Linux users enjoy access to a diverse range of free software, which is a major advantage of using an open-source operating system. However, certain types of free Linux software, such as VPNs, can be challenging to find. That’s why a huge number of Linux users who have the technical know-how and hardware resources opt to create their own VPN setup.
Of course, you’re not completely out of options even if you have neither the expertise nor the resources necessary to set up your own VPN. While their numbers are small, there are still VPNs available to Linux users for free, albeit with a few caveats. They’ll be the topic of this post, and we’ll highlight the three best free VPNs for Linux, their best features, and their most noteworthy limitations.
Atlas may not be the biggest name in the VPN space, but it does one thing really well: it gives users free access to online privacy through its VPN. Atlas’ free VPN — or what we like to call a freemium VPN because of its features — offers plenty of functionality at no cost. Anyone can sign up and download its apps.
That being said, if you’re a Linux user, setting up Atlas VPN may require a little bit of tinkering. Atlas doesn’t have a graphical user interface (GUI) for Linux. Instead, you’ll have to go to your device’s terminal and use the command line interface (CLI) to install, sign in, and connect. Atlas provides general instructions1, but you may find that the process varies depending on which distro you’re using. This VPN is best optimized to work with Ubuntu.
What We Liked
Quick access to WireGuard once set up
Well-written setup instructions including CLI terminal codes to input
Secure 256-bit AES encryption, WireGuard, and SHA-384 tunneling
Advanced MultiHop features for premium users
What We Didn’t Like
No OpenVPN support for Linux
Limited servers (3 for freemium users)
Lack of GUI for easier access and control
Limited native Linux distribution support
Why It’s the Best Free WireGuard VPN for Linux
Atlas VPN’s Linux software offers quick and easy access to a VPN that uses the WireGuard tunneling protocol. One of the most popular VPN protocols right now, WireGuard is well-suited for Linux devices that don’t have as much processing power as desktops, such as Raspberry Pi single-board computers. That’s because WireGuard runs on very few lines of code, making it a lightweight alternative to the likes of OpenVPN.
In terms of security, however, WireGuard is a heavy-hitter. It has a smaller attack surface, again, thanks to its simple coding, but it still uses top-notch encryption and hashing standards like 256-bit AES and SHA-384.
Another advantage of WireGuard is that a wide array of Linux distributions support this protocol. Although Atlas designed its Linux software to work with Ubuntu specifically, it can technically work with any distro that has built-in WireGuard support. You’ll just need to tinker with the setup process a little bit to get it to work.
Atlas VPN, when used without a premium subscription, limits the amount of bandwidth you can use per month, as well as the number of servers to which you can connect. You can only tunnel up to 10 GB of data per month through Atlas, and you can only connect to three VPN locations.
While Atlas doesn’t limit connection speed, we noticed in our last testing that the free version is slower than the premium version. There are several factors that could be the cause, but our prime suspect is congestion. Because there are only three server locations, traffic from free users is concentrated in those servers, potentially causing a bottleneck.
2. Surfshark - Best Free OpenVPN for Linux (Trial)
Let us start off by saying that Surfshark would’ve been our top choice if it had a truly free VPN. Sadly, it doesn’t; Surfshark’s free Linux VPN comes in the form of a 30-day free trial. Moreover, you have to pay upfront and then cancel within 30 days and request a refund. It’s still technically free if you cancel on time, but you’ll have to deal with those caveats to enjoy Surfshark.
On the bright side, we believe it’s worth it, because with the Surfshark free trial, you’re not just getting a limited taste of its features. Instead, you’ll gain full access to all of Surfshark’s capabilities, and you can install it on other devices, not just those that run Linux. In fact, all Surfshark subscriptions support unlimited devices.
What We Liked
Code line and graphical user interfaces
Full access with no data, server, or speed limitations
Able to be used on unlimited devices
What We Didn’t Like
Free trial only
Some Windows and Mac features aren’t available on Linux
GUI software supports only Debian, Ubuntu, and Mint
Trial expires after 30 days
Why It’s the Best Free OpenVPN Software for Linux
Surfshark came out as one of the best VPNs in the market after our most recent round of testing and comparing VPNs. A huge part of its success has to do with its near-flawless implementation of OpenVPN, which, fortunately, Surfshark also exhibits in its Linux software.
Let’s begin with the fact that Surfshark’s Linux GUI allows you to choose between OpenVPN’s user datagram protocol (UDP) and transmission control protocol (TCP), the most widely used transmission protocols for this VPN setup. UDP is faster and uses less data, but TCP is more stable. We recommend the latter if you’re using your Linux machine as a backup server, email server, or file server; you know, typical Linux applications that need to be online 24/7.
It’s not just about security and reliability, though. Surfshark has server infrastructure capable of handling online traffic from heavy-use Linux devices. It has over 3,000 servers, and each one has at least a 1 Gbps port. Newer servers have multiple 10 Gbps ports2, so even if you’re running heavy network tasks or transmitting large amounts of data to and from your Linux machine, Surfshark can handle it.
The biggest catch with Surfshark is that it’s only a free trial, and once the trial ends you’ll need to upgrade to a premium account to continue enjoying its features. The trial is 30 days and has a money-back guarantee, so you’ll need to cancel and request a refund for it to be truly free.
That said, Surfshark subscriptions aren’t that expensive. You can get one for a little over $2 per month, which is a fair deal considering all of its features.
If you’re looking for a Linux VPN that’s truly free and you don’t care for complex CLI setups, then TunnelBear is for you. Very few VPNs offer a working Linux GUI, let alone a free one, but TunnelBear offers both.
TunnelBear is one of the easiest Linux VPNs to install and is perfect for beginners. It’s also user-friendly, and the app has a near-zero learning curve. In fact, connecting to TunnelBear through its GUI requires simply toggling a button.
What We Liked
Easy to use interface
Ability to conveniently switch between different servers
Ability to download and install the software package from TunnelBear
Strong encryption and zero data logging
What We Didn’t Like
Limited Linux tech support from support center
Infrequent app updates
Support for Debian and Ubuntu only
Why It’s the Best Free Linux VPN With a GUI
Right off the bat, we can tell you that TunnelBear isn’t the most advanced VPN for Linux. It only supports OpenVPN, it lacks many features of its Windows and Mac counterparts, and even the company itself admits that its tech support isn’t as well-versed about its Linux software as it is with TunnelBear’s other apps.
That being said, TunnelBear is the most straightforward free VPN to use on a Linux machine. There’s a software package ready to download and install right from TunnelBear’s website, and once it’s installed, you can connect to the VPN’s server network with ease.
Switching servers is also easy. It’s not as easy as switching servers on a Windows PC, of course, but it’s as straightforward as it gets for Linux. The VPN setup file will include VPN profiles for all server locations accessible to you. From there, it’ll take only a few clicks to set up a new profile with the VPN location of your liking and start using it.
A free TunnelBear account gives you access to 10 GB of VPN usage data per month. And while there are no speed limits, you’ll have access to only a limited number of servers. On the bright side, TunnelBear has one of the largest free server networks, with over 20 locations to choose from.
Conclusion: Do You Really Need a VPN for Linux?
Linux is one of the most secure operating systems around, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need a VPN. While Linux does a good job keeping malware at bay, your files and data become at risk once you connect your device to the internet. They can be hacked, stolen, intercepted, or spied on, and no matter how secure Linux is, it’s limited in what it can do to protect your data once it reaches the internet.
So to answer the question: yes, even Linux devices need a VPN. Fortunately, as limited as they may be, there are still free options around. Give them a try, and when you’re ready to invest in a full-featured Linux VPN, see our list of the best VPNs for Ubuntu, which also work with other Linux distros.
Frequently Asked Questions
We took some extra time to answer the most frequently asked questions about Linux VPNs.
Generally, as long as you’re using a free VPN from a reputable company, you’re in good hands. We have firsthand experience with the providers that offer the best free Linux VPNs — Atlas, Surfshark, and TunnelBear — so as long as you follow our suggestions, it’s safe to use a free VPN for Linux.
If you’re willing to pay for a subscription, we suggest looking into Surfshark, NordVPN, and Private Internet Access. These three VPNs are secure, and with a premium subscription, they all offer access to a Linux VPN.
Generally, yes. Even VPNs with a graphical user interface for Linux require the use of the terminal somewhere in the setup process. When you’re setting up a Linux VPN, it’s best to contact your provider’s tech support for specific instructions.
As long as you can access your Linux machine’s terminal, you should be able to find a VPN that works with it. That said, if you don’t have convenient access to a terminal, one alternative you can try is to set up a VPN on the network level, i.e., your router. That way, any device you connect to it will enjoy VPN tunneling features.