Windscribe VPN Review Overview
- Military-grade encryption
- Some streaming capabilities
- Free version
- Based in Canada
- 12 month plan - $4.08 per month ($49.00 total cost)
- 1 month plan - $9.00 per month ($9.00 total cost)
As you probably know by now, we typically advise avoiding free VPNs at all costs.
However, we also understand for some, there’s no other choice. When looking for a viable option, we came across Windscribe VPN – and as far as their free 10GB a month option goes, it’s one of the best.
But Windscribe also offers a premium VPN subscription with unlimited data and more servers than the free version affords.
So of course, we dug deeper to see whether Windscribe is worth its premium subscription, or if you’re better off looking elsewhere.
How does Windscribe Compare to the Competition
Take a look at How We Rate VPN Providers!
Not a Great Location
First things first – Windscribe is a Canadian provider.
Canada’s privacy laws (yep, plural: Canada has different versions for different sectors and regions) aren’t exactly privacy-friendly, though they are better than those in the US.
However, Canada is also part of the original 5 Eyes Alliance.
This means any information the Canadian government coerces from Windscribe is likely to get shared with intelligence agencies in the US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand – at the very least.
The US and UK are the 2 jurisdictions most likely to get their hands on your data, but let’s not ignore the others entirely.
Oh – and if you didn’t already know this, the 5 Eyes Alliance has 9 new members around the world, plus a few unofficial partners.
So understandably, we generally advise users to avoid a VPN based in any of the 14 Eyes and affiliated jurisdictions.
But of course, we’ve made exceptions in the past.
And Windscribe does technically offer the free VPN we’re most comfortable recommending… though that doesn’t automatically mean their premium option gets a free pass too.
So, in the spirit of transparency, let’s check out their no logs policy and encryption!
Strict Mostly No-Logs Policy
We always take time to pore through privacy policies. It’s boring, sometimes frustrating work, but it needs to be done.
Now, we know you might not do this.
So it works in your favor that we slog through all the legal jargon and double-speak and pass our insights on in our reviews!
In other words –
- No third-party analytics or trackers on their website
- You only need a username and password to sign-up, no email address necessary
- Transaction IDs are only stored for 30 days
- Windscribe keeps a record of how many bytes you’ve used while connected, primarily for free users
- Timestamps of your last session are also recorded, as Windscribe periodically removes inactive accounts
That’s it. Nothing identifiable is kept on record and Windscribe uses their own servers (meaning they don’t rent any, which a lot of VPN providers do).
Plus, we found this entry in their FAQ section:
Suffice to say, Windscribe makes the exceptions list so far.
Military-Grade Encryption and the Best VPN Protocols
Security features can make or break a VPN service.
Fortunately, this isn’t an issue with Windscribe.
To start, they use the military-grade 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) with SHA-512 authentication and a 4096-bit RSA encryption key.
The browser extension option isn’t as well-encrypted, but it’s a proxy in any case, so we don’t recommend relying on it.
Additionally, they offer the OpenVPN (TCP as well as UDP), IKEv2, and SOCKS5 VPN protocols.
Their features page says you need a Pro account to benefit from this, but while we were testing their free version, we noticed you can manually select TCP, UDP, IKEv2, Stealth, and WStunnel for your connection mode:
Now, unless you’re using an iPhone, which doesn’t allow you to benefit from OpenVPN’s superior protocol security, we suggest manually selecting either TCP or UDP.
Otherwise, you’ll automatically be connected to whichever protocol Windscribe reckons is best for you at that moment. We tested this a few times and they seem to favor IKEv2, which we typically don’t recommend using.
If you want to learn more about encryption and protocols, check out our Beginner’s Guide to VPN Encryption and Beginner’s Guide to VPN Protocols.
Kill Switch, Split Tunneling, DNS Leak Protection
Windscribe uses a firewall instead of a kill switch, thus preventing all connectivity outside of the VPN tunnel.
You can choose if you want the firewall to activate automatically at connection, require manual activation, or be on permanently.
The firewall forms part of Windscribe’s DNS leak protection methods too. When we tested to see whether or not our IP address or DNS was leaking (both with the firewall on and off), the VPN passed with flying colors every time.
Our one gripe is Windscribe doesn’t offer a split tunneling feature for most devices. Granted, this is a “nice-to-have” in our books, but it’s still called a “nice-to-have” for a reason.
At the moment, only the Android app offers this feature, though Windscribe does say it’s “coming soon to Windows, Mac, and Linux.” We tried to ask when, but…
Support is Dismal
Usually, we deal with support much later in our reviews. However, in this case, we feel we need to illustrate how frustrating Windscribe’s “live chat” is.
The provider uses a bot program they call Garry, which at best is okay, though not ideal – we much prefer dealing with a human.
Unfortunately, Garry isn’t very helpful, even if “he” does reply instantly:
After hitting “Escalate to human!” we were asked if we were sure, then the last screenshot popped up asking for our details.
We filled in the pseudonym we always use when doing research for a review, along with the email address we use for the same purpose, repeated our question, and hit send.
So far, we haven’t received a response yet. We’ve seen other users complain it can take upwards of 20 hours, no matter which route you follow for opening a ticket.
Those same users typically complain that the humans don’t do much else other than copy-paste what the Garry bot says and change the wording around a little so it’s not too obvious.
Their FAQ and Knowledge Base sections are also only helpful to a point. Unfortunately, this means Windscribe loses a lot of points here.
(Quick note: the chatbox says we’re engaging with Garry at 4 AM because we were connected to a VPN server in another time zone.)
EDIT: After 40+ hours of waiting, Windscribe’s support team got back to us. They confirmed their split tunneling feature would be coming soon to other devices, but didn’t specify when. They also skirted around our question of how many servers they offer, which we discuss in a later section.
TOR Capability and the Browser Extension for Double VPN
Windscribe wants you to use their free browser extension.
As we mentioned, it’s not something we usually recommend using, but Windscribe does specify they want you to use it at the same time as their actual VPN.
There are many reasons for this, notably for ad and tracker blocking (the VPN app has one called R.O.B.E.R.T., which works on a server level for DNS only) and so you can benefit from the Double VPN feature.
The Double VPN feature, which Windscribe calls Double Hop, allows you to effectively connect via 2 VPN servers.
This is great for obfuscating your location and enhancing your online privacy and anonymity.
If you’re averse to using the browser extension on principle, then you can achieve the same effect by connecting to a Windscribe VPN server via the app and then using the free TOR proxy browser.
This will slow your connection speed more than the browser extension will, but it’s a great work-around we often use whenever a VPN doesn’t offer a Double VPN feature.
Small Server Network
Windscribe doesn’t have the server network size we usually prefer seeing (1,500+ minimum, but ideally 2,000+).
It’s actually a little difficult to tell exactly how many servers the provider does have, but here’s what we know:
All of the servers are actually in the locations advertised.
Some VPN providers user virtual servers, which are advertised as being in one location and operate off an IP address that matches that location, but are physically located elsewhere in the world.
Windscribe, on the other hand, has no virtual servers and therefore rises above this VPN standard.
The servers they do have are spread over 60 countries and 110 cities, and are split between 159 different data centers.
The network load is very low, with the highest being at 60% capacity during our tests. This is important, because we’re 100% okay with a small server network so long as it doesn’t result in network overload.
We tried asking support for an exact number, but Garry the Bot kept giving us the above information (though we actually went and counted the number of data centers ourselves).
The only new information discovered: even though the 10 locations available to free users are also available to premium clients, the servers are segregated.
So of course, we tried to escalate to a human support agent, but… no luck so far.
If we were to hazard a guess, we’d say Windscribe probably has around 500 servers, give or take. This seems to be the popular consensus among other reviewers too.
When we were testing Windscribe’s free version, we did notice it took a really long time to connect to a server, but we didn’t have the same issue with the Pro version.
Still, connection speed and server speed are two different things, so we put Windscribe through our usual tests:
Bear in mind there are a lot of factors that affect VPN server speeds, so you might have a slightly different experience.
Device Compatibility and Connections
Windscribe definitely passes the device compatibility test with flying colors:
- Google Chrome (browser extension)
- Firefox (browser extension)
- Opera (browser extension)
- Smart TVs
They even have configuration generators for OpenVPN, IKEv2, and SOCKS5 so you can protect other devices.
We tested the Windows and Android VPN apps, as well as the Firefox browser extension for this review. For the screenshots below, we used the free version before purchasing PRO for speed tests.
And we have to say – the usability is fantastic.
The interface is clean, everything is easy to find and understand, and we never had any issues.
You can also get unlimited simultaneous connections, which is fantastic:
(This was the only time we got an actual answer to our question – we were almost surprised.)
The only slight issue we have is if Windscribe thinks you’re sharing your account, they’ll “terminate, suspend or otherwise restrict your access” according to their Terms of Service.
We don’t know how they intend to differentiate between sharing your account with your spouse and with your co-worker or friend, so this is a bit of a red flag.
Subscription Plans and Pricing
Other than the free version, Windscribe offers 3 subscription options:
Windscribe also accepts payment via Bitcoin, PayPal, Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Paymentwall. Go for Bitcoin if you want absolute anonymity.
Streaming and Torrenting OK – But Only OK
Streaming and torrenting are the two biggest reasons for wanting a VPN, so you obviously want the VPN you choose to work for both activities (or at least the one that’s a priority for you).
Windscribe has 4 dedicated servers for streaming Netflix, ostensibly without the streaming giant’s proxy detection blocking your access.
These “Windflix” servers are only available for premium clients and give you the option of Canada, the US, UK, and Japan.
We found they do work most of the time, but Windflix Canada is a bit iffy. If you want to access different regions, we suggest going with one of the Best Netflix VPNs instead.
Windscribe doesn’t have any issues with using their servers for torrenting.
In fact, they even give you a rudimentary guide on how to do so safely and tell you whether or not a location’s servers are safe to use (India, South Africa, and Russia are no-go locations).
The torrenting performance wasn’t great, but it wasn’t the worst either. We suggest testing it out with the free version before deciding whether it’s worth upgrading to Pro or if you’d prefer going with one of the Best Torrenting VPNs instead.
How to Cancel Windscribe and Get Your Money Back
We strongly advise giving Windscribe a trial run using their free version before committing to a premium subscription.
That said, we wanted to note if it weren’t for their lackluster support, we’d recommend Windscribe wholeheartedly.
Moving on, Windscribe only gives refunds if it’s requested in writing within 3 days of purchase and if you haven’t used more than 10GB.
That’s… unnecessarily complicated in our eyes.
If you do need to cancel your account, here’s what to do:
- Log in to your Windscribe Account
- Under “Claim Voucher,” click “Cancel Subscription”
At least this part is easy.
Plus, if you don’t have auto-billing, you won’t even need to do that – you can simply not renew your subscription.