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Windscribe VPN review

A pretty powerful VPN with a very appealing free plan

Windscribe vpn review
(Image: © Future)

Tom's Guide Verdict

While Windscribe isn't truly a market leader in any one area, overall it's an decent service that's versatile and could suit most users. And, despite its slightly slower speeds and weak support service, many users will be enticed by its generous free plan, which is one of the best around.

Pros

  • +

    Tons of advanced features

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    10GB/month free plan

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    Unblocks Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+

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    Tons of payment options

Cons

  • -

    No 24/7 or live chat support

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    No US Netflix unblocking

Windscribe VPN is a feature-rich service which straddles the line between complexity and minimalism. The end result is a broad offering that's easy to use, but can be drilled down into for plenty more advanced features and, in some areas, rivals the best VPN services on the market.

While Winscribe might seem playful and light on its website and through its marketing, the security and privacy it offers are taken super seriously. The company is based in Canada, having been founded in 2015. So while this is a relatively young setup, it's offering some impressive features and a very useful free VPN.

There are lots of clients, torrent-friendly proxy options, and WireGuard, all backed by unlimited simultaneous downloads. Ticking a lot of boxes, Windscribe also works well when it comes to unblocking streaming services. Yup, there's a lot to like here, but it's not without shortcomings including some support and speed gripes.

In our complete Windscribe review we'll be exploring how to the provider performs in all the areas that matter. If you want to jump to a specific section, just click the appropriate tab in the navigation bar up top. If you want to read everything we've got to say about Windscribe, then just keep scrolling.

Windscribe VPN review - homepage

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Windscribe 1-minute review

Windscribe's free service is one of the best with 11 server locations and 2GB of data (boost that up to 10GB if you hand over your email). It's really remarkably powerful compared to the competition. Upgrade, and you'll pay a $9 monthly for a rolling monthly plan, dropping to a reasonable $4.08 a month when you commit for a year.

Windscribe's apps and systems look great and are secure, and do a fine job of blocking any DNS leaks, too. The kill switch works well, encryption is what we expect, and while there is minimal logging, Windscribe is upfront about this. We'd like to see an audit, but this is all a good start.

Despite offering WireGuard, our testing found that speeds still left something to be desired with below-average results compared to the competition. Speeds ranged from 200Mbps up to 490Mbps, which is more than enough for many, but way under the 800Mbps that plenty of other VPN services can manage.

If you're paying for the Windscribe, with all the features available, then you'll be pleased about the streaming unblocking. In our latest round of tests it was able to unblock all the major streaming services including US Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and BBC iPlayer. 

Apps on both desktop and mobile are fairly rudimentary, but there's plenty going on and they work very well. You'll get favorites, a selection of protocols, and even WireGuard support.

Customer support is probably Windscribe's weakest area – while the ticket system ensures you get a response from someone knowledgeable on the core dev team, it does mean you can't get quick, easy help when you need it, which is made worse due to the fact the written articles and guides aren't exactly perfect.

Latest updates

Since our last review of Windscribe, there appear to have been some changes that have affected unblocking of streaming services. As a result you can now unblock all the major services including US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video.

Speeds have also changed since our last round of testing. OpenVPN has gone from 180-240Mbps to 170-270Mbps. While WireGuard has changed from 430-480Mbps to 200-490Mbps. The range of results has grown wider for both protocols, but the top end has increased for faster potential speeds overall.

Windscribe specs

Number of servers: Undisclosed
Number of countries: 63
Platforms supported: Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Amazon Fire TV, Nvidia Shield, Kodi, DD-WRT, Tomato (router)
Simultaneous connections: Unlimited
Split tunneling: Yes
Kill switch: Yes
Supported protocols: WireGuard, OpenVPN UDP & TCP, IKEv2
Country of registration: Canada
Support: Articles, ticket system, 24/7 bot support

Windscribe review

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Windscribe price: how much is it, and is there a Windscribe free trial?

As we mentioned in the introduction, Windscribe has a very comprehensive free plan. It includes access to servers in 11 countries, up to 10GB of data (although this drops to 2GB if you don't sign up with a valid email address), and unlimited connections. That's all very generous for a free service.

But, imagine how amazing everything would be if you gave Windscribe money for Pro! (Windscribe's words on the upgrade page, not ours...)

To get the most from the service and access all the available features, you'll need to opt for a paid plan. With this in place, you can access all of Windscribe's 110 server locations, and create personalized IKEv2, OpenVPN, and WireGuard configurations. You’ll also enjoy an unlimited data allowance and full access to Windscribe’s unique malware-blocking tool, R.O.B.E.R.T.

Windscribe's monthly prices are pretty reasonable, just $9 per month. If you decide to opt for an annual plan, the price drops to just $4.08 per month. Compared to other leading providers, this is fairly good value – it’s not as cheap as Surfshark, but is more affordable than our #1-rated service ExpressVPN.

However, you've still got more options here. With Windscribe's 'Build a Plan', you can select which servers you need for $1 a month each. Each server selected will give you 10GB of data to play with, and you must select at least two. 

So, if you picked two servers (let's say UK and US), you'll start off with your 10GB for handing over your email address, and 10GB for each server chosen. For $2 a month, that's 30GB of data, and if you don't need any other servers, that's pretty good value, although some of the very cheapest VPNs offer their complete services for just pennies more.

Add on another $1 a month for unlimited data, however, and it looks pretty tempting – especially thanks to the fact that the Build a Plan is billed monthly, and there's no commitment involved.

Another option is ScribeForce. If you've got a group of five or more, you can gang up and pay just $3 a month for the full service, again billed monthly.

Finally, you can purchase a static IP – $8 a month for a residential IP, $2 a month for a data center IP. While this doesn't offer the same privacy as a regular VPN IP, it does make sure your browsing isn't tainted by someone else's dodgy actions, and should provide much better streaming capabilities as it's unlikely to be flagged as a non-domestic connection by Netflix and the like.

With payment options including PayPal, credit card, Bitcoin, gift cards and more, Windscribe is extraordinarily flexible when it comes to taking your money – and if you configure it right, you could save a packet without being tied into a long plan.

How private is Windscribe, and does it keep logs?

Windscribe boasts some substantial security features: It uses military-grade AES-256 encryption complete with SHA512 authentication, and in terms of private keys, Windscribe uses 4096-bit RSA and commits to a one-time use of each key.

Furthermore, Windscribe is also committed to securing your data against leaks and uses a range of techniques to do so. These include a kill switch to block internet access in the event that the VPN connection drops, a limit on IPv6 traffic, and the redirection of DNS traffic through the VPN.

We tested Windscribe’s performance claims on a Windows 10 machine and discovered no DNS leaks – or any others, for that matter.

To test the VPN’s kill switch (called Firewall in Windscribe-speak), we closed down the connection manually during a browsing session. The switch worked well and our internet connection dropped instantly. While we weren't notified of the connection dropping, we were when we reconnected – and there were no leaks in the interim.

Another safety measure deployed by the platform is R.O.B.E.R.T. This advanced domain- and IP-blocking tool protects you from malware and trackers and enables you to browse faster.

Logging is very minimal, limited to the total bandwidth you've used in a month and a timestamp of your last activity so as to identify inactive accounts. Connection details are also recorded temporarily, including username, VPN server, time and bandwidth as well as number of devices connected – but this is in RAM only so is lost when the session closes.

A transparency report supports its privacy levels, and shows "exactly zero requests were compiled due to lack of relevant data", referring to DMCA and law enforcement contact. But still, a public audit would be a welcome addition to add more peace of mind.

But, it's worth noting that you can use the service for free without handing over as much as an email address. If 2GB of data is enough for whatever job you want to do in privacy, it's a remarkably capable option.

Windscribe VPN review - features

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How fast is Windscribe?

Windscribe comes with the two major protocols as you'd expect from a premium offering, meaning OpenVPN and the latest WireGuard are both options.

The results from our OpenVPN tests got UK speeds of 120Mbps which is quite far below average. In the US it was a little better at 170-270Mbps, but still not anything to shout about with some services hitting nearer to the 400Mbps mark.

Jump over to WireGuard and speeds were better with speeds ranging 200-490Mbps. That's a better top end than in previous tests but also a lower bottom end. It's also below the average by quite a way. Many VPNs can hit 500Mbps easily with lots topping 800Mbps including CyberGhost, Hide.me, IPVanish and Mozilla VPN. TorGuard, leading the pack, hits an impressive 950Mbps. 

Of course if you have a 100Mb line then all these higher end speeds won't be needed anyway – but since this changes from server locations and at different times of day, it's usually a good idea to go for the best option so you end up with the fastest speeds for your line's capacity potential. 

How good is Windscribe for streaming?

If you want a Netflix VPN then Windscribe VPN is a good option. In this round of testing we were able to access US Netflix with ease. This hasn't been the case in previous tests, but this time around you can get online without any issues.

But it doesn't stop there as Windscribe VPN appears to be a top streaming VPN overall, with the ability to unblock US YouTube, BBC iPlayer, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video across the US and UK.

Be aware, however, that these are results when using the premium service – 'WindFlix' servers aren't available with free plans, and there are no guarantees any other servers will do the job.

Windscribe review

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How good is Windscribe for torrenting?

Windscribe is a good option as a torrenting VPN and is very upfront about the platform's torrenting capabilities. If you navigate to the Status page on the Windscribe website, you'll find a list of server locations that are compatible with P2P. This transparency is replicated in the app, where noncompatible locations are flagged.

On top of this, if you want to torrent without revealing your identity for security reasons, you can enjoy the free plan anonymously and pay for the premium service with privacy-focused payment options, like bitcoin and gift cards. That said, if you're looking for a VPN for the sole purpose of torrenting, you might be better choosing a more specialized option like ExpressVPN or CyberGhost.

How good are Windscribe’s desktop apps?

The biggest change since our last review is probably the introduction of Windscribe 2.0 – which brought with it the WireGuard protocol and a shiny new interface. However, it's still much the same fare, with everything being contained in a compact (and now asymmetric) window, with plenty going on behind the scenes. 

It's worth noting that Windscribe is one of the few providers to offer a back catalogue of previous versions, meaning that if the new update doesn't play nicely with your machine, you can rewind and use the last stable version until whatever bug you had issues with is fixed. 

When you access the default location list, you'll see a list of countries. Click on each of these countries and you can expand the option to reveal available servers – complete with humorous monikers like Tea and Crumpets for one of the London-based servers. The latency indicator is a useful addition, showing you the speeds of each server so you can find the fastest one for your needs.

You can select countries to add to your Favourites list, and a clever latency marker shows you the quickest options in real time. If you enable locations, you'll receive instant updates regarding status, connections, and changes, and you can sort your servers by name, location, or latency – all good stuff. Plus, split tunneling allows you to select which apps route through the VPN, and which route through your regular connection, which is great for torrenting.

We were impressed by how Windscribe's desktop app was able to import custom OpenVPN config files from third parties. These are then displayed along with Windscribe's existing ones, so in essence, Windscribe could be a hub for all your free plans, enabling you to toggle between them if your data ran low.

You can select your favorite connection protocol by navigating to Preferences. These include WireGuard, IKEv2, Stealth, OpenVPN TCP/UDP, or WSTunnel. You can also utilize an API Resolution system navigating the requirement for DNS, and set up an HTTP or SOCKS proxy too.

A rather unique feature is the ability to setup your device as a Wi-Fi hotspot using the Windows client. Presuming your OS and network adapter support this service, it means you can have other devices connect using the VPN. That could mean having your games console or TV connected to the VPN via the proxy on your laptop, without having to setup a router with OpenVPN directly, for example.

Windscribe review

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How good are Windscribe’s mobile apps?

Surprisingly, Windscribe's mobile apps had many of the 2.0 features before the desktop version, and for those who don't like learning new software, it's all impemented in much the same way.

With the service’s Android VPN, you'll find a status display that includes a large connection button, an image of a flag in the background, IP and preferred protocol details, and location lists.

It's possible to toggle the Favourites and Custom Config lists and view specific Streaming servers. The Preferences window is rich in features. You can choose to connect to OpenVPN UDP, IKEv2, Stealth, or TCP, or choose a bespoke port. There are also options for split tunneling.

You can integrate with Android's Always On feature and initiate a cross-system kill switch, activate GPS spoofing features, specify local network traffic, and more. Using Network Whitelisting, you can instruct the Windscribe VPN to initiate when connected to an unsecured network automatically.

And unlike many other providers, when it comes to an iPhone VPN, Windscribe's iOS app is equally as powerful and feature-rich as the offering for Android, with one of the only limitations being the lack of split tunneling, which is a issue on Apple’s side, not Windscribe’s.

Windscribe review

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How good are Windscribe's browser extensions?

A very useful part of Windscribe's suite of software are its browser extensions. Featuring on our best Chrome VPN guide, the free add-on is powerful and effective, offering more flexibility than most – all for free.

As you'd expect, the Chrome and Firefox extensions are only proxies (unlike ExpressVPN's out-of-the-ordinary add-on that controls the desktop client). While this does mean only browser traffic is affected, for simple location-changing tasks, it's the perfect tool.

As well as a number of locations, you'll get Autopilot, which connects to the best server with a single click, the option to connect to cities, not just countries, and a favorites list.

R.O.B.E.R.T. is now available to free browser extension users, too, which means you'll get a pared-down version of the full malware and ad=blocking tool paying customers are privy to.

Finally, you'll also be able to block WebRTC leaks, spoof your location and swap your time zone to match your server, switch your users agent to avoid tracking, and even delete cookies when a tab is closed.

So, on the whole, Windscribe's browser extension is just about the best on offer – only rivalled by ExpressVPN's which, while powerful, works in a very different way.

What customer support does Windscribe offer?

With no 24/7 support available, Windscribe does lag behind its competitors in this area. There is a 24/7 chat bot service which can escalate your query to a human contact, at the right time of day. But generally you may find yourself directed to an email enquiry form where you'll have to wait for a response to help. 

However, there is a dedicated support site that includes numerous setup guides covering a wide range of devices and operating systems.

In terms of response times the company has this to say: "As we're a relatively small company ... we're unable to provide support 24/7, and since we provide support to all users, including millions of free accounts, things can be a bit overwhelming."

That said, we did find the FAQs lacking too, and some areas, like how to set up browser extensions, were very outdated. If you can't find what you're looking for, you can contact support via email or raise a ticket via a web form.

The Android guides were useful with helpful tips on how to connect with IKEv2 using the StrongSwan app, or via OpenVPN with OpenVPN for Android.

Although you can't guarantee a quick response, all support queries are dealt with in-house so the answer you receive should be well-informed and more than adequate – when it arrives.

Windscribe: Final verdict

Windscribe offers a compelling free version, has some excellent payment personalization and is feature rich. While speeds are below average, they are plenty for anyone on a 200Mbps line or slower. 

Streaming unblocking was fantastic with all services accessed easily and in terms of P2P support you can access torrents well using this service. Customer support leaves something to be desired and there is no security audit but on the whole this is a very powerful and comprehensive VPN service.  

It may not quite reach the standard set by ExpressVPN (opens in new tab), with its massive range of server locations, impeccable speed and performance, and 24/7 support, but Windscribe gives it a pretty good go.

Mo is VPN Editor at Tom's Guide. Day-to-day he oversees VPN, privacy, and cybersecurity content, and also undertakes independent testing of VPN services to ensure his recommendations are accurate and up to date. When he's not getting stuck into the nitty-gritty settings of a VPN you've never heard of, you'll find him working on his Peugeot 205 GTi or watching Peep Show instead of finally putting up those shelves.