5 best free VPN downloads 2021: change your IP without the cost

Want free VPN cover? Our round-up draws together the very best five services from the countless options on offer.

best free VPN

Install one of the best free VPN downloads on the web and you'll be able to encrypt your traffic, stay private online and get access to blocked or IP-restricted sites and apps – all without paying a penny.

We'll be honest right from the outset – these free services have their pros and their cons, especially if your real goal is to get yourself the best VPN service out there.

Indeed, there are some real dangers with free VPN services worth knowing about. The main one is that they need to make a profit somehow, and this isn't usually a good thing for the end user. Free VPNs also tend to have fewer servers, little in the way of customer service and come with plenty of technical issues that standard VPN downloads do not have – yep, even our #1 free VPN pick Hotspot Shield is far from perfect.

Forgoing a monthly charge might be appealing in the short term, but do consider exactly how your service is being paid for. The way some providers monetise is to turn you into a product they sell on to other parties. That essentially means logging some of your data and flogging it to people you'd rather didn't even know you existed. And if the plan is to stream with a Netflix VPN, you may as well forget it. Sometimes it might work, sometimes it might not. And even if it does, you'll be limited in terms of the GBs (or even MBs) you can stream in a month.

So our frank advice is to not download a free VPN unless it really is for occasional, very casual use. For the odd IP-hopping use case, they can work. But if you're planning on using the VPN a lot, then we'd highly recommend going for one of the overall best VPN services – they're not free, but they're also pretty cheap in the grand scheme of things. With ExpressVPN leading the way...

Today's best overall VPNs

1. ExpressVPN – the best VPN service in the world
From all our testing, we've concluded that our #1 choice is ExpressVPN. It lets you forget any security concerns, and has the benefit of 24/7 customer support, guaranteed access to Netflix US and other streaming services, almost constant uptime, and a 30-day money back guarantee (no questions asked) if you change your mind. T3 readers can also bag 3 months extra free with an annual plan. Not bad if you ask us.View Deal

2. Surfshark – incredible value for a top-tier VPN
If you're strapped for cash but have decided a free VPN isn't worth the hassle, Surfshark is your best bet. While it's not as feature-packed as Express, it's not far off – and at just $2.49 a month it's a steal. Plus, Surfshark also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can have a test drive for free.View Deal

3. NordVPN – top-class VPN that's hot on security
A huge name on the scene, NordVPN has long been a strong contender. It quite rival either ExpressVPN or Surfshark on features or price respectively, but if you're looking for a very happy medium, it's the one to check out. Plus, at just $3.71 a month, it's still hardly going to break the bank.View Deal

The best free VPN downloads 2020:

Hotspot Shield best free VPN

(Image credit: Future)

1. Hotspot Shield Free VPN

The best FREE VPN service to download currently available

Number of servers: 1
Server locations: 1
Maximum devices supported: 1
Monthly data: 15GB
Reasons to buy
+Easy to use+500MB daily data allowance+Security focused
Reasons to avoid
-Performance can suffer a bit-Set up is a bit fiddly

Hotspot Shield is a premium VPN service that offers a free tier to hook customers in. And the great news is that the free tier is actually good enough for pretty much anyone who just needs a basic VPN to hide their identity and encrypt their web traffic.

It gives you 15GB of free data every month which works out at about 500MB per day – more than enough for regular web browsing and the occasional YouTube video.

The Hotspot Shield free VPN apps are really smart and easy to use as well, so if you're worried about not knowing how to work your VPN then stop worrying right now! The only minor complication with Hotspot Shield is that it does require you to agree to a free trial of the premium service when you first log in to the service – when that expires, you're free to fall back to the free tier.

Download Hotspot Shield Free here

Windscribe best free VPN

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

2. Windscribe

A good mix of data and servers

Number of servers: 10+
Server locations: 10+
Maximum devices supported: 1
Monthly data: 10GB
Reasons to buy
+10GB of data per month+Sterling privacy policy+Useful in-browser extension
Reasons to avoid
-Apps are pretty awkward

Windscribe offers a free VPN that delivers a very usable 10GB of data a month, which might actually suit you a little better than Hotspot Shield's overall larger but less flexible 500MB a day. Thanks to Windscribe's P2P support and large limit, you can have a day blasting a load of torrents and then just not use it again for a month. 

Windscribe is super easy to sign up for and doesn't require any personal information (makes sense to give your email address though, otherwise you'll be locked out if you forget your password). While you do start with 2GB of data, adding your email will boost you up to 10GB, so that's a no-brainer – and if you refer a friend who subscribes to the paid tier you'll be given access to that higher tier at no charge!

You'll also have a good selection of servers to choose from, but the apps do let the side down a little. They're quite cramped, and a little unintuitive. Windscribe's free users also don't get access to 24/7 live chat support.

However, we think that's a small price to pay for one of the best free VPN services on the market.

Sign up to Windscribe now

ProtonVPN best free vpn

3. ProtonVPN Free

Unlimited data allowance – and all for free

Number of servers: 3
Server locations: 3
Maximum devices supported: 1
Monthly data: Unlimited
Reasons to buy
+No monthly data limits+Great on the privacy front
Reasons to avoid
-Only three locations to choose from

One of our favorite things about ProtonVPN it doesn't have any bandwidth restrictions, so you’re free to use as much data as you want every month. 

However, it does still come with a few restrictions – you can only utilise it on one device, only three locations, and free users get a lower priority when it comes to speed compared to paying subscribers. There’s no P2P support either. 

But if you can live with that, this is an impressive provider with a strict no logging policy, and you can sign up with nothing more than your email address. There aren’t even any ads on the website, let alone the client.

Speaking of clients, there are a good range of these – with native software for Windows PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, plus Android – and we found performance levels were pretty solid too.

However, speeds may drop at peak times when lots of users are around and paying folks get priority; at which point you may be tempted to upgrade to a paid plan. But clearly, with its unlimited data allowance, this is one free VPN download which is well worth considering.

Get started with ProtonVPN Free now

TunnelBear best free VPN

(Image credit: Future)

4. TunnelBear

Lots of servers, not much data

Number of servers: 1,000
Server locations: 20+
Maximum devices supported: 5
Monthly data: 500MB
Reasons to buy
+User-friendly apps+Use it on mobile and desktop
Reasons to avoid
-Very basic-Only 500MB each month

TunnelBear is one of the best-known free VPN services available. It's a serious VPN that's serious about customer satisfaction, privacy and security. So, the upside is that you're getting a VPN that works, and can be trusted not to hold loads of data on you and sell you out at the earliest opportunity!

Hold your horses, though, as that excellent privacy is paired with an absolutely pathetic 500MB of data a month – you'll get the same from Hotspot Shield every day. That means there'll be no streaming with Tunnelbear, and you'll have to be either a very casual user or incredibly frugal with your allowance for it to see you through the month.

The free VPN tier at TunnelBear is evidently designed as a gateway to the paid tier which offers unlimited data but will cost you real money – and if you're going to pay for a VPN, we'd suggest getting a premium one like ExpressVPN. However, if you're only interested in a free VPN, then TunnelBear is a decent option.

Sign up to TunnelBear now

Speedify best free vpn

5. Speedify

A free VPN that speeds up your connection?!

Number of servers: 1000+
Server locations: 50+
Maximum devices supported: 1
Monthly data: 10GB
Reasons to buy
+Awesome performance boosting+Solid on the privacy front
Reasons to avoid
-Basic service

Speedify is the last (but not least) free VPN service that we recommend considering. It's a little different than the options above, in that it's designed from the ground up to absolutely maximise your connection speed.

If you're on a laptop with both ethernet and Wi-Fi connections, it'll utilize both to pull bits out of the internet to the max. If you're on a phone it can use your 4G and Wi-Fi connections to do the same time – to maximise throughput of data, improving download speeds and render times.

In our tests this all proved to be more than just hot air – it really did work to speed up our download and browsing speeds. Plus, this is all at the same time it's doing all the things you'd want from a VPN – encrypting and obscuring – so you're private, safe and anonymous.

Click through to give Speedify a try