a VPN. Hotspot Shield allows for split tunneling and makes it very easy to toggle off and on through the main console.

You may need to use split tunneling to protect some of your internet traffic while also allowing yourself to use sites, networks, or services that require your actual IP to operate. Many banks want to know where you’re accessing their site from, so splitting your usage would allow you to access your mobile banking while keeping the rest of your browsing activity secure. While this isn’t the safest method of using the internet, it’s sometimes necessary.

You can set up Hotspot Shield's split tunnel in the settings tab:

Hotspot Shield split tunnel


Hotspot Shield uses AES-128 and AES-256 encryption. This is the same level of encryption used by the U.S. government (hence the military-grade encryption promise on Hotspot Shield’s website). This type of encryption was developed specifically for the U.S. government to transmit the most sensitive information.

How easy is AES-256 encryption to break? Using current computing technology, it would take billions of years to crack. Researchers are constantly trying to hack into AES-256 encrypted data, and when they find even the slightest vulnerability they make sure to take immediate action to secure the threat.[2]

VPN protocol

Hotspot Shield offers several different types of VPN protocols:

  • Automatic option that chooses the best overall protocol for you at that moment
  • Its proprietary Catapult Hydra protocol
  • A very secure IPsec protocol
  • A new and fast Wireguard protocol

While the Hydra protocol may allow you more access to streaming, the VPN chooses the most secure connection if you leave it set to Automatic. IPsec is a secure protocol but is more recognized by VPN blockers and may not be the best for streaming. Wireguard has a better balance between speed and streaming capabilities.

Hotspot Shield protocols

Hotspot Shield test results

We tested Hotspot Shield on several different factors that are important to anyone shopping for a VPN. Speed, streaming access, and reliability are all common features important to consider when purchasing a VPN.

Speed tests

  • Speed test results: Very fast. Only dropped our download speed by an average of 23%.

We tested on a Lenovo laptop with Windows 11 and Hotspot Shield performed pretty much as promised.

Most of the time, the decrease of speed was imperceptible when flipping around on our Chrome. While browsing the internet, streaming on Netflix, and using Zoom, there was no difference from when the product was shut off. The only time there was any perceptible latency was during the first few seconds that the VPN was connected and on some busy servers.

Internet speeds vary depending on the moment. The faster the speed, the smoother the experience.

Hotspot Shield VPN speed test results

Test type No VPN Canada to Canada Canada to U.S. Canada to EU Canada to AU
Download speed 205.55 Mbps 178.33 Mbps 149.82 Mbps 157.81 Mbps 148.24 Mbps
Upload speed 54.65 Mbps 56.68 Mbps 48.76 Mbps 39.02 Mbps 17.67 Mbps
Latency (ping) 16 ms 46 ms 49 ms 112 ms 242 ms
Download speed % difference n/a -13% -27% -23% -28%
Upload speed % difference n/a 4% -11% -29% -68%
Latency % difference n/a 188% 206% 600% 1,413%
Test results as of 06/25/2024.

Hotspot Shield Netflix tests

  • Netflix test results: Passed

Netflix is always looking for VPN activity, and VPNs are always looking for ways to circumvent VPN identifiers. For this particular test, Hotspot Shield won.

We were able to access Netflix in all four countries we tried. Australia was the biggest win for us, since we've been having a lot of issues with other VPNs getting blocked there. But Hotspot Shield let us access the streaming content flawlessly.

Hotspot Shield Netflix connections

Hotspot Shield Netflix test results

US to US US to UK US to Canada US to AU
Did it work with Netflix?
Test results as of 06/25/2024.

DNS leak tests

  • DNS leak test results: Passed

The Domain Name System (DNS) is a directory for the entire internet. Think of it like a phone book. If you’re using a VPN, your goal is to dial out using your IP address while making sure the caller ID is blocked.

While connected to a single server, Hotspot Shield passed with flying colors. The only weird thing was that the tool detected a Swiss IP address as our public IP address, but since we're in Canada, it didn't bother us.

Hotspot Shield DNS leak test

WebRTC leak tests

  • WebRTC leak test results: Passed

WebRTC refers to the real-time communication capabilities on your browser. What this means is that you can make voice and video calls, share your screen, and transmit files without having to go through a middleman server. The peer-to-peer connections allow your internet-connected device to talk to another internet-connected device.

If there’s a WebRTC leak, it means the VPN has stopped cloaking your IP address and the internet-connected device you’re talking to can see your real information.

Again, Hotspot Shield performed great, though the Swiss flag came out again when detecting our public IP address.

Hotspot Shield WebRTC leak

Kill switch test

  • Kill switch test results: Passed

We test kill switches by opening up and letting it grab our DNS address every few seconds. We then switch to a different server, causing an unexpected drop in connection, and see if our actual IP shows up between the old server and the new one. If it doesn't, then the VPN passes.

Hotspot Shield passed this test when we switched from a U.S. to Canadian server. Our real IP address in New Brunswick, Canada didn't show up in between the locations.

Hotspot Shield kill switch test

Hotspot Shield compatibility

Hotspot Shield has an impressive array of compatible devices. This means that no matter if you use a Windows computer and an Apple iPhone with a Samsung Smart TV, you’ll be able to cover a variety of devices with your subscription.

The Hotspot Shield app works on the following devices:

  • Windows
  • Android
  • iOS
  • macOS
  • Chrome
  • Smart TVs
  • Linux
  • Routers 

Hotspot Shield customer support

There are several options for customer support if you’re a Hotspot Shield customer. The support center has an array of FAQs as well as a breakdown of problems based on your device or operating system.

If you’re using one of the paid versions of Hotspot Shield, you also have the option to email or live chat with a real representative.

During our kill switch debacle, we used the live chat support feature found on the Hotspot Shield website. At first, we were greeted by a bot that was very knowledgeable. When it wasn’t able to recognize our problem, it quickly routed us to a customer service representative. That rep was able to give us the information needed to remedy our problem.

Our Hotspot Shield customer service rep explained to us how the VPN collects and uses IP address data.

The representative was friendly and helpful. The only criticism is that perhaps they could take less time with the niceties and just get to the support. It’s nice to feel validated, but when you’re frustrated (and if you’ve gotten to the stage of requiring live support, you’re likely frustrated) it’s more helpful to have a pleasant, efficient chat experience.

Top alternatives

If Hotspot Shield isn't ticking off all the boxes for you, here are some of the best VPNs that we've tested.

Price $3.39–$15.99/mo $2.19–$17.95/mo $2.03–$12.99/mo
Free version
Max # of connected devices 10 Unlimited 7
# of servers 6,300+ servers in 111 countries 3,200 in 100 countries Servers in 100 countries
VPN protocol NordLynx (WireGuard), OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPsec WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2 Lightway, OpenVPN, IKEv2
Encryption AES-256-GCM AES-256-GCM AES-256
No-logs policy No logs No logs No logs
Headquarters Panama The Netherlands Romania
Netflix access
Learn more Get NordVPN Get Surfshark Get CyberGhost

Hotspot Shield FAQs


Is Hotspot Shield really free?

Yes. There’s no monthly cost for the free tier of Hotspot Shield. But remember the old internet adage: If you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product. The logs Hotspot Shield collects are for marketing purposes. It’s unclear how those logs are handled and shared.


Is Hotspot Shield good for privacy?

Yes, mostly. It passed all three of our leak tests, which is promising, but it's privacy policy does indicate it tracks some logs.


What’s better than Hotspot Shield?

NordVPN is located outside of the 14 Eyes alliance, passed the Netflix test, is just as fast as Hotspot Shield, and doesn’t log,. See how these providers stack up in our Hotspot Shield VPN vs. NordVPN comparison.


Does Hotspot Shield work in China?

No. This is not one of the government-approved VPNs for China. VPNs are legal mostly everywhere, but there are places in the world where they aren’t.


Does Hotspot Shield come with an antivirus?

There’s no antivirus option with Hotspot Shield.

Bottom line: Is Hotspot Shield a good VPN?

Yes, Hotspot Shield is a good VPN with a few minor drawbacks. The speeds are fast and the encryption is solid. It’s available on a multitude of devices and operating systems and has a great array of servers and countries to choose from. It even comes with a free version with some limitations.

But if you want a VPN that values privacy above all else, check out our full list of the best VPNs. We also have a full NordVPN vs. Hotspot Shield comparison if you want all the facts broken down.

Editorial Rating
Learn More
On Hotspot Shield's website
Hotspot Shield
  • Extremely fast with easy controls
  • Helpful customer service
  • Logs some data and headquartered in the U.S.
Author Details
Mary is a seasoned cybersecurity writer with over seven years of experience. With a B.S. in Liberal Arts from Clarion University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Point Park University, she educates audiences on scams, antivirus software, and more. Her passion lies in educating audiences on helpful ways to protect their data.
Kalleigh Lane is a passionate digital security advocate and the Lead Editor at All About Cookies. After completing her Master of Arts in English Literature, Kalleigh has gained over 5 years of editing and writing experience in the fields of cybersecurity, tech, and finance. She has been featured in major media outlets such as The Globe and Mail and CTV News, emerging as an advocate for digital security.


[1] VPN Products Privacy Notice

[2] Understanding AES 256 Encryption

[3] Which VPN Protocol Should I Use