Virtual private networks, or VPNs, are often considered a standard when it comes to digital privacy. Many of the most reputable solutions come with a price tag, however. This can make people feel stuck between paying a lot of money for a service that provides adequate protection and taking the risk of accessing and sending data without suitable adequate protection.
A free VPN can serve as a happy medium for this dilemma. With so many free options available today, it may even feel like these services are vying for you to use them. It is important to note that a free VPN service comes with certain caveats, however.
[box type=”tick”]Due diligence is required when selecting free VPN software. If, for example, you are uncomfortable with the idea that a free service might be selling your data, then you might want to consider paying for a VPN that guarantees your full privacy.[/box]
To help make your VPN selection easier, we studied and tried some of the most popular options on the market today.
TunnelBear Free VPN
TunnelBear provides free VPN options across most major platforms, including desktop and mobile. It is designed to be user-friendly, making it a strong starting platform for someone who isn’t looking for a particularly feature-rich solution. It comes with the bonus of no activity logging, so not even TunnelBear is recording where you go or what you do.
The free VPN service comes with a data limit, however. This can be increased through free means, such as through social sharing, but considering your usage requirements, you may want to consider a paid account if your needs exceed the limit.
Hide.Me Virtual Private Network
Hide.Me offers free VPN service with servers spread across the world. The encryption level is generally considered strong, though the free service comes with a monthly limit like TunnelBear.
Also like TunnelBear, Hide.Me will not log any of your online activity, which is a big bonus for those worried about data security.
This free VPN is also very user friendly, making it a strong contender for those who are just beginning to browse using a VPN or who are not overly tech savvy.
It is important to note that this is a fairly new company operating in the arena. While this isn’t necessarily a point of concern, it does mean you’ll see less information about it should you choose to do research outside of their core site. Additionally, free VPN software users have limited servers they can access.
One nice feature of the paid version of Windscribe is they offer a wide range of payment options including Bitcoin.
SurfEasy is a free VPN provider located in Canada. They are owned and operated by the software giant Opera. It offer high-level protection, is incredibly easy to use, and has very good speeds on both the paid and free plans.
The free plan comes with 2GB of data, but you can increase the limit through social sharing, such as by recommending SurfEasy to your family and friends.
VPNGate runs on a relay of volunteer devices in the University of Tsukuba in Japan. The software is audited, open source, and is updated on a regular basis. It constantly improves and wants to remain available for free to its users.
The project was created to help people who live in locations where the government imposes strict censorship laws. VPNGate also offers mirrors for times when their website goes down.
VPNGate has some major downsides, however. The VPN does not allow any torrenting, peer-to-peer sharing (P2P), or any other activities deemed as possibly illegal. It keeps logs that can be used against a user in any legal battles. The VPN also runs on a network of volunteer machines, which makes speed slower than other offerings.
Tor not an actual VPN, although it works in a similar fashion. Just like VPNGate, Tor runs on open source software and volunteer relays worldwide. Onion Routing, or layered encryption, makes it extremely secure to use.
By passing through three different ‘nodes’ or volunteer machines, Tor encrypts data. This data then passes once more through an exit node to get encrypted for a second time. This adds an extra layer of security so that your IP address will appear as one that belongs to a volunteer. Since there are many ‘nodes’, it’s impossible to identify users on the network.
The major drawbacks of Tor are that P2P isn’t permitted because file sharing slows down the network. Connection speed is also greatly reduced on the network.
CyberGhost has servers in Europe, America, the UK, Russia, and the Ukraine. Their free service offers users access to 14 different countries, and there is no bandwidth limits. The speed is good, but certainly not the fastest available.
One major downside of the software is that users are automatically logged out after a few hours of connection time. You can log back in immediately, but this feature serves as a pest for users who are online for long periods of time.
Other downsides include lack of free iOS app and inability to use P2P programs.
Hotspot Shield is a popular option, yet the free version has quite a few more restrictions than the others on this list.
Hotspot Shield has servers in Australia, the UK, and Japan, but free users can only connect to their US-based servers. The free version generates revenue through annoying ads and changes your default search engine.
What we really like about this free VPN is that there is absolutely no limit on the usage of data and the download speed is really good.
This ad-supported and free VPN is a great choice for users who wish to do a lot of video streaming or downloading. Spotflux is works very well on several platforms to block dangerous websites from your devices. They even offer browser extensions.
Additional features like a website privacy assessor are only available on the premium version of Spotflux. Premium users also have access to an ad-free experience.
VPNBook is one of the only free services that doesn’t even offer a premium version. This means that there are no service limitations or bandwidth caps. VPNBook is not a good tool for beginners, however.
This VPN is not simple enough for those who need a lot of guidance or an easy to understand interface. All that you’ll be given is a list of several servers, and then you’ll have to do the rest on your own.
VPNBook provides very few protocols compared to most VPN services, offering only OpenVPN and PPTP. We suggest that you use OpenVPN for a better security, although you’ll be asked to download an OpenVPN client on top of the VPNBook certificate bundles and configuration. On the other hand, PPTP is supported on most platforms, but is much easier to block by content providers and governments. This VPN has servers in Europe, America, and the UK.
OperaVPN is built into the Opera web browser. Users of the browser get all the protection features of a paid VPN for free. It is free of cumbersome ads and data limits.
One of OperaVPN’s main features is that it unblocks country-restricted websites. It can also overcome any network-blocked content. Another feature of OperaVPN is that it will hide your IP address. It does this by replacing your real IP address with another IP address in order to prevent websites from tracking your online activity and data. The third main feature of this free VPN is that it offers its users public Wi-Fi security. It will simply block anyone on public networks from seeing your data.
TigerVPN scores very high on reliability and speed. It boasts 300 servers located in 43 different countries with a total of 63 locations worldwide. All these servers are coded in-house to guarantee a constant top-notch performance. TigerVPN servers include 99.99% uptime, unlimited bandwidth and no speed throttling. All plans come with a minimum of two simultaneous connections.
TigerVPN allows torrenting and has several servers coded especially for downloading purposes. Their free plan only offers 500 megabytes of bandwidth and does not give users access to the gigabit servers. The protocols that it supports are PPTP, OpenVPN, and L2TP.
Avira Phantom includes a solid no logging policy, no speed throttling, and 256-bit AES end-to-end encryption. It also sports a secure browser and antivirus software. This VPN doesn’t offer many advanced features and the free version offers only 500MB of bandwidth per month.
Unfortunately, Avira Phantom has very few servers, but they have great speeds and 99.9% uptime. We would recommend this free VPN to new users, since it is intuitive and very simple to use.
Is free VPN service right for you? Ultimately, only you can decide if the best free VPN available can meet your needs. If your primary desire is to unlock geo-blocked sites, then these free VPN services may suffice. However, if you intend to stream video, you need to make sure they offer enough speed.
Additionally, if you need a more feature-rich option or unlimited use, then considering a pay service is wise. Most of the free services listed above offer paid variants, so you can try several different VPN services before selecting which one you pay for.
With so many options for both free and paid VPNs, there is no reason to compromise. There is a service out there for everyone that covers every need.