There’s no shortage of VPN apps when it comes to Windows, the world’s most popular operating system for home PCs. The platform is also very accommodating to all sorts of solutions, including open source apps that allow you to create your own VPN server, not to mention that you can also use a simple browser extension as well.
Then again, Windows is also known for having the most malware and security issues, which is why free VPNs are not the best idea. Installing things on your computer is a surefire way to expose yourself to a variety of security risks, especially in the case of a tool that’s meant to take over your Internet traffic. With that being said, there are still a few safe alternatives currently on the market.
Why Free Windows VPNs Are Worse Than Paid VPNs
When it comes to Windows, people are pretty used to finding all sorts of free or even open-source alternatives to popular apps. The main issue in the case of VPNs, however, is that it is simply not possible for such a service to be entirely free. While the protocols are indeed free in some cases (such as OpenVPN), the infrastructure needed costs a lot of money to be maintained and operated.
Windows is also the most vulnerable platform in terms of malware, even though it came a long way in the last few years. Because of this, many free VPNs can infect your computer with viruses or even mine Bitcoin behind your back while the app is running.
In addition, there are also free browser extensions designed to run only within Chrome or Firefox. This may sound like a better deal, but in many cases, these extensions can also peek at your traffic or even steal your personal information whenever you log into your various online accounts.
User privacy is not a concern for most free VPNs, mainly because they rely on selling your data and browsing habits to advertisers. As mentioned before, a server infrastructure is not cheap, and a free service has to make money somehow. In this case, the money comes from selling data to third parties.
The other downsides are not as severe, but they are certainly annoying. Free VPNs often impose restrictions in terms of speed, which can make the experience of watching a movie extremely unpleasant due to excessive buffering or dropped frames.
Data caps are part of the deal as well, meaning that you are restricted to a set amount of traffic every month. In some cases, these data allowances are decent enough to let you browse your favorite websites for a few hours every day, but that’s not always the case.
As you can see, sticking with a free VPN is not really a great choice. In case you change your mind and decide to invest in a paid service, our top recommendation is ExpressVPN. You can read more about what it has to offer in your dedicated review.
Alternatively, you can check out great paid VPNs for Windows. It’s even possible to give some of them a go by creating a trial account, especially since no credit card is required in some cases.
How to Use a Free VPN on Windows
- Download or subscribe to one of the VPNs featured on this list. Our top recommendation is ProtonVPN.
- Install the app on your computer.
- Run the app and connect to a server.
- Start browsing the Internet.
5 Best Free VPNs for Windows
With that being said, we have managed to find a couple of free VPNs that do not sell your data or infect your PC with malware. Keep in mind that all of these services have data caps, however, and in some cases, they also throttle connection speeds. Hence, here are our top 5 picks for the best free Windows VPNs:
1. ProtonVPN – Best for Streaming Movies
There’s no better alternative than ProtonVPN in the case of Windows, and it’s not difficult to see why. Unlike every other free VPN on this list, ProtonVPN does not have a data cap, which means you are free to use it for as long as you wish. It’s even a good solution for streaming media, although you do have to take into consideration a couple of drawbacks as well.
The first one of these is the fact that you are limited in terms of bandwidth. Speed throttling can make life difficult if you are trying to download files or stream high-quality movies, especially if your Internet connection is very fast without a VPN. Latency can also be an issue, which comes into play if you want to enjoy competitive video games.
Furthermore, there’s also the matter of available servers and locations. ProtonVPN offers only three countries to choose from, which is incredibly low by today’s standards. On the other hand, these countries are spread over three continents, which should at the very least offer everyone a relatively stable connection.
The free version comes without some of the advanced features one can enjoy in the full version, including ad-blocking and better obfuscation methods. You can work around this issue with other tools if you really want to, but it’s definitely a hassle, especially if you are not particularly tech-savvy.
Lastly, it’s also worth pointing out that you have to create an account in order to use the service. Because of this, only one device can be active at any given time, which means that you cannot have it running on your phone or tablet at the same time.
Read more about ProtonVPN in our extensive review.
- No annoying data caps
- Privacy-oriented company
- The app software is open source
- Easy-to-use for newbies
- Decent customization options
- Limited server count
- Only one connection per account
2. Windscribe – Best Free VPN That Doesn’t Need an Account
Unlike ProtonVPN, Windscribe has a different approach. You are offered a lot more servers and locations, as well as the freedom to enjoy unlimited parallel connections, but you are limited to 10GB of traffic per month. Coupled with the fact that there are no speed restrictions either, Windscribe may just be the better alternative for a lot of people, depending on your specific needs.
The higher number of available locations means that it’s a lot easier to find a nearby server while connecting, which should also help with latency. Granted, you are still not allowed to access the full array of servers that’s part of the paid version, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction if latency is what you are most concerned about.
No speed throttling also comes in handy if you are a fan of streaming movies, at least in theory. As such, while you may be able to watch your favorite TV shows in crystal-clear quality, keep in mind that a higher video bitrate also means more data that needs to be downloaded. The 10GB are not even enough to watch a 4K movie in its entirety, so you are not gaining much, unfortunately.
On the other hand, Windscribe does not require an account or an email address. All you have to do is download the Windows app and install it, after which you can start using it as you wish. Thanks to this, it’s also possible to install the VPN on other devices as well, such as on your Android or iOS devices. Not many free VPNs offer this possibility.
As a bonus, the app even includes split-tunneling functionality. This allows you to carefully pick which apps go through the VPN connection and which ones can safely ignore it. Whitelisting the Netflix app is the best choice under these circumstances – otherwise, you will burn through your data allowance in a matter of hours.
Find out everything there is to know about Windscribe by checking out our review.
- Comes with split-tunneling functionality
- Plenty of servers and locations to choose from
- No account needed to start using the app
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- No speed throttling
- 10GB/month data cap
3. Hide.me – Best Choice for Torrenting
Just like Windscribe, Hide.me has a 10GB/month data cap, which restricts your ability to download large files or watch movies. Unfortunately, Hide.me also has a couple of other drawbacks that make it inferior to Windscribe, such as fewer servers and locations to choose from or the fact that you need an account in order to start using the app.
The number of available locations is limited to four, which is still better than ProtonVPN, at least. The good news is that the speed restrictions are gone as well, with no throttling of any kind to impede your web browsing. Obviously, this can sometimes depend on your geographical location since it’s still possible to struggle with latency if you are far away from the available servers.
Since you need an account to start using the service, you are also limited to a single connection, thus making it impossible to switch between devices unless you take the time to disconnect first. This is not a major issue in the case of a free VPN, however, and you already have other restrictions to deal with anyway.
Hide.me is also quite lenient when it comes to P2P traffic, which means that you can safely download torrents without speed throttling. Naturally, downloading torrents is not a good idea if you only have 10GB to work with. It comes in handy in a pinch, however, and it’s nice to know this fact if you are planning to switch to the paid version in the future.
We discuss Hide.me at length in our full review.
- Great connection speeds
- A decent number of servers
- Plenty of advanced settings
- Allows P2P traffic
- 10GB/month data cap
4. Speedify – Best Choice for VPN Newbies
Things are only getting worse in terms of restrictions from this point on, which is why Speedify is fairly low on our list. The biggest drawback, in this case, is that you are limited to a tiny 2GB/month data cap, thus making it nearly impossible to do anything but read the news. Even so, that may be exactly what some people are looking for, and Speedify has a few other tricks up its sleeve.
For starters, there are no restrictions in terms of servers and locations. In fact, the full array of servers is available to the free users as well, with dozens of countries to choose from. Thanks to this, it should be easy to quickly find a nearby server and take full advantage of your Internet connection, especially in terms of latency.
Unfortunately, you won’t be binge-watching Netflix anytime soon, and YouTube is out of the question as well. 2GB is barely enough for two movies if you keep the quality as low as possible, which in this case means 480p. On Windows, 480p is a lot more grating than on a smartphone or a tablet since you are usually using a fairly large monitor.
Lastly, an account is needed to start using the service. Due to this, only one active connection is allowed per account. If Windows is your only concern, this fact should be a dealbreaker. On the other hand, people who want the freedom to switch between multiple devices will find it rather annoying, so keep that in mind.
Find out everything there is to know about Speedify by reading our review.
- Many servers and locations to choose from
- Great speeds across the board
- Very intuitive user interface
- Minimal latency
- 2GB/month data limit
5. TunnelBear – Best Choice Against Censorship
TunnelBear is at the bottom of this list for a reason, even though the service itself is pretty well-regarded in the community. Hence, even if the privacy factor is pretty strong and you have plenty of advanced options at your disposal, the 500MB/month data cap makes it very hard to be a fan of the free version, especially on Windows.
Just like Speedify, TunnelBear does not restrict you in terms of servers and locations. You are free to choose between all of the available locations, even if you can only do so for a couple of hours at most. There are no speed restrictions either, although that is clearly not a problem when you have so little traffic to work with in the first place.
While TunnelBear does require an account to log into the app, you are free to have up to five simultaneous connections at any given time. As nice as that may sound on paper, don’t forget that the 500MB limit is per account, not per device. Hence, you need to carefully choose when you want to activate the VPN, and it should better be for a good reason.
As mentioned before, the app includes the full functionality of the paid version. In essence, this allows you to make use of every advanced feature, including some neat ones like GhostBear. Thanks to this, you can easily obfuscate your Internet traffic and make it look like regular traffic, making it impossible for anyone to detect that you are using a VPN.
Read our in-depth review to find out more about TunnelBear’s features.
- Many advanced settings and features
- Up to five simultaneous connections
- Simple interface
- No server restrictions
- No speed throttling
- 500MB/month data cap
Below you can find answers to some of the most commonly-asked questions regarding free Windows VPNs. If you have other queries, feel free to use the comment section.
Is There a Free VPN for Windows?
Yes, there are a number of them available for free. Our list includes the best five free VPNs for Windows at the moment, each one of which has its own upsides and downsides, depending on your requirements.
Which Free VPN Is the Best for PC?
If you are running Windows on a PC, the best free VPN you can get right now is ProtonVPN. It features no data caps, allowing you to browse the Internet for as long as you wish.
Are Free VPNs Safe?
All VPNs listed in this article are safe to use, mainly because they do not feature ads. They rely on premium memberships in order to pay for the infrastructure, which is definitely not the case for many other free VPNs that show ads or sell your data to the highest bidder.
Can Hackers Get Through a VPN?
Yes, there is nothing a VPN can do to protect you from hackers. The best way to protect yourself is by not visiting shady websites, not opening emails from people you don’t know, and by making sure you don’t install unknown software on your PC.