Users are signing up in droves across the world to use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and it’s not difficult to see why. As governments block content and social media seemingly at will, ordinary consumers have to find a workaround. VPNs work by encrypting all the internet traffic to and from your device, meaning your browsing habits are out of reach from pesky surveillance agencies, ISPs and hackers.
When you use a VPN it appears to the host servers that you’re accessing the web from a place that may not be subjected to the same restrictions. It’s also a great choice to unlock geo-restricted content such as Hulu and Netflix. Approximately one out of every four internet users across the world use a VPN to enhance their experience.
If you’re still undecided whether the software is right for you, here are the best VPNs with a free trial. Our recommendations are based on the following factors:
- Speed and stability of service
- Strong encryption parameters
- Wide range of server locations
NordVPN is specifically designed to cater to a broad spectrum of users. It offers an option of selecting servers based on your specific purpose – whether it’s streaming HD video, privacy, anti-DDoS protection, or anonymity.
The company has been in the VPN business for over a decade and is headquartered in Panama – out of the jurisdiction of Western government agencies. It maintains a ‘zero-logs’ policy – meaning there’s no retention of user browsing data or the time and duration of their sessions. Torrenting is allowed.
There’s over 500 server locations spread across 58 countries. Most of them are located in North America, but you shouldn’t face any issues if trying to log in via a server in Europe or Asia. NordVPN uses OpenVPN over UDP as its default protocol and includes both DNS leak protection and an internet kill switch. It’s a particularly strong VPN when ascertained on the basis of encryption parameters alone.
Nord is a solid bet if your aim is to unlock geo-restricted content on Netflix or download torrents seamlessly as it offers both features. There’s support for Windows, Mac OS, Android, and iOS.
The company offers a free 3-day trial which gives you access to all its servers, to get access you need to request this from support here . All you have to do is click on the support bubble at the bottom right of the page, ask for the free trial and give them your email address and they will send you access details. In addition there’s also a 30-day money back guarantee, so even if you sign up with a credit card and cancel within the first month, the transaction will be reversed – effectively making it free.
Save 72%: If you decide to stay after the free trial our readers can save a huge 72% on NordVPN’s two year deal here.
Read our in-depth Nord VPN review here.
You know it’s an indicator of a sophisticated VPN if it’s able to evade China’s great firewall, and that’s exactly what VyprVPN does.
The company has a paid option of sophisticated Chameleon ™ technology which leverages OpenVPN 256-bit AES encryption. It also owns all of its global servers – unlike some other VPN services that also rent – giving it total control over user data.
VyprVPN does retain some information about its users – specifically the “source IP address, the VyprVPN IP address used by the user, connection start and stop time, and total number of bytes used” – but it’s headquartered in Switzerland which makes it very difficult for authorities to get their hands on it via court orders or injunctions.
Unfortunately it doesn’t permit torrenting on its servers but does circumvent the Netflix VPN ban with ease. Supported platforms are Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Android, and Linux.
VyprVPN does offer a 3-day free trial (this link also gives you 50% off your first month if you decide to stay after the trial) but you’ll have to sign up with a credit card and select one of their monthly/annual packages before availing the offer. If unsatisfied, you can cancel before the 3-day trial expires, effectively making it free.
Read our in-depth VyprVPN review here.
We last reviewed SaferVPN in 2015 and it seems the company has significantly upgraded its service since.
At the time it had a small cluster of about 100 servers – now it operates over 400 spread across 30 countries including North America, Thailand, Singapore, India, and South Africa.
Its website says it can unblock geo-restricted content on Netflix but it doesn’t permit torrenting.
SaferVPN uses the OpenVPN protocol by default as well as L2TP and PPTP as alternative options. All servers use 2048-bit encryption. It doesn’t retain user browsing logs, but does record things like the time of connection, your IP address as well as the IP address of the server that you eventually connect with. There’s a VPN kill switch included if the connection drops unexpectedly.
SaferVPN also offers a free 24-hour trial that can be activated without a credit card. In this trial period you get the same level of service as a paid subscriber – which means access to all servers and no caps on bandwidth or speed.
Supported platforms are Windows, Mac OS, Android, iOS, and a browser plugin for Chrome.
Read our full Safer VPN review here.
CactusVPN has fairly robust encryption parameters with support for SSTP, L2TP/IPSec, OpenVPN, SoftEther, and PPTP protocols. It’s based out of Moldova and accepts Bitcoin as payment – so users can take the extra step towards guaranteeing anonymity.
There’s also a strict “no usage logs” policy – all it does is retain data pertaining to your server of choice for a total of three days. The company says its for troubleshooting purposes.
Torrenting is permitted but users might be put off by the low number of servers – there’s only 16 spread across four countries. They are, however, optimized for speed so things like streaming HD video shouldn’t be an issue.
CactusVPN offers a free 24-hour trial with no questions asked, you can find it here. There’s no credit card required and the trial period gives you access to all VPN servers in the US, UK, Netherlands, Romania, France, Germany, and Canada. Support for all protocols is included: SSTP, L2TP/IPSec, OpenVPN, SoftEther and PPTP.
CactusVPN is compatible with Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS, and Android.
ExpressVPN is one of our highly-recommended VPNs and it’s not difficult to see why. It’s optimized for blazing-fast speed and incorporates strong encryption parameters guaranteeing anonymity, safety, and privacy.
It doesn’t store any user data except for dates (not times) when connected to the service, choice of server, and total bandwidth used.
The default encryption protocol is OpenVPN with 256-bit AES-CBC. There’s also a kill switch embedded which will bring all internet traffic to a screeching halt if the connection drops out of the blue.
ExpressVPN skirts the Netflix war on VPNs with ease and allows unlimited torrenting. It’s incorporated in the British Virgin Islands – and hence does not need to comply with any mandatory data retention laws. It also accepts Bitcoin as payment and operates a whopping 1,000+ servers spread across 94 countries.
There’s no free trial exactly, but ExpressVPN has a 30-day money back guarantee that gives you complete access to all its servers as well as unlimited bandwidth. Your account will be charged when you sign up, but you will get a full refund if you cancel within the 30-day period.
Deal alert: If you sign-up with this link you will receive 3 months extra free with the annual plan and the 30 day money-back guarantee still applies so you can cancel and effectively have it free for a month if you don’t want to stick with it.
Supported platforms are Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Android, and iOS.
Read our full review of Express VPN here.
There are some VPNs online that you can access without signing up via a credit card. They’re not hard to find and, theoretically, seem free to use. Our recommendation is to avoid such scams simply because such software will bombard you with invasive advertising and insert tracking cookies in order to mine your browsing data.
If you choose to use these free VPNs then you run a very serious risk of contracting a malware infection as well as a cluttered, troublesome browsing experience. There’s little choice of servers and things like speed and stability of connection are far from guaranteed.
Buyer’s guide to free VPN trials
It’s okay if you don’t want to try out the VPN providers we recommended above. But do evaluate any options you consider on the following factors:
How long will the trial last for?
Ideally you’d want to evaluate the software over at least 1-3 days of browsing to understand whether it’s meeting your needs. Does the VPN falter during peak times? Is it hard to connect to nearby servers? Does the connection drop frequently?
If the trial is only for a few hours then it’s almost impossible to get a sense of these various factors.
Does it require a credit card?
The best kind of trials are those that users can sign up for with only an email address and no other commitment. However, not all VPN providers are so magnanimous. At the same time, people can be wary of simply forking over sensitive information. If a free trial comes with zero strings attached, it’s usually an indicator that the company is confident that the product will live up to expectations.
If you do end up handing over your credit card details, make sure to read the fine print. Most will charge the card the minute your trial period expires. So if you’re not satisfied, and you forget to cancel, that’s a few dollars wasted for no good measure.
Is it giving you the full experience?
Some free trials will throttle things like bandwidth allocation and offer sharply reduced server choices. That’s actually self-defeating – if you’re not satisfied with the speed and connectivity in the initial trial period, then why would you opt for purchasing the software? Try to find those that give the unadulterated version up front.
Always read the terms and conditions
The last thing you want is to be subjected to a nasty surprise. Your credit card was charged because you went beserk downloading torrents during the free trial. Or you were subjected to a data cap and your free trial lasted for two hours instead of two days. Make sure you understand what you’re getting into before signing up. It’s possible your friendly VPN provider might have squeezed in some abhorrent penalties for minor infractions. They’ll be stated – usually at the bottom and nestled away in some legal mumbo jumbo – so don’t ignore them or give them a cursory glance.
History of VPNs
The history of virtual private network (VPN) tech harkens back to the mid-1990s when a Microsoft employee developed the peer-to-peer tunneling protocol (PPTP) – one of the earliest renditions of a modern day VPN.
The original intention of VPN networks was to secure large businesses and government organizations – they had large amounts of sensitive data which needed to be kept away from hackers and an open internet made this a tricky endeavor. At the same time employees needed to access this data, sometimes from remote locations, so the need to safeguard this data was felt acutely. Commercial applications of this tech came later when ordinary consumers wanted a way to access the internet safely, too.
VPNs help keep data private and secure. It works by encrypting all the internet traffic to and from your device, making it impossible to determine things like user location and browsing history, and safely out of the reach of surveillance agencies, hackers, and anyone else wishing to pry on your online behavior.
Why should you use a VPN?
The internet was designed to be a project with the aim of breaking down barriers to information and bringing the world closer together by greatly enhancing connectivity. Such utopian ideals are increasingly threatened by a tilt towards censorship and the blitz against net neutrality.
Using a VPN mitigates these risks to a considerable degree. Your private data isn’t available for sale to the highest bidder – a trait that’s helping search engines and social networks earn billions in advertising revenue – and neither is it possible for government agencies or hackers to snoop on what you do online.
And it’s clear netizens are catching on. Usage rates for VPNs is surging across the world – with estimates suggesting that 16 percent of US adults use the software to browse the web. Adoption rates are even higher in other parts of the globe: 41 percent of internet users in Indonesia use VPN software, along with 39 percent in Thailand and 36 percent in Turkey.
Trends indicate that government restrictions on content and access to social media platforms don’t necessarily discourage users from logging on. Such people simply turn to VPNs so they can continue to enjoy a holistic experience. Troubling revelations from Edward Snowden and Wikileaks have brought the issues of online privacy and security into the mainstream – with users slowly starting to understand that the fundamental freedom of the internet is well and truly under threat.