UPDATED April 2023
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Advertising Disclosure: Many or all of the companies featured provide compensation to us. These commissions are how we maintain our free service for consumers. Compensation, along with hours of in-depth research, determines where & how companies appear on our site.
Surfing on the Internet without protection is a lot like leaving your house with your door unlocked. Data breaches occur every day to both individuals and large corporations. Cyber security is something that everyone should be concerned about on a daily basis.
Everyone knows that antivirus software is the first line of protection for keeping your system and data safe. However, it only keeps something from entering the doorway to your computer. It does nothing to protect the data as it is being transferred from system to system. That is what a virtual private network (VPN) is for.
Let’s explore some free options that will keep you safe and won’t cost you a dime.
You may be wondering what a VPN is and why you need one. VPNs help you stay safe while browsing the Internet by hiding the actual location of your computer. Every computer has an IP address that tells other computers the physical location of your system. The IP address can be linked to your personal address by doing a quick search online. Anyone with access to your IP address, like an identity thief, can easily find other personal information.
A VPN hides your IP address and physical location by sending the information being transferred to another server in a different location. To an identity thief or someone on the other end, it will look like you are physically located in someplace other than your actual physical location. This can help you to avoid data theft while it is being transferred and it can help you access material that is restricted geographically, such as content on Netflix.
In addition, the data is also encrypted to and from your computer. This means that even if someone were to intercept it, they could not decipher the data unless they had the encryption key. VPNs encrypt out rhythms that are so complex, it is nearly impossible to break them without sophisticated software.
A VPN is one of the best ways to ensure your data stays safe while you are online. However, there are hundreds of VPNs available and it may be hard to choose. Let’s discuss a few of the traits that you should look for when choosing a VPN.
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When you begin searching for a VPN, you will notice that some require you to pay a monthly fee, while some offer their services for free. You may be asking why you should pay for something that you should get for free. To be honest, there is nothing such as a free lunch and it will cost you something even if it is not monetary.
Many free VPN services will offer you a trial version of the service for free in hopes that they will convince you to purchase the full paid version once you see how well their software works. The trial version is usually very basic and does not have all of the bells and whistles. In some cases, the trial version will not even allow you to access the most basic functions. However, for the most part, it is still better to have a trial version of a VPN than none at all.
The second way that you may pay for a completely free VPN service is through adware. If you don’t mind the adware, this can be a great way to get a completely free VPN. Many free versions are not the most powerful versions of the software or do not have the full range of features that are included in paid software versions. This is the hook to get you to purchase the paid version.
In some cases, the free version of the VPN may be slower than the paid version. In a sense, you are paying for your free software through reduced bandwidth and slower speeds. Once again, if you don’t mind this may be a small price to pay for having your system protected by a VPN. Free versions of VPNs often do not have as many servers as the larger paid VPN software providers. Because they are free, they often have many more users in the paid versions, which means that they have fewer servers and more people on them. This crowds the servers and may affect connection speeds significantly.
Free VPNs will keep your system safe from prying eyes and will allow you to access geo-restricted content, but you will be paying for it in some way. This will either be through slower connection speeds, adware, or continually being hounded to upgrade to the paid version of the software. That being said, free VPNs can be a great way to assure that your system is protected if you are strapped for cash or are not willing to pay for a full-featured version.
We must offer one word of caution and it comes to free VPNs. Some of them may come with malware that can harm your system or even steal the data that you are trying to protect. It is not a good practice to download software off the Internet that you do not first check through online reviews or a quick search. If you find a free VPN, the first thing you should do is research it to ensure it has not been reported as malware.
You are allowing the VPN to have permission to access personal data and your personal computer system. You should be as careful when doing this as you are about locking your car or door when you leave. It is always better safe than sorry. That is why we have composed our list of free VPNs that can be trusted and that do not contain any known malware.
Keeping your system safe goes further than finding a VPN provider that you can trust. It is also possible to download malware from the service that is providing the down wear. For this reason, you should always try to seek out the original software provider and download from their site instead of using a third-party download service to make sure that is not malware anywhere along the line of transfer.
When downloading the software, read each box carefully and make certain that you are not agreeing to download any unintended software that you do not want. Many times, they will allow you to uncheck a box if you do not want a certain set of software, but sometimes they do not provide this option and you have to read carefully during the install process to make certain that you do not unintentionally install a software that could harm your system or cause annoying pop-up ads.
If your free VPN keeps logs of your data, they may have the intention to sell them to a third party at a later time for profit, or they may be subpoenaed by certain government entities depending on the legal environment of the VPN provider. It is always best to make certain that you know that your data will not be logged and that your privacy is truly safe when choosing a VPN provider. None of the VPN providers on our list keep logs of your data. They have been vetted and checked out to make sure that the do not contain any malware or other unwanted software.
If you type in the words “free VPN” on any search you’ll come up with lists of hundreds of providers. The problem is which one to choose, especially knowing that some of the free versions may come with dangerous malware. First off, researching the free VPN may bring up a warning about potential malware or problems that people have had. However, this is not always the case and sometimes you may have to do an extensive search to find those kinds of reports about a bad VPN. So, how do you choose?
You want a VPN that is free, but you also want one that you can trust as much as a paid version. To solve this issue, we found that the best way to get a reliable free VPN is to find companies that offer an unlimited free trial version and a premium subscription. The reason why we liked this route is that any company that wants to sell you a paid version of their product will not do something as untrustworthy as providing malware with their software. They want to convince you to buy their product, so they will offer you the best service possible, even with their free trial version.
With companies that offer a premium subscription, they have to make sure that their security is safe and secure. With those that do not offer a premium version of their software, you have no idea if your software is safe because they have no reason to go the extra steps to make sure that your data is safe. This is the trade-off between truly free and one that comes in a package with the potential to upgrade to a premium service. We felt that those that allow you to upgrade to a premium service were more trustworthy in terms of safety and security.
Those that offer an unlimited free trial are also more likely to be faster than those that do not offer a premium service. Even though they offer their free trial customers lower bandwidths and slower speeds than their paid customers, they are also much faster than those that are not connected to a premium service. In addition, many free VPN services that are not connected to a premium service pay for their services through ads. Not only are these annoying, we also found that this slowed the VPN considerably.
Security, service, and better speeds were the main reasons why we chose to go with free trial versions of software that are connected to premium versions. It may be worth noting that we also liked the premium versions of the software as well. Even though the ones on the list may not be the most expensive or fastest on the Internet, their premium versions are a reasonable price. If you decide to upgrade to a premium version in the future, it is a quick and easy process.
The question of whether the free or paid version is right for you depends on how you use the Internet and what you use it for. If you are a casual user who just wants to download a few movies now and then, the free trial version is usually enough. Another possibility with these providers is that you can upgrade to premium for a short time and then switch back to the free trial version if you find you don’t need it. We liked this flexibility provided by the VPN providers on our top-five free VPN list.
In addition, when you register for the VPN service, it is more than likely that you will begin to receive emails and notifications that pop up asking you to upgrade to the premium service. There are advantages and disadvantages to services that ask you to register for an upgraded version of their free trial. Consider your own needs and decide if you want to sacrifice speed and data for more privacy. If you don’t want them to collect any data, you may just want to stick with those that only offer a free service.
In terms of speed, UltraVPN surprised us. They may not have as many servers as their competitors, but the ones that they do have are lightning fast. We experienced no lag or buffering when downloading and streaming from their servers. We felt that the service was reliable and consistent, regardless of the server that we were using.
With some services, they advertise that they have thousands of servers, but when you actually get on some of them, the connection is quite slow. UltraVPN does not artificially enhance their numbers of servers available by including ones that are barely able to stay on the Internet. All of their servers were found to be reliable, and this says something for their focus on the customer and the quality of their service. This is one of many reasons why we feel that this is the best free VPN service.
The second VPN on our list is Hotspot Shield. This is the free version of a popular paid VPN, Hotspot Shield Premium VPN. One thing that we liked about it is that you need do not need to put in any information to begin the download using their app. Some Android users have found that they do receive ads, but these are coming from Android not the VPN itself.
One thing that we liked about this free version of a premium VPN is that it has the same security aspects as the paid version. They have a zero-log policy that applies to their premium customers as well as their free ones. We like this one because it was fast and allowed us to torrent and access international content that was not able to be accessed from our physical location. The paid version is a little bit faster than the free version, but this is your price if you want to have an excellent VPN for free.
Even though the premium service boasts higher speeds, we found that this free version was not bad in terms of speed. You will experience little buffering and a smooth operation for most common tasks. We did find that it was a little slow when it came to tormenting, but if all you want to do is watch movies, this free service is definitely one that we would recommend in terms of security and performance.
Windscribe is another service provider that provides paid and free services. We like this free plan because you can use it on an unlimited number of devices. They provided a little bit more with their free service than other VPN providers that also offered premium service packages. They allowed you to access their firewall and ad-blocking features with their free version. The free version also allows 10 GB of data that is renewable every month. This is a generous offering of free features.
As with the other free VPNs that we recommend, this service keeps no log and destroys your data immediately. If you decide to upgrade to the premium service, it is only around $10 a month. This is a smaller company and they only have 11 server locations to choose from. We found that it was a little slower and tended to be crowded at peak times. Many free VPN services only offer five or fewer servers. In order to gain access to more servers, you need to upgrade to their premium services. WindScribe offered a wider selection of servers for their free customers.
Hideme offers a free VPN service that is a great place to start if you are new to VPNs. We like that their interface was easy to configure and easy to understand for beginners. If you decide to upgrade to their premium version, it is only five dollars per month. One of the downsides of the free version is that you only have a choice of three server locations. There is one in Canada, one in the Netherlands, and one in Singapore. It is usable, but much slower than the other two on our top-five free VPN list.
They have a strict no logs policy and ensure that none of your personal information will be stored. We felt that it was easy to download and works efficiently for most streaming purposes. One thing that we did not like about this one is that they continually encourage you to upgrade to their premium services. The free version is more like an advertisement to get you to pay, but this is the case with many free versions of software that also have premium versions available. When you sign up for the paid version, you have access to unlimited bandwidth.
TunnelBear is a VPN that those in the computer security industry like best. The reason why they like it is that the code is light and does not take up a lot of space on your hard drive or on your server. It was made to be fast and efficient. Of course, they hope that you will like their service and upgrade to a premium service. The free version of their VPN limits users to 500 mb of data per month. This is not enough for most commercial uses or those who like to torrent a lot, but for the average VPN user, this is plenty.
We like this VPN because it has a strict no-logging policy and is trusted by many professionals. One reason why this service did not rank higher is that we experienced a few outages and connection problems when using it. We also experienced slow download speeds when accessing some server locations. These problems are not found in the premium version. For most users, this would be an adequate free VPN to use. They do have good customer service, even for their free customers. This is a plus and another reason why this may be a good place to try a VPN service for free that you may wish to upgrade at a later time.
If you do a Google search, you will note that there are hundreds of free VPNs available. However, finding one that is trustworthy is another matter. Out of all that were tested, we liked UltraVPN the best. In our exploration of free VPN services, we found that there are two types out there.
The second type of company are those that have a free service and offer paid services as add-ons. This is the category under which UltraVPN falls. This type of company wants you to be happy with their service, so they offer excellent customer service and try to offer the best product possible in hopes that you will be enticed to upgrade your services. They actually make money by selling upgraded services.
With UltraVPN, you never have to upgrade to add on services and can keep using the free version as long as you like. However, they continue to provide excellent customer service in the hopes that you will upgrade someday.
UltraVPN has many nice features that you find in paid services. For instance, they have unlimited bandwidth, and you can connect up to three devices at the same time. They also have a kill switch that allows you to quickly and easily disconnect from the Internet if your VPN connection should be lost. We liked at their speed and connectivity, as well as the quality of the servers that they were using.
We did find a few downsides to this VPN, such as it is not available in China. However, if you are located anywhere else, we would consider this our top pick for a free VPN.
The information we provide you is free of charge and a result of extensive research by our product experts. We use affiliate links in our site that provide us with referral commissions. While this fact may not influence the information we provide, it may affect the positioning of this information.