What is Windscribe?
Windscribe is a popular, privacy-conscious Canadian VPN provider that’s best known for its free vpn service. However, it’s far from limited to just that. Windscribe also has a full-featured, paid service that costs just a few dollars a month. This gives you access to dozens more servers, unlimited bandwidth, and the ability to connect with as many devices as you want. What’s more, it supports just about every platform out there, and its browser extensions sport some useful extra features. The main problem with an otherwise solid provider? It’s greatly fluctuating server speeds.
- Strong encryption
- Available on many platforms
- Great browser extensions
- Incredibly slow UK server
- No live chat
Windscribe Pricing and Plans
Windscribe is best known for its free plan, otherwise known as its Limited plan.
Windscribe advertises this free subscription heavily on social media. It also has some moderately-priced paid plans on offer. These are the Unlimited Monthly plan and the Unlimited Yearly plan. The latter is the more budget-friendly of the two, clocking in at $3.75 per month. The former is more than double the price, at $9 per month.
Windscribe accepts all the most common forms of payment, including MasterCard, Visa, PayPal, and American Express. In addition, it accepts Bitcoin, meaning that you have the option to pay anonymously if you wish to do so.
We suggest that you give Windscribe’s Limited plan a go to get a feel for the service before you put any money down. However, if you decide to go straight for an Unlimited plan, Windscribe offers a money-back guarantee up to three days after purchase.
Windscribe Video Review
While BestVPN.com has yet to put together its own video review of Windscribe, the provider itself did a video taking you through the main points of its service:
Windscribe Ltd is an internet security and privacy company based in Ontario, Canada. It is a relative baby to the VPN industry, having only been founded in 2016.
Frustratingly, the features of Windscribe’s service are not clearly marked anywhere on its website. Instead, the information can be found in bits and pieces around the website.
The bulk of the details are on the Pricing page. Unlimited plans enjoy unlimited devices, 46 server locations, unlimited bandwidth, OpenVPN configuration, built-in firewall and ad blocker, and peer-to-peer (P2P) support. The Limited plan has a budget version of these features, allowing only one device, access to eight server locations, 10 GB of bandwidth per month, and no OpenVPN configuration. It does, however, have a built-in firewall and ad blocker, along with P2P support, like the paid versions do.
Is Windscribe Secure?
As mentioned above, Windscribe operates out of Canada. This is troubling, as Canada is part of the Five Eyes surveillance network along with Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. What’s more, it was recently revealed that the CSIS – the Canadian equivalent of the NSA – has been illegally accessing citizens’ metadata for over a decade.
While Windscribe’s location is less than ideal, it does have some decent security features to try to make up for it. When it comes to encryption, Windscribe is rock solid. It uses AES-256 cipher, SHA512 authorization, and a 4096-bit RSA key – in addition to supporting perfect forward secrecy.
The Windscribe VPN has both Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) and Domain Name System (DNS) leak protection. It also clearly marks all its non-P2P-supporting servers. In addition, it has a built-in firewall – known in the VPN industry as a “kill switch” – that will disconnect you from the internet should your VPN connection drop.
For those who want to be that bit more secure, Windscribe also offers a double hop option on its desktop application. This allows you to connect to a second location, thus masking your traffic even further. This can slow down your internet connection, but for those who want their digital footprint to be as light as possible, it’s worth it.
The Windscribe Website
Windscribe’s website is sleek and stylish with some neat graphics. Its landing page is well organized, and contains an introductory video, some dropdown features of the service, and links out to informative pages such as Pricing, Setup Guides, and Support.
The glaring fault in the website is its lack of a Features page. As a result, one has to spend considerable time clicking around the website in order to find this information – and even then, you feel like you’re not getting the whole picture. I consider a Features page a basic part of any VPN provider’s website, and strongly urge Windscribe to put one up.
Windscribe also has a blog that posts change logs and general information security articles. However, it has not been updated since May 2016.
Windscribe has three different support options: setup guides, an FAQ page, and tickets.
The setup guides provide instructions on how to set up Windscribe on practically every device and platform imaginable. From Linux, to Opera, to Windows Mobile, to uTorrent, to Synology NAS, you’ll be hard-pressed to not find what you’re looking for! Better yet, each setup page includes simple step-by-step instructions accompanied by screenshots.
The FAQ page is also incredibly helpful. It covers basic questions, as well as with more high-tech queries. I was impressed by the transparency; Windscribe honestly answered if its service would make someone 100% anonymous online (no, it wouldn’t) as well as revealing the exact type of encryption used. Plenty of VPN providers falsely claim to provide complete anonymity online, or refuse to divulge what type of encryption their VPN clients use, so we have to give props to Windscribe!
If you still haven’t found the answer to your question after going through the setup guides and FAQ page, you can always send a ticket to the Windscribe support team. However, this service is only available for registered users. You have to enter your Windscribe username before you can submit a ticket.
For the purpose of this Windscribe review, I signed up for and tested out its free service. While more limited than a paid plan, it is the free service which Windscribe heavily advertises across social media – often calling it the best free VPN out there – so I wanted to see if it lived up to the hype.
Signing up for Windscribe was incredibly easy. You’re first prompted to choose to sign up for either the Free or the Unlimited plan. After clicking on Free, I was prompted to create a username and password. Adding an email to the account was optional, which is great for users who want to be that little bit more private online.
After entering this basic information, you are immediately taken to the user portal, where you can view stats such as account status and bandwidth usage, as well as find the download buttons for the Windscribe VPN software.
Windscribe on Windows VPN Client
I tested out the Windscribe Windows client on my Windows 10 laptop. The download and installation itself happened in a snap, with the Windscribe VPN client launching seconds after download. After logging in, I was presented with this simple client:
The VPN is very sleek, simple, and easy to navigate. Its appearance and intuitive use makes it ideal for beginners to the world of VPNs. This shouldn’t deter more advanced users from trying it, however. As simple as it looks, it’s still a secure VPN.
As you can see in the image above, on the main section of the client you can toggle the VPN on or off, change server location, and activate the firewall (or kill switch, as it’s also known).
By clicking on the burger menu, you can access Support, Preferences, and Account details.
The Preferences section is where you can really see the inner workings of the VPN. The General tab lets you do things such as launch on startup, auto-connect to recently used locations, show notifications, and set language.
The Connection tab is where you manage the VPN firewall. The Proxy tab is for more experienced users – it lets you configure your network LAN proxy, if you have one.
Lastly, the Debug tab lets you do things such as disable IPv6 and view logs.
All in all, I was quite happy with the Windscribe VPN client. Beginner or casual VPN users will be sure to appreciate its ease of use. More experienced users, meanwhile, will not be let down by features such as a nice array of servers and customizable configuration options.
The Windscribe Chrome Extension
After you initially download the desktop client, Windscribe will prompt you to install an additional browser extension. A graphic accompanying this prompt explains that a browser extension gives you the added privacy perks of an ad and tracker blocker, as well as a secure link generator. These two features work together to bring awareness to and protect you from websites that track you around the web.
I decided to test out the Chrome extension. You can install it via the Chrome Web Store. Once installed, the icon will appear in the upper right corner. You can log in using the same username and password that you use for the desktop version of Windscribe.
The Windscribe Chrome extension looks incredibly similar to its desktop counterpart. You can easily toggle the VPN on or off, see which location you’re connected to, and generate secure links. Location can be changed by switching ‘Cruise control’ to whichever country you wish. Its country list is the exact same as on desktop, so you’re relatively spoilt for choice.
I think that the Windscribe browser extensions are a nice addition that complement the Windscribe desktop VPNs. While the majority of Windscribe users will be more than satisfied with the desktop client alone, the browser extensions give a nice added layer of security to more privacy-conscious consumers.
Windscribe Performance (Speed, DNS, WebRTC, and IPv6 Tests)
The graphs show the highest, lowest, and average speeds for each server and location. See our full speed test explanation for more detail.
As you can see in the above graphs, the Windscribe speed test delivered mixed – but mostly disappointing – results. I wanted to test the UK server speed, but while I could connect, speeds were so slow that it took minutes to load a single page. I tried to test it three times over the course of two days in two different locations. The result was always the same. As such, I ultimately decided to exclude it from the European part of the graph and tested the speeds of the French and Dutch servers instead. These were significantly faster. The Netherlands server was by far the fastest of the bunch, though it was still not consistent. The US server speeds were also acceptable.
While the speed test was less than stellar, the good news is that I didn’t detect any DNS leaks during the speed tests for this Windscribe review. You can use ipleak.net to check for both DNS and Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) leaks for yourself, while test-ipv6.com will detect any vulnerability to IPv6 leaks. doileak.net, meanwhile, is a mix of all the aforementioned tests. At BestVPN.com we strongly recommend that you run these tests every so often to make sure that your VPN is in working order.
Besides Windows, Windscribe VPN is available on just about every platform you can think of. The Windscribe client is supported on the following:
- Computers: Windows, Mac, and Linux Ubuntu
- Browsers: Chrome, Firefox, and Opera
- Mobile phones: iPhone, Android, and Windows Mobile
- Routers: DD-WRT, Tomato, and Asus
- NAS: Synology and QNAP
- Torrent clients: uTorrent, Deluge, qBitorrent, and VUZE
This doesn’t even mention the smart TVs and other types of devices that you can configure to the VPN via a router or computer. As such, you’ll be hard-pressed to come up with a device that you can’t connect to Windscribe!
Windscribe on Mobile
As I mentioned above, Windscribe is available on three different types of smartphones: iPhone, Android, and Windows Mobile. While just about every VPN provider offers the first two, the third one is more of a rarity, so props to Windscribe for making its VPN compatible with Windows Mobile!
You can download Windscribe VPN for iOS in the Apple App Store, and for Android in Google Play. Windows Mobile doesn’t have an easy download option, unfortunately – you’ll have to manually set it up using the setup guide on the Windscribe website.
Windscribe mobile works and appears similarly to its desktop counterpart. With the iOS and Android versions, once you launch the App you’ll be prompted to log in. From there, you just need to tap the large On/Off button to start the VPN, and choose your desired server.
Windscribe Review: Conclusion
- Great customer support
- Strong encryption
- Plenty of servers to choose from
- Additional features on browser extensions
- Available on just about every platform out there
- Free VPN option
- Lots of payment options
- 46 server locations (Unlimited Plan only)
I wasn’t so sure about:
- Website could be better organized
- Based in Canada
- No live chat
- No account sharing
- Speed greatly fluctuates depending on server location
- UK server was so slow it was unusable at time of testing
Let’s recap this Windscribe VPN, shall we?
Windscribe is a Canadian VPN provider whose great features include a long list of server locations, good customer service, and compatibility with just about every device and operating system out there. It is available in both paid and free versions, though the free version is quite restricted in terms of features and bandwidth. That said, as it’s only $3.75 per month for an annual plan, it doesn’t cost much at all to spring for the full-featured paid version of this VPN service.
While I was impressed by many aspects and features of Windscribe, and think that many of our readers will be, too, its greatly fluctuating speeds (depending on server location) may be a deal-breaker for some. As such, I’d recommend interested users give the free version a try to see if the servers they’re after are usable before they shell out for a paid subscription.