HIDE.ME Review (2024)
Hide.me was changed so drastically in 2019 that now you can call it not just a free VPN but something like a VPN “lab” that can be used for free. Judging by my findings concerning its updated apps, it has become one of the most advanced VPN services of today.
I was very intrigued by how hide.me had been changed so we on CoolTechZone.com decided to thoroughly test all its new features (and there are quite a few of them):
- Hide.me has implemented a unique secure SoftEtherVPN protocol.
- They made a kill switch available on every OS.
- They added a passive safety extra feature called Stealth Guard.
- They made the most sophisticated settings of a VPN connection available.
Last time, I tested it in the spring of 2019 and concluded that it was one of the best free VPNs. Now, however, I consider it to be a nominee for our Top 10 VPNs. What is especially crucial is that almost all of its features are available for free.
It sounds impressive, doesn’t it? But not everything is so perfect. During my tests, I encountered connectivity issues on the free version and became somewhat dissatisfied with the prices of the premium plans.
But first things first.
In this review, I will give you a detailed account of the pros and cons of hide.me, test the apps using the powerful Wireshark utility, check the service’s performance from the “inside” of the system, and give advice on how to use it efficiently.
Take a look at the basic characteristics of hide.me:
As you can see in the spreadsheet above, the main flaw of hide.me is its small choice of countries. Only 3 are available for free on Mac and iOS and 4 on Windows and Android. The extra location present in the latter is a Canadian server which, most likely, doesn’t work with the IKEv2 protocol. However, even if you enable other protocols, the location remains inactive.
Find more on servers, their speed, and many other parameters in the following chapters.
How it is different from other VPNs
The first and main thing that makes hide.me different from other VPNs is that its free tariff allows using up to 2 Gb of traffic each month while offering relatively good speeds.
It is more than most other free VPNs with a monthly traffic limit offer (only Windscribe allows up to 10 or 15 Gb per month but has a much lower speed) but still too little to use it every day.
Besides all that, as I have mentioned, I was surprised by the huge leap that hide.me made functionality-wise lately. Here are some features that hide.me has but its rivals don’t:
- a lot of protocol-related settings (5 VPN protocols with the ability to change transport layer protocols, choose a port randomly, stealth mode, acceleration, Half-Duplex, etc.)
- DNS settings (IPv6 in addition to IPv4)
- extra security settings (Stealth Guard, Fallback Protocol, etc.)
However, if you want a VPN to complete more regular tasks, you shouldn’t pay too much mind to these differences. 99% of users don’t ever change them. Only professionals with a deep understanding of network technological configuration will truly appreciate most of these options.
The only exception is the extra security features which everybody needs. I will tell you how to set them up and use them correctly in the “What can hide.me do?” chapter.
Using hide.me for free
It’s no secret that hide.me became quite popular specifically thanks to its convenient free plan.
Let’s discuss what features a free version user has access to in detail.
First of all, you can only start using hide.me after you sign up. You can do that on its website or right in the app. This is a small drawback of this VPN but it is present among all providers who put a limit on monthly traffic usage.
At the same time, you don’t need to enter your credit card data or otherwise subscribe when signing up.
What do you need to use hide.me for free correctly?
After you install its app for Windows or Mac (apps are available on all major platforms and Amazon Fire TV, as well as settings for routers and other devices with VPN technology support) I advise that you go to the options and change your VPN protocol to SoftEtherVPN. You can see how it’s done in the picture.
SoftEther works faster than regular OpenVPN. Moreover, it can’t be detected by VPN usage trackers. However, it’s only available on desktops.
Make sure that the kill switch is active. This feature protects your connection when you change locations and, while necessary on all platforms, is especially important for torrent users.
Now you can choose a VPN location manually or automatically and connect to the VPN.
How do I optimize my traffic usage?
Since only 2 Gb of traffic is available on the starting plan, I can give you a few recommendations on how to use hide.me:
- don't leave the VPN on in the sleeping mode unless you are torrenting a file;
- if you are connected to a Wi-Fi network, make sure that the system auto-updating is off;
- close all apps you don’t need at the moment;
- minimize the number of open browser tabs on desktops;
- configure the video quality to be the lowest passable level (480 or 320) when you watch YouTube or other similar services.
I should note that there are absolutely no ads in the free version of hide.me. Not only is it convenient for users, but also it improves their security quite a bit because there are no location leaks through the ads code.
Although there’s no free trial, on all levels within the Premium Plan there is a 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee.
What can hide.me do? (Pros, cons, test results, advice)
Security of hide.me
Can a free VPN be used safely? If we’re talking about hide.me, the answer is unequivocally, yes. I have tested its apps on all major platforms and found no serious issues with protecting privacy and data safety.
Its support of the modern SoftEther VPN protocol developed by the University of Tsukuba, Japan is of special interest. This protocol is capable of providing top-notch protection of data and addresses of the resources you visit while not affecting the speed inside the VPN channel too much.
As I always do, I used Wireshark to analyze the network activity:
In the picture, I marked the IP address to which all outgoing traffic is directed. It matches the one shown by IP determining services such as, for instance, myip.com. It means that hide.me doesn’t use IP-spoofing to fake VPN locations.
The “Unknown Service Family” line is also marked in the image. It means that Wireshark can’t recognize the technology used to generate the IP packet. In our case, it confirms the use of SoftEtherVPN.
I have also tested the way DNS queries are transferred. These queries contain the name of the website you want to access. Like the rest of the traffic, a query is sent to the virtual tunnel and is processed by the same server that the user is connected to:
As you can see in this picture, the IP address matches the DNS address, which means hide.me doesn’t use third-party DNS services. Another great thing about the provider’s security.
On the computer’s side, the DNS address is hidden with the local address of the VPN network. This is the first time I see such an original solution:
Wireshark confirmed that this technology is efficient. I am certain that hide.me is safe.
Tests of hide.me
It is not only for security and IP hiding that a modern VPN is used. Many people want an opportunity to unblock geo-restricted video content, use torrents safely, or watch free video content through P2P.
Well, I’ve tested the performance of hide.me with the major video streaming services, torrenting client, Gmail, and search engines. In this section, I will tell you all about the results of those tests and give you some advice.
The free version of hide.me can’t boast high speeds. All of its locations have speeds around 5 Mbps or lower.
Is it fast or slow for a free VPN? It’s more like average. And if you take the monthly 2 Gb limit into consideration, any greater speed could lead to your VPN expiring rather rapidly.
Now I’m going to disappoint those who want to use Netflix and Hulu for free. Hide.me doesn’t allow you to do that. I have tried all possible settings of the VPN channel and reconnected to the US location several times to change the IP address but nothing helped. Netflix and Hulu displayed errors no matter what:
Only the paid “premium: version can help to unblock these services. But is it worth it to pay just for this feature? You will find out all about the other advantages and disadvantages of the paid version of hide.me if you read this article to the end.
If you are looking for the best VPN for streaming, take a look at our rating of free and paid VPNs for Netflix.
I managed to use qBittorent to download a file from a torrent tracker without any problems. The speed was low but higher than that of the recently tested Touch VPN:
By the way, despite hide.me recommending to “Bind torrent client into VPN via SOCKS proxy”, even without it, all the traffic was encrypted and went through the VPN channel 100% of the time when I used SoftEtherVPN.
Hide.me forbids torrenting on its US location on both free and paid versions.
If you want to use torrenting on any location, with high speeds, and for however long you want, take a look at the VPNs from our Top 10 VPNs for torrenting ranking.
4. Google search and the use of Gmail
If you have used free VPNs, you probably have run into problems when trying to access Gmail and the Google search.
Gmail won’t let you access your mailbox at all while the search engine constantly demands that you confirm you are not a robot. In some cases, it can be very grating.
These problems were not present with the free version of hide.me: the mail account can be opened and the search engine works without any captchas.
5. IP leaks test with an unstable connection
You aren’t likely to find any information on how VPN services behave with unstable Internet connections or the change of networks when on the move (either between different Wi-Fi networks or between Wi-Fi and the mobile Internet).
But on CoolTechZone.com, we have specialized software monitoring how reliable the protection of the user’s IP address is even under the direst strain.
Even ExpressVPN, one of the VPN industry giants, failed to pass this test on Android.
Hide.me yielded uncertain results. On the one hand, it prevented an IP leak but on the other, it blocked the Internet connection entirely and did not reestablish it until I turned the VPN off and back on. Naturally, my location was disclosed. All that happened despite the auto-connect setting being turned on. It didn’t work but the app displayed a warning that the device was connecting to an unknown Wi-Fi.
So does hide.me allow leaks? While it doesn’t, the reconnection issue compromised its work with unstable connectivity on Android devices.
6. Miscellaneous issues with hide.me
The most common problems that I’ve faced during the tests are:
- Sometimes, it was impossible to connect to the VPN.
- Internet connection is sometimes dropped.
The first issue appeared many times when I was using OpenVPN on Windows and the second one was present on all platforms and protocols:
Hide.me for Windows
The Windows version is the most versatile one. It has the most settings and supports 5 VPN protocols:
And 2 transport layer protocols:
You can turn the stealth mode (which makes hide.me invisible to VPN detectors) on and off as well as IKE SA and IPsec SA ports for the IKEv2 protocol.
In OpenVPN, you can set up ports and MTU.
SoftEther has its own options, too.
Various combinations of connection protocols can be set up, if necessary, when your connection attempts fail.
I’d also like to mention the kill switch function and its many settings (connection attempts limit, automatic reconnection, DNS leaks prevention) as well as Stealth Guard which can be called an expanded kill switch. It allows blocking all the traffic of the device or certain apps even when the VPN is off.
Additionally, the PC version offers the Split Tunnel mode that helps to choose apps that need or don’t need the VPN. With its help, for example, you can use two browsers at once: one will access the Internet via hide.me while the other one without it.
Such a diversity of settings is comparable to those of the most powerful VPN providers.
You can download hide.me for Windows from the official website.
Hide.me for Mac
The version for Mac is almost as feature-heavy as the one for PC. The only difference is that it has fewer protocol and kill switch settings and doesn’t have the option to change a VPN protocol automatically at a connection fail.
Canada is also unavailable on Mac.
The app for Mac can only be installed from a .dmg installer which you can download from the official website.
Hide.me for Android
The Android app has far fewer options. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support SoftEtherVPN.
All basic important settings are present, though:
- Kill switch
- Split tunneling
- Choice of IKEv2, IKEv2 with alternative configuration, and OpenVPN via UDP and TCP protocols
As I’ve said, this app has issues when moving between different access points. But in general, the application’s performance is stable and doesn’t drain the battery too much.
Cons of hide.me for Android:
- Limited functionality;
- Without extra system settings, the app shuts down when in the sleeping mode;
- The connection freezes when changing networks.
Hide.me for Android can be installed in two ways:
Hide.me for iOS
The version for iPhone and iPad has the fewest settings. Besides the choice of countries (there are only 3 of them available for free like on Mac) there are only a kill switch and auto-connect.
Cons of hide.me for iOS:
- no protocol choice, only the iOS-standard IPsec is available;
- no advanced settings;
- no Canada on the country list.
You can download and install hide.me for iOS from the Apple App Store by following this link.
Hide.me for web browsers
Hide.me also offers extensions for Chrome and Firefox. Those aren’t a full-featured VPN but just a proxy/socks.
Cons of using web browser extensions: Not fully anonymous. There are addresses of the visited websites in your traffic:
In the picture, the IP address of the location I chose in the Chrome extension is displayed inside the blue rectangle. But when you look at the contents of some transited packets, you can see addresses of the requested domains. Your ISP can see this information, which is bad because almost all Internet service providers store their users’ activity data.
Besides, if you use hide.me for protection in a private corporative network, its administrator can easily see what resources you visit during your working hours.
It mentions that it doesn’t keep logs:
We do NOT keep logs of your VPN sessions, browsing behaviour, websites you visit or any activity related to your VPN connection. In addition we NEVER store VPN connection logs and timestamps that match your incoming and outgoing IP address or session duration.
I see two reasons to trust this claim:
- The hide.me service is run by a specific company called eVenture Ltd. The thing is, not all VPNs have an owner company. Whoer VPN, for example, doesn’t have one. And if there is a company, then there is also a responsible party.
- Hide.me has been operating since 2012. I haven’t heard of any scandal or condemning facts about this VPN during this time.
What are the advantages and prices of the premium subscription?
By now, we know a lot about the free version of hide.me. But there is a paid one, too! Let’s see what their differences are and if it is sensible to pay for the premium one.
I’ll start with saying that there are 3 variants of the paid subscription:
$14.95 per month when subscribing for 1 month
$9.99 per month when subscribing for 1 year
$5.41 per month when subscribing for 2 years
Strictly speaking, the prices are high. $14.95 is one of the most expensive monthly subscriptions that I know of. Even if you buy hide.me for one year at once, $5.41 is 1.5-2 times as high as the prices of most VPN from the list of the best ones.
Advantages and differences of the premium subscription:
- + servers in 46 countries are available;
- Higher speeds than on the free plan;
- 24/7 support.
It’s hard to say whether or not you should buy the paid subscription of hide.me. On one hand, this provider offers Netflix and Hulu support, a unique VPN protocol and a lot of technical settings. On the other hand, 46 countries are not that many, while the prices are above average.
You can make a balanced decision by reading other articles and reviews on our website.
History of hide.me and information about the owner
Hide.me was founded in 2011-2012 and hasn’t changed its owner once.
The provider belongs to eVenture Ltd. It is based in Malaysia because of the desire to be as far removed from the member states of the infamous 5 Eyes intelligence alliance as possible. The reason for it is minimizing the risks of the government pressure on the company and service from the countries where customers of hide.me live.
The company isn’t very active publicly and there is little information about it available.
Address of eVenture Ltd:
19 Lazenda, Commercial Centre Phase 3, Level 2
Federal Territory of Labuan – Malaysia
You just read a detailed review of hide.me, a modern dynamically developing VPN service.
Our tests show that this provider has more advantages than disadvantages. Its free use is capped at 2 Gb of traffic per month and 3 or 4 countries but all of its high-tech features are available without a limitation.
If you pay $2.43 or more per month, Netflix and Hulu become available, the country list gets expanded, and the traffic cap is removed. The question of whether or not it’s worth it to pay a rather large price for this service still stands, though.
Perhaps, it is if you need to use SoftEtherVPN protocol or to fine-tune the VPN connection.
We will continue monitoring hide.me and updating this article when the need arises.
You can post your opinions or questions about hide.me in the comments. Thank you for your attention to our work.