Free VPN ads are not short on the ground, but what does ‘free’ really mean? Having taken it upon me to look at countless ‘free’ offerings it did not take long to find that many have service flaws of one kind or another (and some with combinations of them!). Those are the ones to avoid.
But, all hope is not lost, there is a handful out there worth a second glance and by connecting to one of these providers free VPN server locations you will achieve secure anonymous online access.
Let’s do a little digging before we reveal the picks that go to make up what I see as the best free VPN services currently available.
Subscription free, so what’s the catch?
If you are tempted to jump at the first free VPN download you come across, please pause, take a deep breath and mark-time.
There are literally hundreds of adverts touting free VPN offers. While they are subscription free – i.e. you are paying nothing on a monthly basis, they are not free in other ways. Here are just 3 reasons of how you will pay the piper:
- Limited data allowance
- Limited number of free VPN server locations to access
- Excessive advert interruptions
There are lots of other negatives to take into account, some far more potentially severe than others. We will touch on them as the piece progresses, but here is a major reason why well-established and proven VPN providers really do knock spots off these free VPN offers.
Robust VPN services require significant investment:
A company intent on getting into the VPN business needs global insight and significant investment in such things as:
- Equipment – Servers, routers, monitoring equipment, and billing engines et al
- Housing – A global operation has to put those servers somewhere, usually in 24/7/365 secure ‘telehouse’ type facilities or local company offices
- Bandwidth – The more the better (for us anyway!)
- IP address – purchase and ownership
- Human resource – Engineering technical expertise, sales/marketing/admin/helpdesk staff
And, a whole lot besides.
I do not work for a VPN provider and the only connection I have with them is through subscribing, taking advantage of the free VPN download on their site and gaining online access that gives me privacy, security, excellent speeds and an ability to surf the net in anonymity.
But I am aware that running robust, efficient and user-friendly systems can only come through investment, and we are not talking peanuts here.
This investment must be returned in some way if they are to claw back start-up costs, continue to expand, offer new countries of access, have the ability to get into and stay in the cat and mouse game that is geo-restriction blocks and make a profit at the end of the day. To do this someone has to pay.
That is us, the subscriber, but with reliable VPN services running at between $3-$13 a month (much less for longer term commitment) I think the prices for what is on offer are well worth it.
You pay for free VPN services in other ways:
So, we need to ask ourselves how these companies claiming to offer the best free VPN services can really offer anything comparable? The truth is; they cannot!
You can be sure that you will pay in terms of free VPN server access, available country access, slow speeds due to overloaded servers, patchy, often non-existent, customer support, regular advert interruptions and being a victim of data mining techniques that are used to harvest your personal details. These are then sold to the highest advertising bidder.
In some extremely bad cases, these free providers will even steal some of your bandwidth to feed their service!
Two other scenarios of the best free VPN services:
Things do get better, so don’t give up on me yet! Here are 2 legitimate ways that a free VPN service can be secured:
Free – Offered as part of a ‘price plan’ structure:
Some would say this is clever marketing, and I am not one to argue.
Reasonably well known along with very well-known VPN providers often have different subscription packages and then tag a free VPN service as the bottom tier.
This tempts the customer. After all, the provider has a reasonable name, it has made the most of shouting from the rooftops the full extent of its (paid for) subscription packages and make sure to let us all know that in addition, they offer a free service.
Great news. The only problem is this best free VPN service has limitations. These vary but mainly on limited free VPN server access, download limits, and simultaneously allowed connected devices. Best VPN for iPhone, Android, Windows or Mac: You’ll have to decide which device to protect!
This means many of us are more than prepared to try the free VPN download offered, but in doing so we quickly become aware of the limitations and are tempted, sometimes cajoled into upgrading to a paid package.
My comments are certainly not complaints. Indeed, they are admiration. What I would not admire of course is that if any of these free packages came with an understanding that the provider could use your personal information to sell it to any advertiser they please! So, any of you going this route should check the t&cs of use on that one.
Free – Limited time only:
This one I really like, but it needs to be sensible!
As I mentioned above, there are providers out there who treat their offering very seriously. This due diligence has seen them rise to the top of a very crowded VPN provision mountain. They offer just about everything you could want from a VPN service, but of course, they are subscription based.
However, the likes of the highly respected NordVPN, ExpressVPN, and PrivateVPN do offer 30-day, ‘no quibble’ money back guarantees. Other providers of repute offer various lengths of trial periods with similar money-back guarantee periods.
Personally, I feel 3-days is too short, 5-days not enough, but 7+-days should certainly give you time to get a good ‘feel’ for a VPN service, and, let’s face it: If you haven’t made up your mind in 30-days, will you ever?
As long as you have the money; and in the scheme of things it is not a huge amount, then taking a best free VPN trial period, with a proven ‘no quibble’ money back guarantee gives you access to the full, unrestricted services the best providers offer.
There will be no data limitations, no country limitations and no frustrations that come with access only to a small number of free VPN server locations to contend with. Skirting geo-restrictions will be achievable and you will receive top-notch security along with full customer service.
Enough! That is my take on things, but I did promise to give you:
The best free VPN providers with no subscription fees:
Hotspot Shield are an extremely popular VPN provider and their free VPN download software allows you to use their subscription-free service with 500Mb of data a day. Although you will only be able to connect with one device it is efficient in unblocking certain websites as well as for data protection.
Other limitations include access to only one USA server and no geo-restriction access for the likes of Netflix (aka Netflix error), Hula or BBCs iPlayer. You will, of course, be persuaded to upgrade, but as their premium package comes in at just $2.95 per month the temptation for a host of extras will definitely be there!
- 500Mb free each day
- Excellent encryption
- Free VPN download works across all major OS
- One-click connect
- Email helpdesk support
- 1 connected device only
- 1 free VPN server access only (USA based)
- Ads aplenty with the free version (they want that upgrade!)
- No Netflix or other streaming site access (full access with the premium package)
Seen as the ‘go to’ VPN service for those just starting out on the VPN trail, TunnelBear should be applauded for its user-friendly stance. The problem is you are limited to only 500Mb of traffic each month with the free version. Recently purchased by McAfee you can look at this as a positive or a negative!
Positive: Perfectly placed to develop top-notch security and privacy measures and the clout of a major corporation behind it.
Negative: McAfee are a US company so it remains to be seen whether current logging policy remains and what authorities can ‘access’. Until then:
- No Logging policy: A free VPN service with NO IP or Data logging
- In excess of 22 million users worldwide
- Free VPN download software works on all major devices
- Extra 1GB each month if you tweet monthly about the company
- Monthly data limit too low
- Lacking in advanced settings
- McAfee purchase means now under US jurisdiction
Very popular Malaysian-based VPN provider. Another stark example of what you get free/paid. This best free VPN provider has 30 locations worldwide but free users only get access to 3 (Singapore, Canada, and the Netherlands) although if you are in one of these countries the service is excellent for public hotspot privacy protection.
- Good selection of security protocols on offer
- Respectable speeds for a free VPN service
- Malaysian based means good for personal privacy
- 2GB Data limit
- 2GB allowance more generous than other best free VPN providers but not enough if heavy data use expected
- 3 location limitation for free service
- If upgrade to paid service please take note; no servers in USA, UK, Australia or Eastern Europe
- 10GB monthly data allowance
- Variety of countrywide server locations
- Strict no logs policy
- Aggressive ad blocker function
- Free VPN server access limited to certain countries
A very welcome newcomer. ProtonVPN are from the owners of the world’s largest secure email service – ProtonMail. It goes without saying that their privacy protection is on par with the best around. A growing reputation makes ProtonVPN another excellent choice when it comes to free VPN providers. Well worth a look.
- No data bandwidth restriction
- No logging policy
- Very easy to use, intuitive front end
- Free VPN download software a pleasure to use
- Brakes have been deliberately put on to encourage users to upgrade to paid service
- Limited server coverage (but they are expanding!)
Free, free or free!
That’s it from me, I hope my info on the best free VPN services out there has helped. You have 3 routes to that free VPN download software which once fired up will aid a secure, anonymous browsing environment. PLEASE use one of them. But please also remember that a paid VPN will always provide a better service and will give you much more protection than the free versions.
Stay alert for more articles to come on all-things online. We should all be searching for a better online experience!