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8 Best Truly Free VPNs in 2023 — Fast and 100% Secure

Kate Hawkins
Last Updated by Kate Hawkins on March 01, 2023

It’s tricky to find a free VPN that’s safe and works well — but I did it. Many free VPNs are outright dangerous, exposing you to malware and trackers. Even when it passes the safety test, most free VPNs have data caps, are slow, or can’t unblock websites.

I tested over 100 VPNs, and I shortlisted the best free VPNs in 2023. Do keep in mind that no free VPN can match the performance of premium VPNs. You’ll still need to put up with things like data limits and inconsistent speeds.

If you want to save yourself the hassle, I recommend you try ExpressVPN risk-free. It isn’t free, but it’s the fastest and most reliable VPN I’ve used. It’s backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee (which is honored 100%), so you don’t have to worry about getting stuck with a VPN you don’t like.

Try ExpressVPN risk-free

Quick Guide: Best Free VPNs You Can Trust in 2023

  1. ExpressVPN — Top-tier security and privacy with blazing-fast speeds on its global network of 3000+ servers. Try ExpressVPN risk-free!
  2. CyberGhost — Optimized servers for streaming and torrenting but only free for 45 days.
  3. Proton VPN — Free unlimited data and fast speeds but only 3 server locations.
  4. Hotspot Shield — Unlimited and decent speeds, but it can’t unblock streaming services like Netflix.
  5. hide.me — Unlimited data with 5 free server locations, but you can’t choose specific servers after 10GB is used.
  6. TunnelBear — Free access to all 47+ server locations but only 500MB of free data per month.
  7. NordVPN — Reliable and fast server network, but it has a complicated user interface on some apps.
  8. Surfshark — Offers unlimited simultaneous connections but isn’t reliable for accessing streaming services.

Try ExpressVPN risk-free

The Best (100% FREE) VPNs in March 2023

1. ExpressVPN — Blazing-Fast Speeds and Powerful Security Features for Online Privacy

Key Features:

  • Unlimited data for endless streaming, torrenting, and gaming
  • Global network of 3000+ servers in 94+ countries
  • Audited no-logs policy, AES-256 bit encryption, kill switch, leak protection, and RAM-based servers
  • Allows up to 5 simultaneous device connections
  • Native app for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV and Fire Stick, routers, and more
  • 24/7 live chat and email support available

ExpressVPN isn’t usually free, so you might be wondering why I’m listing it as the #1 VPN. The reason is that ExpressVPN has excellent server speeds, top-tier security, and a strict no-logs policy. While it’s not free upfront, it’s backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can easily get a full refund if you’re not satisfied (no questions asked — I’ve tested it myself). This makes ExpressVPN tough to beat.

In my tests, I connected to over 50 ExpressVPN servers in the US, UK, Japan, and more. I was impressed that ExpressVPN only caused a tiny speed drop of 18% on average (from my base speed of 115Mbps to 94Mbps). This is extremely fast, considering some servers were more than 15,000km away. I didn’t have any problems with slow-loading pages, buffering videos, or lagging video games.

ExpressVPN provides fast speeds for lag-free, UHD streaming

I was pleased to find ExpressVPN consistently works with streaming platforms like Netflix, so I didn’t have to waste time looking for a working server — every server connected on the first try. This makes ExpressVPN an ideal option if you regularly travel abroad and you want access to your streaming accounts back home. During tests, ExpressVPN could access the following services:

Netflix Disney+ Hulu Amazon Prime Video BBC iPlayer
HBO Max Showtime Peacock TV YouTube TV ESPN
DAZN CBS Hotstar Discovery+ …and more!

To ensure you always have top security and privacy when connected to ExpressVPN’s servers, every plan provides the following features:

  • AES 256-bit military-grade encryption — on all servers
  • DNS & IP leak protection — prevents accidental data leaks
  • Obfuscation on every server — masks your VPN traffic, avoiding proxy detection that could block your connection
  • An automatic kill switch — cuts internet access if the VPN connection is interrupted
  • TrustedServer technology — runs on RAM-based servers that can’t physically store any data
  • Audited zero-log privacy policy — ensures your data is never stored on ExpressVPN’s servers

You can try ExpressVPN completely risk-free, as the service has a tried-and-tested money-back guarantee policy. If you’re not completely satisfied, you can get a full refund within 30 days — I tested the process myself, and it was easy. Other VPNs that I’ve tried wasted my time trying to troubleshoot or get me to stay, but ExpressVPN processed my refund immediately. The money was returned to my bank account within 5 days.

ExpressVPN makes getting a refund hassle-free

You can sign up for a 1-month, 6-month, or 1-year plan, with the 1-year + 3 months plan offering the best value for money at only $6.67 per month.

ExpressVPN works on: Windows, Mac, Linux, Chromebook, Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, Edge, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Nvidia Shield, Xiaomi Mi Box, Google Chromecast, Roku, Android TVs, smart TVs, routers, and more.

Try ExpressVPN risk-free

March 2023 Update! ExpressVPN has dropped prices for a limited time to a crazy $6.67 per month for the 1-year plan (you can save up to 49%) + 3 months free! This is a limited offer so be sure to grab it now before it's gone. See more information on this offer here.

2. CyberGhost — Optimized Servers for Streaming, Torrenting, and More

Key Features:

  • No data or bandwidth caps for endless internet browsing
  • 9736+ servers worldwide in over 91 countries
  • Strict no-logs policy, kill switch, leak protection, and advanced encryption
  • Connect up to 7 devices at the same time
  • Works on Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire Stick, routers, and more
  • 24/7 customer support over live chat and email

CyberGhost is a great choice for beginner VPN users as it categorizes servers into specific activities, like streaming, torrenting, and gaming. These dedicated servers are regularly tested and optimized to guarantee smooth connections. On the Windows app, you can connect to an optimized server by clicking on the For streaming, For torrenting, or For gaming server lists. On Mac, you only have the For downloading (torrenting) and For streaming categories.

Screenshot of CyberGhost's Windows apps, highlighting the dedicated servers for gaming, torrenting, and streaming
CyberGhost’s optimized servers make it easy to find the right connection for your activities

During my tests, I found CyberGhost’s streaming-optimized servers worked flawlessly with a range of streaming services. CyberGhost can easily access local accounts with the following:

Netflix Disney+ Hulu HBO Max BBC iPlayer
Amazon Prime Video Showtime Yle Rai Play …and more!

To ensure you always have the best security and privacy when connected to CyberGhost’s servers, you’ll find every subscription includes the following top-tier features:

  • AES 256-bit military-grade encryption — on every server to guarantee your connection is secure
  • Automatic kill switch — instantly blocks internet access if the VPN connection is interrupted unexpectedly
  • Data leak protection — blocks DNS and IP leaks, maintaining your anonymity when using CyberGhost’s servers
  • WiFi Auto-Connect — automatically starts a VPN connection when using unsecured WiFi networks, protecting you from hackers and spies
  • Malicious ad blocker — stops ads containing malware to avoid phishing scams and shady web links
  • “NoSpy” advanced obfuscated servers — for complete anonymity when sending or receiving sensitive data
  • Audited zero-log policy and RAM-based servers — guarantees your data will never be logged or stored when you’re connected

The biggest downside is that my speeds dropped by 39% on average from 115Mbps to around 70Mbps. I also noticed a slowdown over long-distance connections. You may find this impacts your connection if your regular internet speeds are slow, but you’ll only know by testing CyberGhost for yourself.

While it isn’t a free service, CyberGhost has a generous money-back guarantee — ideal if you’re traveling abroad or only need a VPN for a short time, as you can request a refund within 45 days. I tested the refund process myself, and it only took a couple of minutes for a live chat agent to arrange my refund. I had my money back within a week.

If you want to use CyberGhost for longer, the best-value plan is the 2-year + 3 months at only $2.11 per month (it’s one of the most affordable monthly VPNs).

CyberGhost works on: Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Raspberry Pi, Chrome, Firefox, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku, smart TVs, routers, and more.

Try CyberGhost risk-free

March 2023 Update! You can subscribe to CyberGhost for as low as $2.11 per month + get extra 3 months free with the 2-year plan (save up to 83%)! This is a limited offer so grab it now before it's gone. See more information on this offer here.

3. Proton VPN — Unlimited Data for Free and No Ads

Key Features:

  • Unlimited free data with no caps or ads
  • 24 free servers in 3 countries (US, Japan, and Netherlands)
  • Strict no-logs policy, military-grade encryption, kill switch, and leak protection
  • Supports 1 device connection at a time
  • Compatible with Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Chromebook, and more
  • Customer support available through email

Proton VPN has unlimited free data and server access in the US, Japan, and the Netherlands. As you only get access to 3 server countries, I was expecting my speeds to slow down on servers on the other side of the world. However, I was impressed by the fast speeds — I only had a drop of 33% on average (from a baseline of 98Mbps to 62Mbps). I had minimal lag when streaming, browsing, and online shopping.

I was surprised to find Proton VPN is also a top free choice for streaming. On the Proton VPN website, streaming support is officially only available for Plus and Visionary subscribers. However, Proton VPN could access Netflix (Original content only) and Disney+ during my tests.

Screenshot showing Proton VPN's free Mac app connected to a US server while Netflix US is streaming an episode of Cobra Kai.
Proton VPN’s free servers work with some top streaming sites like Netflix

To further secure your browsing activity, Proton VPN makes use of robust protections like:

  • AES 256-bit encryption — on all server connections ensures your online activity is anonymous
  • A kill switch — blocks access to the internet if the VPN connection is interrupted
  • DNS and IP leak protection — stops accidental data leaks from compromising your security
  • Split tunneling — lets you choose which apps use the encrypted connection and which do not (ideal for keeping speeds fast)
  • Customizable DNS Settings — so you can add a private DNS server and connect through that
  • Audited zero-log policy — guarantees your data won’t be stored or logged on any Proton VPN server

While you can only connect 1 device at a time on the free plan, you can configure Proton VPN onto your router at home. This allows you to protect all of your devices as long as it’s connected to your WiFi.

Unfortunately, you won’t have access to the SecureCore, Tor, or 10 Gbit servers. There’s no torrenting support on the free plan, either. This ensures the free servers aren’t overloaded for other free users, but it’s disappointing if you want to share files via BitTorrent.

You can get started and download Proton VPN for free with just your email address — you don’t have to provide any other personal details. You won’t be bombarded with ads prompting you to upgrade, either. Proton VPN’s paid plans can be a little pricey if you’re looking to upgrade. The cheapest plan comes to $4.99 per month, and you’ll need to commit to a 2-year plan.

Proton VPN works on: Windows, Mac, Linux, Chromebook, Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Nvidia Shield, Xiaomi Mi Box, Google Chromecast, Android TVs, routers, and more.

Try Proton VPN for free

4. Hotspot Shield — Top-Tier Security With Unlimited Monthly Data

Key Features:

  • Unlimited monthly data — no caps
  • 1 free virtual server in the US
  • No-logs policy, AES-256-bit encryption, and leak protection
  • Only allows 1 device connection
  • Free app available for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android
  • No email or live chat support on the free plan

Hotspot Shield offers unlimited monthly data with zero caps, which is ideal for streaming, browsing, shopping, and more online. Plus, your connection is supported by the following high-level security and privacy features to ensure your data is protected at all times:

  • Military-grade encryption — secures your data from prying eyes
  • Data leak protection — prevents accidental data leaks that could compromise your security
  • Split tunneling (called Smart VPN) — lets you choose which apps and websites bypass the VPN encryption
  • Auto-protect feature — automatically connects the VPN when your device is using an unsecured WiFi network
  • Zero-log privacy policy — ensures your online activity and data is anonymous and cannot be traced back to you in any way

While some free services require an account, Hotspot Shield lets you download and connect to its free service without signing up. The download process was super-fast, taking less than 5 minutes before I could connect.

My download speeds were fast, with a reduction of just 29% from my standard internet speed. However, although the free service doesn’t cap speeds, Hotspot Shield restricts bandwidth to just 2Mbps. While I could watch videos on YouTube, it took time for content to load, and I experienced buffering when streaming. Without unlimited bandwidth, you can’t take advantage of Hotspot Shield’s fast speeds.

Images of Hotspot Shield connected to its free US server, highlighting its restricted bandwidth, plus the results of an Ookla speed test

Capping bandwidth causes lag and buffering when streaming, browsing, and more

If you want a free VPN for streaming, Hotspot Shield isn’t a good choice. When I tried to connect to Netflix, I got an error message stating streaming services are only for premium Hotspot Shield users. I also tried Disney+, HBO Max, and Hulu and couldn’t connect.

However, the biggest downside is that the free VPN is supported by ads. I had pop-up ads every time I connected on Windows and my iPhone. Even though the company doesn’t log any identifiable data, your device OS and general geographic location are collected — you’ll see personalized ads when you’re browsing. Hotspot Shield also aggressively upsells its premium plans, which can be invasive.

I find Hotspot Shield is best suited for casual browsing, if you don’t mind personalized ads. Better still, it’s simple to create a free Hotspot Shield account and download the app. You can even sign up for the 7-day free trial of the premium version.

Hotspot Shield works on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Chromebook, Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Android TVs, routers, and more.

Try Hotspot Shield for free

5. hide.me — No Data Limits and 9 Free Server Locations

Key Features:

  • Unlimited data with no speed throttling
  • 9 free server locations (Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, UK, US East, and US West)
  • Military-grade encryption, leak protection, and a strict no-logs policy
  • Allows 1 device connection
  • Works on Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Amazon Fire TV, Blackberry, routers, and more
  • Customer support via email only

hide.me’s free plan has unlimited data and access to servers in 8 countries. However, once you use 10GB of data, you don’t have the option to choose your server connection — you’re automatically connected to a random free server instead. Fortunately, the 10GB of data refreshes every 30 days, so you can manually select a free server connection again.

It’s also good to know that hide.me has impressive security and privacy options for free users. While I was disappointed that I couldn’t use hide.me’s super-fast Bolt feature, my connections could take advantage of the following:

  • Military-grade encryption — on all server connections
  • Auto-connect feature — connects you to a VPN server when using unsecured WiFi or when the app starts
  • Stealth Guard server obfuscation — masks your VPN traffic
  • Secure connection protocols — including WireGuard, SoftEtherVPN, and OpenVPN
  • Configurable kill switch — protects your data if the VPN is interrupted
  • Audited zero-log policy — ensures your data is never logged or stored on hide.me’s servers

When I ran speed tests on hide.me’s free servers, my download speeds were fast, but my upload speeds were pretty slow. I didn’t have an issue with browsing and downloading, but uploading files and video calling friends was laggy.

Screenshots of hide me connected to servers in Netherlands, Germany, and the US, highlighting the download and upload speed test results.

hide.me’s slower upload speeds can cause lag when video calling or file sharing

Unfortunately, I couldn’t access many streaming platforms on hide.me’s free servers. I could connect to my Netflix account and stream Original content, but I was unable to access my local Netflix library. hide.me free also couldn’t connect to Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max, or Amazon Prime Video.

On hide.me’s paid plan, I had good success with streaming on the streaming-optimized servers and could access local Netflix libraries. Plus, if you upgrade, you can use hide.me’s Bolt feature, which can significantly boost speeds on slower networks.

You can use hide.me’s free service without signing up for an account. I didn’t have to provide any personal details or add a credit card — I could just download the app from hide.me’s website for free and connect to a server. The intuitive interface makes it easy to get started, and the initial installation and setup took less than 5 minutes.

hide.me works on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Chromebook, Chrome, Firefox, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Android TV, routers, and more.

Try hide.me for free

6. TunnelBear — Free Servers in 47 Countries and 500MB of Monthly Data

Key Features:

  • 500MB free data per month
  • Access to a global network of servers in 47 countries
  • Advanced encryption standards, leak protection, kill switch, and no-logs policy
  • Supports up to unlimited connections at once
  • User-friendly app for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, and more
  • Email support available on the free plan

TunnelBear’s free VPN lets you access every premium feature that is available on the paid plan. This includes access to all 3000+ servers in its worldwide network, meaning you can easily browse the internet from anywhere.

Screenshot of TunnelBear's security settings

You benefit from TunnelBear’s top-tier features on its free plan

I was pleased to find I could test and benefit from all of TunnelBear’s top-tier security and privacy features on its free plan, including:

  • Military-grade encryption — on every server connection
  • VigilantBear automatic kill switch — protects data from leaking in the event the VPN is interrupted
  • GhostBear server obfuscation — masks your VPN traffic to avoid proxy detection technology
  • Audited zero-log privacy policy — proves your data is never logged or stored when connected to TunnelBear’s servers

Unfortunately, the mere 500MB per month data allowance means you’ll want to upgrade as you’ll hit the cap very quickly. I started watching a series on BBC iPlayer, and the VPN disconnected before the episode ended. This was especially disappointing because, unlike most free VPNs, TunnelBear works with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and more.

When I ran speed tests, I found TunnelBear is fast on local connections but slows down over long distances — typical of most VPN services. My local speeds were only 10-12% slower than my regular connection speeds, so I didn’t notice any impact on my browsing. When I tested a server in Australia (more than 15,000km away), my speed dropped by more than 50%. This is worth considering if you plan on making long-distance connections.

You can claim an extra 1GB of data by sending a tweet advertising TunnelBear, and you can get this every month by sending another tweet. However, even 1.5GB of data isn’t really enough for more than casual browsing and maybe streaming an episode of your favorite show. If you upgrade, you get unlimited bandwidth and data for streaming, torrenting, browsing, and more.

It only takes a couple of minutes to download TunnelBear’s free app and get connected. You will need to register for an account before you connect, so make sure you use a current email address so you can verify your account.

TunnelBear works on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Chromebook, Chrome, Firefox, and more.

Try TunnelBear for free

7. NordVPN — Premium VPN With Cheap Prices on Long-Term Plans

Key Features:

  • Short and long-term subscriptions available
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • 5456+ global servers in 60 countries
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Protect up to 6 devices at once

NordVPN is one of the best VPNs on the market — and you can get super cheap prices when you sign up for a long-term subscription. One thing to note, however, is that when it’s time to renew your subscription, prices do increase quite significantly.

I was particularly impressed with the high performance of every server I tested. Just because a VPN has thousands of servers doesn’t mean they all work. Servers can still struggle to unblock local sites — and some can even fail to connect completely. However, I easily unblocked Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, and HBO Max on multiple servers in the US and UK.

I did, however, have issues with using NordVPN’s native Fire TV app. Although it worked and unblocked some streaming services, it sometimes had issues unblocking Netflix US and kept crashing. I also found that NordVPN’s user interface for desktop devices was less user-friendly than ExpressVPN and CyberGhost.

NordVPN has the following security and privacy features:

  • AES 256-bit encryption
  • A kill switch that cuts your internet access if your connection to a VPN server drops suddenly
  • Built-in ad and malware blocker, so you don’t need a third-party ad blocker
  • Fully audited no-logs policy (audited by PwC) – NordVPN doesn’t store any personal or identifying data while you’re connected to the VPN

In addition, NordVPN includes Threat Protection that protects you from viruses, infected websites, and trackers – and it works whenever you have the NordVPN app open, even if you’re not connected to a VPN server.


NordVPN protects you from online threats 24/7

While NordVPN is not entirely free, you can stream, torrent, and browse for free for up to 30 days with its money-back guarantee. NordVPN has plans that cost as little as $3.29 per month. To ensure that you’ll really get your money back, I tested NordVPN’s money-back guarantee. At first, the support team tried to give me an extended trial period — but they initiated my refund right away after I told them I wasn’t interested in the extension. I got my money back in 6 business days.

NordVPN works on: Windows, Mac OS, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Chromebook, Linux, Chrome, Firefox, Fire Stick, and Android TV

Get NordVPN today

8. Surfshark — Best Value for Money with Unlimited Device Connections and Fast Speeds

Key Features:

  • Short and long-term plans available
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • 3200+ global servers in 99 countries
  • No bandwidth restrictions
  • Connect unlimited devices at once

Surfshark offers the best value for money out of every premium VPN on the market. You can connect an unlimited number of devices with a single subscription, which means you can use Surfshark on all your devices without getting logged out.

I tested Surfshark’s simultaneous connections on 2 PCs, 2 phones, a Fire Stick 4K, and an iPad. My connection remained reliable on all 6 devices. Even while I was actively streaming on all my devices, my average speed was 112 Mbps — fast enough for UHD quality.

When I saw the price of this service, I thought it couldn’t possibly have top-grade security features for such a low price, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Surfshark has the following security and privacy features:

  • AES 256-bit encryption on all devices, with ChaCha encryption available for Android users
  • Wireguard VPN protocol enabled by default
  • Diskless, RAM-only servers to protect your privacy (no data can be physically extracted from any servers)
  • Kill switch (although this isn’t enabled by default)
  • IP and DNS leak protection

Surfshark offers two-factor authentication (2FA) on your account. This feature requires you to enter an extra code before you can log in to ensure that only you can access your account.

While Surfshark does have slightly fewer global servers than rivals such as CyberGhost and PIA, I didn’t experience any issues during my tests. I easily connected fast working servers every time, and I had excellent speeds for streaming Netflix in UHD, downloading torrents, and browsing the internet.

I streamed Stranger Things on multiple Surfshark servers in the US

Surfshark is not truly free, but it offers a 7-day free trial on Android, iOS, and macOS devices. You can also test out Surfshark on other devices for 30 days thanks to its money-back guarantee. It has plans that cost as little as $2.30. Requesting a refund is easy with Surfshark’s live chat feature. Although the support team asked why I wanted to cancel my subscription, I had no problem getting my money back (and it only took 4 days!).

Surfshark works on: Windows, Mac OS, Android, iOS, Linux, Fire Stick, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Samsung Smart TVs, LG Smart TVs, Android TV, Kodi, and selected routers

Get Surfshark today

Side-by-Side Comparison of the Best Free VPNs in 2023

Unblocks Netflix Monthly Data Server Countries Torrenting Support Maximum Devices
ExpressVPN Unlimited 94 5
CyberGhost Unlimited 91 7
ProtonVPN Unlimited 3 1
Hotspot Shield Unlimited 1 1
hide.me 10GB 4 1
TunnelBear 500MB 47 unlimited
NordVPN Unlimited 60 6
Surfshark Unlimited 99 unlimited

No matter which free VPN you choose, you’ll have to deal with some limitations, like data caps and server restrictions.

If you want to avoid these limitations, I suggest you try ExpressVPN risk-free. While it’s a paid VPN, it’s backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can purchase with confidence.

Try ExpressVPN risk-free

Avoid These Free VPNs Like the Plague

The sad truth is that you can’t always trust Google Play or Apple App Store ratings. Even if you find a VPN with many downloads and positive user reviews, it could still be malware. In fact, a study by the research agency CSIRO found that 75% of free VPNs have at least 1 tracking library — despite claims to protect user privacy.

Through my own research and testing, I found some shocking facts about several VPN services that I had to warn you about.

Cross VPN — Antivirus tests found Cross VPN as having potential trojan viruses, with alerts from 11 different antivirus services.
Betternet VPN — Marketed as privacy-focused but found to have multiple tracking libraries in its software, logging data like general location, device information, and domain names you visit.
SuperVPN — A dangerous VPN, particularly for Android users, and reported to have had the personal data of millions of users stolen. This included credit card details, login credentials, location data, and more.
LinkVPN — Associated with SuperVPN with no transparency and links to China, which suggests data-logging and limited privacy for users.
Fast Secure Payment — Found to have malware embedded in its apps.

“Freemium” vs. Free VPNs: Hidden Costs You Should Know

A freemium VPN is a sample of a premium VPN. It’s a free plan offered by some of the top VPNs in 2023 who let you try the free version with some limitations in order to promote the paid plan. You can trust freemium VPNs not to sell your personal data — the companies won’t risk ruining their reputation and losing the trust of paying customers.

However, you’ll face the hidden cost of limited data, slow speeds, and restricted server locations. This is done in hopes you’ll get frustrated and eventually upgrade to the premium VPN.

When a free VPN doesn’t promote its premium version or show ads, your data is probably being sold to third parties. Your free VPN might even contain malware designed to mine your data for profit. In my opinion, this is the highest price you’ll pay, as your private information and sensitive files could easily be stolen by cybercriminals.

The cost of using a free VPN far outweighs the price of a premium service, especially when you can try a top-tier VPN like ExpressVPN risk-free. Every plan is backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can purchase ExpressVPN with confidence. If you’re not satisfied, you can get a full refund.

Protect your data with ExpressVPN

How I Tested and Ranked the Best Free VPNs in 2023

Any VPN can be listed on the app store with positive reviews, but that doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous. That’s why I strongly advise you to consider the below points when evaluating a free VPN:

  • Business model — You don’t want your free VPN to make money at your expense. Some shady VPNs fill their app with ads, trackers, or malware (sometimes all 3!) to secretly collect and sell your private data.
  • Strict no-logs policy — No VPN should compromise your privacy (or it defeats the point of using a VPN), so I checked each VPN’s privacy policy to ensure your data is never tracked, logged, sold, or shared.
  • Restrictions — Free VPNs often have limitations due to a lack of resources and funds. This could include slow speeds, finite bandwidth, overcrowded servers, zero torrenting support, and no access to streaming platforms like Netflix.
  • Security features — Look for at least AES-256-bit encryption and tunneling protocols like WireGuard, OpenVPN, and IKEv2. Avoid protocols like L2TP/IPSec and PPTP, which are outdated and frankly shouldn’t be used anymore.
  • User-friendly app — The last thing you want to do is spend time configuring and installing the VPN. That’s why every VPN I tested works on Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and other popular devices.

Try ExpressVPN risk-free

FAQs About Free VPNs

Are free VPNs really safe?

Unfortunately, most free VPNs aren’t safe. The reality is that there are only a few trustworthy free VPNs — and I’ve tested them all.

With many 100% free VPN services, your private data is collected by trackers while your device is bombarded with pop-up ads. This data is then sold to third-party advertisers for profit. Worse, some free VPNs have been known to infect devices with malware and expose sensitive files to hackers.

All of the recommended free VPNs above have a strong privacy policy and won’t steal or sell your private data to make money. Plus, these companies constantly update their networks to ensure there are no security flaws. Every VPN has military-grade encryption, multiple protocols, kill switches, and leak protection. You can be sure that your data is safe and that your browsing activity is anonymous every time you connect.

What’s the best free VPN for Netflix?

After rigorous testing, the best 100% free VPN for Netflix is Proton VPN. While you can only access Netflix in 3 locations with Proton VPN (Japan, the Netherlands, and the US), the connections are reliable, with minimal lag or buffering. However, you may not always get UHD-quality streaming. Plus, Proton VPN provides unlimited data, so you can stream your favorite content as much as you want.

As a big streaming fan, I prefer a VPN without restrictions (so I can binge-watch as much as I like in UHD). I found ExpressVPN easily connects to Netflix worldwide, so you can access your local streaming account from anywhere. I like that it even works with Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max, YouTube TV, BBC iPlayer, DAZN, and more, so I can keep up with all my favorite programs.

Should I use a free VPN for torrenting?

You can use a free VPN for torrenting, but you’ll have to sacrifice either speed or data. Slow speeds can result in waiting hours for a single download to complete, whereas low data caps will restrict you from downloading large files. Many free VPNs only have a few server locations as well, which isn’t ideal if you need to connect to a specific country.

If you only need a VPN for a short time, I recommend taking advantage of a premium VPN’s money-back guarantee. For instance, you can torrent on CyberGhost’s optimized servers risk-free for 45 days and get a full refund when you finish.

CyberGhost makes it easy to get a refund over live chat

I tested the process myself, and it only took a couple of minutes to arrange my refund over the live chat. I had my money back within a week.

Do free VPNs work in China?

In short, no. Only a handful of paid VPNs still work in China, as overcoming the Great Firewall is exceptionally tricky. If you’re heading to China on an overseas trip, I suggest you download one of these VPNs before entering the country (as VPN websites are blocked inside).

While it’s possible to use a local Chinese VPN, I strongly advise against it. These free VPNs often share your personal information with third parties. If you dig into the background of these local VPNs, you’ll find little to no historical information or even a privacy policy.

Keep in mind that the government doesn’t officially condone using non-approved VPNs. However, no foreigner has been punished for using a VPN while on a vacation, business trip, or short-term stay to date.

How do free VPNs make money?

There’s always a hidden cost that allows free VPNs to make money. The most common way is by bombarding your device with pop-up ads. While it might seem harmless, all adware comes installed with trackers. Trackers keep tabs on your internet activity, which means your browsing history is no longer anonymous or private.

Free VPNs sometimes sell your data to advertisers. They keep track of sites you visit, your IP address, and data relating to your connection. This is a huge violation of your privacy and can compromise your security, depending on the data being tracked and sold.

Rarely, a free VPN can sell your data to the highest bidder — which could mean your information is in the hands of a cybercriminal. It’s not common, but you should be aware of the potential risk when looking at free VPN services.

Can I use a free VPN on any device?

It depends, but the free VPNs on this list have native apps for Windows, Android, Mac, and iOS. However, in most cases, you can only connect 1 device at a time. So if you’ve got both a smartphone and a laptop, you’ll have to log out of the VPN on 1 device in order to log into the other.

If you want to use a VPN on multiple devices simultaneously, ExpressVPN offers up to 5 device connections at once. You can even install it on smart TVs and gaming consoles, which normally don’t have native VPN support.

If you have more than 5 devices, you can install ExpressVPN’s native router app. When you set up a VPN on your router, you can use every WiFi-connected device in your household with the VPN.

What’s the best free VPN for gaming? (PUBG, Minecraft, Roblox, and more)

Unfortunately, I can’t recommend any free VPN for gaming online. Even the best free VPNs in 2023 won’t guarantee lag-free gaming.

The issue lies with ping (or latency). This is how long it takes for data to reach the server and for your device to get a response. Free VPNs have high ping, so getting a server response takes a long time. During a fast-paced game, you’ll experience delays and might even lose connection to the game server.

However, a premium VPN can mitigate latency in ways that freemium VPNs won’t (or can’t afford to). ExpressVPN has blazing-fast speeds and low ping, as well as dedicated apps for smartphones and computers. You can even set it up on gaming consoles like PlayStation and Xbox. This makes it a great VPN for fast-paced games like COD: Warzone, Fortnite, Valorant, and more.

Are free VPNs legal?

VPNs are legal in most countries worldwide, and you can use a free VPN to mask your IP address and keep your confidential data secure. However, it’s never legal to use a VPN connection to perform illegal online activities, like hacking, cyberstalking, or distributing copyrighted content.

My team and I don’t condone any criminal behavior, so make sure you’re aware of local VPN laws and regulations before you connect. This is especially the case in countries like China, Belarus, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, where non-approved VPN usage is banned.

Secure your devices with ExpressVPN

Choose A VPN That Won’t Compromise Your Safety

The market is flooded with free VPNs, but many of them pose serious risks to you and your data. Slow speeds, bandwidth limitations, and connection restrictions are annoying — having your data logged and sold to generate revenue compromises your data security.

To keep yourself safe online and enjoy the internet without limitations, I suggest you consider a top-quality option like ExpressVPN. During my tests, I was impressed by ExpressVPN’s lightning-fast speeds, ease of use, and steady server connections worldwide. I also liked that there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can always get a refund if you’re not completely satisfied.

I even tested the money-back guarantee myself to make sure it worked. No one hassled me to stay when I asked for a refund over 24/7 live chat; better still, the money was returned to my account in just 5 days.

Summary — Top VPNs in 2023 (With Money-Back Guarantees)

Top Choice
$6.67 / month Save 49%
CyberGhost VPN
$2.11 / month Save 84%
Private Internet Access
$2.11 / month Save 82%
$3.29 / month Save 75%
$2.30 / month Save 82%
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