For millions of VPN users, privacy is one of the most desirable aspects of a VPN, if not the most prized benefit of all. And given that, the amount of logs – details recorded on the user and their online activity – kept by a VPN provider is a crucial consideration. And not all VPNs are equal in this respect – far from it.
Almost all VPNs will trot out some manner of blanket ‘we keep no logs’ statement on their website, but the truth is that the various providers’ policies regarding keeping logs can vary quite widely. You can read more about no log VPNs and their importance by scrolling to the bottom of this guide.
The long and short of it is: scouting out the VPN which provide you with the best levels of privacy and anonymity online is something of a tricky task. Which is exactly why we’ve researched the best VPNs for watertight privacy, and we’re presenting our results in this article.
Here are our top five recommendations for privacy-conscious VPNs that uphold their ‘no logs’ policy with the most unswerving veracity as far as we’re concerned.
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Best all-round VPN for privacy – no activity or connection logs
Number of servers: 2000 | Server locations: 148 | IP addresses: 30000 | Maximum devices supported: 3
For those looking to mesh the fastest speeds with privacy, ExpressVPN is the premium choice. There are some seriously fast servers in this firm’s broad network which spans 94 countries, while on the software front, you get apps for all major platforms (and a few browser extensions too). The native clients are fairly intuitive and user-friendly, featuring both basic and advanced options to satisfy all kinds of users.
With a premium service comes a premium price, in this case. ExpressVPN is somewhat more expensive than the rest of the competition, and there is no free trial to test the provider. However, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee for reassurance, and of the three price plans on offer, the 12-month subscription (with three months extra thrown in) is the best choice in the long run. The packages available are:
- [$12.95 a month] 1-month
- [$9.99 a month] 6-months - $59.95
- [$6.67 a month] 12-months (plus 3 free months) - $99.95
Best free VPN
Number of servers: 540+ | Server locations: 100 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: Unlimited
The fact that Windscribe allows you to connect an unlimited number of devices is a huge benefit, particularly for those with larger families who will all be connecting to the VPN. And it’s no slouch on the performance front, either, with our testing showing fast speeds over shorter hops, although long-distance connections weren’t so impressive.
The service offers custom apps for all major platforms, and although Android client had some troubles at the start, for now, everything seems to function normally.
Generally speaking, the software clients are rather basic, with some low-level options and settings that will just about fulfill most needs.
Another great feature is the free plan with a hefty 10GB monthly data allowance, providing you register with your email address. As expected, the free plan restricts the number of servers available, but it’s still far more generous and usable than the freebie offerings you’ll find elsewhere.
Privacy-wise, things are crystal-clear and detailed: there is no logging of VPN usage, IPs, historical session logs, and no records of incoming or outgoing IP addresses or your individual activities. Furthermore, this is all supported by a transparency report which says zero law enforcement and DMCA requests were complied with due to lack of relevant data. All good news.
You can even sign up without providing an email address (but your monthly limit drops to 2GB on the free plan, in that case), and the small elements the service does record – OpenVPN username, VPN server connected to, time of connection, and amount of data transferred during the session – expire and are discarded as soon as you disconnect..
There are two paid plans – the Pro plan with monthly and annual billing, and this gives you access to the full range of servers. You also have a third option called "Build a plan", which allows you to manually configure your plan by choosing which locations you want. The packages available are:
- Pro: Monthly plan - $9.00
- Pro: Yearly plan - $4.08 per month, billed $49 annually
- Build a plan: $1 per location, per month.
Best balance of performance and price
Number of servers: 223 | Server locations: 20 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 5
AirVPN is run by ‘activists and hacktivists’ who are all for net neutrality and complete online freedom, so what you get is a provider that is very forthcoming about its service. For instance, you get the full scoop on all available servers and their current load, as well as all you need to know about AirVPN’s practices on the security and privacy fronts.
That said, one obvious weak spot here is the low number of server locations (especially in comparison to some rivals you’ll see on this page). However, this provider makes up for that by delivering a reasonably fast performance, generally speaking, though we found that in our testing, some longer-distance connections can be flaky.
Another performance plus point is that AirVPN guarantees users a minimum allocated bandwidth of 4Mbps (downloads and uploads). Although the Windows client could use some improvement, as it has a somewhat awkward interface that takes a little acclimatization.
AirVPN has six rather affordable plans, including a short-term 3-day plan that acts as a cheap trial of the service. Payment methods include a number of cryptocurrencies, which is always a privacy bonus. The 2-year plan boasts the best value-for-money. The packages available are:
- [$1.20] 3-days
- [$8.39 a month] 1-month
- [$6.00 a month] 3-months $17.99
- [$6.00 a month] 6-months - $35.98
- [$5.40 a month] 12-months - $64.76
- [$4 a month] 2-years - $96
Most affordable VPN
Number of servers: 3,190+ | Server locations: 52 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 5
The provider offers native clients for all major platforms and there are several browser extensions too. Mobile clients are easy to use with great options and settings, although some nice features are lacking, like the favorite system.
Privacy-wise, the company states that they don't log any of your internet activities. An important thing to note here is that the company points out that you don't have to take their word for it. This is because, on their website, you can find a served subpoena which shows that the only data provided was the general location of the server IPs, and absolutely no user-related data was given up.
While there is no free trial, all the plans are very affordable and you do get a 7-day money back guarantee. An added bonus is that the payment with some cryptocurrencies is supported. The 2-year plan offers the best value and the available packages are:
Best VPN for beginners
Number of servers: 1000 | Server locations: 20+ | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 5
TunnelBear is as simple as a VPN gets. An email address is all you need to start using the service, and for free at that. There are native clients (and a few browser extensions) for all major platforms that focus on simplicity, although there isn’t much you can change settings-wise.
Performance levels can be quite speedy (even with the free plan) on shorter hops, although long-distance connections can be flaky at best.
Regarding the free plan, the bad news is that the default 500MB per month limit is very restrictive – that’s only enough to test the service for a very short amount of time. That said, if you tweet about TunnelBear you get an extra 1GB of data.
As for commercial plans, there are only two of them: a monthly or annual subscription. The yearly plan offers the best savings, and the packages available are:
No log VPNs: why do I need one?
The first thing you need to bear in mind is that there are two main categories of logs: connection logs, and usage logs.
Connection or metadata logs include your incoming and outgoing IP address, as well as data like connection duration, amount of data transferred, VPN servers you’ve connected to, and so on.
Usage or activity logs, on the other hand, are deemed much more important and more invasive in privacy terms, as they essentially cover all of the data beyond those basic connection logs. So we’re talking about information on the exact websites you visited online, the files you downloaded, and so forth.
The good news is that any provider worth its salt doesn’t keep usage logs. The bad news is that not only can it sometimes be difficult to find out what sort of logs a VPN provider keeps, you also need to bear in mind that you’ve only got the firm’s word that it actually sticks to any relevant policies. In other words, whatever might be written on the website, you’ll never really know what actually happens behind the scenes.
Even if a provider says it keeps no logs whatsoever, the chances are that some are stored, although it might only be the barest of connection logs.
- We’ve rounded up the best free VPN services