More people are growing concerned about data security and their privacy over the Internet and for a good reason. According to a report by the University of Maryland, hackers attack every 39 seconds. Many of these cybersecurity threats are ransomware attacks that, on average, can cost victims $1,077. A good VPN (Virtual Private Network) service can help keep you safe from such threats, but what if you don't want to spend any money in the process? Well, that's where a free VPN for PC comes in.
Why Use a VPN?
Free or not, it's essential to have a good understanding of how a VPN service can help keep you safe on the Internet. Only then can you decide whether it's worth spending any amount of cash, time, and energy.
Simply put, VPNs can help keep users safe from hackers and other cybersecurity threats by keeping one's online activities anonymous. It accomplishes this by encrypting all data coming in and out of your PC. The VPN server acts as a “middleman” between the user and target server (website or app that you're using). As a result, personal information such as your IP address, Google searches, and social media activities are kept hidden from third parties, including the government and your ISP (Internet Service Provider).
For more on VPNs, read: What’s the Difference Between a VPN and Proxy?
What Makes a Good Free VPN for PC?
Of course, not just any VPN will do, and when it comes to free ones, you need to be extra careful. The truth is that instead of protecting your personal information on the Internet, most free VPNs on the market do quite the complete opposite. Most free VPNs collect your personal information and sell them to the highest bidder (usually to marketers).
Think about it — running a VPN network doesn't come cheap, and you should be wary of anyone that claims to offer such services for free. Think of the overhead expenses that VPN companies need to deal with such as the cost of hardware, electricity, and staff wages.
So are we saying that there's no such thing as a free VPN for PC? Not at all and, as you'll soon learn, there are a few reputable VPN services out there that you can use for free (with limitations, of course).
That said, it's essential to set the right expectation on the matter, and good VPN servers cost a significant amount of money to run. This is why all the free VPN services we'll recommend later on are more like limited paid accounts that enable users to try out VPNs. These free VPNs will have certain restrictions such as limited bandwidth, slow speeds, limited server options, etc. unless you upgrade to a paid account.
For more on Free VPNs read: Free VPNs Sell Your Data. Here’s How.
Before we get into some free VPN recommendations, let's go over some of the qualities that you would want to look out for:
Solid Encryption Protocols
To protect against hackers, VPNs employ various types of data encryption protocols to secure the exchange of information from PC to the VPN server. AES 256 is widely regarded as the strongest of these encryption protocols and has become the gold standard for VPNs as it's practically unbreakable. It is no wonder then that governments, militaries, and major financial institutions use the same data encryption protocol.
Decent Server Performance
A drop in server speed is to be expected when you're using a VPN. After all, you're practically routing and encrypting all information coming in and out of your device through a middle man (the VPN server).
While you can't expect a free VPN to be blazingly fast, speeds must be usable at the very least. Most users will just stop using a VPN if it means that they have to wait a long time for webpages to load.
Know that some VPN services limit servers speed for free accounts. While that's a reasonable arrangement, you should be wary of those that promise a faster experience once you upgrade to a paid account. In this case, it would be prudent to choose a VPN service that offers a money-back guarantee in case the service does not perform as expected.
Passes DNS (Domain Name System) Leak Test
Perhaps the most crucial factor to consider when choosing a free VPN for a PC is whether or not it passes what's called a DNS Leak Test. A DNS Leak would imply that a VPN service isn't working, and your personal information is still accessible by third parties over the Internet.
To check for DNS Leaks, you can use websites like https://www.dnsleaktest.com/ with the VPN service turned on. Click on either “Standard test” or “Extended Test” (slower but much more thorough) to start the test. If the results show your real IP address, location, and ISP, then that would indicate a DNS leak and that your VPN service isn't doing a good job of hiding your personal information online.
Good Customer Support
Similar to server speeds, you can't expect excellent customer support with a free VPN service. That said, there are still VPN companies that offer email support should you run into any technical problems in the future.
Note that many free VPN services offer customer support as a perk for upgrading to a paid account. Again, that arrangement is reasonable, but you would want to make sure that there's a money-back guarantee in case it doesn't work out.
No Logs Policy
Free or not, you would want to use a VPN service that has a strict no-logs policy. This means that they keep no records of your activities online, which is vital for Internet privacy.
Don't just take their word for it though, it’s best to do some research. Has the free VPN service been suspected of keeping logs of their user's information and turning them over to a third-party? If so, then their users aren't genuinely anonymous, and you should take your business somewhere else.
Best Free VPNs for PC
At this point, you should now have a good idea of what to look out for when choosing a free VPN. If you're still unsure as to what VPN service to use, then you might want to consider our recommendations below:
|Hotspot Shield||Tunnel Bear||Windscribe||Assguard|
|Voice call-friendly connection speed||✅||✅||✅||✅|
|Number of countries||70+||23||63+||50+|
|24/7 Customer support||Premium Accounts Only||Support Ticket||Support Ticket||Yes|
|No of devices||5||5||Unlimited||6|
|Supports chain VPN connections||No||No||Yes (Double Hop)||Yes (Double Hop)|
How to Set Up a VPN on Your PC
So how do you get a VPN running on your PC? What you'll be looking at will differ depending on which VPN service you choose, but the steps are relatively similar. For this example, we'll be referencing TunnelBear VPN:
- Download the VPN client for your PC
Log on to the website of your chosen free VPN service and download the VPN client Installer for your device. You will usually find the option under the “Downloads” page.
- Install the VPN service on your PC
Run the installer you've downloaded on your computer. Install the VPN client as you would with any application.
- Sign up for an account and log on to the free VPN service
After completing the installation process, the VPN Client should run automatically. If not, you should find a shortcut for it on your desktop. From here, you will be asked to create a free account by keying in your email address and creating a password. You may be asked to confirm your email address before you can start using the VPN service.
If you already have an account, look for a “log in” option — key in your username and password.
- Turn on the VPN Connection
At this point, you should see the dashboard of your chosen VPN service. The next step is to turn on the VPN connection. In most cases, this can be as simple as clicking on a button or an on/off toggle switch.
If the UI features a map, clicking on a designated location automatically establishes a connection with a VPN server in that area.
- Confirm that the VPN service is now working and securing your Internet connection
The VPN client will prompt you that the VPN service is now turned on and securing your connection. This is also a good time to do a DNS Leak Test and verify that the VPN service is indeed working and hiding your personal information online.
Just follow the steps in: Is My VPN Working? How To Test Your VPN.
Once you're done, don't forget to turn off the VPN service. Most free ones limit the amount of bandwidth on free accounts. In the case of TunnelBear, free accounts are limited to 500 MB of data per month.
So there you have it — all that you need to know about getting some of the best free VPN services for PC in 2020. Cybersecurity threats are on the rise, and people have good reason to worry about privacy and data security over the Internet. The good news is that you can start using a VPN today to protect yourself against these threats without spending any amount of money.
Of course, if you're serious about keeping all of your activities anonymous on the Internet, then you should consider investing in a premium VPN service. As you may have already realized, there's only so much that you do even with the best free VPN services on the Internet.
For more, read The Best VPN for PC in 2020.