Windscribe is a Canada-based VPN service that has both a free and paid service. It has some appealing features, including no limit on the number of devices you can connect to its service. But it also has some real drawbacks and limitations that may turn you off altogether.
The review is divided into the following sections:
- Device Support
- Security and Privacy
- Legal Jurisdiction
- Global Coverage and Other Considerations
- Streaming and Torrenting
- Customer Support
In this review, we have concentrated on the full Windscribe service. We believe that you will get the best results from the greater range of features that a paid service provides relative to its free service. So let’s see what we can discover about the paid version of Windscribe VPN.
We like to see a VPN that supports a wide range of devices. While you might only need to support one or two types of devices right now, that can easily change in the future. The wider range of devices your VPN supports the smaller the chance that you will have to change services in the future due to device incompatibility.
Windscribe does a good job here, supporting more device types than most VPN services.
The full list of devices and apps that Windscribe supports right now looks like this:
The final item, Configurations for other devices, greatly increases the odds that the service will work with anything you might want to connect it to.
A VPN service sits between your computer and the Internet and adds some delays to the flow of messages. That makes the speed of the VPN service extremely important. The faster the VPN the better.
Unfortunately, many Windscribe users report that the service is slow. Others report that the speed they get is highly variable, with the connection being fast one moment and slow the next. If you decide to go with Windscribe we suggest you put a lot of effort into testing the service in your particular circumstances to see what kind of speed you will get.
Security and Privacy
Protecting you online is the main function of a VPN. It needs to provide both security and privacy to get the job done. We find that Windscribe does a nice job on the security end of the job, but causes us some stress on the privacy end.
In VPN terms, security is keeping unauthorized persons from being able to read the messages that flow between your device and the VPN’s servers. A VPN provides security by creating a virtual tunnel through the public internet that most snoops can’t get into. Further security comes from encrypting the messages, so even if someone somehow does see the messages flowing through the virtual tunnel they won’t be able to read them.
Windscribe VPN does a good job with security. It supports the best VPN encryption (the AES-256 cipher with SHA512 auth and a 4096-bit RSA key) and tunneling software (OpenVPN) currently available. It also supports the IKEv2 and SOCKS5 alternatives to OpenVPN.
Although OpenVPN is the industry standard, Windscribe VPN uses IKEv2 by default. Unless your particular circumstances require you do otherwise, we recommend you switch to the open source OpenVPN protocol when setting up Windscribe.
Privacy is the ability to prevent unauthorized persons from knowing who you are or what you are doing online. When you don’t use a VPN, your ISP (or anyone else monitoring your connection with the right equipment) can read the messages you send.
They can also see your IP Address, which allows them to determine at minimum your approximate geographic location. With a little work, it is often possible to identify the specific device to which that IP Address is signed.
In other words, if someone knows your IP Address, they can identify you. Keeping your IP Address secret is particularly important when you are accessing sensitive information online, or otherwise doing something the powers that be won’t like.
A VPN protects your privacy by replacing your IP Address with the IP Address of one of its own servers. Your real IP Address is hidden from the Internet, meaning that a snoop can’t tell which messages are meant for you or sent by you.
Windscribe VPN does a good job of protecting your privacy in this sense. Its encryption and tunneling software are industry standard.
IP Address Leaks
While a VPN should never expose your real IP Address to the Internet when it is functioning, there are some circumstances where a VPN might “leak” your IP Address. Windscribe doesn’t appear to leak under any of those circumstances.
To protect against IP Address leaks when the connection between your device (Windows or Mac) and the VPN server fails, Windscribe uses a Firewall-based approach. The firewall prevents any connection to the Internet except the one through the VPN.
If the VPN connection fails, your computer can’t communicate with the Internet until the connection is reestablished. This ensures that your IP Address doesn’t leak, even when the VPN connection fails.
The ideal VPN will have what is known as a “No-Logs” policy. That is, it will keep no logs that can be used to identify its users. Many of the top VPNs have this kind of policy. Some of them (NordVPN for example) have gone so far as to bring in outside auditors to confirm that it does not keep any such logs. You can read about this and a lot more in our in-depth NordVPN review.
Other services have had their no-logs policies proven to be true by real events that have unfolded. ExpressVPN, for example, has twice been involved in court cases where it was unable to provide the information desired by the government. ExpressVPN simply did not collect that information in the first place. You can find out more about this and all the features of this service in our full ExpressVPN review.
You should be comfortable with these policies before using Windscribe VPN. Before you decide, you should also check out the Legal Jurisdiction section that follows.
The laws that apply to a VPN depend on where it is located. Given that some countries are very hands-off when it comes to your online activities, and others want to know everything you do, the location of the company is crucial.
Windscribe is based in Toronto, Canada. Canada is not an ideal location for a VPN service since it is part of the Five Eyes (also known as FVEY) intelligence alliance. According to this 2014 interview with Edward Snowden, FVEY has evolved into, “sort of a supranational intelligence organization that doesn’t answer to the laws of its own countries.”
Member states gather intelligence about each other’s citizens and share it among themselves, allowing them to get around laws against spying on their own citizens.
In addition, the CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) has a history of recording communications of Canadian citizens who were not even considered a threat. Not an ideal location for a service that is supposed to protect your privacy.
Global Coverage and Other Considerations
One of the things that adds value to a VPN service is the size of its network. A service with more servers in more countries gives you several advantages. These include:
- Access to content available somewhere else. Some of the best content on the Internet is restricted to certain geographic locations. For example, BBC iPlayer is supposed to only be available to UK-based IP Addresses. If you try to connect to that service from outside that region of the world, you would be blocked, even if you were a UK citizen. A VPN service that provides servers in the UK could get you around this problem.
- Access to content not available where you are. In some countries, the government keeps the populace from seeing things the government doesn’t like by blocking those things from entering the country’s IP Addresses. Using a VPN service with servers in another country could allow you to circumvent this kind of block.
- Options to switch servers if one is down or blocked. VPN servers are reliable, but everything needs maintenance sooner or later. And services like Netflix put a lot of effort into identifying and blocking VPN servers. If there is only one server available in the area you need access to, a block or even regular maintenance will leave you out of action.
- Minimizing the speed impact of using a VPN. Using a VPN will almost always slow down your connection. There are delays caused by encrypted/decrypting messages passing to and fro. There are also delays caused by the signals physically traveling a greater distance. More servers in more locations mean you have more options to select a server that will minimize these delays.
As you can see, as in so many other things, bigger is better. Top VPN services have thousands of servers located in 60 countries or more. NordVPN, for example, lists over 5,100 servers. ExpressVPN lists servers in 94 countries.
It isn’t clear to us exactly how many servers Windscribe has. It lists its data centers, but not individual servers. They list datacenters in 58 countries, with multiple data centers in a few countries like the United States.
58 countries provide reasonable geographic coverage. And if there are multiple servers per data center in the areas of highest demand, its network should be adequate for most users.
Streaming and Torrenting
Streaming multimedia content is one of the top uses of a VPN since many streaming services restrict viewing to a particular geographic region. Logging into a streaming media source using a VPN server that is located in the correct region can often get you past this geo-blocking.
Windscribe VPN allows you to stream content, but you can only do so using a subset of its network. As of this review, Windscribe had 7 Windflix data centers, one each in Japan and Canada, two in England, and three in the United States.
While the Windflix data centers seem to be effective at streaming content for the associated countries, you can only stream content from those countries. Most other services that support streaming do not have this kind of limitation.
Torrenting is another favorite VPN use. It is illegal in some countries and can get you sued by the publisher of the content you download. Some VPNs give you carte blanche to torrent and leave it up to you to deal with any legal consequences. Others ban torrenting altogether on their network. Windscribe takes a slightly different approach.
When you visit the Windscribe Status page you will see that some countries indicate that P2P (torrenting) is not allowed. They use the acronym P2P with a line through it to indicate this, as shown below:
This is a big plus for Windscribe. Big as in unlimited, like the number of devices you are allowed to use on your account. Most VPN services limit you to 3-5 simultaneous connections. Windscribe allows an unlimited number of simultaneous connections for a single user. If you want everyone in your family to be protected, you are supposed to buy each person their own license.
As of May 15, 2019, the pricing for Windscribe VPN looked like this:
|Length of Plan||Price||Total Price Billed Up Front|
|1-month||$9.00 per month||$9.00|
|1-year||$4.08 per month||$49.00|
|Build a Plan||$1.00 per location per month||$1.00 per location per month|
|Static IP||Details here|
|Team Accounts||Details here|
Windscribe has one of the most restrictive refund policies we have ever seen. Here it is:
Garry is designed to handle first level support. He isn’t great but can be useful. And Garry is backed up by human support specialists. Unfortunately, as far as we can tell, the only people who are allowed to talk to the human support specialists are paid subscribers to the service. The rest of us are stuck with Garry.
Windscribe has its good points, but we can’t recommend this service. From the privacy risks of its data retention policies and its base in Canada to the slow speed of its servers and its relatively small network, there are definitely better options out there.
If you want lots of connections from a VPN service based in North America for some reason, check out Private Internet Access.
If you are looking for a fast, secure, No-Logs VPN service based in a privacy-friendly jurisdiction with over 5,000 servers, a generous 6-device connection limit, and low pricing, check out NordVPN.