Are free VPNs any good? (2024)

Virtual private networks, or VPNs, are proving to be more and more consequential in the wide open world of the internet, where privacy is now so precious. While premium VPN services provide reliable protection, what about free VPNs?

A free VPN can be an attractive option for people seeking a no-cost solution to their anonymity and security concerns. But beyond the appeal of not having to pay for the service, free VPNs can come with serious drawbacks or even hazardous data collection practices.

To help you make the right decision with your VPN and keep you safe and secure online, I’ll cover what you can expect to get with a free VPN, the pros and cons of free vs. paid, and what free options are worth considering.

Further reading: How to use a VPN to watch Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Max while traveling

What do you get with a free VPN?

Included features with free VPNs can vary widely. Some will impose myriad restrictions; only offering a laughably low data limit, one or two server options, or speed constraints. These are oftentimes free versions of popular paid services that want to draw in users and entice them to upgrade in the future. Other free VPNs will provide no such restrictions, but will hoover up user data and sell it in order to continually fund the service.

You’ll almost always encounter trade-offs when using a free VPN so it’s worth doing research about each individual service before you use it to understand what you’re truly giving up — performance or privacy.

That being said, many people still use free VPNs daily and never have issues. The right free VPN for the right purpose can fulfill your needs without you having to pay up for another monthly subscription.

Paid VPNs vs. free VPNs

It’s worth comparing what you get with a paid VPN versus what you get with a free VPN to better understand these trade-offs. Take this with a grain of salt, however, as features differ considerably between individual services (both paid and free).

When discussing the features you can expect to get with a paid service below, I’ll assume the minimum available. Many services go well beyond this with additional features and performance.

Server network

Most paid VPNs provide extensive server networks with 500 or more servers to connect to in countries all over the world. Some, such as CyberGhost and Private Internet Access, boast networks with close to 10,000 individual servers.

Free VPNs, on the other hand, typically limit users to around five to 10 servers in only a few countries. Most of the servers are located in the U.S., as well, so those looking for options in other countries might be out of luck.


Privacy is one of the most important features a VPN can provide. Paid services will often prioritize this above all else by not logging or selling user data such as online activity or any other metadata. They oftentimes submit themselves to independent third-party audits to further back up these no-log claims.

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Best Prices Today:$5.37 at Mullvad VPN

The premium VPN Mullvad, one of our favorites for privacy, even goes so far as to accept mail-in cash payments and forgo personalized user login data so that no identifiable information is ever kept.

Free VPNs, on the other hand may, but not always, collect user data directly or indirectly through ads and pop-ups. Since free VPNs don’t charge subscription fees, they have to find alternative ways to generate revenue, and selling user data can be extremely lucrative.

This bizarrely defeats the purpose of using a VPN to protect your privacy. And in the worst case can result in identity theft, leaving users in a whole world of hurt.

It’s important to note that this is not the case with all free VPNs, but data collection is certainly more likely with free services than with paid services.

Access to location-restricted content

In today’s age of online streaming services, access to location restricted content has quickly become one of the most popular reasons for people to subscribe to a VPN.

Many paid VPNs advertise that their servers can access Netflix anywhere in the world. Some even come with special servers designed to successfully evade streaming service blocks. This is a huge benefit for those who still want to access the content they pay for while abroad.

Free VPNs don’t usually have server networks large enough to accommodate this, nor do they have the human bandwidth to keep on top of the constant cat-and-mouse game between streaming services to keep their servers unblocked.

Further reading: 14 VPN terms and features everyone should know


All VPNs will lower your speeds just by the nature of how they work. The distance between your home computer and the VPN server, current server load, and the protocol are just some of the factors that can affect your VPN connection speeds.

That being said, paid VPNs offer large enough server networks that no one server is ever overcrowded. They also have the resources to pay for more robust servers that can handle large volumes of traffic. And they generally provide multiple protocol options for users to choose from.

This isn’t always the case with free VPNs. Server networks are usually smaller, the servers they employ likely aren’t as powerful, and they hardly ever provide multiple protocols as options.

Additional features

Are free VPNs any good? (6)
Are free VPNs any good? (7)

Sam Singleton

Are free VPNs any good? (8)

Sam Singleton

Sam Singleton

The perks above are likely the main draw for most people, but there are also some other enticing features that paid VPNs are now offering. Features such as split-tunneling, multi-hop, ad- and tracker-blocking, and more are all supplemental but useful additions to their services.

Most free VPNs will not provide any of these extra deal sweeteners. They will come fairly bare-boned with just the essentials to connect. That’s not a bad thing, per se, it just comes down to the fact that you’ll get what you pay for — which is literally nothing in this instance.

Why use a free VPN?

After reading the above you may be wondering why one would even use a free VPN? You miss out on almost every advantage of a paid service. “Almost” is the key word here.

A trustworthy free VPN will still provide you the privacy and anonymity that a paid VPN will; and this is the main reason to use them. You might miss out on the Netflix unblocking and massive server networks, but you can still connect to a free VPN and do basic internet tasks privately without worrying about any snooping third-parties. It’s crucial that you pick the correct free VPN though, otherwise you may just be inviting more snoops rather than keeping them out.

My favorite free VPNs

If you go onto the Play store or App store you’ll likely come across dozens of free VPNs. So which of them are worth your time?

Our top Free VPN

Windscribe Pro

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Some of our top free services actually have a lot to offer. Windscribe VPN is a great option that provides a full-featured free version of its VPN with all of the bells and whistles. Just be aware that you’re limited to 10GB of bandwidth per month and only allowed access to 10 of its servers.

ProtonVPN is another good free option. It restricts you to only three country locations and only one device at a time, but there are no data caps or speed limits. That’s extremely generous by free VPN standards. ProtonVPN also ranks up among the fastest VPNs we’ve ever tested.

Choosing a free VPN will ultimately be a question of weighing the trade-offs of each service. Stay away at all costs from VPNS that are ad supported or don’t have any official reviews by third-parties. For more info on free VPNs or good recommendations, you can check out our curated list of all of our favorite free VPNs to help you decide.

Are free VPNs any good? (2024)
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