Short on time? Here’s 2021’s best free VPN:
I tested all of the most popular virtual private networks (VPNs) to find the best free ones in 2021.
I’m not a big fan of free VPNs and I usually don’t recommend them, as most free VPNs lack essential security features, keep user logs, limit data usage, have slow speeds, and let you connect only one device. Also, a lot of free VPNs don’t support streaming or torrenting.
To get a full suite of standard and enhanced security features, fast speeds, unlimited data, 5 or more simultaneous connections, and streaming and torrenting support, I recommend that you upgrade to a low-cost premium VPN service (I recommend ExpressVPN).
But if you are only in the market for a free VPN, fortunately there are a handful of decent ones to choose from. All of the free VPNs on this list are secure, provide a few “extra” features, and are easy to use.
Not Free, But Affordable + So Much Better Than Every Free VPN:
ExpressVPN is my favorite VPN in 2021. In addition to protecting your data with 256-bit AES encryption, a kill switch, and an audited no-logs policy, ExpressVPN has blazing-fast speeds, unblocks 25+ streaming services (including Netflix), is P2P-friendly, and works in countries that censor the internet, like China and Iran. ExpressVPN allows up to 5 simultaneous connections, offers flexible payment plans, and backs each purchase with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Get the best VPN of 2021 here.
Quick summary of the best free VPNs in 2021:
- 1. 🥇 ProtonVPN — Best free VPN in 2021 (with unlimited data).
- 2. 🥈 Windscribe — Good streaming VPN with unlimited connections & up to 15 GB/month.
- 3. 🥉 hide.me — Decent torrenting VPN with fast speeds & 10 GB/month.
- 4. Hotspot Shield — Good for general web browsing with 500 MB/day.
- 5. TunnelBear — Beginner-friendly with excellent security features (but only 500 MB/month).
- Frequently Asked Questions about Free VPNs.
- Comparison of the Best Free VPNs in 2021.
How I Rated the Best Free VPNs in 2021:
- 100% free. Many VPNs market their free trials or money-back guarantees as free plans — hoping you will forget to cancel the service once the trial or refund period is over. While I like being able to test a service before committing to a premium plan, I’m not a fan of shady marketing tactics, so I only recommend VPNs that offer 100% free plans.
- Strong security. All of the VPNs on this list come with standard security features like 256-bit AES encryption (one of the strongest encryptions in the world that is also used by banks), a kill switch (disconnects you from the internet if your VPN connection is dropped), and a strict no-logs policy (to prevent your VPN provider from storing your personal information and online activity).
- Speed. All VPNs decrease your internet speeds due to the encryption process. Free VPNs usually have even slower speeds than premium VPNs because they only give you access to a small number of servers, which creates overcrowding and as a result slows down your connection. But all of my VPN choices offer decent speeds.
- Ease of use. All of the VPNs on this list have user-friendly apps for Android, iOS, Windows, and macOS.They are easy to download and install, allow you to connect to a server with one click, and have intuitive interfaces that make it simple to navigate the app and to find all of the provided features.
Top Brands That Didn’t Make the Cut:
- Hola VPN. Hola VPN replaces your IP address with the IP address of another Hola VPN user instead of routing your traffic through a secure and private server — this means other Hola VPN users could use your IP address in suspicious activities. Hola VPN also stores your personal information, like your IP address and the websites that you visit.
🥇 1. ProtonVPN — Best Free VPN in 2021
ProtonVPN is my favorite free VPN in 2021 — it’s the only VPN on this list that comes with unlimited data, which means it doesn’t place a cap on how much internet data you can use per day or month. Most other free VPNs place a daily or monthly limit on data usage, and once you hit that limit, you’re unable to use the VPN until the data limit resets the next day or the next month.
ProtonVPN Free also provides access to 3 VPN locations (in the Netherlands, Japan, and the US), allows you to connect 1 device, and has an intuitive interface.
While ProtonVPN claims that its free plan offers only “medium” speeds, in my tests I only experienced an average decrease of 22% in speed, which is really good. Because of ProtonVPN’s fast speeds, I was able to browse the internet without any delay, and I watched TV shows and movies in HD and without any interruptions.
I really like that ProtonVPN Free comes with enhanced security features like:
- Perfect forward secrecy. Changes your encryption key each time you connect to a server.
- Full-disk encryption. Keeps all of the data on a server unreadable.
- Split-tunneling. Allows you to choose which traffic to route through your VPN server and which traffic to route through your local network.
Also, ProtonVPN’s apps are all open-source, which means anyone can inspect the source code for any holes in security and privacy.
One of the drawbacks of ProtonVPN’s free plan is that it doesn’t allow access to dedicated streaming and torrenting servers — if you’re looking for a VPN to watch Netflix or download files, you’ll need to upgrade to one of ProtonVPN’s paid plans.
ProtonVPN offers 3 premium plans: Basic, Plus, and Visionary. ProtonVPN Basic includes access to 350+ servers in 40+ countries, 2 connections, “high” speeds, P2P support, and NetShield (an ad blocker). ProtonVPN Plus adds access to 1,200+ servers in 55+ countries, 10 connections, the “highest” speeds, access to streaming servers, Tor over VPN, and more. ProtonVPN Visionary adds a ProtonMail account.
ProtonVPN is no doubt the best free VPN I tested — you get unlimited data, access to 3 servers, and pretty good speeds. ProtonVPN also includes enhanced security features like perfect forward secrecy and has open-source apps that have been inspected for security flaws. Upgrading to ProtonVPN’s premium plans adds more servers in more countries, streaming and torrenting servers, faster speeds, up to 10 connections, an ad blocker, and much more.
🥈2. Windscribe — Best Free Streaming VPN with Unlimited Connections
Windscribe includes good security features, provides unlimited simultaneous connections, and unblocks Netflix and many other streaming services. In my tests, Windscribe was able to access Netflix UK, US, Canada, France, and Germany, as well as Hulu, Disney+, and BBC iPlayer.
Windscribe also has pretty good speeds. I had an average decrease in speed of 31%, which is really good for a free VPN (many premium VPNs have slower speeds). Websites loaded fast on local servers and took 3-4 seconds to load on distant servers, and all of the TV shows and movies loaded right away, played in HD, and without any buffering
Windscribe allows you to access servers in 15 locations, in 10 different countries, and it displays the latency (the time that it takes for the signal to travel from your device to the VPN server) for each server so you can choose the fastest one. Windscribe places a limit of 10 GB of data per month, which is pretty generous, and you can get an additional 5 GBs through tweeting at the VPN.
Windscribe’s Free plan also comes with extras like an ad, malware, and tracker blocker, port forwarding, and split-tunneling (allowing you to exclude both apps and IP addresses).
Windscribe offers 1-month and 1-year premium plans that include unlimited data and access to servers in 60+ countries. Windscribe also lets you build your own premium plan, and all Windscribe purchases are backed by a 3-day money-back guarantee.
Windscribe’s free plan unblocks popular streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, and BBC iPlayer, allows unlimited simultaneous connections, and has pretty good speeds. You get 10 GB of data a month (and can add 5GB by tweeting to Windscribe) and access to 15 server locations in 10 countries. The free plan supports torrenting and includes cool features like an ad and malware blocker, split-tunneling, and port forwarding. Upgrading to one of Windscribe’s premium plans adds unlimited data and access to servers in 60+ countries.
🥉3. hide.me — Best Free VPN for Torrenting
hide.me is a good free VPN for downloading files — it maintains fast speeds (my average drop in speed was 24%), works with all popular torrenting clients, and provides 10 GB per month, which is enough data to download a handful of files.
hide.me’s free plan is also decent at unblocking streaming services. I was able to access Netflix as well as Hulu and Amazon Prime, and the content loaded in less than 3 seconds and played without any glitches. Unfortunately, hide.me is unable to access HBO Max and Disney+.
hide.me comes with a few really useful extras, including split tunneling and full leak protection. I ran a leak test when I connected to a server in each location, and each test resulted in 0 leaks.
I’m also a fan of hide.me’s kill switch, which allows you to disable local network connections and whitelist IP addresses. And I also like Stealth Guard, which allows you to choose specific apps or even your entire internet connection to work only if you’re connected to the VPN. Both the kill switch and Stealth Guard provide extra security against leaks during torrenting.
hide.me allows you to connect to a server in 5 locations (East Coast and West Coast in the US, Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands), and the free plan comes with 1 connection. Upgrading to hide.me’s paid plans adds unlimited data, access to 1,900+ servers located in 75 locations, and 10 simultaneous connections.
hide.me is a good free torrenting VPN — it’s secure, easy to use, fast, and includes great tools to keep you safe when you download files, including a kill switch, Stealth Guard, and full leak protection. hide.me’s free plan is also a decent choice for streaming, and it comes with 10 GB a month, one connection, and access to 5 servers. When you upgrade to hide.me’s premium plan, you get unlimited data, 10 connections, and access to servers in 75 locations.
4. Hotspot Shield — Good for Web Browsing (with Decent Speeds)
Hotspot Shield’s free plan allows you to connect only one device, provides access to one server (in the US), and has a daily limit of 500 MB/per day. While this data allowance might not sound like a lot, Hotspot Shield actually gives you more data per month (15 GB) than most free VPNs on the market. That said, I don’t like that any unused data isn’t rolled over to the next day.
I also don’t like that Hotspot Shield throttles internet speeds to just 2 Mbps. However, in my tests, websites took 2-3 seconds to load, and I was able to watch videos on YouTube in standard definition without any buffering (but keep in mind you only get enough daily data to watch videos for about 30 minutes).
Unfortunately, Hotspot Shield’s free plan doesn’t support streaming — you’ll need to upgrade to one of Hotspot Shield’s paid plans to access top streaming sites like Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and others.
Hotspot Shield’s Premium and Premium Family plans both allow unlimited streaming, have fast speeds (with no speed throttling), provide access to servers in 80+ countries, and let you connect up to 25 devices at the same time.
Hotspot Shield’s free plan comes with 500 MBs per day, access to one server, and one connection. When you upgrade to a paid subscription plan, Hotspot Shield adds unlimited data, access to 1,800+ servers in 80+ countries, fast speeds, streaming and torrenting support, and extra features like split-tunneling and a malware and phishing blocker.
5. TunnelBear — Best VPN for New Users (But Only 500 MB/Month)
TunnelBear has a very intuitive dashboard across all apps — all of its features are well-designed and easy to access, and there are cute bear cartoons all over the apps that help you understand and use all of the functions.
TunnelBear’s free plan includes access to all of its servers in 40+ countries, which makes it very simple to find a server that’s closest to your real location to get the best speeds. In my tests, TunnelBear had pretty good speeds — my average internet connection dropped by only 35%, which is comparable to premium paid competitors like PrivateVPN.
It’s also great that TunnelBear gives free subscribers full access to its premium features, including GhostBear, which overcomes VPN blocks in countries that restrict internet access, and SplitBear, TunnelBear’s split-tunneling tool that lets you choose which apps to route through the VPN tunnel. Plus, TunnelBear lets all free subscribers install TunnelBear on up to 5 devices.
Unfortunately, TunnelBear Free has a monthly data limit of only 500 MB. While there’s an option to get an extra 1GB by mentioning TunnelBear on social media, it’s still only enough data to browse the internet for a few hours. To get unlimited data, you’ll need to upgrade to one of TunnelBear’s premium plans.
TunnelBear is really easy to use, maintains good speeds, and provides free users with access to all of its features. However, TunnelBear’s free plan only gives you 500 MB/per month, which is barely enough to watch a couple of short videos. Upgrading to TunnelBear’s 1-year, 2-year, or 3-year plan gives you unlimited data.
Comparison of the Best Free VPNs in 2021:
|VPN||Data Usage Limits||Connection Speed Limits||Compatibility||Split-Tunneling||Server Locations|
|1.🥇 ProtonVPN||Unlimited||Provides “medium” speeds||Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, and Linux||Yes (Android and Windows)||USA, Netherlands, and Japan|
|2.🥈 Windscribe||Up to 15 GB per month||No speed limit||Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Chrome, Opera, Firefox, and Amazon Fire TV,||Yes (Android)||USA, Canada, Germany, France, Netherlands, Romania, Norway, Hong Kong, Switzerland, and the UK|
|3.🥉 hide.me||10 GB per month||No speed limits||iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, Linux, Chrome, Firefox, and Amazon Fire TV||Yes (Android, Windows, and Mac)||US East, US West, Canada, Netherlands, and Germany|
|4. Hotspot Shield||500 MB per day||2 Mbps||Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, and Chrome||Yes (Android and Windows)||US only|
|5. TunnelBear||500 MB per month||No speed limits||iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, Linux, Chrome, Opera, and Firefox||Yes (Android)||40+ locations|
Free VPNs – Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the best free VPN?
ProtonVPN is my #1 pick for the best free VPN in 2021. ProtonVPN Free comes with unlimited data, has above-average speeds for a free VPN, and allows you to connect to 3 locations (Japan, the US, and the Netherlands). ProtonVPN Free also has high-level security and privacy features and “extras” like split-tunneling.
But all of the free VPNs on this list are decent. Windscribe is a good choice for streaming and it provides unlimited simultaneous connections, hide.me is a decent option for torrenting, Hotspot Shield has good speeds, and TunnelBear is easy to use and perfect for someone who has never used a VPN before.
Are free VPNs safe?
Most free VPNs aren’t safe — some free VPNs lack industry-standard security features, some store your data and personal information, and some even come bundled with malware.
But if you’re only in the market for a free VPN, I recommend the free VPNs on this list. My top 3 choices — ProtonVPN, Windscribe, and hide.me — all have really good security features, a strict no-logs policy, and decent speeds.
Are free VPNs legal?
Yes, free VPNs (and premium VPNs) are perfectly legal in most countries, but there are some exceptions — countries like China, Iran, Indonesia, North Korea, and a few others have banned the use of VPNs. If you’re caught using a VPN in a country that has banned VPNs, you could face a stiff fine or even jail time.
If you’re using a VPN in a country that allows VPNs, just be cautious with how you use it because it’s illegal to use a VPN to commit a crime. But as long as you use a VPN for legal purposes, there’s nothing to worry about.
Do Free VPNs Unblock Netflix and other streaming platforms?
Yes, there are some free VPNs that are able to bypass geoblocked streaming services, but most aren’t very good for Netflix.
If you want a reliable VPN that consistently unblocks Netflix and other streaming apps, I recommend purchasing a premium VPN like ExpressVPN.