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How to get a free VPN: App Store, Android, and Chrome

Verified by Molly Dyson

VPN subscriptions can be expensive, but with the constant need to protect ourselves online, having a VPN is an important security tool. There are plenty of free VPNs available for download, and some of the best VPNs on the market also offer free versions – namely Proton VPN, PrivadoVPN, Atlas VPN and Windscribe.

You can get a VPN for free via the Apple App Store, Google Play Store, or as a Chrome extension via the Chrome Web Store. Free VPNs can provide an added layer of protection and may come with customisable security features. However, they often don’t come with the same level of security as paid-for subscriptions. 

We’ve put together a step-by-step guide on how to get a free VPN for iPhone, Android and Chrome.

The optimum paid VPNs in 2024

The unfortunate reality is free VPNs aren’t as good as paid versions. If you don’t want all the hassle that comes with using a free VPN, and just want to quickly and simply secure your data, then these are our experts’ recommendations.

Why you shouldn’t get a free VPN

While the main advantage of a free VPN is the simple fact that it’s free, this also carries many disadvantages – by not paying a monthly fee, the provider is more likely to offer less security and privacy features.  

Free VPNs provide a watered-down version of their paid subscription. Security features such as a kill switch and split tunnelling are sometimes missing from the features list. 

Free versions can also sell your data to third parties as a source of income or expose you to malware, which can compromise the security of your device. This is why Independent Advisor usually suggests going for a cheap VPN subscription over a free version – putting your personal data at risk is not worth saving a few pounds a month.

However, it’s important to note that not all free VPNs come with poor security and privacy – with a bit of research you can find some top-notch free VPNs. Our pick for the best provider offering a free version is Proton VPN, which is why we’ve used it as an example throughout this article.

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How to get a free VPN for iPhone or iPad

Step 1: 

How to get a free VPN Proton VPN in app store
Proton VPN

Open the Apple App Store on your iPhone or iPad, and search for your chosen VPN provider – in this case, we used Proton VPN – then click download. Alternatively, you can navigate to Proton VPN’s website, where you will find links to download native apps for various devices.

Step 2:

Once downloaded, open the VPN app. 

Step 3:

How to get a free VPN Proton log in screen
Proton VPN

If you don’t already have an account, you’ll need to create one at this stage – if you already have one, fill in your login details to sign in.

Step 4:

Sign up with your email address and wait for your verification code to be emailed to you. 

Step 5:

How to get a free VPN Proton verification code
Proton VPN

Enter your verification code into the app when prompted and create a secure password, following the guidelines. 

Step 6:

How to get a free VPN Proton iOS app home screen
Proton VPN

Once logged in, you’ll be prompted to input your censorship settings and then be guided to connect to a VPN server – to do this you’ll need to allow Proton to add VPN configurations to your device. Note that Proton VPN only has three server locations available for free users listed at the top, but the app also displays all the locations available for paying customers.

How to get a free VPN for Android

Step 1: 

Open the Google Play Store on your Android device and search for Proton VPN – then click download. You can also go to the company’s website and find a link to the app on Google Play.

Step 2:

Once downloaded and installed, open the Proton VPN app.

Step 3:

Log in with your username and password. If you don’t already have an account, you can create one now – sign up with your email address and follow the verification instructions that will be sent to your email. 

Step 4: 

Once logged in, you’ll be prompted to configure your Android device VPN settings – following this, you can connect to a server.

How to get a free VPN for Chrome

Another way to install and use a VPN is via a Chrome extension, although this is not offered by all VPN providers. Installing a Chrome VPN extension means you’re protected while using the browser, and setting up an extension is simple and straightforward. In our example, we’ve chosen Windscribe because Proton VPN’s Chrome extension is not available on the free version.  

Step 1:

Download Windscribe Chrome extension
Windscribe

There are two ways to search for the Windscribe Chrome extension: you can either navigate to the provider’s website and scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the VPN for Chrome section, or search for Windscribe in the Chrome Web Store – both are easy, so this would be a personal preference.

Step 2: 

Add windscribe extension and allow privacy settings
Windscribe

Click to download the extension. Windscribe will prompt you to allow VPN configuration and privacy settings. 

Step 3:

Windscribe Chrome extension log-in screen
Windscribe

Log in to your Windscribe account or create a new account.

Step 4:

Now that you’ve signed in, open the Windscribe extension from the toolbar in Chrome. 

Step 5: 

How to get a free VPN Windscribe Chrome extension
Windscribe

Choose a server to connect to and customise Windscribe’s privacy settings.

Why we chose these free VPNs

Just like paid subscription VPNs, there are lots of free VPNs for iPhone, Android and Chrome – but not all of them have advantageous privacy and security features or may come with a limited monthly data allowance. 

For both iOS and Android devices, we found Proton VPN to be the best for the following reasons: 

  • Unlimited monthly data allowance 
  • Provides 22 servers, which is a good number for free VPNs
  • Uses AES-256 encryption
  • Has a no-logs policy that has been audited
  • Headquartered in Switzerland, which has good data privacy laws

Free VPNs don’t usually have a large data allowance, so Proton’s unlimited allowance automatically sets it apart from the rest. Its free service offers 22 servers, which is good for a free VPN, and free plan customers can enjoy the same privacy features that paid plans offer, including a no-logs policy, AES-256 encryption, a kill switch, ad and malware blocker and a range of VPN protocols. Proton also claims that its free plans are supported by paid subscriptions, so it does not display ads or sell user data to third parties. 

Unfortunately, Proton VPN’s Chrome extension is not available for its free plan. 

Not all providers offer a Chrome extension, and even fewer offer them for their free plans. Our researchers found Windscribe’s free VPN for Chrome extension to be the best for a number of reasons: 

  • Offers between 2GB and 15GB of monthly data allowance
  • 12 servers in 10 locations – this is comparable to other free VPN services
  • Has a Chrome extension for its free VPN plan

As well as having a functioning Chrome extension for its free plan, we were impressed by the privacy features available, including an ad, tracker and malware blocker, and a WebRTC leak prevention tool. The monthly data allowance varies; the basic allowance is 2GB, but if you verify your email address, Windscribe will bump that up to 10GB per month, and you’ll receive an additional 5GB if you tweet about the service, taking the total to 15GB.

You can find out more about how we review VPNs here.

Summary

You can get a free VPN on every type of device these days, including your mobile, and installing them is relatively straightforward. Most providers have a free VPN app for your iOS and Android devices, but finding one with a Chrome extension requires a little more research. 

Not all free VPNs offer a good level of security, so it’s best to do some research before deciding to download one, but the best ones certainly do a good job for general online privacy.

Round up of today’s best VPN deals
NordVPN 2 year £2.49 /Month
£2.49 /Month
Surfshark 24 month £1.79 /Month
£1.79 /Month
ExpressVPN 12 month £6.77 /Month
£6.77 /Month
CyberGhost 2 year £1.78 /Month
£1.78 /Month
Proton 2 year £4.27 /Month
£4.27 /Month
PIA 2 year £1.57 /Month
£1.57 /Month
Atlas 2 year £1.34 /Month
£1.34 /Month
PrivadoVPN 2 year £1.99 /Month
£1.99 /Month
Windscribe 12 month £4.53 /Month
£4.53 /Month
IPVanish 2 year £3.58 /Month
£3.58 /Month
rachel

Rachel Sadler

Home Tech Writer

Rachel is a seasoned writer who has been producing online and print content for seven years. 

As a home tech expert for Independent Advisor, Rachel researches and writes buying guides and reviews, helping consumers navigate the realms of broadband and home security gadgets. She also covers home tech for The Federation of Master Builders, where she reviews and tests home security devices. 

She started as a news and lifestyle journalist in Hong Kong reporting on island-wide news stories, food and drink and the city’s events. She’s written for editorial platforms Sassy Hong Kong, Localiiz and Bay Media. While in Hong Kong she attended PR events, interviewed local talent and project-managed photoshoots. 

Rachel holds a BA in English Language and Creative Writing and is committed to simplifying tech jargon and producing unbiased reviews.

Molly Dyson

Editor

After growing up with a passion for writing, Molly studied journalism and creative writing at university in her home country of the United States.

She has written for a variety of print and online publications, from small town newspapers to international magazines. Most of her 10-year career since relocating to the UK has been spent in business journalism, writing and editing for admin professionals at PA Life magazine and business travel managers at Business Travel News Europe and representing those titles at conferences around the world.

Now an Editor at the Independent Advisor, Molly is an expert in a broad range of consumer topics, that include solar panels and renewables, home improvements and home insurance, and consumer technology such as home security and VPNs.

In her free time, Molly can usually be found exploring the outdoors with her husband and their young son or gardening.