> >

Windscribe Review - Cutting Through the Noise

Marc DahanWindscribe Review - Cutting Through the Noise

VPNs today are more popular than ever. More and more people turn to VPNs for many reasons that go beyond encryption. Because of that, the features supported by commercial VPN providers keep growing too.

And so with so many features being touted left and right, it can be difficult to assess a VPN provider’s worth.

As stated in the title, in this post, we try and cut through the noise as we review Windscribe VPN in detail, so you can decide whether or not this VPN provider is for you.

Short on time? 
Here's what matters most.

Windscribe VPN Logo

Our score: 

9.0/10

Windscribe VPN is a Canadian based VPN provider, operating from the province of Ontario. They’re not the biggest VPN provider out there, but they seem to be very appreciated by their users.

In researching this article, I found countless positive reviews, from users and reviewers alike.

Their feature-set is strong, on both the privacy-side and the convenience-side. They take a strong stance on user privacy. And they put forth a strong no-logging policy.

They also provide a free plan, which gives you 10 servers (10 countries) to choose from and a maximum bandwidth of 10GBs. And provide static IP addresses for those who request it.

That’s very generous, in my view. And the free plan supports all of the same features as the paid plans. Pretty impressive.

We’ll definitely be recommending Windscribe, but first, let’s look at their offering in more detail.

Visit Windscribe VPN

Windscribe VPN Overview

[vpn vpn_1="Windscribe"]

Windscribe VPN is very much focused on user privacy. And as such, they commit to a strong no-logging policy and allow you to sign-up without providing an email address.

They tick all of the privacy boxes by providing a VPN kill switch in all of their apps, no logs DNS servers that run in-tunnel, and even an ads & tracker blocker.

They also provide a host of convenience features, such as split-tunnelling and a very original take on subscription plans, with their 'Build Your Own Plan' option.

About Windscribe VPN

Windscribe VPN is one of the smaller commercial VPN providers. They are based in Ontario, Canada and they manage to focus on privacy, as a serious VPN provider should, while remaining intuitive and easy to use - and affordable. A great choice for experienced users and newbies alike.

Positives

  • Industry-Standard Encryption
  • Native Applications
Strict No-Logging Policy
VPN Kill Switch
  • Multiple Server Hops
  • Ads & Tracker Blocker (R.O.B.E.R.T.)
  • Unblocks Netflix

Negatives

  • No Dedicated Tor Over VPN Servers

What to Consider Before Buying a VPN Subscription?

A serious VPN provider will adhere to strong policies regarding:

  • Privacy
  • Security
  • Anonymity

If you ask me, the best way to tick all three of these boxes is to commit to a robust no-logging policy.

And as you may already know, I believe that a strong no-logging policy provides more security than simply being outside of the 14 Eyes Alliance. Because regardless of jurisdiction, if your VPN provider logs your activities, your jurisdiction won’t help you.

Another key element is the payment methods the VPN provider accepts. While not necessarily  obvious, the money trail you leave behind can seriously compromise your anonymity.

A VPN provider that’s committed to privacy should always accept cash, bitcoin, or both.

Features & Benefits

Speed

I performed a few speed tests while connected to Windscribe's network. 

The test was performed using a 100Mbps download and a 30Mbps upload connection. As far as my ISP connection is concerned, testing it revealed that I’m getting all of the available bandwidth provided by my subscription plan.

The test was run over a New York server, which is close to my actual physical location.

The speed tests were run three times, for added accuracy. And the final value is taken from the average of the three tests.

Tested on a 100Mbps (Download) and 30Mbps (Upload) network

Server: U.S.A., New York

Average Download Speed: 95.36Mbps

Average Upload Speed: 26.54Mbps

We’re looking at the difference between my ISP bandwidth and the speed test results.

We can see that the download speed is excellent. This is seamless overhead. The slowdown is so small that it won’t even be noticed. This is excellent performance.

On upload, the speed is also very impressive. I’m almost getting my full bandwidth.

And upload speeds are typically slower than download speeds because ISPs provide a far greater number of download channels than upload channels. So that makes this even more impressive.

Windscribe’s speeds are extremely good. some of the best I’ve seen.

Pricing

Windscribe takes an original approach with their subscription plans.

Windscribe offers three types of subscription:

  • 9.00 USD for one month of service
  • 49.00 USD for one year of service (works out to 4.08 USD per month)
  • 1 USD per active server on their ‘Build Your Own Plan’ plan. With this plan, you choose the servers you want to have access to and you build your custom plan at 1$ per server.

As mentioned in the opening paragraphs, they also offer a free plan which gives you 10GBs of data transfer per month and 10 VPN servers to choose form.

These prices are very good, to be honest. And the ‘Build A Plan’ option is original and convenient. I know that I only use a small subset of the VPN servers available through my provider.

All subscriptions are backed by a 3-day money-back guarantee.

That’s not a typo. Windscribe offers a 3-day refund period, not 30. This may be an area in which they could improve. Although one could argue that if you simply want try Windscribe, you can jump on the free option.

Streaming

Windscribe doesn’t make a big deal about streaming on their website. Though they are streaming-friendly. And streaming over a VPN provides a few key benefits:

  • A fully encrypted connection
  • Avoiding ISP bandwidth throttling
  • Circumventing geo-restrictions

And Netflix?

As I’m sure you know, Netflix has been actively blocking VPNs from accessing its service since 2018. Netflix did this to comply with the geo-restrictions content creators impose on their content.

Since then, many VPN providers claim to be able to bypass the Netflix VPN ban. And some actually do unblock it, while others don’t.

Windscribe, though again, they don’t really mention it, is able to successfully unblock Netflix - at least in my tests.

And it worked very well, without buffering issues or lag.

Streaming Netflix U.S. over Windscribe's network.

Do note that some reviewers have reported Windscribe not working with Netflix, while others (like me) claim that it does work. So it seems to be hit & miss with Windscribe and Netflix.

Either that or those reviewers were connected to VPN servers which had their IP addresses blacklisted by Netflix at the time.

Windscribe VPN also works well with Amazon Prime.

Torrenting / P2P

A bit like they do with streaming, Windscribe supports torrenting without making a big splash about it. Almost all of their servers support P2P.

The ones that don’t are clearly marked as such within the Windscribe app.

Simply connect to the VPN server of your choice (form the ones that support P2P, of course) and launch your torrent client and you’re good.

I tested P2P over Windscribe’s network, and it worked very well.

Torrenting over Windscribe's network.
Visit Windscribe VPN

User-Friendliness 

Supported Platforms

Windscribe supports all major operating systems. They also support Smart TVs, as well as several different routers.

Native Apps

Windscribe's native macOS client app.

Windscribe provides native applications for the following platforms:

  • Windows
  • macOS
  • Linux
  • iOS
  • Android
  • FireTV
  • Nvidia Shield
  • KODI
  • Chrome/Firefox/Opera Browser Extensions

This is top-notch coverage.

The native macOS app isn’t the best I’ve seen, in terms of design. It’s extremely minimalistic - which can be good. It just felt as if something was missing because of how minimalistic it is.

Though everything you need to use Windscribe is there. And I didn't need to contact their customer support for anything, as everything just worked. But it's worth mentioning they support live chat.

Number of Devices That Can Connect Simultaneously?

Windscribe places no limit on the number of devices that can simultaneously connect to their network. That's right: unlimited simultaneous connections.

They also offer, like most VPN providers, unlimited bandwidth.

Offering unlimited simultaneous connections goes way beyond what is typically offered by other VPN services today. Who can complain?

The Number of VPN Servers Available?

Windscribe have over 480 server locations, in over 63 countries, on their network.

Servers in 63 countries should be more than enough.

Do They Support Multiple Server Hops?

By bouncing your traffic over a second or third VPN server before sending it off to its ultimate destination, multi-hop VPN servers make you much harder to identify.

The additional hops add another level of obfuscation to your connection.

Windscribe does support multiple server hops but in a slightly convoluted way.

To achieve a multi-hop setup on Windscribe, you connect to one server using the desktop client app. Then, using one of their browser extensions, you connect to a second VPN server. 

In this setup, the second hop will only be active in your Web browser. It will not be system-wide. 

We hope to see Windscribe simplify this setup and make it more useful in the future.

Blocks Ads & Trackers?

Many VPN providers support ad-blocking today. This is achieved by what is known as DNS Backholing.

Essentially, your DNS requests are checked against a blacklist and whenever there’s a match, that connection is dropped.

Windscribe provides an ads & tracker blocker, dubbed R.O.B.E.R.T., available in all of their native apps

Tor Over VPN Support?

Windscribe does not provide Tor over VPN servers at this time.

Tor over VPN servers works much like traditional multi-hop connections, except the additional hops are routed over the Tor network.

We hope to see Windscribe provide Tor over VPN services in the future


Logs and Privacy

Let’s now look at Windscribe’s policies. How a VPN provider phrases its policies also informs us on how they understand security and privacy.

Have they ever spied on their users at the request of law enforcement?

We found no evidence that Windscribe has ever spied on their users.

Even though we no reason to doubt this, we can still turn to TorrentFreaks’s Which VPN Providers Really Take Anonymity Seriously in 2020? guide for a bit more information. And in the guide, we find the following:

"[Q:] What steps would be taken in the event a court orders your company to identify an active or former user of your service? How would your company respond to a court order that requires you to log activity for a user going forward? Have these scenarios ever played out in the past?"

"[A:] Under Canadian law, a VPN company cannot be compelled to wiretap users. We can be legally compelled to provide the data that we already have (as per our ToS) and we would have to comply with a valid Canadian court order. Since we do not store any identifying info that can link an IP to an account, the fact that emails are optional to register, and the service can be paid for with cryptocurrency, none of what we store is identifying.”

That’s what we like to see.

Would they warn users if/when compromised by law enforcement?

Given the above, it would seem highly unlikely.

How do they respond to DMCA notices?

When asked this question by TorrentFreak, Windscribe answered by referring them to their transparency report (pictured below):

They complied with a grand total of zero requests, due to “lack of relevant data”. 

Again, very good stuff.

Logging Policy

In TorrentFreak’s guide, they were asked:

"[Q:] Do you keep (or share with third parties) ANY data that would allow you to match an IP-address and a timestamp to a current or former user of your service? If so, exactly what information do you hold/share and for how long?”

And their answer was quite simple:

"[A:] No."

They get straight to the point, don’t they? 🙂

Good stuff. Although, it would be nice to see that connection timestamp disappear. My 2 cents…

Privacy Policy

Windscribe’s privacy policy is good in that it’s written in plain English and is easy to understand. They clearly outline what they don’t collect as well as what they do collect and why.

You can find it here.

As above, good stuff, but I’d still like that connection timestamp to be taken off the list.

Visit Windscribe

Security and Encryption

Supported VPN Protocols

Windscribe supports: 

  • IKEv2/IPSec
  • OpenVPN
  • WireGuard

All three of these protocols are deemed highly secure.

We’re very happy to see Windscribe only support secure protocols.

And we hope more commercial VPN providers follow suit. Weak and obsolete VPN protocols should not be supported - they should be phased out.

Encryption Level & Supported Ciphers

Windscribe uses the industry-standard AES-256 cipher with a 4096-bit RSA key. It is deemed very secure and has no known vulnerabilities. 

AES-256 is used with the IKEv2 and OpenVPN protocols. WireGuard, however, uses more modern ciphers - still deemed very secure (if not more secure than AES):

  • ChaCha20
  • Curve25519
  • BLAKE2s
  • SipHash24
  • HKDF

Very good stuff.

DNS Leak Protection

By running no-logging DNS servers that are only accessible from inside the VPN tunnel, a VPN provider can prevent DNS leaks. This should always be the default for a serious VPN provider.

Windscribe does exactly that: they run their own in-tunnel, no-logs DNS servers.

VPN Kill Switch

All of Windscribe’s native apps include a VPN Kill Switch (referred to as “Firewall” in their apps) that will block all IP traffic from exiting your device if your VPN connection is ever disconnected.

This is especially useful in situations where you need to leave your device unattended for a while.

A kill switch keeps your traffic from going out to the Internet unencrypted

Again, and again, great stuff.

In Which Jurisdiction is the VPN Provider Based?

Windscribe is based in Canada. And yes, Canada is a Five Eyes country. 

But as mention each time this issue comes up, a VPN provider’s no-logging policy is much more important than jurisdiction, in my view.

The VPN provider’s no-logging policy is what underpins and makes possible every other privacy measure they put in place.

How useful is the encryption if your provider logs your traffic?

How useful is a secure VPN protocol if your provider logs your traffic?

You see the pattern?

By all means, if jurisdiction is important to you, I encourage you to choose a provider that is outside the 14 Eyes Alliance. Just make sure they also do not log.

For more information on the 14 Eyes Alliance, check out our 5, 9 & 14 Eyes: What Does It All Mean For VPN Users? article.

Do They Have a Warrant Canary?

From what I gather, Windscribe does not publish a warrant canary, opting instead to produce a transparency report (pictured in the “How do they respond to DMCA notices?” section).

You can view the report in full size here.

Do They Own or Rent Their Infrastructure?

Owning your infrastructure will always be more secure, as it massively reduces the risk of third-party access.

Renting your infrastructure will scale more easily but will be less secure because of third-party access and the fact that the servers won’t be in direct control of the provider.

Windscribe rents its infrastructure.

Asked by TorrentFreak if they own or rent their infrastructure, Windscribe had this to say:

"We lease servers in over 150 different datacenters worldwide. Some datacenters deploy networking monitoring for the purposes of DDOS protection. We request to disable it whenever possible, but this is not feasible in all places. Even with it in place, since most servers have dozens/hundreds of users connected to them at any given moment, your activity gets “lost in the crowd”. Each VPN server operates a recursive DNS server and performs all DNS resolution locally."

Have They Ever Been Hacked?

As far as we know, Windscribe has never been hacked.

What Information Is Collected at Signup?

Windscribe collects the absolute minimum amount of information at sign-up. All that’s required is a username (and a payment method, for a paid plan). Providing an email address is optional.

Pretty cool.

Accepted Payment Methods

Again, the accepted payment methods impact user privacy. A trustworthy VPN provider must allow for anonymous payments. This means it must accept cash or cryptocurrencies.

Windscribe accepts the following payment methods:

  • Credit Cards
  • PayPal
  • Paymentwall
  • Bitcoin

All good.


Standout Features

On top of providing excellent privacy features and what I like to call convenience features, Windscribe has a few standout features up their sleeves.

Build Your Own Plan

Windscribe is the only VPN provider I know of that offers a ‘Build A Plan’ option. This subscription model allows you to select the VPN servers you’re likely to use and build a custom plan with access to only those servers. Each server costs 1 USD per month. Most people tend to connect to a small subset of the total number of servers available. So this pricing option makes a lot of sense and is welcome.

Free 10BG/per Month Subscription

Windscribe is also one of the few VPN providers to offer a valuable free tier (the other that comes to mind is ProtonVPN). And their free option is actually really, really good. It costs nothing, for one. It gives you access to 10 different VPN servers and gives you 10GBs per month of bandwidth. This is hands down, the best free VPN offer on the market. And the fact that it comes from a serious and trustworthy VPN provider is what makes it useful. Good stuff.

Visit Windscribe

What Others Are Saying

Tom's Guide Logo

tomsguide.com

"Windscribe competes strongly with the best VPNs available today, acing our performance tests, offering advanced customization, and including a generous free plan. However, customer support is somewhat lacking, so if you have any problems you might be waiting a while for help.”

Techradar Logo

techradar.com

"Windscribe is a likeable VPN and represents good value, with a host of useful privacy protecting extras, and one of the most generous free VPN plans around. We have some reservations – such as the lack of 24/7 support, and long gaps between updates with the Windows app – but these won't affect everyone, and so we'd recommend you install the free version in order to see how it works for you.”

VPN Mentor Logo

vpnmentor.com


"Strong performance overall, but still room for improvement. Windscribe VPN offers good value for your money. It keeps your data safe while you browse or torrent and can access Netflix US—although it struggled with other popular streaming services. The VPN’s user-friendly apps are well-designed and offer some advanced features like ad blocking. Server speeds are decent, but a bit inconsistent. The refund policy could also be better.”

Windscribe Alternatives

Surfshark is a VPN provider based in the British Virgin Islands, which was founded in 2018. 

They take a strong stance on user privacy and security, while still offering some very convenient features, such as background P2P routing.

Their sign-up process is minimalistic, in that it only requires a valid email address from you.

They only support IKEv2 and OpenVPN. And while this may seem restrictive, we commend Surfshark for not weakening their user's security by supporting insecure or obsolete VPN protocols

Surfshark offers a very good service with a strong focus on privacy. And at 1.99 USD per month, it’s the least expensive, serious VPN service we’ve seen.

  • Industry-Standard Encryption
  • Native Applications
  • Strict No-Logging Policy
  • Ads & Tracker Blocker
  • VPN Kill Switch
  • Passed Security Audit in 2018

IVPN is a Gibraltar based VPN provider. They are very much focused on privacy and security as their simple privacy policy makes clear. 

They do not log any user activity and they own and control all of their infrastructure. 

They support almost every platform available and offer helpful guides on setting up their service on all of their supported platforms.

  • Based in Gibraltar
  • Strict no-logging policy
  • Support Multihop servers
  • Accept cash and bitcoin
  • Blocks ads & trackers (AntiTracker)
  • Own and control their entire infrastructure
NordVPN Logo

Our score: 8.5 

Visit NordVPN

NordVPN is an excellent VPN service, based in Panama. They offer a great mix of security, privacy, and convenience. 

DNS leak protection, CyberSec, strong encryption, VPN kill switch have you covered on the security front. 

A strict no-logging policy, a thoughtfully written Privacy Policy, Bitcoin payments, and a Panama-based jurisdiction have your back for privacy

And dedicated P2P servers, native apps for every major (and not so major) platform, and up to six simultaneous connections (or more with a VPN router) make the service very user-friendly.

  • Industry-Standard Encryption
  • Native Applications
  • Strict No-Logging Policy
  • Ads & Tracker Blocker
  • VPN Kill Switch
  • Tor Over VPN

Conclusion - Windscribe VPN Review

Windscribe is, in my opinion, one of the best commercial VPN providers out there. They tick all of the privacy boxes, all of the security boxes and all of the convenience boxes.

That's why they scored a 9 - the highest score I've attributed so far to a VPN provider.

Their free plan is probably the best in the industry and their ‘Build A Plan’ subscription is such a common sense approach that one can wonder why it’s not offered by more providers.

While other Windscribe VPN reviews state that their customer support isn’t great, I can’ really speak to that point because I didn’t need to contact support about anything. Everything just worked as expected for me.

We confidently recommend Windscribe. And you can try it risk-free by signing up for their free plan.

For more information on Windscribe VPN, be sure to check out our Does Windscribe Keeps Logs?, Does Windscribe Work With Netflix? and our Does Windscribe Allow Torrenting/P2P? articles.

Thanks for reading!

Visit Windscribe

Further Reading

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram