For many people in the digital age, privacy has become a huge concern, and for good reason. Every year, more than 594 million people become victims of a cybercrime. From hacked emails to stolen credit card information, the idea that a stranger can steal your data without you even realizing it is a scary thought. VPNs, or virtual private networks, are one way Internet users are keeping themselves safe from hackers and government surveillance. VPNs work by creating a secure encrypted “tunnel” between your device and the nearest server. More people choosing to use VPNs to protect their personal information from prying eyes means more VPN providers competing for customers. Even a free VPN provider’s ultimate goal is to get you to upgrade to their paid services, so how are you supposed to decide who’s trustworthy and who’s not? And is using a free VPN even worth it? In this article, we’ll be comparing the top free VPNs and free trial VPNs based on reputation, features, and reliability.
It’s obvious to tell when your home has been broken into – your belongings are missing, your things are strewn about, and your window might even be smashed. But when someone steals your information over the internet, it can be impossible to tell. If you browse on an unsecured server, anyone can access your passwords, credit card information, personal messages, and your location – all without you realizing it before it’s too late. A VPN protects you by encrypting your data into an indecipherable state so that hackers can’t understand it – users can only access the network using a password. In addition to keeping your information safe over public networks, VPNs can also be used to legally get around censored material in some countries. So, if you live in a country where a certain website is censored by the government (such as Youtube in China), you can use a VPN tunnel to browse the Internet as if you were in a different country.
For those, who live in Japan and don’t appreciate being watched by the government and placed under strict surveillance, we recommend you to get a free VPN for Japan.
ProXPN is a Dutch VPN provider that offers both free and paid accounts. It makes our list of top free VPNs because it’s trusted by users and reliable sources like CNET and PC World alike. Free version features:
The biggest drawback of ProXPN’s free VPN is its speed, which is capped at 300kbps. Free users can upgrade to a paid account that includes all of the features of the basic account plus unlimited VPN speed, PPTP connectivity, access to global VPN servers, and top of the line customer support. In addition, ProXPN offers a 30-day trial of their full premium account. Like most other free trial VPNs, the trial is only valid for first-time users.
TunnelBear makes the list of top free VPNs because it’s one of the most user-friendly private network providers out there. With its cute and easy to understand graphics and simple on/off controls, anyone can use it. Free version features:
In addition to their free service, TunnelBear offers paid unlimited data plans both for individual use and for team use. While both the free and the paid versions offer the same level of protection and quality of encryption, 500MB of data doesn’t last as long as you might think. If you’re an avid Netflix watcher or music downloader, you’re going to run out of data quickly using the free version of TunnelBear.
With over 7 million users, ZPN is another top free VPNs provider with a long history of trustworthiness and high accessibility. That’s because unlike some other providers, the free version of ZPN is completely risk-free – you don’t even have to put in your credit card information to try it out. While most of their servers are located in Europe, they do have additional servers in the eastern US and Canada. Free version features:
While ZPN’s 10GB data cap is impressive for a free service, their paid premium version allows unlimited data usage, unlimited bandwidth, P2P, and up to 5 simultaneous device connections. Because let’s face it – today, most people have more than one device connected to the Internet. With ZPN’s premium plan, you can browse securely from your laptop, desktop, and smartphone all at once.
While most of us use Google Chrome, Firefox, or Safari to browse the web today, the lesser-known browser Opera comes built in with completely free VPN. It’s a pretty sweet deal if you’re willing to give up your current browser. Free version features:
Keep in mind that when you install Opera, the VPN will not be on automatically – you’ll need to go into your privacy settings to turn it on. There isn’t a paid version of Opera, but that doesn’t mean that the service is completely free – the mobile version of Opera’s VPN is monetized by selling your anonymous browsing data to advertisers. Luckily, this does not apply to the desktop browser. And as long as we are on the topic of browser security, no, Google Chrome’s “incognito mode” is not a VPN, nor is it truly private – so far, Opera is the only browser to offer a free VPN.
Used by over 15 million people, CyberGhost is a pretty big name in crypto-technology. Its free version allows users to try their service risk-free and at no obligation to buy the more robust paid plans. Free version features:
However, the free version has some major drawbacks compared to the full, paid version of CyberGhost. For instance, the free version automatically disconnects you from the private server every 3 hours. While you have the option to reconnect immediately, you can’t avoid the annoying ads that pop up every two hours or the long connection wait times. So while CyberGhost is one of the best free VPNs to use while you’re waiting at an airport, having lunch at a coffee shop, or are anywhere else with unsecure Wi-Fi for a few hours, it’s not the best free VPN for everyday home use.
While there isn’t a completely free version, GooseVPN is one of the best free trial VPNs out there right now. The 30-day free trial is a great way to decide if GooseVPN is right for you because it gives you access to all of the same features a paying user enjoys. Free version features:
Do keep in mind that when signing up for free trial VPNs, you will be required to give your name and credit information. If you don’t remember to cancel the trial within 30 days, your account will be charged for the full service.
Why is hide.me one of the best free VPNs? For starters, it’s incredibly flexible. You can use hide.me on any computer, smartphone, or gaming console. And while the free account is limited compared to hide.me’s paid options, we liked that no credit card information was required to sign up for a free account and that it was completely risk-free. Free version features:
Both the plus and premium versions (both under $10 per month) of hide.me offer unlimited bandwidth, access to servers in over 30 different countries, and full protocol support. The plus version allows users up to 75GB of data per month, and data usage with the premium usage is unlimited.
It’s easy to see that paid VPN services have more features, greater bandwidth, and faster connection speeds than their thrifty counterparts. So then what’s the point of using a free VPN at all if the paid versions are so much better? Despite what they lack, free VPNs are a great way to test out a provider before you commit to a monthly or yearly plan with them. Most are a true “try before you buy”, not collecting any payment information or obligating you to switch to the full version further down the road. They’re also great for quick, on-the-go use, keeping your information private in public places with unsecured Wi-Fi networks. But at the end of the day, if you want 24/7 security and complete privacy without any restrictions, you’re going to need to pay for a high-quality VPN service. Trying out some of the best free VPNs listed above is a great start, but if you’re truly serious about cybersecurity, you’re going to need to upgrade to the real thing.