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Windscribe VPN review 2021

Aimee O'Driscoll VPN AND CYBERSECURITY EXPERT

windscribe logoWindscribe VPN is a Canadian-based VPN provider operating from the province of Ontario. It’s not the most prominent VPN provider out there, but Windscribe seems to be very appreciated by its users. Of course, every VPN provider will tout itself as private, secure, and convenient, but there’s often a gulf between marketing and reality. So, does Windscribe practice what it preaches?

In testing out Windscribe’s service, I wanted to answer the following questions:

  • How good or bad are Windscribe’s speeds?
  • Is Windscribe secure and private?
  • Does Windscribe work with Netflix and other streaming services?
  • How is Windscribe’s customer service?
  • Does the service work in China?

All of the above questions and more are answered in this review. If time is at a premium for you right now, read my summary below for a quick overview.

You can read more on the criteria I used to test Windscribe and our broader VPN testing methodology here.

Windscribe summary

Windscribe VPN is one of the smaller commercial VPN providers. It’s based in Ontario, Canada, and it manages to focus on privacy, as a serious VPN provider should, while remaining intuitive, easy to use, and affordable.

Windscribe provides a strong feature-set for both privacy and convenience. It takes a strong stance on user privacy and puts forth a robust no-logging policy. The service supports split tunneling and port forwarding (which can be handy for torrenting and hosting servers). It supports only secure VPN protocols and also provides an adblocker.

Windscribe also offers a free plan, which gives you ten servers to choose from and a maximum bandwidth of 10GB. That’s very generous, in my view. The free subscription supports all of the same features as the paid plans – except for the limited number of servers. Good stuff.

I came away with a good impression of Windscribe and would happily recommend the service.

Windscribe key data

OVERALL RANK:  #26 of 45 VPNs
Speed
Score: 7/10
Average Speed*: 55 Mbps
Video Streaming Support: 4K UHD
Streaming
Score: 4/10
Netflix: Yes
Other Streaming Services: No
Security
Score: 8/10
Encryption Type: 256-bit AES/ChaCha20
Kill Switch: Yes
Log Policy: No-logging
Protocols: OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard
Value for Money
Score: 6/10
Lowest Monthly Cost: $4.08
Money Back Guarantee: 3-day money-back guarantee
Websitehttps://windscribe.com

How does Windscribe compare to other popular VPNs?

WindscribeNordVPNSurfshark
Average Speed55 Mbps115 Mbps71 Mbps
Encryption typeType of encryption e.g. 256 AES256-bit AES/ChaCha20256-bit AES256-bit AES
Kill Switch
Allows Torrenting
Records identifying logs
Unblocks Netflix US
Unblocks Amazon Prime
Unblocks Hulu
Unblocks BBC iPlayer
Lowest cost per month$4.08 per month$3.30 per month$2.49 per month
Money back guarantee3 days30 days30 days
Overall rating6.89.79.6

Windscribe pros and cons

Pros:

  • Strong encryption
  • Good speeds
  • Only supports secure VPN protocols
  • Well-designed native applications
  • Strict no-logging policy
  • Generous free plan
  • Clear privacy policy
  • VPN kill switch
  • Multiple Server Hops
  • No limit on simultaneous connections
  • Ads & Tracker Blocker (R.O.B.E.R.T.)

Cons:

  • It doesn’t unblock all streaming sites
  • Split tunneling only supported in macOS and Windows
  • Adblocking can only be enabled/disabled from the Windscribe website rather than in-app

Speed: How fast is Windscribe?

Windscribe - Speed Test

In conducting my speed tests over Windscribe’s network, I found that it performed quite well and provided decent speeds. I’ve seen better, but I’ve also seen much, much worse. I’d call Windscribe’s speeds decent. Across all times and locations tested, Windscribe scored an average of 55 Mbps.

I tested servers spanning locations in North America, Asia, and Europe. And while the further away the server is, the bigger the speed hit will be, I would still say that unless you have an extremely high-speed base connection, you shouldn’t feel too much of a speed dip as you go about your business on the internet.

Here are the average speeds for the servers I tested in each region:

  • North America (where I am located): 77 Mbps
  • Asia: 41 Mbps
  • Europe: 48 Mbps

I performed my tests using the WireGuard protocol, which is likely to become the next go-to VPN protocol, as it’s lightweight, secure, and reportedly faster than the other protocols. Windscribe supports OpenVPN, IKEv2, and WireGuard – all of which are deemed very secure.

I also tested Windscribe for online gaming, and everything was fast and smooth. Ping times are critical when gaming online, so I made sure to connect to a nearby server. Again, no complaints. I couldn’t even tell I was using a VPN. I didn’t experience any freeze-ups or any disconnects.

Apps & Devices

Windscribe - Supported Devices

Windscribe supports a wide range of devices and platforms. It provides native apps for:

  • macOS
  • Windows
  • iOS
  • Android
  • FireTV
  • Nvidia Shield
  • KODI

It also supports Linux, though there’s no native app for Linux. You need to configure your connection using the Network Manager manually. Windscribe also offers Chrome, Firefox, Opera Browser Extensions. That’s a lot of coverage.

The browser extensions provide the following features (some features of the browser extensions overlap with the VPN’s features):

  • Multihop connections
  • Adblocking (R.O.B.E.R.T.)
  • Changes your timezone to that of the VPN server
  • Tracks and deletes cookies
  • User-agent randomization
  • Location spoofing
  • Blocks WebRTC

Those are valuable features. Just be aware that a browser extension only protects your browser’s traffic, as opposed to a VPN proper, which protects your entire device’s traffic, regardless of the app generating the traffic.

The desktop app is well-designed in that most users, even new users, are likely to find their way around the app rather quickly – even though the UI is a bit busy.

Clicking the three horizontal lines at the top left of the app opens the Preferences menu.

General

Windscribe - App - General

This menu enables you to control the app’s behavior on boot & startup and to configure the app’s language and appearance.

Account

The Account menu displays information about your subscription and its expiry.

Connection

Windscribe - App - Connection

The connection menu is where you select the VPN protocol you want to use and the port number over which to use it. You can enable split tunneling from here and configure proxy settings (if your LAN network is configured to go through a proxy server). This is also where you can configure the app’s kill switch under Firewall Mode.

Share

Windscribe - App - Share

This is where you can enable features to share your VPN connection with other devices. Secure Hotspot will turn your device into a VPN WiFi hotspot, sharing the VPN connection with any connected devices.

Proxy Gateway creates a proxy server on your device that other devices with native proxy support can use to proxy their traffic over the Windscribe connection.

Debug

Windscribe - App - Debug

The Debug menu contains the app’s logs and enables you to adjust some more technical settings. If you don’t know what you’re doing in the Debug menu, I’d recommend not doing anything.

Routers

Windscribe - Routers

Windscribe also supports routers. It provides instructions on how to configure the following manually:

  • DD-WRT
  • Asus
  • Tomato

These are the usual suspects. Windscribe also sells a preconfigured Invizibox VPN router.

Having a VPN connection set up on a router has many benefits. The main advantage is that you can connect as many devices as you want to the router, and it will only count as a single device. That typically allows you to bypass your provider’s limit on simultaneous connections.

However, with Windscribe, there is no such limit. You can connect as many devices as you want at the same time. Still, with a VPN connection on your router, your devices don’t need an app to connect to the VPN, so a VPN router is an easy way to provide VPN access to devices that don’t natively support VPN connections like game consoles and smart TVs.

If you’re looking for more information on setting up a VPN connection on a router, have a look at our guide on VPN routers.

Streaming and Netflix

Windscribe doesn’t really mention streaming in its marketing. And that’s a good thing because the only streaming site I was able to access over Windscribe’s network was Netflix US. I couldn’t access any other Netflix libraries (I tried France and Germany as well, to no avail). Hulu didn’t work either, nor did Disney+. UK servers also weren’t able to grant me access to BBC iPlayer.

As you may well know, it can be challenging to access streaming services over a VPN. Although many VPN providers claim to provide access, it isn’t as clear-cut as that in practice. Streaming services can blacklist VPN server IP addresses because those IP addresses are public.

Nonetheless, some VPN providers – such as Windscribe – prefer to focus on a VPN’s core mission, which is privacy and security. That’s fine. But as streaming over VPN continues to gain popularity, we have an opportunity for improvement on Windscribe’s part here.

If you’re in the market for a good VPN provider for streaming, you can take a look at our recommended VPNs for streaming.

Torrenting

Windscribe supports torrenting on all of its servers. No hoops to jump through, no special servers. Just connect to the VPN, launch your torrent client and start torrenting. I tested torrenting over Windscribe’s network, and everything worked very well. My connection was quite fast, and I never lost my connection to my peers.

Windscribe also supports port forwarding on all of its paid plans. This is configured through Windscribe’s website. Port forwarding can be very useful if you seed content when torrenting.

That’s one way to torrent over Windscribe’s network, and it’s the way I would recommend. But Windscribe also provides a SOCKS5 proxy server that you can use for torrenting. Of course, this is less secure than using the VPN, but it may be faster. If you favor speed over security for your torrenting activities, you have the option of configuring your torrent client to use Windscribe’s SOCKS5 proxy server.

Have a look at our recommended VPNs for torrenting.

Does Windscribe support split-tunneling?

Windscribe - Split Tunneling

Yes, it does. But it only supports that feature in its macOS and Windows apps.

Split tunneling is a feature that is gaining a lot of traction these days. It enables you to direct your traffic either through the VPN gateway or through your regular ISP gateway on an app-by-app basis. So you can choose only to send your torrent traffic through the VPN while letting the rest go out of your ISP connection, for example. The number of scenarios split tunneling can accommodate are too many to list – it’s a very flexible feature.

To enable split tunneling in Windscribe’s macOS or Windows app, you need to go to the Settings menu and select Connection > Split Tunneling.

Windscribe - App - Split Tunneling

From there, you can choose to either include apps or exclude them. And you can also choose to include/exclude traffic by IP address or by hostname.

You can check out our recommended VPN for split tunneling.

Security, privacy, and logging

Because every single VPN provider out there will claim to be private and secure, it’s important to look at each one’s privacy policy to find out if this claim is fact or just marketing.

Looking through Windscribe’s privacy policy, we find the following:

Windscribe - Privacy Policy 1

So Windscribe tracks the total number of bytes within 30 days and the timestamp of the last active connection. This is used to manage their free accounts, which are limited to 10 GB.

It then goes on to state that it does not collect:

  • Records of your VPN sessions
  • Your source IP address
  • Your browsing history

So far, so good. Below that, we find this:

Windscribe - Privacy Policy 2

So when you’re actively connected to a VPN server (not sure what the difference is between “using the service” and being “actively connected to a server”), the following data is collected:

  • Your username
  • Connection timestamp
  • Amount of data transferred
  • The number of simultaneous connections

Windscribe states that anything not mentioned is not collected. This is pretty good.

I could do without the timestamps, but Windscribe does provide a generous free plan, and I can understand that it needs to keep tabs on how much bandwidth free users consume within 30 days. All in all, I find Windscribe’s privacy practices to be quite good.

Windscribe - Encryption

In terms of encryption, for OpenVPN and IKEv2, Windscribe uses:

  • 256-bit AES channel strong encryption
  • 4096-bit DHE-RSA keys
  • SHA512 hash authentication

WireGuard, however, uses more modern ciphers – still deemed very secure (if not more secure than AES):

  • ChaCha20
  • Curve25519
  • BLAKE2s
  • SipHash24
  • HKDF

Very good stuff.

Windscribe also provides an adblocker to its users. Its adblocker is called R.O.B.E.R.T. and the way it works is through DNS blackholing. What DNS blackholing does is check your DNS requests against a blocklist. If any of your requests match the blocklist, the connection is dropped (blackholed). And hence, you aren’t assaulted with all the annoying adverts that pop up all over the Web and your privacy is enhanced.

The only downside is that the adblocker needs to be enabled on your Windscribe account page rather than in-app. Still, it’s a great feature to have.

As far as IP address and DNS leaks are concerned, I wasn’t expecting any, and I didn’t experience any either.

IP Test – No VPN

Windscribe - IP Test - No VPN

IP Test – With VPN

Windscribe - IP Test - With VPN

DNS Test – No VPN

Windscribe - DNS Test - No VPN

DNS Test – With VPN

Windscribe - DNS Test - With VPN

Servers

In terms of network size, Windscribe is pretty much a middle-of-the-road provider. It has what I would call a medium-sized network. That is, Windscribe’s network provides access to over 480 server locations in over 63 countries.

I know that many VPN users enjoy having access to vast networks. And many VPN providers offer just that. In my case, I tend to prefer it when a provider has a smaller number of servers – it just feels to me that things are kept tidier in that case. But whatever your preference, I feel that Windscribe’s network size should accommodate the needs of most users out there.

Does Windscribe work in China?

I wasn’t able to find the answer to that on Windscribe’s website, so I contacted its Support department and asked them. The answer I got was that Windscribe should work from anywhere.

Windscribe - Support Chat - China

My colleague, Paul Bischoff, produced an in-depth article in which he tests over 50 VPN providers to see if they work in China. Windscribe is on the list, and most servers were up and working from China. Good stuff. If connecting from China is important for you, I recommend reading his full article.

How is Windscribe’s customer service?

There are three options in regards to support with Windscribe.

  • Support FAQ and knowledge base on its website
  • Support Ticketing system
  • Online chat with its Support bot, Garry

I tried the latter, and it was excellent. I posted my question, and Garry – Windscribe’s bot – answered me in under a minute. Granted, it was a simple question that I had asked, so perhaps more complex requests might not go as smoothly. But this is nonetheless very good support, so I can’t really say anything bad about it.

If you have more technical issues with Windscribe, I recommend using its Support ticketing system if you can’t find what you need in the FAQ or the knowledge base.

Pricing

Windscribe - Pricing

Windscribe takes an original approach with their subscription plans.

It offers three kinds of subscription:

  • 9.00 USD for one month of service
  • 49.00 USD for one year of service (works out to 4.08 USD per month)
  • 1 USD per active server on their ‘Build A Plan’ plan. With this plan, you choose the servers you want to have access to, and you build your custom plan at 1$ per server.

Windscribe also offers a free tier that gives you 10GB of data transfer per month and 10 VPN servers to choose from. You must supply an email address to get the full 10 GB. If you don’t, you only get two.

These prices are very good, to be honest. And the ‘Build A Plan’ option is original and convenient. I know that I, for one, only use a small subset of the VPN servers available through my provider.

A 3-day money-back guarantee backs all subscriptions. No, that isn’t a typo. The guarantee spans three days, not 30. This may be an area in which they could improve. Although one could argue that you can jump on the free option if you simply want to try Windscribe.

Do I recommend Windscribe?

Yes, I do. Windscribe is definitely worth a shot, particularly for the more privacy-focused users.

Windscribe only supports secure VPN protocols and uses strong encryption. Its privacy policy is clear, and its no-logging policy is robust. The service does collect some data, but it’s very minimal.

Its apps are well-designed, and all include a kill switch. Each subscription comes with features like an adblocker (R.O.B.E.R.T.) and multihop connections. On top of that, Windscribe places no limit on the number of simultaneous connections. All very good stuff.

The service does have a couple of downsides, though nothing major, in my book. The biggest downside is Windscribe’s streaming performance. While it did grant me access to Netflix US, that was the only streaming service and library that worked. So if streaming is important to you, Windscribe might not be your best choice. The other downside we found is that split tunneling is only supported on macOS and Windows, not on mobile.

Still, if you’re more of a security-minded VPN user, Windscribe is an excellent choice, and I don’t hesitate to recommend it. It’s a very good VPN service.

Windscribe alternatives

NordVPN

NordVPN is a very well-known Panama-based VPN service. It provides many features for security, privacy, and convenience. Ad-blocking, DNS leak protection, robust encryption, and a VPN kill switch cover you on the security front. A strict no-logging policy, a thoughtful Privacy Policy, and anonymous payments have your back for privacy. And dedicated P2P servers, native apps for every major platform, and up to six simultaneous connections (or more with a VPN router) make NordVPN a very user-friendly service.

ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is one of the larger players in the commercial VPN market and benefits from an excellent reputation. Its privacy and security practices are extremely good. All of the VPN servers run from volatile memory (RAM) and are booted from read-only disks. This setup essentially guarantees that no remnant data (logs) can exist on the system’s hard drives, which is great for user privacy. ExpressVPN is a little more expensive than most providers out there, but it’s fast, secure, unblocks streaming sites, and works in China.

Surfshark

Surfshark is another provider worth looking at. I believe it to be the cheapest VPN service I’ve seen, with subscriptions starting at only $1.99/month. Surfashark only supports secure protocols and works with streaming services. It adheres to its strict no-logging policy and works in China. Surfshark also allows unlimited simultaneous connections and has recently upgraded its servers to run from RAM. Surfshark is definitely worth checking out.

Methodology used for testing

Below you’ll find the criteria used to assess the VPNs we review. It’s essential to be consistent across the board so that our reviews are reasonably objective and that we’re not comparing apples to oranges. For that reason, we want to publicize our criteria.

Speed

Speed is one of the most crucial factors for any VPN. Aside from being annoying, slow speeds can prevent you from streaming or even browsing the web. To be sure that we address this issue, all of our recommended VPNs scored very high in our most recent speed tests.

Apps & ease of use

More people than ever are using VPNs today and for more varied reasons than ever too. So app design and ease-of-use are more critical than ever. We look at the client apps’ UI, the features they provide, the supported operating systems, and their complexity.

Streaming services

It isn’t always easy to access streaming sites over VPN. But many VPN providers claim to work on streaming sites – with varying degrees of success. Before recommending a VPN provider for streaming, we test VPNs against various popular streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, Disney+, Hulu, and more.

Torrenting

Many VPN users are avid file-sharers as well. But not all VPN providers allow torrenting over their network, while others go as far as providing dedicated P2P servers. We look at each VPN’s policy around torrenting and run tests on those to see how well they handle file-sharing.

Security & privacy

This is why VPNs exist in the first place. We ask the important questions, like: What is the provider’s privacy policy like? What is its logging policy? What encryption protocols does the VPN support? Does it use robust ciphers? Does it support Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS)? Is it vulnerable to IP or DNS leaks? These are all crucial questions, and we provide answers to all of them when assessing VPNs’ privacy and security practices.

The above represents a high-level view of our methodology. If you’d like more details, have a look at our full VPN testing methodology. This data-driven approach helps us better understand the services to recommend the right VPN to the right users.