5 Best free VPNs

6 Mar 2013 |

Let’s face it, free is everyone’s favorite price. With VPN typically costing less than 10 bucks a month it probably won’t break most people banks, but for some it might and hey, we all like a bargain!  The big questions then: are any of the free services any good, and can they really compete with a paid-for service? More specifically, we need to consider factors such as privacy and security, speed, and any restrictions placed on the service such as data caps or no P2P torrent downloads.

Summary

Rank Provider Free? Review Link

1


CyberGhost
1MB cap
Adverts
Read Review Visit Site

2

Tor Network Free but slow Read Review Visit Site

3

Kepard 15 day trial Read Review Visit Site

4

Slow/Adverts Read Review Visit Site

5

Free Proxies Read Review Visit Site

Take a look below to see slightly more detailed views about each provider.

Editor’s Choice

Winner – CyberGhost

cyberghost_main_download_logo

Positives: Reliable service, great VPN client, OpenVPN encryption, P2P is ok

Negatives: Speed cap, auto disconnection after 6 hours

CyberGhost offers what we consider to be a very generous free service, one which they claim their premium plans are simply there to support. You connect via the OpenVPN protocol (128-bit) using the same rather good VPN client that is used for the paid for service, and can basically do what you like with the following theoretical restrictions:

  • A 1 Mb/s speed cap
  • Advisements – users will be shown at least 17 seconds of advertisements when they first connect, plus some more ads every 2 hours
  • No free choice of servers -  free VPN users are automatically connected to an available server, although CyberGhost do say this will usually be located close-by
  • Automatic disconnection after 6 hours of use (users can immediately reconnect, but see below…)
  • Users must manually reconnect after disconnection (no auto-reconnect)

In practice we found the advertising to be very unobtrusive, and obtained download speeds of over 2 Mb/s (twice the nominal cap). Of course this is still represents a big slow down to many people’s internet connection, but it is more than fast enough for casual web browsing and even P2P torrent downloading (which CyberGhost has no problem with). Those with slower connections might well not even notice the hit. One thing that BitTorrenters should watch out for is the automatic disconnection after 6 hours, which could leave you downloading traceable files if the service disconnects while you are away from the computer.

A very nice surprise when testing the CyberGhost’s free service was the offer of a 1 month free trial of its premium service, which also extremely generous. In addition to this CyberGhost has an excellent attitude towards users’ privacy, which all in all makes this service very easy to recommend.

Click the button below to sign up to CyberGhost now, you really can’t go wrong with them!
 

» Visit CyberGhost


2. Tor Network

Tor logo

Positives: Absolutely the most secure way (paid or unpaid) to maintain on-line anonymity (although bear in mind that nothing is 100% secure), easy to install and use

Negatives: Slow, no P2P

Not strictly a VPN service, but as a widely used free system designed to ensure online anonymity it seemed criminal not to mention the Tor Network here. The open source Tor client allows you connect to the internet anonymously through a distributed network (other Tor users) using a layered encryption service known as Onion Routing. This means that whenever you access a website your request will pass through at least 3 different computers (called nodes), with all information encrypted each time to provide a very high level of security. In addition to this, because your apparent IP is that of a random volunteer (of which there are literally hundreds of thousands), there is no way to even determine that you are masking your identity, which makes this service famously invaluable for dissidents living under restrictive governments.

The main downside is that it’s not fast, as your traffic is being bounced around volunteers’ computers across the world. The Tor Network also ask you not to use the service for P2P filesharing, as the amount of traffic involved puts a severe strain on the system and damages other users’ experience.

One use the truly paranoid may have for the Tor Network is in conjunction with Bitcoin payments, allowing them  to maintain complete anonymity when signing up to and purchasing regular VPN packages.

 

» Visit Tor


3. Kepard

logo

Positives: Fast, P2P is ok, great Windows client and even better Android app, no logs

Negatives: only half hour each day

In addition to offering a 15 day free trial, this small Moldovan VPN provider lets you use its service for free for half an hour each day. This limit is admittedly quite restrictive, but you can access Kepard’s VPN servers at full speed during this time (including its VPN servers in the Netherlands) using 128-bit OpenVPN, and take advantage of some of the best VPN software we have yet reviewed. The Android app in particular is joy to use, and we highly recommend anyone wanting to use VPN on such a device to give Kepard a try.

 

» Visit Kepard


4. VPN.S

logo

Positives: In practice a fast VPN with no ads (although bear in mind this is in no way guaranteed), 2048-bit encryption

Negatives: very restrictive (600Mb per month) data limit, activity monitored, no P2P

VPN.S offers a free service using excellent 2048-bit OpenVPN encryption, accessed through its regular VPN client. It has the following restrictions:

  • It is slow*
  • Ad supported*
  • 600Mb data limit
  • Access to just one US based server
  • Windows only
  • Activities logged

In practice we did not encounter issues with the first two restrictions, as our speedtest.net were excellent (over 7.5 Mb/s download on our 10 megabyte connection) given that we were connecting to a US server from the UK, and we encountered none of the promised advertising. We therefore found the service a joy to use. However, the 600Mb per month data limit is very restrictive, and limits use to simple web browsing as even watching a few YouTube videos will burn through the limit no time. In addition to this, VPN.S monitors your internet activity when using their free service, and maintains a very strict anti-copyright violation policy which makes it very unsuitable for P2P filesharers.

 

» Visit VPN.S


5. Hide My Ass

logo

Hide My Ass is a very prominent VPN provider who also offers a free web proxy service, plus maintains a real-time database of working public proxies. During testing we found the proxy service worked ok for browsing simple HTML websites (such as The Pirate Bay) but fell down when we tried to load up anything more complex such as speedtest.net or to access YouTube videos. Although a bit more of a pain to set up and inherently unreliable, connecting to free public proxies listed in Hide My Ass’s live database worked rather better. HMA also offers free anonymous email, anonymous web linking and anonymous file upload services.

An aspect to consider when using Hide My Ass is that it is a UK company, and has in the past been implicated in compromising the identity of one of their users.

 

» Visit Hide My Ass


Conclusion

When considering a free service there will always be compromises involved, and to honest none that we have reviewed really rival their paid-for alternatives. That said, to our minds CyberGhost, with its 1Mb/s (2Mb/s we found in practice) data cap being the sole meaningful restriction, provides the most usable and complete free VPN experience we have yet come across, and may be all that many users need.

Tor is difficult to place because it needs to be judged on a different set of criteria to the other services considered here. However, because of its very high level of security and the benefits it brings those who cannot otherwise freely access the internet, we have awarded it second place.

Kepard and VPN.S are both in a similar position, offering the full premium VPN experience but for very limited amounts of time /data. Largely due to VPN.S’s policy of monitoring free users’ internet activities and having a strong anti-P2P stance, we recommend Kepard over it.

Hide My Ass is to be commended for the number of tools it provides to help maintain users’ anonymity. However, we feel these are no substitute, in terms of functionality, for a fully-fledged VPN service, no matter limited. We also have concerns about its commitment to maintaining users’ anonymity in the face of face of legal challenges.

 


And here’s the summary once more:

Summary

Rank Provider Free? Review Link

1

1MB cap
Adverts
Read Review Visit Site

2

Tor Network Free but slow Read Review Visit Site

3

Kepard 15 day trial Read Review Visit Site

4

Slow/Adverts Read Review Visit Site

5

Free Proxies Read Review Visit Site
Author Picture Written by Pete Zaborszky
Pete runs Best VPN and wants to get detailed information to the readers. He is dedicated to being the best and providing the highest quality at anything he does. You can also find him on Twitter or Google+

One Response to “5 Best free VPNs”

  1. steve says:

    TOR is not criminal it just offering level anonymity that no other service has but is slow. Imagine there were google using tor on all their servers then we have fast encrypted network that anyone can use and no one see !!! Perfect anonymity !!! But they want us to be glass proven user and others just want to make money due no one responsible want to secure user online. Crappy internet and governments secret services police nsa fbi cia homeland security … criminals … you name it are misusing it.

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