The best free VPN sounds seriously tempting, and as online threats become more and more commonplace, almost everyone is thinking of ways to stay safer online. The idea of getting one of the best VPN services without even handing over your email address sounds great – but is it really possible?
Having an understanding of how VPNs work behind the scenes is essential. In simple terms, they encrypt all your traffic, hiding it from your ISP, and can virtually relocate you by sending you through one of their own servers anywhere in the world. That all costs money, so it's well worth being aware of how your free VPN is funded. Pick the wrong provider and you may be doing yourself more harm than good.
My team and I have tested tons of free VPNs, prioritizing privacy, speed, and usability, as well as useful extras like the ability to unblock streaming sites. I've found that 'freemium' services are the best – you'll get limited features and often data limits, but you can trust they're safe and secure. For daily users, I recommend a paid VPN, but for infrequent users, one of the quality free VPNs listed further down this page might be all you need.
The best paid VPN providers
The three providers below – ExpressVPN, Surfshark and NordVPN – are my highest-ranked VPNs overall. While they are paid products, they include 30-day money-back guarantees, which allow you to trial them risk-free for a month. Don't think it's worth your money? Just claim a full refund – no questions asked.
1. ExpressVPN: trial my top VPN risk-free for 30 days
ExpressVPN is my #1 VPN for a reason. It offers class-leading privacy features, unblocks tons of streaming sites, and has intuitive apps on a huge range of devices. It even includes an excellent password manager to keep everything secure.
Tom's Guide readers who sign up for the 12-month plan will get 3 months free as well as 1 year of cloud backup courtesy of Backblaze. Plus, if you're not sure, you can test it out risk-free with its 30-day money-back guarantee.
2. Surfshark: the best cheap VPN performs well
Surfshark offers an appealing combination of bargain pricing, tons of privacy features, and fast, reliable connections. You'll also be able to use one subscription on unlimited devices, and its streaming performance is unbeatable for the price.
For those looking for a cheaper alternative to ExpressVPN and NordVPN, Surfshark is a great choice – and you'll also have a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can give it a test drive.
3. NordVPN: a security-focused VPN giant
NordVPN is the world's most famous VPN for a reason. With over 5,000 servers worldwide, seriously secure apps, plus appealing extra features like Meshnet and Double VPN, it's an excellent privacy package.
In terms of price, it sits between ExpressVPN and Surfshark, and is currently just $3.39 a month. You'll also get a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can try before you commit.
There haven't been many changes since I last edited this page, and my rankings are all the same: PrivadoVPN is still very capable when it comes to unblocking streaming sites, while Proton VPN has maintained its reputation for privacy, as well as its generous unlimited data plan. However, I've taken the time to do some spring cleaning, I've added in a section that outlines the experts that have helped make the ranking decisions on this page, and also added some insight into how best to choose a free VPN.
Are free VPNs safe?
It all boils down to which free VPN you choose. While there are a few decent ones, they're vastly outnumbered by dubious, ad-filled apps with no background and no privacy policies. What's more, these could be harvesting your data – exactly the opposite of what you want from a VPN.
That's why I've taken the time to review tons of free VPN services, both good and bad. In them, there's tons of info on where each service impresses and disappoints, and with that knowledge, I've pulled together this comprehensive guide on which I consider safe to use.
The best provider for you should be fully tested and proven to be secure, but your decision will also depend on what you're looking for from your free VPN. For example, those looking to stream overseas Netflix will likely need PrivadoVPN, while those looking for unlimited data may prefer Proton VPN. So, all you need to do is keep scrolling to learn more and make your choice.
The best free VPNs of 2024
Why you can trust Tom's Guide
If you're dead-set on bagging yourself a free VPN, I highly recommend choosing one of the options outlined below. The expert VPN team at Tom's Guide has thoroughly reviewed all of these providers, and we're confident saying that they are safe, secure, and work well day-to-day.
The best free VPN overall
Unrivaled streaming and great privacy
Countries: 10 | Server locations: 13 | Maximum devices supported: 1 | Available on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux | Data limit: 10GB per month (+ slow unlimited data) | 24/7 live chat: No, FAQ and email available
✔️ You're looking for a free Netflix VPN. From my testing, PrivadoVPN is the only free VPN to reliably unblock Netflix (and others).
✔️ You want plenty of privacy features. While PrivadoVPN imposes some limits, all the essentials like split tunneling and a kill switch are available for free and paid users alike.
✔️ You've got a need for speed. Topping out at around 350 Mbps, Privado is hot on the heels of many paid VPNs, let alone free providers. In real life terms, this means you won't ever notice it's on.
❌ You need genuinely unlimited data. While Privado does technically offer unlimited usage, if you use more than 10GB in a month you'll be restricted to a single 'emergency server' with very low speeds.
❌ You demand excellent mobile apps. Although they're stable and work perfectly, PrivadoVPN's mobile offerings lack the refinement of some rivals.
When compared to paid providers, PrivadoVPN Free falls a little short, but for a totally free VPN it's absolutely unbeatable. Its streaming performance has to be seen to be believed, and for day-to-day privacy usage it's seamless. Absolutely worth a try.
Newcomers to the VPN industry tend to take some time to grow, but despite only being founded in 2019, PrivadoVPN has quickly become a powerful and well-known provider. In my hands-on PrivadoVPN review I found the paid service to be quite impressive, but what really stands out is the PrivadoVPN Free plan.
First and foremost, PrivadoVPN Free offers all the essential privacy features you need to stay safe online. A kill switch blocks any traffic getting through if the VPN loses connection, and split tunneling lets you route some apps through the VPN while excluding others. It's a fast VPN too, topping out at around 350 Mbps in my testing.
At its core, PrivadoVPN is built around AES-256 encryption, which is the industry standard. In short, even if your traffic is intercepted it'll be totally unreadable. OpenVPN and WireGuard protocols are both available, and while most users will now use the swift and secure WireGuard, it's nice to have OpenVPN as an option.
When comparing it to the competition, one of the few places PrivadoVPN falls behind close rival Proton VPN Free is its limited data cap. Proton sets no data limits, while Privado caps full-speed connections to 10 GB a month. However, if you go over this you'll still be able to browse – albeit restricted to a sluggish 1 Mbps.
PrivadoVPN's party piece, however, is its incredible streaming performance. Free VPNs typically restrict this kind of unblocking power to their paid plans, but in my testing I found that Privado's free plan is capable of accessing US Netflix from around the world, and can also gain access to other streaming sites like BBC iPlayer.
You'll get a generous spread of server locations too, with 13 cities located in 10 countries, including the US, UK, Canada, France, and more. That's better than Proton VPN's 3 locations, but can't match paid providers like ExpressVPN or Surfshark, which boast 100 or more.
It's worth noting that while PrivadoVPN has a robust zero-logging policy, this is yet to be proved by an independent audit. This is apparently due to the disruption an audit can cause, and as a new service, Privado is intent on developing further before sacrificing a significant amount of time to an audit.
From my testing, I'm confident that PrivadoVPN is safe to use, but I've got my fingers crossed that the team will undertake an audit sooner rather than later to prove their claims without doubt.
For a free VPN, PrivadoVPN Free offers the most comprehensive package on the market. With the only real limitations being restricted fast data, a smaller number of servers and only a single device being allowed on each plan, it's well worth a try – especially if you're after a Netflix VPN for free.
|Smart, simple design that's appealing on desktop and mobile.
|Privacy and security
|Industry-standard encryption and must-have features like a kill switch, plus a good zero-logging policy. However, the lack of an audit is a minor negative.
|Ease of use
|The apps are well laid out, which is perfect those new to VPN, but it's easy to access settings for more experienced users to customize features.
|Faster than many free VPNs – but lags a little behind paid providers.
|Quite simply unrivaled unblocking power when it comes to free VPNs.
|Capable support agents, but website lacks in terms of detailed articles.
Best free VPN with unlimited data
A privacy-focused service with a great Linux VPN
Countries: 3 | Server locations: 3 | Maximum devices supported: 1 | Available on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux | Data limit: Unlimited | Support: Website, email
✔️ You need truly unlimited data. Proton VPN Free is one of the the only free VPNs to offer unlimited fast data.
✔️ You're on Linux. Proton VPN Free is a great option for Linux users, and even offers a full GUI.
✔️ You want a fully open-source VPN. All of Proton's apps are open-source, meaning that you, or any other person in the world can make sure the code is secure.
❌ You want to torrent. Likely a deal-breaker for some, Proton VPN Free does not allow P2P connections through its servers. You'll have to upgrade for that privilege.
❌ You want to stream. Streaming services without geoblocks are fine, but Proton VPN Free doesn't offer the unblocking power of PrivadoVPN or Proton's paid version.
❌ You need a good range of servers. With just three servers to choose from, Proton VPN's location list is a little restrictive.
Proton VPN Free is a seriously good product that may well seem more appealing than PrivadoVPN if you don't care about streaming. Unlimited data means you can set and forget, while the useful apps are a pleasure to use. However, its limited server list and poor streaming support means it misses out on the top spot.
Proton VPN is a big name in the VPN industry, and in my hands-on Proton VPN Free review we found that the Swiss-based provider really delivers.
Its robust applications are open-source and secure, and it delivers an excellent privacy- and security-focused experience.
The biggest advantage Proton VPN has over the competition is its unlimited data policy – no matter how much you use this free VPN, you'll never find yourself restricted. What's more, in my speed testing it even outstripped PrivadoVPN, clocking in at an impressive 380 Mbps.
Just like PrivadoVPN, all the privacy essentials are available for any users, paid or free. You'll have a kill switch, AES-256 encryption, and access to both OpenVPN and WireGuard protocols. This is all very positive to see from a free service.
Unsurprisingly, the useful Secure Core feature isn't available for free users, but in reality fairly few people are really going to benefit from these ultra-secure servers in special locations.
However, there's a reason why PrivadoVPN has overtaken Proton in recent times, and it's the outside the essentials, Proton VPN Free is just a little more limited. You'll only get access to 3 servers (US, Netherlands, Japan) compared to Privado's 13.
This means that many people around the world may not have a nearby server, with the omission of a UK VPN server being the most noticeable.
The lack of any significant streaming support is also worth noting. While PrivadoVPN may have spoiled us by offering this, it's no longer a given that free services don't work as streaming VPNs, and this now has to be marked as a negative. Lack of P2P support will also be a red flag for some.
However, it's well worth noting that Proton has partnered with German news broadcaster Deutsche Welle, and both paid and free versions of the VPN have dedicated servers that allow free and unrestricted access to unbiased news coverage from anywhere in the world.
In truth, though, if you're just looking for a free VPN to help keep you private day-to-day with no data limits, Proton VPN Free is arguably the better choice over our #1 pick here – but you really can't go wrong with either.
|Recent facelift moves aesthetic from The Matrix to Cyberpunk 2077.
|Privacy and security
|Open-source with powerful encryption.
|Ease of use
|Apps are powerful, but could be a little complex for newbies.
|The fastest free VPN we've tested.
|Deutsche Welle access is more than most free VPNs, but it can't rival PrivadoVPN.
|Plenty of detailed guides, plus helpful support agents.
Best free VPN Chrome extension
Excellent free VPN with great browser extension
Countries: 11 | Server locations: 14 | Maximum devices supported: Unlimited | Available on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android | Data limit: 10GB | Support: Website, email
✔️ You're looking for a quality VPN browser extension. Windscribe's Chrome VPN is a proxy, but it's very good, and offers great functionality for free.
✔️ You want to use the same plan on all your devices. Unlike PrivadoVPN and Proton VPN, a single free Windscribe account can be used on an unlimited amount of devices.
❌ You need the fastest free VPN. Windscribe isn't exactly slow, but my higher-rated options provide a swifter experience.
❌ 10 GB of data isn't enough. 10 GB of data can go a long way, but when you've used it all up, that's Windscribe done for the month – unlike PrivadoVPN, there's no emergency backup allowance.
Windscribe is an appealing free VPN, and definitely has a niche in that it offers plenty of server locations and limited streaming support. However, for the majority of users, either Proton VPN or PrivadoVPN will provide a slicker, simpler experience.
Windscribe is well-known in the VPN world for its zany marketing operations and commitment to user privacy. While its paid product is very good, in my Windscribe Free review I found the freemium version to be the pick of the bunch.
Its server spread is remarkably generous. With 14 locations in 11 countries, it offers greater range than our top 2 providers here – although PrivadoVPN isn't far off with 13 locations in 10 countries.
You'll also get a generous amount of data per month, matching my #1 provider at 10 GB. However, here Privado just pips it to the post by offering unlimited yet slow emergency data. As mentioned above, Proton VPN free outdoes both by offering truly unlimited browsing.
One of Windscribe's more impressive features is that in my testing, it was able to unblock UK Netflix and BBC iPlayer. This is better than many paid VPNs, and while PrivadoVPN again performs even better in this area, it's an added bonus that's worth mentioning.
In terms of connection speeds, Windscribe lags behind my top two picks, but at 240 Mbps it's still plenty fast. To put that into perspective, most domestic Wi-Fi connections top out at around 100 Mbps, so Windscribe is unlikely to slow you down.
One major drawback, however, is Windscribe's app design. Despite a recent refresh, they're still pretty clunky and cramped. There are some good features like a useful server search, but compared to roomier apps like Proton VPN's and paid rival Surfshark's, Windscribe isn't quite up to scratch.
Finally, it's worth mentioning Windscribe's Chrome extension. It's excellent, and although it's only a proxy – it provides no encryption, and simply changes your location and IP address – it still works very well when trying to avoid ISP content blocking or accessing restricted overseas websites.
Overall, Windscribe is a powerful free VPN service that's simple and effective, and although it can't match our previous two providers, it's still very usable. However, considering all the products here are free, there's little reason to pick it over PrivadoVPN.
|Fairly intuitive, but lacks the polish of rivals.
|Privacy and security
|Open-source apps make it easy to trust.
|Ease of use
|Fairly simple to get up and running.
|Lags behind the competition, but still hardly slow.
|Impressive access to UK Netflix and iPlayer.
|No live chat makes quick resolution tricky, but email support is comprehensive.
The best of the rest
Great speeds, and tons of data for Mac users
Server locations: 3 | Countries: 2 | Maximum devices supported: 2 | Data limit: 10GB per month (2GB a day on Mac) | Support: Website, email