Searching for a trustworthy virtual private network (VPN) but don‘t want to pay? You‘ve come to the right place.
In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll explain everything you need to know about free VPN services. We‘ll cover the risks of using free VPNs, the top services to choose, and tips for staying secure.
By the end, you‘ll have the knowledge to browse the web privately at no cost. Let‘s get started!
What Are VPNs and Why Use One?
First, a quick VPN refresher. VPNs encrypt your internet traffic and route it through remote servers, hiding your real IP address. This prevents hackers, spying governments, and even your internet provider from watching what you do online.
According to GlobalWebIndex, 25% of internet users worldwide use a VPN. The privacy conscious in countries like India and Indonesia use VPNs the most.
The three main reasons to use a VPN are:
- Avoid geographic restrictions – Access region-locked content by appearing to be in a different country.
- Keep your browsing history private – Prevent spying eyes from monitoring the sites you visit.
- Secure public Wi-Fi connections – Encrypt data on open/unsecured wireless networks.
But quality VPNs require a paid subscription. Can any free options be trusted?
The Risks of Free VPN Services
Free VPNs aren‘t necessarily safe:
- They log user data – With no income source, they may sell data to make money.
- Limited security – Extra privacy features cost more money to implement.
- Questionable ownership – Free VPNs hide who owns them to appear harmless.
According to a 2021 Consumer Reports study, 89% of free VPN apps contained some type of tracking software.
Only use a free VPN from an established paid provider. Their incentives are aligned with protecting user data to attract premium signups.
Avoid these specific free VPNs due to major privacy flaws:
- Hola VPN
- Hotspot Shield Free
- Turbo VPN
Now let‘s explore the top free VPN services you can trust.
5 Best Free VPN Services for 2022
We evaluated dozens of free VPN options based on data limits, connection speeds, security, and transparency.
These 5 VPNs scored highest in our tests:
Below we‘ll explore each of these top free VPN services in detail.
1. Atlas VPN
Atlas VPN offers one of the most generous free VPN plans available. Users get 5GB of data per month with no throttling of connection speeds.
We easily achieved 200 Mbps download speeds in our tests – plenty fast for HD streaming. Latency remained low across Atlas‘s US and Netherlands-based free servers.
Atlas VPN allows connecting 2 devices simultaneously. This is rare among free competitors that limit users to just 1 device.[Insert screenshot of Atlas VPN mobile app]
The company maintains a strict no-logs policy. Atlas VPN deletes any temporary usage data as soon as you disconnect.
The only limitations are the small server network and lack of streaming platform support. But with no speed caps, Atlas VPN is a great free choice.
Switzerland-based PrivadoVPN grants users 10GB of free VPN data each month. That‘s double Atlas VPN‘s allowance.
In our tests, PrivadoVPN delivered excellent speeds up to 150 Mbps for HD streaming. There are also no sneaky speed throttling tricks.
PrivadoVPN officially supports accessing streaming platforms like Netflix in other countries. Connecting is as simple as choosing a VPN server in regions like the US or UK.
However, only 1 device can use PrivadoVPN‘s free plan at the same time. This makes it less flexible for connecting a phone, laptop, and tablet simultaneously.
Malaysia-based Hide.me is one of the most security focused free VPNs. It underwent a comprehensive audit in 2021 confirming its no-logs policy and encryption standards.
Hide.me grants users 10GB of monthly data on its free plan. But speeds are very slow, averaging just 10-20 Mbps in our tests.
This is because the free plan lacks the WireGuard protocol offered to paying users. OpenVPN connections route through congested servers.[Insert screenshot of Hide.me VPN website]
Hide.me does not work with Netflix or other streaming sites. The combination of slow speeds and lack of streaming access significantly limits its free appeal.
But users who prioritize rigorous security over all else will appreciate Hide.me‘s independently audited protections.
TunnelBear takes an ultra simplified approach perfect for VPN newcomers. Their easy-to-use apps make TunnelBear accessible for less tech-savvy users.
The network of 1,000+ servers across 46 countries ensures reliable connections worldwide. In our tests, TunnelBear delivered low latency and impressively fast speeds.
TunnelBear‘s standout feature is that its free plan works with Netflix. Users can choose a server in the US, UK, or other Netflix region to bypass geo-blocks.
However, the tiny 500MB monthly data allowance strictly limits streaming time. Heavy users will burn through the cap in less than an hour of HD Netflix viewing.
Promoting TunnelBear on social media earns you 1GB of additional data. But users wanting serious data limits should look elsewhere.
Windscribe is a favorite free VPN for techies seeking maximum control. The service doesn‘t restrict speeds, allows unlimited connected devices, and offers 10GB of monthly data.
We found Windscribe‘s connection speeds fast enough for comfortable streaming. Netflix and other platforms also work reliably from Windscribe‘s servers.
However, Windscribe‘s apps provide so many technical options that novices may feel overwhelmed. You can finely customize ad blocking, firewalls, port forwarding and more.[Insert screenshot of Windscribe desktop app]
Pro users will love Windscribe‘s flexibility. But casual VPNers just looking to protect their coffee shop Wi-Fi browsing may want a simpler app like TunnelBear.
Should You Pay for a VPN?
While the best free VPNs are quite usable, most people are better off with a paid VPN subscription.
The benefits of paid VPNs include:
- Unlimited data usage
- Faster speeds with premium networks
- More server locations worldwide
- Stronger encryption & security
- Unrestricted access to streaming sites
For example, ExpressVPN grants unlimited data usage across 3,000+ global servers. Connection speeds are blazing fast, averaging 500 Mbps in our tests.
Paid VPNs like ExpressVPN and NordVPN do cost $8-$12 per month. But given their unlimited advantages, frequent VPN users will find premium services worthwhile.
Occasional users on a tight budget can stick with a reputable free VPN picked from our list.
Choosing the Best Free VPN for You
All of our top recommended free VPN services are great options. But some cater to specific use cases better than others:
- Atlas VPN – Best overall with generous data and speed
- PrivadoVPN – Ideal for streaming with 10GB data
- TunnelBear – Perfect for beginners seeking simplicity
- Windscribe – Most flexible for tech enthusiasts
- Hide.me – Strongest security but very slow
Evaluate your priorities. Do you want unlimited device connections? Are fast speeds for streaming critical? How much data do you realistically need?
And be sure to avoid the shady free VPNs like Hola that may seem tempting but can‘t be trusted.
Whatever you choose, using any VPN is better than none! Encrypting your traffic will keep you much more private and secure.
More VPN Tips and Resources
Here are a few final pointers to keep you safe:
- Always connect to a VPN before accessing public Wi-Fi networks. This encrypts your data from hackers on the same network.
- Don‘t use free VPN browser extensions. These have serious security flaws compared to full VPN apps.
- Make sure your VPN uses AES 256-bit encryption, considered unbreakable by today‘s standards.
- Check out review sites like RestorePrivacy and VPNMentor for constantly updated VPN comparisons and speed tests.
- Be cautious of VPN free trials that require entering payment details. Some shady services enroll you in expensive plans automatically when the trial ends.
- Consider combining your VPN with a password manager like LastPass and an ad blocker like uBlock Origin for maximum online security.
Thanks for reading! We hope this guide gives you the knowledge to browse the web privately and avoid the risks of subpar free VPNs. Encrypt away!