Windscribe VPN is a Canada-based VPN provider with a rapidly growing userbase. By focusing on the essential features that subscribers want most, they’ve built a high-quality, affordable VPN service.
While we have some small gripes and caveats, Windscribe does most things right (including a completely free option), making their service easy to recommend. This is our 2017 Windscribe VPN review.
Company Headquarters: Toronto, Canada
Logging Policy: Logs destroyed 3 minutes after session ends
Refund Policy: 3 days
Best Offer: $4.08/month (or free plan)
- Summary/Top Features
- Other Features
- Torrent/p2p policy
Windscribe VPN (owned by Windscribe Limited) is a premium VPN service based in Canda (just outside Toronto, Ontario). Notably, Canada’s data-retention laws don’t apply to VPN services, allowing Windscribe to keep minimal VPN connection logs (destroyed 3 minutes after you disconnect).
- User-friendly VPN Software: Windscribe’s VPN client (available for Windows/Mac/Android/iOS) is stable and easy to use. It’s OpenVPN only with 256-bit Encryption.
- Netflix-compatible: Most VPN’s are mass-blocked by Netflix and other streaming services. Windscribe’s VPN client allows access to U.S. Netflix servers when combined with their browser extension.
- Torrents/p2p: Torrents are allowed on most servers, and Windscribe does not block, monitor, or throttle torrent downloads.
- Socks5 Proxy: In addition to VPN service, you also get access to a Socks5 proxy connection in either the USA or Netherlands. Common uses include include Skype or using it as a proxy for anonymized torrents.
- VPN Connection Sharing: You can share your VPN connection with other devices either using the wifi hotspot feature built into their software or the proxy gateway option. It’s an AWESOME feature that few VPNs offer.
- Free Subscription Option: Windscribe actually has a free plan tier, allowing up to 10GB of bandwidth per month. Notably, they’re the only service we’ve found that allows torrent/p2p downloads for free subscriptions.
Software / VPN Client
Windscribe’s VPN client is available for Windows/Mac/iOS (and Android is coming soon). It’s the easiest way to access their service and if you’re on the free tier it’s your only option.
Technical Details: Uses 256-bit AES OpenVPN encryption on all platforms. OpenVPN is our preferred VPN protocol, but it would be nice to have a choice if your device doesn’t support it. We’d also like to see adjustable encryption strength in the future as 128-bit AES encryption can improve speeds dramatically on devices with weak CPU’s.
Here’s an overview of the advanced functionality you’ll find in the VPN client…
Windscribe’s ‘Firewall’ feature is basically a kill-switch which, when activated, will kill all internet connectivity to your device if the VPN disconnects. This is designed to your IP or sensitive data from leaking.
Choose Protocol: TCP/UDP/Stealth
You’re forced to use OpenVPN, but you can still choose whether you want to use UDP (fastest) or TCP (most reliable) packets. You can also optionally turn on Windscribe’s stealth/obfuscation mode if your ISP or network is blocking VPN traffic.
VPN Connection Sharing / Hotspot
One of my absolute favorite features is that Windscribe allows you to share your VPN connection with other devices. You can choose two methods:
- Wifi hotspot mode
- Create a local proxy server gateway to access the VPN tunnel
This works just like your phone’s hotspot mode, allowing you to create an ad-hoc network (complete with password-protected encryption) and connect any other devices to that shared network. Unfortunately this only supports certain network cards and our 5 year old test laptop wasn’t compatible.
This is a less perfect solution that creates a local proxy server at port 9999 on your devices local IP address. It requires you to be on a private wifi network (unlike the hotspot mode which would work with mobile data).
It also requires some manually configuration to route other devices through the proxy tunnel, but here’s a good guide.
Windscribe also has a number of features separate from their desktop VPN client. These include:
- WindFlix: Watch US Netflix
- Browser Extension: Malware blocking & double-hop encryption
- Socks Proxy: Anonymize a single app like Skype or Torrents
- Unlimited Connections: Connect unlimited devices to one Windscribe account
Here’s a closer look at each:
Windscribe Browser Extension
The browser extension works with both free and paid accounts, and can be installed in Chrome or Firefox. It adds a number of features including:
- Windscribe (netflix unblocking)
- Double-hop Privacy: Double tunnel, routed through VPN and browser proxy
- Privacy Enhancment: Block ads and trackers and auto-delete cookies
Using the extension is quite simple. Just choose a new server location if you want to use double-hop encryption in your browser:
Turning features on/off can easily done from the extension settings menu:
Windscribe is the latest VPN company to add Netflix-compatibility to their list of features. In our testing, some US-based servers did work with Netflix without any further configuration (but we’re already based in the US). For users in other countries, they offer the Windflix feature in their browser extension.
Just choose the ‘Windflix’ server location, and you should be able to instantly access Netflix’s US catalog:
Like several other VPNs, Windscribe also includes SOCKS proxy access with their VPN subscription. A proxy is like a single-app VPN tunnel without the encryption. The main purpose is simply to change the IP address for that app, and is commonly used to unblock apps like Skype.
You can also use the proxy for double-hop privacy when downloading torrents. Our torrent proxy setup guide shows exactly how to configure a SOCKS proxy in your favorite torrent client.
Currently Windscribe has two SOCKS locations: Netherlands, and USA.
Privacy / Logging policy
Windscribe isn’t technically a zero-log VPN provider, but they’re pretty darn close. There’s the breakdown of logs they keep:
|How long it's kept
|resets each month
|Timestamp of your last session
|overwritten each time you connect
|Connection data of your current active session (doesn't include IP address)
|Deleted 3 minutes after you disconnect
Here’s a more detailed look at the privacy considerations:
- Bandwidth: Windscribe keeps track of the amount of data each account uses monthly. This is primarily down to weed out and cancel free accounts. It could also (theoretically) be used to identify people who abuse the ‘unlimited’ bandwidth quotas. This data is reset monthly and isn’t kept permanently.
- DNS Logging: Windscribe doesn’t actively log your DNS or web history, but keep in mind that if you use the Windscribe browser extension, they will have live access to your DNS queries (which allows the extension to block ads and malware).
Security and Encryption
Windscribe uses 256-bit AES Encryption with 4096-bit RSA keys for the handshake (which initiates the VPN connection). This is an incredibly secure NIST-certified encryption standard. The software client uses the OpenVPN protocol and all device types. If you prefer to use an older VPN protocol like L2TP/IPSec, you’ll want to choose a different provider.
There are several known VPN vulnerabilites that can leak your identity. Many of them can be plugged directly in the VPN software if your provider chooses to do so. Winscribe scored perfectly on our leak testing as you can see…
- IPv6 Leaks: IPv6 blocked at the server level
- VPN Disconnect: The optional firewall/kill-switch feature prevents your IP from leaking
- DNS Leaks: Windscribe’s client forces DNS queries to go through their secure DNS servers. We detected no DNS leaks in our testing.
Windflix’s speedtest results were decent, but not nearly as impressive as some competitors like IPVanish and ExpressVPN. The overseas servers were especially disappointing with Australian servers not even managing 5mbps. Most European or North American locations should be capable of at least HD video bandwidth (5-10mbps).
The browser extension performed a bit better than the VPN app on average (less encryption), with the Windflix servers delivering over 80mbps (more than enough to stream in full 4k).
Results (in Mbps):
- USA East Coast: 28.23 mbps download/ 32.29 mbps upload
- USA West Coast: 23.16 download/ 23.86 upload
- Canada: 82.58 download / 85.41 upload
- United Kingdom: 22.69 download / 9.86 upload
And the excellent Windflix speedperformance. It’s worth noting that Windflix is more of a SmartDNS proxy than a VPN, so there’s no encryption to slow down speeds.
Torrents, P2P & Kodi
Bittorrent users and Kodi diehards are usually on the lookout for a high-quality VPN service. But many providers don’t fit the higher-privacy needs of these users (especially for Bittorrent).
So how does Windscribe stack up?
Windscribe is a solid choice for file-sharing. They do technically allow torrents in all server locations, though they do have a few ‘non-p2p’ server locations where they suggest you don’t download torrents. The included SOCKS5 proxy is also a nice feature and can be configured inside utorrent or Vuze.
The only slight knock here is the fact that Windscribe does technically keep connection logs (though for mere minutes). Some competitors like PIA, IPVanish, and Torguard don’t keep any kinds of logs at all.
Bottom Line: Windscribe allows torrents and session logs are minimal and short-lived
Windscribe Price/Plans (including Free)
You have 2 basic plans to choose from: Free or Pro.
The Pro version includes unlimited bandwidth and every feature that Windscribe has to offer. It’s available in two subscription lengths:
- 1 month: $9.00/month
- 1 year: $4.08/month
Restrictions on the free plan
Obviously some feature’s are limited on the free tier. Here’s the list:
- Bandwidth: You’re only allowed 10GB of transfer (up/down combined). After this your account will be locked until the 1st of the next month. That’s suitable for general browsing but you can eat up that quota with just a few hours of HD Netflix streaming.
- Locations: You can only choose from 11 of the 50 available global server locations. That’s still pretty good.
- No OpenVPN Configs: You can’t manually configure a VPN connection on your own devices, so setting up a VPN router isn’t gonna happen until you upgrade.
In our opinion, that’s surprisingly few restrictions and you can still connect unlimited devices, and even download torrents on their free tier (which is kind of a big deal!).
Windscribe offers a 100% refund policy with a few restrictions:
- You’ve used the service for 3 days or less
- Less than 10GB of data transferred
- You haven’t violated the terms of service
If you meet these conditions and request a refund, you’ll be refunded within 30 days according to their Terms and Conditions.
Conclusion & Recommendations
Windscribe is certainly worthy of consideration and their software & functionality does cover the most common VPN use cases (mobile/desktop security, video streaming, and file-sharing).
That said, some of their competitors may be worth a look:
- NordVPN: Zero-log and Netflix compatible. 2-year deal for $3.29/month
- Private Internet Access: Zero log, Socks5 proxy included. $3.33/month
- Privacy: Windscribe takes privacy seriously and they only keep a minimum amount of session data (for as little as 3 minutes) to prevent abuse of their service.
- Software: It’s easy to use, and stable. The browser extension is a decent (optional) feature
- Windflix: 1-click Netflix access is great. Similar to NordVPN SmartplayTM
Our only major gripe is the server speed which can be hit and miss. International servers were noticeably slower than nearby ones and their free plan may be impacting speeds across their network.
Take advantage of their 10GB/month free plan and see how you like their service and software. You can expect speeds to improve somewhat once you upgrade to the pro-level plan.
Windscribe is a worth addition to the VPN market, and easily within the top 10 providers we’ve tested.