Windscribe is an innovative Canadian company with a generous free VPN plan that finds several ways to stand out from the crowd.
The plan’s 10GB of data isn’t quite industry-leading — Atlas VPN, Hide.me, and others offer the same — but Windscribe beats the rest by supporting unlimited devices and simultaneous connections. You can install and use it wherever and whenever you want.
The choice of 14 locations in 11 countries also tramples most of the competition. We’re not just talking about the usual choices either: there’s a UK server (very unusual in the free VPN world), Turkey, and even Hong Kong.
The free plan doesn’t push you into overloaded “free” servers, where speeds drop to a crawl during peak hours. Your data may be limited, but free users can enjoy the same performance as everyone else (more on that later).
Interesting bonus features include ROBERT, Windscribe’s DNS blocker. By default, this blocks ads, trackers, and malware, but you can also use it as a content filter to block pornography, gambling sites, social networks, and more.
If you’d rather test a VPN before deciding if it’s reliable, you can even open an account without providing your email address. You get a smaller amount of monthly data, 2 GB instead of 10 GB, but that’s more than enough to explore the apps and see if they deliver what you need.
Privacy and logging
Windscribe’s apps are designed for maximum privacy, with strong AES-256 encryption, support for the highly secure WireGuard, OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols, multiple layers of leak protection, and a firewall to block internet access if the VPN goes down (such as a kill switch, only better).
This isn’t just marketing spin either. We used multiple test sites to check for DNS leaks, but at least Windscribe protected us. And no matter how we forcibly severed the VPN connection, no matter what extreme techniques we tried, the firewall immediately blocked our Internet access and protected our data from exposure.
While this sounds great, there is nothing to back up right now. Windscribe has not yet subjected itself to a security or no-logging audit, so potential customers have no independent confirmation that it delivers on its promises. However, we hear that that’s about to change, and if it does, we’ll be keeping a close eye on all notifications.
Windows and Mac apps
Windscribe’s open source desktop apps offer a stylish and compact window, which somehow still manages to cram in all sorts of options and status details. There are also some technical credentials – UDP, 443, Firewall, a network icon – that can intimidate VPN novices. But look past this one, and the apps aren’t difficult to use.
Getting started can be as simple as clicking the Connect button to reach the nearest Windscribe server, or you can click Locations and choose your preferred city from the drop-down list. The apps don’t list the free locations at the top of the list, so you’ll have to scroll down (or manually search) to find them, but otherwise it’s easy enough.
We also did not encounter any connection problems during the review. Every server connected the first time and connection times were fast at around 2-4 seconds, and we didn’t see any unexpected connection drops.
Life can get more complicated if you decide you need to change something and head into the Settings box, but that’s mostly because they’re so hugely configurable (we counted over 40 important settings).
However, ignore anything you don’t understand (or just look it up on the support site), and there are plenty of more simple options here.
You can choose to launch the app when your device starts and maybe connect too. There are settings to change the appearance of the app, including a custom background. You can change protocols in a few clicks (IKEv2, OpenVPN, WireGuard and others are offered). And there are unexpectedly powerful extras, including the ability (if your network card supports it) to set up your device as a Wi-Fi hotspot, allowing other devices to share the Windscribe connection.
If you’re primarily looking for VPN simplicity and aren’t even a bit interested in extra options or control, Windscribe’s configurability doesn’t matter much. You may be better off with a more basic service, such as TunnelBear.
But for everyone else, there’s plenty here to love. Sure, you might not understand every option and setting, but Windscribe’s apps are simple enough to use at a basic level, and it’s good to have these extra customizations available if you need them.
Android and iOS apps
Windscribe’s mobile apps have a more conventional design than the desktop versions, and even the greenest VPN novices will get the hang of the basics right away: pick a location from the list, click Connect to get started, Disconnect when you’re done. But again, if you’re looking for more configurability, there are real surprises.
Take your protocol choice. Typical VPN apps might let you select a protocol, but then apply that setting every time you connect. Windscribe allows you to set a custom option for each network, so you can set Windscribe for speed in general, but OpenVPN or IKEv2 for trickier networks where WireGuard doesn’t always work. It’s a minor detail, and maybe not a feature you’ll ever use, but if you ever need it, you’ll be very glad it’s there.
Windscribe’s iOS app can’t match the power of Android, but you still get control over the app’s appearance, a choice of protocols (IKEv2, OpenVPN, WireGuard), the ROBERT ad, tracker and content blocker, and more .
Whether or not you use these capabilities, it’s good to see a provider that doesn’t leave key features out of the free app to try and persuade you to upgrade. For example, Hide.me’s free plan doesn’t include WireGuard, while Hotspot Shield’s free product doesn’t have a kill switch. Windscribe’s free offering feels much more capable — the kind of product you might want to use in the long run.
Part of Windscribe’s appeal is that it doesn’t throttle speeds, or push all of its free users onto the same underpowered hardware. The end result should mean more than enough performance for any task, but is that really what happens?
We tested Windscribe from a UK data center with a 1 Gbps connection and the results were positive, with a median download speed of 240 Mbps. That’s not the fastest free VPN we’ve seen – Atlas VPN, PrivadoVPN, Proton VPN and TunnelBear all hit 300Mbps or more – but it’s better than many, and probably fast enough for most devices and connections.
Windscribe’s free plan does not include the Windflix servers, with specialized support for unblocking Netflix. It didn’t unblock US Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or Disney Plus in our tests, but there was some success. The free service gave us instant access to BBC iPlayer and we were able to unblock UK Netflix, suggesting it could work with Netflix in other countries as well.
While the apps worked well for us, VPNs can be complicated and there’s always a chance you’ll run into problems. However, you can contact Windscribe’s email support for advice, and we’ve generally found that the company does a good job identifying issues and explaining how to get the service running smoothly again.
It’s not quite the fastest or easiest service to use, but Windscribe Free VPN’s generous 10GB data cap, 14 locations, and feature-packed open source apps mean it’s still one of the best freebie VPNs out there.