A virtual private network (VPN) is essential if you want to protect yourself from cybercriminals, hackers, and invasive snooping, and the best free VPN services are a great starting point. I've conducted over 150 VPN reviews over my four years in the industry, and there's no such thing as a genuinely free and unrestricted VPN service—there's always a catch.
Any service that claims otherwise 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 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.
Let's look at the pros and cons of a free vs premium VPN to help you pick the right VPN app for your needs. I'll show you speeds, server locations, unblocking capability, privacy, and security for free VPNs that you can actually trust.
As a digital privacy advocate and expert, he's spent the past four years leveraging his master's degree to research VPNs, cryptography, and other cybersecurity topics.
The three best VPNs in 2024
Paid VPNs offer so much more than their free counterparts. 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.
1. The best VPN overall: ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN is my go-to pick as the absolute best VPN on the market today. That's because it automates every process that most other apps would make you do manually, ensuring the fastest, safest connection possible every time.
If that's not enough, it unblocked everything everywhere in my latest round of testing. If you want to see for yourself, you can use ExpressVPN totally free by taking advantage of its no-questions-asked 30-day money-back guarantee.
2. The best Netflix VPN: NordVPN
If you just want to unblock your favorite Netflix shows, NordVPN has you covered. It's consistently proven to be the best VPN for Netflix in my tests, and because the service just turned 12, it's offering TechRadar readers up to 69% off, plus a free Uber Eats voucher. Put it to the test and see how it stacks up against ExpressVPN for a second month of free VPN coverage by using its 30-day money-back guarantee.
3. The best budget VPN: Surfshark
Remember, a good VPN doesn't have to be expensive. If you're on a tight budget, Surfshark offers fantastic value for money—which is why it holds the crown for the best cheap VPN. Plus, with its current offering, you can get one of my go-to services for just $2.29 per month. It even comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can get a third month of free premium VPN protection, all without risking a penny.
My latest round of tests is now underway, so watch this space for the latest and greatest in all things VPN.
The best free VPN services in 2024
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 2024.
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 2024.
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.
I also love the fact that, contrary to many other freebies on the market, Privado's free option offers plenty of customization and security features. These include 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 PrivadoVPN ↓
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.
|Modern and uncluttered, with a tasteful color scheme
|Ease of use
|Intuitive app with simple implementation means it's perfect for beginners
|The fastest free VPN service
|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
|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.
For starters, users can use their software as long as they want as Proton comes with no data limits. That's a big plus in a market where almost all other free VPNs might allow you 500 MB to 10 GB a month at most. This also ultimately translates into better privacy as 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. So if you're looking for more than just a free VPN, Proton has a whole suite of tools available at absolutely no cost whatsoever.
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.
|Dark and edgy with plenty of flair
|Ease of use
|Not the simplest design, but still fairly intuitive
|A super-fast service, but with a small risk of congestion
|Dedicated Deutsche Welle servers but few locations to choose from otherwise
|Security and privacy
|Open-source, audited, and reliable
|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. Yet, while most free plans restrict you to only one connection, Windscribe has no limits. This means you can install and use the software 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?