The Top 4 Best Free VPNs — Everything You Need to Know

We round up the best free VPNs and explore the pros and cons of using a free VPN service.
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A virtual private network (VPN) is a fantastic way to get more privacy online. VPNs help encrypt your online traffic and mask your IP address so prying eyes can’t see your online activity or where you’re located. Unfortunately, VPNs can be expensive, and the free options out there are often less than trustworthy.

Many free VPNs are known to have poor privacy practices, lack security features, or outright sell your data for profit.

There are a few options that can be trusted, though. PrivadoVPN, Hide.me, TunnelBear, and Windscribe are some trustworthy VPNs that offer free versions. Let’s dig in and explore the details.

Our list of best free VPNs previously included Atlas VPN, but it will be discontinuing its services on April 24, 2024. Any paid users will be transferred to a NordVPN subscription while free users will be encouraged to subscribe to Nord.

In this article
Are free VPNs safe?
4 best 100% free VPNs
1. PrivadoVPN
2. Hide.me
3. TunnelBear
4. Windscribe
Other free VPNs worth mentioning
What to look for in a free VPN
6 free VPNs to avoid
Can you get paid VPNs for free?
Free VPN FAQs
Bottom line

Are free VPNs safe?

It depends on how free they are. VPNs require a lot of infrastructure and can be expensive services to maintain. If the company has no way to turn a profit, it won’t last long. For this reason, most VPNs are premium services, and nearly all of the trustworthy free options are free versions of those paid services.

If you find a 100% free VPN that has no other obvious way to make money, there’s a decent chance your data is the product they’re selling. Plus, there are some other risks you should consider:

  • VPNs are, by nature, able to track your data. Free options may not have the same rigorous security measures and safe logging practices that premium options offer.
  • Some free VPNs have been known to display outright malicious behavior, such as selling data or embedding malware in the service.
  • Some VPNs, particularly free ones, are not clear about ownership. In some instances, there is evidence of ties to certain governments that may have ulterior motives.
  • This isn’t exclusive to free VPNs, but If you log into accounts with any VPN, the company that owns that account can still see your activity. For example, if you log into Google when performing a search, it will still be recorded in your Google search history.

Free VPN apps also tend to come with limitations, such as a lack of unlimited data or missing features like split tunneling and a kill switch. Others may slow your connection speed or keep free users from accessing VPN servers that support torrenting or allow you to unblock shows in other countries on BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and other streaming sites.

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4 best free VPN services

Despite the general warnings, there are a handful of trustworthy, truly free VPN services that aren’t just free trials. Many of them do have limits, but they should still be more than enough for casual users who value privacy.

If you’re looking to save money on a VPN, here are our top four free VPN services:

1. PrivadoVPN

Data cap 10 GB/mo at full speed
Speed cap None
Simultaneous connections 1
Server locations 12 locations in 9 countries
Headquarters Switzerland
Logs policy No logs of any data kept.
Encryption AES-256
Streaming support Yes
Details Learn more

Privado VPN is a newer VPN, based out of Switzerland. It offers a fairly generous free tier, along with some reasonably priced premium plans. The servers, and your connection, are fully encrypted, and the company keeps no logs of any of your traffic or data.

If you want to watch Netflix with a VPN, you’re in luck. The free plan of Privado VPN works with Netflix and many other popular streaming services, so you can watch content that may be blocked in your location.

The free plan gives you a healthy 10 GB of full-speed data every month. The performance is quite good, with no arbitrary speed limits.

Privado VPN’s biggest downside is that the free plan only supports one VPN connection at a time. That means if you have the VPN installed on your phone, router, and computer, only one of these devices can access it. This could be a hard limit for some to work around.

Pros
  • Works with multiple streaming services
  • Solid monthly data limit
  • Speedy performance
Cons
  • Only supports one connection
  • Apps are only so-so

2. Hide.me

Data cap 10 GB/mo
Speed cap No cap per se, but performance is still slow
Simultaneous connections 1
Server locations 5 locations in 4 countries
Headquarters Malaysia
Logs policy No sensitive or identifying information logged.
Encryption AES-256
Streaming support No
Details Learn more

Hide.me is a VPN provider based in Malaysia. This fully-encrypted VPN offers five servers across four countries, which is a solid selection for a free VPN.

Additionally, it’s the only one in our top three that’s received an independent security audit from a third party, which is definitely nice to see. The Hide.me apps are also far more configurable than most free competitors.

The Hide.me free plan gives you a solid 10 GB per month of data, but unfortunately lacks the more advanced WireGuard protocol. In practice, this means Hide.me’s free plan speeds are likely terrible compared to other options — around 20 Mbps — compared with the several hundred Mbps offered by competitors. The Hide.me premium plan offers WireGuard and doesn’t suffer from this issue.

Our other big complaint about Hide.me is the complete lack of support for Netflix and other streaming services. This isn’t necessarily unexpected for a free VPN, but when other providers offer at least unofficial support for streaming, it’s still disappointing.

Pros
  • Extremely configurable
  • Decent amount of data
  • Has been independently audited
Cons
  • Slow speeds
  • No support for streaming services

3. TunnelBear

Data cap 500 MB/mo (you can earn 1 GB extra by posting on social media)
Speed cap None
Simultaneous connections 1
Server locations 48 locations in 46 countries
Headquarters Canada
Logs policy Keeps no logs
Encryption AES-256
Streaming support Yes
Details Learn more

TunnelBear is a Canadian VPN that’s all about simplicity. The idea behind this VPN is to get you browsing securely and privately with as little hassle as possible.

To that end, it hides many of the more advanced features and technical settings that most VPNs pride themselves on. The features it does offer are packaged in a way that makes it easy to understand.

The result is an easy-to-use service that works very well. This is also the only free VPN we’re aware of that doesn’t limit you to certain servers when you’re on the free plan — you can access all 48 server locations across 46 countries. Performance is snappy across the board, and the free version can access Netflix.

Unfortunately, the free version of TunnelBear has a major issue: a 500 MB monthly data limit. This means it's effectively limited to occasional use and emergencies, and the Netflix access is almost entirely useless (you’ll go through 500 MB in about 10 minutes).

You can earn an extra 1 GB by posting about TunnelBear on social media, but that’s still only 1.5 GB — far less than any other provider on this list. That said, if you only need a VPN occasionally, TunnelBear might be your best option.

Pros
  • Very easy to use
  • Works with Netflix
  • Good speeds
Cons
  • Incredibly low data cap
  • Not many advanced features

4. Windscribe

Data cap 10 GB/mo
Speed cap None
Simultaneous connections Unlimited
Server locations 14 locations in 11 countries
Headquarters Canada
Logs policy Only records the last time you connected and the amount of data you’ve used for the month.
Encryption AES-256
Streaming support Yes
Details Learn more

Windscribe provides a solid free VPN offering. You get 10 GB of monthly data allowance and access to a healthy 14 server locations across 11 countries. Windscribe is also the only free VPN on this list that offers unlimited simultaneous connections, so you can seamlessly transition from phone to laptop to tablet without a hiccup.

Windscribe’s performance, though not as fast as some of the other VPNs here, is more than adequate, and it doesn’t appear to throttle speeds in any way. And you can really put that speed to use because it supports Netflix streaming.

The main downside of Windscribe is complexity. Although the apps offer a number of features and configuration options, this can make them tough to use for the less tech-savvy among us. If you can deal with that, though, Windscribe is a fine choice.

Pros
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • Lots of advanced features
  • Works with Netflix
Cons
  • A bit slower than some other free VPNs
  • Complex apps

Other free VPNs worth mentioning

The four free VPNs above are the cream of the crop. However, there are a number of other options that are close, but perhaps a little more obscure. If none of the top four speak to you, check out one of these:

  • ZoogVPN: ZoogVPN is a relatively unknown option that offers a generous free plan, solid security, and excellent streaming support, including Netflix.
  • Speedify: Speedify is an easy-to-use, speed-focused option with a decent amount of data available. The main drawback is a lack of support for Netflix and other streaming services.
  • OpenVPN: OpenVPN is an open source option that’s very powerful, if a bit difficult to use. Expect some manual configuration with this one. You also have to provide your own server.

What to look for in a free VPN

There are a few key features and specs to watch for when choosing any VPN — but especially a free one. Here are some of the most important things to consider:

  • No-logs policy: Most people use a VPN to protect their privacy. To this end, you should review the logs policy of any VPN you use, free or not, to see what they keep and what they don’t. Ideally, you want a provider that masks your IP address and keeps no logs of your personal data whatsoever.
  • Data and speed limits: Many of the trustworthy free VPN options are limited versions of paid services. This often means data usage and speed are limited. Make sure your choice offers enough data to meet your needs.
  • User reviews: It’s always a smart idea to pay attention to user reviews — especially when the product or service deals so heavily with something as sensitive as your privacy. User reviews will often expose issues that may not be readily apparent.
  • Number and location of servers: A VPN is only as good as its servers. The location, in particular, can have a big impact on speed, latency, and privacy.
  • Business model: VPNs are operated by companies, and those companies need to make money to stay in business. The old saying applies here: if you’re not the customer, you’re the product. Ensure that your choice of provider has a way to make money that doesn’t involve selling your data. Examples include premium VPN plans.
  • Encryption: Make sure any VPN you use encrypts your data with AES-256-level encryption. It should also use a secure VPN protocol like WireGuard, OpenVPN, or IKEv2.

Want to try a premium VPN risk-free? Check out the best VPN free trials and take advantage of money-back guarantees that have you covered for 30 to 45 days.

6 free VPNs to avoid

We’ve said it several times now, but it bears repeating: not all free VPNs are trustworthy! These six, in particular, have reputations as insecure, shady, or outright malicious:

  • Hola: Hola keeps a lot of data and has a poor reputation for privacy and security.
  • Hoxx VPN: Hoxx VPN has poor security, sketchy logging practices, and slow speeds.
  • SuperVPN: SuperVPN has a reputation for poor privacy practices and lack of transparency, particularly around who owns it.
  • Turbo VPN: Turbo VPN has a poor reputation for security and, despite its name, is very slow.
  • Betternet VPN: Betternet fails to live up to its promise, with slow speeds and a lack of basic privacy and security features.
  • Psiphon: Psiphon performs well, but logs way too much data for an app that’s meant to protect your privacy.

Can you get paid VPNs for free?

You can’t get paid VPNs completely free. However, many of the top paid VPNs offer free trials and/or offers like a 30-day money-back guarantee. This is a great way to try them out risk-free before purchasing. Of the VPNs that offer these trials, these five are our favorites.

5 best VPN free trials and money-back guarantees

VPN Free trial Payment info required? Money-back guarantee
ExpressVPN No Yes 30 days
Surfshark Yes (Android, iOS and macOS only) Yes 30 days
Proton VPN No (but there is a fully free plan) Yes 30 days
Private Internet Access Yes (mobile only) Yes 30 days
Hotspot Shield Yes Yes 45 days

Remember to cancel your plan

Don’t forget to cancel your plan before your free trial or guarantee period ends! Some providers will send you reminders, but it’s always a good idea to set your own.

Free VPN FAQs


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Which VPN is the safest and free?

Our pick for the safest free VPN is PrivadoVPN. It offers a healthy amount of data for both Windows and Mac users, fast speeds, and a strong privacy policy. It also supports Netflix, albeit unofficially. 


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Can a VPN steal your data?

Yes, a VPN can absolutely steal your data. VPNs, due to their nature, have privileged access to your information, as your traffic passes through their servers. If the VPN provider is a bad actor, or the software or server is infected with malware, your data can be at risk.

There are safe VPNs available, but it’s critical that the one you choose is trustworthy and has been vetted by reviewers and other users. It’s also important to review privacy and log policies to make sure that the VPN isn’t storing data that could be stolen by others.


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Can free VPNs be trusted?

Free VPNs can’t usually be trusted, no. The only free VPNs we would trust are free versions of premium VPNs. Many VPN providers offer limited free versions so users can try the service, and many of these are sufficient for light to moderate use. These are what you’ll find in our list above.

The reality is that a VPN service is expensive to operate, and that money has to come from somewhere. If the provider isn’t selling premium plans, it’s likely selling user data. That may sound harsh, but it’s the reality of the situation.

The one exception is OpenVPN, which is an open-source application that is, by nature, free of charge. However, as with many open source tools, it’s complex and difficult to set up and requires you to provide your own server.

Bottom line

VPNs are excellent privacy tools, but they can be expensive, and the free options out there can be… well, anything but private.

Fortunately, there are some options for those who want a free, secure VPN. Our four favorite free VPNs are PrivadoVPN, Hide.me, TunnelBear, and Windscribe. Each of these offers solid data, speed, and — most importantly — privacy practices.

If none of these free VPNs meet your needs, you can spring for a paid option, such as the powerful NordVPN (check out the NordVPN plans). You can also try some other useful online privacy tools, such as a password manager, ad blocker, or secure search engine. 

Customizable Coverage That is Simple to Use
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On NordVPN's website
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Up to 66% off 2-year plans + 3 months extra
  • Ultra-secure, high-speed VPN complete with malware protection and automatic blocking of intrusive ads and third-party trackers
  • Other benefits include a premium password manager, dark web monitoring, and access to IP-restricted content
  • 3 plans to choose from for custom protection on up to 10 devices
  • Too many confusing plans

Author Details
Dave Schafer is a freelance writer with a passion for making technical concepts easy for anyone to understand. He’s been covering the world of gadgets, tech, and the internet for nearly 10 years, and his writing has been featured in a variety of print and digital publications. When he’s not writing, Dave can be found playing guitar or camping with his family and golden retriever, Rosie.