Best free VPN services 2023on January 5, 2023 at 13:08 Tech Advisor

0

Free VPN services do exist, but most of them should be avoided. Either they’re far too limited and won’t do what you need them to, or they’ll take your data and sell it to pay for your use of the service.

Remember that when you use a VPN, you’re routing all your internet traffic through its servers, so it’s crucial you trust that provider.

The good news is that there are a handful of free VPN services you can trust… and they might just do what you want despite their limitations.

For example, if all you want to do is unblock a website, a free VPN might do it. All you need is for the VPN service to have a server in the country where the website is based.

The problem is that almost every free VPN limits you to just a few countries, and they might not include the one you want. The same goes for videos and other content.

The speed of a free VPN may be limited as well, but the biggest restriction is normally the amount of data you get. This is called bandwidth, and you need a lot of it to stream video. So if your plan is to use a free VPN to unblock Netflix and binge show after show, you’ll be disappointed.

However, the services we’ve picked here will be ideal for some people, at least.

They won’t suit everyone, but for occasional use to increase your privacy while shopping online or using free Wi-Fi in a café, airport or hotel, a free VPN can do the job. A couple will even unblock Netflix and other streaming services, but their monthly (or daily) data caps mean you can’t watch loads.

Regardless, a free VPN is great way to try out this useful technology for the first time. Paid-for VPN services rarely offer free trials, instead preferring to make you sign up for a month and claim a refund if you don’t like it. And that’s inconvenient.

We’ve outlined the limitations of each free VPN service in the reviews below but, in general, the free tier will restrict you to choosing from only a handful of different countries, and will stop working once you’ve hit your monthly data allowance and / or limit the connection speed. 

Those are all perfectly fair limitations: the full range of servers, locations and best speeds should be reserved for paying customers. VPN providers certainly don’t want the service being slowed down by free users and spoiling the fun for the people that pay for it. And since it costs only a few dollars or pounds per month, there’s a good argument for paying for a VPN.

The best free VPNs to use in 2023

1. Privado

Pros

Unblocks Netflix & other streaming services

Choice of 12 servers in 9 countries

Cons

Limited to 10GB per month

Usable on one device at a time

RRP:



From free

Best Prices Today:



£0 at Privado

Privado is still a relatively new VPN, but the company behind it has huge experience. Unlike most of its rivals, it owns and operates almost all of its servers instead of renting them. This makes it more secure, and the fact it’s headquartered in Switzerland makes it a good choice if privacy is important to you.

But if you just want to unblock Netflix, Privado is the best choice because it’s one of the only free VPNs that can do this. And it will do it in the countries where it has servers you can use for free, including the US, UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Mexico and Argentina. In all, you can choose between 12 servers in 9 countries, which is surprisingly generous.

Privado supports P2P downloads, and the biggest disadvantage of using the free tier is the limit of 10GB of data (per month). With that, you can stream videos, download files and browse the web. Once it’s used up, you’ll have to wait until the allowance renews the following month.

The only other restriction is that Privado’s free tier can be used on one device at a time.

There are apps for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Android TV and Fire TV. The latter two are good for streaming and the apps also have a kill switch. It’s not enabled by default so you’ll want to toggle it on if you care about privacy.

Privado’s apps now have WireGuard, and the company has worked to optimise speeds and more intelligently choose the best protocol, which is usually WireGuard in the West.

So long as you use the links above or below to sign up, you’ll also find it can unblock other streaming services such as Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub. If you visit Privado’s website independently, you’ll find the service won’t do that, as you’ll get a different version.

To sign up, you need only a valid email address, as that’s where your login details will be sent. Get Privado free

Read our full
Review Privado VPN

2. Atlas VPN

Pros

Unlimited connections

P2P downloads supported

Cons

Only 3 servers in 2 countries

10GB monthly limit (2GB daily limit)

RRP:



From free (£1 per month for Premium subscription)

Best Prices Today:



£0 at AtlasVPN

Atlas VPN is owned by Nord Security, which runs NordVPN. It’s primarily a paid-for VPN, but does offer a free tier. When it launched it didn’t have any bandwidth restrictions but now limits you to 2GB per day in the iPhone app and 10GB per month in the Windows app. That’s very generous.. but it’s not unlimited.

Atlas VPN has three free servers, one on each coast of the USA and one in Europe (in Amsterdam).

These don’t offer the ‘high connection speeds’ claimed for paying users, and there are no guarantees of performance for streaming video. However, they do support P2P downloads.

We hit a roadblocks with US Netflix and the UK’s BBC iPlayer, neither of which would let us watch content from outside of those countries. Atlas VPN says Premium subscribers have a better success rate.

When we originally tested the free version of Atlas VPN we loved that it never asked for any details: you downloaded, installed and it just works. Now, you must enter an email address to get a sign-in link, which means less privacy but you can still use it on all your devices, you’re not limited to just one.

On mobile, you’ll need to tap through several screens explaining about the Premium tier. It seems there is no option but to opt for the free trial, but you can tap the X to dismiss this and use the app for free.

Atlas VPN is based in the US, which isn’t ideal for a VPN service due to the unfavourable privacy laws. Atlas operates a ‘no-logs’ policy that should offset this somewhat. However, its privacy policy says that it ‘collects’ data (such as your rough location, extracted from your IP address) in order to ‘ensure great service to all our users’. Plenty of paid-for services do the same thing, but this is more worrying when the jurisdiction isn’t the best for privacy. 

Of course, most people wanting a free VPN don’t have privacy at the very top of their lists. They just want to unblock websites, videos and other content, so it’s not a major issue.

Atlas offers apps for Windows, macOS, iOS and Android, and there’s a kill switch present in all four apps. There are also Fire TV and Android TV apps, but those are reserved for paying customers.

There’s a choice of IKEv2 and WireGuard protocols, even for free users. Connection times are quick and speeds were surprisingly good. In testing, from the UK, we saw download speeds of over 70Mbps (likely limited by our broadband connection). And – as a bonus – it supports both IPv4 and IPv6, meaning better protection from IP address leaks. 

If you can live with a 2GB per day data limit (and an overall 10GB monthly limit) and don’t need to unblock video streaming services, this is a great free VPN service.

Get AtlasVPN here.

3. ProtonVPN

Pros

Unlimited bandwidth

No ads

Cons

Servers in only 3 countries

Limited speeds

RRP:



From free ($5 per month for Basic)

Best Prices Today:



£0 at Proton

ProtonVPN is the only VPN service we know of that offers a truly free tier which isn’t supported by ads and which offers unlimited data.

Proton operates a zero-logs policy – including for the free version – and in any case has data protection under Swiss laws.

There are limitations compared to the paid version. One is that you have a choice of just three servers: US, Netherlands and Japan, and you can use the account on one device only.

Proton says you’ll get ‘medium’ speed while using the free plan, and only get the fastest if you stump up the money for its paid-for service.

The free tier doesn’t unblock Netflix or other streaming services, nor does it support P2P/BitTorrent downloads. The only other notable restriction is that you can’t use the Secure Core VPN feature which routes your connection via multiple servers.

But this still means it’s very usable, so long as your aim isn’t to unblock video or download torrent files.

There are apps for Android, iOS and Windows, which are all open source and audited – an impressive level of transparency that reassures you they’re secure.

Although separate and not part of the VPN, you can also have a free email account with ProtonMail.

Get ProtonVPN here.

Read our full
Review ProtonVPN

4. Windscribe

Pros

Servers in 10 locations

No speed restrictions

Cons

Limited to 10GB per month

No access to servers which unblock streaming services

RRP:



Free

Best Prices Today:



£0 at Windscribe

While many free VPNs are seriously limited, Windscribe is pretty generous with bandwidth and server locations, offering 10GB of data per month and the choice of 10 servers, with no speed restrictions.

Those servers include locations in the US and UK plus Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Romania. Switzerland and Hong Kong.

You don’t get to use the special Windflix servers which are optimised for streaming video, but you can still do that using the other servers.

There’s no guarantee that they’ll unblock Netflix or other streaming services, but the 10GB allowance is certainly enough to watch a few videos per week. There’s a handy Amazon Fire TV app as well.

All you have to do is provide an email address, and you can rest assured that Windscribe won’t sell your data to third parties because you’re using its free VPN service. If you want to use it on more than one device at the same time, you’ll need to use a different email address and sign up again.

Get Windscribe here.

5. Hide.me

Pros

Unlimited bandwidth at restricted speed

No account required

Cons

Only 5 servers

Doesn’t unblock Netflix

RRP:



From free (Premium subscription from £4.99 per month)

Best Prices Today:



£4.99 at Hide.Me

Hide.me used to offer 2GB of data per month on its free tier but has lifted that cap to 10GB with no speed restrictions.

Better still, you can continue to use the service once you hit that limit: you just won’t be able to choose which server you’re connected to. Speed isn’t guaranteed at this point, but it will the best hide.me can offer.

No credit card is required and you don’t even have to create an account. Just install the app on your phone, pick the free tier and click the Activate button.

Usefully, although there is a choice of only five servers, these include the USA, so you can browse US websites that are blocked in Europe because of GDPR restrictions. And all five locations support P2P downloads.

Unfortunately, Hide.me free won’t unblock US Netflix so you won’t be watching shows that you can’t get elsewhere.

You can use Hide.me for free on Android, iOS, Windows, macOS and there’s even an app for the Amazon Fire TV.

There’s more good news: Hide.me offers the same features on all plans, including its free ones. That mean it doesn’t log any user activity and it also doesn’t sell user data to make money.

You can read our full Hide.me review for more details.

Get hide.me’s free plan here.

Read our full
Review hide.me VPN

6. Tunnel Bear

Pros

Choice of 20 countries

No speed restrictions

Cons

Only 500MB of bandwidth per month

RRP:



From free ($4.19 / £3.33 per month for annual plan)

Best Prices Today:



£3.33 at TunnelBear

Tunnel Bear is one of the best-known VPN services to offer a free version, though it’s really designed to allow you to try out the service to decide whether you want to pay for it.

It offers servers in 20 countries, including the UK, US, Australia, Canada and more. There are apps for iOS, Android, macOS and Windows.

The difference between the free and the paid-for service is really just a restriction on bandwidth. The free service gives you only 500MB per month although you can request an increase to 1GB via Twitter. Apparently, using bear-related puns will increase your chances of success.

Beyond this you can pay either monthly or annually for unlimited data, but it isn’t one of the best VPN services.

Read our full Tunnel Bear review.

Get Tunnel Bear here.

7. Hotspot Shield Basic

Pros

Total of 15GB bandwidth per month

Cons

Limit of 500MB per day

Only 1 server

2Mbps speed

RRP:



From £3.49 per month

Best Prices Today:



£3.49 at Pango

Hotspot Shield is another big name in VPN, and is also widely known for offering a free tier.

Unfortunately, it’s limited in a number of ways which will likely make it less appealing than others here.

First, although it’s true that it offers 15GB of bandwidth per month, there’s a secondary limit of 500MB of data per day. And that means any plans you might have had of binge-watching US Netflix at the weekend are out of the window. Video streaming is also restricted to standard definition, so you can’t watch in HD.

Also, you’ll see plenty of ads while using Hotspot Shield: that’s how the free service is funded.

There’s just one server on offer (which is a US virtual location), and you can only link one device with the free account.

The most limiting of all is that speed is limited to a paltry 2Mbps, which most people won’t want to put up with and free users have no access to tech support.

If you just want privacy while browsing the web, you might be happy using Hotspot Shield. But the slow speeds and other drawbacks mean it’s hard to recommend Hotspot Shield over others here.

Get Hotspot Shield.

Read our full
Review Hotspot Shield

Is it safe to use a free VPN?

It can be, yes. There are rarely any differences in terms of the technology used, so you’re getting the same security and privacy. However, in a few rare cases, when you use a free VPN service, you’re agreeing that the company can log data and sell it to third parties.

That doesn’t happen with the VPNs recommend here, but if you decide to use a different service then carefully read the Ts &Cs before you sign up.

Are free VPNs worth it?

It’s possible that you are willing to live with restricted bandwidth and/or servers, especially if all you want to do is use a VPN on public Wi-Fi for security, but the meagre data allowances from most free packages mean you won’t be streaming videos. Most won’t unblock any streaming services anyway.

When you hit the data limit you’ll need to wait until your data allowance is renewed the following month, find another free service, or upgrade to the paid version of a free service.

There are exceptions. ProtonVPN offers unlimited bandwidth for free and hide.me has recently changed its free package so when you’ve used up your monthly allowance you can keep using the service but you can no longer pick which server to use. That’s very generous when you’re not paying.

In our extensive testing of VPNs – both free and paid services – it is apparent that you will be significantly more satisfied if you spend just a few pounds or dollars a month on a service such as Surfshark, NordVPN, CyberGhost and others.

But as we said, if you haven’t used a VPN service before, do try the options below to see how you get on with them. Three of them – ProtonVPN, Privado and AtlasVPN  – stand out from the crowd. All restrict your choice of servers and won’t guarantee performance, but they do offer benefits usually found only in paid-for services.

Related articles for further reading

All security newsBest antivirus software for Windows (plus free options)Best antivirus dealsHow to hide your IP addressWhat is a VPN and why you need oneHow to use a VPNBest VPN deals

Personal Software, Security, VPN

Leave a Comment

Generated by Feedzy