A few years ago, there was an abundance of quality free VPNs available (and lots of great paid options such as ExpressVPN). Today, there is less choice. Some previously free offerings now require a subscription, some have switched to a freemium model, and some seem to actively compromise your privacy.
Much depends on why you want a VPN. If your sole aim is to access geo-blocked content, perhaps you think P2P VPNs are fine. But if your number one goal is to protect your privacy, you need to choose your VPN wisely.
In this article, I’ll show you seven free VPNs that’ll help protect your privacy.
(Note: All the VPNs in this article have a robust free version available. Free services are typically either ad-supported or bandwidth-restricted. But remember, there is no substitute for a paid service like ExpressVPN. Sign up now and receive 3 months free.)
Spotflux falls into the ad-supported category. It means if you do a lot of downloading or video streaming, it’s a particularly good choice.
It’ll block dangerous sites, works on multiple platforms, and gives you a “set it and forget about it” peace of mind. If you use Chrome and don’t want to download the desktop version, you can find an extension in the Chrome Web Store. It also comes with a “privacy test” which will scan sites for tracking cookies, though you’ll need the premium version if you want to block them.
If you decide to upgrade to the premium version (including no ads and access to the premium network), it’ll set you back $38 per year.
CyberGhost has been at the forefront of the VPN industry for many years. Like Spotflux, it offers various premium models, but the free ad-supported version is adequate for most casual users.
Although it does offer more features than Spotflux, the free version is bandwidth-restricted. It’s not as useful if you watch a lot of Netflix or you’re thinking about cutting the cord.
Unlike some other free VPNs, CyberGhost offers a one-click launch of both a browser session and a VPN connection; you don’t need to remember to launch two sessions in two different places when you want to be private.
Most of its servers are in Europe, but there are plenty of US-based ones available too.
VPNBook is entirely free, there are no bandwidth caps or service limitations, and there is no premium service.
That said, it’s not suitable for beginners. There is no installer, no software, and little guidance. You’re simply given a list of servers, and the rest is up to you.
You have a choice of PPTP VPN or OpenVPN. PPTP VPN is supported on almost all platforms, but it’s easier for governments and content providers to block. OpenVPN is more secure but requires you to download an OpenVPN client along with VPNBook’s configuration and certificate bundles.
The company has servers in the United States, UK, and mainland Europe.
Windscribe offers a Chrome browser version and a Windows desktop version.
Obviously, the main feature is the VPN network, but from a privacy standpoint, it offers some great additional tools. They include a firewall to prevent exposure of your IP address in case you lose your connection, an ad and tracker blocker, and a Secure.link generator. The free package includes all of them.
The free version has a restricted download limit and only offers servers in the United States, the UK, Canada, Hong Kong, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and The Netherlands. The $7.50 per month pro version adds a further 40 countries.
Hide.me is based in Malaysia and offers free servers in Canada, The Netherlands, and Singapore. The free service is restricted to 2 GB of data per month and only supports the PPTP, L2TP, SSTP, and IPsec protocols.
After some controversy a few years ago, in mid-2015, the company made the decision not to keep any logs. From a privacy perspective, this is a massive plus point; if there are no logs, there is nothing for unscrupulous authorities to seize if they are trying to track you.
Interestingly, the company also publishes a transparency report — it lists all the authorities that have requested information from them.
6. Opera VPN
Update: Opera shut down its VPN app for Android and iOS in April 2018.
Opera VPN is part of the Opera browser. It’s entirely free; there are no data limits or obtrusive ads.
It comes with three main features:
- Hidden IP Address: The software replaces your actual IP address with a virtual IP address, making it harder for sites to track you.
- Unblock Firewalls and Websites: If administrators have blocked certain sites or types of content in your office or school, the Opera VPN will circumnavigate the restrictions.
- Public Wi-Fi Security: The VPN will stop sniffers on public networks from accessing your data.
To turn on the service, go to Menu > Settings > Privacy and Security > Free VPN.
AnchorFree’s Hotspot Shield has been around for many years. It is still one of the most popular free VPN services among users.
It’s not suitable for users who want to unlock geo-restricted content as well as improving their privacy. The free version only offers US-based servers, and access to services like Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer are only available to premium users.
However, from a privacy perspective, it’s great. AnchorFree advertises itself as “the world’s largest internet freedom and privacy platform”. They offer lots of privacy tools in addition to the VPN, so you know you’re in safe hands.
Which Free VPN Do You Use?
I hope these seven services have given you a starting point in your quest to find the perfect privacy-based VPN provider.
Of course, there are lots more to choose from. I’d love to know about your preferences. Which free VPN service do you turn to when you want to protect your privacy? What makes it so unique? Have you tried any of the services in this article?
As always, you can reach out with your thoughts, suggestions, and opinions in the comments box below.
Image Credit: Imilian via Shutterstock.com