How to choose a free VPN: 5 must-ask questions

How to choose a free VPN: 5 must-ask questions

Article powered by Windscribe VPN.

The last 12 months have witnessed the rise of global threats to individual privacy with long maintained rights to anonymity and net neutrality being undermined with a cloak of legitimacy.

While VPN – virtual private networks – are not the panacea to being safe, secure and private on the internet, it is an essential component of the arsenal for individuals inclined to seek these liberties.

If you don’t have a VPN service yet, you can grab one for free, without having to pay a single penny for one. Just be careful though as not all free VPN services are created equal and some might even compromise your security.

Here are five questions you need to ask yourself before you download and install one.

1. What is its business model? VPN providers are in for the money and running such a service does cost a lot especially if it is a popular one. Some, like Windscribe, will use free, just like Dropbox, as a marketing tool to entice potential customers to move to a paid version once they are happy with the free one. Most however will sell user data or provide a service to third party that will, again, compromise your privacy. 

2. How does it protect my PC? Most VPN services usually use a desktop application that runs in the background encrypting your data while you surf the web. However, that’s only solves part of the problem. Your laptop can still be fingerprinted because of the permissiveness of tracking solutions that can be found on almost all websites online. A few, including WIndscribe, have a more holistic approach by integrating the equivalent of a super ad-blocker. 

3. What do I lose by going free? Usually one can expect a free product to have some corners cut and that is indeed the case for all VPN providers. Take Windscribe: you get 10GB of bandwidth per month, eight major locations plus ad blocking, P2P and firewall, the same key features you find on our paid for offer. If you want to upgrade, for a mere 12.5 cents a day (that’s $45 a year), you get all of the aforementioned features plus unlimited bandwidth with 45 locations and OpenVPN Configs. (NB: You will need to use that special Techradar/Windscribe link to get that deal, which is 50% cheaper than on our site). 

4. Does your provider log anything? Make sure that your provider doesn’t store users’ internet activity. You can usually check that in the terms and conditions page or the end user license agreement, commonly known as EULA. Sadly, a lot of VPN providers prefer to frustrate end users with long T&Cs or privacy statements that often hide significant details about how they operate. On the other end of the spectrum are VPN services that will erase everything after your session closes and don’t keep logs. 

5. Can I sign up completely anonymously? Having a VPN provider that you can subscribe to without an email address and one that accepts Bitcoin payments, for maximum privacy, is pretty much the best you can expect online.  Some services also offer double hopping where you can obfuscate your traffic further by essentially doubling down on privacy. 

Why not try Windscribe for free? It provides you with all of the above and while they can’t promise that they will keep you safe from the KGB or the CIA, they will do their best to make your browsing experience as seamless and as private as theirs. All for zilch. 

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