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Best Free VPNs For Windows

written by

Jack Foster

last updated

December 23, 2020

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If you are looking for a VPN, you will have many different choices to select from. It is vital to narrow down your search carefully, and there are a lot of factors that I like to consider when choosing a VPN. This includes assessing performance factors, such as speed and latency, as well as considering security features, device compatibility, and the sort of streaming services the VPN is able to unblock. 

There’s no denying that you have a lot of different VPN options for Windows devices, and one of the first things to consider here is whether you are going to go for a paid or free VPN. Personally, I would always choose a paid VPN like NordVPN over a free version, as they’re much more comprehensive and secure. However, I know that there are some people who cannot afford to pay for a VPN or simply don’t want to. Considering that, I have decided to test out plenty of different free Windows VPNs so that I can give you my thorough analysis.

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Is there such a thing as a completely free VPN?

Well, the answer to this isn’t as clear cut as you would expect, as it depends on what you deem to be ‘free’. There are plenty of free VPN services that mean you won’t have to part with your cash, yet you could be paying for them in other ways, for example, by handing over your data, which they then sell, or by watching adverts. The best free VPN services tend to be those that give you a little taste of the premium version, i.e. they’re diluted versions of the bigger package. This is what the likes of Windscribe and Hotspot Shield do by restricting the servers and data that you can use, giving you that incentive to upgrade. 

Who are free VPNs suitable for?

I would only ever recommend using a free VPN service for occasional use, for example, if you’re in a cafe or you’re on your travels. Why? Well, free VPNs simply do not provide enough speed or data usage for reliable and continual use. Should you want to encrypt your Internet traffic at home, a premium service is definitely recommended, and there are some really good affordable options, like NordVPN and ExpressVPN. One of the major drawbacks with free VPNs is that they log user connections, and so you can’t really get that level of privacy that you would expect from such a security service.

When should you not use a free VPN?

I would not advise a free VPN if you’re looking to torrent or stream. Also, if you’re searching for a VPN for gaming, don’t go down the free route. As these activities use up a lot of data, a free VPN simply would not be substantial enough. If you have only got about 500MB to play with, you’re not going to be able to watch films every evening or play video games. You will be lucky to make it through a full episode on Netflix (if you can access the service, of course!) Also, if you want the most secure service, a free VPN is not the route to go down.

Is it legal to use a free VPN?

Yes, it is! Free VPNs are not any less legal than any other type of mainstream tool or software. However, one thing that is still illegal is using it as a VPN for torrenting so you can download any illicit content or copyrighted files. This is an illegal act irrespective of the software used. 

NordVPN Pros:

NordVPN Cons:

#1 | NordVPN

There is only one place to begin, and this is with NordVPN. Let’s get one thing clear: NordVPN is not free! However, the company does provide a free 30-day trial, and as I only recommend free VPNs for occasional use, you could strategically take advantage of this when you need a VPN.

NordVPN is certainly one of the premier options out there today. You can stream BBC Iplayer, Netflix, and all of the other streaming services, and it works with the full scope of Windows devices, whether new or old. In fact, there are tutorials on NordVPN for Windows 7 up to Windows 10.

In terms of ease-of-use, NordVPN ticks all of the boxes. You don’t have to think twice when using this platform. The performance is exceptional as well. There are more than 5,300 services across 59 countries, so you should have no trouble unblocking content from any part of the world. This also means that the speeds are outstanding too. 

With the free trial, you get to have a taste of everything that NordVPN has to offer. You aren’t presented with a restricted version, as is the case with a lot of other free VPN trials. This means you will get unlimited bandwidth and data for the free trial period. 

Another thing that I like about NordVPN is the fact that it is located in Panama, which means you don’t have to worry about the Five, Nine, or 14 Eyes Alliance data-sharing agreements. NordVPN don’t hold onto any logs and they aren’t permitted to share data, so you can have complete peace of mind. 

Finally, the security you get with NordVPN is impressive. With powerful features that have been created for Windows, you can surf the Internet with peace of mind. This includes IP/DNS leak protection, AES 256-bit encryption, an automatic kill switch, and an ad blocker. 

Check out my NordVPN review for more information.

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ProtonVPN Pros:

ProtonVPN Cons:

#2 | ProtonVPN

Another VPN that is ideal for Windows devices is ProtonVPN. I’ve used this VPN for quite a few years now, and the simplicity of the software always impresses me. You can connect your device to the VPN automatically on start-up, which is the sort of convenience you want from such a service!

The main reason that ProtonVPN is one of my top choices is that you get unlimited bandwidth and data with the free version, which is incredibly rare. However, do be aware that the servers are restricted. There are only three options, which are as follows:

  • The Netherlands
  • Japan
  • United States 

There is a lot to like about the free version of ProtonVPN, including the security offering. 256-bit encryption is used to safeguard your data. Plus, you have the option of different protocols; OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPSec, and L2TP/IPSec. I always recommend OpenVPN, but it is good to have options.

Like NordVPN, ProtonVPN is strategically located in the privacy-friendly country of Switzerland – great news! 

You can use different streaming services on ProtonVPN, including BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, and Netflix. Nevertheless, the speeds aren’t the best. I was not able to watch any HD videos, and I encountered quite a bit of buffering. 

I would like to see ProtonVPN improve their customer support offering. You can only contact an advisor via the support ticket system or email. There is no live chat.

Check out my ProtonVPN review for more information.

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Windscribe Pros:

Windscribe Cons:

#3 | Windscribe

Windscribe is another VPN that works well with Windows devices. The free plan provides 10GB of data per month. This gives you a good amount of surfing time, yet it won’t be enough if you’re on the web every day. I should point out that you’re only going to get the full 10GB once your email address is provided. If you do not want to offer up this information, you can still create a free account, but you will only receive 2GB.

One of the bad things about Windscribe is that it is based in Canada, which is not a privacy-friendly location. However, there is still a lot to like. This includes the fact that you can choose from 10 server locations while using the free plan:

  • Hong Kong
  • United Kingdom
  • Switzerland
  • Romania
  • Norway
  • The Netherlands
  • Germany
  • France
  • Canada
  • United States

If you’re looking for a VPN for streaming purposes, I don’t recommend the free version of Windscribe. It is simply not substantial enough. While Windscribe does have servers optimized specifically for Netflix, they are reserved for premium customers. 

The security is pretty good while using the free Windows version of the VPN. The company follows a no-logs policy, as well as providing an automatic kill switch and implementing military-grade 256-bit encryption. You also get restricted access to R.O.B.E.R.T with the free plan. This is the company’s version of a tracker, malware, and ad blocker, which is built into the Windows VPN app.

If you need help and assistance installing and using Windscribe VPN on your Windows device, the company has some great installation guides on their website, which are coupled with useful videos. The chat support isn’t too bad either!

Check out my Windscribe review for more information.

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Speedify Pros:

Speedify Cons:

#4 | Speedify

Next, we have Speedify, which has a dedicated free Windows app! I was really impressed to see that I was able to connect to any of the Speedify servers with the free version, and they have servers in all continents. On the negative side, though, you’re restricted to only 1GB of free data per month, and you can’t really do much with this. No streaming or downloading is possible with such a small data allowance!

You can access all of the main streaming sites as well with the Windows app. This includes geo-restricted YouTube content, Spotify, Hulu, and Netflix. However, you’re probably going to need to upgrade if you want to enjoy movies and TV series. 

In terms of encryption, Speedify doesn’t use the industry standard AES 256-bit encryption. It only utilizes AES 128-GCM encryption. Should you have one of the older Windows devices, the ChaCha encryption cipher comes in very useful. This is three times faster than other VPNs, providing you with 256-bit encryption.

One feature that I always look for in a VPN is a kill switch. This ensures your IP address is connected even if the Internet drops out. I was pleased to see that the Speedify Windows app has this. 

Unfortunately, they don’t operate a no-logs policy. They do collect some information, yet they state that DNS requests and browsing activity are not logged, nor is information passed onto any third parties. 

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Opera VPN Pros:

Opera VPN Cons:

#5 | Opera VPN

Another option is to go for Opera, which is a free VPN. There’s no paid version with this product. However, it is important to understand that this is a VPN browser. It is not a standalone VPN. So, you basically download Opera and use this browser. 

As Opera is a browser extension, any data that is transmitted outside of the browser is not going to be protected. It is really important that you understand this if you do decide to use Opera VPN, as it means external apps, such as BitTorrent clients, will not be protected.

Unlimited bandwidth and data are provided with this free Windows VPN browser, yet it is not the fastest service out there and you only have three server locations to select from. There is one in Asia, one in North America, and one in Europe. Because of this, performance isn’t the best. Also, you have no idea where the server is. The European one could be in Spain, Germany, Estonia, or somewhere else!

The support isn’t the best for Opera VPN either, as there’s no dedicated team on hand. This can be a little bit frustrating if you need some assistance.

Check out my Opera review for more information.

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TunnelBear Pros:

TunnelBear Cons:

#6 | TunnelBear

I think TunnelBear is one of the best free VPNs for beginners, as it is very easy-to-use and the installation process is as simple as it gets!

If you select a free account on TunnelBear, you will get 500MB of data per month. That’s not much data to be honest! You could probably manage one episode of a TV show per month, and that won’t be in HD either. However, I have noticed that some people have been able to squeeze out an extra GB of free data by tweeting TunnelBear, so it is worth a try.

With the free account, you can choose from servers across 20 countries and the speeds are unlimited too. 

However, the real highlight is TCP Override, which is an advanced setting for the Windows desktop app. With this feature, TCP Override will force TunnelBear to use a slower yet more dependable tunneling protocol (TCP) if your connection is unstable, ensuring better performance.

I have to admit that I have been really impressed with the security offered by TunnelBear as well. The company operates a no-logs policy, as well as using 256-bit encryption and offering their own version of a kill switch that is known as VigilantBear. You can also bypass deep packet inspection (DPI), censorship, and VPN blocks with GhostBear. GhostBear will scramble your metadata, meaning it is not as noticeable to any governmental snoops. 

Check out my TunnelBear review for more information.

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Hotspot Shield Pros:

Hotspot Shield Cons:

#7 | Hotspot Shield

Hotspot Shield offers a Windows app, which is completely free and does not require you to sign-up or register your email. The app is fast and easy-to-use.

With the free plan, you will get 500MB of data per day. While this is not a huge allowance, it does mean you could watch approximately 30 minutes of streaming every day, which isn’t the worst for a free plan!

It’s not all good news, though, as you don’t have any choice of server. The only option is to connect to one server in the United States. This means you are limited in terms of the streaming services you can unblock as well. Overload can also be a big issue due to the restricted server choice. 

There are some great security features, though, such as the automatic kill switch and 256-bit encryption. You also get access to the company’s proprietary Catapult Hydra, which is excellent for boosting your speeds over long distances. 

In terms of logging data, your browsing activity is not logged. Nevertheless, Hotspot Shield does hold onto some records, such as your IP address, yet this will be deleted at the end of every session according to the company. 

There are advertisements on the free Windows VPN version, as this is how the company makes money to support the VPN. I browsed their site for more information and was able to find that these ads come from Google, as per the Hotspot Shield privacy policy.

Check out my Hotspot Shield review for more information.

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Hide.me Pros:

Hide.me Cons:

#8 | Hide.me

There is a free Windows app on hide.me. It is secure and reliable, and you will have the choice of servers in five different locations:

  • United States West
  • United States East
  • Singapore
  • The Netherlands
  • Canada

Hide.me

You get 10GB of free data every month, as well as unlimited speeds and bandwidth. This level of free data should mean you can enjoy around 10 hours of HD video. Unfortunately, though, I wasn’t able to unlock any of the major streaming services, like Netflix. I only had success on YouTube.

Because of this, hide.me is not the best VPN for streaming. However, you can browse the web securely, with premium encryption used to keep your data and activity private. A kill switch is also incorporated into the free plan.

Hide.me is another VPN that is in a good jurisdiction, as it is based in Malaysia. This means it is not part of any of the data sharing agreements, and so the company has a strict no-logs policy in place. Plus, you can have peace of mind because you’re able to use the VPN without handing over any data or signing up.

I found the free VPN app for Windows to be very simple and easy to use. The live chat service is available 24/7 as well, so support is always on hand.

Check out my hide.me review for more information.

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Betternet Pros:

Betternet Cons:

#9 | Betternet

My final recommendation is Betternet, which offers a dedicated Windows app as part of their free plan. With the free plan, you get 500MB of data per day. While this is not a massive allowance, it does mean you could view roughly 30 minutes of streaming every day, which is okay for a free plan. Unfortunately, though, I was not able to unblock the major streaming providers, including Netflix. I could unblock YouTube, but it was very slow. 

You can only access servers in the United States with the free plan, which makes the connection slow because it is usually overcrowded. 

One of the major disappointments, though, is that Betternet is based in the United States. This means it is part of the 5/9/14-Eyes Alliance and it is subject to law enforcement in the United States. 

There are some good security features with Betternet, such as 256-bit encryption, which helps you to browse anonymously online. 

The customer support system is not the best. It is just a ticketing system, and this is the same irrespective of whether you are a paid or free customer.

Check out my Betternet review for more information.

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