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10 BEST FREE VPN SERVICES

Review of test results of popular free VPNs in the second half of 2021.

Updated: August 27, 2021 By Dean Chester

Free VPN

Image based on Shutterstock

Why do you need a good free VPN? In most cases, in order to gain anonymous access to the Internet and bypass blocking. Here you will find the most up-to-date VPNs that have free tariff plans and which have been extensively tested by Cooltechzone specialists.

If you are looking for a good free VPN that is safe for your computer or smartphone, has acceptable speed, and professionally created applications for different platforms, then this article is for you. My name is Dean Chester, and I have been setting up, researching, and exploring VPNs and other anonymization tools, including free ones, for over 10 years.

Why is the VPN market divided into paid and free services?

What's the difference between them?

Why are there so many horror stories on the Internet about free VPN insecurity?

What free VPN can I install even without registration?

You will find the answers to these and other questions by reading this article to the end.

 
10  Best Free VPNs:
  1. Surfshark: Super powerful professional VPN service. Unlimited devices. Free for up to 30 days.
  2. ProtonVPN: Features minimal restrictions, including unlimited usage time and traffic volume.
  3. Hide.me: The best free VPN you can run without signing up. Has a limit on the amount of traffic.
  4. Hotspot shield: One of the most popular free VPN services. Slow installation, but only 1 location is available.
  5. Kaspersky: A free plan with a daily limit of 200-300 MB. No location choice.
  6. Avira: Also known as Free Phantom VPN. Compact application. 1 location, and has a traffic limitation.
  7. PrivadoVPN: New fast-growing service with a good free plan. Suitable for torrenting.
  8. ZoogVPN: Convenient VPN for a wide range of platforms, including FireTV.
  9. TunnelBear: The fastest of the free VPNs, but with a significant drawback – very limited monthly traffic.
  10. Windscribe: Free VPN provider with arguably the best technical support.

Let me tell you a little secret – all high-quality free VPNs are based on paid services. In fact, these are their limited free tariff plans designed to familiarize the user with the basic capabilities of the company's product.

Not all providers offer such tariff plans, so I recommend choosing a free VPN based on expert reviews. In addition, most companies do not list all the limitations of free tariff plans until the moment of registration and software installation.

There are other types of free VPNs as well as many mobile apps that work in a different way. I will address these at the end of the article and explain why they are either low-quality and dangerous products or an outright manipulation of the concept of Free.

Below, you will learn:

  • Which uses the various free VPNs are most suitable for;
  • Which is the most versatile free VPN service;
  • What services Cooltechzone recommends;
  • Some facts about free Virtual Private Networks that are rarely covered on the Internet.

How to choose a free VPN, so you don't have to switch

Not all free VPNs are created equal. Full-featured paid services have more in common, so users rarely change software after the first launch. Free tariffs have a lot more differences, which significantly affects their scope.

Here is a list of the main differences between free VPN services (for different services, these parameters can be radically different):

  • Speed
  • Traffic limit
  • Number of available locations (countries)
  • Streaming support
  • Torrenting support

These are just the main differences. There are also differences in connection stability, availability of additional security features, and other options. Also, most providers only allow one device for free.

So how to choose?

In most cases, I recommend choosing the most versatile VPN service that has a minimum of restrictions and balanced functionality. In the next chapter, you will find such a free VPN. But even it will not work in cases where you plan to bypass geo-restrictions of streaming video services or protect your torrenting...

In those cases, you need to pay more attention to the specific properties of the free software offered by VPN companies. In the chapter Free VPNs Recommended by Cooltechzone I will describe in more detail the availability of certain additional features demanded by users in 2021.

Best All-Purpose Free VPN Test Results

If you need a VPN to bypass site blocking and to ensure anonymity on the Internet, then in the vast majority of cases, ProtonVPN will be the best choice.

This service does not top our Top 10, but it is definitely the least limited VPN of 2021.

Below, I will consider its characteristics in more detail, but for now, I will briefly describe its main differences from other providers:

  • Absence of limits on the time of use and the amount of data;
  • Relatively high speed;
  • The functionality of a full-fledged paid version;
  • Reputed to be one of the most secure VPNs.

If someone asks me which free VPN I recommend, I don't hesitate to answer – ProtonVPN. It might look like a poorly hidden ad, but try any other VPN, and you will see that I am right. And so long as you do not need access to a large number of different locations and you do not plan to use it for popular streaming sites or for frequent torrent downloads, then this service will suit you (within the framework of free versions available on the market).

Free VPNs Recommended by Cooltechzone Editors

In this chapter, I have collected 10 of the most powerful and high-end VPN providers offering free access to their services.

In easy-to-understand descriptions, I have listed all the main features of their software, given a short comparison with competitors, and listed their primary areas of use, for which they are most convenient.

If you don't find an exact match with your goals, then choose a free VPN based on their limitations – this is the main factor that differentiates them from each other.

I'll start with a service that has no restrictions other than the duration of use. This is the best VPN available today, free to use, and you can upgrade to the paid version at one of the lowest prices on the market.


Free VPN Service
Average speed, Mb/s
Restriction features
Popularity*
80
  • 30 days money back or 7 days free for mobiles
  • No speed and data limits
4.37M
30
  • 23 servers in 3 countries
  • 1 connection
  • YouTube, Netflix, social media, and other popular resources are blocked.
  • Unlimited bandwidth
3.49M
15
  • 5 locations
  • 1 connection
  • Netflix and other streaming sites are blocked.
  • 10 GB per month
2.44M
10
  • 1 location
  • 1 connection
  • Netflix and other streaming sites are blocked.
  • 500 MB per day
1.35M
25
  • 1 location
  • 1 connection
  • Streaming sites are blocked.
  • 200 MB per day
  • No Kill Switch
-

* traffic to the official site according to Similarweb, visitors per month.

1. Surfshark

Surfshark


PROS
CONS
  • Professional VPN service
  • Speed ​​over 80 Mb/s
  • Leakage protection
  • 60+ countries
  • 3200+ servers
  • Unlimited devices
  • 30-day free trial

Surfshark offers two ways to use the best VPN service for free:

  1. Money-back within 30 days (credit card required)
  2. Free trial for mobile devices (no credit card required)

Although this provider does not offer an unlimited time plan, I recommend it to anyone new to setting up a VPN. First, you can really try it and get your money back, and secondly, it is available for the first 7 days without a preliminary subscription. This ensures there is no auto payment.

30 days money back guarantee

But the most important thing about Surfshark is its high level of service and its simple interface that is intuitive for beginners. For those who want to use Surfshark for a longer period, there are very attractive subscription terms.

Surfshark Preview
Start using Surfshark
 

Read also:

2. ProtonVPN

ProtonVPN


PROS
CONS
  • Professional VPN service
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Leakage protection
  • 25 servers
  • Supports all major platforms
  • Many popular resources that require a lot of bandwidth are unavailable (streaming sites, torrenting, etc.)
  • No router support

ProtonVPN embodies true Swiss quality and is the brainchild of Proton Technologies AG, which is also known as the creator of one of the most secure email services, ProtonMail.

As I said above, the main advantage of ProtonVPN is that it does not limit free subscription users in the amount of bandwidth they use.

This is most convenient for constant use when you use a VPN, not for entertainment purposes, but to protect your privacy or to unblock websites.

To access sites with video content and to download files from torrents, you can expand the capabilities of ProtonVPN by subscribing to an extended subscription.

ProtonVPN is the editorial choice of Cooltechzone in cases where maximum anonymity is required.

ProtonVPN Preview
Start using ProtonVPN
 

Read also:

3. Hide.me

hide.me


PROS
CONS
  • Registration is not required
  • Powerful functionality
  • 10 GB per month (with registration)
  • Acceptable speed
  • 5 locations
  • 2 GB per month (no registration)
  • Outdated design
  • Netflix is blocked

Hide.me is great for those cases when you need to use not only sites with a minimum of media content, as ProtonVPN allows, but also fully surf the Internet, visiting YouTube and other sites with video content.

Our tests have shown a significant increase in provider speed over the past year. In fact, the average speed increased from 3-7 Mb/s at the beginning of 2020 to 20-30 Mb/s in the second half of 2021.

At the same time, 10 GB of free traffic is enough for constant economic use.

An important plus is that hide.me can be used even without registering and subscribing. You just need to download the application for Windows, Mac, Android, or iOS, and you will immediately have access to 2 GB per month, which is more than some of the services from our Top 10 that require registration.

The only major drawback to hide.me is that you are unable to use it with popular streaming platforms.

Hide.me Preview
Start using hide.me
 

Read also:

4. Hotspot Shield

Hotspot Shield


PROS
CONS
  • 500 MB per day (up to 15 GB per month)
  • Simple and beginner-friendly
  • 1 location
  • Low speed
  • Failed tests with streaming sites

Hotspot Shield is one of the oldest VPN services, and power users associate it with the word "Free". And indeed it is. While other providers have changed their terms of service from time to time, Hotspot Shield has had a free plan for a very long time.

The provider does not limit the monthly amount of transmitted data but the daily one. This is quite convenient, as you will not be left without bandwidth at the end of the month, as with "classic" free VPNs. At the same time, it does not allow you to download large files or watch videos in high quality.

Hotspot Shield has only one free VPN location. Although it does not indicate in which country it is located, we tested the provider's applications on desktops and mobile platforms and found out that the IP address of their free server is located in the Netherlands.

Due to its simplicity and limited functionality, the service is suitable for beginners and in cases where there are no increased requirements for connection parameters.

Hotspot Shield Preview
Start using Hotspot Shield
 

Read also:

5. Kaspersky

Kaspersky VPN Security


PROS
CONS
  • Acceptable speed
  • Owned by an anti-malware company
  • 1 location
  • 300 MB per day (up to 9 GB per month)
  • Failed tests with streaming sites

If you want to be more than 100% sure that the VPN application you downloaded does not contain viruses, then pay attention to Kaspersky’s VPN service

This company is one of the world leaders in the fight against cybercrime and knows how to make well-protected and secure software.

Another point to highlight is the good connection speed. During testing, it ranged from 15 to 35 Mb/s. Also, there is a Kill Switch function, which blocks the Internet connection if the VPN is broken by the VPN channel (disabled by default).

Otherwise, this is a completely ordinary free VPN with only one location. As in the case of Hotspot Shield, the country is not specified, but we have determined that the IP address originates in Germany.

Identified problem – the frequent disconnection of SSH connection when connecting to remote servers via Kaspersky VPN.

Considering the modest daily traffic limit, I can recommend Kaspersky VPN Security only for intermittent use. For a permanent VPN connection, it is better to consider a service with unlimited bandwidth.

6. Avira Phantom VPN

Avira Phantom VPN


PROS
CONS
  • High speed
  • Owned by an anti-malware company
  • 1 location
  • 1 GB per month
  • Failed tests with streaming sites
  • Controlled through 2 applications
  • No advanced connection settings

Another VPN service you can trust is Avira Phantom VPN. Like other VPNs created by companies whose main products are antivirus programs, Avira does not stand out for its comprehensive functionality and advanced options. At the same time, it is a simple and reliable free VPN with good speed.

The tests showed a maximum speed of over 37 Mb/s, which is excellent for a free product.

In contrast, the company limits the monthly volume of traffic, which at the time of publication is only 1 GB. How much is that in practice? With the maximum speed available using Avira Phantom VPN, the included bandwidth will expire in less than 4 minutes.

The only way to extend a free account's use to cover an entire month is to manually activate the VPN only when it is needed. Constant use of the free Avira VPN is almost impossible.

The Avira software consists of two modules:

  • The VPN itself
  • The Avira Product Manager

To change the VPN connection settings in the main application, you need to open it through the control program. Obviously, this is done to draw attention to the company’s other products, such as its antivirus software. By the way, Avira antivirus is considered one of the best.

Read also:

7. PrivadoVPN

PrivadoVPN


PROS
CONS
  • 12 server locations
  • P2P support
  • 10 GB monthly data
  • Based in Switzerland
  • Available for TV platforms
  • Registration via FB or Google
  • Recently on the market
  • Confirmation by email

PrivadoVPN is another VPN based in Switzerland. This service can be called relatively young, since it was founded in 2020, while most of the services listed in this article are between 3 and 16 years old.

Cooltechzone has been following the development of PrivadoVPN and has waited for them to eliminate the "teething problems" inherent in all new projects.

But now the day has come – PrivadoVPN has launched another software update and is now a much better product. Even Reddit users appreciate the quality and speed offered by PrivadoVPN:

I must admit, originally, it sucked also, but it got way better now. Mine also came with my Usenet Provider, and it first back in Nov '20; I think I barely hit 2-3mbit download to maybe 12mbit. It seems like in the past few days, I can achieve my full speed of 50mbit.

Redditor ReddiePenguin

It is possible that PrivadoVPN may soon climb to the Top 3 of our list, as I really like the combination of available bandwidth, speed, choice of free locations, and advanced connection settings (Kill Switch and choice of protocols).

8. ZoogVPN

ZoogVPN


PROS
CONS
  • 10 GB monthly data
  • Available for TV platforms
  • 3 server locations
  • Limited P2P
  • Windows restart required
  • Confirmation by email

Another unpopular but noteworthy free VPN is ZoogVPN. Its main plus is a fairly large volume of available monthly traffic by today's standards: 10 GB is available to use on any platform, including FireTV and Android TV.

Testing did not reveal significant flaws that would cause a threat to users. Taking together all the pros and cons, this is a good mid-range VPN in terms of technical possibilities.

The only drawbacks we found are more related to user comfort. For example, when installing an application on Windows, there were difficulties with initializing the TAP driver:

A window with a warning about a problem with the TAP driver that appeared during the installation of ZoogVPN

It was also a surprise that the system had to be rebooted to start ZoogVPN. Other desktop applications described in this article do not require a restart.

I would recommend setting up ZoogVPN as a fallback free VPN in addition to Surfshark or ProtonVPN.

9. TunnelBear

TunnelBear


PROS
CONS
  • High speed
  • 20+ available countries
  • Netflix support
  • 500 MB per month
  • Deprecated functionality

TunnelBear stands out from its competitors by the large selection of countries in which it is available for free, its high speed (on tests, the speed reached 40 Mb/s and above), and support for many of the popular video streaming services.

Combined with a unique animated software interface for all major platforms, TunnelBear could be called one of the best free VPNs, but...

Due to one feature, you can hardly use it in practice.

The thing is that TunnelBear has a monthly traffic limit of 500 Mb.

Yes, yes, and this is not a mistake. One of the most powerful free VPN services allows you to transfer only as much data as, for example, Hotspot Shield allows per day.

Nevertheless, TunnelBear remains an excellent choice for one-off use. Moreover, as of today, this is the only free VPN I know that supports Netflix.

See also:

10. Windscribe

Windscribe


PROS
CONS
  • 10 server locations
  • 10 GB per month
  • Powerful functionality
  • Registration is not required
  • There may be a low speed
  • Some functions did not pass tests

Rounding out the list of the best VPNs with free plans is Windscribe. This is perhaps the most technologically advanced provider on our list. Only here will you find advanced VPN blocking bypass functions at the ISP level and custom settings that even allow you to do VPN sharing from your laptop.

However, we have put Windscribe at the bottom of the list. This is because the free version may fall short of your expectations.

Repeated testing revealed a rather low real speed of free locations. But the most disappointing thing is the almost complete failure of the application using the declared "stealth" protocols. We actually only managed to launch a full-fledged connection on non-standard VPN protocols on the paid version.

Regardless, Windscribe is great for everyday use.

Read also:

Little-Known Facts About Free VPN

Free Trial instead of Free

I want to tell you about the largest manipulation of the word "Free" in the VPN market.

I encountered it the first time I tried to download a free VPN application to my smartphone. What do users do when they want to install an application on an iPhone or Android? They access repositories such as Google Play or the Apple App Store.

I did the same, entered the query "free vpn" in the search bar, and got a huge number of results. Inspired by this, I installed the one that had a higher rating and more downloads.

But I was disappointed. It turned out that I had installed an application that only provided temporary free VPN access for 7 days. Moreover, it was rife with advertisements.

Then I uninstalled it and tried installing the next one, and then again and again... History repeated itself. All (I'm not exaggerating) VPN apps that I tried that day turned out to be not free, but shareware – free trial VPNs.

Years have passed, but the situation has not changed. The publishers of these so-called Free VPNs are actively taking advantage of users' gullibility and promoting services that will have to be paid for in a few days.

“So what?” you might say. “You can use each application in turn.” But it’s not that simple. By agreeing to install an application, you most often subscribe. Thus, after the 7-day trial period, a certain amount will be debited from your card. And this can be the cost of a monthly subscription (from $5 to $20) or even an annual subscription. The amount involved in such a "deal" can be up to $80 or more.

Most of the free VPN apps for mobile devices are only conditional. Always check the expiration date of your free subscription. It should not be time-limited. The exception is professional services with a money-back option. But they don't advertise themselves as free.

Another method of manipulation that is gaining popularity is limiting the connection time with automatic disconnection.

A message that the VPN will only work for 2 hours 11 minutes and 43 seconds

A VPN like this can get you into big trouble. For example, if you are trading on a cryptocurrency exchange from a country where it does not provide its services, then if the VPN is turned off, your account will most likely be blocked.

Data Leakage Through Advertisements

In addition to the not entirely fair terms of the provision of free services, certain applications that really provide a free VPN without a time limit are gaining more and more in popularity, but at the same time, these applications contain so many spam ads that it becomes difficult to use the VPN.

Publishers have become so adept at integrating advertisements that the buttons to navigate to the advertiser's site look more clickable than the buttons to enable or disable a secure connection. In addition, after each action in such applications, access to the controls for pop-up ads on the whole screen is blocked. You can close such a window only after a while. The close button is so small and inconveniently located that a finger or stylus often does not hit it, and a transition to the advertised site occurs.

But these are just side issues. Did you know that your real location data can (and does) leak through integrated ads?

The fact is that ads appear in the application even before connecting to the VPN network. This means that when the ad content is loaded, and a user accidentally clicks on it, the advertiser gets your real IP address.

Subsequently, the same signals will be received after activating the encrypted tunnel. It's easy to match the new IP address to your current location. This data can also be intercepted by special services or hackers since often, the advertiser's server is located in the same country as the client (especially in the case of targeted advertising).

Mobile and desktop VPN apps that contain ads are a potential security breach for the user. Professionals don't use such software. In addition, developers of noname apps usually do not have a decent background, and there is no guarantee that they will not pass user data to third parties.

How to Bypass the Traffic Limit

What if only a VPN app with a bandwidth limit is right for you? This can be a monthly limit (in most cases) or a daily limit (for example, Hotspot Shield).

There are two ways to renew your free subscription:

  • Social activity
  • Registration of different emails

Social engagement usually refers to a tweet. For example, the TunnelBear app has a functionality that allows you to post a tweet and get an increase in your monthly data limit of up to 2 GB.

But the most universal way is to register several accounts with different emails. I've tested this method with Windscribe and hide.me. In both cases, there were no difficulties with the transition to a new account.

An Endangered Class of Free VPNs with Unlimited Bandwidth

While many free applications have been created for mobile devices, the situation is much worse for Windows desktops and, especially, Mac-based ones.

There are only a few completely free VPN sites I know about, and none of these stand up to scrutiny. The ad monetization model doesn't work well on desktops. Probably because of this, such sites cannot offer the tools necessary for normal operation.

Completely free VPNs have the following disadvantages:

  • No desktop apps. You need to manually configure system parameters or use third-party applications that need to be configured in advance.
  • Insufficiently powerful servers. The VPN server must have high bandwidth. Not even every paid service can afford such equipment. As a result, the output is too slow, and the connection stability is poor.
  • Untrustworthy. Not all VPN sites are backed by real companies. Anyone can start a site, even anonymously. It is clear that an industry such as the Virtual Private Network, which involves the transfer of protected information, needs security guarantees that Noname sites cannot provide.

I recently re-tested the freevpn.me service. More than two years have passed since my last test. But the level of services remained at the same low level. Here are 3 reasons why I would not use their services:

  1. The maximum speed is below 1 Mb/s.
  2. 1 location.
  3. Lack of client software. I wasn't even able to download their OpenVPN certificate.

10 years ago, there were many more resources offering free VPN with unlimited bandwidth. But a series of disclosures related to the distribution of malicious code and the resale of user data, in combination with low self-sufficiency due to advertising, has led to their almost complete disappearance.

Free access educational project

Talking about free VPN companies, one cannot fail to mention one project that is unique in its kind. This is a project of the Japanese University of Tsukuba, popularizing their self-developed SoftEther VPN protocol.

Thanks to this, anyone can use their VPN for free.

What's more, they even have their own Windows desktop app!

Why, then, did this interesting project not make it into our top 10?

There are 4 reasons for this:

  1. Feature of the SoftEther protocol. The network is arranged in such a way that the computers of volunteers are used as free VPN servers. In this case, the owner can limit the bandwidth of his server. Our testing revealed that the speed available to users can drop to 0.2 Mb/s and below. Also, the server can disappear from the network at any time.
  2. Paid servers. Some volunteers demand payment for using their servers.
  3. Asian locations. Approximately 99% of the volunteers are based in Japan and South Korea.
  4. Inconvenient software. Despite the fact that the project has its own application, it turned out to be more difficult to use it than to manually configure the OS.

If you own or know about other similar projects, then write to us via feedback or leave a comment below the article. We will be happy to test any free VPN project and create an impartial full-fledged overview of its capabilities.

Warning, Danger!

Despite the fact that modern VPN protocols that are used by public free VPNs (OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard) are considered safe and, together with AES encryption, protect data really effectively and compensate for some developer mistakes, there is a real security threat when using anonymous free VPNs.

The latest generation of hackers is actively looking for vulnerabilities that allow them to gain access to devices on local networks in order to install ransomware and then demand ransom.

Just imagine how many devices cybercriminals can gain access to by hacking into a poorly protected VPN server!

Moreover, there is already the recent example of the hacking of the VPN servers of the Fortinet company.

As a result of the attack, computers of corporate users were encrypted. At the same time, they received messages with the following content:

Sorry, your network is encrypted, and most files are encrypted using special technology. The file cannot be recovered by any security company. If you do not believe that you can even consult a security company, your answer will be that you need to pay the corresponding fees, but we have a good reputation. After receiving the corresponding fee, we will immediately send the decryption program and KEY. You can contact us to get two file decryption services, and then you will get all decryption services after paying our fee; usually, it is about 2 bitcoins.   

Contact: [email protected]     [email protected]

At the time of the attacks in early 2021, the Bitcoin exchange rate was over $40,000.

Cooltechzone has conducted its own research on how VPN providers and applications that offer free services work.

The results are not encouraging:

  • More than 50% of VPN apps don't even have their own website.
  • More than 80% of services do not conduct security audits.
  • 35% of the studied privacy policies do not contain information that data about user activity will not be saved on VPN servers.

Cooltechzone does not recommend using a VPN, which owner does not have a legal address, and which has not been tested by specialists. All free VPNs presented in this article are time-tested, have been tested many times, and have many reviews on public platforms such as reddit.com.

Senior Researcher
Dean Chester
Cybersecurity and online privacy expert and researcher. He's been published on OpenVPN, EC-Council Blog, DevSecOps, AT-T Business, SAP Community, etc. Dean has been testing VPNs for 8 years.

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