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Windscribe VPN review

A feature-rich VPN with powerful clients and a useful free plan

Windscribe vpn review
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

With freshly redesigned apps that are chock-full of unusual features that genuinely add value, Windscribe is certainly an appealing prospect. While speeds and support aren't quite up to scratch, the generous free plan offers a healthy 10GB of data so you truly can try before you buy.

For

  • Tons of advanced features
  • 10GB/month free plan
  • Excellent for streaming
  • Tons of payment options

Against

  • No 24/7 support
  • Speeds not class-leading
  • No live chat support

Rather than stay straight-laced and carefully curate an untarnished public image, Windscribe has made a name for itself in the industry as a fun-loving, privacy-centric brand whose regular newsletters and come littered with strong opinions, puns and memes – but don't think for a second that they provide a joke product.

With tons of advanced features, many of which are really rather innovative, Windscribe offers one of the best VPN services that delivers the goods. Plus, for those looking for a free VPN, Windscribe's is also up there with the cream of the crop.

However, in our testing we found a few areas in which Windscribe doesn't quite lead the pack, so keep on reading for our in-depth Windscribe review – it should give you all the info you need to decide whether or not it's the best choice for you.

Windscribe VPN review - homepage

(Image credit: Windscribe)

Windscribe 1-minute review

For a kick-off, you might be tempted to test out Windscribe's free service. With 11 server locations and 2GB of data (boost that up to 10GB if you hand over your email), it's really remarkable powerful compared to the competition. Upgrade, and you'll pay a $9 monthly for a rolling plan, dropping to a reasonable $4.08 a month when you commit for a year.

Windscribe's brand new Windscribe 2.0 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.

Connection speeds are just OK. Using OpenVPN we got 180-240Mbps on a 1Gbps line in the UK, and a less impressive 20-120Mbps on a similar line in the US. Unfortunately Windscribe released WireGuard to the masses just after we undertook our testing, but if we look at the competition, we can expect it to boost speeds significantly. make sure to check back for more when we get a chance to test WireGuard.

The paid version of Windscribe is excellent for streaming, unblocking pretty much every service we tried. However, the big surprise is that Windscribe proves to be an effective free Netflix VPN, successfully unblocking US Netflix and BBC iPlayer on servers available to non-paying users.

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.

Windscribe on paper

Number of servers: Undisclosed
Number of countries: 62
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: OpenVPN UDP & TCP, IKEv2
Country of registration: Canada
Support: Articles, ticket system, 24/7 bot support

Windscribe review

(Image credit: Windscribe)

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 a wide spread of 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.

But, imagine how amazing everything would be if you gave Windscribe money for Pro! (Windscribe's words, 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 when paid yearly. 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 excellent value. Add on another $1 a month for unlimited data 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 firewall, better known as a kill switch, to block internet access during a connection blackout, 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.

Windscribe VPN review - features

(Image credit: Windscribe)

In terms of logging, Windscribe is very transparent about the information it collects, and you can find a succinct rundown of its logging procedures in Windscribe's privacy policy. 

Windscribe does do a small amount of logging in order to measure your bandwidth usage over time and timestamping your most recent sessions so it can root out inactive accounts. Other data, like connection times and devices connected, is stored temporarily and deleted once you complete a browsing session.

While we appreciate Windscribe's forthrightness with this, we'd love to see the provider undergo an external audit of its systems and servers to prove any and all claims it makes.

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 complete privacy, it's a remarkably capable option.

How fast is Windscribe? 

Windscribe claims to be a fast VPN, and while it's not quite up there with the very best, it's certainly capable. To begin with, we connected to the closest servers from a data center based in the UK and a location in the US. Our test lines could operate at speeds up to 1Gbps, and we used a number of sites and services to measure connection speed.

The results from the UK were promising. OpenVPN speeds averaged at 180-240Mbps, which outperforms a number of big names such as Surfshark, but can't quite match the likes of NordVPN or CyberGhost.

However, our US tests were disappointing, averaging around 20-120Mbps. We saw the same weak US performance in our last round of testing, so unfortunately we don't think that this is a one-off. 

With the upgrade to Windscribe 2.0, we saw the addition of WireGuard, but unfortunately this didn't come in time for our speed tests. However, thanks to Windscribe's generous free plan that doesn't cap speeds, you can test this out for yourself before you buy to make sure that it delivers the goods wherever you are. 

How good is Windscribe for streaming?

Many users want a Netflix VPN that they can use to access geo-specific content from the streaming site. We're happy to say that Windscribe does just that. We could visit US Netflix from all of the locations we tested, and the British, Japanese, and Canadian versions too.

To put Windscribe through its paces as a streaming VPN, we attempted to view US Netflix, US YouTube, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video from a range of locations in the US and UK.

Netflix usually puts up a decent fight against VPNs, but in our testing Windscribe easily got us access to the US library. BBC iPlayer is another streaming service with very capable VPN blocking tech, but again, Windscribe had no issues, getting us access every time we tried.

Rounding off the testing were Disney+ and Amazon Prime, and again Windscribe has no problems accessing either of these, giving it an impressive full house when it comes to unblocking content.

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

(Image credit: Windscribe`)

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 are looking for a VPN for the sole purpose of torrenting, you might be better choosing a more specialized option like ExpressVPN, NordVPN, 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 (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.

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.

If your hardware allows it, you can even use the technology as a secure wireless hotspot or proxy gateway.

Windscribe review

(Image credit: Windscribe`)

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

(Image credit: Windscribe)

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

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.

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.

Windscribe: Final verdict

Windscribe is well-priced, packed with features, and accessible to even the most novice users. The company’s commitment to privacy is obvious, and its free plan is one of the most comprehensive we’ve seen.

That said, its support features are a little lacking and the anomalies that appeared during our speed tests were a worry. Still, with such a great free version, we’d recommend anyone to download the service and give it a try.

It may not quite reach the standard set by ExpressVPN, 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 eCommerce Editor at Tom's Guide. Day-to-day he oversees privacy and security content, and his product guides help his readers find the best software and products for their needs. When he's not testing VPNs, you'll find him working on his classic car or plugged into a guitar amp.