Last update: 06.25.2018
When you claim to be the best VPN on the market, but there are at least 20 other “best”-er services.
You may want to tread carefully on the turf of Windscribe VPN because it is based in good old Canada, an eager surveillance alliance member of the Five Eyes. Adding the mandatory data retention laws to this equation, and your online anonymity, security, and privacy might be at stake if you are dealing with an unreliable company. We hope this Windscribe VPN review will help to better understand what this VPN is all about.
To be fair, Windscribe hasn’t given us a reason to doubt its devotion to online privacy and freedom yet; however, they seem to somewhat loosely interpret no logs policy and they may actually record and store certain data after all even if not personally identifiable ones.
This service offers VPN servers in 50+ countries and 100+ cities physically in the claimed locations, which means that they have no virtual servers. Many users complain about the slow speeds. Nevertheless, we experienced average and sometimes even good speeds while writing this Windscribe VPN review. It also seems that there have been many changes in the past months regarding the number of servers, the quality of support, features, and so on. Therefore, comments and complaints about past versions may not be valid anymore.
We can’t agree with the “best VPN on the market” claim, but we do admit that this provider offers good security and privacy features, including ad blocking, unblocking Netflix and other media streaming services, double hopping, timezone spoofing, and so on. In addition to all that, Windscribe VPN can also bypass the Great Firewall of China.
The free VPN version is certainly worth a try. If you like the speeds and you feel that your online activity is private enough, you may have a good value for your money by purchasing the paid version. Nonetheless, we may not recommend this service for more serious and advanced VPN users. Let us explain the reasons why in this Windscribe VPN review.
Security & Privacy: Is Windscribe VPN safe to use?
Here we go again. A VPN service provider that claims no logs policy, yet they do collect some connection and other user data. It is usually not such a big security risk depending on what they actually log, but we simply don’t appreciate the kind of misleading marketing strategy lots of VPNs pursue. Is Windscribe VPN safe to use? Well, maybe.
“We do not store connection logs, IP timestamps, or sites you visit.”
“Since we store the bare minimum for a customer to actually use our service, any request for user data would yield nothing of value. We do not store any logs on who used what IP address, so we cannot tie user activity to any single user.”
So, they do store some data. What happened to no logs? If we also consider that this VPN is based in Ontario, Canada, a Five Eyes country with mandatory data retention laws, the collected data about you may not be as secure and private as you may think.
Claiming no logs rarely means no logs.
However, with that said, we also need to mention that whatever data this VPN provider collects and stores are not supposed to link you personally to any traffic. In other words, even if they are forced by law to share data with the authorities, they cannot provide anything useful. Sadly enough, we have seen a few VPNs fail on such no logs claims, for example, in connection with an FBI case as you can read in our PureVPN review.
Unfortunately, while working on this Windscribe VPN review, we have found serious WebRTC leaks and detected true geolocation when we tested the browser extensions, which are not real VPNs but proxies. Therefore, we don’t advise you to use them alone, without the desktop client. The good news is that we didn’t find any leaks in the case of the other VPN apps.
As a matter of fact, it does make sense to use the desktop client and the browser extensions together for greater security. For example, the following privacy features are only included in the browser extensions:
- Ad Blocker: against ads
- Anti-social: against social media trackers from Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, G+, and more
- Untraceable: against cross-site tracking used to generate a profile on you
- Secure.Link: to expose tracking practices
- Split Personality: against browser fingerprinting, it rotates your browser’s user agent
Unfortunately, though, our browser fingerprinting test failed as you can see on the screenshot below:
If you want to play it safe and avoid browser fingerprinting, you may want to use a combination of the Tor browser (with the Tor network disabled) and a VPN. This still seems to be the best recipe for the highest possible level of online security and privacy.
Windscribe VPN uses the IKEv2 VPN protocol by default, but you can also select UDP, TCP, or Stealth (TCP via STunnel) modes manually. The STunnel feature is suggested for use mostly if all other options fail, for example, when you are trying to connect to a VPN server from China. This mode is possibly the slowest of all.
This VPN service also offers a firewall, which prevents DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC leaks (except the browser apps). When it’s switched on you can only connect to the internet through Windscribe VPN; therefore, it works as a kill switch, too.
Other online security and privacy features include the Double Hop and Timezone Spoofing. This is not a real double VPN per se; it is more like using the desktop client together with the browser extension to route your traffic through two different locations and thus provide an extra layer of security. The Timezone Spoofing is for setting your time zone according to your chosen server location in order to match up with it for more consistency.
Since the free VPN and the paid version offer the same protection, this service may be tempting for travelers and expats mainly to access geo-restricted web content and stream videos from preferred sources, such as Netflix. However, while researching for our Windscribe VPN review, we were not 100% convinced about its security and data privacy credentials. Let’s see how it performed in other areas.
Speed: There’s room for improvement
When it comes to VPN download and upload speeds, there are many factors at play. It’s impossible to test speeds and draw general conclusions. Some users may experience totally different results. Starting with your own computer hardware, your router, your ISP (Internet Service Provider), your physical location, the VPN server’s load and quality, and so on, there can be plenty of influencers.
Even if you could watch HD, sometimes 4K quality videos, or play games online with the speeds we have seen (from around 6Mbps up to 86Mbps depending on the server location), the 100-250ms latency in certain cases makes it questionable. Also, if your internet speed without VPN is less than 100Mbps, for example, around 30Mbps, you may experience rather slow speeds with which you couldn’t enjoy streaming HD videos.
The free version only allows you to use 13 servers, including Hong Kong, the UK, Switzerland, Romania, Norway, the Netherlands, Canada, and the US. Because of the large number of free users and the relatively small number of servers they can use, it is possible that you will connect to a rather crowded one. This can cause slower speeds again.
In the case of the paid version, therefore, you may want to avoid the free servers for better performance. On the whole, our Windscribe VPN review has found that the paid version may be a bit faster than the free VPN, but not significantly so. We also need to mention that the connection time was usually very fast, lasting a few seconds only.
In general, our Windscribe VPN review concluded that this VPN may not have fast as lightning speeds as some of the competitors can boast, but you may still have a good enough performance to stream videos and access geo-restricted, censored web content.
How to download and install it
You can either click the green Download button at the top of the official website or scroll down the page and click the Download link or the specific client link in the footer. This will redirect you to the Downloads page. One more click, and you can download your chosen VPN app.
It is very easy to both download and install Windscribe VPN. You will find a great variety of platforms, including Windows, Mac OS, Linux, iOS, Android, Amazon Fire TV, Kodi, routers, and browser extensions.
In fact, this provider shows some sense of humor, too, by listing Blackberry as a supported platform, but below the button, it says, “Just Kidding.” To be frank, our Windscribe VPN review team found it refreshing and even cracked a smile.
How to use Windscribe VPN
You can either use Windscribe VPN for free or purchase a plan. The free VPN version limits your bandwidth to 10 GB of data per month and you can only access 13 servers.
All clients are fairly easy to use. You can connect to a recommended best location with a single click. Of course, before you can start using this VPN service, you need to log in. If you don’t enter your email address in addition to your username, you are only entitled to use 2GB per month. What’s more, you won’t be able to reset your password, either.
Once you log in, you will see a small blue app window. The clients are quite minimal with regard to design, but they are still relatively nice. There are smaller differences though apart from the shade of blue used. For example, the browser extension has a Secure.Link Generator and you can also create a Whitelist of tracking websites at the bottom of the app home screen. The range of servers is also different and so is the Settings menu, which is either called Privacy Options or Preferences.
As you can see, you have extra security and privacy features in the browser extension. This is why it is worth using it together with the desktop client for better security.
The desktop client Preferences menu looks totally different and offers more options:
It’s very easy to change your virtual location with the Windscribe VPN apps. Simply click the location to drop down the list of servers and choose another one. In a few seconds, you should be able to start browsing from your new location.
The desktop VPN app also comes with a firewall for maximum DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC leak protection. This firewall also functions as a kill switch that you can switch off and on at the bottom of your VPN home screen.
At the top, all clients display how many GB you have left from your free plan. When you have used up all your traffic, you are prompted to upgrade or wait till the next month.
It is quite straightforward to connect to the best location or disconnect from the current server by clicking the Power button on the right-hand side of your Windscribe VPN client.
All in all, these apps seem to work fine, although our Windscribe VPN review team did experience occasional issues of freezing in the case of the browser extensions, let alone WebRTC and IP leaks, which can be sorted if you also have the desktop app activated in the background.
Windscribe VPN for Netflix
Netflix is one of the major players in the media streaming service market along with BBC iPlayer, and Hulu that impose restrictions based on physical location. Therefore, it is an important question whether you can use Windscribe VPN for Netflix or not.
Normally, you cannot see the same catalog of TV shows and movies in the US, the UK, France, and other parts of the world due to copyright restrictions. Since more and more users try to circumvent these geo-restrictions and use VPN apps to spoof their location to appear in a certain country, Netflix wages a war on them.
This is the reason why more and more VPN providers get busted and their servers blocked from being able to access the Netflix servers.
You should be able to use this VPN for streaming Netflix US and Netflix UK, too.
It is possible that you can find some Windscribe servers that can still work with Netflix. But the real good news is that this VPN service has dedicated servers called WindFlix US and WindFlix UK, which will surely work. Well, you can’t really guarantee for how long but it worked for us while doing this Windscribe VPN review.
The other important question is whether you have good enough download speed to be able to enjoy an HD show. Users seem to have totally different experiences in that area. Some claim that they can stream Netflix with Windscribe VPN without any issues, while others say that it’s impossible to watch a show without problems.
Our Windscribe VPN review found that 4K quality videos on YouTube may not stream without minor freezes, but in general, we saw average speeds that should be enough for HD video streaming. Of course, this all depends on your location, your internet speed, and which VPN server you are connected to. We run our tests on 100Mbps baseline internet speed, so you will definitely have different results on a slower service.
If you want to find the best VPN for Netflix, please read our related post.
Windscribe VPN for Torrenting
The good news is that P2P file sharing is allowed, so you can use Windscribe VPN for torrenting. But, we need to add right away that there are a few server locations in the list with a crossed-out P2P label, such as South Africa, India, and Japan, which you should never use with your BitTorrent, uTorrent, or Vuze client.
You should also avoid the VPN servers offered for the free users because they may get overcrowded and thus unsuitable for large file transfers.
However, before you invest your money in this VPN, you should consider the fact that it is based in a Five Eyes country (Canada) and whether it’s still okay with you to use it for BitTorrent downloads without risking copyright infringement. In other words, if your online activities require utmost security and privacy, you may want to look for the best VPN for torrenting.
Live chat support
There are basically six ways for you to get help through the official website. As a matter of fact, the VPN clients also redirect you to the main Support page when looking for help.
There are two sections here, the Self Help (Setup Guides, FAQs, and Knowledge Base) and the Technical Support (Reddit, Talk to Garry, and Submit Ticket).
You may find some useful information by going through the Self Help section, but you may also end up empty-handed. This is when you would like to talk to a human customer support agent in a live chat support window, right?
Well, there is indeed such a live chat window, and you can activate it if you click the green chat button in the bottom right corner of your screen.
At first, you may actually believe that it is a live chat with a human, who introduces himself as Garry. He is quite responsive and appears to be typing the very moment you send your message. Impressive. Or, is it really?
Since the answers we got seemed quite automated ones, we realized very soon that we are talking to a robot. When Garry couldn’t answer our question, he revealed himself by saying:
“Since I’m a robot and my capabilities are limited, please contact support…”
Not the kind of live chat support you would expect. Nevertheless, we also found a red Escalate to human! link in the bottom right corner of this pseudo-live chat support window. When you click this link, it asks for confirmation whether you are sure or not about your “escalation.”
With the expectation of finally being able to talk to a human support agent, we clicked Yes. Guess what happened: We were presented with a screen to submit a support ticket. Does this sound like live support? We beg to differ. Quite disappointing, to be frank. So, our Windscribe VPN review has to conclude that there is no real live chat support, which is certainly a drawback.
We’ve read lots of user reports claiming very good support while others were complaining about having to wait for days for an answer, which didn’t even solve the problem in question. If it is important for you that you are provided with a fast and quality customer support on the fly, we believe that Windscribe VPN may not be your best VPN choice.
Apps and extensions
This is certainly an area where Windscribe VPN shows some strength. It has a wide range of clients that work on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android, and has proxy extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. TV enthusiasts will be glad to hear that this VPN can be installed on Amazon Fire TV, NVidia Shield, and Kodi as well. What’s more, you can also install this VPN on routers like DD-WRT and Tomato, or you can buy pre-configured routers as well.
There are some differences between the clients regarding server locations. It seems that the mobile apps have fewer locations to choose from as you can only select countries or regions instead of data centers. Of course, this may change in the future in a new mobile VPN version. Our Windscribe VPN review found that these clients are quite user-friendly with a nice interface.
Pricing: Good value with a 3-day refund
Although you can find cheaper and better quality VPN services, after finishing the Windscribe VPN review, we can’t really complain about what it has to offer. First off, you can use this VPN for free with a limited number of servers (13 locations) and a 10GB bandwidth cap. You can also use the free version without registering with your email address. In this case, your bandwidth limit becomes 2GB, which can easily be used up in a matter of a few hours.
The paid plans are as follows:
- 1-month plan: $9.00 per month
- 1-year plan: $4.08 per month
- 2-year plan: $3.70 per month (comes with a free 6-month premium subscription to Dashlane password manager)
These are relatively low prices for the range of security and privacy features this VPN service provides.
The refund is a bit tricky, so you’d better read the policy carefully before investing and losing your money. Your refund is only valid if you purchase your VPN app directly from Windscribe (no third-party vendors like StackSocial), you apply for your refund within 3 days after your purchase, and your traffic doesn’t exceed 10GB.
This is not the cheapest VPN we have reviewed, but it is definitely good value for these prices if you can forget about your privacy concerns.
Windscribe VPN by Reddit
Windscribe VPN has a real presence on reddit.com; and, not only because they have an account but there are many threads and comments as well. This VPN service also has accounts on Facebook and Twitter, but there doesn’t seem to be much interaction.
Apart from the tons of lifetime subscription and how to get more GB for free types of promotions, there are several technical issues on Reddit. We think it is important to mention one particular issue about using Windscribe for torrenting. A user had a serious problem because he didn’t set up his qBittorrent client properly to exclusively use the VPN connection. Therefore, he got warnings from his ISP about copyright infringement since qBittorrent was using the default internet connection because it wasn’t bound to the VPN.
The good news is however that it wasn’t Windscribe VPN’s fault, but the wrong configuration led to the leak. Please make sure your setup is complete before using Windscribe VPN for torrenting, P2P file sharing, or any other sensitive traffic.
Some users also talk about annoying connection drops and the VPN reconnecting automatically in the background, then dropping again. We also experienced a few drops, to be frank. This would be a serious privacy issue if the desktop client didn’t have leak protection, i.e., the firewall. Make sure you keep that on and that you have the latest software version installed. Also, try to use other servers if you keep experiencing connection drops.
Conclusion of Windscribe VPN review: Not bad for a 2-year-old
This VPN is available on all major platforms and multiple devices can be used with one license. If you go for the Pro version, you need to make sure that you are aware of the refund policy because you only have 3 days to change your mind.
We could recommend Windscribe VPN for beginners and travelers mostly, although there are many users who can stream videos from Netflix and other streaming service providers as well. If you’re still in doubt, why not read some more reviews and comparisons?
How about learning from other VPN users?
Do you have any related questions? Have you ever tried to use Windscribe VPN or any other VPN apps before? Maybe you have written a Windscribe VPN review of your own? What are your impressions?
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