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We all want to be safe on the internet, but personalized ads and news stories about hacks continuously remind us that the internet is not a safe haven. Fortunately, there are tools that can help. A VPN acts as a shield, deflecting away all the prying eyes and malicious actors on the web. But only the best VPNs can be trusted to do that job well. Does Windscribe make the cut? Join me as I put Windscribe’s VPN service through its paces.
It’s always easier to try a new VPN when they offer a great free trial and a generous money-back guarantee. Windscribe manages to excel at one of these two things. Instead of a free trial, Windscribe offers an entirely free tier of service that starts at 2 GB of data per month.
That’s already more than most free VPN tiers, but it gets much better. Confirming your email address adds 8 GB more, tweeting about the product adds another 5 GB, and each friend you refer adds another 1 GB. That’s 15+ GB of free VPN usage per month! If you are streaming HD content, that’s still probably only 5 hours, but it’s still impressive for a free tier.
Windscribe’s money-back guarantee, however, leaves much to be desired. You have up to 3 days or 20 GB of data usage (whichever comes first) before the guarantee period ends. So if you stream HD or UHD content, you may find the guarantee only lasts for one good movie night.
Downloading and installing Windscribe was easy on all the devices I tried — Windows, macOS, iOS, and Fire TV Stick — although having to manually enter a password on my Fire TV Stick was a minor inconvenience (most apps on their platform let you log in through a computer).
The Windscribe app is not the prettiest thing you’ll ever see. The settings section in the macOS app is cluttered, which is primarily due to the large number of options that Windscribe includes. I love the look of Windscribe on iOS, but the Fire TV app reminds me of a generations-old Nintendo video game. Nostalgia is great, but I don’t want it in my VPN app.
Any issues with the settings menu are helped by the fact that the default settings are already correct for the average user. The only thing you’ll likely need to do is change your server location, and that is either right on the main screen or in a separate tab, depending on the device.
As a cord cutter, I always want my VPN to work with my favorite streaming services. A fragile alliance exists between us VPN-using streamers and the companies that provide streaming content. Many streaming companies try to block VPNs from allowing access to content outside of a user’s home region. Some even go so far as to block VPN usage altogether.
Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video are the companies with the most effective VPN-blocking tactics. Any VPN that unblocks content from these services will work with pretty much any streaming service. So, naturally, those are the services I used when testing Windscribe. Windscribe passed nearly every test I threw at it. I tried servers in The Netherlands, The United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany, and I found that all of them were able to stream content from every one of these streaming services. Not every server was able to unblock region-restricted content, but it only took two or three tries in each country to find a server that could. This is the first VPN I’ve tried in a long while that was this good at allowing streaming content.
This is a great time to talk about the server options with Windscribe. They have servers in 63 countries. That’s hardly impressive when compared to the 88 that CyberGhost boasts or the whopping 190+ on HMA’s VPN, but it’s still quite a few options to choose from.
Potentially more important than the number of countries, though, is the number of total servers. The more servers a VPN has, the harder it is for streaming services to block them. Windscribe does not disclose this information. Working off of what we know about their available locations, we can determine that they have at least 110 servers — but that’s all we know for sure the real number is likely much larger. Along with their standard servers, Windscribe has specialized servers called “WINDFLIX” servers that are optimized for streaming. There are WINDFLIX options in a handful of countries.
If you are interested in P2P or torrenting, good news: Windscribe supports both on most servers. Servers that don’t support filesharing are clearly marked with a crossed-out “P2P” after their name. These servers are generally in countries with very strict copyright laws. As long as you steer clear of those servers, you should have no problem with filesharing on Windscribe.
If you are looking for customizability and added features in your VPN, Windscribe has you covered. Of particular note is the ability to use split tunneling on Android and Fire TV devices. This feature, which has become more common on VPNs in recent years, allows you to run some programs through the VPN while other apps on the same device use your standard network connection. This is a great way to remain secure if some of your apps don’t work with a VPN. Windscribe claims that they will be adding this feature to Windows, Mac, and Linux soon.
Their domain and IP blocking tool, R.O.B.E.R.T., gives you the option to block known sources of ads and malware. It can also block whole categories of content, like gambling, porn, or fake news. You can even create up to 1,000 custom blocking rules of your own.
Advanced users will find the proxy customizations and port forwarding options useful. You can even buy static IPs from Windscribe, further enhancing the usefulness of these advanced features.
Windscribe has one of the best selections of VPN protocols I’ve ever seen. Every one of their apps has access to at least two of the highest-security protocols: IKEv2, WireGuard, and OpenVPN (UDP and TCP). Most importantly, Windscribe does not include any lower-quality VPN protocols, so you can safely switch between protocols with no concerns about decreasing your security or privacy.
On some devices, Windscribe also supports the Stealth and WStunnel protocols, which are variants of OpenVPN that are meant to bypass VPN blocks that some countries or ISPs have put in place. Most of the time, you won’t want to use these, as they slow down your connection; but they increase the odds that your VPN will work everywhere you go, so they may be useful if you run into any roadblocks while using other protocols.
If privacy is important to you, you need to know where your VPN company is located. Privacy laws vary a lot from country to country, so having a VPN in a privacy-conscious country is a huge plus. Windscribe is a Canadian company, and Canada is part of the Five Eyes Alliance, a group of countries that can force companies to hand over user data on request. Fortunately, Windscribe has a no-logging policy, which should mean that they don’t have much data to turn in, no matter who is asking. Still, Windscribe’s home nation is a concern worth keeping in mind as you make your decision.
No-logging policies are great, but I like to see evidence that my VPN is storing as little of my data as possible. Although it’s not yet standard practice, some companies have started submitting to third-party privacy audits and releasing the results. This trend is a huge step forward for an industry that has relied on good faith for too long. Unfortunately, Windscribe has not undergone any such audit recently.
VPNs need to be private and secure, but they also need to be fast. The USS Cord Cutter can’t wait around for videos to buffer when there is this much content to enjoy. Because of how they reroute traffic, VPNs can sometimes slow your internet speed to a crawl, so I always test my VPNs for speed using Ookla’s Speedtest. I tested several of Windscribe’s servers, including the streaming-optimized servers and the servers that are available to free tier users.
Before turning on my VPN, I was getting download and upload speeds of about 50 Mbps and 65 Mbps. I was able to find several free and paid tier servers in the US that had no significant impact on those speeds. I found similar results across several other countries. There were a few countries, such as Spain, where I couldn’t find servers faster than 20 Mbps download, although upload speeds were generally good across the board. If you are looking for a VPN location in a specific country, you may have to deal with some slowdown while streaming or accessing content-heavy websites. Otherwise, you should be able to find high-speed servers for everything you need to do.
Windscribe has apps for all the common mobile (iOS, Android) and desktop/laptop (Mac, Windows, Linux) devices. When it comes to streaming devices, you’re covered if you have Fire TV or Android TV — but not if you have a Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, or non-Android smart TV. You can likely protect the rest of your devices by installing the VPN on your router itself, but it’s a less convenient option, and you lose the device-level control that you would have with individual apps.
While I would have loved to see Windscribe working with more devices, its current app lineup is pretty much as good as it gets for streamers right now. Since Roku and Apple TV protect their app stores so aggressively, the only streaming devices I can really hope to see covered are Fire TV and Android TV — and, impressively, Windscribe supports both.
Windscribe’s monthly plan costs $9 per month. You can choose an annual plan at $49 per year ($4.08 per month). Their monthly plan is on the lower end for monthly VPN pricing, The annual plan offers a reasonable discount compared to other annual plans, but I’ve seen significantly cheaper options in the two- and three-year plans other VPNs offer.
Windscribe also has a unique build-your-own plan that lets you pay $1 per location per month. Unlike the other paid plans, the build-your-own option caps your data to 10 GB per location purchased per month and doesn’t include R.O.B.E.R.T. for free. You can upgrade to unlimited data and R.O.B.E.R.T. for an additional $1 per month. If you only need one or two locations, this may be a great option. If you need many more than that, though, this option quickly becomes more expensive than the monthly or annual plans.
Any of these plans offer coverage on an unlimited number of devices, which is something that few other VPN services offer in this price range. Overall, I thought that Windscribe’s pricing was pretty competitive.
Between Windscribe’s unlimited devices, excellent VPN protocols, great speeds, and access to all kinds of region-restricted video content, I’m left with very little negative to say. Their interface is not the prettiest thing in the world, but I can get over that. Their money-back guarantee is pathetic — but, with such a generous free tier, who needs a money-back guarantee?
If the devices that you have are covered by Windscribe — and, given the service’s strong platform support, they probably are — I’d say at least give Windscribe’s free tier a try. I think you’ll find yourself ready to become a paid member in no time.