If you're like most web users, you've probably considered downloading a VPN to improve the safety of your internet connection. With data security becoming an increasingly popular topic, more people than ever are paying money to protect their computers and phones from the perils of cyber attacks and data breaches.
But the prices paid for premium VPN services can really add up. But don't worry - if you're looking to save money, there are still plenty of great free options on the market.
I've managed to find some of the top performing free VPNs in the industry for you. Here's the list of the best free VPN providers:
- ProtonVPN (Strong security standards, no data limits)
- Avira Phantom (Free access to premium features, 500 MB data limit)
- Hotspot Shield (Fast speeds, no data limits)
- TunnelBear (Free access to full features, 500 MB data limit)
- NordVPN (High-end VPN features, 7 day free trial)
Recommended for: users who prioritize high security and unlimited data.
ProtonVPN has recently emerged from Switzerland as one of the industry's leading VPN providers.
Switzerland may be famous for its offshore banks, but it's also become a hub for some of the world's leading data security firms.
The country's internet privacy laws have created a haven for companies like ProtonVPN.
A free option that stands out from the rest
Not only is ProtonVPN a service with a considerable reputation, but it's also one of the best free VPN options on the market.
Why is this the case?
It's one of the only free VPNs on my list that provides unlimited usage to its clients.
Other free VPNs on the market are much less generous.
For example, they might typically have a monthly download limit that you need to adhere to.
Whereas, with ProtonVPN, you only have access to three servers on one device, but your usage on them is not limited.
That being said, the connection speeds are still pretty good - going from around 80Mbps to 48Mbps download, resulting in a 60% retention rate.
The industry's best security features
ProtonVPN is known for focusing on its internal security measures. I attribute this to its association with ProtonMail, created by the same founders. ProtonMail is also a privacy-focused initiative; an encrypted email service with millions of worldwide users.
To help keep your data safe, ProtonVPN uses the AES 256-bit encryption standard. This encryption standard is famous for being used by the NSA and other US Government agencies.
You'll also find that ProtonVPN is one of the only free VPN providers that offer a real 'no-log' policy. I took a look at its logging and privacy policies to double check its online claims. Rest assured, ProtonVPN doesn't retain any of your personal browsing information.
Limited Access to Additional Features
You won't be able to access P2P networks, Tor, secure overseas streaming, or many of the other premium features found in this VPN.
Regardless, you have access to world-class encryption and a platform that can keep your internet history private. Also, don't forget, you can always upgrade to a paid service if you decide you really like the ProtonVPN platform. Its subscriptions come loaded with additional features.
- Unlimited free option for all clients
- Very secure encryption
- A true no-logging policy
- Access to multiple servers
- Easy upgrading process
- Key features not included in the free plan
- Only one device allowed per free plan
Recommended for: those interested in free access to premium features.
Avira Phantom VPN is the only German-based VPN that made my list. Avira is a major online data security company that releases a wide range of software products. While the provider offers a premium subscription, its free option has plenty to provide web users. In fact, pretty much the only downside is that you can only use 500 MB of data per month.
Avira Phantom free premium features
Avira is one of the few VPN providers that offers most of its feature list to non-paying customers.
You will benefit from military-grade AES 256-bit encryption whenever you use its free service. You'll also benefit from over 30 server locations to access sites overseas and prevent geo-locking from ruining your browsing experience.
If that's not enough, you can program the service to auto-connect to different Wi-Fi networks. Avira Phantom VPN even allows you to use its free platform across a range of different devices, including PC, Mac, iOS, and Android.
The performance is pretty good, too. When using Avira Phantom, my download connection went down from around 80Mbps to 40Mbps - that's a 50% retention rate.
I have tested Avira's performance for a variety of different media capabilities. Firstly, I was able to easily access Netflix servers from abroad. So, if you want to use Hulu or Netflix to watch TV from overseas, Avira Phantom is a winner. The only downside is that the platform doesn't support torrent usage.
Regardless, you can't use the free option for excessive media consumption, as you only have 500 MB to work with!
- Access to overseas media
- Strong encryption standards
- Over 30 different server locations
- Usable on a variety of different devices
- No torrenting available
- Only 500 MB of data per month
Recommended for: users who are looking for fast operating speeds and no data limits.
Hotspot Shield is another major VPN provider that offers a free option for its clients. This VPN provider is currently located in the United States, and is known as one of the most high-performance options available on the market.
Fortunately, Hotspot Shield offers a permanent free option to its clients. While its features are reduced, there are still some great benefits associated with using its free platform.
Strong encryption, good performance
All clients - including free plan users - have access to AES 128-bit encryption.
Again, If you want to encrypt your online browsing activity, this is an excellent option.
Same can be said about the performance. While generally not very stable, download speeds of data when using Hotspot Shield went down from around 80Mbps to around 45-55Mbps, an over 60% retention rate.
Free version will make you lose some features
Unfortunately, Hotspot Shield doesn’t offer its whole platform for free. You have to pay for a subscription to get the good bits. So, what exactly are you missing out on when you use its free platform?
Well, you won't have access to Hotspot Shield's full server list or its tech support. Also, you will only have access to one device on the platform and your VPN will most likely play ads. Unfortunately, bandwidth will also be restricted on its free option.
Regardless, it's a good way to get a feel for this VPN provider before you pay for a premium option. It's also a good option for those who are looking for simple and free web encryption.
- Free VPN option with no data limits
- Great performance
- Decent encryption standards for free users
- Reduced server list for the free plan
- Only one device per free plan
- Ads are not blocked on the free plan
Recommended for: those looking for free access to all VPN features.
TunnelBear is a relatively small VPN provider that was recently purchased by American data security giant McAfee. While a US firm owns the company, it's still based in its original location in Canada.
TunnelBear provides its users with 500 MB of free VPN traffic per month. And, while this isn't a lot if you download large files or stream movies, it should do the job if you only want to keep your browsing history secure.
What I really like about TunnelBear is the features available in its free service. While many free VPN providers restrict data consumption AND features, TunnelBear only restricts your data. In other words, you can take full advantage of the premium features using only the free plan.
The limits are not in bandwidth either. The speeds are not amazing either, with Tunnelbear throttling down my download speeds from around 80Mbps to 28Mbps - that's under 40% speed retention.
TunnelBear offers its clients the same excellent encryption options as many of the other providers on this list: AES 256-bit. Plus, despite this VPN being located in Canada, its strong logging policy prevents your data from being retained.
What's more, if safety is really a priority, TunnelBear even has a special program called GhostBear, which uses secretive techniques to prevent ISPs and others from detecting your VPN connection.
While I didn't have too much luck accessing Hulu and Netflix on TunnelBear's servers, the company does fully support torrenting. But keep in mind, using P2P on the free plan will probably chew through your 500 MB pretty quickly!
Lastly, TunnelBear offers all its users - including on its free plans - access to 20 countries around the world. While this isn't anything exceptional for a normal VPN provider, it's hard to find a free VPN service with this many free VPN server options.
- 20 different server country locations
- GhostBear for added protection against ISPs
- Extremely strong encryption options
- A true no-logging policy
- A limited amount of data per month (500 MB)
- Weak performance
Recommended for: those looking for short term premium features.
NordVPN is one of the most versatile VPN products available to web users. Being 5th on my list has nothing to do with this VPN's quality. In fact, it's only outside of the leading VPNs because its free option lasts much less time than the other providers I mentioned.
Unfortunately, NordVPN only provides its clients with seven days of free service. It's really only a trial. Yet, while this may not seem like a long time, it's enough for those wanting a VPN for a short overseas trip or getaway. And don't worry, if you do want to keep NordVPN, you can take advantage of its services for as low as $2.99 per month.
A truly premium VPN
NordVPN offers everything you could ever ask for. With its service, you'll have access to over 5,000 high-speed servers around the globe. If one server isn't up to your standards, there are countless options available in the same region.
You'll also benefit from AES 256-bit encryption and a no-log policy that protects your information from being collected. Its offshore jurisdiction in Panama is also an excellent feature for those who are security-focused.
Lastly, NordVPN also offers excellent features for media lovers. So, whether you love streaming or torrenting, NordVPN has capabilities that work for you. I tested a variety of different overseas NordVPN servers with Netflix and Hulu - I never had any issues accessing my favorite shows and movies. You'll also be able to use uTorrent and other popular P2P networks on its servers.
Because NordVPN's free version is only available for seven days, the firm provides you with full access to its VPN platform. Fortunately, you won't need to worry about throttled speeds, limited servers, or reduced download features. If you're looking for a free, high-performance VPN for a week or less, this is an excellent choice.
And the performance won't let you down. The speeds are barely affected, as they went down from 80Mbps download to around 71Mbps. For those keeping score at home, that's more than a 90% speed retention rate.
- Access to overseas media providers
- P2P support for all accounts
- High-end encryption standards
- A no-log policy that fulfills its promise
- The free version lasts for seven days, with no permanent free option
Best Free VPN: Which One Should You Choose?
If you're looking to download a free VPN, you're probably surprised at how many choices there are on my list. Unfortunately, being spoiled for choice can often make the decision much harder.
You should always opt to use the VPN that provides the features and capabilities you're looking for. While most free VPNs on this list have reduced features on offer, they each have their own benefits.
I'll explore them in more detail below:
- ProtonVPN is best for those who want a security-focused VPN with an unlimited free option.
- Hotspot Shield is best for those who want an unlimited free usage VPN with fast performance.
- TunnelBear is best for those who want a free VPN that's packed with features and ISP-avoidance technology.
- Avira Phantom VPN is best for those who want a free VPN that offers multi-device functionality.
- NordVPN is best for those who need a short-term, high-performance free VPN.
So there you have it - while all 5 of these options are different, they're all really good. And if you're looking for good free service - you're bound to find it here.
What do you think? Did you find your next free VPN software here? Or do you have other options on your mind? Comment below about your experiences with your provider!