Windscribe VPN Review: 10 Gb per month for free
Pros of Windscribe
Cons of Windscribe
Windscribe is a popular multiplatform service that offers the virtual private network (VPN) service with a limited free plan.
It’s worth noting that Windscribe has changed significantly and can’t be considered one of the slowest VPNs in 2021. It also has reworked its software quite a bit and added some rare features.
But has it acquired any real advantages over other good VPN providers?
This review of Windscribe VPN contains the results of my 6-month study of its features and the analysis of many real customer reviews as well as:
- Tests of the free version
- In-depth tests of features only available in the paid version
- Useful information about the provider’s performance based on my big experience with it.
You’ll also learn from this review:
- What tasks it can’t cope with
- What platforms are the best to use it on.
The main advantage of this provider is that it lets you access 10+ Gb of traffic each month on the free subscription.
But its positive sides don’t end here.
The provider allows watching Netflix (on the paid subscription only), safely using torrents, bypassing the Chinese VPN block, and many more. You will find the full list of features in the next chapter.
- Features and opportunities
- Free Windscribe
- Windscribe cons
- Windscribe pros
- Plans and pricing
- Information about the company owner
I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that this is not a puff piece and that I have received no reward from Windscribe or other VPN services for this review. I used the free version as well as a regular paid subscription:
What are all the features and flaws that Windscribe VPN has?
+ 256-bit encryption with tweakable parameters
+ 10 countries supported for free; 63 on the paid version
+ Firewall (Kill Switch) for every OS
+ Manual socks settings
+ P2P/torrenting allowed
+ Netflix on the paid version
+ Split Tunneling (on Android only)
+ Static IP (for extra money)
+ Port forwarding (only on the static IP)
+ Extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera
+ Share VPN
+ Extra discount for students
- Faulty connections with certain protocols
- Speeds are below average on some of the tested locations especially on the streaming server
- No ability to choose a specific server within a location.
I should enumerate four of the most important points (two pros and two cons):
- Has a Firewall on all OSs. Thanks to this function also known as a kill switch, Widnscribe keeps data 100% safe in nonstandard situations. Moreover, unencrypted data leaks don’t happen during routine operations.
- Streaming support. The paid subscription allows unblocking geo-restricted content for four popular regions: US, CA, UK, and JP. Netflix and Hulu support is confirmed. Reddit comments tell us that other video services are also supported. At the same time, during my tests, the speed often dropped down to below 2 Mbps.
- Speed-related issues. The Windflix server wasn’t the only one on which the speed dropped. Sometimes, it reached 1-2 Mbps even on the paid subscription. Also, I haven’t seen a speed of higher than 70 Mbps.
- Extra protocol issues. Despite Windscribe offering two VPN protocols aimed at bypassing VPN blocks, they aren’t so easy to use. The Stealth protocol couldn’t launch with the server for streaming while WStunnel did not launch at all.
Let’s move on to the detailed results of the provider’s testing. I’ll start with its most popular aspect, the free version.
Here are all the confirmed advantages of Windscribe’s free subscription:
- 10 Gb of traffic included without speed limits
- 10 countries available
- Pretty good speeds for a free VPN
- Allows torrenting (confirmed).
As I said before, the speed on the free servers has increased by a huge margin in the past 6 months. In my last year’s review of Windscribe, I named it one of the slowest VPNs. The 2020 tests, however, show a significant improvement of the connection quality. I’ll touch upon the topic of free and paid versions’ speeds later on many times.
Now I will describe my impressions from using free Windscribe.
First of all, 10 Gb of traffic is enough to sustain me for quite a long time. Compared to other free providers, Windscribe offers the most traffic among the free VPNs without speed limits.
Secondly, I was able to use all the expanded functionality the apps have.
Thirdly, I could launch Windscribe on all 6 of my devices while using just one account.
What are the drawbacks of the free version?
- The speed is significantly lower than on the paid Pro plan and on some other free VPNs.
- Windflix services (streaming) are inaccessible.
- Only 10 popular countries are available.
Generally speaking, this provider is one of the best free VPN services in the current market.
In this chapter, I will describe all the drawbacks in the provider’s performance that I found during my tests of the free and paid subscriptions of Windscribe.
- Slow speeds
- Advanced protocols connection issues
- Can’t select a specific server
- iOS performance oddities
- Other flaws
While the speed of the free version has improved recently, on the paid subscription, it remained lower than that of many other VPNs. It is especially jarring in the United States and Canadian locations.
Keep in mind that I tested the speed with IKEv2 which is the fastest protocol this VPN supports.
Besides, the speed fluctuates a lot. There were multiple situations when the same VPN server had internet speeds of 1 to 15 Mbps within a single hour.
European locations work much better. In Germany, for example, I documented the speed of 69 Mbps.
The average speed of all the tested locations was around 20-30 Mbps.
Average internet speed on the free and paid subscriptions:
As you can see, the speed of the free version is significantly lower than that of the paid one on all locations but the Hong Kong one. I could barely use the Internet with it.
You can feel a considerably lower speed in the United States. It is especially so with the server for streaming (the Windflix server). You can almost never watch videos in good quality.
- Opinion. During my 7-day use of Windscribe’s free and paid versions, I had to pick the location on which I could open every website. Moreover, it didn’t depend on whether I used IKEv2 or OpenVPN. There were also such problematic locations in the United States and Europe on the free and paid versions.
Windscribe has two VPN protocols aimed at bypassing VPN blocks:
- Stealth (OpenVPN protocol encapsulation into a TLS tunnel)
- Wstunnel (OpenVPN encapsulation into WebSocket)
The issues I’ve found:
1) Stealth is many times slower than the usual OpenVPN. Its speed even on the fastest paid location would drop to 1-3 Mbps constantly. It is practically unusable on the free subscription:
2) Wstunnel did not work on my network at all. Though it does connect, the traffic doesn’t go anywhere. Not even pinging works:
I have written about the very same problems with expanded protocols in my last Windscribe review but back then, I only tested the more popular free version. And now the situation repeated itself even on the paid version of the app.
- Are you looking for a VPN to bypass censorship and VPN blocks? Here are 10 best VPN services that work even in China that we recommend.
Windscirbe offers connections to servers in 110 cities of more than 60 countries. Besides, my tests showed that many locations have more than one server.
However, you can’t choose a specific server. Windscribe decides on its own to what server the VPN channel will be installed.
It’s inconvenient mostly because your IP address may be different every time you connect. It can cause many websites than require authentication to demand email confirmation or check the user’s identity in some other way. It wastes time and can be very annoying especially when the reconnection happens on its own.
The static IP extra paid feature can solve this problem.
Windscribe for iOS is the least successful version of this app.
It would not work correctly from the get-go. The first few times, I could only connect to the VPN after reloading. The only protocol that worked was OpenVPN UDP. If I tried connecting through IKev2 first, I wasn’t able to connect on any protocol later.
At the same time, a problem with how the app behaved after a reload became apparent. If I turned the VPN (or rather, its attempts to connect) off before reloading, the VPN channel was established after it on its own and did so successfully. However, if I disconnected after, I could no longer connect again.
After having tried a dozen different combinations, I managed to make things a bit better. Yet, I still can’t call it an acceptable performance.
Moreover, I discovered serious issues with the Firewall function (another name for the kill switch):
The screenshot shows 5 cases of my real IP address getting leaked both in a Wi-Fi network and with cellular internet. This is how the Firewall function’s inability to protect the traffic and location on iOS displays itself in real-life conditions of the device usage (using it while on a move).
To summarize, Windscribe on iOS:
- Is annoyingly hard to connect to even on the paid subscription
- Is insecure to use while the smartphone is moving around.
Besides its major cons that can influence the decision of whether or not to choose this VPN service, there are ones that don’t affect the use of the VPN as much but are still worth knowing about.
No confirmation that safe DNS servers are used when disconnecting from the VPN
The provider offers a function I’ve never seen among the other VPNs. It’s called DNS while disconnected and gives you the ability to pick a DNS server that the OS will use when the VPN is inactive.
However, whatever variant I picked in the Windows 10 app (see the screenshot above), my ISP’s DNS was still determined.
No app for Linux
Windscribe offers a beta version of software for several Linux-based platforms. However, it’s not a full-fledged app but a binary command-line software.
- Windscribe supports Netflix
- No-logs policy
- Safe torrenting support
- Extra functionality
- Support of all the platforms
- Customer reviews
Let us move on to the largest and most interesting part of this review. From it, you will learn not only about the widely known benefits of Windscribe but also about what real customers have to say as well as certain hidden features of the provider.
Is Windscribe safe?
The answer to this question is yes. I conducted a test with the VPN being on and the default settings on Windows and macOS. I can confirm that Windscribe is safe with both the free and the paid plans.
Take a look at the screenshot above. You can see all the IP addresses the packets of which I intercepted with the Wireshark traffic analyzer. I did it over quite a long period of time during which I used messengers, visited websites, and launched various apps. As you see, besides the local IP address of my Wi-Fi network, there was only one outbound IP discovered. It is the address of the VPN server. No other traffic went to the network unprotected.
I also have checked the DNS servers used by the provider. I liked what I saw:
The DNS server that processes the addresses of the visited websites and the VPN servers are combined. It is considered the safest type of DNS to use with a VPN. Just as with the traffic protection, it is valid for both the paid and free versions.
Common tests for IPv6 and WebRTC leaks also showed good results.
So, Windscribe allows you to use the Internet safely, doesn’t leak IPs, traffic, and visited websites’ addresses.
After I published my last year’s review of Windscribe in which I spoke negatively about its Netflix support, I was contacted by its team. They pointed out to me that Windscribe has specialized Windflix servers that allow unblocking geo-restricted content of video streaming services.
Alrighty then… I conducted a very thorough test that lasted for 7 days and am ready to share the results with you:
- These servers do work.
- This feature is available for 4 countries.
- This is a paid-version feature only.
- All 4 locations had speeds of less than 6 Mbps.
What regions are available for Netflix?
- United States (US)
- United Kingdom (UK)
- Canada (CA)
- Japan (JP)
What quality can you watch videos in with Windscribe?
To watch video content in Full HD, you need a speed of more than 5-6 Mbps, while for 4K it has to exceed 15-20 Mbps.
Let’s take a look at this table showing approximated speeds for all 4 Windflix locations:
Based on these figures, we can conclude that you can watch videos without buffering in low to medium quality on all the locations or in Full HD with possible extra buffering for CA and UK content. The screenshot above is proof of the medium quality of the video.
I should add that the speed is highly reliant on the time of day and drops when Netflix watchers are the most active.
Hulu support test:
Windscribe supports Hulu. However, the quality is also either low or medium.
- Read also: The best VPN for Netflix
Windscribe keeps no logs. Here is what it claims on its website:
We don't keep connection logs, IP timestamps, session logs, or monitor your activity. We store when you last used Windscribe as well as the total amount of bandwidth used in a 30 day period to enforce free tier limitations and prevent abuse. This is a rolling counter and is not kept historically.
At the same time, if we compare it to the privacy policies of the providers on the best VPN list, there is one nuance. Windscribe stores the time of activity and the amount of used traffic, which must be caused by its having a free plan. For the paid subscription, though, these aren’t the best conditions in the market. NordVPN, for example, uses diskless servers that physically can’t store logs.
Windscribe for torrenting has 5 peculiarities:
1) The ability to easily set up the torrent client for 100% security is present.
2) The default settings of the VPN apps are suitable for torrenting.
3) Port forwarding is available.
4) Speeds are unstable.
5) P2P/torrenting is not allowed on every location.
Let’s dive into it.
Network Interface is easy to set up
You probably know that torrent clients such as uTorrent and qBittorrent have the Network Interface option. It allows you to choose a specific computer interface to work with the P2P network. Almost every VPN service has its own interface but very few of them name it coherently. Often, it makes the interface harder to set up for inexperienced users.
Windscribe has made it very straightforward:
Thus, no one will experience any difficulties setting the Network Interface for Windscribe.
Even without any extra tuning of the BitTorrent client, you can safely use Windscribe with torrents thanks to the kill switch being on by default.
It assures that no traffic is leaked outside of the VPN channel. I have confirmed its efficiency in the section of this review dedicated to the provider’s security.
The use of port forwarding
Sometimes, you have to set up port forwarding to use the torrent client to the fullest extent. Not many VPN services offer this function but Windscribe does.
However, to activate it, you have to buy a static IP address separately. This feature costs $2 to $8 a month for every address depending on the IP type.
I’ve mentioned before that the speed of Windscribe’s servers can be unstable.
It is also vividly seen in a file download graph from the qBittorrent app (see the screenshot at the beginning of the section). The graph “jumps” from the min to the max level. No download, of course, has a 100% constant speed but Windscribe’s speeds are particularly unstable.
Torrenting not allowed on some locations
Countries (VPN locations) where torrenting is not available with Windscribe:
- South Africa
Generally, though, Windscribe is safe for torrenting and has a few extra settings. Torrenting, however, is slower than with the competitors of this provider.
- Read also: The best VPN for torrenting
One of Windscribe’s main peculiarities is that it supports a lot of extra features and options:
- R.O.B.E.R.T. (ad blocking)
- VPN sharing
- Static IP
- Port forwarding
- VPN protocol selection
- Split tunneling
- API Resolution
- DNS while disconnected
- Config generator
- Feature-heavy browser extensions
- More connection fine-tuning
I won’t describe every single one of them in this review. However, I will provide some information that is hard to find even on the official website. It is the lists of available functions for each of the major platforms because most of the mentioned functions aren’t available for some OSs.
During the past year, Windscribe has significantly updated all of its software. It is especially apparent with the mobile apps since they have become very visually appealing and more convenient to use.
I will now describe all the differences between the provider’s performance on various platforms shortly. I will point out the visible differences and describe the results of the real-world conditions security tests of the apps.
- Windscribe for Windows
- Windscribe for Android
- Windscribe for Mac
- Windscribe for iOS
- Windscribe for Chrome
- Windscribe for TV platforms and other devices
Windscribe’s version for Windows is the most powerful one. It has almost all of features and options that this provider offers.
What characteristics and options does Windscribe have on Windows?
+ The biggest functionality among all the OSs
+ 64 countries available
+ Selection between UDP and TCP (UDP by default)
+ OpenVPN, IKEv2, Stealth, and WStunnel protocols
+ The Firewall function (Kill Switch)
+ Static IP (at a surcharge)
+ Port forwarding (only with Static IP)
+ API Resolution
+ Using via a proxy available
+ Additional connection settings
- Frequent website availability issues
- No WStunnel connectivity
- Advertisements of pre-configured routers
- No way to test the DNS while disconnected feature
- Last year’s issues with VPN share on Windows 7; VPN share unavailable on Windows 10 now.
* Opinion. Generally speaking, I did not like Windscribe for Windows. It has a lot of expanded settings on the one hand but has too many website access-related issues, which is very annoying. To make sure the problem did not lie with my network, I connected through another VPN service and the issues did not persist.
I like Windscribe for Android much better. The app has become much more user-friendly, attractive, and power-efficient after the update.
But most importantly, it proved its high level of security in the most difficult conditions that may appear in real life:
- Unstable connection and overloaded public access points
- Moving from one access point to another
- Frequent reconnections between networks and cellular internet.
In my tests, as always, I used the efficient CoolTechZone Realtime IP Logger to put down every IP address the device used after each issue occurred (the “Reconnect…” lines):
As you see in the screenshot, all the steps were successful and only the IP address of the VPN server was shown. There were no leaks of my real IP (or location).
I should emphasize that I conducted this test on both the paid and free subscription. The result was 100% satisfying in both cases.
The Android app has the following advantages and differences from the desktop version:
+ It has the Split Tunneling function.
+ The Always on VPN (Kill switch) feature is available for all versions of Android starting with 7.
+ Power efficiency is at a high level.
There are certain disadvantages that this version has too, however:
- Cannot be launched via a proxy.
For some reason, Windscribe’s app for Android is more stable than the desktop version. Perhaps, it is because there are fewer active apps.
Generally speaking, this app is the most successful one among the Windscribe software.
Windscribe VPN for macOS is almost identical to the PC version.
What peculiarities does Windscribe have on Mac?
- No VPN share mode
- No DNS while disconnected option
As to its performance, this app is the same as the Windows one. It is also safe but has connectivity and stability issues.
Read the iOS performance oddities section in the Windscribe cons chapter.
Windscribe’s app for Chrome is one of the most versatile ones in the VPN market. However, it isn’t a virtual private network but a proxy. So despite its quite a considerable functionality, it only protects the traffic of the web browser it’s installed to.
Before I enumerate the obvious advantages of the extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera, I’d like to show you an example of a speed:
Despite the proxy technology being faster than VPN, on the Windflix US location, I noticed this speed of measly 0.63 Mbps. It’s not enough to watch videos in medium or high quality.
What features does Windscribe for Chrome have?
- Browser-transmitted geo-data hiding
- Changing the browser-transmitted system time
- Various online tracking blockers
- Controlling the main VPN app from the browser
- One-click adding websites that don’t require the VPN onto the whitelist.
Despite its insufficient speed, Windscribe for Chrome is one of the best free VPN (proxy) web browser extensions.
The paid Pro plan allows you to access the config generator. This generator provides highly flexible parameters for manual settings of devices that support the IKEv2, OpenVPN, and SOCKS5 protocols.
Due to this fact, Windscribe also supports the following platforms:
- TV and set-top boxes
- Gaming consoles
It means that Windscribe supports any device that allows configuring the aforementioned three VPN protocols manually.
I should reiterate: this feature is only available to the subscribers of the paid Pro version.
Windscribe is a very popular provider. Its positive and negative sides are widely discussed online. The most vocal discussion happens on Reddit where the Windscribe support team responds to all the user comments in a timely fashion.
Here are several fresh Reddit posts.
Connectivity issues I’ve mentioned before:
The issue with certain sites being inaccessible I’ve also described in this review:
A Redditor asks for a VPN for torrenting recommendation and here is what the answer says:
Here, users praise Windscribe for its prices (more on those in the next chapter):
There are hundreds more posts and comments about Windscribe. They are quite varied, which supports the results of my tests: the provider has a lot of advantages but also some significant drawbacks.
In this chapter, I’ll talk about the paid subscription. I have told you about the free plan in detail in the Free Windscribe chapter.
Windscribe’s prices can be called low but not the lowest if you compare them to its competitors’ minimal prices for the full functionality.
However, there is an opportunity to save quite a bit of money.
The pricing of Windscribe is similar to that of most VPN services but has one important difference from them: it has a plan builder. With its help, you can use this VPN for $2 per month. Admittedly, you will be limited to 2 VPN locations in that case.
What are the peculiarities of Windscribe’s tariffs?
- There is a plan builder.
- The longest plan in 12 months.
- The static IP extra feature is available at an extra price of $2 to $8 per month for each IP address (depending on the server type).
- There is a real 40% discount on the 1-year subscription for students (verification is required).
- Team Accounts available.
- Can be bought with credit cards, PayPal, Bitcoin (via BitPay), and Paymentwall.
Windscribe VPN is available at the following prices:
- $4.08 per month on the 12-month subscription
- $9 for the 1-month subscription
- $2 and more per month with the plan builder ($1 per month for every location).
In its ToS, the provider notes that a refund is only possible if you file a cancellation request within the first 3 days of using the service and only if you haven’t spent more than 10 Gb of traffic.
We contacted the support of the service and found out that at this moment, there aren’t any vouchers (additional discounts) currently available.
At the same time, you can find tons of websites where supposedly current Windscribe vouchers are published. But this is just deception. There are no extra discounts or ways to increase the limits of the free plan as of today.
We’ll keep observing the situation with the Windscribe discount and publish any vouchers if they become available.
We also made an inquiry into a lifetime Windscribe subscription. Here’s a quote from the support team:
…and lifetime subscriptions were not available for close to a year, and will never return.
There is no lifetime Windscribe subscription anymore.
The owner of the service is Windscribe Limited. It was founded in 2015 and is based in Canada.
Windscribe Ltd doesn’t have a major public presence. Apparently, the company’s activity is centered around the VPN service. The fact that Windscribe releases updates on a fairly regular basis and its customer support replies quickly not only on the website but also on the subreddit.
The address of Windscribe Ltd:
9251 Yonge St (#8901), Richmond Hill, ON L4C 9T3, Canada
In which cases should you use Windscribe and in which you shouldn’t?
+ As a free VPN
+ Hiding the IP address (location)
+ Unblocking websites
+ Accessing any regions for streaming (at slow speeds)
+ Protection on public networks (except for the iPhone and iPad app)
+ When standard VPN settings are not enough
- Disappointing if stable and high speed is required
- Not recommended on iOS if 100% privacy is needed.
What is my personal opinion of Windscribe VPN?
The provider’s free subscription has definitely become better. The connection speed has become more adequate (before, it rarely even reached 0.5 Mpbs). I remained unimpressed with the paid subscription. While good functionality and a wide range of options were appreciated, the speed was disappointing – especially on the servers for Netflix. Compared to the VPN I use in my everyday life (and that’s true), Windscribe is discernibly weaker.
Be sure to leave your comments and questions about Windscribe below! My colleagues and I will be happy to answer.