Windscribe Free VPN review | TechRadar
Windscribe is an innovative Canadian firm with a generous free VPN plan which finds several ways to stand out from the crowd.
The plan’s 10GB of data isn’t quite leading edge – 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 whenever and wherever you like.
The choice of 14 locations across 11 countries tramples over most of the competition, too. We’re not just talking 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 shove you onto overloaded ‘free’ servers, where speeds drop to a crawl at peak times. Your data might be limited, but free users can benefit from the same performance as everyone else (more on that later).
Interesting bonus features include R.O.B.E.R.T, 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 prefer to test a VPN before you decide whether it’s trustworthy, you can even open an account without providing your email address. You’ll get a smaller amount of monthly data, 2GB instead of 10GB, 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 engineered 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 drops (like a kill switch, only better).
This isn’t just marketing spin, either. We used multiple test sites to check for DNS leaks, but Windscribe protected us in every case. And no matter how we forcibly dropped the VPN connection, whatever extreme techniques we tried, the firewall instantly blocked our internet access and protected our data from exposure.
While this sounds great, there’s nothing to back it up, right now. Windscribe hasn’t put itself through a security or no-logging audit yet, and so potential customers don’t have any independent confirmation that it’s living up to its promises. We hear that might be changing soon, though, and if so, we’ll pay very close attention to any reports.
Windows and Mac apps
Windscribe’s open source desktop apps offer up a stylish and compact window, which somehow still manages to cram in all kinds of options and status details. There are some technical references, too – UDP, 443, Firewall, a network icon – which might intimidate VPN newbies. But look past these, and the apps aren’t difficult to use.
Getting started can be as easy as clicking the Connect button to reach the nearest Windscribe server, or you can hit Locations and choose your preferred city from the drop-down list. The apps don’t display the free locations at the top of the list, so you must scroll down (or manually search) to find them, but otherwise it’s simple enough.
We didn’t run into any connection issues during the review, either. Every server connected first time, and connection times were rapid at around 2-4 seconds, plus we didn’t see any unexpected connection drops.
Life can get more complicated if you decide you need to change something and head off to the Settings box, but that’s mostly because they’re so hugely configurable (we counted more than 40 important settings).
Ignore anything you don’t understand, though (or just look it up on the support site), and there are plenty of more straightforward options here.
You can opt to launch the app when your device starts, and maybe connect, too. There are settings to change how the app looks, including providing a custom background. You’re able to change protocols in a click or two (IKEv2, OpenVPN, WireGuard and others are on offer). 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 looking for VPN simplicity above all else, and aren’t even faintly interested in extra options or control, then Windscribe’s configurability won’t matter very much. You might be better off with a more basic service, such as TunnelBear.
But for everyone else, there’s plenty to like here. Sure, you might not understand every option and setting, but Windscribe’s apps are easy enough to use at a basic level, and it’s good to have these extra tweaks available if you need them.
Android and iOS apps
Windscribe’s mobile apps have a more conventional design than the desktop builds, and even the greenest of VPN newbies will figure out the basics right away: choose a location from the list, click Connect to begin, Disconnect when you’re done. But again, if you’re looking for more configurability, there are real surprises.
Take your choice of protocol. Typical VPN apps might allow you to 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 might set Windscribe generally for speed, but OpenVPN or IKEv2 for more tricky networks where WireGuard doesn’t always work. It’s a tiny detail, and maybe not a feature you’ll ever even use, but if, one day, you need it, you’ll be very glad it’s there.
Windscribe’s iOS app can’t match Android’s power, but you still get control over the app’s look and feel, a choice of protocols (IKEv2, OpenVPN, WireGuard), the R.O.B.E.R.T ad, tracker and content blocker, and more.
Whether you’ll use these abilities or not, it’s good to see a provider who doesn’t leave key features out of the free app to try and persuade you to upgrade. Hide.me’s free plan doesn’t include WireGuard, for instance, 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 long-term.
Part of Windscribe’s appeal is that it doesn’t throttle speeds, or shove all its free users on the same underpowered hardware. The end result should mean more than enough performance for any task, but is that what really happens?
We tested Windscribe from a UK data center with a 1Gbps connection, and the results were positive, with median download speeds reaching 240Mbps. That’s not the fastest free VPN we’ve seen – Atlas VPN, PrivadoVPN, Proton VPN and TunnelBear all reached 300Mbps or more – but it’s better than many, and likely to be fast enough for most devices and connections.
Windscribe’s free plan doesn’t include its Windflix servers, with specialist 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 got us instant access to BBC iPlayer, and we were able to unblock UK Netflix, suggesting it could work with Netflix in other countries, too.
Although the apps worked well for us, VPNs can be complicated, and there’s always a chance you’ll have issues. You can contact Windscribe’s email support for guidance, though, and we’ve generally found the company does a good job of 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 allowance, 14 locations, and open source, feature-packed apps ensure it’s still one of the best freebie VPNs around.