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The Best Free VPNs for 2021

Last updated on May 11, 2021 Comments: 43

The demand for VPNs is soaring, and with it, the interest in free VPNs.

Unsurprisingly, as more people are trying to work from home and keep themselves entertained, the demand for VPNs has soared. At the end of March, “VPN demand among American users peaked at 65% above average”. It’s eased off since then but remains “over a third higher than before the pandemic”.

Much of the demand is driven by a desire for online privacy and anonymous browsing, although the Global VPN Usage Report 2020 also showed that 37% of users rely on a VPN for secure communication.

A free VPN is always a tempting alternative to the paid options, especially if you’re on a tight budget and only plan on periodic, casual usage, but it’s important to understand that they cannot fully measure up to the paid providers. 

Also, you should be aware that there are paid VPN providers which really do offer the full package, like Surfshark which can cost only $2.21 a month, so it won’t really be such a strain on your wallet.

Yes, you can get a decent VPN for free that will get the job done, but you must be willing to accept the limitations that come with using a fully-free VPN service (in cases where total anonymity is important, you might not find the airtight security you need to browse the internet safely). We will talk more in-depth about these short-comings later on in the article, but with that being said, understand that if the provider is not making you pay, you will probably end up paying in some other way.

If you don’t want to read the whole article, here’s our list of the best FREE VPNs:

  1. ProtonVPN – absolutely no bandwidth restrictions
  2. Hotspot Shield – offers 7-day free trial of paid service
  3. TunnelBear  extremely user-friendly with 500 MB per month free usage

Things to Consider Before you Download a Free VPN

Before you go for a totally free VPN, you might want to consider a few potential issues before using it.

Since you are not paying the VPN service provider, they will have to make their money through other means. Often times, this means that the free VPN company will sell your data to the highest bidder (whether that be to online advertisers looking to target you or the authorities looking to get you in trouble).
Most reputable paid VPN services have a strict no-log policy. This means that they do not keep records of what you were doing online. If the free VPN provider DOES keep logs, that means your data is being stored somewhere, and could potentially be used to incriminate you in some way.
Just like we mentioned earlier, if you are not paying the company's wages, then they will certainly have to cut corners somewhere. Some free VPN providers might offer less bandwidth so your streaming speeds will be very slow. Others might sacrifice the safety of your computer and your data by not properly implementing strong encryption. Some might not have as many servers as you might like, and their server locations may not be ideal either.

If you still want to go for a free VPN, we’ve looked at the best ones available. Here, we’ll highlight their features and shortcomings, so you can make the decision for yourself.

An Almost Free VPN With All The Security Benefits of a Paid Service

Surfshark is an excellent VPN option when you don’t want to burn a hole in your pocket, but you do want optimal privacy, and anonymity from your VPN. Unlike the completely free services, a subscription to Surfshark will cost as low as $2.21 per month (for the 24-month package), and won’t have you risking your own personal security.

Surfshark also has a zero-logging policy, so you can rest assured they won’t be selling your data to any third-party bidders. The service operates an OpenVPN protocol alongside an IKEv2 protocol to keep users safe, as well as a military-grade AES 256 bit encryption.

Want to learn more? Check out our in-depth Surfshark review.

Visit Surfshark

The Best Free VPNs

#1 ProtonVPN

ProtonVPNThis little-known VPN provider may not have the reputation nor the international server network of more popular free VPNs, but when it comes to speed and security, it’s tough to beat. Although ProtonVPN has just over 800 servers in 50 countries, if you opt for the free VPN service, you’ll only be able to connect to three of them. You’ll also be restricted to medium speeds and one device but there are plenty of positives that offset those limitations.

ProtonVPN’s free VPN service gives users unlimited bandwidth so they can stream, browse, or shop online to their heart’s content. It’s also one of the most secure and transparent amongst the best free VPNs.

ProtonVPN has simple, lightweight apps that are compatible with all major operating systems and a slick user interface that makes navigation a breeze. Additional security features like the in-built kill switch and always-on option defend against dropped VPN connections and help secure your online activities when using public Wi-Fi connections.

ProtonVPN’s free VPN service is limited in terms of speed, however, so users wanting to access content on streaming sites like DisneyPlus and Netflix may need to consider an upgrade to either the basic or plus plan. To find out more about ProtonVPN, it’s limitations and capabilities, check out our full review here.

#2 HotSpot Shield

Hotspot Shield LogoThis powerful VPN gives free users 500MB per day, as opposed to Tunnelbear’s more measly offering of 500MB per month. This makes HotSpot Shield a tempting option, especially for those wanting a free VPN for streaming or torrenting.

Hotspot Shield has been through the wringer a few times over its privacy policy, with the Centre for Democracy and Technology throwing some hefty accusations its way back in 2017. According to the CDT, Hotspot Shield performed “undisclosed and unclear data sharing and traffic redirection” that amounted to “unfair and deceptive trade practices”.

That’s all in the past, however, and HotSpot Shield’s free VPN service doesn’t log any user activity or user data. It does have some negatives, however, including the fact that free users are inundated with advertising. The free VPN service also has a maximum speed limit of 2 Mbps, will only connect to one location in the US, and offers only limited standard definition streaming.

While security is good and Hotspot Shield has improved its no-logging policy, speeds can be sluggish and the location limits restrictive. Certainly not the free VPN for fans of Indian Premier League cricket but a good choice if you want protection while streaming or performing online banking transactions.

#3 TunnelBear

TunnelBear LogoOne of the best things about Tunnelbear is that, while it’s rather cute design may put off more computer-savvy users, your girlfriend will love it! Tunnelbear is extremely user-friendly giving the most technically challenged surfer safe access to the internet.

While the data restrictions are quite severe, limiting free users to just 500 MB per month, this is sufficient for those just wanting protection while they do their online banking and shopping. It’s not going to cut it if you want protection while streaming or torrenting, however.

Overall TunnelBear is a highly secure VPN, though users should note there have been some issues with speed. It nevertheless offers the latest security protocols and cutting-edge encryption and gives all users free rein to use any of its servers. Even those opting for TunnelBear’s limited free VPN service can install its apps onto five devices, getting five times the protection of those going with ProtonVPN’s free service.

Its updated privacy policy is robust and its user-friendliness second to none. Tunnelbear also has a fierce no-logging policy, even though it’s situated in Canada which, as a member of the Five Eyes alliance, isn’t the best privacy jurisdiction.

Tunnelbear is fast and ferocious with strong security protocols and sound policies designed to protect the user and their privacy. For more information about Tunnelbear’s bare necessities, check out our full review here.

Can the Best Free VPNs Compete With Their Paid Alternatives?

A free VPN Service offers many of the same features as their paid counterparts, but for no financial cost. This makes them ideal for those on a budget or who simply want to download something for one-off use. However, while free VPN options still provide increased privacy, anonymity, and access, the difference from paid subscriptions is more than just the price tag.

In addition to usage restrictions, free VPN services often rely on low-quality connections or simply don’t have the international server coverage of a paid service, like Surfshark, for example, which boasts a phenomenal 1,040 servers in over 60 different countries. Whether you are protecting your online information or accessing blocked content, an unstable network that frequently drops out defies the point of using a VPN altogether, especially if no kill switch is featured in the product. Another drawback of using free VPN software is the lack of tech support available to consumers. Most only offer an email contact, and it’s likely you’ll have to wait for a response – which can be vexing as the products are prone to malfunctions.

For users looking to access Netflix content from overseas libraries will struggle with a free VPN service as the streaming service is relentlessly changing its restrictions. In the past, Netflix succeeded in blocking all free VPN providers, meaning internet users in certain regions have access to significantly less content than others. As the company continues to fight VPN use, it’s turned into something of a cat-and-mouse game between the streaming service and the top VPN services. According to our latest research, the most effective service to access the geo-restricted site is ExpressVPN, with their number one rival, NordVPN, coming in a close second.

These restrictions have contributed to the poor image of free VPN services and you’ll find very few featured in lists of best VPN services. However, we have an interesting alternative to propose. With many highly-rated paid subscriptions offering VPN free trial periods with complete refunds guaranteed, it’s possible to use this loophole to benefit from the platinum quality of leading providers. We recommend using these (somewhat) free VPN proxy alternatives for accessing Netflix’s full catalog, along with other channels such as Sky, Channel 4, BBC iPlayer and NOW TV.

*Please see specific brands for Netflix

Is a Free VPN Worth Getting?

The top free VPN services aren’t to be sniffed at but they’re also not in a position to compete with the best-paid alternatives.

If you want secure communications, ProtonVPN is a great choice, especially if you boost it even further by using the free ProtonMail encrypted email service.

Hotspot Shield is one of the best free VPNs in terms of streaming, but not if you hate advertising or want to stream geographically restricted content from anywhere other than the US.

Tunnelbear is user-friendly and its free VPN is one of the few that allows users access to its full server network. The monthly data limit of 500MB is highly restrictive, however, and effectively rules it out in terms of a free VPN for streaming.

For robust and reliable online protection that won’t throttle your bandwidth or reduce your connection speeds to a snail’s pace, the best VPN is, without a doubt, ExpressVPN. If you’re happy to settle for second best to save a few dollars a month, however, we recommend ProtonVPN as the top free VPN in terms of speed, security, and simplicity.








Article comments

Gordon Miller says:

I have expressVPN. It’s fine in all respects (pricey though) except it’s practically UNUSABLE because it prevents me from opening 50% of the sites I try. The line just sticks. When I disconnect the VPN the site opens. As I say: UNUSABLE.

Lola Olsen says:

Hi Gordon,
We’d recommend you call ExpressVPN’s customer support, something else might be wrong. This is not a typical problem with ExpressVPN, as they are usually quite good with unblocking almost everything.

Guest says:

Hi, I use PureVPN to stream netflix and it kinda seems to work fine for me. I mean there are no buffering or dis-connectivity issues at all now.

Lola Olsen says:

Great to hear that PureVPN is working well for you! ma name says:

but now, many vpn’s are banned, eg. all these vpn’s u said. so can u suggest some free vpn’s unbanned?

Lola Olsen says:

When you say that these VPN’s are banned, what do you mean? By which websites are they banned? As always, we would not recommend you to use a free VPN, as they come with many problems and are unreliable when you are trying to view content that is banned in your country.

Louis says:

Thank you for sharing this article. It is very helpful specially to those who are looking for the best free VPN. I got one here that you will surely love too.

Guest says:

I found only ProtonVPN offers almost non-limited free VPN, other services offer for example 2GB monthly. Do not use HotSpot Shield, PureVPN, IPVanish, Zenmate and some other VPN services, they are not good for you, they collect your data and I belive you will find more about it on Google. It is extremely important for any user to use a VPN service that is not situated in “14 eyes” countries. Governments of these countries can go to VPN providers and ask for access to any customer data.

Russel says:

This is a great article as it highlights the prime differences between free and paid VPNs.
Today, the rapid increase in the demand for a secured and accessible internet connection has boosted the popularity of VPN services around the world. More and more people are now looking for a fast, secured and reliable VPN connection to satisfy their personal needs and requirements. As ExpressVPN tops the list of the most popular VPNs, its high cost is not much of a consideration. This is because users are willing to pay a monthly subscription fee in order to be able to access unlimited sites and secure browsing histories at their own ease.
Also, ExpressVPN offers a 30 day free trial which makes it easier for the user to decide if he wants to continue using it or switch to another VPN according to his preference.

Jack Marvis says:

HotSpot shield is the best for me. It caters for all my needs. It’s reliable and amazingly FREE. I currently use it for my laptop. Which free VPN would you recommend for android devices?

ST Editor says:

Hi Jack, thank you for your question. HotSpot Shield is also great for Android, along with SurfEasy and TunnelBear. hey all have Android apps you can easily download from the Google Play Store, and then start using immediately.

katy says:

Which would be the best VPN for a MacAir Laptop for UK and US netflix – paid with free trial? Thanks a lot

ST Editor says:

Hi and thanks for the question! Our top recommendation is ExpressVPN, which delivers a powerful combination of privacy protections and connection speeds. They also offer a 30-day trial alongside a full money-back guarantee, which lets you test out their full services and features without limitations. If you’re looking for Mac laptops specifically, we also recommend checking out some of these top VPNs which can help you access to Netflix in both the UK and US. Let us know which VPN you choose!

Aman says:

Good information about free VPN. Hey, can you tell me will any VPN work in India for watching US TV shows on Netflix? And do all VPNs has 30 day trial period?

ST Editor says:

Hi Aman, there are a variety of VPNs that will work with Netflix, including ExpressVPN . While ExpressVPN does not offer a free trial, they do offer a 30-day money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied with their services. However, we do recommend a paid VPN for Netflix as free VPNs often have bandwidth caps as well as fewer servers to connect to.

Allan says:

Can you tell me what the difference is between the free version and the paying version? I don’t understand why anyone would just give the serve away when I know so many people are using VPN’s these days?

Ilana says:

Hi Allan,
Thank you for your question! The majority of people select a free VPN (ex. ProtonVPN) over a premium service (ex. ExpressVPN) is because either they have a one-time need. Some people also want to “try before they buy,” giving them, in essence, the best of both worlds. You can read more regarding the differences between free and premium in the table at the top of the article.

Marty says:

I have been using TunnelBear for years now. Your right that they have a small number of servers, but it is still pretty solid. I’ve used it on 3 different continents and I use it daily at work.

The only thing you have to sometime watch for is server loads. Sometimes when a server gets too loaded, the speed really drops. That’s when you swap servers and go back to work.

As far as your customer support claims….we do get what we pay for….and this is free, so…..

femi Dar says:

Ahm, most of the online VPN services were paid and being a student it was difficult for me to buy one. Thank you for free VPN service. It works perfectly for me and my brother. Thanks again.

Olivia says:

VPN is a part and parcel of my internet life. Like others, I’m also concerned about my security and started using VPNs. However, as a frugal person, it’s hard to afford the costly premiums. I want to thank Seitz a lot for saving me from all the expenses. Now, I’m free with all these free, ultimate VPN solutions. Great work!

Kent says:

I’m glad cyberghost is topping this list. I travel a lot and this VPN keeps me updated. I never miss out on my favorite shows on Netflix while I’m away.

LIZZY says:

If you want a reliable and cost effective vpn,I will personally recommend ExpressVPN. It rocks!

Amin Jamal says:

I wonder why its difficult to connect with ExpressVPN. Someone said it could be my country and I need to access a US-based website from Pakistan here. What can I do please?

ST Editor says:

Hi Amin, I would love to give you an answer but the only way would be to contact them via the ExpressVPN Live Chat. They will ask you for you device type, OS and version in order to troubleshoot. What I can assure you is that they do offer service in Pakistan and don’t have reports which prove otherwise. You’ll see their live chat is very quick and effective.

Henry says:

I, so far have only tried Tunnelbear and Express VPN…. I can vouch for them. Great speed with unlimited data. Although I am open to other options.

Willis says:

if you want to save a couple of bucks, but still want an extremely reliable VPN,
then check out Cyberghost

Paul says:

I think only number of vpn services really deserves attention and they are nordvpn, cyberghost vpn, hidemyass and of course ipvanish, just because these are the only companies that have significant number of servers in the net, check the numbers in this comparison table

Kate says:

Every free VPN I have ever used was awful and didn’t work at all. I thought the whole thing was a scam until I read this article!!! Thank you for clearing that up – I’m definitely going to try a free trial in the future.

ST Editor says:

We are glad we could make sense of it for you. It is true that free VPN providers often give the software a bad rep. Unfortunately, without charging, they are limited in what they can provide. Using a free trial is the best way to get premium protection for no cost, like with ExpressVPN 30 day money back for example.

Sofia Hambly says:

Yes, we can say that paid VPN is more secure as compare to free one. However, there is no surety that paid VPN to keep logs or not but as we are paying them that we can trust them a bit. They will not keep logs or sale our private data like free VPN because free service earning by selling our important data.

Aashirvad Kumar says:

Cyberghost is really nice VPN but it getting the error sometimes and need to reconnect. Overall it good in work

Kofi Wayo says:

Cyberghost cuts the connection after some ours, and you have to re-connect (and wait for slots to be available). Very annoying, looking for alternative… but looks like I’m going to get a $5 VPS and setup my own VPN server.

maurice says:

My experience with VPN has been a nightmare. NordVPN don’t have a live chat option and couldn’t log in nor set up the L2 encryption service. Express VPN do NOT respect users privacy, they started posting on their Facebook my friends personal details after she asked them if they respected peoples privacies. Do you really want to download an app, from the USA NAS
territory or Romania were they can either monitor all your details or steal them, like your financial details? how do you know who they really are? none of these VPN companies are certified by any regulations.

My dilemma is that I have had people online and near my area hacking remotely and nothing has stopped them. What else can you do to keep your details private even TOR have a backdoor problem where hackers have infiltrated, the last time I used them the websites kept stalling it was terrible.

Lyndon Seitz says:

Hello Maurice,

Sorry to hear that you’ve been having difficulties.

As for your problem, I would say it depends highly on what you have available to you. In some cases I wouldn’t rely on networks at all and use a data plan instead. As far as VPNs go, I understand your concerns. Right now we think Buffered VPN is the best for most circumstances. As for regulations, they know that if they betray the customer word will get around very quickly (much like your experience with ExpressVPN) and customers will jump ship to another VPN very quickly, so the best VPNs are trustworthy.

Let me know if you have any other questions.


lisandros1995 says:

tried 5 times it says connection droped

danny says:

cyber host work with police , so may be try andorra vpn service ar another country whitch not have relation with europa/us country :))

Andy says:

Access to Netflix content on CyberGhost is now only available through their Premium (subscription) service ….. and still not garunteed to work!

Lyndon Seitz says:

Dear Andy,

Thanks for letting us know!


Jakes says:

CyberGhost is no longer providing free VPN. They say all free slots are blocked

Lyndon Seitz says:

Hello Jakes,

I just did a check myself about this. They do have a limited number of free slots, which are sometimes at capacity, but it is possible to use the VPN freely still. It does unfortunately require a bit of waiting.

Hope this helps.


A.Guy says:

cyber ghost and hotspot don’t work on netflix

Lyndon Seitz says:


With some VPNs its a constant back and forth on how they’re working on Netflix. There’s a bit of a crackdown and workarounds (and workarounds to those workarounds) are being created often. Have you tried contacting the customer service of one of those VPNs?