When it comes to free VPN services, everybody wants the best. But is there any free VPN that can serve you best and be a worthy opponent against a paid VPN? Well, in a sense.

Free VPNs might be enough for browsing, but for streaming, gaming, and torrenting we recommend getting a paid VPN and using its 30-day money-back guarantee.

A great free VPN service can usually be used, without major risks, to spoof your IP address to access censored web content or stay secure while using your banking app on a public wifi hotspot. Yet to get even that much, you need to steer clear of all the terrible free services out there – and we’re here to help.

Try the best premium VPNs for free

If you want airtight online security and privacy, fast connections for torrenting or streaming, and live support, free VPNs are not the way to go. Fortunately, some of the best VPN services offer a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can give them a shot. They’re also not that expensive:

At $1.94/month, Surfshark VPN brings by far the most bang for your buck. Surfshark’s fast connections will let you stream, game, or torrent smoothly, wherever you are.

You can get the super-secure NordVPN and all of its 5000+ servers for as little as $3.49/month.

NordVPN
VPNpro rating: 9.6 / 10

Both Surfshark and NordVPN offer 30-day money-back guarantees.

Free VPNPaid VPN
Anonymity and securitynoyes*
Military-grade encryptionyesyes
GEO-unblockingyesyes
Public WiFi protectionyesyes
Unlimited datanoyes
24/7 live chat supportnoyes
No bandwidth sharingno*yes
No third-party adsno*yes
No data loggingnoyes*
No malware includedno*yes

* It doesn’t relate to all VPNs in the category.
As you can see from the table above, paid VPNs are simply better. Free VPNs usually don’t provide full anonymity and security or 24/7 live chat support. They are more likely to have bandwidth limitations, third-party ads, and malware risks.

Moreover, free VPNs can be slower and might be logging your data. On top of that, free VPN services tend to offer users access to far fewer server locations. This can result in thousands of connections per server at a time, congesting traffic and reducing speeds to a crawl in the process.

At $1.94/month, Surfshark VPN brings by far the most bang for your buck. Surfshark’s fast connections will let you stream, game, or torrent smoothly, wherever you are.

Alternatively, you can get the super-secure NordVPN and all of its 5000+ servers for as little as $3.49/month.

The dangers of free VPNs: here’s what you should know

Even though decent providers do exist, the free VPN market is riddled with pitfalls, especially if you stumble upon the wrong free VPN service. Here are some of the dangers and drawbacks that you risk running into when using an random free VPN service:

  • IP address leaks. Unfortunately, a lot of free VPN services can leak IPv4 and IPv6 addresses, if they don’t have proper leak protection as well as a kill switch. This means that your physical location can easily be identified and used against you if this information lands in the wrong hands.
  • Data tracking, logging, and monitoring. Some free VPN providers may go even further than merely logging your data and inject hidden trackers into users’ devices. These trackers may collect your data even when you’re not connected to the VPN server, which makes these malicious free VPN services nothing more than spyware in disguise.
  • Fraud. Some shady free VPNs collect your data and sell it on black markets. This can result in not only fraud, but also identity theft, data breaches, and worse. It pays to be extra careful when choosing which free VPN to use, so make sure to stay away from the less-known brands.

Choosing the best free VPN: what to keep in mind

When it comes to picking the best free VPN, the following factors are the most important:

  • Security – the free VPN should have industry-standard encryption and tunneling protocols, as well as security features that are at least somewhat comparable to a paid VPN service.
  • Privacy policy – the provider shouldn’t keep any logs of your internet activity.
  • Business model – ideally, the free VPN should earn money not by selling your data to third parties, but by selling paid subscriptions to the premium version of its service.
  • Limitations – the provider should cut as few premium features as possible, including offering you more free bandwidth, server selection, and allowing P2P traffic.

Not all free VPN providers out there meet each of these criteria. Some cut advanced security features from their free versions, many log and sell your traffic data to marketers and advertisers, while others still simply underperform because of overcrowded servers.

Don’t have time to go through the whole list? Here are our top free VPN services in 2020:

#
PROVIDER
SCORESCORE
1.
The #1 best free VPN service
8.0 / 10
2.
The most popular free VPN on the planet
7.5 / 10
3.
Incredibly generous – both in features and bandwidth
8.1 / 10
4.
Good for privacy, bad for streaming
7 / 10
5.
High on features, low on data
7.2 / 10

Top 5 free VPNs for 2020

1. ProtonVPN

Number of locations
Number of locations: 50
Number of servers
Number of servers: 800
Support
Support: Email
countries
Number of locations: 50
countries
Number of servers: 800
countries
Support: Email
  • Strong encryption
  • User-friendly apps
  • Torrenting allowed
  • No Secure Core and Tor over VPN features
  • VPN for one device only
  • Slow

ProtonVPN, unlike all other free VPNs on this list, doesn’t limit how much you can download, how quickly, or how often you can switch servers. Instead, with the free version of ProtonVPN, you’ll just have one device per user account, fewer servers to choose from, and fewer features to use. And they’d be really nice features to have, so you wouldn’t be a fool to pay for them.

What the ProtonVPN free version does have, however, is solid security fundamentals: military-grade encryption, industry-standard tunneling protocols, and a reliable kill switch. The more advanced security features like Secure Core multi-hop and Tor over VPN are left behind the paywall.

Moreover, ProtonVPN’s torrenting policy doesn’t discriminate against P2P traffic. This P2P-friendly attitude makes it a decent choice for any VPN user, who doesn’t require great performance. And that’s precisely why ProtonVPN is at the very top of our list.

For a deeper investigation of ProtonVPN, read our ProtonVPN review.

2. Atlas VPN

Number of locations
Number of locations: 17
Number of servers
Number of servers: 150
Support
Support: 24/7 email
countries
Number of locations: 17
countries
Number of servers: 150
countries
Support: 24/7 email
  • Good security
  • Military-grade encryption
  • Automatic public wifi protection
  • Easy-to-use VPN app
  • Fast connection times
  • 24/7 email support
  • Limited number of servers

Atlas VPN is a free VPN solution for iOS and Android users. It protects you on public hotspots, where you’re most likely to use a portable device like a tablet or smartphone. This free and lightweight tool will make your connection safe with AES-256 encryption and IKEv2 tunneling protocol.

Even if safety isn’t your primary concern, you could still make use of Atlas VPN. With this software, you’ll be able to go around geo-blocks that restrict some media streaming websites from playback. This is a function that most free VPN’s can’t get working. Even some premium VPNs struggle, so it’s a very welcome addition. Speeds are high, too, so even HD streaming should be possible.

Atlas VPN offers excellent service with no hidden fees. It’s completely free, and you won’t be bombarded with annoying and interruptive ads. Much more than that, you get a free 24/7 support, premium users get prioritized in the ques, but it does work.

For a deeper investigation of Atlas VPN, read our Atlas VPN review.

3. Windscribe VPN

Number of locations
Number of locations: 60
Number of servers
Number of servers: 480
Support
Support: Email
countries
Number of locations: 60
countries
Number of servers: 480
countries
Support: Email
  • Generous bandwidth limit (10GB)
  • No-logs policy
  • Great set of free security and privacy features
  • User-friendly and easy-to-use clients
  • 13 servers
  • Based in a Five Eyes country
  • Average speeds and occasional connection drops
  • You have to earn extra free data with tweets and referrals
  • No Netflix servers

Although Windscribe VPN is based in a Five Eyes country, it comes with a strict no-logs policy with a transparent Privacy Policy. Also, it’s great when it comes to security and privacy. Without paying a dime, you get access to the full set of Windscribe’s premium security features: Ad Blocker, Anti-social, STunnel (Stealth mode), DNS/IPv6/WebRTC leak protection, Double Hop, and Timezone Spoofing. This is almost unprecedented for a free VPN.

Moreover, the Windscribe app is extremely well-designed and easy to use. This makes it a perfect choice for beginners and casual VPN users alike.

While Windscribe’s somewhat average speeds might not be top of the line and your connection may occasionally drop, the privacy that Windscribe provides (for free!) certainly more than makes up for these possible drawbacks.

Overall, Windscribe VPN may be good for browsing or streaming geo-restricted content safely, as well as for gaining extra layers of security when accessing sensitive content (social networks or banking) via unsecured wifi hotspots.

For a deeper investigation of Windscribe VPN, read our Windscribe VPN review.

4. Hide Me VPN

Number of locations
Number of locations: 60
Number of servers
Number of servers: 1560
Support
Support: Live chat
countries
Number of locations: 60
countries
Number of servers: 1560
countries
Support: Live chat
  • Strong security features
  • No-logs policy
  • Decent speeds
  • Torrenting allowed
  • Modest 2 GB monthly bandwidth limit
  • Access to only three VPN servers
  • Can’t unblock Netflix
  • VPN for one device only

The free version of Hide Me VPN packs all the security and privacy features you can expect from an industry-standard premium VPN service. Military-grade encryption, IP and DNS leak protection, and a no-logging policy make hide.me VPN an attractive choice for budget-free privacy enthusiasts.

Even though Hide Me VPN speeds are relatively good (for a free VPN) and you can enjoy P2P file-sharing on all servers, the 2GB data cap can be too restrictive for some. Additionally, hide.me VPN is a no-go for binge-watchers and streaming fans since none of the servers we tested could unblock Netflix.

Overall, Hide Me VPN can be a great free VPN service. The caveat here is that it all depends on your needs. If those needs are heavily dependent on the amount of online bandwidth you require, hide.me VPN might not satisfy them. On the other hand, if you don’t plan on torrenting large files or streaming an entire season’s worth of geo-blocked content in one go, this VPN provider could be right up your alley.

For a deeper investigation of Hide Me VPN, read our Hide Me VPN review.

5. TunnelBear

Number of locations
Number of locations: 20
Number of servers
Number of servers: 1000
Support
Support: Email
countries
Number of locations: 20
countries
Number of servers: 1000
countries
Support: Email
  • Double encryption
  • Kill switch
  • Unblocks geo-blocked websites
  • Very low monthly bandwidth cap (500MB)
  • No Australia server
  • Doesn’t unblock Netflix or other streaming services

TunnelBear VPN is usually the top choice for most free VPN lists, but due to its extremely low 500MB monthly bandwidth cap, we consider it just a teaser for you to go for the paid version ASAP.

With that said, the free version of TunnelBear VPN offers almost everything you’ll find in its premium version, at least feature-wise. Which means you get strong encryption, solid tunneling protocols, obfuscation, and a kill switch to make your anonymous web surfing quite a safe endeavor.

The TunnelBear apps are also very user-friendly, with a few tongue-in-cheek design decisions thrown in to make using them joy, especially when connecting to servers in faraway countries.

We recommend it for beginner VPN users to read and unblock web content, secure their internet traffic when using public wifi, or to simply spoof their physical location by changing their IP address.

However, all the features in the world won’t make us put TunnelBear higher on our best free VPN services list until this provider increases that incredibly restrictive data cap.

For a deeper investigation of TunnelBear, read our TunnelBear review.

Risk-free VPN trials: when free just doesn’t cut it anymore

When using free VPNs, it won’t be long till you start to really notice their drawbacks. These inevitable handicaps will certainly make you want to try a premium VPN service. Here are some of the nuisances that come with most free VPNs:

  1. Tracking and selling your data. Most of paid VPNs are very strict about their logging policies. However, the same can’t be said about free services. They have to make money somehow, right? Therefore, many free VPN providers collect users’ data through tracking libraries and sell it for marketing, advertising, or other companies.
  2. Injecting malware. Malware comes in diverse forms, and its primary purpose is to make cash by deceiving you or hacking your devices to steal personal information. This can be done by sending you a friend request or chat messages from unknown people, sending you spam emails, or making your device inaccessible.
  3. Bandwidth theft. Many free Virtual Private Networks steal users’ bandwidth and sell it to third parties. Individuals who use your stolen bandwidth through the third party services may never be aware that what they are doing is fraudulent.
  4. Traffic leaks. When your IP address is leaked out of the VPN tunnel, your personal information, physical location, and identity will be revealed. It’s called DNS leakage which is very common with free VPNs. Even though traffic leaks can occur while using paid VPN services as well, they are way less common.
  5. Pushing ads. A free VPN provider can easily decrypt your internet traffic, as well as modify it. Therefore, specific web pages can have their code decrypted to push additional ads into it.

This means that your best bet is going with the paid VPN that offers a lengthy trial period and a no-questions-asked money-back guarantee. This way you’ll have plenty of time to reconsider and get a quick refund in case you change your mind.

We recommend going with NordVPN, which is an industry leader that offers a generous 30-day risk-free trial period and guaranteed full 100% refund to their customers.

What is a free VPN?

Free VPN services work just like paid VPNs, with several major caveats. The VPN basics are pretty much the same across the board: when you use the app, it encrypts your online connection and routes it via secure servers in another location – for free.

And then come the caveats. As with most things in life, “free” isn’t exactly free with VPNs either. Since you don’t pay a dime for using these services (and don’t forget that keeping the lights on costs money), you can end up becoming the product. While so-called “freemium” providers offer free versions of their premium apps in hopes of enticing you to purchase their service, others brand themselves as “free” VPNs and make money by more insidious means.

By offering you to use their VPN servers for free, some of these providers can in exchange show you display ads, log and track your online traffic, allow third parties to spy on your activities, and even inject malware into your device.

Is free VPN safe?

Most free VPNs aren’t safe. That’s because they come with some or all five issues mentioned above. In the best-case scenario, you’ll see plenty of ads, and your data will be collected using various trackers. In the worst-case scenario, a free VPN will be used to steal your bandwidth and personal information, while injecting malware into your device.

Therefore, there are only a few trustworthy free VPN services and you can see them listed above. By installing any of them, you can be sure that nobody’s going to steal your bandwidth or personal data. What’s more, these providers constantly update their apps, meaning that there’s less chance for hackers to exploit known security holes.

What’s more, just because a VPN is free, that doesn’t mean it uses less secure technologies. All of our recommended free VPNs come with military-grade encryption and the latest tunneling protocols. They also have kill switches and zero IP or DNS leaks.

Benefits of free VPNs

When you go for a free VPN instead of a paid one, there’s an obvious difference in the quality of service. With that said, you may still find free VPN services useful for certain activities when you may not need maximum security, privacy, or lightning speeds. You can mainly use a better VPN service for:

  • Unblocking websites – to access geo-restricted content
  • Securing public wifi – not to leak sensitive data
  • Gaming & Torrenting – if speed and latency allow
  • Hiding your IP – to fake your geolocation

This doesn’t mean that with one single free VPN you’ll be able to enjoy all of these features, although our top 5 picks should essentially cover them. Nevertheless, there may be other free services that are more suitable for a specific usage or platform while they fail at others.

The worst free VPN services: avoid these free VPNs at all cost

While you can reliably use all the best free VPNs we list above as general online privacy and geo-unblocking solutions, we strongly recommend you stay well away from the rest. When it comes to online security and privacy, your room for error is practically non-existent.

This is why you simply have to avoid most free VPN services, the worst of which can be incredibly dangerous. Once again, we’ll repeat the age-old saying that there’s no free breakfast.

You’ll be much better off paying the monthly price of a coffee cup for a premium VPN than putting your online safety and privacy at risk by downloading and installing any of these unsafe apps masquerading as legitimate VPN services.

1. Hola VPN

Not recommended
You’re exploited and in return might get incriminated or sold out to the police

This Israel-based VPN service is one of the shadiest networks in the history of Virtual Private Networking. This service is built on a volunteer-powered P2P network. If you join, you practically have to share your IP address and bandwidth with other free and premium users as well. This creates the unfortunate potential for cybercriminals to misuse this free VPN and commit all kinds of online crimes posing as you.

This network can also be used to build a botnet. Some think that it is essentially a botnet of over 150 million computers. Hola also sells its huge volunteer network through its other company called Luminati.

You should know that Hola VPN collects data about you and your traffic, such as your IP address, which is the easiest way to trace you to your physical location. Since this provider also claims that they willingly share all this information with the authorities when asked or forced, well, do the math how secure and private you can stay using this free VPN.

Read Hola VPN Review

2. VPN Gate

Not recommended
Another “Gate” to remind us why not to leave a trace behind

VPN Gate is another great example of the total breach of internet privacy. This Japanese free VPN keeps an extensive log about you and your online activity. What’s more, VPN Gate is also a free service that is built on volunteers where all individual peers can spy on your traffic and log whatever information they want. Even if these logs are supposed to be deleted every two weeks, does it sound like a great online privacy tool?

So, what if you are a political activist using this free VPN service and your government forced VPN Gate to provide all the logs about you? Do you think you could end up in jail just because you failed to find a decent provider that could keep your anonymous?

Read VPN Gate Review

3. Betternet VPN

Not recommended
Your personal information may be available to third-party content providers.

Betternet is based in Canada, which is not exactly the safe haven for privacy, Canada being one of the most eager Five Eyes countries, the global surveillance alliance, and having strict data retention laws. Well, let’s just say, if Betternet keeps any logs about you, it may backfire in your face.

And, unfortunately, this provider logs your connections, creates tracking libraries for third-party advertising, and since there’s no kill switch, chances are it may leak DNS and your IP address as well. In other words, if you use Betternet for sensitive internet traffic, you could risk being exposed.

Read Betternet VPN Review

Free Android VPNs to avoid

We’ve discussed three of the worst free VPNs for desktop, but there are plenty of dangerous “VPNs” for Android that you should avoid. Here are some of the most popular ones:

  • Easy VPN
  • SuperVPN
  • CrossVPN
  • Archie VPN
  • One Click
  • Fast Secure Payment

These Android VPN services may contain malware like Trojans, adware, riskware, and spyware, but that is only part of the security risks you may face when using such low-quality free products. What’s also worrisome, these VPNs usually have a vague Privacy Policy and may keep connection and usage logs as well, including your true IP address and the IP addresses of websites you visit.

If you want to find the best and most secure free VPN for Android, please click here.