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Hotspot Shield Free VPN – Full Review and Standards

Hotspot Shield Free VPN – Full Review and Standards


Today’s Best Hotspot Shield Free VPN Deals

updated With the increase in the number of virtual country sites. This review was originally published on June 20, 2018.

Hotspot Shield offers 500MB of free data per day – even more than Windscribe when you add it on – and its network performance is better than most other free VPN services. The trade-off is that the free version of Hotspot Shield shows you additional ads on some systems, the service’s support pages explain, and only lets you connect to servers located in the United States.

Free VPNs vs Freemium

We don’t recommend any completely free services because many of them borrow your bandwidth, sell your browsing history, or pump ads. (Granted, the free version of Hotspot Shield keeps track of the sites its users visit, and at least the Android version shows you ads.) A service you don’t pay has no incentive to keep your private data private.

Instead, we recommend the free service levels of β€œfree” VPN services, which mainly act as teasers for the paid plans. Most of the free offers have data caps or speed limits, but at least you know how the services make money.

Unfortunately, none of the free tiers are fast enough or generous enough to serve as a 24/7 home VPN connection. If that is what you want, you will have to check out the best VPN services on the market

What you get for free

Hotspot Shield has client software for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. You can’t connect without the software, which leaves Linux and Windows Phone users out in the cold.

As mentioned above, you get up to 500MB per registered user per day, which comes to about 15GB per month – the most of the nine free services we’ve looked at. The catch is that once you hit 500MB on a given day, you have to wait until the next day for more. Other free services allow you to burn off an entire month’s allowance at once if you wish.

    Hotspot Shield Free Subscription Options:

  • 1 month plan – $0 per month (total cost $0)

Paid Hotspot Shield costs $12.99 per month ($5.99 per month if you pay for a year in one go) for unlimited VPN protection, no ads and a choice of 62 countries to connect to.

There have been allegations that Hotspot Shield, in both its free and paid plans, collects user data and directs user traffic to its advertising partners. The parent company, AnchorFree, denies these claims but states that it collects “anonymous and aggregate data about the websites that users visit and the apps that users use”. (Many other VPN services promise to never do this.)

The site also says that users will “see additional ads when browsing with Hotspot Shield” and that users who “prefer not to see ads…can purchase a subscription” to the paid service.

In the past, the free version of Hotspot Shield injected ads directly into web pages viewed in a desktop browser. The company’s head told Tom’s Guide that this practice is over, and that ads now only appear when VPN connections are opened and closed in the Hotspot Shield Android app. That was really our experience.

More: Free vs Paid VPNs: Which Should You Choose?

Hotspot Shield uses a proprietary VPN standard called Hydra VPN, which may discourage privacy experts who prefer better known standards like OpenVPN or L2TP/IPsec. AnchorFree is based in California and is therefore subject to search warrants and other forms of investigation by US law enforcement agencies, although the company’s 2017 transparency report states that it has never provided any user data to law enforcement.

user interface

It only took us 2 minutes and 15 seconds to get the Hotspot Shield Windows 19MB client and install it. The first screen you’ll see tempts you to start a free trial of the paid plan by clicking a big, bright blue button, and there’s apparently no other choice.

But squint, and you’ll see a barely visible dark gray “background” arrow on the dark blue background, in the upper left. Click that, and you’ll be in the free HotSpot Shield interface. It’s very similar to the paid interface: dark blue and small, but with “Upgrade to Hotspot Shield Premium” in a banner below.

Click the big button in the middle to connect. Once you do that, a small world map appears and, along with the IP address, Hotspot Shield assigns you and uses your current session data. The interface warns you when you are at 250MB, in the middle of the daily allowed distance.

Don’t be fooled by the dropdown list of countries you want to call; You will have to pay to use any of them except the US, and a server will be assigned to you automatically. At the top left is a hamburger menu (three horizontal lines) for things like upgrade to Premium, settings (turn on VPN on startup, stop IP leaks, Kill switch etc), and Help and Quit.


Hotspot Shield performed well in our tests, which were conducted in a New York suburb home using the cable company’s regular internet service.

Broadband speeds, connection time, and network delay (latency) were tested using Ookla’s service. A baseline without any VPN connection was established before each individual service was tested.

Free offers tested for nine services: Avira Phantom VPN,, Hotspot Shield, Opera VPN Browser, ProtonVPN, Speedify, SurfEasy, TunnelBear and Windscribe.

We connected to Hotspot Shield in an average of 3.2 seconds, which isn’t too bad and was right behind Windscribe and Speedify. The network response time was 29.5ms – 58 percent more than before a VPN connection and behind only Avira Phantom VPN among regular VPN services.

(Speedify was the fastest of all because it uses software to combine two independent internet connections, for example cable broadband and cellular data. But it can’t work its magic if there is only one connection available. It’s so different from other VPN services that we’re rearranging them separately.)

more: Best VPN Service – Reviews of Top Rated VPN Providers

The average download speed when connected to Hotspot Shield was 111.8Mbps – a 35 percent drop from baseline. Downloads averaged 29.3 Mbps β€” 13 percent slower than baseline. Both of these scores are behind those of Windscribe, our best company.


If you’re okay with Hotspot Shield’s free tier of service showing you extra ads, and the privacy claims don’t matter to you, go ahead and use this VPN service. Even better, use the free offer of Hotspot Shield and its generous counterpart to Windscribe, and you’ll have 25GB of free data per month to play with.

Client platforms: Windows, macOS, Android and iOS
Protocols: Hydra VPN
Servers / Countries: 2000/62
limitations: 500 megabytes per day; US servers only

Today’s Best Hotspot Shield Free VPN Deals

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