Stay protected on a budget

Staying protected online shouldn’t cost you a fortune, and with our collection of the best free VPNs, you don’t have to spend a penny.

In 2024, the importance of having a dedicated VPN as you surf the web cannot be understated. As word of hacks and ongoing cyber attacks pop up in the newscycle on a near weekly basis, the need for a substantial barrier around your personal information has never felt more necessary.

For those who don’t know, a VPN (virtual private network) lets you browse the internet via a different IP address to the one natively allocated to the device you’re using. This means that when you’re connected to the Wi-Fi, bad actors can’t accurately track down your location or infiltrate your device via an IP route, keeping you and your data safe.

If you want the most robust VPN service out there then you’re better off checking out our rundown of the best VPN around. That guide features paid subscriptions, and within that, a wider array of security features on top of the VPN itself. If your budget doesn’t quite cover that however then this article is the place to be.

Just like how we test paid VPNs, free VPNs are subject to the same level of scrutiny, conducting a variety speed tests as well as unearthing whether a particular company employs a no-logging policy, a lack of which means said company is storing your browsing history. These are the types of things that are tough to know upfront but are essential when it comes to deciding which free VPN to sign up for.

You can rest assured that all of the services that feature in this list have done so off the back of a positive review from one of our writers. If you want to expand your online security beyond a free VPN, we also have a breakdown of the best free antivirus.

How we test

Learn more about how we test VPNs For this free VPN service test, we’ve used a cut-down version of the full-scale download speed tests we use to rank our Best VPNs, using smaller files of around 60MB and only testing HTTP throughput.This means that we can accurately compare services that have a bandwidth cap, but have slightly reduced average download speeds across the board.As always, data transfer tests only ever represent a snapshot of performance from a single endpoint server at a specific time, although we can refer back to the results of previous tests to obtain a broader picture of how a given service has evolved.In all cases, we’ve recorded the best speeds we were able to obtain for each provider during our test period

ProtonVPN

Best overall free VPN

Pros

Unlimited-bandwidth free tierWide range of endpoint countriesPaid version is great for streamingQuick download speeds

Cons

Subscriptions renew at a higher rate

ProtonVPN remains our top recommended free VPN, following a new performance group test at the end of 2022. Despite being available for free, it posted some of the very best speeds we’ve seen from a VPN.

The unlimited bandwidth is the best reason to use ProtonVPN though, allowing you to surf the web for as long as you want each month without worry of running out of data. Most other free VPNs, such as TunnelBear and Windscribe, cap your bandwidth for each month, which we found to be very restrictive. This is especially true if you want to watch a video while your VPN is activated in the background.

Of course, there are limitations with free VPNs, as ProtonVPN limits you to just three country endpoints – the US, the Netherlands and Japan. That could be an issue if you want to use a server in a specific location, and is dwarfed by other VPN services, such as ExpressVPN with endpoints in a whopping 94 countries.

We also found out that you won’t get access to the P2P, Tor, secure streaming and Secure Core servers which are exclusive to paying subscribers.

Our extensive research shows that ProtonVPN is very transparent about how it operates. It clearly details any requests it gets from law enforcement agencies. As a no-logging service, it notes that it has no data to provide. Although it can’t be ignored that ProtonVPN is based in Switzerland, which isn’t the best location for cast-iron privacy guarantees.

ProtonVPN’s wide range of supported platforms and unlimited bandwidth makes this VPN a must-have in your free privacy arsenal, although you should fire up rival Windscribe or TunnelBear if you want access to more endpoints.

Reviewer: K.G. OrphanidesFull Review: ProtonVPN Review

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Windscribe

Best jack-of-all trades free VPN

Pros

Generous free tierWide range of endpoint countries

Cons

Some rivals are fasterOnly five WireGuard connections can be registered at any given time

Windscribe is an excellent all-rounder free VPN, coming with a generous 10GB monthly bandwidth which we found to be sufficient for casual use. That may pale in comparison to ProtonVPN’s unlimited bandwidth, but to make up for that, you’re given access to a greater number of endpoints. 

Free users get access to endpoints in 10 countries – the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Norway and Romania. We were really impressed with this amount of flexibility, although the likes of TunnelBear proves to be even better in this area, with endpoints in 49 different countries. 

After testing the VPN for an extended period, we found Windscribe to offer a wide range of useful security features, as well as a clear no-logging policy and regular updates for a transparency report showing how many data requests it receives from law enforcement. Windscribe notes that: “Exactly zero requests were complied with due to lack of relevant data.”

It may not have a killer feature, but Windscribe’s generous offering for both the number of endpoints and amount of monthly bandwidth make it one of the most versatile free VPNs available – but ProtonVPN is still worth checking out since our tests showed it to have substantially faster speeds.

Reviewer: K.G. OrphanidesFull Review: Windscribe Review

TunnelBear VPN

Best for multiple endpoints

Pros

Free version availableClear no-logging policyWide platform support and sophisticated security featuresInexpensive annual subscription

Cons

Free service provides relatively limited bandwidthSubscription fee increases upon renewal

TunnelBear allows access to a whipping 49 different countries via its free tier, showing a far greater deal of flexibility than ProtonVPN’s three country endpoints. During the review process, we found the app to be easy to use, letting you use a digital world map to select an endpoint in the country of your choice. This makes TunnelBear very useful if you want to use an endpoint in a specific location. 

However, the biggest issue with TunnelBear VPN is that its free tier only provides 500MB of bandwidth, preventing you from keeping it activated 24/7 as you browse the web. Windscribe offers a far more generous 10GB of monthly bandwidth, while ProtonVPN boasts unlimited usage, making them more appealing if you need to use a VPN frequently. 

That said, TunnelBear performed very well in our speed tests, with our benchmark data showing it to be quicker than Windscribe, and even some paid-for options such as Perfect Privacy and HMA VPN. 

But while this is a great VPN for the security conscious due to its explicit no-logging policy and speedy performance, you’ll need to look elsewhere if you want to stream, torrent or simply crave more data allowance.

Reviewer: K.G. OrphanidesFull Review: TunnelBear Review

We also considered…

VPNHub Premium

VPNHub’s performance and features are very good – it’s real problem is pricing

FAQs

Which free VPN is best? Our current favourite free VPN is ProtonVPN due to its high speeds and unlimited bandwidth. However, Windscribe is a solid alternative if you want a greater variety of endpoints. Are free VPNs safe? If you’re worried about a free VPN selling your data, then make sure it has a no-logging policy, as this means it does not store or collect your data. Better still, check to see whether the VPN has been audited to see whether their claims are proven. All of the VPNs on this list are safe, as they make money either through adverts or by trying to incentivize you to spend money on the paid-for subscription.

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