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Best free VPN 2021: protect yourself online for free

best free vpn
(Image credit: Getty images)

Picking out the best free VPN (virtual private network) is something you want to consider carefully. There are often limitations on free VPNs, but depending on what you need one for, you might be able to find one for your needs, without having to pay for a different one instead.

Getting the right one could be the difference between keeping you safe online where you have access to all the content you want, and being insecure and locked out. Since it's free, it makes sense to give a free VPN a try, but if you're looking for a reliable option to download or stream content on a regular basis, you may find the free VPNs fall a bit short. We'll run through all the pros and cons though so you can find what you need.

If you've not got a VPN right now you might be considering one for a number of reasons, as they've got plenty of talents. Perhaps you're after a bit more anonymity online, so your personal details can't be snooped and grabbed quite so easily. As, right now, without a VPN – without sounding too doomsday-like – you are open to attack. 

Or maybe your needs are less worry-focused and you simply want to make sure you can get all your favourite Netflix or BBC iPlayer shows no matter where you are in the world. Maybe, on the topic of media, it's P2P torrenting you want to do without the risk of downloading something that's copyright illegal – by mistake of course – and want to remain hidden in case of that eventuality.

There are so many uses for VPNs: you can stay safer on open Wi-Fi at hotels, airports and cafes, you can even use them to save money on the cost of flights. The list goes on but right now, since you're here, you likely have a need and want a VPN. You also appear to be looking for a free one.

You're in luck as we've rounded up the best free VPN options out there right now, with the special skills of each one clearly labelled so you can find the best one for your needs. 

The downside of free VPNs

If one of your main uses for a VPN is to enable streaming geo-blocked content from other countries, then you might find most free VPN services are left a little wanting. Low data limits or a lack of varied locations means you either can't watch much, or you'll find sites like Netflix are able to quickly block the limited number of VPN servers compared to the paid VPNs you'd find on our best VPN list (opens in new tab), or especially our guide to the best Netflix VPN (opens in new tab). We also find that free VPNs generally don't get handy apps on other devices, compare this list with our Fire Stick VPN (opens in new tab) guide for example. If you do want a VPN with extra device support, an abundance of server locations in more countries, Netflix-compatibility, and unlimited data then check out our top-rated provider below, which is currently having a massive sale too.

VPN special offer

Express VPN from just $6.67 / £5.50 a month (opens in new tab)
(opens in new tab)
There multiple offers available right now over at Express VPN. You can sign up for one month or six months, but you save a massive 49% on the 15-month deal, which includes three free months too. There's a 30-day money-back guarantee too if you change your mind. The benefits here versus free VPN services are just enormous in all honesty.

Best Free VPNs for 2020

TunnelBear VPN

(Image credit: TunnelBear)

1: TunnelBear VPN

Best overall free VPN

Number of servers: 1,000 | Server locations: 20+ | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 5 | Included data: 500MB monthly

Great privacy policy
Mobile and desktop friendly apps
Easy to use
Tight data limit

TunnelBear VPN (opens in new tab) is our pick as the best free VPN overall. After being bought by security giant McAfee this has a tightened privacy policy that means even less data is collected so you don't even have to give a name to sign up – the no logging policy is that secure. That means for anonymity online this is a really great option. That security goes further with Bitcoin payment options for those that want the full version.

Expect a small service from the Canadian-based VPN service that operates its network in 23 countries. Despite this, speeds are above average and you can use it to unblock Netflix and it will support P2P torrenting. Though with a meagre 500MB of data allowance per month, you won't be able to watch or download much. This is better for things like security when on open Wi-Fi connections.

There are clients, aka apps, for lots of platforms including iOS, Android, Mac and PC. On all of these the system is super simple to use making it ideal for anyone new to the world of VPNs.

Hotspot Shield VPN

(Image credit: Hotspot Shield)

2: Hotspot Shield VPN

Best free VPN for tight security

Number of servers: 2,500 | Server locations: 70+ | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 5 | Included data: 500MB daily

Decent data allowance
Very secure
Simple to use
Ads required
Card details needed

Hotspot Shield VPN (opens in new tab) is our top rated free virtual private network service for superb security. It's so good, in fact, this can even compete against many of the paid-for services in terms of anonymity and ease of use.

There are over 2,500 servers dotted across over 70 worldwide locations. This is important as you're limited, in the free version, as the service picks locations for you. That still gets you security but thanks to the high number of servers it can also mean decent speeds. Talking of security, this rocks a military-grade encryption meaning your data is super secure and unreadable by any would be attackers or snoopers.

The downside is that you'll need to put up with ads and you also have to give your card details to do the free seven day trial of the full premium version of the app, before getting access to the free app. You're limited on data, but since this is often the case with free VPNs, that's to be expected. The limit – at 500MB per day, about 15GB per month – is a generous one that will suit most uses aside from heavy streaming and torrenting. 


(Image credit: Windscribe)

3: Windscribe

Best for use on lots of devices

Number of servers: 400+ | Server locations: 60+ | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: Unlimited | Included data: 10GB per month

10GB of data per month
Unlimited devices
Excellent privacy policy
Speeds can be inconsistent

The Windscribe VPN (opens in new tab) service is very generous with the way it shares its data and use. You get a decent 10GB per month, allowing you to use it all in chunks or spread that out. That makes this a viable VPN for streaming or downloading. Also, since it's available on an unlimited number of gadgets at the same time, you can use it on your phone, laptop, tablet, console (thanks to OpenVPN) and more, all at once. 

Windscribe is secure with a clear no-logging policy, AES-256 encryption, and IKEv2 support. This also allows you to pick a location to connect to including UK, Hong Kong, Canada, the US and more. There's even a smart ad-blocker built-in.

Tweet about the provider and you'll get an extra 5GB of data and 1GB everytime you invite a friend to join. If a friend then goes for the Pro subscription you get unlimited data and more servers too.


(Image credit: ProtonVPN)

4: ProtonVPN

Best for unlimited data allowance

Number of servers: 628 | Server locations: 44 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 5 | Included data: Unlimited

Unlimited data
Excellent privacy
One device limit
Three locations only

ProtonVPN (opens in new tab) is the best free VPN when it comes to data allowance since this service is totally unlimited. Yup, you can use as much data as you like and still enjoy the clear no logs policy and apps for iOS, Android, Mac, PC and Linux. The catch is that you're limited to one device only for the free service and the choice of locations you can connect to is capped at three countries (US, Netherlands and Japan).

Of course, as a free user, you get a lower priority than a paid customer, meaning it can impact on speeds at times when usage is high on a particular server. There are no ads to worry about though and for sign up all you need to give is your email address. 

With decent speeds, even using the free service, this is a really great option for anyone that wants to use a lot of data while behind a secure VPN.


(Image credit: Speedify)

5: Speedify

Best for fast free speeds

Number of servers: 1,000+ | Server locations: 60+ | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: One | Included data: 10GB per month

Great privacy and security
Speed boosting smarts
Won't unblock Netflix
Basic software

Speedify VPN (opens in new tab) is a great free VPN option if you want to get the fastest possible speeds when connected behind the safety of this virtual private network. Speedify uses "turbocharging technology" to make sure your connection is the fastest possible via whatever connection you have – be it Wi-Fi, mobile network, Ethernet or a combination.

Unlike some free services, this will give you access to all the servers which are spread over 50 locations worldwide. You get great security throughout with a clear no logging policy, all backed by a 128-AES encryption. There's even a useful Streaming Mode that will prioritize video and audio so any other traffic going on won't slow them down.

You get 10GB of data a month, to use when you want. But that is limited to a single device, so pick wisely.

If you're looking to add some new kit to go with to your new protected home internet setup then be sure to take a look at our picks for the best gaming laptop. And if you're in the UK, now's a great time to give your home internet a boost by checking out our guide to the best cheap broadband deals. We've also got some great SIM only deals.

Luke is a freelance writer and editor with over two decades of experience covering tech, science and health. Among many others he writes across Future titles covering health tech, software and apps, VPNs, TV, audio, smart home, antivirus, broadband, smartphones, cars and plenty more. He also likes to climb mountains, swim outside and contort his body into silly positions while breathing as calmly as possible.