Free VPN not working

If you’ve been using a free VPN and it’s no longer working, it’s most likely because the online service you’re trying to access has recognised you’re using a VPN and has blocked it.

While free VPNs are good at providing you with an anonymous internet connection, if you’re using a free VPN to watch streaming services, often, these sorts of VPNs will stop working because the platform can identify the IP address your VPN has given you.

The reason this is happening is because free VPNs don’t have measures in place to ensure they reliably work with websites, apps, streaming services and other online platforms. 

To work consistently, VPNs need to stay one step ahead of the VPN blocking methods used by certain websites. And to do that, they need a lot of infrastructure behind them. Free VPNs simply aren’t able to do this because they’re free.

The good news is there’s a few things you can try to fix the issue. In this article, we’ll explain potential ways you can fix the issues you’re having with your free VPN.

How to fix free VPN not working

Below is a list of fixes you can try to resolve your free VPN not working.

Go through each step in order. If one doesn’t work, move on to the next until you can use a VPN reliably again.

  1. Check your internet connection

    Free VPN not working

    Sometimes when a VPN stops working, it’s actually your internet connection that’s having issues.

    A good place to start is making sure that you’re still connected to the internet. If so, check that your internet is running correctly.
    The way to do that is to check your internet speed. You can do that here.

    If you think your internet is running slower than usual, that can be a sign your internet connection is having problems. This can create issues with VPNs. Call your internet service provider (ISP) if this is the case.

  2. Disable antivirus

    Free VPN not working

    If you have an antivirus installed on your device, try uninstalling it and then try your free VPN.

    VPN software can often be mistaken for a virus or malware by antivirus software. When this happens, the antivirus blocks the VPN.

    This might be what’s happening with your current VPN. Disabling your antivirus or making your VPN an exemption may fix the problems you’re coming across.

  3. Try a different device

    Free VPN not working

    If your free VPN is no longer a working, a great test is to try it on a different device.

    If it works on your smartphone, but not your computer, then you know the VPN isn’t the problem.

  4. Delete Cookies

    Free VPN not working

    Deleting your cookies can potentially fix issues you’re having with your VPN.

    Accumulated or corrupted cookies in a browser might interfere with the way websites and online services function, especially when using a VPN.

    Clearing these cookies removes any old or problematic data, thereby ensuring a cleaner slate for your VPN connection to operate.

    This can help in establishing a more stable connection when using your VPN.

  5. Change to a different server

    Free VPN not working

    If your VPN has suddenly stopped working, it might be because of what you’re trying to access with the VPN turned on.

    For example, some websites and streaming services try and block VPN connections. They do this by identifying the IP address that your VPN has given you.

    If this has happened, changing to a different server will give you a different IP address, and if that one hasn’t been blocked, you shouldn’t run into any problems with your VPN again.

  6. Change protocol

    Free VPN not working

    VPN protocols are the beating heart of a VPN. They determine how the VPN works. When you use a VPN the protocol is responsible for hiding your data and rerouting it via VPN servers.

    If your VPN isn’t working, it might be because the protocol you’re using is no longer working.

    If your VPN allows it, try changing to a different protocol to see if that fixes the issue. Take a look at our VPN protocols article to discover more about which technology might be best for you.

  7. Reinstall your VPN

    Free VPN not working

    VPNs can sometimes inadvertently download bugs and errors. These can cause the software to run slowly or even not work at all.

    A good way of getting get rid of bugs and errors is by starting the VPN with a clean slate. To do that you should reinstall the software.

    This ensures you have a clean version of the VPN and also, the latest version. Your VPN may have updated its software with fixes and reinstalling it will ensure it’s up to date.

  8. Upgrade to a better VPN

    Free VPN not working

    If the above fixes don’t work, either your VPN isn’t managing to keep up with the demand of its many customers, it’s not fast enough to enable you to do what you’re trying to do, or it can’t get around VPN blocks.

    This can be a problem because you’ll have to wait for your VPN to fix the issue, and unfortunately, there’s no way of telling how long this will take and there’s no guarantee it will even fix it.

    The best thing to do in this situation is to upgrade to a VPN that has the resources to keep up with increasing demand and has an incredibly fast, secure connection.

    The VPNs we recommend are NordVPN and ExpressVPN.

Are free VPNs good for streaming services?

Free VPNs might seem like an attractive option for accessing streaming services, but they often come with significant drawbacks compared to paid VPNs, especially for activities like streaming that require high bandwidth and stable connection speeds. Here are some reasons why free VPNs might not be the best choice for streaming services:

  1. Limited Bandwidth and Data Caps: Many free VPNs impose data limits, which can be quickly exhausted by streaming, especially in high definition or 4K. Once you hit the cap, you can’t stream anymore without upgrading to a paid plan or waiting for the cap to reset.
  2. Slower Speeds: Free VPNs tend to have fewer servers that are often overcrowded with users, leading to slower speeds and more buffering when streaming video content. This can make for a frustrating viewing experience.
  3. Limited Server Locations: To effectively bypass geo-restrictions, you need access to servers in specific countries. Free VPNs usually offer a limited selection of server locations, which might not include the regions you need for the streaming services you want to access.
  4. Security and Privacy Concerns: Running VPN servers costs money, and if a service is offered for free, it’s worth considering how the provider covers these costs. Some free VPNs have been found to log user activity, display intrusive ads, or even sell user data to third parties, compromising your privacy and security.
  5. Streaming Service Blocks: Streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer actively block IP addresses known to belong to VPNs. Paid VPNs typically have the resources to regularly update their IP addresses and implement technologies to avoid detection, making them more reliable for accessing geo-restricted content. Free VPNs, with their limited resources, are more likely to be blocked.

While a free VPN can sometimes work for casual browsing, for a consistent, secure, and enjoyable streaming experience, investing in a reputable paid VPN service is generally advisable. Paid VPNs offer unlimited bandwidth, faster speeds, a wider selection of server locations, and better security and privacy protections.

What should I look for in a VPN?

When choosing a VPN, there are several key features and considerations to keep in mind to ensure you select a service that meets your needs for security, privacy, and performance. Here’s what to look for:

  1. Strong Encryption: Ensure the VPN uses robust encryption standards (such as AES-256) to secure your data. This helps protect your information from hackers and eavesdroppers.
  2. No-Logs Policy: Choose a VPN that has a strict no-logs policy, meaning it does not record any information about your internet activities. This is crucial for maintaining your privacy online.
  3. Server Locations: A wide range of server locations allows you to access content from different countries and can help you find a server close to you for better speeds. Check if the VPN has servers in the regions you’re most interested in.
  4. Speed: Look for a VPN known for offering fast connection speeds to minimize buffering and lag, especially if you plan to use it for streaming, gaming, or downloading large files.
  5. Simultaneous Connections: Consider how many devices you want to connect to the VPN at the same time. Some VPNs allow unlimited devices, while others may limit you to a certain number.
  6. Ease of Use: The VPN should have user-friendly software for various platforms (Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, etc.) that makes it easy to connect to a server and adjust settings as needed.
  7. Kill Switch: A kill switch automatically disconnects you from the internet if your VPN connection drops, preventing your data from being exposed. This feature is essential for maintaining privacy at all times.
  8. Customer Support: Reliable customer service is important for resolving any issues you might encounter. Look for VPNs that offer 24/7 support via chat, email, or phone.
  9. Compatibility: Ensure the VPN is compatible with all your devices and any specific applications or services you use. Some VPNs offer specialized servers for streaming or P2P traffic.
  10. Trial Period or Money-Back Guarantee: A free trial or a money-back guarantee allows you to test the VPN service to ensure it meets your needs before committing to a subscription.

The VPN services we recommend

1. ExpressVPN

The fastest and most reliable VPN of 2024

  • Physical servers in 104 countries
  • Brilliant for unblocking streaming services
  • Very high-speed Lightway protocol
  • Available on almost any device
  • Very secure
  • Pricey
  • Only 8 simultaneous devices
  • No addons
ExpressVPN

Streaming: ExpressVPN excels in unblocking geo-restricted content and works seamlessly with streaming services, even in countries where VPNs are banned. It consistently performed well in tests with Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and HBO Max.

Servers: ExpressVPN has a robust network with servers in 104 countries, significantly above the 71-country average. Less than 3% of these servers are virtual, ensuring a reliable and fast physical network.

Privacy: ExpressVPN’s privacy measures include passing independent audits by cybersecurity firms like Cure53 and F-Secure, ensuring a strong level of security and no significant weaknesses in its macOS, Linux, and Windows apps. More details can be found in the audit reports available online.

Price: ExpressVPN offers three payment plans: a 1-month option at $12.95/month, a 6-month option at $9.99/month, and a 12-month option at $6.67/month. Payment methods include major credit cards, PayPal, Bitcoin, and other systems, accommodating a wide range of users.

Speeds: ExpressVPN maintains high download speeds with minimal drop-off, ensuring efficient performance. Tests showed a slight decrease in upload speeds, but download speeds remained fast across various server locations, including the US, UK, and Vietnam.

Download Speeds (Mbps)Upload Speeds (Mbps)
VPN off937.07520.93
ExpressVPN US server824.626.96
ExpressVPN UK server794.953.70
ExpressVPN Vietnam server761.903.81

Read our full ExpressVPN review.

Special Offer for you!

(30-day money-back guarantee)

2. NordVPN

An excellent, affordable, and fast VPN option for 2024

  • Affordable pricing
  • Effective streaming access
  • Diverse server types
  • Solid speeds
  • Useful add-ons
  • Strong security
  • Limited server locations
  • No virtual servers
NordVPN

Streaming: NordVPN is highly effective for bypassing geo-restrictions on streaming platforms like Netflix and BBC iPlayer. It has shown consistent success in connecting to various streaming services without noticeable issues.

Servers: NordVPN’s server network spans 60 countries. While this is below the average of 71 countries for the top 20 VPNs, its commitment to physical servers ensures faster and more reliable connections.

Privacy: NordVPN’s secure connection and no-logs policy have been verified via three independent audits, including one by Deloitte. The audits have confirmed NordVPN’s adherence to its no-logs policy, ensuring user privacy.

Price: NordVPN offers three pricing plans: Complete, Plus, and Standard. The 2-year plan for the Standard package is priced at $3.19/month, the 1-year plan at $4.99/month, and the monthly plan at $12.99/month. It accepts major credit cards and various payment systems.

Speeds: Below is a table showing the speeds tested for NordVPN. From our tests in New Zealand, NordVPN displayed very good speeds, although slightly behind ExpressVPN, but significantly faster than many other VPNs on the market.

Download Speeds (Mbps)Upload Speeds (Mbps)
No VPN (New Zealand)937.07520.93
NordVPN US server710.906.98
NordVPN UK server531.123.73

Read our full NordVPN review.

Special Offer for you!

(30-day money-back guarantee)

3. PureVPN

A mid-range VPN that balances performance and price

  • Affordable
  • Unblocks major streaming services
  • Use on up to 10 devices simultaneously
  • Streamlined user interface
  • No log audit verified by KPMG
  • Several free add-ons
  • Buffering on BBC iPlayer at peak times
  • Past concerns with “no log” policy
PureVPN

Streaming: PureVPN has shown improvement in its ability to unblock streaming services. While it initially struggled with BBC iPlayer, its performance improved during less busy times. PureVPN can unblock major streaming services, but it may encounter buffering issues during peak streaming periods.

Servers: PureVPN offers a wide range of servers around the world. Although specific numbers are not provided, PureVPN’s server offerings are robust, allowing users to access various international content.

Privacy: PureVPN has faced criticism in the past for its privacy policies. However, it has recently undergone a no-log audit verified by KPMG in the past 12 months, aiming to reassure users about its commitment to privacy.

Price: PureVPN offers three payment options: a 1-month plan at $10.95/month, a 1-year plan at $3.74/month, and a 2-year plan at $1.96/month. PureVPN accepts all major credit cards, PayPal, and a variety of other digital payment options.

Speeds: Below is a table that gives you an idea of the speed performance you can expect when using PureVPN. The VPN has shown variable download speeds across different streaming servers, with some experiencing significant drop-offs during peak times.

Download Speeds (Mbps)Upload Speeds (Mbps)
No VPN189.44139.82
PureVPN UK Server24.3198.99
PureVPN US Server49.83106.52

Read our full PureVPN review.

Special Offer for you!

(30-day money-back guarantee)

4. Private Internet Access

Affordable and secure VPN with wide device compatibility

  • Affordable pricing plans
  • Unlimited simultaneous devices
  • Extra features like ad blocker and email protection
  • Verified no-log policy
  • Compatible with streaming services like Netflix and Hulu
  • High use of virtual servers
  • Not as fast as top-tier VPNs
  • Lacks proprietary protocol options
PIA

Streaming: Private Internet Access works well with streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Max, although it initially faced some difficulties with BBC iPlayer, which were resolved after some fixes.

Servers: PIA has over 35,000 servers in 84 countries, which is above the average of 71 countries. However, 50% of these servers are virtual, impacting reliability compared to VPNs with more physical servers.

Privacy: PIA’s app is open-source, inviting third-party scrutiny and verification. It has also passed an independent no-log policy audit conducted by Deloitte, affirming its commitment to privacy.

Price: PIA offers three subscription options: 1-month at $11.95/month, 1-year at $3.33/month (upfront cost $39.95), and 3-year at $2.03/month (upfront fee $79). Payment methods include credit cards, PayPal, cryptocurrencies, and Amazon payments.

Speeds: Speed tests for PIA showed significant drops in download speeds across various servers. While using WireGuard protocol, speeds were faster than OpenVPN but still slower compared to top-tier VPNs like ExpressVPN.

OpenVPN Download Speeds (Mbps)OpenVPN Upload Speeds (Mbps)WireGuard Download Speeds (Mbps)WireGuard Upload Speeds (Mbps)
VPN off (New Zealand)930516
PIA US server238.527.17300.658.65
PIA UK server2453.77315.787.23
PIA Vietnam server4456.554898.24

Read our full Private Internet Access review.

Special Offer for you!

(30-day money-back guarantee)

5. Surfshark

Affordable and secure VPN with unlimited device policy of 2024

  • Attractive pricing for long-term subscriptions
  • Supports unlimited simultaneous connections
  • Robust security and privacy
  • 24/7 responsive chat support
  • Extensive server network in 100 countries
  • Has trouble with services like Hulu
  • Lacks a unique proprietary protocol
  • App can be overwhelming
  • Not the fastest among competitors
Surfshark

Streaming: Surfshark performs well with most streaming services but faces challenges with some, like Hulu. This could be a drawback for users who heavily rely on VPNs for streaming content from various regions.

Servers: Surfshark boasts a server network in 100 countries, which is well above the average and includes both physical and virtual servers, providing extensive geographic coverage.

Privacy: Surfshark emphasizes its commitment to privacy with successful DNS leak tests and independent security audits by Cure53, ensuring robust online security and privacy. You can find more about their security audits here.

Price: Surfshark offers a 1-month option costing $12.95/month, a 12-month option at $3.99/month, and a 24-month option at $2.49/month. It accepts major credit cards, PayPal, Google Pay, Amazon Pay, and various cryptocurrencies.

Speeds: Below is a table that gives you an idea of the speed performance when using Surfshark. From our tests, we observed decent speeds, suitable for general use, but not the fastest compared to some rivals.

Download Speeds (Mbps)Upload Speeds (Mbps)
No VPN (New Zealand)940.55520.24
Surfshark US server775.96.15
Surfshark UK server587.793.79

Read our full Surfshark review.

Special Offer for you!

(30-day money-back guarantee)

Free VPN not working: FAQs

Q: Why is my free VPN not connecting?

Answer: Free VPNs often have fewer servers that can become overcrowded, leading to connection difficulties. Try connecting at a different time or selecting another server location if the service allows. If the issue persists, the server might be down or undergoing maintenance.

Q: Why can’t I access certain websites or streaming services with my free VPN?

Answer: Many streaming services and websites implement measures to detect and block VPN use, especially from free VPNs known for having limited IP addresses. Free VPNs may not update their server IPs regularly, making them more susceptible to being blacklisted by these services.

Q: Why is my internet speed so slow on a free VPN?

Answer: Free VPNs typically have a high number of users on a limited number of servers, which can lead to significant slowdowns due to congestion. Additionally, some free VPN providers might throttle bandwidth to manage server load or encourage users to upgrade to paid plans.

Q: Can I get banned from a service for using a free VPN?

Answer: While it’s rare to get banned solely for using a VPN, some services, including streaming and gaming platforms, have terms of use that prohibit VPNs. If detected, they might restrict your access to their content or services, but usually, they’ll just block the VPN’s IP address.

Q: Why do some free VPNs stop working after a while?

Answer: Free VPNs may impose data limits, and once you reach the cap, the service might stop working until the next cycle begins or you upgrade to a paid plan. Additionally, ongoing maintenance and updates are less frequent, which can lead to prolonged downtimes or service discontinuation.

Patch Bowen
Patch Bowen is an accomplished technology journalist with a solid academic foundation, holding a degree from Auckland University. His expertise spans across a range of tech topics, with a notable focus on product reviews, industry trends, and the impact of technology on society. With his work featured on major New Zealand websites like Stuff.co.nz, thebit.nz, and The Press, Patch has established himself as a credible voice in technology media. His articles are known for their detailed analysis and practical insights, particularly in making complex technological concepts understandable for a broad audience. At ReviewsFire, Patch is renowned for his thorough evaluations and clear, informative writing style. He has a knack for identifying and explaining the nuances of the latest gadgets and digital trends, earning him a reputation as a trusted source for tech advice and information.

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