Ultrasurf is a rather curious case — it’s a mysterious product that doesn’t label itself as a VPN or proxy, yet it works in an identical manner. The Silicon Valley-based company was founded by Chinese activists (UltraReach) in 2002 and has served users worldwide for over 15 years with a reliable, free solution to government censorship. The service advertises itself as a free VPN with good speeds, unlimited bandwidth, and true anonymity. That is a pretty bold statement, I must admit. This led me to try out Ultrasurf VPN to see if it lived up to its claims.
Ultrasurf combines the strength of both VPNs and proxies (encryption and IP masking) to offer internet freedom in a fast and dependable manner. This software is barebones, it’s extremely simple to use, and it’s there to fulfill one important purpose — to combat online censorship. That said, Ultrasurf is not a totally private or anonymous experience and you should not fully rely on it. HTTP traffic isn’t encrypted, and the “logging policy” does state that “bare minimum information” is kept for up to 30 days. While Ultrasurf doesn’t require any personal details in order to use it, it may hand over gathered data in compliance with US laws.
The fact that it doesn’t have any usage restrictions means that you can install it on every computer, smartphone, and tablet you own. Ultrasurf does not come with a money-back guarantee, and the reason for this is because it is a completely free service. Nevertheless, if after testing Ultrasurf you find it unsatisfactory, you can try one of these popular VPN service providers that have also been around for some time.
Despite all conditions pointing to a horrible streaming experience, the provider was able to unblock Netflix US, Amazon Prime, and HBO Max. The fact that there are very few servers makes the VPN’s bypassing of geo-restrictions less effective. In addition to all that, the internet speeds aren’t up to scratch, which makes streaming somewhat a hassle.
I was disappointed to find that it doesn’t work with BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and Hulu. As a test of whether UltraSurf VPN had caused the problem, I disconnected from the proxy periodically and checked whether each website worked after every connection failure, and UltraSurf VPN was indeed responsible.
UltraSurf VPN is capable of unblocking US Netflix, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime but the streaming quality was not great. Its unblocking capabilities were impressive in light of the fact that most VPNs nowadays get blocked by Netflix very quickly. I tried streaming The Vault but it proved impossible because of constant buffering, low video quality, and lag. Choose one of the best VPNs instead if you wish to unblock Netflix in the United States.
In order to test out Amazon Prime Video, I searched for a movie titled Coming 2 America. The fact that Amazon Prime Video did not recognize that I was streaming through the VPN was quite surprising. During the entire duration of watching the movie, I was constantly plagued with poor image quality, which was actually tolerable but slightly frustrating. If you’re trying to connect from a faraway location, it probably won’t be worth it since your speeds will be even slower.
HBO Max is another streaming service I unblocked in the course of my tests, but despite that, the interminably slow connection hindered my streaming experience. This time I played a movie called Aquaman and it started streaming but the video quality was poor and the stream was lagging quite a lot.
Ultrasurf also doesn’t work to unblock Hulu, Disney+, or access BBC iPlayer. Hulu displayed an error message stating it’s a proxy issue, and Disney+ got stuck on the login screen. BBC iPlayer also detected that my UK-based colleague was using an internet proxy to access the service.
Following my experience with HBO Max, I turned to Disney+ which I found difficult to access due to an endless loading screen. The same can be said for Hulu, as the website knew right away that I was accessing it through a proxy server.
Lastly, I wanted to see if Ultrasurf VPN would work with BBC iPlayer. So I asked a colleague in the UK who is currently on vacation in another country to test Ultrasurf on his BBC iPlayer account. The website was accessible but he was unable to view any of the available TV shows or movies. He might have had a different experience had he been allowed to choose a UK server instead of being automatically assigned one.
“BBC iPlayer only works in the UK. Sorry, it’s due to rights issues.”
Overall, this provider has proven to be a very poor choice of streaming provider. With no optimized servers, Smart DNS tool, or access to major streaming services, I can’t recommend Ultrasurf VPN for streaming. If you are particularly interested in a VPN that helps you to stream, you may want to consider switching to a different VPN provider. I recommend you try ExpressVPN to stream without interruptions and unblock platforms.
Despite not being the slowest VPN I have ever tested, UltraSurf VPN consistently fails to deliver. Within reason, I wouldn’t expect great speeds from free VPNs. However, there are still some basic performance requirements that a VPN must meet in order to work effectively.
The fact is that no VPN service can guarantee you a download speed of 100%. The VPN connection will consume some of your internet speed. UltraSurf VPN will consume a large percentage of your bandwidth and leave you with very low download and upload speeds.
I recorded a considerable loss of speed while using UltraSurf VPN on the local server available to me. The UltraSurf VPN boasts about its fast speeds, so I decided to do a speed test using speedtest.net on my 233.75 Mbps internet connection to see what it can deliver. There was so much lag with UltraSurf VPN that I had a hard time even running speed tests whilst it was connected. Page load times were up to a minute, and when I finally managed to run the tests, they yielded the expected results. For reference, below is my download and upload speeds when my connection to Ultrasurf was not active.
As the U.S. server was automatically assigned to me, I was only able to run speed tests on that server. While I had a baseline download speed of 233.75 Mbps, I only managed to get as much as 68.72 Mbps of download speed when connected to Ultrasurf VPN. The performance drop, in this case, is 70% which is one of the worst I have ever experienced.
Considering that Ultrasurf is designed specifically to encrypt traffic and is intended for users in nations where there are heavy restrictions on internet access, speeds are not necessarily an issue. This service was not intended to be used for streaming content or downloading files. Having said that, speed for any VPN is for sure one of the crucial factors to consider. A factor that Ultrasurf doesn’t provide.
It is without a doubt one of the slowest VPNs I’ve ever tested. Even on a US-to-US connection, you can clearly see that download and upload speeds are both slowed down quite significantly. There is an even greater problem when connecting over long distances. If speed is your most important priority, ExpressVPN is definitely the best choice as it was by far the fastest solution I tested on the market.
Speed determines how fast content uploads, so if you're torrenting or streaming, you want the speed to be somewhat identical to your regular internet speed. Since a VPN encrypts your data, it usually takes a bit longer to send your data back and forth, which can slow down your connection. However, if your ISP deliberately slows down your connection (also known as throttling) a VPN might increase your internet speed. Testing a VPN is somewhat pointless because new servers pop up and affect speed. Your speed can also differ according to your location, so your speed test might not match ours. Having said that, we tested the speed in numerous locations to provide you with the average.
UltraSurf is not forthcoming with information about its server coverage. UltraSurf connects you to the nearest server to you that will give you the best performance whenever you launch it. While testing the speed and privacy of the VPN, I was automatically connected to the server located in the United States. Providing VPN service for free is one of the major factors contributing to this lack of information.
I attempted to connect and disconnect multiple times, but I kept getting connected to the same location. Summarily, it’s difficult to estimate how many servers the provider has, but it’s probably in the single digits.
The servers of UltraSurf VPN are protected by 256-bit military-grade encryption. It also comes with an option of using SHA-256 as the cryptographic hash function. It has the above-referenced encryption and security, but it is not mentioned which protocols it uses for tunnelling. There is no information on the website about OpenVPN, PPTP, or SSTP.
It’s a proxy service rather than a VPN, as I previously mentioned. So you do not have access to the kind of encryption and security provided by a VPN. Ultrasurf provides HTTPS traffic as an alternative to HTTP traffic over its servers. As a result of this, you are assigned a new IP address.
The app does not have advanced security features and does not even offer a kill switch. Tools such as these are crucial to protecting your data against hackers and governments, yet the Ultrasurf VPN service does not come with them. It’s not a good choice if you’re most concerned about security, and its speeds are below average, so it may be better to get a VPN service that offers strong encryption and protocols, such as ExpressVPN.
In one respect, UltraSurf explicitly states that activity logs aren’t recorded or stored. However, when you delve a little deeper into the policy, there are some troubling aspects. The company acknowledges that it collects certain data about you, such as the IP address and connection time stamp. The logs are stored for a maximum of 30 days and they are not shared with third parties except when it is necessary to comply with the law.
In addition, the provider states that they may disclose personally identifiable information to law enforcement officials, business partners, and for legal purposes. Despite UltraSurf not requiring users to disclose their names, emails, or payment information, this statement is concerning to say the least.
UltraSurf is headquartered in the United States, which is not the best location. Because it is a member of the 5 Eyes alliance, an organisation renowned for excessive government surveillance and breach of privacy. Thus, if a government organisation requests that Ultrasurf VPN provide data on its users, under law they will have to comply with that request. That is if they collect sensitive information. Overall, we are talking about a very basic provider whose website is extremely outdated and offers very few features.
In order to test UltraSurf’s leak protection feature, I ran the test through ipleak.net. I was surprised to see that my IP address was hidden and that my DNS requests were handled by UltraSurf in a private and secure manner. There were no WebRTC leaks detected either, something I’ve seen many VPNs struggle with due to well-known browser problems.
In the screenshot above, the test results show a random IP address that doesn’t match my physical address. It is the same with the DNS servers as well. The results are just a list of random DNS servers from the United States. This clearly establishes the effectiveness of UltraSurf’s leak protection.
If you don’t feel comfortable trusting your data to a company based in the US, I’d recommend ExpressVPN for it’s true no-logs policy that is not only foolproof but also one that is proven to work.
UltraSurf VPN supports torrenting, but you’re more likely to have your browsing history tracked if you connect to it. The jurisdiction in which this VPN operates falls under the 14 eyes, so torrenting through it is not recommended.
UltraSurf doesn’t restrict any P2P traffic from being routed through its servers on any of its platforms. However, there is a distinct difference between granting access to torrents and providing secure torrents. Please remember that other users connected to the same torrent swarm can see your IP address while you are downloading torrents.
It’s not just copyright trolls lurking in these swarms, but hackers as well, waiting to prey on the unwitting victim. Consequently, you should ensure you have robust encryption when you visit torrent sites like The Pirate Bay. Sadly, UltraSurf’s HTTPS security is just not robust enough to keep your sensitive data secure.
Due to the proxy’s browser-based controls, BitTorrent and Ultrasurf cannot sync together when it comes to torrenting. Fortunately, you may be able to torrent large files using the Android app (if you do not mind waiting a few weeks for your files to download). Basically, even if you had access to BitTorrent, the server speeds would prevent you from accomplishing much.
UltraSurf was created with the intention of working around China’s Great Firewall. According to the website’s “About” section, the company is dedicated to providing a free service to all Chinese users. They wanted Chinese citizens to be able to circumvent censorship and freely access the internet without any restrictions.
The question is, does the VPN really deliver on this front? Absolutely. In its almost two-decade history, UltraSurf has evaded China’s Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) safeguards, so residents can freely access censored sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
With UltraSurf you don’t have to worry about VPN protocols such as OpenVPN that have been heavily targeted by censors. In place of that, it employs a network of proxy servers to ensure its traffic blends seamlessly with normal web traffic.
You do not need to register or log in in order to use the app, so you are not restricted in terms of how many connections you can establish simultaneously. It doesn’t matter if you have 10 phones or 10 computers in your home, you can download and use the app for free across all devices.
This provider offers an Android, iOS, and Windows app, along with a Chrome extension, and that is pretty much everything they offer. Ultrasurf VPN has been around so long that some may expect that it has optimized its apps for all platforms in order to maintain its prominence on the market. This is unfortunately not the case at all.
On the website of the company, it is mentioned that the latest version of Chrome is recommended for better security purposes. It goes on to say that if you are using a desktop computer, your IP address cannot be seen by websites unless you have WebRTC enabled, in which case your IP address will be exposed. The problem here is that Chrome does not offer the option to disable WebRTC by default. Ultrasurf recommends you install a third-party Chrome extension to block webRTC, however, you must make sure this extension is enabled in order to prevent Chrome from going into incognito mode.
If you’re looking for a VPN service that offers unlimited simultaneous connections across a wide variety of devices and is compatible with nearly every operating system, I recommend IPVanish as an easy-to-use and flexible option.
Ultrasurf VPN lacks so many features that it is incredibly simple to use. There are no differences in the look and feel of its various apps. Although this is great for consistency, it does mean that the desktop versions suffer from poor performance. It will appeal to beginners, but even intermediate users will want more from it.
UltraSurf’s interface is almost non-existent in comparison to its competitors. You can open the VPN app and click the connection toggle button and exit. There isn’t any user control on a single connection button, so you don’t have any kind of operational control.
The Windows desktop app does not need to be installed. Rather, you will have to download a zip archive, unpack it, and then launch the app by clicking on the “U” file. Since there won’t be a desktop icon, it’s a good idea to make a note of the location where you unzipped the EXE file.
With the Chrome extension, you have even fewer toggle options available. In addition, you can connect and disconnect, use the diagnostics button to find out if your internet connection and Ultrasurf connection are working, and click on a link that takes you to Ultrasurf’s web page detailing how you can remain anonymous online.
The Ultrasurf Android app can be downloaded for free from the Google Play store. It can be configured to use the default proxy settings or configured to use custom settings. While Ultrasurf is easy to use, I found that my connection often slowed down or dropped when connected through it. It is also a notoriously unstable app that regularly crashes my device, so it is a definite uninstall for me.
You will always be redirected to the UltraSurf website once you connect to the VPN. You do not have any control over the redirection process, so you may find it very irritating at times.
I would have to say that Ultrasurf is not really up to the challenge when it comes to customer support as some other very well-known VPNs in the industry. The simplicity of the tool or the fact that it’s a free service could be the reason for this.
Whatever the case may be, users can find answers to their questions, problems, or difficulties in two places: support tickets and email.
You should start by looking for the question mark icon on the tool’s interface. A simple click on the question mark icon opens a window in your browser that contains a long list of information that is organized by category and provides instructions on how to troubleshoot any problems.
A second option would be to contact the development team via email and await their response. The people behind the service claim to be able to provide quick response times to their customers. However, I have not received any response and it has been over a week since I sent them an email. This project seems to have been abandoned by the developers because of its uninteresting nature and low quality.
Furthermore, there is no FAQ and Knowledge Base section, but considering that they are free and that no registration is required, there is not much to complain about.
We personally test the customer support team of every VPN we review. This means asking technical question through the live chat feature (where applicable) and measuring the response time for email questions. Whether you need to connect to a specific server, change your security protocol, or configure a VPN on your router, finding a VPN with quality customer support should be important to you.
There are times when some things can seem free, but in the long run you end up spending a lot more than you anticipated. This is not the case with Ultrasurf — it is completely free and there is no fee to use any of its features. There also won’t be any hidden fees down the road, so no need to worry. The VPN never asks for any login information, so just download it from their website and start using it. For those looking to try out a VPN for the first time, or those who want to browse anonymously, this VPN provider might be worth considering.
As always, free providers do not always represent the best choices for your privacy and speed, so it is best to avoid them if you can. CyberGhost is one of the cheapest VPN options on the market, and it provides amazing performance for just $2.25
Taking everything into account, Ultrasurf VPN is a basic free VPN service that is just about adequate. The VPN has been and continues to be a good VPN that works for many people. Even though it isn’t fancy, fast, or loaded with features, it’s more than enough for those who just want a simple proxy to bypass censorship and have full access to the internet.
While Ultrasurf is not the best VPN provider, it does provide some level of anonymity. There is no need to register or to hand over your email address or even your name in order to use this service. Upon installation, it can be trusted to protect everything related to your web usage and privacy online. Although it doesn’t come with many bells and whistles — such as a kill switch — it still offers a considerable amount of protection for free.
Yes, you can use it for free. The use of the word free can be misleading as we all know. Some free software may be limited in functionality, or it may expire after a certain amount of time. Ultrasurf does not even offer a paid version, so the free version does not have an expiration date.
If you are not satisfied with Ultrasurf, you could check out the free VPNs that are recommended in this article. The problem is that most free VPNs sell your data, have limited server capacity, and can turn using the internet into a headache with slow speeds, intrusive ads, and restrictions on streaming.
Since the provider works as a proxy, it cannot guarantee complete anonymity. It operates by only letting HTTPS traffic go through its servers and redirecting less secure HTTP traffic through your regular internet service provider (ISP). Despite its slick ability to work around firewalls, it is not a security-proof solution and it isn’t so hard to block.