Windscribe VPN is a virtual private network and security company based in Ontario, Canada. Windscribe launched in 2016. Therefore, it has some catching up to do in regards to brand recognition and marketing.
However, it has generated solid press in a crowded space with some innovative features and demonstrated focus on with internet privacy.
After years of foolishly running my online business via public WiFi, I decided to start using a VPN to secure my communications (and access a bit of out of market sporting events while traveling).
But I found out that – similar to web hosting – there is no such thing as a “best VPN provider”. In fact, it’s like a whole world of confusing information because even trustworthy information is near-useless since it’s so complex. This Windscribe VPN review is my notes from trying them out for my own purposes as a security-aware, traveling, US-based businessperson who needs good usability and good pricing. I am not a political activist or someone who regularly travels to firewalled countries.
Whether you are looking for a VPN for privacy, for website access, for avoiding geotargeting, for protecting communications or all the above, hopefully, this Windscribe VPN review will be useful.
Here’s my Windscribe VPN review – structured with pros & cons based on my experience as a customer.
Disclosure – I receive referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All opinions and data are based on my experience as a paying customer performing independent research.
Windscribe VPN Pros / Advantages
It’s no secret that Windscribe is highly-rated among websites and customers alike. They have plenty of testimonials and slick feature overviews on their homepage. They position themselves as the tool to let you “browse the web privately as it was meant to be”.
It’s a solid, straightforward pitch. But it’s also very similar to other popular VPN providers. Here’s what I found Windscribe does well.
Small and Friendly Interface
The Windscribe app interface is small and clean. You can access exactly what you need at a glance, including the server list, connect/disconnect button, current IP address and the amount of bandwidth remaining.
For a new user that might have reservations about the complicated nature of VPNs – their interface and signup are sleek and usable. You’re protected with the click of a button.
If you want to use the free service, you can simply add the browser extension and turn it on to use it. There’s no need to go to extreme limits just to connect to the VPN. However, you will need to enter your login information every time you log into your Windscribe account (though you don’t necessarily need to even provide an email).
You can minimize the window while you’re using the internet so that Windscribe isn’t obtrusive. The app will notify you via a message in the lower right-hand corner with usage information. Pull up the main app and click the power button or exit to disconnect.
The browser extension window looks a lot like the one that you use on the desktop client. Both are straightforward, and there’s continuity for users.
Pricing / Free Plan Options
While Windscribe offers a return guarantee, they also offer something even better – a free plan option on the same network as their premium plan.
The Free option only allows a single device with a limited selection of servers. But – it’s free for up to 10GB per month. That’s not a ton if you are streaming video, but it’s plenty for securing your connections while browsing the web in public.
The fact that you can use it for free is unbeatable – and a huge advantage compared to other premium VPNs.
Approach to Privacy & Security
For maximum privacy and security, Windscribe recommends that you install a browser proxy extension in addition to using the VPN service. The proxy browser extensions are available for Chrome, Firefox and Opera.
Windscribe actually claims that it is created for the “privacy-obsessed” customer. The company says that it is silly not to use the desktop VPN app along with the browser extension because it doesn’t cost more to use both.
What’s the difference? The browser extension is considered a “lite” version of the VPN application. If you’re browsing the internet, it should protect you. However, if other apps (ie, a chat client) on your computer are accessing the internet, they will use your own IP address unless you are also using the desktop VPN.
The browser extension also protects you from ads and trackers that appear on the websites that you visit. This is important because your privacy could still be compromised from these beacons even if you’re already using a VPN.
**Caveat – Note that no VPN is 100% secure. Your traffic is still routing through a company. Any company can go out of business or go rogue. If you are trying to avoid your American ISP – then you are simply replacing distrust of Comcast/Charter with the trust of your VPN. If you are a political activist where trust is a life or death situation, you need to be using something like Tor. This highlights this section of Windscribe VPN’s unique features, but the point remains using a VPN does not instantly create security/privacy. That is something you do via aligning company incentives (ie, paying for companies who maintain security) & being proactive. Thankfully – this is something that Windscribe owns up to. In their pitch video, they talk about how a VPN will help you achieve better security rather than being a silver bullet solution.
You might be surprised about the number of social widgets that track your online activity. Many websites have trackers that report your activity to other corporations. The browser extension scrambles your online activity so that it’s virtually impossible to track.
Many people think that they’re safe on the internet if they simply use a VPN. However, governments and criminals have worked hard to match the technology that comes out. A browser extension improves your chances of staying secure on the internet.
Either way – Windscribe’s careful approach to security is in itself a reassurance that they are a company worth working with. Even though they are located in Canada, and even though they log bandwidth usage on their free plan out of necessity – they get solid marks for privacy & security.
Anonymous Payment Options
If you’re looking for a VPN, chances are you want to remain anonymous. Some VPNs have no way of keeping your payment information unidentified. Windscribe VPN lets you use Bitcoin, an anonymous payment platform.
You don’t have to enter your email address to sign up for the service. However, you might want to use your email address if you want to recover your password at any point down the road.
You can also pay via a credit card, PayPal or Paymentwall.
Additional Security Features
Windscribe offers several innovative features that come bundled with a subscription. Unlike some VPNs, these are true “bonus” features rather than a critical service being withheld.
First – Windscribe VPN refers to a firewall that blocks internet activity if you lose connection to the server. This keeps you safe even if you lose WiFi connection or have to restart your computer. Some VPNs call this a killswitch. Windscribe claims that the more accurate term for this is a firewall.
In the default mode, the firewall is set to automatic. It will be turned on when you connect to the VPN. It will stay on if you suddenly lose connection so that your IP address isn’t exposed. However, it’s inactivated if you disconnect from a server.
You can choose to turn the firewall off and on at will. You can also choose to have it turned on continuously. This only lets you have internet access when you’re connected to Windscribe.
Second – the Secure.link generator allows you to check the safety of any webpage that you’re on. You can create an encrypted link that can require a password to open if you want to send a link securely to someone else.
Some websites rely on trackers to operate normally. If you trust them, you can whitelist them so that you maintain your security but can access them without obstacles.
Third – you can also select an add-on for your browser that blocks ads. You can also get ad-blocking software from many types of internet security software, so this isn’t the most ground-breaking feature. However, it’s nice to have, especially if you’re not already using an ad blocker.
When you use this add-on, you should experience faster browsing speeds. This can help you get through your work faster than if you weren’t using a VPN with an ad-blocking add-on.
Various Connection Modes
A variety of connection modes let you access the servers using different protocols and ports. Sometimes, network operators do penetrating inspections to try to track VPN usage. Even if this is going on, you can still connect through one of Windscribe’s connection modes.
The automatic feature will select the appropriate mode for you. The options are:
- UDP – This is the default mode. It’s usually the fastest, and it’s the first one that will be attempted.
- TCP – If you can’t connect via UDP, you’ll be transferred to this mode. It is more robust in the face of a bad connection, but you could experience slower speeds.
- Stealth – This is a TCP protocol that’s the last resort. This may be the best option to use in countries with strict internet restrictions, such as China.
You may also turn off automatic selection and manually select your connection mode. If you’re ever experiencing trouble connecting, just change the connection mode.
Every VPN strikes a balance between hiding advanced settings and “doing everything” for beginners while allowing advanced users to customize settings. Windscribe does well striking the right balance.
Windscribe VPN Cons / Disadvantages
Of course, no VPN provider is perfect. There are inherent tradeoffs to nearly everything. Windscribe VPN is no exception to the rule, as it has a few negatives to consider that may affect your decision.
Here are some of the disadvantages that I found with Windscribe.
If you’re trying to connect from Africa or South America, you’re out of luck. Even though Windscribe VPN has servers throughout the world – including South America and Egypt.
Because Windscribe is so young, the company doesn’t offer the range of server locations that many other VPNs do. However, the company has attempted to spread the servers out across the globe. It’s tough to pinpoint the exact number of servers available.
Additionally, even their existing network seems to be in flux. I’m based in Atlanta, GA. Even though I have a range of servers located near me, they are all consistently unavailable or full – which forces me to use West Coast servers.
That said – they cover most developed countries. And their ex-US servers are fairly easy to work with.
Pricing on Value
Windscribe VPN’s pricing model is straightforward. You can either choose the free plan or the one that costs $9 a month. Why did we include this in the features of Windscribe that we’d like to change?
I wouldn’t mind seeing a middle-of-the-road option. The free option limits you to 10 GB of data per month. There’s no limit on the Pro version.
However, the Pro version is one of the priciest on the market – if you look at price per server or price per speed (though the price per device is solid). There are others out there with more features and benefits for the same (or a lower) price (ie, PureVPN).
Another difference between the free and Pro versions is that the free version limits your access to certain servers. One of the benefits of using a VPN is that you can switch servers at will or connect to a server that’s closer to your current location. If you can’t access all the available servers, you’re not getting a real test of the service.
If you don’t want to spend money on the VPN, you can choose the free version. However, this only gives you 10 GB of data per month. While this is fine for light users, it won’t be enough for corporations or heavy torrenting.
Of course, if that service is free, then you can’t really complain, though.
That’s the only difference between the free and Pro plans. You can get a discount on the Pro plan if you purchase it annually instead of paying month to month.
Customer Support Options
The only way to get support on the Windscribe website is by opening a ticket. There’s no customer support team to speak to in person via chat or phone.
The reason why the company doesn’t use live chat is a good one. Live chats use third-party APIs, which compromise visitors’ privacy. The support team offers personalized advice in an efficient manner. If you do have a question, you won’t have to wait long for the solution.
Windscribe also avoids using extensive member forums to answer your questions. If you have to search for answers, the company believes that it’s not doing its job to provide you with a user-friendly, straightforward service. This makes it an ideal VPN for brand-new users.
That said – these are all things that competitors do while also providing phone & chat support for users who do want those options. ExpressVPN even provides support via a .onion site that is only accessible via Tor.
Windscribe doesn’t need to go that far, but a chat system would be useful.
Most testing has determined Windscribe’s speed to be slower than average. However, performance varies based on so many factors including geography and your current connection’s ISP. It’s hard to make a blanket statement about speed. It really depends on where you’re located, the servers to which you’re connecting, and the type of data you’re accessing.
That said – I do have a very predictable and reliable location to test speeds for various VPNs.
Here are my office’s default speeds via Comcast.
Here is the best test that I could get with Windscribe even after switching servers and re-testing at various times in the day.
Considering the fact that I’ve been able to get speeds hitting 80%to 90% of my non-VPN speeds with competitors like ExpressVPN or PureVPN or VyprVPN – Windscribe’s 17% of non-VPN speeds doesn’t look good at all.
Windscribe claims to be a company that serves people who have no experience with VPNs. It has solid features and messaging (and free options) for anyone who is privacy concerned…but also daunted by VPNs. If you think you need a VPN but are totally unfamiliar with the ins and outs and technical jargon, Windscribe may be the VPN for you.
Otherwise, feel free to browse some of my related VPN posts below!