One of the most popular security apps in the digital age, the best free VPN protects your information from cybercriminals, makes your browsing more anonymous, and even lets you stream shows from other countries—all without costing you a penny.
I've reviewed hundreds of VPN services in my years in the industry, and I constantly test leading services to make sure my rankings are always accurate. I've also compared the pros and cons of a free vs premium VPN to help you pick the right service—analyzing speed, server locations, unblocking capability, privacy, and security.
Unfortunately, even the best free VPNs come with restrictions, and any service that says it doesn't should immediately be treated with caution. It typically means the service will be turning a profit in some other way, usually with invasive advertising or by selling your data to third parties—defeating the privacy purpose of a VPN.
Ultimately, this renders most of them practically useless for unblocking content, and can give you a false sense of security. The best free services exist to give you a taste of the full product, and often limit both your speed and the amount of data you can use.
The top three paid VPNs
Paid VPNs offer so much more than their free counterparts, and even the best free VPNs are limited versions designed to entice you into upgrading to a premium subscription.
However, if you want to get the best VPN services for free, take advantage of money-back guarantees and see how they compare with the top free options. Try all of them together and you'll get 90 days of premium protection at no cost whatsoever.
1. ExpressVPN: try the best VPN for free
ExpressVPN is my go-to pick as the absolute best of the best—it unblocked everything everywhere in my latest round of testing. What's more, you can use ExpressVPN totally free by taking advantage of its no-questions-asked 30-day money-back guarantee, too.
2. NordVPN: an all-in-one security suite
If you're on a budget and don't want to pay for a VPN and antivirus separately, NordVPN has you covered. Plus, it just dropped its price to just $2.99 per month, and you can use its 30-day money-back guarantee and see how it compares without risking a penny.
3. Surfshark: the best budget VPN
Remember, a good VPN doesn't have to be expensive. If you're on a tight budget, Surfshark offers fantastic value for money as the best cheap VPN. Plus, with its current Black Friday offering, you can get one of my go-to services for less than $2 per month! It even comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can see for yourself.
Since my latest VPN test results came through, there haven't been any major changes to my top providers. However, with Black Friday coming up, a whole bunch of the top services just dropped their prices astronomically, so if you want to get a premium VPN for the cheapest it's been all year, now's the time.
The best free VPNs in 2023
Let's deep-dive into my top free VPN picks for today.
The best free VPN—it even unblocks Netflix and iPlayer
Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux | Data limit: 10 GB at full speed, then unlimited via a single 1 Mbps location | Connections: 1 | Server locations: 13 | Countries: 10 | 24/7 live chat support: Website and email
✔️ You want a free Netflix VPN: PrivadoVPN is one of the only free providers that can reliably unblock Netflix.
✔️ You need a fast free VPN: WireGuard encryption is accessible on PrivadoVPN's free plan, which means you get fantastic speeds no matter what.
✔️ You want premium features: most services block features behind a paywall, but not PrivadoVPN. Split tunneling, auto-connect, and kill switch functionality are included as standard.
❌ You need totally unlimited data: PrivadoVPN offers unparalleled performance, but only for 10 GB. After that, your speeds are seriously restricted.
❌ You want a Linux app: Linux installations only operate a command-line interface. If you need a graphical user interface (GUI), I recommend ProtonVPN.
🔒 PrivadoVPN Free is an excellent service with unblocking capabilities that blow even some premium competition out of the water. Try it for yourself and see why it's my top free VPN in 2023.
Check out our in-depth PrivadoVPN review for a closer look at the service, and see why it's my top free VPN pick for 2023.
PrivadoVPN Free has been nipping at Proton's heels for a long time, and with recent updates, it's finally de-throned the long-standing Swiss champion. With a dedicated geoblocking team, it's one of few VPNs that can reliably unblock popular streaming services like Netflix and BBC iPlayer—most paid services can't say that.
Privado's free option offers plenty of customization and security features, like a kill switch and always-on VPN to protect your data at all times and cut your internet use if your VPN connection drops.
The free platform even offers split-tunneling, so you can access local services while streaming your favorite shows abroad. You can even control your encryption protocol, and switch to WireGuard for a faster, more secure VPN experience.
With its 865 Mbps download speeds, PrivadoVPN's free servers are just as fast as its paid-for ones. This knocks Proton VPN's free servers out of first place for the fastest free VPN with 740 Mbps. The higher server count also means that PrivadoVPN's servers are less likely to become congested, too.
However, if the data tap runs dry, you then get unlimited data via its "over-quota" mode, where you'll be placed on a speed-restricted server offering only 1 Mbps. While this might seem slow, it's still plenty for day-to-day internet use, and most users won't likely need more than 10 GB every month. In a recent discussion with Privado's engineers, they revealed the majority of its free subscribers only use around 4 GB of data per month.
PrivadoVPN is one of the only VPN providers to handle its own bandwidth and transit routes. This means you get fantastic speeds and almost no server congestion—it's a free service with a truly premium feel.
Click to read more about my trip to PrivadoVPN's data centers ↓
In September 2023 I flew out to Amsterdam to see PrivadoVPN's servers in person. I was absolutely blown away by the capacity of throughput available and the room available to expand further. PrivadoVPN's teams are constantly innovating to improve the capability of its data centers, and the attention to detail was astounding. From cable management to little details like tagging, external power supplies, and accidental removal protection on every plug.
As we analyzed the server stacks, Mo and I saw that PrivadoVPN uses RAM-only straight passthrough servers for its traffic. This means that no user data can be stored when you're using the VPN, so if authorities came knocking, there'd be nothing to hand over.
Ultimately, what reassured me most was how the engineers were hungry to improve the service, and better serve customers. I encouraged them to pursue open-sourcing and independent third-party audits, and believe we'll see the provider pursue one or both of these sooner rather than later.
The choice of 13 locations over 10 countries beats most free services, including Proton VPN's free plan which only offers 3 countries. Here's a quick list of the free server locations:
- United Kingdom
- United States (4 locations)
The apps are easy to use and reliable, but the service has some issues and limits. PrivadoVPN Free only supports a single connection, so if you install it on your laptop and your phone, you can only use one at a time.
Overall, PrivadoVPN Free is an excellent service that blows the competition out of the water. Its streaming results are a standout feature, and if paying for a VPN just isn't an option, PrivadoVPN gives you a premium service without a premium cost—or any cost for that matter.
|Design||Modern and uncluttered, with a tasteful color scheme||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Ease of use||Intuitive app with simple implementation means it's perfect for beginners||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Performance||The fastest free VPN service||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Unblocking||A dedicated geo-unblocking team that doesn't just work for the paying customers||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Security and privacy||Robust security on paper, but no independent audit||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Customer support||Support staff are friendly, but the site could do with more content||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
Unlimited data allowance and advocates for digital privacy
Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux | Data limit: Unlimited | Connections: 1 | Countries: 3 | Support: Website, email
✔️ You want an unlimited free VPN: unlike most free providers, Proton VPN doesn't cap data usage on its free plan.
✔️ You want a free open-source VPN: Proton VPN is proudly open-source, meaning anyone can audit and verify its claims.
✔️ You want a free Linux VPN: Proton VPN offers free installation on Linux and even comes with a graphical user interface (GUI).
❌ You need a server in the UK: ProtonVPN only offers free servers in the US, Netherlands, and Japan. If you need servers elsewhere, I would recommend PrivadoVPN or Windscribe.
❌ You want a free torrenting VPN: if you want access to Proton VPN's P2P servers, you'll need to upgrade to the premium version. We'd recommend PrivadoVPN instead.
🔒 Proton VPN is a well-known brand with a history of fighting for digital privacy and internet freedom. While it's recently been knocked off of its throne, it's still an absolutely fantastic service.
Check out our in-depth Proton VPN review for a closer look at one of the most popular free VPNs in the industry.
Proton VPN Free used to top my free VPN charts, thanks to its mix of features, power, and app quality. While it may have lost its place, it's still a remarkable service that doesn't pile on the limits and restrictions to nag you into upgrading. This is a free VPN you could use long-term.
There are no data limits with Proton, for instance. While almost all other free VPNs might allow you 500 MB to 10 GB a month, Proton VPN Free offers unlimited data. That's convenient, but it's also a big privacy plus because you don't have to choose where you use the VPN when data's running low. If you feel there's a risk, or you're unsure, then just get connected—Proton VPN Free is always available.
Proton hasn't punished free users by omitting key features, either. Some free providers drop the kill switch, WireGuard, and maybe even support, but Proton VPN Free has all the core privacy features you need to stay safe online.
There are still significant limits. You only get access to three locations, for instance: USA, the Netherlands, and Japan. Although you can install Proton VPN on as many devices as you like, you can only connect one at a time. There's no access to Proton VPN's specialist streaming servers, no P2P support, or bonus extras such as ad and malware-blocking—to use them, you'll have to upgrade to a premium plan.
None of this prevents Proton VPN Free from doing its central job, though, and much better than most of the competition. Its well-engineered, open-source, and audited apps are easy to use, but also stuffed with useful tweaks, tools, and technologies. The service previously topped my free VPN speed charts but has since been knocked off of its pillar by Privado. Speeds of 740 Mbps are nothing to scoff at, as some premium providers aren't that fast. However, the limited number of services comes with a high potential for congestion, so those speeds may not always be available.
Most of Proton's services come with free options, including its highly acclaimed ProtonMail service. Plus, on June 28, Proton Pass was launched to give people access to reliable password management through its security toolkit.
In an effort to combat censorship around the world, Proton launched the VPN Observatory to monitor spikes in VPN usage. The Observatory will act like a canary in the coal mine, signaling to the world when sudden acts of censorship have taken place.
Proton VPN Free may not be quite right for everyone. If you absolutely must have a location in the UK, for instance, or some other country not on Proton's very short list, then PrivadoVPN and Windscribe have more than 10 countries to choose from.
For most users, Proton VPN Free delivers just about everywhere. It's fast, secure, has excellent features, and it's also effortless to use.
|Design||Dark and edgy with plenty of flair||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Ease of use||Not the simplest design, but still fairly intuitive||⭐⭐⭐|
|Performance||A super-fast service, but with a small risk of congestion||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Unblocking||Dedicated Deutsche Welle servers but few locations to choose from otherwise||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Security and privacy||Open-source, audited, and reliable||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Customer support||Lots of on-site support and excellent agents||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
Powerful and secure with a generous data cap
Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS | Data limit: 10 GB | Connections: Unlimited | Server locations: 14 | Countries: 11 | Support: Website, email
✔️ You want unlimited simultaneous connections: Windscribe doesn't care how many devices you use, but it does give you a 10 GB data limit.
✔️ You want plenty of server locations: 14 server locations is more than any other free VPN service I recommend.
❌ You want a free VPN that's fast: Windscribe's speeds are decent, and more than enough for most tasks, but I saw much better speeds from the competition.
❌ You need more than 10 GB of data: 10 GB doesn't go as far as it used to, and if you use it to stream or torrent, it'll run out quickly. If you need a truly unlimited service, I would recommend Proton VPN instead.
🔒 Windscribe offers plenty of server locations and reliable service, but lacks the speed and quality of PrivadoVPN and Proton VPN.
Check out our in-depth Windscribe free VPN review for a closer look at this popular free service.
Windscribe Free VPN is a quality Canadian service whose appealing mix of features more than justifies its place in the top three.
The data allowance is a little more restricted than my two top VPNs, at a strict 10 GB a month. That's enough to protect a lot of online activity, though, and Windscribe Free VPN has its own plus point as compensation. Most free plans restrict you to only one connection, but Windscribe has no limits: you can install and use it on as many devices simultaneously as you need.
The network is another highlight, with Windscribe Free VPN users able to choose from 14 locations across 11 countries. That beats PrivadoVPN Free (10 countries), Proton VPN (3 countries), and many others.
Windscribe's premium service was one of the few VPNs that maxed out the speed testing line in my latest round of tests, and my previous testing has shown it's an above-average free service when it comes to performance, which is thoroughly commendable.
Recent revamps of the apps have made them a bit more simple in their design, but I dislike how cluttered they feel. Even still, it's a step in the right direction, and the new server location search function is incredibly helpful.
There are some surprising plus points, too. Although Windscribe Free VPN doesn't include the specialist Windflix dedicated streaming servers, I found the service still successfully unblocked UK Netflix and BBC iPlayer. I like that it doesn't disregard content unblocking for non-paying customers.
Put it all together, and while Windscribe Free VPN can't quite match Proton VPN and PrivadoVPN, it gets very close, and the service could well be the right choice for some people but when you consider that all of these services are free, why would you pick anything other than the best?
|Design||Simple and intuitive, albeit a little cluttered||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Ease of use||Pretty easy to use for beginners||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Performance||Not as fast as PrivadoVPN or Proton VPN||⭐⭐⭐|
|Unblocking||Not bad, but not guaranteed||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Security and privacy||Open-source and reliable||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Customer support||Email tickets are quickly resolved, but no live chat makes it somewhat inconvenient||⭐⭐⭐|
Speedy and secure with a big bonus for Macs
Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS | Data limit: 10 GB per month (2 GB per day for Mac) | Connections: 2 | Server locations: 3 | Countries: 2 | Support: Website, email
✔️ You want free Disney+ VPN: Atlas VPN unblocked the popular streaming service effortlessly in my testing.
✔️ You need a free Mac VPN: 2 GB per day is a generous allowance for Mac users wanting to use the VPN regularly.
❌ You need an unlimited free VPN: data limits are common with free providers, so if you need unlimited bandwidth, I recommend using Proton VPN.
❌ You need a reliable free VPN: my testing showed some usability errors. As such, if you need a free VPN you can trust at all times, I recommend PrivadoVPN or Proton VPN.
🔒 Atlas VPN is a decent free VPN that struggles to compete with my top picks.
Check out our in-depth Atlas VPN review for a closer look at this popular free VPN.
Atlas VPN Free first caught my eye with its impressive data allowance. Not the 10 GB you get with its Windows VPN, Android VPN, and iOS VPN—although that's not bad—this is all about the Mac VPN users, who can get an outstanding 2 GB a day.
The service isn't as generous with its locations. There are just three: the Netherlands, Los Angeles, and New York. You're able to connect a couple of devices simultaneously, though (our top two free VPNs only allow one), and my speed tests found Atlas VPN Free reached an above-average 320 Mbps. Factor in the P2P support, and Atlas could be a smart torrenting choice.