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Windscribe VPN review: Paid plans put to the test

Verified by Molly Dyson

Windscribe is a relatively new VPN provider, having been founded in 2016 in Canada. The company is entirely self-funded and offers a no-logs policy, as well as the highest level of encryption – AES-256. It has three plans available – free, Build a Plan and Pro – with the latter offering  more than 400 servers in 112 cities. 

Windscribe offers options for users to not hand over any personal information and sign up without using an email address by paying via crypto. However, Windscribe is based in Canada, which is part of Five Eyes – an intelligence-sharing alliance.

60-second review

Rating: ★★★½

Windscribe has three plans available for its users: free, Build a Plan and Pro. Its Build a Plan option is great for users who only wish to purchase a few locations, while its Pro version gives users access to more than 400 servers in over 112 cities. The free version ranks among the best free VPNs, though it is a limited service.

The provider has multiple protocols available, including the popular OpenVPN and Wireguard – all of which are encrypted by AES-256. 

Windscribe is one of the most reasonably priced VPN providers that still offers all of the top features users are looking for. Windscribe says it prioritises privacy and security and adheres to a strict no-logs policy. Although this policy has never been independently audited, Windscribe, when requested by law, says it has never shared any data since there was no data logged.

How we research and rate VPNs

100+
hours performance testing
600+
customer reviews read
100+
hours of research
25
competitors compared
4
VPN experts consulted

Our reviewers are dedicated to bringing you the most accurate and up-to-date information so you can make an informed decision when it comes to buying a VPN. We will only recommend a VPN after hours of testing, extensive head-to-head feature comparisons, and after taking into account verified customer feedback and reviews, and the opinions of industry experts.

Our review scores are determined by the following categories:

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

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 and download speeds, 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. Find out more about how we review VPNs.

Windscribe VPN overview

  • Lowest price: $5.75 (£4.39) per month for a 12-month plan
  • Free version: Yes
  • Maximum number of connected devices: Unlimited
  • Number of servers: 400+
  • Encryption: AES-256, ChaCha20
  • VPN protocols: IKEv2, OpenVPN and Wireguard
  • No-logs policy: Yes
  • Audited: No
  • Headquarters: Canada

Pros

AES-256 encryption Lots of features included with Windscribe Pro Ad block and malware blocker Reasonably priced

Cons

Not independently audited Headquartered in Canada

How does Windscribe compare?

Windscribe offers lots of advantageous features as standard within its Windscribe Pro subscription. There are three different protocols to choose from and users can enjoy the highest level of encryption on the market – AES-256 – as well as benefit from its R.O.B.E.R.T. feature, which blocks ads and malware. 

Windscribe also allows its paid plan users to run the VPN on an unlimited number of devices, unlike most of its competitors. There’s also plenty of servers to connect to, with 112 cities and 69 countries to choose from, as well as more than 400 servers.

VPN provider Price Free version? Number of servers Maximum number of devices Netflix BBC iPlayer Disney+ Amazon HBO Max Audit?
Windscribe From $5.75 (£4.39)/m Yes 400+ Unlimited No
ExpressVPN From £5.25/m No 3,000+ 5 Yes
NordVPN From £2.79/m No 5,500+ 6 Yes
Surfshark From £1.76/m No 3,200+ Unlimited Yes
CyberGhost From £1.92/m No 9,700+ 7 Yes

Some prices exclusive of VAT or local taxes. Prices correct as of 17/7/2023
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

How much does Windscribe cost?

Windscribe offers three different types of plans: paid, free and Build a Plan. Its free plan only offers 12 servers in 10 locations, there’s a maximum data limit of 15GB and you’re limited to one device. Its paid plan – available in a monthly or annual subscription – gives users access to all VPN protocols, a high level of encryption and an unlimited amount of data, and allows you to use it on an unlimited number of devices. In its Build a Plan option, you can choose the server locations you want to use to keep costs down (you must choose a minimum of two locations).

Subscription term Price
Monthly $9 (£6.87) / month
12 months $5.75 (£4.39) / month ($69/£52.66 up front)
Build a Plan From $3 (£2.29) / month

Prices may exclude VAT or local taxes. Prices correct as of 17/7/2023

Payment options

Windscribe offers customers various ways to pay for a subscription.  As well as the standard ways to pay via credit card and PayPal, subscribers can use Bitcoin.

Ways to pay for Windscribe:

  • Credit card
  • PayPal
  • Paymentwall
  • Bitcoin
Compare our top recommended providers
Best Overall
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Best All-rounder
3 months free on the 12 month plan
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Windscribe features

Windscribe has lots of features that are available with its paid plan, but the company still manages to keep things simple and relatively easy for new users to get to grips with. The provider offers the highest level of encryption – AES-256 – as standard, as well as a variety of protocols that users can switch between to suit their privacy needs. It’s also available to download on a number of different devices and offers a no-logs policy. We also found Windscribe’s customer service to be impeccable and there’s a selection of how-to guides for users to utilise.

R.O.B.E.R.T.

For paid users, Windscribe has a customisable server-side domain and IP blocking tool called R.O.B.E.R.T., which blocks ads, stops tracking, has a customisable block list and improves browsing speeds. 

While connected to the app, users can view the R.O.B.E.R.T. feature in settings and select which block lists they would like to include, from malware and ad trackers to gambling and social networks. 

ScribeForce

ScribeForce is Windscribe’s enterprise account service. It allows you to create and manage a team account for your organisation rather than buying individual plans for employees. It works similarly to a normal paid Windscribe account, except it’s three times cheaper and you can generate user accounts and use them all from one place. 

Port forwarding 

Port forwarding is a feature that allows users to access services on their home network or computer remotely while connected to Windscribe. Port forwarding protects users’ connection and keeps their external IP address safe. It’s available for all Pro accounts.

Server count and countries

Windscribe offers a free and paid subscription, with the paid option offering access to more than 400 servers located in 69 countries and 112 cities worldwide. The free subscription has access to 12 servers in 10 locations which comes with 10GB of data as standard. 

The paid subscription gives you an unlimited amount of data and a vast number of server locations to choose from. What’s more, Windscribe’s servers are all physically located in the countries they’re advertised to be in, meaning the servers do not necessarily fake the location using WHOIS data (which can fake IP address’s location). Read our article to find out how to find your VPN server’s true location

The provider suggests using a location that is geographically closest to you in order to receive faster connection speeds – the more locations available, the more chance users have of faster VPN speeds. However, sometimes users connect to specific server locations to meet their browsing needs, so this isn’t always possible.

No-logs policy and headquarters

Windscribe is headquartered in Toronto, Canada, which does not have the most relaxed data privacy laws. Canada is also a member of Five Eyes – an intelligence-sharing alliance also comprising Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the US. This means the provider could be served with a court order to share customer data with the government of any one of these countries.

However, Windscribe does have a no-logs policy, so in theory, even if the company was requested to share data, there wouldn’t be anything to share. There is also an option to create an account without sharing any personal information, and users can pay using crypto, ensuring anonymity. 

At present, Windscribe’s no-logs policy has not been independently audited like some of its competitors, and this is where issues could arise for the privacy-conscious.

As well as its no-logs policy, Windscribe boldly advertises its website has a no-tracking policy, which means there are no third-party analytics, tracking pixels, A/B test platforms or social widgets. Simply put, this means the user’s activity should not be leaked to third-party data harvesting platforms.

Kill switch

A kill switch is a handy tool for any VPN provider to offer, and is a way of ensuring privacy is upheld at all times. A kill switch works by protecting users in the event of their internet connection being interrupted, which would subsequently cause the VPN connection to drop. The kill switch would automatically stop all internet traffic and ensure your IP address is kept private. 

Windscribe doesn’t offer a traditional kill switch in its app, but instead offers an alternative. The Windscribe Firewall is built into Windows and Mac apps and blocks all connectivity outside of the VPN tunnel, ensuring there is zero chance of any possible leaks. 

There are three modes for Windscribe Firewall:

  • Automatic: Used when connected to a Windscribe location and disabled when you’re not. Keeps connection secure by disabling your internet connection if the VPN connection is interrupted
  • Manual: Allows users to choose when the firewall is turned on
  • Always-on: Restricts internet access entirely to only using the VPN connection. Internet connection will be disabled until you connect to a Windscribe location. This is the most secure mode of the firewall

Split tunnelling

Split tunnelling allows VPN users to select which of their applications access the internet using the service and those that connect directly to your internet network. 

Currently, Windscribe’s split tunnelling is only available for Windows, Mac and Android apps – but the company says it will soon become available for macOS and Linux apps. Split tunnelling be used in two modes:

  • Exclusive: Users select the information they wish to exclude from the VPN tunnel and use a standard ISP connection.
  • Inclusive: Users select the applications they want to be tunnelled – everything else will not use the VPN

An advantage to using split tunnelling is not having to remember to turn on your VPN connection. For example, applications like banking apps usually will not work when connected to a VPN for privacy reasons, so being able to choose what to include or exclude from the tunnel is a great feature for any provider, especially when provided as standard, but this feature is excluded from Windescribe’s free version.

Encryption and privacy

We found Windscribe to take its users’ privacy seriously, offering multiple encryption protocols. The main one is AES-256, which is touted as being the most secure level of encryption, military-grade and unhackable. The provider’s AES-256 comes with SHA511 authentication and a 4,096-bit RSA key with perfect forward secrecy (PFS). 

PFS is a security measure that creates a unique set of keys for each user session. This means if any future sessions have been compromised, all data from past sessions remains secure. 

As well as this, Windscribe offers users the choice between WireGuard, IKEv2, OpenVPN (UDP and TCP), Stealth and WStunnel protocols. Users can allow the app to automatically select their protocol or choose it manually in settings. Typically, OpenVPN and IKEv2 are encrypted by AES-256, while WireGuard uses ChaCha20 – an advanced encryption cipher that is slightly faster than AES-256.

Windscribe performance test results

For any internet user looking to protect their identity, a VPN is a great tool for hiding IP addresses and keeping their data safe and protected. However, one downside of using a VPN service is it can affect users’ internet speeds. Not all services will have such adverse effects, so the best way to get a better understanding is to perform a speed test. 

There are three main components to consider when testing internet speed, with or without a VPN; these include download speed, upload speed and latency (ping).

  • Download speed: Refers to the rate at which digital data is transferred from the internet to your device.
  • Upload speed: The rate that data is transferred from your device to the internet. 
  • Latency (ping): The time it takes for a set of data to be transmitted to a server on the internet and back to your device again. 

Our researchers tested Windscribe VPN in order to find out how much using the service affected download and upload speeds. To perform a fair test, we first checked our internet speed while not connected to Windscribe to get a baseline so we could work out the degradation between the upload and download speed when connected to a VPN server. Our reviewers used the Ookla Speedtest to conduct this research.

Windscribe speed test no VPN
Speed test result without Windscribe turned on. This is our base line. The numbers along the bottom of the image are the ping (latency) in milliseconds and the amount of data downloaded (green) and uploaded (purple) during the test, measured in megabytes.
Download speed (Mbps) Upload speed (Mbps) Latency (ping) Percentage of base download speed Percentage of base upload speed
No VPN 72.74 17.79 13ms
UK to UK 69.69 17.46 14ms 96% 98%
UK to US 70.21 17.11 98ms 96% 96%
UK to Aus 68.43 6.86 289ms 94% 35%

Overall, our researchers found Windscribe’s download and upload speeds were very high when connected to both the UK and US servers, and the provider only really fell short when connected to an Australian server. 

Connecting to a UK server performed the best overall and our download speed only dropped by 4 per cent. The upload speed was considerably high and we only saw a mere 2 per cent drop, which is one of the best performances we’ve seen throughout our VPN testing. There also was only a 1ms difference in latency, so we’re fairly confident users connecting to a UK server would be very pleased with the speed.  

Windscribe speed test UK to UK
Speed test result when connected to a UK Windscribe server from the UK.

Again, connecting to a US server returned favourable speed test results. For both the download and upload tests, the speed only dropped by 4 per cent each. We consider this to be a good service for both browsing and streaming, and users should be able to enjoy a relatively quick lag-free experience. The latency, however, was 98ms, which is a noticeable difference when compared to the non-VPN and UK server results. 

Windscribe speed test UK to US
Speed test result when connected to a Windscribe US server.

It was when we connected to the Australian server that we noticed a considerable drop in speed results. The download speed was 6 per cent slower than our base line. However, this isn’t the worst result we’ve seen when reviewing other providers and is still close to the UK and US server download speeds. The upload speed was only 35 per cent as quick as the upload speed we had when not using a VPN. It’s also the worst performing upload speed out of all the services we’ve tested. This coupled with a 289ms latency may see users struggle with video playback and slower page loading times. 

However, if you connect to any VPN server that is far away in terms of geographical location – such as Australia – this will ultimately affect speed.

Windscribe speed test UK to Australia
Speed test result when connected to a Windscribe server in Australia from the UK.

WebRTC leak test

Web Real-Time Communication, or WebRTC is an open-source project providing web browsers and mobile applications with real-time communication. Although WebRTC has the potential to leak your real IP address, it’s a great tool for voice, text and video communications and ensures users don’t experience video lag. 

However, WebRTC poses a potential privacy issue, for those who are concerned by this – using a VPN should solve these concerns. Not every service we’ve tested has combatted potential WebRTC leaks, so we put Windscribe to the test. 

We first tested our internet connection while not connected to a VPN and found our real IP address was leaked, but when connected to a Windscribe server, the only IP address that could be seen was the server’s and not our real address.

Breaches and audits

As we previously mentioned, Windscribe’s privacy measures have not been independently audited, which means privacy features such as its no-logs policy have not been verified. 

However, when we looked through the privacy information on Windscribe’s website, we found some handy data, which included all of the times Windscribe has received real-time data requests from copyright requests and law enforcement agencies. Analysing the data provided, no customer data has ever been shared with a third party – if the data is not logged, it simply cannot ever be shared with anyone.

Compatibility and apps

Windscribe has apps that work on the following computers and devices:

  • Computers: Windows, Chrome, Linux and MacOS
  • Mobile devices: Android, iOS and Huawei 
  • TV systems: Amazon Firestick and Fire TV

Desktop app

Windscribe desktop app screenshot no IP
The Windscribe desktop app takes up little real estate on your screen but is very easy to navigate

Windscribe’s desktop app is extremely small compared to other VPN apps we have reviewed. However, it’s not so small that you’ll be forced to squint to find the buttons; rather, it’s unobtrusive and ideal for laptops and computers. This pocket-size app can be kept open at all times, allowing users to interchange locations and settings easily.

There’s a large on and off button to switch the VPN on, and the background of the app always has a correlating country’s flag to your chosen server. The toggle for Windescribe’s firewall is easy to locate on the home screen, as is the section directing users to the server locations available. 

The best part about Windscribe, in our researchers’ opinion, is its comical location names, such as Crumpets for London and Bad Koala for Australia. 

Located in the settings, users can fully customise their Windscribe experience by choosing their protocol, turning on split tunnelling and using R.O.B.E.R.T.  

Mobile app

Windscribe mobile app screenshot
The Windscribe mobile app includes a screen to choose which VPN protocol you use to connect to a server

Windscribe’s mobile app is just as user-friendly as its desktop app, and it allows users to seamlessly switch between locations. 

The mobile app has all of the same features as the desktop app, which isn’t always the case when it comes to mobile VPN apps – especially for iOS users. It’s quite refreshing to see that Windscribe’s app includes the ability to switch protocols and split tunnelling. 

We found the app stayed connected while using a mobile device, but it sometimes dropped the VPN connection if we clocked our phone, so that is something to be mindful of when using the service.

Router compatibility

As well as installing Windscribe VPN on your computer or mobile, there’s also an option to set it up on your router – but only if your router is compatible. It’s a safe and secure way to ensure that all of your devices remain connected to the VPN at all times without the need to do anything manually.  

Routers compatible with Windscribe include:

  • DD-WRT
  • Tomato
  • Asus

DD-WRT and Tomato are special firmware routers, and although Windscribe provides very detailed and informative how-to guides, you may want to seek the help of a professional to set this up.

Asus is an industry-leading networking brand that has multiple routers compatible for installing Windscribe, and is more similar to the type of router your internet service would provide you with.

Customer support

Windscribe has a great level of customer service and there are various ways to get in touch for support or general VPN queries. The provider has standard means of communication, such as its support form, as well as a handy chatbot – named Garry – and a subreddit. 

Live chatbot (Garry): Users can ask Garry any Windescribe-related query by choosing from three options: account, sales or technical. Following this, you’re guided to select which device you’re using and which model. Our researchers found the chatbot could answer all questions and was a very useful resource. 

Windscribe’s subreddit: Using Windscribe’s subreddit is great for solving VPN problems, as well as discussing ideas and sharing your experiences. 

Discord: Windscribe’s Discord is designed for staying connected within the community. Users can join discussions and make real-life friends.

What do customers say?

  • Trustpilot: 4.8 (8,445 reviews)
  • Apple App Store: 4.4 (1,283 reviews)
  • Google Play Store: 4.1 (109,000 reviews)

Overall, Windscribe receives above-average reviews on Trustpilot, Apple App Store and Google Play. We’ve read hundreds of reviews and from those, concluded the majority of customers praise Windscribe for its very reasonable pricing, selection of protocols and stable VPN connection. 

“Very impressed by Windscribe so far, they offer real value here with their services and feature list, even if you use the free plan with its generous 10GB/mo cap. Filters, adblock and other tools are well-explained, and simple yet powerful. You can build your own custom monthly plan to cut payments down to 3$/mo, which is a great value for users on a budget. Highly recommended!”

“After having a problem connecting to my job’s wifi using Windscribe, I contacted the team via email. They were incredibly helpful and provided me with the solution. Very good service for the price, highly recommend for anyone looking for a paid VPN service.”

“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. The app used to be buggy (couldn’t disconnect/connect to VPN randomly) but since the last upgrade it’s perfect, you can customise an à-la-carte plan if you don’t need all locations”

“I’ve used over a dozen different VPNs over the years. Windscribe VPN has the locations I need, along with speed and stability that’s good enough to make it my daily driver. It also has a great feature set that includes control of which apps will use the VPN and which bypass it. I like that I can configure a good mix of protocols and ports; also new options for configuring secure DNS and filters. It’s a pretty tight system that does what I need while being stable enough to keep it on 24/7.”

Independent Advisor’s verdict

Windscribe is a VPN provider that’s ideal for new and advanced users alike; its apps are user friendly and there are plenty of features included in its Pro plan. 

We especially like the options to block ads, malware and specific types of content like gambling and social media. This is not something we’ve seen many competitors include. Windscribe also offers a good number of protocols to choose from, as well as AES-256, which is the highest level of encryption. 

The only downside is that Windscribe has not been independently audited and is headquartered in Canada – part of Five Eyes, an intelligence-sharing alliance. However, the provider does have a no-logs policy and does disclose all of the times it has been requested to submit data but couldn’t because there were no logs. 

With that being said, Windscribe offers lots of advantageous features within its paid plans and its apps are user friendly. But, for the privacy-conscious who may be weary about Windscribe’s headquarter location, this VPN might not be for you. For general use, Windscribe is an excellent choice. 

Overall score: ★★★½

Score breakdown

Reputation ★★★½
Privacy ★★
Performance and features ★★★★★
Plans and pricing value ★★★½
Customer experience ★★★★★
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 £6.92 /Month
£6.92 /Month
CyberGhost 2 year £1.78 /Month
£1.78 /Month
Proton 2 year £3.88 /Month
£3.88 /Month
PIA 2 year £1.57 /Month
£1.57 /Month
Atlas 2 year £1.34 /Month
£1.34 /Month
PrivadoVPN 2 year £1.48 /Month
£1.48 /Month
Windscribe 12 month £1.96 /Month
£1.96 /Month
IPVanish 2 year £3.33 /Month
£3.33 /Month

The data in this review is reported from a neutral stance and should be used for informational purposes only. We review 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.

rachel

Rachel Sadler

Home Tech Writer

Rachel is a seasoned writer who has been producing online and print content for seven years. 

As a home tech expert for Independent Advisor, Rachel researches and writes buying guides and reviews, helping consumers navigate the realms of broadband and home security gadgets. She also covers home tech for The Federation of Master Builders, where she reviews and tests home security devices. 

She started as a news and lifestyle journalist in Hong Kong reporting on island-wide news stories, food and drink and the city’s events. She’s written for editorial platforms Sassy Hong Kong, Localiiz and Bay Media. While in Hong Kong she attended PR events, interviewed local talent and project-managed photoshoots. 

Rachel holds a BA in English Language and Creative Writing and is committed to simplifying tech jargon and producing unbiased reviews.

Molly Dyson

Editor

After growing up with a passion for writing, Molly studied journalism and creative writing at university in her home country of the United States.

She has written for a variety of print and online publications, from small town newspapers to international magazines. Most of her 10-year career since relocating to the UK has been spent in business journalism, writing and editing for admin professionals at PA Life magazine and business travel managers at Business Travel News Europe and representing those titles at conferences around the world.

Now an Editor at the Independent Advisor, Molly is an expert in a broad range of consumer topics, that include solar panels and renewables, home improvements and home insurance, and consumer technology such as home security and VPNs.

In her free time, Molly can usually be found exploring the outdoors with her husband and their young son or gardening.