Free VPNs can be tempting, especially for those looking to save money while still protecting their online privacy. However, it’s important to understand the potential drawbacks and limitations of using a free VPN. In this guide, we’ll explore the pros and cons of free VPNs, how they make money, and what to consider when choosing a VPN service.
The limitations of free VPNs
Free VPNs may seem like an attractive option for those looking to save money, but it’s important to consider the limitations. Many free VPNs have limited server options, which can result in slow connection speeds and frequent disconnections. Additionally, some free VPNs may log user data and sell it to third-party companies for advertising purposes. Users should also be aware that some free VPNs may be blocked by certain websites and services, limiting their accessibility.
How to choose a reputable free VPN
When choosing a free VPN, it’s important to select a reputable provider that offers strong encryption, a no-logs policy, and a variety of server locations. Users should also look for a free VPN that does not display ads or sell user data to third-party companies. Some free VPN providers to consider include ProtonVPN, Windscribe, and TunnelBear, which offer free versions of their services with certain limitations.
Why You Should (Preferably) Avoid Free VPNs
While there are good reasons for using a free VPN, it’s important you understand they should preferably be a last resort.
1. Many Are Fake
Unfortunately, the VPN industry isn’t as well regulated as it should be – though some VPN providers are trying to change that.
As a result, fake VPNs are flooding the market. While this has been a long-standing issue, it’s become noticeably worse since Congress voted in favor of allowing Internet Service Providers to sell customer data without consent.
2. Most Track Your Online Activities and Sell Your Data
Even if you do find a real VPN service being offered free of charge, there’s still a price to pay: your online privacy, the very thing a VPN is meant to protect.
Premium VPN providers are in a better position to invest in protecting their users through strong security features. Even though OpenVPN – the VPN protocol we recommend – is open source, it still costs money to properly implement it. And other security measures, such as VPN encryption, come with a price tag from the get-go.
How Free VPNs make their money
Free VPNs are not just out of the goodness of the providers’ hearts, they need to make money in some way to keep the service running. Therefore, it is important to understand how these VPNs make money so you can make informed decisions about using them.
One of the main ways free VPNs make money is through advertising. This can be in the form of pop-up ads or banners, which can be annoying and intrusive for users. Some free VPN providers may even sell user data to advertisers, which means your online activity could be monitored and sold to third-party companies.
Another way free VPNs make money is through offering a limited version of their service for free, while charging for premium features. For example, a free VPN may have a data limit or slower connection speed, while the premium version has no restrictions. This encourages users to upgrade to the premium service if they need more data or faster speeds.
Some free VPN providers may also earn money by offering users access to premium content, such as streaming services or websites that are blocked in certain regions. The VPN provider may have partnerships with these premium services and receive a commission for every user that signs up through their platform.
It is important to note that not all free VPN providers engage in these practices, and there are some trustworthy options available. However, it is important to do your research and read reviews before using a free VPN to ensure that your privacy and security are not compromised.
When a Free VPN is a Good Idea
To end on a more positive note, the realm of free VPN services isn’t totally without hope. There are good reasons for using a free VPN as well as a few acceptable options.
Using a free VPN is a good idea if:
- You want to protect your online privacy but can’t afford a premium VPN at the moment
- You’re new to the world of VPNs and want to get a better feel for it before investing in a premium service
- You can find a reliable option
- You know how to use the TOR-over-VPN method
But how do you find a reliable free VPN?
Here are a few guidelines:
- Do plenty of research, but be wary of fake or compromised VPN review sites
- Use a freemium service, where the provider offers a free version as well as a premium version
A freemium service is much more likely to adequately protect your online privacy. However, they also come with some limitations, such as a bandwidth cap. It’s better to accept these limitations than to put yourself at risk with a dodgy VPN!
Alternatives to free VPNs
For those who are willing to spend a little money on a VPN, there are many affordable options available. Paid VPNs typically offer more server options, faster connection speeds, and stronger encryption than free VPNs. Some paid VPNs to consider include ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and CyberGhost VPN, all of which offer reliable and secure services for a reasonable price. Additionally, users can consider using a proxy server or the Tor network as an alternative to a free VPN.
What are the Best Free VPNs
There aren’t many great free VPNs out there, but here are 5 of the best we’ve ever tested:
- Windscribe is a freemium service, so you can upgrade to the paid version at any time. The free version is almost exactly the same, with the only limitations being a 10GB/month bandwidth cap and a small server network to choose from.
- ProtonVPN is another freemium option. There aren’t any data limits, but you can only protect 1 device and connect to VPN servers in 3 countries.
- Speedify will give you 10GB for free every month and only start charging once you exceed that limit. But there are a few issues, unfortunately, including some invasive logs.
- Tunnelbear has a cute bear-themed VPN and a 500MB free version for testing their service. There are a few other issues with the provider (including some user logs being kept), but it’s a good way to ease into the world of VPNs.
- Ultrasurf is more of a VPN-proxy hybrid than a proper VPN, so right off the bat you should only be using it as a short-term solution. Even so, you’ll be limited to Windows devices and suffer some speed reduction.
- Hotspot Shield offers a free VPN that still includes military grade encryption, but with caps on bandwidth, simultaneous connections, and how many servers you can connect to.
- ZoogVPN only offers 128-bit encryption with their free VPN, but includes a 10GB bandwidth cap per month.
Setting up and using a free VPN
Setting up and using a free VPN is typically a straightforward process. Users can download the VPN software from the provider’s website and install it on their device. Once the software is installed, users can connect to a server location and begin using the VPN. It’s important to note that some free VPNs may have limitations on data usage or connection speed, so users should be aware of these restrictions when using the service.
In conclusion, free VPNs can offer some level of online protection and anonymity, but they come with significant limitations and potential risks. To ensure that you are getting the best possible protection for your online activities, it is recommended to invest in a premium VPN service. Before choosing a VPN, carefully consider your needs, budget, and the specific features and security protocols offered by different providers. By doing your research and selecting a trusted VPN service, you can enjoy secure, private, and unrestricted online access.