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Best Free VPNs for 2021: ProtonVPN, Hotspot Shield, and More

If you’re trying to keep your information and internet habits confidential or get around a Netflix geoblock, setting up a Virtual Private Network (VPN) can help shield your data from prying eyes. You don’t have to pay for it, either. Our favorite free VPN is ProtonVPN, and we like it for its strong commitment to privacy and security, plus its easy-to-use client. The free version doesn’t have the best server selection, though, which is why we also recommend a number of other free VPNs.

With cybercriminals becoming bolder every day and advertisers paying your Internet Service Provider (ISP) for your personal information, it has never been more critical to ensure that your web browsing habits are kept private. These are the best free VPNs you can download right now

ProtonVPN

  • Country of registration: Switzerland
  • Cost: FREE, or $4 per month; $48 per year for Basic; $96 per year for Plus
  • Number of servers & locations: 1,255, 55 countries
  • Clients supported: Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS, Android
  • Number of simultaneous connections: One with a free subscription

Unlike many free VPN services on the market, ProtonVPN has no monthly limits on the amount of data that you can use. In addition, you can set up a ProtonVPN client on your iOS or Android smartphone or your Linux, Mac, or Windows PC. There are no logins required; you can use an email address to sign up and get started; and there are no ads that are constantly bugging you to upgrade your plan.

However, there are some notable disadvantages when it comes to using this service. Users are only permitted to use it on one device. People who use the free version also receive less speedy connections than those with a paid plan, and there is no person-to-person support offered, either.

Those limitations aside, ProtonVPN is an extremely strong, security-minded VPN service that can act as a permanent tool in your privacy arsenal, whether you pay for it or not.

PrivadoVPN

  • Country of registration: Switzerland
  • Cost: Free OR $8 per month; $60 for the first year
  • Number of servers & locations: 517 servers, 58 locations across 47 countries
  • Clients supported: Windows, MacOS, Fire TV Stick, iOS, Android
  • Number of simultaneous connections: One with a free subscription
  • Special features: P2P transfers, SOCKS5 proxy support

If you want to take advantage of a VPN that prioritizes security and anonymity, PrivadoVPN is for you. This VPN boasts some of the most secure encryption on the market, with customers being able to choose between OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols to tailor to their needs depending on whether they value speed or security more. More importantly, PrivadoVPN gives all users 10GB of data every month on their lightning-fast servers. The company also follows a strict no-throttle policy, where it vows to never deliberately slow down your browsing speeds (a common tactic among free VPNs). If you’re a free user there’s a limited amount of servers you can connect to, but you can feel safe knowing that they all come armed to the teeth in protective features to keep you safe. Additionally, PrivadoVPN’s free data plan is the only one out there that supports both streaming unblocking and P2P traffic.

If you decide to stick with the free version of PrivadoVPN, you’re welcome to do so, but you won’t have access to as many features unless you pay a small amount of $8 per month. Under the free plan, you can connect to 12 servers and only one device at a time, but the 10GB of data is an amazing deal to get you accustomed to PrivadoVPN and its features. If you ever have any issues you can contact the customer support team for 24/7 help. PrivadoVPN is a great service for those looking for basic protection with the free plan, but great value for money at only $8 per month if you decide to upgrade.

Hotspot Shield VPN

Hotspot Shield VPN Client
  • Country of registration: United States
  • Cost: FREE, or $13 per month or $96 for Premium plan; $20 per month or $144 per year for Premium Family plan
  • Number of servers & locations: 1,800+, 110+ locations across 80+ countries
  • Clients supported: Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS, Android, smart TVs, routers
  • Number of simultaneous connections: One with a free subscription
  • Special features: Gigabit speeds, 45-day money-back guarantee

While some free VPN services can be very stingy with the bandwidth they allot you, Hotspot Shield VPN offers users 500MB per day or about 15GB per month and allows you to connect up to five devices at the same time. In addition, Hotspot lets users know upfront that their free services are paid for by purchasers of their premium VPN and that they do not keep any logs of your browsing activity. As of their 2018 annual transparency report, Hotspot proudly claims that it has never provided personal information about its users to any third party, including governments and law enforcement agencies.

Their transparency continues by letting mobile users of their free Android VPN and iOS VPN apps share limited information with Google for advertising. This information includes city-level location data, your internet device activity, and identifying cookies, which are not shared for users of the premium VPN mobile apps. Free users of Hotspot Shield VPN must also put up with advertisements encouraging them to upgrade. In fact, you will have to sign up for a seven-day premium trial and provide your credit card info in order to use the free service. On the other hand, being able to keep your activity shielded by military-grade encryption and ensuring that your financial information is safe is well worth the lengthy setup.

TunnelBear

TunnelBear VPN Client
  • Country of registration: Canada
  • Cost: FREE, or $10 per month; $60 for the first year; $120 for the first three years
  • Number of servers & locations: 1,000+, 41 countries
  • Clients supported: Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS, Android
  • Number of simultaneous connections:One with a free subscription

With servers in 23 countries across the world, you can connect up to five devices to TunnelBear and make use of McAfee-backed AES 256-bit encryption to keep them safe and private. If you run into any issues, you can consult TunnelBear’s dedicated support staff and review a host of commonly asked questions to resolve any problems.

Unlike some other no-cost VPN services, you won’t have your traffic throttled if you choose to make use of a free account. Also, TunnelBear no longer requires users to provide a first name when signing up, and it no longer records how many times users connect to their servers. Free users are restricted to a monthly data cap of 500MB, though, which may be inadequate for those interested in constantly using a VPN. However, if all you need from your VPN is occasional added protection when emailing or browsing using your smartphone or PC, TunnelBear is your ideal solution.

Hide.Me

Hide.Me VPN Client
  • Country of registration: United States
  • Cost: FREE, or $10 per month; $60 for the first year; $120 for the first three years
  • Number of servers & locations: 1,900+, 75 countries
  • Clients supported: Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS, Android
  • Number of simultaneous connections: One with a free subscription

While some VPN services make promises to not collect your user data or sell your web traffic information to a third party, Hide.Me doesn’t collect any of that kind of data in the first place. Their free VPN provider offers users 2GB of data per month and will not sacrifice your connection speeds for their paying clientele.

With native software designed to work with both Mac and Windows PC, as well as Android and iOS, you can ensure that the VPN will work well with your setup. Even better, free users of Hide.Me have access to 24/7 technical support in the event of any issues, and they don’t have to deal with pesky ads that nag them into paying for an upgrade. Unfortunately, these benefits do come with some notable limitations. You can only use Hide.Me on one device, which is no good if you’re trying to protect your whole family.

Furthermore, while paying members of Hide.Me can access servers in over thirty countries, free account holders can only access servers located in the Netherlands, Canada, and Singapore.

Those problems aside, Hide.Me is an excellent all-around VPN service. If you are interested in keeping your privacy and still having a decent amount of bandwidth for free, Hide.Me has you covered.

Editors’ Choice




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Tech News

How to share your Android phone’s mobile connection by tethering or hotspot

Whether you’re working from your backyard, a park, or a bus, there are times when you need a Wi-Fi connection on your laptop and you’re out of range of a network or public hotspot. Never fear: As long as you have your phone handy, you can deliver a personal and private network to your tablet or laptop in seconds.

To get started, you’ll need to go to the network settings on your phone. It’s called different things depending on which Android phone you’re using—Network & Internet on Android 10, Connections on One UI on Galaxy phones, etc.—but it’ll be where you select your Wi-Fi network. Inside, look for a tab that says hotspot or tethering.

android tethering hotspot IDG

The Personal Hotspot settings let you broadcast your mobile connection as a Wi-Fi signal to any device.

There will be three options: Mobile Hotspot, Bluetooth tethering, and USB tethering. Here’s how each of them works:

Mobile/Wi-Fi hotspot: This is the method you’ll probably be using the most. As soon as you flip the toggle to on, your phone will begin sending out its own WLAN network that other devices can find in their network list. By default, a random password will be assigned, but both that and the name can be changed. To connect, simply choose the correct name on your other device, type in the password, and you’ll be connected to the Internet.

Bluetooth tethering: When you set up a mobile hotspot, anyone is able to jump on to your phone’s network if they know your password. By tethering you can keep it private. First, you’ll need to pair your phone with the device you want to share your connection with, so head over to your Bluetooth settings, tap Pair new device, and select the device you want to pair.

Then head back to your phone’s network settings and flip on the Bluetooth tethering toggle. Next, you’ll need to go to your laptop and select Bluetooth PAN as your network connection and connect to your Android phone. That will initiate the tethering, and you can use your phone’s mobile data on your laptop. Just note: This method is significantly slower than a hotspot, but will use less battery life.

USB tethering: This option will appear grayed-out unless you have a USB-C cable connecting your phone to your laptop. Once plugged in and flipped on, it should be automatic, with your computer instantly recognizing the new network and connecting to it.

Obviously, whatever work you do will use your allotment of mobile data, so if you have a limited plan, be mindful of what you’re doing. Websites and email will be fine, but streaming video might be an issue, especially as 5G plans become more commonplace. So keep an eye on your data use.

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Categories
Tech News

How to share your iPhone’s mobile connection by tethering or hotspot

Apple might not make a MacBook that has an LTE chip inside it yet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t deliver Wi-Fi to your laptop when you need it. As long as you have an iPhone handy, you can easily and securely share your connection with your MacBook or iPad in a pinch.

If your Apple devices are signed into the same iCloud account, connecting is as easy as choosing your iPhone’s name in the Wi-Fi list. Click on the Wi-Fi symbol in the status bar or head to the Wi-Fi settings on your iPad, and you’ll see a Personal Hotspot section. Tap the name of your iPhone and voila, you’ll be connected without needing to enter a password.

If you’re using a POC or a Chromebook or sharing to someone else’s iPad or Mac, you’ll need to broadcast your network. Head over to the Settings app on your iPhone and tap on the Personal Hotspot tab. Then, flip the Allow Others to Join toggle to blue, which will display your password. Then choose your iPhone’s wireless name on your other device, type in the password, and you’ll be connected.

iphone hotspot IDG

When you allow others to join your personal hotspot, they’ll see your phone’s name in the Wi-Fi list but won’t be able to join without a password. 

You can also tether your iPhone via Bluetooth or USB for a more personal network, though those methods will be a bit slower. To connect over Bluetooth, you’ll need to pair your iPhone with the other device and then connect to the Bluetooth PAN network. Similarly, to connect over USB, connect your iPhone to the other device using a Lightning-to-USB cable and connect to the device directly in the network preferences.

When you’re finished using the network, you can simply disconnect on the other device and if you’re sharing it with others, turn off the personal hotspot on your iPhone.

Of course, since you’ll technically be using your iPhone’s mobile data, be mindful of what you’re doing while connected. E-mail and web surfing will be fine, but if you plan on downloading files and streaming movies, you’ll want to keep an eye on how much data you’re using.

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