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VPN FOR WINDOWS: 5 Paid & 5 Free services (2020)

Last updated: May 28 2020 By Dean Chester

Microsoft Windows has some features that affect the work of VPN apps. They are related to user privacy. CoolTechZone conducted a large-scale research of more than 40 VPN services and chose 5 paid and 5 free providers which are completely safe and have the most popular features.

Despite the rapid development of mobile platforms, Windows will be the most powerful and multifunctional OS for a long time to come. Today, all the most sensitive and complex tasks that often require confidentiality or the ability to circumvent restrictions are being solved on this platform.

But…

There are at least three problems that Virtual Private Network beginner users are facing:

  1. Internet slowdown
  2. Insufficient security
  3. Problems with circumventing geo-restrictions of video services.

Keep reading and you will find out which VPN services you can trust and why. I will present the results of special tests of security, bypassing of restrictions, and share my experience in using VPN on Windows.

 
5 best VPNs for Windows
  1. ExpressVPN: The most powerful VPN service to date. Suitable for any purpose.
  2. NordVPN: Multifunctional large service. A bit cheaper than ExpressVPN.
  3. Surfshark: The best VPN that is available for Windows in terms of price / quality.
  4. CyberGhost VPN: Huge selection of servers, regular functionality.
  5. PIA: WireGuard support. Flexible encryption settings.
 
5 free VPNs for Windows
  1. ProtonVPN: Swiss quality, available for free. Unlimited traffic.
  2. Windscribe: The traffic limit is 10GB per month. A large number of advanced features.
  3. TunnelBear: Good speed and choice of countries. 1GB per month. Colorful interface
  4. hide.me: Good speed and no registration needed, 10GB per month, 3 countries. Connection failures.
  5. VPN Gate: 30 days for free.
  • Recommendation. If you are going to use a VPN for the first time, then I suggest you not to use limited free services since their included traffic is never enough and switching to their paid subscription is less lucrative than using a paid VPN right away. I picked up 5 paid VPNs that guarantee a refund within 30-45 days. This is more than enough to familiarize yourself with them and at the same time you won’t have problems with speed and access to some resources.

What distinguishes a VPN for Windows?

The main difference is the lack of features built into the system that would block the connectivity if the connection with the VPN server (to which the client connects) is interrupted.

And this is not just a minor feature. This is a real problem. It is especially relevant during intensive exchange of information. For example, when you use torrents, in the process of exchanging files, the traffic is almost continuous. And if at some point a secure connection fails, then the data will go directly, without protection.

To solve this problem, VPN services have been using the Kill Switch feature for quite a long time. To one degree or another, it blocks the Internet connectivity until the connection with the VPN server is restored.

Kill switch feature by ExpressVPN

The second difference is that VPN software with non-optimized CPU load is quite frequent. The point is that creating a VPN tunnel, redirecting traffic and encrypting it requires considerable computing power. And the higher the speed, the greater the load on the processor. On other platforms, developers can use the built-in support for VPN protocols in the system, and on Windows they implement its work by themselves.

As a difference in practical use, we can mention the good equipment of VPN applications on Windows.

As a rule, everything that a VPN service promises on its website relates specifically to the Windows version. It is on it that you can fully familiarize yourself with the capabilities of a particular provider.

So, we have a full set of functions and the risk of getting non-optimized software with insufficient security if it does not have a Kill Switch.

Let's take a closer look at only those VPN services that do not have such problems and at the same time have the most advanced features.

As you can see, choosing a VPN is not as easy as it might seem at first glance.

Free providers are an especially tough case. Yes, yes, I already said that it’s better not to use them, but the demand is great and I did everything I could to find the least unstable providers (more precisely, their free versions).

Keep reading and you will find out which VPNs more closely match the criteria listed. I will briefly describe their pros and cons, as well as the features of their settings on routers.


Best VPN for Windows based on 2020 test results

Based on the results of my 6-month test, ExpressVPN became the best VPN client for Windows.

NordVPN, Surfshark, CyberGhost and Mullvad also showed excellent results.

Testing was carried out using special traffic interception technologies. The support for unblocking geo-limited streaming content, safe work with torrenting, and many other things were checked. Special computers with Microsoft Windows of theversions 7 and 10 were used.

Comparison of the main characteristics of VPN applications of the top five services

Service Ranking (out of 10) Speed, Mbps Country selection Kill switch CPU load Price (monthly
ExpressVPN 10 >100 94 + Low $6.67-12.95
NordVPN 10 60-80 59 + Low $3.49-11.95
Surfshark 10 50-80 61 + Low $1.99-11.95
CyberGhost VPN 9 40-70 89 + Medium $2.75-12.99
PIA 9 >70 30 + Low $2.85-9.95

ExpressVPN

Main benefits

  • Extremely high speed
  • Effective Kill Switch
  • Locations in 94 countries
  • Netflix and Hulu Support
 
ExpressVPN
One of the fastest VPNs with advanced features
 

ExpressVPN combines high connection speed, 100% protection of IP addresses, traffic and names of visited sites with the most advanced features support.

Automatic selection of the optimal route for traffic is provided.

5 reasons why ExpressVPN is the best one:

  1. Streaming support (the most consistent of all VPNs unblocking Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney +, etc.).
  2. Reliably protects torrenting.
  3. Over 3,000 servers in 94 countries.
  4. Tests showed a speed of more than 150 Mbps.
  5. Ability to use IKEv2.
  6. Complete anonymity. The provider uses diskless servers.
  7. Safe jurisdiction (offshore in BVI).

Features on Windows

  • Complete connection protection
  • Tunneling Protocol Selection (4)
  • Kill Switch
  • Split Tunneling
  • DNS setup
  • Recommended location
  • Up to 5 devices per subscription at once

I also should note that ExpressVPN is stable, the connection doesn’t fail by itself, the speed doesn’t fluctuate during the session. The VPN connection works seamlessly, doesn’t overload the processor and doesn’t require any actions on the user’s part.

Price

The service has 3 plans, differing in price and duration of the subscription.

  1 month 6 months 1 year
Price (monthly) $12.95 $9.99

$6.67+3
months for free

Money-back guarantee 30 30 30

  *Prices are shown with the discount that is provided when clicking on our links. Various payment methods are supported, including cryptocurrencies.

 
ExpressVPN
Take advantage of an additional 20% discount
 

ExpressVPN app


NordVPN

Main advantages

  • Over 5600 servers
  • Obfuscated Servers
  • Very convenient app
  • Double VPN
 
NordVPN
Confirmed security, confident circumvention of geo-restrictions
 

NordVPN’s performance is almost identical to that of ExpressVPN, but has slightly different features. It does not support as many protocols, but it focuses on additional security and user privacy: it supports DoubleVPN.

Moreover, the service is different in that it makes it possible to select servers within the location (with ExpressVPN, you can only select the country and city).

It also provides automatic selection of the optimal route for traffic.

Advantages of NordVPN:

  1. Streaming support.
  2. Effective for torrenting.
  3. More than 56,000 servers in 59 countries (second-largest in the world).
  4. High speed. Tests showed a speed of more than 100 Mbps.
  5. Special Server List for P2P.
  6. Complete anonymity. The provider also uses diskless servers.
  7. Safe Jurisdiction (Panama).

Features on Windows:

  • Complete connectivity protection even without Kill Switch
  • Kill Switch with selectable individual applications
  • Obfuscation protocol to circumvent censorship
  • Double VPN (double protection)
  • Recommended location
  • Up to 6 devices per subscription

NordVPN is one of the most stable services. I use it myself daily, so without tests I know that its work is very user-friendly. The connection speed is constant and there is practically no loss of connectivity with the server.

Price

The service has 4 plans, differing in price and duration of the subscription.

  1 month 1 year 2 year 3 year
Price (monthly) $11.95 $6.99 $4.99 $3.49
Money-back guarantee 30 30 30 30

Different payment methods are supported, including Amazon Pay.

 
NordVPN Preview
Powerful universal VPN service with secure jurisdiction
 

NordVPN app


Surfshark

Main advantages

  • Powerful functionality
  • Good energy efficiency
  • Very low price (from $1.99)
  • Streaming support
Surfshark Preview
Professional VPN at the lowest price

Surfshark is literally the most affordable VPNs of the premium ones. The provider has kept its low price even though over the past two years it has developed very much both technically and popularity-wise.

Surfshark has everything you need for any purpose. It supports streaming, torrenting, has double VPN, dedicated IP addresses, ad blocker, tracking and much more.

Surfshark Pros

  1. Normal and double privacy protection
  2. Netflix Support
  3. Dedicated IP addresses available
  4. More than 1000 servers in 61 countries.
  5. Ability to use IKEv2
  6. Safe jurisdiction (offshore in BVI)

Features on Windows

  • Passed all security tests
  • Double VPN, Dedicated IP, streaming, torrenting
  • IKEv2 Support
  • Unlimited devices at once

Surfshark also has two additional features available at extra charge. This is an innovative protection against tracking and additional security for email.

Price

The service has 3 plans, differing in price and duration of the subscription

  1 month 1 year 2 years
Price (monthly) $11.95 $5.99 $1.99
Money-back guarantee 30 30 30

* You can also activate additional security features for $0.99 per month

Different payment methods are supported, including Google Pay.

 
Surfshark Preview
Large selection of locations, good speed, growing popularity
 

Surfshark app


CyberGhost

Main advantages

  • The largest infrastructure
  • Special secure servers
  • Affordable price
  • Streaming support

In 2020, CyberGhost immediately made two breakthroughs in development. It became the largest VPN service in terms of the number of servers and added access to special “NoSpy” servers in Romania for Windows apps. They are designed for the most delicate tasks requiring maximum anonymity.

CyberGhost Pros

  1. An incredible selection of servers (over 6100 in 89 countries)
  2. NoSpy Secure Servers
  3. Сontinuously operating Kill Switch
  4. US Netflix Support
  5. Special servers for torrenting
  6. Safe Jurisdiction (Romania)

Features on Windows

  • Passed all security tests
  • Supports IKEv2
  • Suitable for streaming & torrenting
  • Up to 7 devices at once

Recently, the service added support for NoSpy servers in Romania. This country is known for the inviolability of private information. In addition, only CyberGhost employees can access these servers.

Price

The service has 4 plans, differing in price and duration of the subscription

  1 month 1 year 2 years 3 year
Price (monthly) $12.99 $5.99 $3.69 $2.75
Money-back guarantee - 45 45 45

Different payment methods supported such as credit card, PayPal and Bitcoin.

CyberGhost VPN app

Private Internet Access

Main advantages

  • WireGuard support
  • Shadowsocks
  • Ability to disable encryption
  • Tracking blocker

Private Internet Access (PIA) is interesting in terms of advanced features. It probably contains the largest number of Internet connection settings out of all VPNs.

Moreover, in 2020, PIA finally launched support for the WireGuard progressive VPN protocol, which it has been developing for over a year.

But there is a minus. The service does not support Netflix.

WireGuard Pros

  1. Unrivaled flexibility with advanced settings
  2. WireGuard Support
  3. Shadowsocks Support
  4. Port forwarding

Features on Windows

  • Passed all security tests.
  • Effective for torrenting, including if the computer is behind NAT.
  • Allows you to configure the maximum level of data protection.
  • Can be used without encryption for maximum speed.

I should also note the Shadowsocks feature, which is almost indispensable for circumventing censorship in countries where a VPN is blocked.

Price

The service has 3 plans, differing in price and duration of the subscription

  1 month 6 months 1 year
Price (monthly) $9.95 $5.99 $2.85+3
months for free
Money-back guarantee 30 30 30

Different payment methods are supported, including anonymous cryptocurrencies.

Private Internet Access app

Best Free VPN for Windows

Based on the test results, ProtonVPN is the best free VPN service for Windows.

Windscribe, TunnelBear, hide.me, and VPN Gate follow but with a noticeable lag.

The main difference between ProtonVPN and other free VPNs is that they either have traffic limits or are difficult to use.

Warning: All free VPNs have significant drawbacks. For Windows, this is a limited choice of countries, significantly lower speed than on paid subscriptions, lack of Netflix support, and much more.

So, let's move on to a brief acquaintance with free VPN providers that are better than others to be used on Windows 10.

ProtonVPN

Nowadays, ProtonVPN is the undisputed leader among free VPNs and is one of the top 10 paid VPNs.

What makes it stand out so sharply from the competition?

  1. Unlimited traffic
  2. 7-day trial of the full-featured version, changing into a limited completely free version (a unique combination as other VPNs do not use both trial and free versions at the same time)
  3. Acceptable connection speed
  4. ProtonVPN is widely recognized as a professional, reliable service.

Free ProtonVPN: Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
  • Acceptable speed
  • Unlimited traffic
  • No credit card required
  • Does not keep logs
  • No Netflix support
  • Torrenting support only for the fitst 7 days
  • 3 countries

I also want to note that the tests of the paid version showed excellent results. Therefore, ProtonVPN is one of the few providers that I recommend you to use not only for free.

ProtonVPN app

Free Windscribe

I turn to the description of free providers that also have good technical characteristics but limit the monthly traffic.

Windscribe is the best one. For today, it has perfect combination of functionality and traffic volume on the free plan.

Pros and Cons of free Windscribe

Pros Cons
  • 10GB per month
  • Advanced features
  • Whitelist
  • No credit card required
  • Does not keep logs
  • No Netflix support
  • 11 available countries

Results of the Windows app tests are generally positive. No data leaks, IP addresses, and names of visited sites were found. The connection speed is acceptable but lower than that of ProtonVPN.

Windscribe VPN app

Free TunnelBear

Free TunnelBear has a good speed comparable to the best paid VPNs, but at the same time it greatly limits the traffic. Only 1500 MB are available for free per month.

Apart from that, it is a fast VPN with streaming support even on a free subscription. But the included traffic is hardly enough to watch 2 full-length films in SD quality.

Free TunnelBear: Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
  • High speed
  • Streaming support
  • Powerful paid version
  • Does not keep logs
  • No credit card required
  • 23 countries
  • Limit 1500MB per month
  • Some traffic may leak when the TunnelBear is off

The research results of the outgoing traffic showed a partial leak of the traffic (some of the packets can get into the network without protection). But this problem is completely eliminated by turning on the kill switch function in the app settings.

TunnelBear app

Free hide.me

Hide.me is interesting because it doesn’t require the registration for using the free version. Just download the app and run it. Recently, the provider has increased the limit of free traffic from 2 to 10GB per month.

There are, however, minuses: no streaming support, weak features and connection problems.

Nevertheless, it is a convenient and fairly safe provider for daily use.

Free hide.me: Pros and cons

Pros Cons
  • No registration needed
  • 10GB
  • Totaly safe
  • 4 countries
  • No connection settings

Testing showed the average speed for a free VPN. Also, quite often there were failures in connecting to the VPN server or the inability to open sites in a web browser.

hide.me app

VPN Gate

In conclusion, I want to introduce the only non-commercial project in the field of VPN that anyone can use. This is VPN Gate.

The essence of the project is the popularization of the advanced SoftEther VPN protocol developed by the Japanese Tsukuba University. This is not an ordinary service that has a website and a network of VPN servers. VPN Gate uses computers of other users as servers with their consent.

Distinctive features are the complexity of use and the absolute dominance of locations from Asia.

Free VPN Gate: Pros and cons

Pros Cons
  • Totaly free, nonprofit
  • Has its own client for Windows (a rarity for totaly free services)
  • Advancesd, secure VPN protocol
  • Using computers of other users
  • Connection may break at any time
  • Low speed
  • It is almost impossible to find working locations outside of Asia
  • Keep logs

Testing revealed problems with finding a working location; there are locations where the server owner asks for payment for access. It also turned out that most of the “servers” are very slow (speed less than 2Mbps).

VPN Gate app

Other good VPN services for Windows

In one review, it is difficult to make out in detail all the good VPN services that have good technical specifications and many positive reviews from users on Windows.

Here is a list of other providers that can be used on Microsoft Windows:


FAQ

How to setup VPN on Windows 10?

To install and use a VPN on Windows 7 and Windows 10, you need to make use of a VPN service. To do this, you need:

  1. Choose a service. I recommend using a carefully tested VPN service (any of those published on CoolTechZone.com).
  2. Sign up and select the appropriate subscription.
  3. Download and install the proposed software from the service’s website.
  4. Log in to the installed app and enable the VPN.

After that, all traffic of your Windows computer will be protected, and your real location will be hidden from the sites you visit.

How to use VPN on Windows?

First of all, you need to install and run the software of the selected VPN service.

After that, just turn on the VPN. You don’t even have to select the country of connection. The application itself will select the best route.

If you need 100% privacy, then follow three additional steps:

  1. Go to the settings of the installed VPN app and find there a function that blocks traffic when the connection with the server is interrupted. Typically, it is called Kill Switch, but may be called differently.

    The Kill Switch option

    Make sure it is turned on.

  2. Find in the settings (not all VPNs have these) the protocol selection section. I recommend installing IKEv2 or WireGuard. These protocols are more efficient than the most common OpenVPN.
  3. If there is a Split Tunneling section (it may be called differently), then select the programs in it that do not need to be used with a VPN. This will reduce the load on the processor and may increase the connection speed.

Other settings are best left as is. Change them only if you are sure that you need it. For example, when OpenVPN UDP does not work, you can try switching to TCP, which usually helps.

🔌 How to connect to a VPN on Windows 10?

There are three ways to connect to a VPN on Windows.

  1. Use an app of the selected VPN service
  2. Use a free universal VPN client from OpenVPN (you need to additionally configure the data provided by your service)
  3. Configure the built-in system parameters (data from the service will also be needed)

Let's take a closer look at the last item using Windows 10 as an example.

  • Go to Settings> Network & Internet

    Settings > Network & Internet

  • VPN > Add a VPN connection

    Settings > Network & Internet > VPN > Add a VPN connection

  • Then, choose the VPN provider “Windows (built-in)”, any connection name, server address and other items, fill in the parameters taken from the provider (instructions on where and how to do that can be found on their sites).
  • Save the settings.

After that, you can connect to the VPN using the created connection.

👉 What problems can occur while using a VPN?

Virtual Private Network technology is completely legal in all countries of the world. But at the same time, in some countries (China, UAE, and others), there are laws restricting the use of foreign VPN services.

In all other cases, the only problem that can become while using a good service is some slowdown in the maximum connection speed.

Depending on the protocol, the drop in speed can be from 2-3 to 25%. Plus, if the initial speed of your Internet provider is higher than 100-200 Mbps, then you can achieve such high speeds only when using the fastest VPN services such as ExpressVPN.

💻 Can I install a VPN on an old version of Windows?

You absolutely can. Even if the app of your VPN provider cannot be installed on your version of Windows, you can always start the VPN with a third-party VPN client that supports older versions of the system (for example, OpenVPN Client) or configure the system settings. In Windows XP, for example, you can configure the integrated PPTP protocol. But give preference to OpenVPN, since PPTP is assailable to hacking.

Read also:

CoolTechZone - Chief Editor
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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