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Windscribe VPN free review: Speed and features tested

Verified by Amy Reeves

With a free plan offering up to 15GB of data per month, a host of powerful privacy features and access to servers in 11 countries, Windscribe’s free VPN sets a compelling proposition for anyone looking for a free Virtual Private Network (VPN).

VPNs are essential in today’s digital era for safeguarding your online privacy, shielding your data from prying eyes or circumventing geo-blocked content, such as accessing your streaming subscriptions when traveling abroad. With our extensive background testing countless VPNs, the Independent Advisor puts Windscribe’s free VPN through its paces to see if it truly delivers on its promises.

30 second review

Rating: ★★★

Windscribe offers a complete service with its free VPN – the perfect balance of speed, security and control over one’s online experience.

Windscribe’s free VPN has a robust focus on performance and security. Its apps for different devices have plenty of features and are user-friendly, suitable for both beginners and experienced users. Users also receive up to 15GB monthly data allowance, which is more than sufficient for moderate browsing. 

The free VPN supports AES-256 encryption and advanced VPN protocols like WireGuard, IKEv2, and OpenVPN, safeguarding your data from potential snoopers. Windscribe also offers “ROBERT,” a DNS-based tool for blocking ads, malware and trackers, as well as porn, gambling, fake news and a host of other unsavory content, providing some really enhanced user control over the browsing experience, for a free VPN. Its recent transition to RAM disk-based servers boosts both security and speed, as data isn’t stored long-term and is wiped on server reboot. Windscribe’s customer service is as fast as its download and upload speeds, making it one of the best VPN all-rounders out there.  It’s only let down by the lack of an independent audit of its no-logs policy, but the company assures us this is in progress for 2023.

How we research and rate free VPNs

100+
hours performance testing
500+
customer reviews read
100+
hours of research
25
competitors compared
4
VPN experts consulted

Dedicated to bringing you the most up-to-date and accurate information, our reviewers research and analyse each VPN so you can make an informed decision when it comes to choosing a reputable source of security. Independent Advisor will only recommend a provider after careful auditing of verified customer feedback and industry expert opinion, alongside rigorous testing and head-to-head feature comparisons.

Our free VPN review scores are determined by the following categories:

  • Privacy and performance (30%)
  • Features and functionality (30%)
  • Reputation and credibility (25%)
  • Plans and pricing/value (10%)
  • Customer experience (5%)

We research and test a total of 25 elements within these categories including:

  • Number and location of servers
  • Streaming service accessibility
  • Security features such as AES-256
  • Performance (upload, download, latency)
  • Value for money, guarantees, and customer service
  • Independent server-site security audits

All of our VPN articles are verified by our in-house team of fact-checkers, so you can be assured that our content is as accurate and up to date as possible. To find out more about our methodology, read our article on how we review VPNs.

Windscribe VPN free overview

  • Data limit: Free users have a 2GB/month limit, which increases to 10GB/month if you register with an email address. Free users can add 5GB/month more if you tweet about Windscribe
  • Number of servers: Undisclosed
  • Number of locations: 11 
  • Maximum number of connected devices: Unlimited
  • AES-256 encryption: Yes
  • No-log policy: Yes
  • Audited no-log policy: Windscribe cites an independent audit but has not published results 
  • Headquarters: Toronto, Canada

Pros and cons

Pros Cons
Generous data allowance Uncertainty about number of servers
AES-256 encryption Unpublished audit of privacy policy
Very fast speed tests

How does Windscribe free VPN compare?

Windscribe is a compelling choice for a free VPN. While it doesn’t offer the uncapped data that Proton VPN’s free version provides, it does offer users up to 15GB, which is the highest among the services that have a data cap. Torrenting and streaming are possible, which is Windscribe’s advantage over Proton VPN, which blocks both; however, whether you’re using Windscribe’s base-level 2GB of data or the full 15GB available to free users, the amount you can stream will be limited. Proton VPN’s uncapped data usage is not hugely advantageous for users if they can’t perform data-heavy activities like streaming or torrenting. 

Windscribe also offers a decent number of free servers, which are fairly spread out across the globe. Its 11 locations stand out as the most among this group. It also supports a wider range of platforms than all but Hide.me

VPN provider Servers Countries Data limit/month Platforms supported Torrenting Unblocks streaming Audited no-log policy
PrivadoVPN Free 12 10 10GB 6 No Yes** No
ProtonVPN Free 153 3 No limit 6 No No Yes
Windscribe Free 11 11 2GB – 15GB* 12 Yes Yes** No
Atlas VPN Free 3 3 5GB 4 Yes Yes** Yes
Hide.me Free VPN 5 5 10GB 19 Yes No Yes

*2GB data for free users; 10GB requires email verification; extra 5GB given for social media promotion

** Limited library access; video/audio quality reduced by bandwidth limits

Best alternative to
NordVPN is one of the most trusted VPN providers in the world, offering top-notch encryption, incredible speeds, and extra features to make all your online activities more secure.
4.5
Excellent Trustpilot rating
24/7 customer support
AES-256 encryption
VIEW PLANS At NordVPN

Windscribe free features

Standout features of the free version of Windscribe VPN include a generous data allowance (potentially up to 15GB/month), access to servers in 11 countries, and strong security features, such as AES-256 encryption, and a no-logs policy. Windscribe’s free plan starts you off with 2GB per month of data. However, your bandwidth increases to 10GB if you provide and verify your email address. If you tweet about Windscribe, you can also permanently add 5GB more of data. The service is user-friendly, with easy-to-use apps for multiple platforms and split tunneling feature. 

ROBERT

ROBERT is a comprehensive tool for a free VPN account and sets Windscribe apart from its rivals. As well as blocking ads and malware, you can enable it to block porn and gambling websites, fake news, crypto sites, social networks and even other VPNs.

Split tunneling

Windscribe’s selective routing feature, also known as split tunneling, grants users the ability to select which applications, addresses, or devices will utilise the VPN connection and which will engage directly with your internet service provider (ISP). This is because certain apps, such as banking apps, are often incompatible with VPNs and need to be connected to your ISP. Split tunneling means you can do your online banking while streaming your favourite shows, without the need to disconnect from the VPN.

Split Personality

This is another privacy step that Windscribe takes to reduce the chance of fingerprinting (identifying a user’s IP). Each browser has a User Agent, which presents web content for users, and Split Personality will rotate your user agent so that you have less chance of being identified.

Firewall

Windscribe’s free users also benefit from a feature known as Firewall, which is superior to the conventional kill switch option that many VPN providers offer. When a VPN loses connection, it can sometimes leak data packets during the short interval between the connection drop detection and re-activation. Windscribe’s Firewall feature promises to ensure all external connections are obstructed if they’re outside of the VPN tunnel. You have the option to engage it manually, keep it on at all times, or set it to automatic. Regrettably, this feature isn’t available on its VPN for Android devices.

Time Warp

This tool changes your timezone so it appears to be in the country you are connected to while using the VPN.

Cookie Monster

This feature keeps track of any cookies that are set while you’re browsing and then deletes them when you close that tab. 

Servers count and countries

Free account users have access to servers in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Norway, Romania and Turkey, which represent a portion of Windscribe’s network available to paid-for users across 63 countries and 110 cities. However, Windscribe doesn’t disclose its exact number of servers, stating it has “hundreds of servers in dozens of countries and thousands of IPs​.” Windscribe uses physical, RAM disk-based servers, which store data in server memory, rather than on hard drives, for added security and privacy benefits, as well as potential speed improvements​. Windscribe also has a server status page that lets users see how busy its servers are in each location at any given time.

Encryption and privacy

Windscribe’s free VPN service provides a high level of security, which is better than most offerings from other free VPNs and is even comparable to many premium VPN services. It uses AES-256 cipher encryption, widely considered as one of the strongest encryption methods, in conjunction with SHA512 authentication and a 4096-bit RSA key, providing a robust security framework. The service also includes a DNS-based tool named ROBERT for blocking ads, malware, trackers, and various internet content types, which is more advanced than the basic DNS blocklist provided by other VPN providers.

Windscribe moved to using RAM disk-based servers, which means data is stored in server memory rather than on hard drives. This has benefits for security and privacy, since data can’t be stored on the server for a lengthy period of time and disappears whenever the server is rebooted. What’s more, the app has a unique “Decoy Mode”, which generates large amounts of fake traffic, making it more difficult for anyone to pick out your real internet activity. This is especially useful for users in countries where VPN usage may be actively monitored or restricted. However, this feature uses a lot of data, potentially many gigabytes per hour, and may not be suitable for casual users.

Windscribe states it does not keep logs of user activity, including connection logs, session logs, IP timestamping or any other activity monitoring. The company says it only keeps track of users’ last connection date and the amount of bandwidth used in a month. That said, it’s important to note that Windscribe hasn’t publicly evidenced that its no-logs policy has been audited by a third party. The company says its desktop and mobile VPN apps were audited in 2022, and that its full server stack is being audited, with the full results to be published in 2023. 

Windscribe VPN free performance test results

At Independent Advisor, we ensure the quality of a VPN by conducting a meticulous series of tests to confirm the level of security, speed, and reliability that aligns with your needs. Here’s our testing methodology:

  1. Checking connection speed: The initial phase of our evaluation includes conducting a speed test without the VPN connected, leveraging tools such as Ookla’s speed test. Subsequently, we connect the VPN and rerun the speed test. Though a slight decrease in speed due to encryption overhead is expected with VPNs, our main objective is to detect any considerable speed reductions that might affect your browsing or streaming activities. We assess both download and upload speeds and latency, monitoring their alterations across various server locations.
  2. Verifying security: To substantiate a VPN provider’s security assurances, we utilise services like IPLeak.net to scrutinise for DNS leaks. These leaks could inadvertently expose your actual location, even when you are connected to a VPN. We also look for WebRTC leaks that can potentially disclose your IP address.

Our team of researchers applied these testing procedures while assessing the performance of Windscribe’s free service.

Download Speed (Mbps) Degradation (% of base value) Upload Speed (Mbps) Degradation (% of base value) Latency Latency % increase from base value
No VPN 91.11 81.4 23ms
UK to UK 86.08 93% 75.44 93% 7ms -30%
UK to US 80.04 88% 76.85 94% 115ms 80%
UK to Hong Kong 4.03 4% 2.6 3% 234ms 90.20%

Windscribe was a VPN of two extremes in our speed tests. Using the free servers in the UK and Western Europe, download and upload speeds were nearly identical to our baseline with no VPN. Even using a US server, download and upload speeds were close to normal. Had we not been recording the speeds, the dropoff was so minimal that we wouldn’t have noticed any change.

Moving farther afield, though, things slowed right down. Using the free Hong Kong server, speeds were only 5 per cent as fast as our baseline and latency soared. We were still able to watch videos, but there was a long buffer period.

WebRTC leak test

WebRTC, or Web Real-Time Communication, is the technology that facilitates direct communication between web browsers. It’s often employed for immediate communication services, such as voice and video chat.

However, as beneficial as WebRTC may be, it carries a potential security hazard known as a WebRTC leak. This risk materialises when the technology reveals your actual IP address, despite being concealed by a VPN or proxy. This problem emerges because WebRTC needs your genuine IP address to forge a direct connection between browsers, which might occasionally bypass the safeguards offered by a VPN.

We scrutinised Windscribe for a WebRTC leak across many of its free servers using the IPleak.net site and it successfully passed each test. We detected no leaks and our IP consistently reflected the selected server.

Breaches and audits

In 2021, Windscribe suffered a data breach when two of its Ukrainian servers were seized by authorities during an investigation into illegal activity by someone who was believed to have used Windscribe’s VPN. The authorities obtained Windscribe’s private key and were then able to decrypt all the traffic from Windscribe users on those servers. This prompted a major security overhaul at the VPN provider, which founder Yegor Sak announced on his blog shortly after. 

Windscribe has not yet completed an independent audit of its no-log policy, although its website references an audit that was due to be published in early 2023. We reached out to Windscribe for clarification, and a member of the customer support team tells us the company has not completed an audit, but is currently arranging one that will be published later in 2023.

Apps and compatibility

Windscribe VPN has apps for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS and Huawei devices, as well as extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Opera web browsers. It can also be set up on routers, Kodi, Amazon Fire Stick, Nvidia Shield and any OpenVPN-compatible software or device​.

The desktop and mobile apps are nearly identical and very easy to use, even for beginners, while also offering advanced features. One unique feature is split tunneling, which allows you to choose which apps use the VPN and which don’t. The apps also support Mac address spoofing, a method to reduce the chance of being tracked. They offer a command-line interface to automate the VPN from scripts, which is likely to be appreciated by more tech-savvy users​. 

In fact, the tech savvier users will appreciate the app’s Connection menu, which offers all sorts of control. Here, you can set up Firewall mode, configure Proxy settings, choose your VPN protocol, configure your TV or gaming console to use your proxy server and much more. There’s also a menu for ROBERT, where you can choose which elements you want to block or allow. For example, you can block ads and gambling sites but allow social networks.

The one downside of Windscribe’s app is choosing locations from the home screen. Other free VPN apps we’ve tested group the free servers in one section of the menu to make them quicker and easier to find. With Windscribe, you have to scroll through all the locations. 

Customer support

Windscribe offers a number of unique ways of getting support. To speak directly to the team, there’s a form on the Support page, through which you can explain your issue. Within 15 minutes, our researcher got email confirmation from Windscribe that their query had been received, and a reply was sent within 18 hours, which is fairly speedy. There are other ways, though, that users might find answers to their questions even faster.

Windscribe uses an AI chatbot called Garry. While not a human, Garry was quick and helpful in our tests. In fact, Garry gave us a clearer answer than the human team to our question, “how many servers free users can access?” According to Garry: “We offer servers in over 60 countries (we call them locations), 10 of which are available to free users. Each location/country has multiple data centres in various cities, which you can connect to by expanding the location via the arrow to the right of its name. We don’t expose individual servers to users. Free and Pro servers are segregated from each other.”

While not promoted as a live chat tool with the customer support team, we found that after asking Garry several questions it didn’t know the answer to, the bot gave us the option to chat to a real person. We accepted this offer and were transferred to a human operator, but the Windscribe’s customer support team is not available 24/7.

Windscribe also has one of the best Knowledge Base hubs that we’ve seen, with pages upon pages of FAQs. What’s more, you can filter and search by your device or browsers via a row of icons at the top of the FAQs. There are also links on the website to a SubReddit and Discord server dedicated for Windscribe users to help each other. 

What do customers say?

Windscribe gets positive reviews on Trustpilot, where 85 per cent of reviewers give it a perfect five stars and 11 per cent give it four out of five stars. Most people praise the service for its speed and the generous amount of data and privacy features for free plan users. 

“They give enough opportunities to test enough to be sure, without charging or leaving payment info. That’s a real product trial in my opinion.”

Windscribe also posts high marks on the Apple App Store, receiving 4.5 out of five stars, based on nearly 12,000 reviews. Again, users cite the speed and features like ROBERT that make the free VPN so appealing.  

“I never thought I would voluntarily pay for a VPN service until I encountered Windscribe. Their free trial is just over-the-top generous, the service works perfectly, the Netflix server locations are super useful and most of all their security bot R.O.B.E.R.T. is something I wish I had my entire life. There are simply too many things that make me love Windscribe.”

  • No_cake, via Apple App Store

On Google Play, the service scores 4.1 out of five stars based on 106,000 reviews. 

“I’ve been using Windscribe for years. Over these years I have tested many other VPNs and none have been as good as Windscribe – a VPN with acceptable speed and full features (R.O.B.E.R.T. option is very efficient and “GPS Spoof” works properly). 

  • Masoud lex0n, via Google Play

The Windscribe team is very active on all of these platforms, engaging with users and trying to help those who have had a bad experience resolve their issue in the app settings. 

Independent Advisor’s verdict

Windscribe really feels like a complete and valuable product and the number of people on Trustpilot who said they started with the free app, before switching to the paid-for version because the service is so good, was striking. What Windscribe has to offer over its competitors is an incredible amount of control over your online experience. For starters, free users can choose from 11 server locations evenly spread out around the world. And, with tools like ROBERT running in the background, you can block ads and trackers, porn and gambling and so much more. There are even nice security touches you can enable to create a spoof IP address or generate fake traffic to cloak your own activity even more. This is a free VPN that’s easy enough for beginners to use, yet sophisticated enough for the tech-savvier and heavy internet users to find value in. 

On top of all that, it’s very fast. Testing from the UK, we were regularly posting download and upload speeds at 90 per cent of our baseline non-VPN speed when using local servers and those around Western Europe. Even as far away as the US and Canada, we were at 85 per cent most of the time. Only using a Hong Kong server did we see a significantly slower connection.

What’s more, customer service is fast, friendly and engaged. When we enquired about the lack of an audit of its no-log policy, Windscribe was quick to explain how it is currently going through this process and pointed us to further reading that spells out in great detail how the company manages data. If you’re choosing a VPN, Windscribe is a great all-rounder you can grow with.

Score: ★★★

Read our review of Windcribe VPN’s paid-for plans.

Score breakdown

Reputation ★★★1/2
Privacy ★1/2
Performance and features ★★★
Plans and pricing value ★½
Customer experience ★★★1/2

Frequently asked questions about free VPNs

When a VPN is advertised as free, there is typically no monetary expense involved. Many VPN providers will offer a free plan – often without even having to provide an email address – and free trials of their paid plans. A free plan is a truly free VPN; however, it’s important to recognise that “free” might be accompanied by restrictions. For example, free VPNs might implement data caps, offer a limited selection of servers, provide slower connection speeds or show ads to fund the service. Some free VPNs are presented as a pared-down version of a paid alternative, with the goal of enticing users to upgrade to the paid version for enhanced features or superior performance. But this question goes beyond monetary cost, as some free VPNs make money by selling users’ data to third parties or using it to target partner ads within their apps – which defeats the purpose of getting a VPN in the first place.

The security level of a free VPN greatly hinges on the provider. Certain free VPNs, particularly those offered by larger, well-established companies that also provide paid options, can be secure to use. These providers usually have a reputation to uphold, so they adhere to rigorous privacy standards. However, there are free VPNs that pose a risk and could jeopardise your data. Some may monitor your internet usage, peddle your data to advertisers or, in some cases, contain malware. Hence, it’s vital to investigate and select a free VPN service that is clear about its privacy practices and holds a positive reputation.

A number of free VPNs have the ability to unlock streaming services, but this isn’t always a guarantee. Streaming services frequently implement measures to block VPNs, and several free providers lack the necessary resources to consistently circumvent these obstructions. Additionally, the data caps and reduced speeds often linked with free VPNs – even those that support streaming – could negatively affect video quality. For dependable access to streaming services, a premium – or in other words, paid – VPN is your best bet.

Round up of today’s best VPN deals
NordVPN 2 year £2.49 /Month
£2.49 /Month
Surfshark 24 month £1.79 /Month
£1.79 /Month
ExpressVPN 12 month £6.79 /Month
£6.79 /Month
CyberGhost 2 year £1.78 /Month
£1.78 /Month
Proton 2 year £4.26 /Month
£4.26 /Month
PIA 2 year £1.57 /Month
£1.57 /Month
Atlas 2 year £1.34 /Month
£1.34 /Month
PrivadoVPN 2 year £1.99 /Month
£1.99 /Month
Windscribe 12 month £4.60 /Month
£4.60 /Month
IPVanish 2 year £2.92 /Month
£2.92 /Month

The data in this review is reported from a neutral stance and should be used for informational purposes only. We review free VPN services from the perspective of:

  • The quality of the product based on the security it affords the user
  • User experience of the application(s)
  • Level and quality of customer service

Independent Advisor does not endorse the streaming of content from regions other than where the subscription is held, nor does it endorse the downloading or consumption of illegally pirated content.

Jeff Meyer

Writer

Jeff is a highly experienced editor and journalist with extensive experience in the tech industry, as well as for the automotive and DIY sectors, writing for both B2C and B2B brands.

Jeff has tested all manner of tech, from cameras to phones to EVs and home appliances. In his 23 years as a writer and editor, Jeff has written for global tech titles like TechRadar and Digital Camera World, as well as brands such as eBay, Canon, Panasonic, Eero, and many more.

His expertise extends to topics such as solar panels and VPN, a topic where he is a regular contributor.

In addition to editorial, Jeff also has many years experience producing video and podcasts. He is also passionate about renewable energy and green living, and explaining this technology to new audiences.

Amy Reeves

Editor

Amy is a seasoned writer and editor with a special interest in home design, sustainable technology and green building methods.

She has interviewed hundreds of self-builders, extenders and renovators about their journeys towards individual, well-considered homes, as well as architects and industry experts during her five years working as Assistant Editor at Homebuilding & Renovating, part of Future plc.

Amy’s work covers topics ranging from home, interior and garden design to DIY step-by-steps, planning permission and build costs, and has been published in Period Living, Real Homes, and 25 Beautiful Homes, Homes and Gardens.

Now an Editor at the Independent Advisor, Amy manages homes-related content for the site, including solar panels, combi boilers, and windows.

Her passion for saving tired and inefficient homes also extends to her own life; Amy completed a renovation of a mid-century house in 2022 and is about to embark on an energy-efficient overhaul of a 1800s cottage in Somerset.