ProtonVPN’s free tier is certainly an affordable way to secure your online world, as long as you live close to one of its server locations and don’t expect superfast speeds. Of all the free VPN services we’ve reviewed, it comes the closest to a full-fledged paid unlimited service.
To keep our users safe, we only use trusted and vetted VPN protocols. Our Windows client and Linux command line tool are built on the OpenVPN protocol, while our Android, iOS, and macOS apps use the IKEv2/IPSec protocol. All of our apps employ AES 256-bit encryption, 4096-bit RSA key exchange, HMAC SHA384 message authentication, and Perfect Forward Secrecy. Perfect Forward Secrecy is a critical security component of encrypted communication. It refers to a set of operations that govern how your encryption keys are generated.
Secure server network (Secure Core)
This means that even if an attacker somehow gets one of your keys, they can only use it to access data from that specific VPN session. The data in the rest of your sessions would remain safe since different unique keys protect them.
Also, they are probably in locations that aren’t problematic for torrents. In the US, many data centers will ban VPN providers for copyright infringement issues (i.e. when VPN users torrent copyrighted material). So some VPN providers designate P2P servers in locations where this isn’t a problem.
In other words, you’re free to use as much data as you want every month. There are, naturally enough, limitations for the free plan to incentivize upgrading to the paid offering. And ProtonVPN Free’s restrictions include limiting you to only one device, only three locations, and free users get a lower priority when it comes to speed compared to paying subscribers. But if you can live with that, this is an impressive provider with a strict no logging policy, and you can sign up with nothing more than your email address. There aren’t even any ads on the website, let alone the client.
When you use a VPN, you are essentially trusting that company with all of your Internet traffic. This access to your data means you should know exactly who is running the service. ProtonVPN is one of the only VPN companies that is completely transparent about who runs the service.
What is Secure Core?
It also means that your session key will remain secure even if your VPN’s private key is exposed. But the network speed is slower than with the paid service, and you’re allowed to connect only to ProtonVPN servers in Japan, the Netherlands and the U.S. Whichever account you choose, the ProtonVPN network and apps do a good job of protecting you online. Our tests showed all ProtonVPN servers were in the locations promised, and the apps correctly shielded our identity by blocking DNS and WebRTC leaks.
I’m not certain if ProtonVPN is blocking P2P traffic on non-P2P servers, that would be a question for their support department. We started ProtonVPN to make sure that activists, dissidents, and journalists have secure and private access to the Internet.
You will only have access to servers in three countries, on one device, and your speeds will be reduced. You will also be protected by ProtonVPN’s impressive security features.
- If you’re keen on the service and would like to upgrade later, there are several paid options.
The free plan boasts full access to those servers (just as with the subscription options), the only restriction of the free offering being that you’re limited in the amount of data you can download. Free users get 5GB of data each month, but that drops to 1GB during subsequent months. That’s not a huge allowance, and certainly not as much as some other rivals you’ll see elsewhere on this page, but it’s more than some, and still enough for covering some basic surfing and email duties. And this provider is definitely worth a look on the performance front, as during our testing, the aforementioned speed-granting technologies did actually prove themselves to have a positive effect. All that will happen when your seven days are up is that you’ll lose access to ProtonVPN’s Plus plan features.
ProtonVPN logs policy
Is ProtonVPN free Safe?
ProtonVPN unblocks almost everything, and its well-designed apps are now open source and independently audited. We’ve had speed issues with the service and support is a little slow, but overall, this is a decent service, and we have to applaud any VPN which offers a free, unlimited bandwidth plan.
ProtonVPN is developed by the team that created ProtonMail, and we have a long track record of working on security, privacy, and open source software. Unfortunately, there are a handful of features that are limited to paid users, such as ProtonVPN’s Secure Core servers, which increase privacy by routing traffic through multiple VPN servers. ProtonVPN Free also lacks servers optimized for use with Tor. While ProtonVPN is safe and secure enough for P2P, it doesn’t support torrenting on any of its free VPN servers – this is a feature reserved exclusively for paid subscribers (Basic, Plus and Visionary plans). While ProtonVPN’s speeds on nearby servers are sufficient for streaming and torrenting, these services aren’t supported on the free apps.
I gave ProtonVPN a try with the free plan and it wasn’t too bad. Assuming the Plus plan would be even better, I decided to pay for an account. It doesn’t matter if you are using Secure Cor or the regular servers, speeds are slow, not happy with performance. SurfEasy is a Canadian-based free VPN from the same organization responsible for the Opera web browser, and indeed it’s bundled within Opera. There are both paid and free offerings, with the latter not restricting the amount of devices you can use – free users can hook up a maximum of five devices simultaneously, just like paid subscribers.
If you’re keen on the service and would like to upgrade later, there are several paid options. ProtonVPN Basic gives access to 29 countries and 325 servers, supports P2P in some locations and delivers the best possible speeds, all for a very reasonable $5.20 (£4) a month billed annually. It costs money to run VPN servers, develop applications, and provide customer support, which means that VPN services need to bring in revenue, one way or another. Free VPNs typically do this by abusing your privacy and selling your data to advertisers. ProtonVPN is another provider that offers a free VPN alongside a paid option, but the former has some very strong points, the most notable of which is that it doesn’t impose any bandwidth restrictions.
Cons of ProtonVPN
The main reason ProtonVPN provides a free plan is that it is run by the same team of scientists who created ProtonMail, the world’s largest secure email service, and the free VPN service is paid for by ProtonMail. ProtonVPN’s mission is to ensure that even in countries with strong censorship, ProtonMail will remain accessible. This unique reason is why ProtonVPN is provided for free without bandwidth limits, and without the need to generate revenue from free users. Based in Switzerland, ProtonVPN is theoretically out of the reach of U.S. and European Union law-enforcement agencies, although Switzerland is a member of Interpol. The company’s “Secure Core” servers — its inner ring — are based in Switzerland, Sweden and Iceland, all of which have strong privacy laws; it’s too bad users of the free service can’t access them.
Is ProtonVPN any good?
ProtonVPN’s secure core is slower than other servers, but that’s understandable with the added distance and encryption. Overall the performance was good. Lastly, ProtonVPN also offers Tor-over-VPN servers. I did test these servers for the review, simply because I knew they would be slow (due to the slow Tor network).
You also get 1,000 servers across 25 countries, and a very user-friendly Windows PC client. Performance is solid enough, although we found that some longer distance trips to more remote servers (i.e. the US) could be rather sluggish. Speaking of clients, there are a good range of these – with native software for Windows PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, plus Android – and we found performance levels were pretty solid too. However, speeds may drop at peak times when lots of users are around and paying folks get priority; at which point you may be tempted to upgrade to a paid plan. But clearly, with its unlimited data allowance, this is one freebie which is well worth considering.
Hi Peter, no you don’t have to worry about any leaks, you’ll be secure. I think the P2P servers are optimized for high bandwidth transfer and therefore are ideal for P2P downloads.