The Best Unlimited Free VPN Services (And Their Hidden Costs)
The benefits of using a VPN are well-known. If you’ve decided to integrate one into your workflow, you might try starting out with a free solution. Since many free offerings limit the amount of data you can send through them, it makes sense to look for a free unlimited VPN option.
Here are the best free unlimited VPNs that don’t restrict your bandwidth. Because free VPNs usually carry some big risks, we’ll look at the hidden costs of using these apps.
Note: As a baseline for the speed tests below, my Speedtest.net results at the time of writing without using any VPN were: 11ms ping, 30.21Mbps down, and 11.23Mbps up.
- Website: ProtonVPN Free
- Availability: Native clients for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. Support for Linux via OpenVPN.
- Truly Free? Yes, though ProtonVPN also offers paid plans.
- Hidden Cost: The free plan limits you to servers in the US, Netherlands, and Japan. Potential speed slowdowns due to the load on free servers. You can only connect on one device at a time.
- Privacy: The website plainly states: “ProtonVPN is a no logs VPN service. We do not track or record your internet activity, and therefore, we are unable to disclose this information to third parties.” The service does not include any ads.
- Security: Connections are encrypted with AES-256. ProtonVPN does not offer any servers that use PPTP or other insecure VPN protocols . All connections include DNS leak prevention, and you have the option to use a kill switch.
- Speed of VPN: 80ms ping, 24.65Mbps down, and 10.55Mbps up. Browsing felt snappy while connected.
- What It’s Useful For: If you can’t pay for a VPN but still want a quality tool that respects your privacy.
ProtonVPN comes from the same team behind the privacy-centric email service ProtonMail. Its policies state that paid VPN users subsidize free users, so there are no ads or selling of your browsing history. While many free VPNs have questionable privacy practices, you can have more confidence that ProtonVPN isn’t doing anything shady.
The three countries with servers available in the free plan are well spread out, so you should have no problem connecting. Plus, the company is based in Switzerland, which has strong privacy laws. If you need more, take a look at ProtonVPN’s paid plans, which include servers in other regions, faster speeds, additional security, and more.
- Website: Betternet
- Availability: Native clients for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and Chrome.
- Truly Free? Yes, though a paid plan is also available.
- Hidden Cost: The service is ad-supported, though we didn’t spot any ads in the desktop app. On mobile, you sometimes have to watch a video when connecting or disconnecting. Limited server selection in the free plan.
- Security: All traffic is encrypted using TLS 1.2 with “128-bit/256-bit AES data encryption”—when it uses 128 vs. 256-bit is not clear.
- Speed of VPN: 20ms ping, 24.83Mbps down, and 1.26Mbps up. Despite these numbers, using Betternet felt much slower than ProtonVPN.
- What It’s Useful For: Good for a quick connection without making an account, but doesn’t offer much flexibility and the ads feel slimy.
Betternet’s is another unlimited free VPN; its use of ads is one of the main reasons we recommend staying away from free VPNs . The free plan is pretty limited, as it doesn’t allow access to many servers. However, if you don’t want to bother signing up and need a VPN quickly, it comes in handy. It’s not something you should use regularly, though.
As soon as you install it, the app offers a free trial of the premium service in exchange for your payment info. It offers more locations, a faster connection, no ads, and more. We think you should opt for a better paid VPN, though (see below).
3. Opera VPN
- Website: Opera
- Availability: Part of the Opera browser for Windows, macOS, Linux, and Android.
- Truly Free? Yes; Opera doesn’t offer any paid plans.
- Hidden Cost: Only works in Opera’s browser on desktop and Android. Not available on iOS. Little flexibility and is technically a proxy, not a VPN.
- Security: Encrypted with AES-256.
- Speed of VPN: 115ms ping, 24.04Mbps down, and 10.41Mbps up. In our testing, it felt much faster than Betternet.
- What It’s Useful For: No extra software required for Opera users. Offers a one-click VPN connection right inside your browser.
One of Opera’s standout features for years has been its built-in free VPN with unlimited data. Anyone using the browser can enable it in just a few clicks and protect their activity inside the browser. Head to Settings > Advanced and look for the Enable VPN switch, then simply click the VPN button in the address bar to enable it.
You can select your region from the general choices of Americas, Europe, or Asia. However, since the service only protects your browser and not your entire computer, it’s more of a proxy than a true VPN .
In 2015, Opera bought the VPN company SurfEasy. In addition to integrating the service into its browser, it also offered standalone mobile apps with a free VPN. However, Symantec bought SurfEasy from Opera in 2018, which resulted in the free Opera VPN mobile apps shutting down.
As it turns out, SurfEasy isn’t a candidate for this list because its free plan only offers 500MB of data per month.
Overall, though it’s limited, Opera’s VPN is a nice bonus if you use the browser already. However, it’s not a true VPN solution for your desktop and it’s not available for iPhone and iPad users. It’s also raised security concerns from leaks.
Unlimited and Free VPNs? Options Are Sparse
It’s important to use a VPN, but unfortunately, you don’t have many more options than these if you want a VPN that’s both free and unlimited. Services like TunnelBear and Hotspot Shield offer a free plan, but cap the data you can use each month.
It’s important to remember that these services have to make money somehow. If you’re not paying a company to use its VPN, that income usually comes from serving ads or selling your browsing data. Since most people use a VPN to protect their browsing data from prying eyes, this data collection defeats the purpose of using a VPN.
There are many considerations we didn’t look at here that go into picking a quality VPN provider. These include the region they do business in, customer service availability, whether the service works with torrents and Netflix, past security issues, and more. When looking at free VPNs, because you don’t have much choice anyway, we didn’t discuss these for the most part.
Of these three choices, ProtonVPN is the clear choice for the best unlimited free VPN. Opera’s offering isn’t a true VPN on the desktop, doesn’t work on iOS, and hasn’t scored well in tests. Betternet is the slowest of the three options, and is the only one to show ads. While ProtonVPN only allows access to a few servers and limits you to one device at a time, it has a commitment to privacy, never shows ads, and includes more features.
But remember that paid VPNs beat free VPNs every time . If you decide to go with a paid VPN, we highly recommend ExpressVPN and CyberGhost for their commitments to privacy, performance, and flexibility.
Image Credit: Olivier26/Depositphotos