The Best Free VPN of 2022
You don't have to spend a penny to encrypt your web traffic with a VPN.
We can cite dozens of reasons why getting a VPN subscription is a worthwhile investment, but that doesn’t change the fact that paid VPNs just aren’t for everybody. If you’re looking for a free plan that can take your digital security up a notch, keep your personal data private, and protect your computer or mobile phone from the prying eyes of hackers, this review is especially for you.
Quick Glance: Free VPN Trial Period
|Hotspot Shield||No limit|
Why We Don’t Always Recommend Free VPNs
You might notice in our review of the best VPNs that our top picks are all paid VPNs. While we’ve tested out many decent free VPNs, they’re simply not as comprehensive as paid VPNs. Why? Because many free VPNs put limits on things like:
- The amount of servers we can connect to
- Our daily data usage
- The number of devices we can connect
- The amount of time we can use the VPN for.
Having said that, you may be fine with these limitations and logging policies. If that’s the case, read on to find out our top picks for the best free VPNs, which we all tested personally. Note that all of these VPNs also have paid options so if you end up wanting to use them on more devices, use more bandwidth per day, or what have you, you can always upgrade if you so please. Without further ado, we bring you 2022’s best free VPNs!
Side-by-Side Comparison of the Best Free VPNs of 2022
|Works on||Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS||iOS, Android, MacOS, Windows, Linux, Fire TV Stick apps, Xbox||Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux||Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux with browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera||Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS with browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera|
|Data Usage Limit||500 MB per day, refreshes every 24 hours||None||Unlimited||500 MB per month||2 GB per month or 10 GB if you log in and confirm using your email address|
|Connection Speed Limits||2 Mbps||No speed limit||No speed limit, but prioritizes connection of premium users||No speed limit||No speed limit|
|Server Locations||US-based server location only||63||3 locations (USA, Netherlands, and Japan)||Over 20 locations||10 locations (USA, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Switzerland, the UK, and HongKong)|
|Split Tunneling||No||Yes||Yes (Windows and Android clients only)||Yes (Android only)||Yes (Android app only)|
|5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, or 14 Eyes Member||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Limitations of Freemium Version||
|Premium Subscription Pricing||$12.99 monthly or $95.88 yearly||n/a||ProtonVPN Basic: $5 monthly or $48 yearly; ProtonVPN Plus: $10 monthly or $96 yearly||$9.99 monthly or $59.88 yearly||$9 monthly or $49 yearly|
|Read Review||Hotspot Shield Review||Surfshark Review||ProtonVPN Review||TunnelBear Review||Windscribe VPN Review|
A Closer Look at the Best Free VPNs of 2022
1. Hotspot Shield - Best Free VPN for Windows and Mac Users
What We Liked:
- Generous 500 MB data usage allowance per day
- Works on Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS
- Doesn’t log browsing activities
- Up to five devices per account
What We Didn’t Like:
- Allows only one connection at a time
- US-based servers only for free users
- 2 Mbps speed limit
- Based in the US, a Five Eye alliance member
500 MB Daily Data Usage Limit
Hotspot Shield did limit our data usage, but it was more generous than most other free VPNs. Hotspot Shield refreshed our data allowance every 24 hours, giving us 500 MB of bandwidth to consume every day. That’s about 15 GB per month, provided that we max out our allowance daily. However, unused data didn’t roll over to the next day, so if we used only 400 MB in one day, we would still only receive 500 MB the next day. The daily limit made sense as it helped us control our data usage. Instead of giving us 15 GB per month, which frankly, we could blow through in just a week or so, it limited our daily usage so we’d still have bandwidth left towards the end of the month. Now that’s just smart.
Works On Up to Five Devices
We’ve been able to log in using our Hotspot Shield account using five different devices. It worked on Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS, so whether we were in the office working on our MacBooks, at a coffee shop browsing on our smartphones, or at home with our Windows PC, we had access to Hotspot Shield. Only one device connected to Hotspot Shield at a time, though, but it was easy enough to switch between devices thanks to the VPN’s fast connection times. It usually took the VPN less than five seconds to establish connections, which was impressive for a free VPN.
No Ads on Windows and Mac Clients
Most free VPNs generate revenue by injecting ads into the websites we visit. While Hotspot Shield did that in the past, it changed its policy recently and only placed ads in its mobile apps. Also, instead of injecting the ads into websites, Hotspot Shield only showed us short ads after we connected and disconnected our mobile phone VPN. Of course, it’s never fun to see ads, but with a freemium VPN with a generous data usage allowance, going through a couple of ads every session didn’t hurt.
2. Surfshark - Best Free VPN for Short Term Users
What We Liked:
- Five Eyes non-member
- Torrenting and Netflix access
- Split tunneling
- AES-256 encryption
What We Didn’t Like:
- Free VPN only lasts 30 days (Still better than others)
- Static IP addresses
- Latency on Windows
- No phone support
Low Prices After Trial Ends
Sure, we’re not thrilled that SurfShark’s free trial only lasts a month. But that trial period does have its advantages. One, we weren’t limited at all on how we could use the VPN in terms of servers, data, or speed limits, so we could really try it out accurately. That’s what makes it so perfect for those looking for a free VPN to use short term. We got all the features of a premium VPN without spending a single cent. And even once the free trial month is over, the prices didn’t exactly break the bank.
Time Length Overall Cost Monthly Cost 2 Years $59.76 $2.49 6 Months $38.94 $6.49 1 Month $12.95 $12.95
We signed up for two years to lock in that $2.49 a month rate, billed one time as about $60. We were confident about committing for two years thanks to the free trial. If you’re looking for other free trial options, other than SurfShark, check out our review of the best VPNs with free trials.
Unlimited Simultaneous Connections
It’s no secret that we spend a ton of time online. We often find ourselves on our laptops, watching Netflix using one of the best VPNs for Chrome and Chromecast, while checking Instagram on our phones at the same time. So we need a VPN that doesn’t limit us on how many devices we can connect simultaneously. Enter Surfshark, which allows for unlimited connections at the same time. Not only that, but it worked on a ton of our devices, including:
- Fire TV Stick
This opens up SurfShark to most people online, plus, anyone that uses Chrome or Firefox, as it has browser extensions for both.
We’ll let you in on a little secret: even though there are VPNs that work well with Netflix, Netflix is not a fan of VPNs. After pressure from TV networks and studios, it blocked a ton of VPN IP addresses, forcing VPN companies to scramble for new servers. Fortunately, we had no issues watching Surfshark on Netflix, so if you need to finish that show that’s only on Netflix in another country, you can connect to Surfshark and switch your Netflix region.
3. ProtonVPN - Best Free VPN with Unlimited Data Usage
What We Liked:
- No data usage limit
- Strict “No Logs” policy
- Intuitive user interface
- Works across all major operating systems (Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS)
What We Didn’t Like:
- Server locations limited to the U.S, the Netherlands, and Japan
- Limited to one connection at a time
- Lower speed priority for free users
- No other way to contact support besides email support tickets
Unlimited Browsing, Streaming Services, and Downloads
The most common limitation we’ve encountered while testing free VPNs was the data usage limit, which is why we love the fact that the ProtonVPN had no such restrictions. We streamed all we wanted while our MacBook Pro remained connected to ProtonVPN, just like we did when we tested the best VPNs for streaming. That’s how generous ProtonVPN was in terms of data usage. On top of that, our internet speed didn’t drop that much. We had no problem watching Netflix and playing online games, except of course during peak hours. ProtonVPN gives higher speed priority to paying customers, so as users of the free version, our connection slowed down as the traffic increased. Its speed drops were manageable, though.
Strict “No Logs” Policy
ProtonVPN put its main VPN servers in Switzerland, which is a good thing because Switzerland has strict data privacy laws in place.1 Switzerland is also not a member of the Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, or 14 Eyes international surveillance alliance, so the U.S. government, or any government body for that matter, cannot force ProtonVPN to give up its users’ data. The funny thing was, there’s no data to give up in the first place. The company has a strict “no logs” policy. It didn’t log our browsing activity or any information about our VPN connection. The only information it stored was a single timestamp of our most recent login for our account’s security. That’s hardly identifying data, so we had no qualms with ProtonVPN logging it. The company did, however, store our account information locally on its servers, like our email address, support requests and reports, and payment information once we decided to spring for the premium version. This is all normal, though, and believe us, we’ve read a ton of VPN privacy policies! ProtonVPN claimed to have deleted all those pieces of data when we canceled our subscription.
Three Server Locations, One Simultaneous Connection
One of the most important questions we asked ourselves while testing free VPN services was, “Can we live with its limitations?”. Fortunately, ProtonVPN’s limitations barely bothered us. First, there were only three server locations— Japan, the Netherlands, and the United States— which meant that we had fewer options to choose from once those servers started filling up with paying users. However, that wasn’t a problem with the New York server we connected to. Second, we were able to connect only one device at a time. If we were already browsing using our smartphone, we couldn’t use ProtonVPN on our laptop to watch Netflix. That was a little harder to bear, but again, we were using the free version so we can’t complain. And while we’re tech-obsessed, the one device limit helped us reduce our screen time, which we needed anyway.
4. TunnelBear - Best Free VPN for Beginners
What We Liked:
- Easy to use and intuitive user interface
- Over 20 server locations for free users
- Up to five simultaneous connections
- Works across all major operating systems (Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS)
What We Didn’t Like:
- Based in Canada, a Five Eye alliance member
- No Netflix access
- No phone or live chat support
- 500 MB per month data usage limit
Fun and Easy To Use
Most VPNs have a serious vibe going on with their user interface, but TunnelBear took a different approach with its intuitive yet fun and easy-to-use user interface. It connected to the encrypted tunnels with one click of a button and once connected, the application showed us our server location through a virtual map That was incredibly helpful because choosing a server location closest to our physical location usually yielded faster upload and download speeds. Whenever we felt a slowdown, we simply clicked on the “tunnel”, an icon representing TunnelBear’s server locations, closest to us to get a better connection.
FYI: FYI: TunnelBear offers over 20 server locations to choose from, all of which are accessible even to free users.
Up To Five Simultaneous Connections
Although TunnelBear is a free VPN, it allows up to five connections at any single time. In fact, on several occasions, we used it to encrypt our MacBook Air, Android smartphone, and iPad that we connected to a public library Wi-Fi network. And that’s another advantage of the TunnelBear as a free VPN: it worked across all major operating systems for desktop and mobile, including Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. It also had browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera, which allowed us to encrypt only our browsing data rather than encrypting our laptop or smartphone’s entire online activity.
20+ Server Locations
While other VPNs limit the number of virtual locations accessible to free users, we loved that TunnelBear let us connect to over 20 different server locations. It allowed us to choose a server closest to us for faster speeds and to switch over to different servers if our current connection wasn’t good. And for those like us who aren’t geography buffs, TunnelBear’s interface makes it easier to visualize the location of the servers. The interface also makes it easier to find other close proximity servers in case the closest one doesn’t yield good speeds, or if you want to change your iPhone’s location to a specific country.
5. Windscribe - Best Free VPN for the Security-Minded
What We Liked:
- At least 10 server locations for free users
- Adware and malware blocker with the browser extension
- The desktop client includes a built-in firewall
- Split tunneling on the Android app
What We Didn’t Like:
- Based in Canada, a Five Eyes alliance member
- Logs more data than the bare minimum
- 10 GB per month data usage limit
- Live chat support through an automated bot
Worked On Desktops, Smartphones, and Browsers
Windscribe worked on just about any device we used at home. There were desktop clients for Windows, Mac, and Linux, apps for iOS and Android, browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera, and even an app for our Amazon Fire TV. Now that’s impressive, but let’s go back to the basics. We used Windscribe mostly on our MacBook Pro. The desktop client connected all our apps to the VPN tunnel, while the Windscribe extension we installed on our Chrome browser only encrypted our browser activity. That was helpful because, given the 10 GB per month data limit, we used Windscribe mostly to browse the Internet. If, for instance, we wanted to Google something while on a Skype call, we could simply connect our browser to Windscribe without having to connect Skype and all our other desktop applications.
Pro Tip: You can get additional data allowance by tweeting about Windscribe, referring friends, or hanging around Windscribe’s official Subreddit.
Ads, Tracking, and Social Network Blocking
There was another advantage to using the Windscribe browser extension: it blocked ads, trackers, and social network widget buttons that often contain trackers. You know those Like, Tweet, and Share widget buttons that appear on various websites? Turns out, they can track our browsing data even if we don’t click on any of them.2 Windscribe blocked those widgets so that we could browse the Web, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks couldn’t track us. That just goes to show how serious the company is about keeping its customers’ online activity private. But don’t worry, we could still access our social networks even with the blocking feature.
Data Logging Policy
Our Video Review
If you liked our list, be sure to also check out our video review of the best free VPNs. It has additional information about our top picks and you’ll get to see our featured free VPNs in action as well.
Methodology: How We Tested Free VPNs
That’s pretty much it for our list of the best VPNs you can access for free. But if you want to explore your options yourself, here’s an insider’s look at our review process and what we look for when we compare VPNs, whether free-to-use or otherwise.
First of all, we want our VPN to protect our privacy without making much of an impact on our browsing experience, particularly our internet speed. Almost any VPN we’ve ever tested slowed down our connection, but ideally, the difference should not exceed 40 percent in any of the speed categories— namely, the latency (ping), download speed, and upload speed.
We tested free VPNs using Speedtest by Ookla. To make the results uniform, we connected only one device to our router at a time, and then we took a speed test using the device without a VPN. We then performed a second speed test, this time with the VPNs. We logged the results and computed the difference between the latency, download speeds, and upload speeds in terms of a percentage. We performed the tests both on our Mac and Windows computers.
Keep in mind that speed test results don’t always tell the whole story. There are a number of other factors that may affect the results, like our proximity to the server, the current online traffic of both our internet service provider and the VPNs, and the device we used, just to name a few. So while we try to keep our test results as accurate as possible, we don’t fully rely on the speed alone to determine our top picks.
VPNs preserve personal data by encrypting web traffic that could contain personally identifiable information. Unfortunately, while most VPNs do encrypt web traffic, there are some that collect other kinds of metadata that they sell to third parties to turn a profit.
That’s especially true with free VPNs. As they say, “if you’re not paying for a product, you are the product.” To see which VPNs do that and which ones don’t, we looked into their privacy policies and checked which kinds of data they collect and store. There are some, like ProtonVPN, that have strict logging policies, but there are also others that store some types of data but immediately delete everything as soon as you disconnect. Both are acceptable, but ideally, we want our VPN to not collect any data at all aside from the bare minimum it needs to uphold our account.
We also looked at each VPN company’s legal obligations to share customer information with the government. Companies based in member countries of the Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes international surveillance alliances are particularly risky because their government could force them to hand over customer information. While we won’t go as far as to avoid them, we want our readers to know the risks.
On the more technical side of things, we tested for DNS and WebRTC leaks using online tools. We can see if VPNs have DNS leaks by comparing our IP address that appears on the DNS Leak Test website.3 A similar method applies to WebRTC leaks, which we test using ExpressVPN’s online tool.4
The performance of VPNs also matters to us. We are always on the lookout for useful VPN features. For instance, we checked if VPNs have a kill switch, which stops all online activity in the event that the VPNs fail to prevent our data from leaking to our internet provider Split tunneling is another useful feature as it allows devices to connect to the Internet through two different tunnels. One tunnel passes through a VPN tunnel, while the other connects to a public network as if there’s no VPN. This feature is useful for multi-tasking and it creates faster speeds as it allows lower bandwidth. Finally, we gave special credit to VPNs with multi-hop or at least double-hop connections, as they encrypt data several times as it hops through different servers.
For this review specifically, we didn’t put much weight on the pricing, given the subject matter. However, we’d like to note that all five free VPNs on our list have paid versions. We base our assessment on a number of factors, including the features the VPNs offer and their pricing compared to competitors. In our experience, paid VPNs could cost as low as less than a dollar per month, but the more expensive ones could cost up to $15 per month.
No matter how tech-savvy we are, we still run into issues we can’t troubleshoot ourselves, so we also like to know how easy (or hard) it is to contact the VPNs’ customer support teams. Email support is not the most ideal for us because most companies are slow to respond to email tickets. We prefer companies with live chat or phone support, and if those channels are available 24/7, even better.
Finally, we looked into both the Android and iOS apps of the VPNs, focusing on their functionality. Are they easy to use? Do they work well? What are other users saying about the apps? We also read customer reviews and compare their observations with ours to see if any patterns emerge.
FAQs About Free VPNs
What are the best free VPNs of 2022?
The best free VPNs of 2020 are ProtonVPN, Windscribe, TunnelBear, and Hotspot Shield. TunnelBear’s free trial has no time limit and supports up to 500 MB of data per day, and Hotspot Shield also has no time limit on their free trial, although it only works on one device.
Can free VPNs bypass geographic restrictions?
Most free VPNs can bypass geographic restrictions, but for best results, we recommend free VPNs with servers in more than 10 locations.
What are the limitations of free VPNs?
The limitations of free VPNs often include data usage limits, speed capping, and limited simultaneous connections. Some VPNs may also limit the number of server locations you can access.
Are free VPNs safe?
Not all free VPNs are safe, which is why we recommend getting a free version of a reputable paid VPN rather than downloading a VPN advertised as 100 percent free.
The Federal Council. (1999). Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation.
Wall Street Journal. (2011). ‘Like' Button Follows Web Users.
dnsleaktest.com. (2020). DNS Leak Test.
Express VPN. (2020). WebRTC Leak Test.