Free VPN: Here are the Best Ones and Info All About Virtual Private Networks
A free VPN (one of the best ones) may be all that you need for more privacy, more security and greater website access. Good news: this article includes a free virtual private network glossary.
Let’s start right here. You can get a VPN (Virtual Private Network) that doesn’t cost a thing, and get a level of security, privacy and online access that you might not have right now.
If you choose a REPUTABLE free VPN from this list below, and you’re an average, typical internet user, you will probably be happy enough—most of the time. The only time you might be disappointed is when the free VPN becomes slow or you run out of access to your VPN coverage in a month.
OUR TOP FREE VPN LIST:
As you start researching VPN ranking sites, you’ll likely see these brand names on most of the “top” lists for VPNs that you don’t have to pay for: NOTE: Refer to our Free VPN Glossary for explanations of features!
TunnelBear Free VPN: the downside is only 500 MB of monthly data. The upside is excellent security and a super-friendly website to use.
Hotspot Shield Free VPN: It’s supposedly faster than most free VPN and offers 15 GB of monthly data.
These well-known free VPNs make the list because—according to most reviewers/users—they provide users with limited, free VPN services without a “catch.” If you stray from the list, you run the risk of choosing a free VPN that takes advantage of you somehow—either by tracking your website visits, selling that information to advertisers, or even taking some of your bandwidth and offering up to others.
So, stick with the top free VPN list to avoid the kind of stuff that you don’t want. A free VPN from the list might give you what you want—if it lets you down at all, it will most likely be that they put a limit on using their free service.
Or for a relatively low monthly fee, you can get a VPN (a paid subscription) that also delivers security, privacy and access, just faster and more reliably than a free VPN. (More on that topic later.)
A free VPN is great, isn’t it?
But you also need to know this clearly upfront, so you have all the facts.
Yes it is, because as most people say, “Why shell out ANY money when you can get a VPN that might do what you need it to do?” And they’re pretty much right. You can’t go wrong if you choose one from the list you just saw.
A free VPN will never be equal to what a paid version can do for you. Never.
Helping you choose a free VPN that works for you. Part 1.
Can we recommend the right no-cost VPN for you?
Nope. That would like telling you where to go on vacation or what hotel to stay in. It comes down to making your own choice at some point.
However, we can recommend the simplest approach for picking one.
Ready? Just pick one, sign up, and start using it.
Each one on the Top Free VPN list has been reviewed and are recognized as the best of all the hundreds (yes, hundreds) of free VPNs out there—many which are to be avoided.
Helping you choose a free VPN that works for you. Part 2.
Most people know little about Virtual Private Networks, so we wanted to provide helpful, useful information.
- This article includes an exclusive glossary of VPN terms, created precisely for the person who’s considering a Virtual Private Network, whether it costs nothing, or a few dollars a month.
- We also covered the topic of how to get and how to use a free VPN.
The benefits of a VPN…even a no-cost one.
Choose a free VPN from the list and here’s what it will/can do for you. (These are the core/basic benefits of any VPN):
- Security. Provides a more secure, safe connection to the internet and keeps you safer from hackers, because of encryption
- Privacy. Hides your geographical location from the government and other snoops whenever you’re online.
- Access. Unblocks most geo-location internet restrictions, so you can watch sports and other media that you might be denied access to.
You might think (or hope) that your ISP (Internet Service Provider) at home would provide all the security, privacy and internet access you need. They strive to do their best, but the fact is their primary job is to connect you to the internet with the best basic protections they can provide. If you want more than that, you need to improve things on your own, and that’s where a free VPN or a paid one comes in.
Just know, as we’ve said, you will get a measure of extra security, privacy and access with a reputable freebie VPN—however you might not get as much as you want or need.
You must keep in mind that every VPN you don’t pay for has some shortcomings. It’s either going to be slower, or not always available, or just not as “polished” as you would want it to be. It’s free, but not perfect.
No matter—a free VPN will come through for you, especially when it comes to doing what it does best—hiding your actual location when you’re on the internet.
Hiding your IP address: The special trick that lets a free VPN do its magic.
A reputable free VPN reroutes your internet connection through a secure “tunnel” or path that’s designed to prevent hackers from penetrating the network and stealing usable data. That’s the “security” aspect that’s so valuable when using public Wi-Fi.
But ultimately, the key thing a free VPN does is mask or hide your real IP address from the rest of the internet. How? By loaning you an IP address…one of theirs. Here’s why that’s important:
- If anyone (like a government agency) tried to locate you by your actual IP address, they couldn’t if you had your free VPN on. They’d think you were located in the city and country where the VPN server is located.
- If a website would normally block you out based on your actual IP address’s location (home, region or country), they’d not be able to block you if you had your free VPN on, because they’d see a different IP. That’s how some people get around restrictions that block out sporting events or streaming services.
How to sign up for and use a free VPN.
If you’re new to all this free VPN talk, it may seem a little intimidating, but signing up is straightforward and takes no special knowledge or equipment.
Let’s say you are interested in the free VPN on the list called TunnelBear. Here’s how to get if for free:
- All you do is click on the link to their website
- Find the button that says GET TUNNEL BEAR NOW
- Click the TRY FOR FREE button on the next page (the download of the TunnelBear installation program will start immediately).
Open the install program and go from there.
Once you have the TunnelBear installed, you simply open the program and turn it on after you establish an internet connection—whether that’s at home, a hotel, a coffeehouse or an airport.
TunnelBear is honest about what you’re getting: It identifies their free VPN option “testing and limited usage.” They’re giving you just a taste of a free VPN, and it may be all you need. But it may not be. And that’s why a free VPN, like TunnelBear also offers paid plans with all the bells and whistles.
Here are a few more common questions people ask about a free VPN:
Q. Do I have to switch my internet provider to use a free VPN?
A. No. A VPN works with whatever internet connection you have, whether at home or on the road.
Q. Is it safe or legal to use any Virtual Private Network?
A. Yes! Any VPN is totally legal to use. It’s not anything mysterious—it’s just that most people simply don’t know about them or where to sign up for one. Of course, if you do illegal things online while using a VPN, it’s still illegal.
Q. Will a VPN that doesn’t cost me anything cause any problems for me?
A. With a free VPN, you may experience (and notice) a slowdown in your internet connection. All VPNs cause a slowdown and your internet speed will always be slower when you use any VPN, even those that promise blazing speeds.
Q. Will websites block me because I use a free VPN?
A. On the contrary, websites that may have been blocked you before may suddenly be accessible, thanks to your VPN connection. Netflix is an exception—Netflix goes out of its way to prevent VPN users from getting around Netflix’s geo-restrictions. So, you’d still get blocked with or without a VPN.
If getting around Netflix blocks is important to you, then you’ll want to find a VPN that does the trick. Read about your options here.
FREE VPN GLOSSARY
If you haven’t done much research on VPNs, don’t worry. In fact, you might even be better off, because many websites use technical jargon that most don’t know and don’t need to know.
This glossary, written in plain non-technical language, will help anyone who isn’t too familiar with most VPN terms and jargon. In sticking with the theme of the entire article, our glossary covers each term from a free VPN perspective.
5-Eyes Alliance. If you’re very concerned (close to paranoid) about never being investigated by authorities and hunted down for doing what you do online, then don’t choose a free VPN, or paid VPN, that is headquartered in countries that are part of the 5-Eyes Alliance. Why? Because those countries have agreed to help each other investigate criminal activity and they will pursue all avenues to track down real enemies to safety. Which means they may go to a VPN and ask the for all their records. (That’s why people also choose VPNs that don’t log activity and are not in a 5-Eyes country.)
Access. Sometimes a website service such as sporting event (also see Netflix), will deny you access to their content because of your location (or geolocation). For example, subscribers to Major League Baseball (MLB) Network are blocked from watching their home team’s games. A VPN can fool the service into thinking that you are watching the game from another region…and they’ll grant you access.
Ads/advertising. Like other free online services (YouTube, for instance), advertising on the site helps “pay” for those using the service. Sometimes, you’ll come across a free VPN that forces advertising on their non-paying customers, while another free VPN does not. (Paid VPNs never have intrusive ads.)
Countries: You’ll see this come up in VPN write-ups. Depending on what you want from your free VPN, it’s nice to have the option of choosing a server in a different country, if you want to get around censorship or get around geo-location blocks. The more “countries” a VPN offers, the more options you have. A free VPN typically limits servers/countries.
Data Caps. Our smartphone service plans come with data limits…we’re used to it. Free VPNs have data caps also, and they vary by provider. Meaning…if you have used your free VPN too much in one month (and you exceeded their data cap), you’re done with that VPN until the next month. (If you’re wondering, paid VPNs have NO data caps. However, you won’t know if you can live within their data cap until you try it!)
Devices. “Devices” Is just another word for our smartphones, desktops, laptops and tablets (iPad and Surface Pros), anything that gives us an internet connection. See simultaneous connections.
Ease of use/user friendly. When free VPN reviewers give a service good marks for ease of use, take note. It means that, compared to other VPNs, this provider makes it easy for everyone (and especially beginners) to use their service. That might come in handy when you tell your friends and family who are technically challenged that they can install your free VPN on their devices too.
Encryption. A VPN uses processes to encrypt (code/encode) all the data that travels through its networks so that the data is unreadable and can only be read (unscrambled) by the intended recipient. That’s important if you’re only available internet connection is the free public (unsecured) network at a hotel, airport, office or coffeehouse.
Free trial period. A free trial period is associated with paid VPN subscriptions and is not the same as a free VPN, which stays free. You can get a 7-day or 30-day free trial with some of the best VPNs available…. the only catch is you must subscribe to, and pay for, the subscription, and then cancel it before the end of the trial period to avoid being billed.
Free VPN vs. free trial period. A lot of websites these days have (purposely) blurred their descriptions of free VPNS and free trial period, and, for that matter, paid VPNs. So, beware of the bait-and-switch!
Geolocation/geo-restrictions. See access.
Hide your IP (address). When youuse a VPN, your actually hide your IP address from the internet. Websites you visit only see an IP address that your VPN has temporarily assigned to you. Use whatismyipaddress.com to verify your actual IP address is hidden when you are using your VPN.
IP address. Your Internet Protocol address is the digital (electronic) address for the internet connection you have when you are online. Your IP address at home stays the same, more or less. (it can or does change from time to time). If you take your laptop or phone and use the Wi-Fi network somewhere else, you’ll have a totally different IP address. The fastest way to find your IP address is to go to WhatIsMyIPaddress.com.
Live Chat (24/7 support) – If you like the idea of a “help desk,” where someone can give you assistance setting up your VPN account or walk you through a problem, then look for the live chat feature. It might come in handy. Keep in mind, setting up your VPN could get tricky when you are doing it for the first time. And if you run into the other issues, live chat is there to help you.
Locations. The countries, city or regions where a VPN’s servers reside. A free VPN may have 50 servers in 30 locations, but may only offer up a few to their free VPN users.
Monthly data allowance: A free VPN typically limits the amount of data you can use up when you’re VPN is “on.” 10GB (gigabytes) per month is common. The average household of four used 190GB (gigabyte) of data monthly from their internet provider in 2019—that averages to over 45GB per person. The average mobile uses about 3GB of data monthly. So, you can see that you won’t be able to use your VPN all the time…but that might still work for you. Take note: paid VPNs offer unlimited data.
Netflix. If you have a Netflix account, a free VPN could come in handy at times. Or it could not. Netflix has geographical access and pricing, so if you signed up for Netflix in the United States, but you try to access your Netflix account from another region, you will likely be denied access by Netflix, even when using a free VPN or paid VPN. Netflix is able to block VPN users who trying to “cheat the system”—but, some VPNs can beat those Netflix restrictions.
No logging. This isn’t about cutting down trees; it’s about a free VPN provider not keeping digital records of where “you” went on the internet—your digital tracks. VPN providers do things differently, and some do have “records” of when you used their service and from what IP address, etc. This is important to some people who don’t want anyone knowing where they went on the internet…even their VPN provider.
Platforms. This issimply the term for our devices’ operating systems. Your computer or tablet uses as its operating system (OS/platform) either Windows or (if you have an Apple/Mac) macOS. VPNs work on both. VPNs also work on our smartphone platforms—either Android or Apple iOS.
Privacy. A free VPN protects your privacy (when you use it correctly) by hiding your IP address from every website you visit. When you visit a website from home without using a VPN, that website doesn’t know your name and home address. They only know that your IP address visited them. If you didn’t want a website to know that, using a Virtual Private Network would hide your real IP address. Some people use a VPN so their internet provider can’t make money by selling their customers’ internet activity to advertisers.
Remember, an entity (such as a law enforcement agency) would need a subpoena to get your IP address and personal information from a website or ISP. And they’ll do it if they have to.
Security. A free VPN, as with a paid version, provides you with a secure connection to any website you visit, thanks to security measures (encryption, VPN protocols, etc.) that make the data transmission unhackable and/or unreadable. Business people especially rely on VPNs when they need assurance that their internet connection is safe to use (and they’re most likely using a paid VPN to get all the features available).
Servers. A server is a VPN-owned data hub that routes your internet requests to websites and other connections/people, while protecting your data from hackers and keeping your IP address hidden. The more servers available with the free VPN provider, the better for you, because you won’t be limited to servers that could become bogged down with traffic.
Simultaneous connections. A fancy term for how many devices are allowed to connect to your free VPN account and even use it at the same time—“connect simultaneously.” But take note: your data cap would add up everybody’s activity, which is bad news or a free VPN and its data cap.
Speed Caps. Some providers will “throttle” the speed of their free VPN accounts, to keep it under a certain limit. If the free VPN provider also offers a paid version, it’s their way of enticing you to get a paid subscription to get more speed. If they do, there’s nothing you can do but see if you can live with offered speed or not. Even paid-for VPNs vary in speed.
Torrenting. If you don’t know what torrenting is…you probably don’t need to know. If you want to use a VPN for torrenting files (and staying under the internet’s radar), that’s great. Either way, a free VPN will probably not work for you at all if you want to torrent, due to both speeds and data caps. Torrenting, just to set the record straight, is a special process (an alternative process) for downloading large files…like movie-size files.
Upgrade. When you see the word upgrade on a free VPN provider’s site, they’re saying to you “hey, if you want more power or features, upgrade to one of our plans”—in other words, pay a few dollars a month to get more features. It’s not necessarily a bad suggestion.
VPN protocols. Another technical term you need not worry about too much. Computer and smartphone technology works fine in the background. Much like automobile technology works fine without us having to know about engine size, fuel injection, or automatic breaking systems. Only IT types (and not many of them) would care about the various VPN protocol (security) options. The default for most free VPNs is called OpenVPN and will likely be perfect for you at all times. No need to worry.
VPN speeds. Free VPN internet speeds are going to be slower than paid VPNs. Some of them could be frustratingly slow, compared to either what you’re used to or what you want. Well, here’s the truth about VPN speeds. Every VPN connection in (even the best paid ones!) will be slower than the internet speed you’d have without your VPN turned on. So, when a VPN advertisers “blazing fast” speeds, it means “blazing fast” compared to other, slower VPNs. You can check your internet connection’s speed by using the Speed Test Tool on WhatIsMyIPAddress.com.
Ready to go? Pick a free VPN, sign up and go online!
As we said before, there’s no real reason to make picking a free VPN more difficult than it should be.
Just pick one and sign up. Or pick two and sign up. Or three.
They are all free. Start with one and see how it works. If you’re not happy, try one of the other free VPNs. Here are the top five we recommend you check out:
Proton VPN Free VPN – Offers unlimited data, which is rare, but access to only three of their servers.
TunnelBear Free VPN – The downside is only 500 MB of monthly data. The upside is excellent security and a super-friendly website to use.
Hotspot Shield Free VPN – It’s supposedly faster than most free VPN and offers 15 GB of monthly data.
Hide.me Free VPN – With 24/7 support and no speed caps, this is worth a close look.
Windscribe Free VPN – It’s considered easy to use, offers 10 GB of data monthly, unlimited device connections and servers in 10 countries.
- Easy Prey Podcast
- General Topics
- Home Computing
- IP Addresses
- Online Privacy
- Online Safety
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