Windscribe Review 2023: The Canadian VPN Provider
From Edward Snowden to Cambridge Analytica: Discussions about the Internet have become cynical over recent years. Far from the tech utopia it was once thought to be, the Internet has become a digital battleground for liberty and privacy.
Windscribe promises to bring back "the Internet, as it should be." In our comprehensive evaluation of VPN providers, we've looked closely at underdogs like Windscribe to see just how much they really have to offer.
What Is Windscribe?
Windscribe ⇱ is a Canadian VPN provider, which since 2016 has offered free and paid subscriptions. Desktop applications are available for Windows, macOS, and Linux, as are mobile apps for iOS, Android, and Blackberry, and Google Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Opera browser extensions. Beyond that, Windscribe can also be configured for smart TVs and routers.
Intuitive apps with a number of features, including split tunneling and double-hop
Affordable and flexible subscription options
Free version (10 GB of data)
Well-suited for video streaming and usage in China
Average server network
No independent audits
Installation and Features
Windscribe's website automatically detects your operating system and browser, providing a link to the appropriate app download, significantly shortening the installation process. Within less than a minute, we were able to use Windscribe in Windows as well as Chrome.
All available apps and setup guides can be found on Windscribe's website.
Windscribe's app interface is even more lightweight than the most minimal VPN providers from our sample. You won't find an interactive world map or server performance data, with only the bare necessities integrated into the app's interface. These include a drop-down server menu, an on/off switch, your IP address, a kill switch (referred to as the 'firewall'), a notification bell, and a hamburger menu icon that takes you to the settings menu.
Once a connection has been established, its quality can be rated by clicking on the nearby bar symbol. In the drop-down menu, this provides information about the strength of potential connections; if you hover your pointer over the symbol, the exact ms can be seen.
The background flag is a nice touch.
Unfortunately, no server categories are offered, which is a feature common to many other VPN providers. Favorites can be marked, which will then appear in their own list. In addition, you can search through the server list, use a static IP address, or import user-defined configurations from other VPN providers.
If you don't select a specific server, you'll be automatically connected to the best available one.
Plenty of settings can be modified in the desktop client, such as those for auto-start, the automatic kill switch, and protocols. Under Settings, you can also configure your network's LAN proxy. Should your network adapter support it, Windows users are able to create a secure hot spot. Further options include the ability to establish HTTP or SOCKS proxy servers, which makes it possible for other devices to use your connection.
Two modes are provided for split tunneling: In "exclusive" mode, apps and hostnames that you select won't use your VPN tunnel; In "inclusive" mode, user-selected apps and hostnames will use your VPN tunnel.
Split tunneling is possible in both the app as well as on the domain/IP level.
The application's MAC spoofing feature provides further anonymity when using public WiFi. This assigns you a new MAC address each time you connect, preventing the companies that operate those networks from tracking you.
Windscribe's browser extension is as slim as its desktop counterpart, consisting of a quick-connect option, a server list organized by country, and a bar showing your IP address. In terms of privacy, the browser extension also serves as an ad blocker. With it, you can decide whether to block ads and malware, tracker cookies, social media widgets, notifications, or WebRTC queries.
Windscriber's browser extension also comes loaded with features.
"Split personality" reduces the risk of browser fingerprinting by rotating the user agent, browser version, and operating system that is reported to websites you visit. With "location warp" and "time warp", you can change your proxy connection's GPS and time settings.
"Double-hop" provides even more anonymity by activating VPNs in both the desktop and browser interfaces and routing your internet traffic through two different VPN servers.
The mobile app, currently available in seven languages, offers the same features as the desktop client. Dedicated video-streaming servers appear as a special server category.
Windscribe's smartphone app is nearly identical to its desktop client.
Despite its streamlined interface, Windscribe is intuitive, fast, and overflowing with practical features. Achieving such a nice balance between design and functionality remains an issue for many VPN providers.
Windscribe offers users a network of around 500 servers (support staffers we interacted with did not want to reveal the exact number) across 110 cities in more than 60 countries. Free version users can select from 10 locations. As such, in pure numbers, Windscribe is far off the leading VPNs like NordVPN or ExpressVPN, however, its network isn't bloated with virtual servers.
In terms of geographic presence, Windscribe conforms to the industry's trend, focusing on Europe and North America, while practically ignoring Africa and Asia. Still, its server network is solid. With that said, since we first reviewed the service (2019), barely any growth has occurred. While other providers set up shop in new countries, Windscribe hasn't, and we don't see any signs that they will.
We tested the speed of all of our sample's VPNs using a server in Europe with a 1 GB/s connection. To accomplish this, we connected to random Windscribe servers at different times of the day in the US and Germany. More information about our methodology can be found in our VPN speed test.
The table below shows the average results from the last 365 days, arranged in order of download and upload speed (descending):
Windscribe was one of the slower VPNs from our sample, with numbers only good enough for 17th place. In comparison to the top performers, its download speed of 82.2 MB/s and upload speed of 43.3 MB/s is "satisfactory."
The diagram below shows Windscribe's average speeds over the past months.
Download: 66.9 Mbit/s 66.9
Upload: 31.8 Mbit/s
Download: 70.9 Mbit/s 70.9
Upload: 31.4 Mbit/s
Download: 76.0 Mbit/s 76.0
Upload: 31.6 Mbit/s
Download: 82.6 Mbit/s 82.6
Upload: 32.5 Mbit/s
Download: 92.1 Mbit/s 92.1
Upload: 36.6 Mbit/s
Download: 98.2 Mbit/s 98.2
Upload: 38.1 Mbit/s
Download: 94.0 Mbit/s 94.0
Upload: 37.3 Mbit/s
Download: 95.7 Mbit/s 95.7
Upload: 36.6 Mbit/s
Despite its underwhelming speeds, we weren't disappointed with how Windscribe performed. Our connections were stable, without disruptions, and didn't generate annoying captchas when performing Google searches.
For video streaming, we also didn't have any complaints: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and BBC iPlayer displayed foreign content without issue.
We can also recommend the service for your next trip to China, but make sure to download its client(s) before you depart. When using the "Stealth" protocol, we didn't have any connection difficulties.
Windscribe makes up for its mediocre upload and download speeds by performing well, whether for streaming foreign content at home, or usage in a country that restricts the Internet. As such, we're confident that it's deserving of a "good" score.
Security and Privacy
Like most VPNs, Windscribe encrypts your data with AES 256, which is considered the industry standard. Users can select from VPN protocols like IKEv2, OpenVPN (TCP or UDP), and the new gold standard, WireGuard. In auto-connect mode, the desktop version uses IKEv2 by default, necessitating a trip to the settings menu for anyone who prefers OpenVPN or WireGuard.
Apart from this, there are also "Stealth" and "WStunnel" modes, which are encapsulated OpenVPN connections that simulate an ordinary connection. As mentioned above, these can be particularly useful in countries that restrict Internet usage, like China.
Windscribe passed our VPN leak tests (IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC) without any difficulties:
No leaks were identified during our testing.
Windscribe is based in Canada, a country with strict data storage laws but also a member of the so-called Five Eyes intelligence-sharing agreement. Unlike Panama, Malaysia, or the British Virgin Islands, Canada is not an ideal location for a VPN provider's headquarters. For most users, however, security and privacy concerns will probably not extend to government surveillance. Still, it's worth being aware of.
Windscribe promises ⇱ not to save any "identifiable logs", including connection logs, IP timestamps, or session logs. The only data that is saved, according to Windscribe, is that of bandwidth usage over the past 30 days, and the time of the last VPN connection.
If taking the service at its word, there are no red flags, something underlined by the variety of security features that are offered, such as "double hop" or "split personality." However, Windscribe has yet to submit to an external security audit to put its commitment to the test. For that reason, we cannot award it a higher score in this area.
Windscribe has a dedicated employee named Garry who is available to answer your questions around the clock. As soon as a question is posed in the support center ⇱, Garry immediately starts typing a response. Unfortunately, Garry is a bot and is only helpful for very basic problems.
In contrast to the heavyweights in the VPN market, like NordVPN, Windscribe has neither a live support chat nor a hotline. The company's support personnel can only be contacted by filing a somewhat old-fashioned support ticket. On the positive side, the ticket we filed was answered by the support team within roughly two hours.
Windscribe does have a relatively active subreddit, and its support center features a knowledge base, FAQs, and setup guides with video tutorials.
The provider seems to have attempted to preempt any questions through all of these measures, however, others in the VPN market simply offer more personal and immediate live assistance.
Apart from Windscribe's free version (which has a 10 GB monthly data limit, and allows connections to 10 servers), monthly and yearly subscription packages are also available. In terms of price, Windscribe is definitely one of the more affordable options. The service also offers the possibility to create your own subscription package, paying a monthly fee for the server locations you need.
A current price list can be found below:
|Contract Period (Months)||0||12||1|
|Data Volume||10 GB||unlimited||unlimited|
|Number of Devices||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited|
|Number of Servers||11||500||500|
|Number of Countries||11||60||60|
|No Server Logs|
Discounts are available for students, while for businesses and organizations "ScribeForce" charges a monthly fee for each 'team' user. Static IPs can be booked (at cost) as part of any subscription.
Windscribe offers a money-back guarantee to all subscribers, however, this only lasts three days, as opposed to the industry standard of 30.
The service's flexibility and low cost set it apart as one of the most attractive VPN services on the market.
Until recently, Windscribe has stood in the shadow of its more well-known competitors, and been unknown to many VPN users. Among free VPN providers, Windscribe has only a few rivals. Its reasonable subscription prices make it less of an underdog, especially when taking its sleek design and wide variety of features into account.
Unfortunately, points were deducted in terms of speed since Windscribe didn't do very well. Similarly, the lack of an external audit, which would confirm the provider's claims about not saving protocols, is disappointing. By improving its performance in this area, it would jump up our list and become a real force. If you can take the company at its word and don't care about speed, we think you'll be happy with Windscribe.
Based on the customer reviews we examined, most users seem to be highly satisfied with Windscribe. The free version's high data volume and the client's intuitiveness were both praised on multiple occasions. Complaints, although few and far between, are related mostly to connection problems and low speeds.
If you're on the hunt for a free VPN without data limits, ProtonVPN might be right up your alley. The service performed slightly better than Windscribe in our speed test and has undergone external security audits. The only drawback is that you'll have to make do with fewer features than Windscribe offers.
Should you be ready to make a small investment in order to have a top-performing service, we recommend NordVPN, Surfshark, or Mullvad VPN. Each finished near the top in our speed ranking and regularly undergoes third-party audits.
More of the best alternatives to Windscribe can be found below: