Windows users make up 70 percent of desktop users worldwide. And up to 25% of internet users rely on VPNs. Now when it comes to VPNs, there are plenty of options, ranging from free privacy options to more premium, server-grade ones. While free VPNs seem like a good deal, they often have serious shortcomings like:
- Compromised security (contain malware)
- Tracking your online activity
- Bandwidth limitation
The shortcomings include serious drawbacks, like selling your data, which is why we recommend getting an inexpensive but secure VPN instead, such as Surfshark. However, some casual users use VPNs to bypass censorship laws or unblock Netflix. For these purposes, free VPNs are an ideal choice.
The Best Free VPNs for Windows – In-depth Analysis
- Hotspot Shield
We tested dozens of free VPNs like TunnelBear and Speedify, and others, so you don’t have to. Our in-depth analysis and comparison of these VPNs discuss user interface, performance, and pros and cons for the best free VPNs.
|Servers — 3200+ servers in 65 countries.
|Unblocks — Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and more.
|Torrenting — Offers P2P optimized servers for Torrenting.|
|Simultaneous connections — Offers unlimited simultaneous connections.
|Logs — Strict no-logs policy
|Money-back guarantee — 30-days refund policy.
Surfshark is a household name when it comes to inexpensive and reliable VPNs. You can register Surfshark for 11.95$/month to test their service. They offer a 30-day money-back guarantee with no strings attached! The process is hassle-free and takes 2-7 days. All you have to do is contact their live chat for a refund.
The representative may inquire further about the reason. You can give an explanation but we recommend politely refusing and getting on with the refund process. In our experience, the refund application took merely a few minutes followed by a refund confirmation email that we received 3 days later.
We have analyzed Surfshark’s money-back guarantee and trust me, they are generous in refunding your money back. Because of their 30-day refund policy, we recommend signing up for 1 month and binge on your favorite shows on Netflix, Hulu, etc to your heart’s extent.
You must be wondering, why should I register for Surfshark with my payment details in the first place?
Well, Surfshark has a plethora of premium features such as AES encryption, protection against WEBRTC leaks, unlimited download/streaming, and support for Shadowsocks, an open-source internet protocol designed to circumvent internet censorship. Other benefits include a strict no-logs policy, Automatic Kill Switch, DNS, and leak protection and multi-hop servers.
Surfshark’s Windows app has an incredibly intuitive user interface and lots of customizability options. The Windows app comes with some spectacular features like:
- CleanWeb: Blocks ads and trackers and acts as an anti-malware
- Whitelister: Allows apps to bypass VPN 9 (i.e. GPS/Maps)
- Protection Beyond VPN:
- HackLock: Real-time alerts when your email/passwords become vulnerable to attackers.
- Blindsearch: Authentic incognito mode for anonymous searching
Standard features come unlocked by default, while Privacy Beyond VPN costs an extra USD 0.99/month. The Windows app also has unique features like hiding VPN connection from ISPs (Camouflage mode) and accessibility in restricted regions (NoBorders mode). Their application is compatible with Windows 7, 8, 10, and offers excellent browser extension integration.
#2 Hotspot Shield
|Servers — 3,200+ servers in 80+ countries.
|Unblocks — Can unblock Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, Hulu, Amazon Prime & more.
|Torrenting — Offers proprietary Hydra protocol for Torrenting.|
|Simultaneous connections — Offers 5 simultaneous connections
|Logs — Strict no-logs policy
|Money-back guarantee — 45-days money back guarantee.
|Visit Hotspot Shield|
Hotspot Shield is one of the top-tier free VPN for Windows. It’s fast, easy to use, and can offer excellent download speeds. Hotspot Shield excels in unblocking sites like Crunchyroll, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, etc, and high-speed P2P transfers thanks to its proprietary Catapult Hydra security protocol.
Both the windows and mobile applications are intuitive programs that offer plenty of options. While the free version keeps your options limited, the paid version lets you choose your preferred server location.
The application setting menu includes all the essential options for your privacy as well as startup preferences. You can choose to toggle between the IP leak and internet Killswitch buttons, but we recommend you keep them on. Additionally, it also offers a set of options for protection for insecure WiFi connections.
Moreover, Hotspot Shield boasts a robust infrastructure with more than 1,800 servers in 80+ countries across the globe. It covers the most well-spread network of servers among free VPNs, including regions like Russia and China.
These servers allow the VPN to retain maximum bandwidth and offer region-free streaming worldwide. What’s more, unlike many free VPNs, Hotspot Shield’s servers actually unblock streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer. Our tests showed a prompt connection and smooth streaming once the VPN was activated.
Their application is compatible with all recent Windows versions, namely windows 7, 8, and 10. Other benefits include a variety of features, like compatibility across desktop and mobile platforms (macOS/Windows and iOS/Android), automatic killswitch, unlimited bandwidth, and a 45-day money-back guarantee if you wish to give the paid version a go.
But as with all free VPNs, this one also has drawbacks, like frequent ads and data logging. However, if you just need a VPN that bypasses geo-blocked sites or want to use P2P clients without worrying much about anonymity, Hotspot Shield is one of the best free VPN for Windows.
Proton VPN is perhaps one of the most innovative VPN clients available. They are constantly improving themselves, and currently support Windows (7, 8, and 10), Apple, Android, and Linux devices. Their software is intuitive, easy to use, and gives plenty of options to users.
The application has a modern look and offers a visual map of the server locations. In addition, the app shows real-time download speed and other connection details. While some miscellaneous features are missing from the free version, the paid version supports unique setup options like Secure Core VPN, TOR networking, and Plus servers.
As users explore the various menus, they’re given options to choose between OpenVPN UDP and TCP protocols, internet killswitch, and start-up references.
It’s also worth mentioning that ProtonVPN is one of the few transparent services that promise data integrity and user privacy. Even their free version is virtually free of any drawbacks since it’s subsidized by paid users, and offers no speed limit, has a strict no-logs policy, no advertisements, and abides by swiss privacy laws.
In fact, ProtonVPN takes transparency to a new level by making their software open source. This does not mean the service is free, however, users can access their source code online and release free updates if they find security flaws or ways to improve the software.
As with all free VPNs, it’s important to discuss the streaming performance. ProtonVPN has both free servers as well as Plus (premium) servers only available to paid users.
Free users can utilize a limited range of servers that may be blocked by various streaming services or suffer from a significant loss in speeds. Fortunately, streaming doesn’t require very high download speeds, however, P2P file sharing may be very slow on these servers.
The VPN industry is expected to reach $35.7 billion by 2022 and innovative entrants like TunnelBear are a welcome addition. Like other progressive VPNs, TunnelBear also offers an increasingly intuitive UI. The users are invited with multiple animations on the welcome screen. The Windows app shows a bear digging a tunnel towards your preferred server location. Moving past the gimmicky, albeit impressive UI, the TunnelBear app offers a decent list of features as well. Moreover, their application includes support for Windows 7, 8, and 10.
As with most other VPNs, TunnelBear has features like an internet killswitch labeled “Vigilant Bear”, TCP override, masking encrypted data as regular Internet traffic, and many more.
However, TunnelBear does not feature any stand out features like proprietary security protocols, TOR support, or servers optimized for censorship heavy countries. It’s also important to mention that TunnelBear is big on anti-piracy, and does not support torrenting. Make of it what you will, but the process of P2P file-sharing is not illegal and many websites rely on it, which makes it a serious limitation for us.
Let’s discuss speed and security. The VPN offers AES 256-bit encryption, has a strict no-logs policy except bandwidth logs which isn’t an issue, and offers an anonymous payment method (Bitcoin).
On the downside, it has no leak protection (for IPv6 and DNS servers). There are some considerable vulnerabilities, but we recommend it for casual users who need a VPN for streaming.
Speaking of which, the VPN itself offers decent speeds and stability which are a pleasant bonus when you’re streaming your favorite shows. However, TunnelBear offers a very limited data usage of 500mb/month for its free version, which can be doubled if you tweet about them.
In comparison, Hotspot Shield has a 500mb/day data limit, and ProtonVPN has no limit. The limited features and data usage puts TunnelBear at a serious disadvantage when it comes to other free VPNs.
Windscribe is another great VPN that’s constantly innovating to provide more value, but it has a few gripes. Their Windows application looks outdated. In comparison, the UI is not user friendly and presents all the settings in a small congested window that cannot be adjusted. However, the software does offer fairly simple navigation and a long list of features. This includes:
- Startup options
- Autoconnect feature
- DNS while not connected
- Proxy Gateway settings
This extensive list of options is complemented by various user preferences, a debug mode that allows users to disable IPv6, and a Beta Channel. Moreover, the “DNS while disconnected” is a unique option we have not seen in any other VPNs that allow users to change their DNS servers when they are using the VPN. On the other hand, the Winscribes auto-connect feature can get a bit fiddly and sometimes may not work as intended.
While this is an impressive list of features, it’s expected to be further expanded upon in the next update that will also offer split tunneling, network whitelisting, etc. They provide excellent support for windows, including apps for Windows 7, 8, and 10. Their macOS app is a mirrored version of Windows, while Android and iOS apps have a much-improved UI. Overall, we’d give its interface an above-average score for its extensive list of features, constant updates, and simple functionality.
As expected, their free version has limited functionality. It has a 10GB download cap and supports only 11 servers for free users. This may be fine for casual streaming every once in a while, but you definitely won’t be able to binge your favorite shows or torrent large files over it.
Windscribe offers some impressive billing options whereby users can create custom deals at a fraction of the cost, as well as avail of student discounts, apply for static IP, or register for team accounts.
Hide.me has been around since 2012, and while it’s not the biggest VPN provider it has its merits. Starting off with the Windows app, It supports Windows 7, 8, and 10. The users are welcomed with a very minimal interface. We liked the plain blue theme and easily accessible options. A button down on the left allows you to search and pick different servers. The server list is easy to navigate and mentions P2P and non-P2P servers.
While the server options are pretty standard, the settings menu is quite impressive. Apart from loads of preferences, there are settings for custom DNS and MTU (maximum transmission unit) size. It also lets users choose between multiple auto-connect options based on their network, as well as split tunneling options for various applications.
Now comes the really impressive part:
Hide.me features a standard kill switch for your network, as well as a “stealth guard” that acts as a killswitch for individual apps. These two options, when combined with split tunneling, give users quite a comprehensive set of tweaks for individual applications. The following tab consists of various security protocols. Continuing with its trend, Hide.me offers an extensive list of supported protocols:
- OpenVPN (TCP/UDP)
This menu also consists of various redundancy options and advanced settings for each protocol. The speed on well-optimized servers is excellent, with little to no bandwidth loss, although the ping was marginally high. When it comes to security, hide.me claims to keep a non-persistent log of anonymous (non-public) IP addresses that get erased every few hours. This user data logged is randomly generated purely for troubleshooting purposes.
That being said, the free version has some serious limitations. For starters, the data limit for free users is a measly 2GB, and the supported servers (only 5 locations) are poorly optimized. This makes it hard to recommend, especially for streaming and P2P file sharing. However, Hide.me is a good option for casual browsing.
Speedify is a relatively lesser-known VPN that’s big on one unusual feature: channel bonding. Most users have multiple internet connections these days, i.e. a home wifi/ethernet, and 4G via a mobile device. Channel Bonding takes advantage of multiple networks and theoretically boosts your internet speed by connecting to multiple networks simultaneously. Before we get into the details of how well that translates in the real world, let’s discuss how this feature affects the UI.
The Speedify welcome page shows both the networks as well as the location of the VPN server you’re connected to. However, the options to choose server locations are slightly harder to locate. On the bottom half of the window, users are presented with a real-time graph of their download speed, which is a nice touch.
Their application provides support for Windows 7, 8, and 10, and provides excellent security features on par with the industry-leading VPNs. It does not track your IP but does keep bandwidth logs. You can turn this off however in the Optimization Data menu. Speedify focuses on other benefits of VPNs apart from encryption as well. Although it does offer experimental killswitch and DNS leak protection, it allows users to completely turn off encryption too. On average, the encryption process shaves off about 3% of your bandwidth.
These features are worth exploring for amateurs and enthusiasts alike. The free version allows users to evaluate if Speedify is their cup of tea. It offers 2GB data per month, which is sufficient for occasional browsing.
The Channel Bonding feature has mixed reviews, due to the numerous variables, such as the stability of each network, latency issues from wifi, security protocol being used, and much more. However, we can safely conclude that this feature isn’t just a gimmick. The benefits are real and significantly improve internet speed in most cases. However, Channel Bonding can increase ping and significantly improve your latency.
TurboVPN is a completely different beast that focuses on Windows and mobile users. Naturally, its application has certain limitations due to being available on mobile platforms alone. The interface is pretty standard with an auto-connect button and the option to select your preferred servers. The settings option lets users toggle the “connect on startup” button and choose between OpenVPN and IPSec. The VPN is quite bare to the bones and the free version comes with ads.
Speaking of which, the free version of TurboVPN offers unlimited downloads and 9 servers in 8 countries. This puts the turbo VPN on top for download limit among all other free VPNs. However, it does have its limitations: The free version features slow servers that do not unblock Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and other streaming sites.
Betternet is another excellent free VPN for Windows 7, 8, and 10 that requires no registration at the time of installation. Betternet started as a free VPN for Windows back in 2015, but rising costs led them to release a premium plan in 2017. Their application provides standard options, but the free version does not let you choose your server location. In this regard, Betternet is more like a proxy.
As for security, Betternet uses industry-standard AES 256-bit encryption over OpenVPN and 128-bit encryption over IPSec. It does support other protocols but it’s unlikely you’ll need those. When it comes to data collection, Betternet is very transparent about their strict no-logs policy.
That being said, the VPN earns its revenue from ads, which may be annoying for some users.
In general, Betternet is a good free VPN for PCs, although it has some limitations since it’s free.
Frequently Asked Questions
Connecting via VPNs can get overwhelming and poses a lot of questions for many users. This section aims to address some of the common queries.
How to set up a free VPN on my Windows device?
Setting up a free VPN on your Windows device is quite simple. Once you have chosen your preferred VPN, go to their website, and download the VPN client’s Windows app. Next, open the setup and install the VPN. Once the VPN has been installed, open the application, and click on the “connect” or “auto-connect” button.
Most users won’t have to tweak any settings, but in case of optimizing connectivity, we recommend trying out a different server and changing your security protocol.
How do I get a free VPN for Windows 10?
Many companies offer a free VPN for Windows. We recommend going for a well-reputed VPN like ProtonVPN. While a free VPN can be set up manually, we recommend installing a VPN client and making your job hassle-free. Once you download the application, all you need to do is press the connect button. However, keep in mind that most free VPNs come with limited server availability, ads, and a data usage limit.
What do I lose by using a free VPN for Windows?
While free VPNs seem like great options, they often have significant drawbacks. Some VPNs compromise your privacy by keeping logs on your activity, selling private information to advertising companies, and riddling your VPN user experience with ads.
Does a free Windows VPN provider log anything?
How do free VPNs make their money?
Most Free VPN providers earn profit through either of the following means:
- A paid subscription for additional (premium) features
- Displaying ads in their apps
- Keeping logs and selling user information to third-parties
Is it legal to use a VPN?
While VPN usage is not inherently illegal, it can be used for illegal activities. VPNs encrypt your network, which is not illegal in most countries. However, VPNs also allow users to bypass geo-restrictions and torrent pirated content while anonymous. Both of these activities are examples of illegal VPN usage.