If you use a Windows device to access the internet, you probably have anti-virus software installed on your computer. While this does a great job at protecting you from unwanted malware, there are other threats you need to consider. internet service providers, hackers, and governments have easy access to your internet data if you don't encrypt it.
Keeping your internet activity private by using a VPN is becoming more common than ever before.
Thankfully, as a Windows user, you have access to some amazing free VPNs.
My list of free Windows VPNs doesn't include any 'free trials' or 'money back guarantees'. Instead, all of the VPNs on my list have permanent free options that you can continue to access without the need to upgrade.
So, which free VPN for PC is the best? Let's have a look at the list below:
- ProtonVPN (Industry-leader in security, no restrictions on data/downloads)
- Hotspot Shield (No data restrictions, industry-leading download speeds)
- Avira Phantom (High-end feature list, 500 MB cap per month)
- TunnelBear (Most premium features for free, 500 MB cap per month)
Paid plans start at: $4.00/month
Recommended for: users who are looking for secure, non-restricted data and downloads.
If you're looking for a VPN that offers top-notch security, look no further. ProtonVPN is a virtual private network with a hyper-focus on security protocols. One of its founders, Dr. Andy Yen, decided to start the famous encrypted email provider ProtonMail after he learned of the Edward Snowden domestic surveillance leaks.
ProtonVPN appears to have the same mantra as its sister company: ProtonMail, allowing every-day web users the ability to access the internet without having to worry about prying eyes.
A secure, free VPN that never expires
ProtonVPN offers much more than just a free trial for its users.
It offers a free plan that never expires - it just has limited functionality.
Windows users can download this secure VPN platform on their computers and continue to use it without ever needing to pay.
Many VPN providers put time restrictions or data restrictions on their free VPN platforms. ProtonVPN, though, does not!
Security comes first
As you can probably tell, security is the primary priority at ProtonVPN. You'll benefit from access to the same VPN encryption standard the NSA used to use (AES 256-bit encryption).
This, coupled with the company's strict no-log policy, means you won't need to worry about anyone unwanted snoopers gaining access to your web traffic and online data.
ProtonVPN also prides itself on being located in Switzerland. This small European country has a longstanding commitment to privacy and neutrality. It's thought to lie largely outside of Western intelligence influence.
What you can access
While the free plan of ProtonVPN is not as powerful as the firm's paid subscription, you still have access to plenty of different features.
You'll only be able to connect with one device, but you can use still three of ProtonVPNs servers.
They're not as up to speed as some of the other servers on its paid subscription, but I tested the service and they got the job done quite okay.
The unpaid ProtonVPN version managed to retain around 60% of my download speed - a good result for a completely free service.
My base connection speed was around 80Mbps and fell to around 48Mbps after I connected to VPN.
While you can't torrent or access high-quality streams with its free platform, you can browse the internet, send emails, access social media sites, and much more. Plus, if you want access to ProtonVPN's premium features, you can always upgrade, with plans starting at just $4.00 per month.
- Permanent access to a high-end free VPN
- Available for Windows/PC devices
- No restriction on data usage via free VPN platform
- Three different server options to choose from
- Uses some of the most advanced encryption standards in the industry
- You can only use one device per free account
- Internet speeds are reduced for free plan users
Paid plans start at: $3.49/month
Recommended for: those who need non-restricted data usage and great download speeds.
If ProtonVPN isn't floating your boat, you might like the sound of Hotspot Shield. This lesser-known VPN provider offers its users the ability to access high-speed servers without the need to pay for a premium subscription. Hotspot Shield is a US-based VPN provider, and while its jurisdiction isn't ideal, you'll see that its other safety features make up for it!
For example, Hotspot Shield doesn't cap your data. You can use as much connectivity as you want when you're connected to its free service.
What about download speeds?
When I tested its top servers, my internet speed still came in at around 55.4 Mbps. Considering my normal connection is 80Mbps - the speed retention rate of almost 70% is a great result.
Many paid VPN services that I've tested manage to retain around 70% of the internet's speed.
What's more on offer with Hotspot Shield's free VPN?
You can download Hotspot Shield's free VPN service on any Windows device. The only downside to its free version is you won't access its full list of features. While you can still benefit from amazing download speeds, your server options are greatly reduced on the service.Like ProtonVPN, you can only use one device on its free plan.
Hotspot Shield may choose to limit your bandwidth as well, and you also don't have access to the company's technical support team should you need a hand.
On top of this, Hotspot Shield's encryption standards aren't quite as strong as some of the leading competitors. But its use of AES 128-bit encryption still provides you with some serious security measures to keep your data hidden.
Still, Hotspot Shield offers fast speeds, easy access, no data limit, and a wonderful Windows VPN platform. What's more, you can always upgrade to a paid service at just $3.49/month if you want more!
- Free VPN service for Windows users
- No data limits on free plan
- Impressive download speeds
- Limited server options on the free plan
- Bandwidth can sometimes be limited
- No technical support team for free plan users
Paid plans start at: $5.99/month
Recommended for: users that need a high-end feature list without a price tag.
Avira Phantom VPN is another high-end VPN provider that offers a free Windows platform for its clients. This Germany-based VPN provider is a product of Avira - one of Germany's largest security software firms. I like Avira Phantom VPN's option because it provides its users with access to high-end features. But unlike ProtonVPN and Hotspot Shield, there is a 500 MB cap on your online data usage.
You won't have any problems using this service on your PC, and you can also use the platform on iOS devices, Mac, and Android. So, it's perfect if you have a few different devices that you need to connect to a VPN.
High-end features without the cost
You'll also benefit from geo-lock bypassing capabilities, meaning that you can access international media and content sites using its servers.
The only downside is that the 500 MB cap rules out excessive streaming.
There are some other excellent features built into this service as well.
You can set the VPN to auto-connect to unsecured WiFi hotspots to reduce hassle and ensure your connection remains safe when you first open your browser.
Lastly, Avira Phantom VPN is another provider that utilizes the world-class encryption standard AES 256-bit –and as I've mentioned, this is a strong provision for keeping your data secure.
Download speeds - less than impressive
While all free VPN versions have slightly slower speeds, Avira's VPN managed to retain only around 50% of my download speed. My base speed of 80Mbps fell to around 40Mbps. Since the speed was cut in half - it was definitely noticeable.
If you're gonna download bigger files or stream media online - you might want to consider upgrading - premium plans start at $5.99/month.
- Free service for Windows users
- Around 30 different international server locations
- Unlock geography-locked content
- Auto-connect feature
- Strong encryption standard (AES 256-bit encryption)
- Only 500 MB per month, per account
- Torrents not supported on servers
- Slow speeds
Paid plans start at: $5.00/month
Recommended for: those looking for premium features being available for free.
TunnelBear is another North American-based VPN company with free options for its clients. While it's currently a Canadian-based company, it was recently purchased by McAfee – a US-based data security titan.
Like Avira Phantom VPN, TunnelBear has a data limit of 500 MB per month for its free PC option. This isn't a great option if you plan on downloading large files or streaming movies, but it does have some excellent features for those who want a VPN for browsing the internet and securing normal browsing habits.What Does the 'Tunnel' in TunnelBear Stand For? TunnelBear seems a funny name for a VPN platform... but the name isn't as random as you may think!
Tunnel refers to the encryption 'tunnel' that the service creates for its users.
Using AES 256-bit encryption, TunnelBear can protect your internet traffic from ISPs or hackers that target internet hotspots.
TunnelBear doesn't stop there. It also has the in-house extra security measure, which is called GhostBear.
While the inner-workings of GhostBear aren't clear, TunnelBear claims it reduces the ability of ISPs to detect a VPN. This is an added bonus if safety is a priority.
Is TunnelBear a good choice?
That's because its data limit prevents you from regularly watching videos in any case.
Download speeds are average - it managed to retain under 60% of my download speeds.
While this isn't exactly ideal, it's not a bad result for a completely free version. I would strongly recommend upgrading (paid plans start at $5.00/month) if you plan on downloading or streaming online.
However, the main benefit you receive when using TunnelBear (outside of encryption) is the server list. With about 20 countries to choose from, this is one of the best free server selections on the market.
- Access all features free of charge - with data restrictions
- Around 20 international servers to choose from
- GhostBear reduced ISP detection of VPN
- AES 256-bit encryption standard
- No-logging of personal data or information
- Only 500 MB data per month
- Can't access overseas streaming sites
Which Free VPN for PC is Best for You?
If you've looked at the above summaries and still don't know which free VPN for PC is best for you, sometimes it's best to take things back to the basics.
Below, I'll summarize each of these services' primary benefits to give you a better idea of which platform suits your preferences. Check it out:
- ProtonVPN is best for those who want a leader in the data security field that offers unlimited data
- Hotspot Shield is best for those who want a high-speed Windows VPN with unlimited data
- Avira Phantom VPN is best for those who want a free Windows VPN with a large server list
- TunnelBear is best for those who want a Windows VPN full of features and additional safety capabilities, such as GhostBear
If you use a different free VPN on your PC, comment below about your experiences using your VPN service!