Best Free VPN

We tested five free VPNs to find out which is the fastest and offers the best benefits.
Best overall
ProtonVPN
Proton VPN Free
  • pro
    Fast download speed
  • con
    Slow upload speed
  • pro
    Unlimited data
Best for some streaming
Privado VPN
Privado VPN Free
  • pro
    Fastest download speed
  • pro
    Fast upload speed
  • pro
    10 GB monthly limit
Best server selection
Tunnel Bear
TunnelBear Free
  • con
    Low download speed
  • pro
    Fast upload speed
  • con
    1.5 GB monthly limit
Best for US-only servers
Hotspot Shield
Hotspot Shield Basic
  • con
    Average download speed
  • pro
    Fastest upload speed
  • pro
    500 MB daily limit
Best settings options
Hide.me VPN logo
Hide.me
  • con
    Slowest download speed
  • con
    Slowest upload speed
  • pro
    10 GB monthly limit

Not everyone can afford a paid VPN service, but you don't need to settle for your internet service provider's default privacy and security options. Instead, get a free VPN to help you, like Proton VPN Free, our top pick.

It's not a complete substitute for a paid virtual private network, but we love its fast download speeds, great server selection, and unlimited data. See how Proton VPN Free compares to our other free VPN picks in hands-on tests and why it claims the top prize.



Compare the best VPNs

Service
Best for
Countries in free version
Download speedIcon Tooltip  Dark
Data limit in free version
Kill switch
Learn more
Best overall 3206.1 MbpsNo data limit
Icon Yes  LightYes
Best for some streaming 9266.7 Mbps10 GB
per month
Icon Yes  LightYes
Best server selection 48+61.8 MbpsUp to 1.5 GB
per month
Icon Yes  LightYes
Best for US-only servers 182.1 Mbps500 MB
per day
Icon No  LightNo
Best settings options 425.9 Mbps10 GB
per month
Icon Yes  LightYes

Info current as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Reviews: Best free VPNs

1. Proton VPN Free: Best overall

Best overall
ProtonVPN

Info current as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Proton VPN Free is the best free VPN service for folks wanting always-on privacy and protection because it doesn't limit how much data you can use. It also boasts fast download speeds and has one of the best selections of servers in our lineup.

pro
Pros
pro No data limit
pro Fast download speeds
pro Excellent server selection
con
Cons
con Blocked streaming services
con Slow upload speeds

Proton VPN's unlimited data initially drew us in, but it was surprising to see a substantial selection of servers in a free VPN service. You can choose from 70 servers with Proton VPN showing how busy each server is using handy icons. So it’s effortless to pick a less-crowded option for better performance—or you can click a preset profile to find the fastest available server.

We admit that Proton VPN's collection of three server locations for free users is pretty small compared to TunnelBear's slate of over 48 countries, but the huge selection of servers in those countries is more flexible overall. Even with three countries, don't expect to unblock international content streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ since Proton VPN restricts that feature to its paid

Proton VPN free server map locations in the Mac app

Proton VPN's free locations. Screenshot: John Carlsen, SafeWise. 

Proton VPN Free internet speed testing

While Proton VPN didn't earn top marks during our download speed testing, its median download speed of 206.1 Mbps—about 29% slower than our base download speed—was second only to Privado VPN. This is an excellent result considering Hotspot Shield, TunnelBear, and Hide.me didn't even crack 100 Mbps.

Proton VPN's worst test result came during upload testing with a relatively weak median speed of 4.6 Mbps, just above Hide.me's 4.2—about 49% slower than our upload speed without a VPN. Lastly, it had more latency than other free VPNs but outperformed our ISP's server.

Overall, we think that Proton VPN Free is an exceptional free VPN because it won't cut you off for using too much free data. Its diverse server selection and excellent download performance help outweigh lower upload speeds and lack of streaming services.

Checklist
Proton VPN Plus

You can upgrade to Proton VPN Plus (about $10 a month) to unlock more countries and servers than Proton VPN Free. It also includes access to streaming services, file-sharing sites, faster servers, ad-blocking, and VPN connections for up to 10 devices.

2. Privado VPN Free: Best for some streaming

Best for some streaming
Privado VPN

Info current as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Privado VPN Free consistently produced the highest download speeds during our tests. The performance was better than many paid VPNs—it's an absolute force of nature. It's also the only provider on our list that can unblock a streaming service in other countries.

pro
Pros
pro Fastest download speeds
pro Fast upload speeds
pro Unblocked streaming services
con
Cons
con Monthly data limit

You can access servers in nine countries with Privado VPN Free, more than most other free VPNs we tested but still behind TunnelBear. But unlike TunnelBear's minuscule data limit, Privado can handle some light streaming on Netflix UK or Canada.

Bear in mind that it's still easy to blast through Privado's 10 GB monthly data ration with HD video, but you might get a few episodes or a movie in before then. There's always a chance that streaming services will block Privado's free servers so you won't have the flexibility of a paid VPN service like NordVPN.

Privado VPN free countries in the Mac app

Privado VPN's free locations.
Screenshot: John Carlsen, SafeWise. 

Privado VPN Free internet speed testing

Privado VPN's download speeds obliterated the competition with an impressive median speed of 266.7 Mbps, which was only 9% slower than our download speed without a VPN. Fun fact, Privado VPN's best test result was higher than the lowest base speed on each browser we used.

Even though downloads were Privado's best subject, it was also a strong performer for upload speeds, hitting a median upload speed of 9 Mbps—a hair faster than our base upload speed. Still, Privado couldn't beat the HotSpot Shield and TunnelBear upload speeds. Privado VPN was also really responsive, with the second lowest latency in our tests behind Hotspot Shield.

On the whole, we really like Privado VPN Free. It's speedy and doesn't block streaming services like other free VPNs. While the 10 GB monthly data limit is a bit of a bummer, it's one of the more generous offerings on a free VPN plan.

Bell
Privado VPN's paid plan

We like that the Privado VPN paid plan starts at just $7.99 a month—the lowest monthly price for a VPN service. Its $60 annual plan lays on the value even more and costs about as much as Surfshark, our paid value pick.

3. TunnelBear: Best server selection

Best server selection
Tunnel Bear

Info current as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

TunnelBear Free is the only free VPN we tested with access to server locations in over 48 countries—it's an excellent resource for accessing region-specific websites. It even boasts fast upload speeds, but its data limits are the worst in our review.

pro
Pros
pro Tons of international servers
pro Fast upload speeds
pro Low latency
con
Cons
con Tiny monthly data limit
con Low download speeds

TunnelBear's biggest drawback is its 500 MB monthly data limit—so small that we finished only one round of speed testing before it was gone. Luckily, you can score an extra 1 GB by tweeting the company on Twitter. We had an increased balance within a few minutes of tweeting, a big plus.

At the end of the day, TunnelBear's 1.5 GB of free data is okay for light web browsing, but it won't last long for other activities, especially compared to Proton VPN's unlimited data. TunnelBear could be a useful international backup to another free VPN provider—there's no reason you can't use multiple free VPN apps on your device. The TunnelBear app is easy for beginners since there aren't many settings to fiddle with.

TunnelBear's server location map.
Screenshot: John Carlsen, SafeWise. 

TunnelBear Free internet speed testing

TunnelBear posted the second-lowest median download speed in our tests: 61.8 Mbps—about 79% lower than our base speed. For upload speeds, TunnelBear was second best at 11.1 Mbps—only slightly slower than Hotspot Shield. A low latency result also means quick and reliable communication with servers.

At first glance, TunnelBear Free doesn't seem like it can compete with other free VPNs, but that selection of international servers keeps it from falling further down our list. It's a niche option for occasional international research. At least the lower download speeds could help keep your data allotment from evaporating as quickly.

Light Bulb
TunnelBear Unlimited

You can remove that pesky data limit with TunnelBear Unlimited (about $10 a month), but you don't gain much in the way of new features. Still, the simple app controls make it a good choice for folks that don't need granular control over VPN protocols.

4. Hotspot Shield: Best for US-only servers

Best for US-only servers
Hotspot Shield

Info current as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

We have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Hotspot Shield Basic. We're huge fans of the lightning-quick upload speeds and the sneakily-good daily data limit. Still, there's no flexibility with the US-only servers, and the ads are tiresome.

pro
Pros
pro Fastest upload speeds
pro Decent download speeds
pro 500 MB daily data limit
con
Cons
con US-based servers only
con No kill switch
con Ads when connecting or disconnecting

Hotspot Shield's 500 MB daily bandwidth limit doesn't seem like much, but there's more value than free VPN apps with monthly limits. A fresh batch of 500 MB every 24 hours means you can access around 15 GB monthly.

Using the free plan means connecting only to United States servers. The app chooses the server automatically, so accessing a good one is a dice roll. Weirdly, our last speed test connected to a non-US server location in Southeast Asia, with poor latency results—we're not sure why.

On a computer, Hotspot Shield Basic has an excessive habit of opening a browser ad when connecting or disconnecting the VPN. Ugh. Plus, there's no kill switch—an essential security feature—to cut your internet if the VPN connection fails.

Hotspot Shield connected to free server in the Mac app

Hotspot Shield Basic automatically connects to a US-based server.
Screenshot: John Carlsen, SafeWise. 

Hotspot Shield Basic internet speed testing

Hotspot Shield VPN's median download speed clocked in at 82.1 Mbps, but it was still less than half as fast as Privado VPN and Proton VPN. It scored the best upload speed at 11.3 Mbps—over 25% faster than our ISP. There was practically no latency delay aside from our last speed test.

The most realistic scenario for using Hotspot Shield Basic in the US is to improve your upload speed during a Zoom call. Still, it's great for folks wanting to access US servers from outside the country.

Notepad
Hotspot Shield Premium

Hotspot Shield Premium VPN (about $12.99 a month) is one of the most expensive VPNs, but you gain access to a healthy selection of international server locations, streaming services, and split tunneling. Still, we think ExpressVPN is a better option at this price.

5. Hide.me: Best settings options

Best settings options
Hide.me VPN logo

Info current as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

You won't find many Hide.me Free features among other free VPNs. You have full control over which apps use the VPN or the internet. Too bad the slow download and upload speeds make it run like molasses.

pro
Pros
pro Split tunneling
pro App-specific internet restrictions
pro 10 GB monthly data limit
con
Cons
con Slowest download speeds
con Slowest upload speeds

Hide.me Free offers almost as many features as any paid VPN. We love the split tunneling feature, so you can tell the VPN to run on Google Chrome but not Firefox. Or you can turn off the internet for individual apps using the Stealth Guard feature.

The 10 GB monthly data limit puts Hide.me on level ground with Privado VPN but still behind Proton VPN. This is the only free service that doesn't automatically renew each month, so you need to do so manually, especially if you don't use Hide.me often.

Hide.me VPN free locations in the Mac app

Hide.me's free locations.
Screenshot: John Carlsen, SafeWise. 

Hide.me Free internet speed testing

Practically everything nice about Hide.me Free falls apart when you look at internet speeds. The median download speed was the slowest at just 25.9 Mbps. For context, that's 91% slower than our base internet speed. Oof. Upload speeds were also the lowest at 4.2 Mbps—half as fast as without a VPN. Latency was fairly low, so at least the VPN server is responsive.

We like a lot about Hide.me Free. Its robust features like split tunneling and Stealth Guard make it easy to customize when your VPN runs. But the low internet speeds may wrinkle a few brows among folks that value fast internet.

Light Bulb
Hide.me Premium

Upgrading to Hide.me Premium VPN (about $10 a month) will snag you its fastest servers, remove the data limit, enable streaming, and unlock a few more tools.

Final word

Excellent internet speeds, server options, and unlimited bandwidth make Proton VPN Free an easy choice for the best free VPN service. While it doesn't top any of our testing metrics or offer the most features, Proton VPN feels the most like a complete package for a free user, and that's enough to recommend giving it a try.

But the beauty of free VPNs is that you can use them all for the tasks that best suit you without compromising. Sure, managing five VPN apps could be tedious if you switch between them often, but it worked great for us. If you want something a little more stable than a free VPN app, we recommend checking out our picks for the best paid VPN services.

FAQ

While all of our free VPN picks work without a fee, none of them matches a paid VPN subscription. Whether it's internet speed, data usage, or features, there's always a trade-off for using a free VPN.

Free VPNs are probably safer than skipping out on a VPN altogether but don't always have all of the security features of paid VPNs. That said, reputable free VPN providers, like our top picks, work to protect your privacy and secure your device.

How we reviewed free VPNs

Free VPN speed test result

This speed test result is one of 36 in our free VPN testing.
Screenshot: John Carlsen, SafeWise. 

We looked at 10 reputable free VPNs and settled on five favorites for testing. All of our picks work on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS while allowing one active connection on your account.

We installed each VPN on a Mac laptop to explore available features and to run internet speed tests. Our speed testing wasn't too intensive due to time constraints but went as follows:

  • Our first round of speed testing included two tests for each VPN app using Safari and Chrome browsers.
    • We used the speed test built into Google Search and noted the download, upload, and latency numbers.
    • On Safari, the speed test was the only open tab—it was the faster of the two browsers. We're not sure if this was due to the number of tabs, but we may test this in a future update.
    • On Chrome, the speed test was only one of around 25 open tabs, so other tabs could've competed for bandwidth during the short tests.
  • After the first round, we ran two control tests without a VPN in each browser to find reference points for each app's test results.
  • The second round took place 30 minutes later. We conducted one last test in each browser for each app before finishing with another control test.
  • At the end of both rounds, we had six results for each brand and the control we used for our comparison.
    • Since these tests were all on the same computer on the same day, the results are mainly for comparison purposes and will change based on your device and internet service provider.

We learned a lot in our testing but also combed through customer support articles and product pages to ensure we didn't miss any important features. Since these are free apps, we didn't research any customer reviews and kept our focus on testing. Learn more about how we rank, test, and review services in our full methodology.

John Carlsen
Written by
John Carlsen
John is a technology journalist specializing in smart home devices, security cameras, and home security systems. He has over nine years of experience researching, testing, and reviewing the latest tech—he was the Smart Home Editor for Top Ten Reviews and wrote for ASecureLife before joining SafeWise as a Staff Writer in 2020. John holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications, Journalism emphasis from Utah Valley University. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, photography, cooking, and starting countless DIY projects he has yet to complete.

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