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Hotspot Shield: Is the Premium VPN REALLY Better than the Free One?

Adam Wagner
Last Updated by Adam Wagner on June 19, 2022

Hotspot Shield is one of the best free VPNs out there — but there is a catch. You’ll only be able to lightly surf the internet, or risk running over the allocated 500MB of free data per day. This means you can’t stream movies or TV shows, download torrent files, or upload any photos or videos onto social media.

On top of this, I find that Hotspot Shield’s free version also runs quite slowly and limits the number of virtual locations you can connect with.

If you’re using the internet for more than 30 minutes a day (the equivalent to 500MB of data), then you should consider upgrading to Hotspot Shield’s elite version. Not only do you get unlimited data and 24/7 customer service, but also a free trial and 45-day money-back guarantee.

To save you time, I compared Hotspot Shield’s free package with the paid version below. This will help you decide which Hotspot Shield plan is best for you.

Try Hotspot Shield risk-free today

Hotspot Shield Free vs Paid

Even though both the free and premium versions offer you the same encryption (128-bit/256-bit AES), the two are far from equal. The free account not only limits what you can do, but may also compromise your privacy due to the way that completely free VPNs work.

These services need to make a profit in order to run. So to make money, free VPNs will often sell your information or show you advertisements. Hotspot Shield is no exception, and its free version does include ads. According to the privacy policy, the VPN may even give advertisers your general location when using it for free. However, if you upgrade to Hotspot Shield elite, you’ll get rid of the annoying ads and keep your privacy intact.

The free version may be enough to keep you secure while you surf the web, but it can’t do much else. If you try to stream video content, you’ll be asked to upgrade your account. Attempting to connect to Netflix will show you a streaming error. Downloading a torrent will quickly leave you without data.

If you don’t want any limitations, the paid Hotspot Shield version gives you unlimited data and the ability to stream Netflix from anywhere.

Try the elite version of Hotspot Shield

What You’ll Get With the Free Version

  • Limited to 500MB of data per day
  • Only 1 virtual location within the US
  • Lots of ads
  • Premium Payment Wall if you want to stream content
  • Netflix proxy error stopping you from unblocking content
  • Slower speeds
  • No dedicated support

What You’ll Get if you Upgrade to the Elite Version

  • Unlimited data for streaming and downloading
  • Access to 3,200+ servers across 70+ countries
  • No ads
  • No additional payment needed to stream content
  • Unblock Netflix and bypasses the Netflix proxy error
  • Faster speeds
  • 24/7 dedicated support through email and live chat
  • 5 simultaneous device connections
  • 45-day money-back guarantee

If you’d like to try Hotspot Shield’s elite package, you can take advantage of their 7-day free trial. Just cancel before it ends and you won’t be charged a thing!

Start your 7-day free trial today

What Can You Do With 500MB of Data Each Day?

  • Browse the internet: Very little data is required to search and browse on Google.
  • Check emails: You can read and respond to emails but be careful of downloading large attachments like photos and videos, which could eat up your entire 500MB.
  • Use social media: Basic usage of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter doesn’t use much data, as long as you avoid watching videos and uploading content.
  • Shop online: Most online shopping sites are optimized for fast loading, which will help you save your limited data.

To stretch your daily 500MB of free data even further, I recommend you use Hotspot Shield’s free version on your mobile phone. Mobile websites load faster and the cache will keep downloaded images, so you won’t need to load everything again if you visit the same website twice. Also, you should disable apps that keep using data in the background to avoid an unexpected data drain.

Unfortunately, 500MB of data per day still isn’t enough if you want to upload, download or stream any media online. I know this first-hand because I tested the data cap to see how far it would get me — as it turns out, not very far.

During my tests, I was able to stream videos and play Fortnite for around 37 minutes before my data was used up. The data cap was also an issue when I tried downloading torrents, as 500MB isn’t much to work with.

If you want to watch videos, download torrents, and play games while keeping your online identity secure and anonymous — then you should really consider upgrading to the elite version.

I even found this hidden coupon page for Hotspot Shield Elite, which will help you save between 47% to 77% off the original price. Best of all, the first 45 days is free (when using the money-back guarantee), so there’s very little risk involved if you change your mind.

Get active coupon (updated daily)

Unblocking Netflix with Hotspot Shield’s Elite package

Streaming geo-restricted content like Netflix is one of the big reasons that a lot of people use a VPN. And while the free version of Hotspot Shield didn’t do well in this category, I wanted to make sure that the premium version could do better.

Netflix didn’t work at all with the free version. When I tried to access the site, a Premium Payment Wall stopped me dead in my tracks. Any streaming services that did work ended up using all my data extremely fast.

Hotspot free version can't access Netflix

What you’ll see when trying to access Netflix with the free version

Nonetheless, I’m happy to report that Hotspot Shield’s elite version was easily able to stream Netflix from the US and the UK. I could even watch my favorite shows in HD without the need for buffering.

Hotspot Shield works with Netflix US

I was able to watch Netflix US while connected with Hotspot Shield Elite

Stream Netflix with Hotspot Shield

Why Choose The Premium Version

There are many reasons: unlimited data, faster speeds, dedicated support, more virtual locations, and better streaming. You’ll want the elite package if you need a service that can stream Netflix, play games, download torrents, and browse securely for hours. After my tests, I believe the elite version is well worth the money for the small price tag.

Start your 7-day free trial of Hotspot Shield Elite

Don’t forget to keep an eye out for Hotspot Shield’s deals and discounts the huge savings means a subscription won’t cost you as much as you think. You can even try the premium service for free, with a 7-day trial and 45-day money-back guarantee.

Good luck with your VPN hunt!

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Adam Wagner
Adam is a web security writer and digital nomad. He has written extensively on freelancing, VPNs, website building, and other topics that interest him