HideMyAss VPN review

This VPN service is owned by security firm Avast

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Our Verdict

This VPN service is easy-to-use with a sprawling network of servers, but the session logging policies are a concern.

For

  • Large network of servers
  • Above average speeds
  • User-friendly
  • Reasonable price for the annual plan

Against

  • Some session logging
  • Limited configurability
  • Application-specific kill switch

HideMyAss has been a popular provider of VPN services for more than 10 years, but is now owned by Avast.

The company offers 840+ servers in 350+ locations across 190+ countries, many more than the bulk of the competition.

Load balancing allows HideMyAss to recommend the server with the minimum load in any location, helping to keep your speeds high.

The HideMyAss website proudly proclaims that "our VPN software works on all your devices" – that means desktops, tablets, mobiles, smart TVs, and game consoles. There's not a lot of up-to-date installation help available for anything beyond the main platforms, but experienced users should figure out the basics without much difficulty.

There's no free plan or trial, but the regular prices are fairly typical for a premium VPN: £7.99 ($10) per single month, £5.99 ($7.50) per month paid every 6 months, or £4.99 ($6) per month on the annual plan.

There is at least a 30-day refund, although that also has some conditions. In particular, it's only allowed if you've used less than 10GB of data and made fewer than 100 connections.

Privacy

HideMyAss has more terms, conditions and policies pages than just about any other VPN provider, but if you take the time to read them you'll find some interesting details.

When you register for an account, the company collects your original IP address and stores this for up to two years after you've closed your account. Other VPNs typically keep your email address only, and a few don't even do that.

Some payment details are also held for two years, and communications with support are stored for up to six months. Live chat details, again including your IP address, are held for months by another company entirely.

Like other services, HideMyAss doesn't log your web activity. Unlike many other services, it logs your incoming IP address when you start a VPN session and the IP address of the server you're using. This data is kept for between two and three months.

This kind of session logging won't matter if you're just using the VPN to protect regular internet activities like collecting email or online shopping. But if you're downloading torrents or doing anything else where someone might record and investigate your IP address, it provides a means for them to relate those actions back to your HideMyAss account.

Performance

Signing up for HideMyAss works much like any other VPN. Choose a plan, select a payment method – card, PayPal and UnionPay are supported – and hand over your money in the usual way.

The HideMyAss account screen displays basic account and licence details, as well as links covering how to set up the VPN on devices and routers. Slightly bizarrely, the account interface has no links to download the clients or to contact support if you need more help. It's not difficult to find these – they're clearly linked from the homepage – but a good service should present you with key details like this immediately, not leave you to find them yourself.

The HideMyAss Windows client opens with a simple and stripped back interface which gives you a choice of three operating modes.

Instant Mode automatically finds and connects to your nearest server with a single click.

Freedom Mode connects to the nearest 'free speech country'. The company says this is aimed at users in "censorship regimes" and enables them to "connect to the fastest available server in the closest country identified by HMA! as safe and pro-free speech."

Location Mode lists all available servers by country or city. There's a Search box to quickly find what you need, and a simple favorites system to easily access commonly-used locations. There's no load information, but apparently HideMyAss automatically uses the server with the lowest load in any location.

Unusually, HideMyAss allows accessing some locations via another country, for example reaching a US server via the Netherlands or Singapore. This means you connect to the Netherlands or Singapore server, your traffic gets routed through the network and exits somewhere in the US. This extra step could make it more difficult for someone to track back from the exit IP and find out who you are, but the downside is it will probably cut your speeds.

Elsewhere, there's very little configurability or control. You can have HideMyAss boot when Windows loads or you access unsecured Wi-Fi. You can also specify whether to use OpenVPN with TCP or UDP, or set up a kill switch to protect your identity if the VPN connection drops – and that's about it.

The kill switch is a little unusual as it works by blocking network access for specific applications (most VPNs block the entire system). This works, but it's more awkward to set up as you must manually specify everything you want to be closed, and remember to add new apps as you install them.

Still, the main server selection tools are undeniably easy to use. If you're in a hurry, the Windows client can also be controlled in a basic way from the HideMyAss system tray icon. Right-clicking the icon and selecting Connect gets you connected to the last location; a Change IP Address option reconnects to the current server to get a new IP address; a Disconnect option closes the connection when you're done.

The client's simplicity pays off in terms of its system impact, too. HideMyAss typically grabbed under 25MB RAM on our test Windows 10 system, less than half the requirements of many clients.

HideMyAss also did well in in our performance tests*. Connecting to our nearest UK server gave us a reasonable 28-34Mbps download speeds, and we got very similar performance from the Netherlands and other nearby countries.

UK to US connections delivered a very acceptable 20Mbps, and even the long-distance locations – Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Australia and more – typically gave us 3-6Mbps

The positive impression continued right to the end of the review, with HideMyAss blocking DNS and WebRTC leaks and ensuring our real identity was always safely concealed.

Final verdict

This service's data collection policies could be a problem for the privacy-conscious. Speeds are good and you do get one of the largest VPN networks around, though, and if these are your priorities HideMyAss might be worth a try.

*Our testing included evaluating general performance (browsing, streaming video). We also used speedtest.net to measure latency, upload and download speeds, and then tested immediately again with the VPN turned off, to check for any difference (over several rounds of testing). We then compared these results to other VPN services we've reviewed. Of course, do note that VPN performance is difficult to measure as there are so many variables.