Windscribe VPN Review
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Windscribe is an interesting VPN service based in Canada. While it is not really a market leader, this VPN has some decent features to offer. But it also has some notable drawbacks.
In this new and updated Windscribe review, I put the service through extensive testing. Here is a brief overview of my findings and test results.
Pros of Windscribe:
- User-friendly applications
- Good leak protection features
- Ad blocker (ROBERT)
- Free plan with 10 GB of data per month
- Browser extensions
Cons of Windscribe:
- Slow speeds
- Uses IKEv2 as default protocol (rather than OpenVPN)
- Based in Canada (Five Eyes)
- AI-based support system
- Issues with professionalism
Additional research findings:
- Windscribe logging policies
- Does Windscribe work with Netflix?
- Is Windscribe good for torrenting?
- Windscribe prices and refund policy
Now let’s get into the results of this Windscribe review.
1. User-friendly applications
For this Windscribe review, I tested out both the Windows and Mac OS VPN clients. The apps are user-friendly and simple, while also having some nice features.
Here was the Windscribe Windows client I tested:
Clicking the three lines in the top-left corner of the VPN client will open up additional options and features for you to select. You can select startup options, auto-connection, customize notifications, and also modify the layout of the VPN client.
Overall I liked the look and feel of the Windscribe VPN clients. They are simple, clean, and intuitive. Although I did not test the Windscribe mobile apps for this review, they look similar and also have a pretty good rating (4.4) in the Google Play Store.
2. Good leak protection features
Another “pro” with Windscribe is the leak protection features.
In both the Windows and Mac OS clients, Windscribe offers a “Firewall” setting to block traffic if the connection is not active. The Firewall feature gives you three options: Manual, Automatic, and Always On.
Windscribe also allows you to configure DNS settings within the client. Below you can see both the Firewall options and DNS settings in the Windows VPN client.
Ok, now on to the tests.
I ran Windscribe through a round of basic VPN tests and checks to identify any issues. The test results were good. I did not identify any leaks with Windscribe.
Here I’m testing the Windows client for IP address leaks and DNS leaks:
Above you can see that everything checks out (no leaks). I also ran the Windscribe Mac OS client through the same basic tests and the results were the same: no leaks.
Encryption – The Windscribe VPN desktop client uses an AES-256 cipher with SHA512 auth and a 4096-bit RSA key. The browser extension uses TLS 1.2, ECDHE_RSA with P-256 key exchange and an AES_128_GCM cipher.
In terms of basic security settings, Windscribe does well.
3. Windscribe’s ad blocker (ROBERT)
Another cool feature that Windscribe offers is an ad blocker. The Windscribe ad blocker is called ROBERT. I’m not sure if “ROBERT” is an acronym for something, but either way, it does quite a bit of blocking.
Windscribe offers basic filter lists, which will block the following categories of URLs:
- Ads + Trackers
- Social media
- Fake News + Clickbait
- Other VPNs
This is a pretty robust filter feature. It is similar to the TrackStop filter from Perfect Privacy. However, one cool aspect with Windscribe’s ROBERT is that it is customizable. In other words, you can create custom white-lists for domains or IP addresses as well as custom block-lists.
This is a server-side ad blocker, which means it works independently of the VPN client with any device you are using. If you want a good ad blocker, this may be an option to consider.
4. Free plan with 10 GB data/month
The last “pro” we will examine in this review is Windscribe’s free plan. Windscribe offers a free plan with the following restrictions:
- Only 10 GB of data allowed per month
- The ROBERT feature only includes the “Malware” filter list (no blocking of ads or trackers)
- Limited number of servers
On a positive note, Windscribe does give you a few different ways to increase your bandwidth allowance:
While I generally do not recommend free VPN services, this may not be a bad option if you don’t need very much data.
5. Windscribe browser extension
When you go to download Windscribe, you notice that they recommend downloading both a VPN application and a browser extension.
To use the ad blocker, you will need to download the browser extension.
More and more VPNs are offering browser extensions that can be used with VPNs. I’ve also recently noticed this with ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and VPN.ac, for example.
So why use the VPN together with the browser extension?
Using a browser extension may be good in certain situations. However, it’s also important to note that a browser extension is not a VPN. Instead, it is an HTTPS proxy, which does not offer the full protection of the VPN, such as firewall protection against IP leaks. This is noted in the table above, even though they refer to the proxy extension as a “browser-only VPN client”.
Note: Windscribe recommends using the VPN client (desktop) in conjunction with browser extension for full protection and more features.
Now let’s examine the cons of Windscribe.
1. Windscribe slow speeds
One big drawback with Windscribe is the performance with the OpenVPN protocol. To check for speeds with Windscribe, I used a 160 Mbps baseline (non-VPN) connection and tested many VPN servers throughout the world. My physical testing location was in Western Europe.
Note: I configured the VPN client to only use OpenVPN UDP, which offers better performance over OpenVPN TCP. I did not test speeds with the IKEv2 VPN protocol, simply because I run all speed tests with OpenVPN. IKEv2 is a good VPN protocol, but OpenVPN is the gold standard because it is secure, reliable, and open source.
The Windscribe VPN client gives you the option to connect to the “Best Location”, which should offer the best speeds. Here were the results:
“Best Location” speed test with a nearby Windscribe server in Germany: 28 Mbps
This is definitely not a good test result for a nearby server, which should be offering near full capacity bandwidth.
Next up was a Windscribe server in Switzerland, which gave me even slower speeds around 18 Mbps.
I also tested a few Windscribe servers in the UK, which gave me about 30 Mbps.
If you want a fast VPN for the UK, Windscribe would probably not fit the bill. There are certainly better options to consider.
Next, I tested Windscribe servers in the United States. The test results were equally disappointing.
Here is a Windscribe server in New York giving me about 10 Mbps.
Even with the longer distances, this is still very slow.
COMPARISON with ExpressVPN: For a quick comparison, I was able to get around 140 Mbps when testing ExpressVPN servers in New York (from my location in Europe).
As you can see, the difference in speeds is huge.
Continuing on with Windscribe, I then tested a server in Miami, which gave me around 9 Mbps.
Last up, I tested Chicago, which was the worst of all Windscribe servers I tested at under 6 Mbps.
Overall, these are definitely not good speed test results. I would not recommend Windscribe if you need a VPN for USA or other North American regions.
This is not too surprising, however. With my last Windscribe VPN review, I also experienced slow speeds with many different servers tested.
If you want to get faster speeds with Windscribe, you could switch to the IKEv2 protocol, which generally outperforms OpenVPN (but it is also less secure). If speed is your top priority, I’d strongly recommend considering other options, such as ExpressVPN.
2. IKEv2 is default protocol (rather than OpenVPN)
Another interesting thing with Windscribe is that it uses the IKEv2 protocol as the default option in the VPN clients.
While IPSec/IKEv2 is generally considered to be secure, it does have some noteworthy drawbacks. For one, IKEv2 is not open source and has not undergone extensive auditing like OpenVPN. Within the privacy and VPN community, OpenVPN is generally considered to be the gold standard. There are other experimental protocols as well, such as WireGuard.
If you examine the Windscribe client, you’ll see that the default option is set to IKEv2, rather than OpenVPN.
Windscribe probably decided to make IKEv2 the default because it offers the best speeds. Once again, however, there is a security tradeoff here and OpenVPN should probably be used as default.
Switching to a more secure protocol is easy. Simply open the settings, then select “Manual” and choose the protocol you want to use.
3. Based in Canada (Five Eyes)
One drawback with Windscribe is that it is based in Canada, which is not a good privacy jurisdiction.
As we have discussed before, Canada is a member of the Five Eyes surveillance alliance, along with the United States, UK, Australia, and New Zealand.
Canada also has mandatory data retention laws and abusive surveillance practices. We discuss these issues more in my guide of the best VPNs for Canada. Jurisdiction is an important consideration when choosing a VPN because this determines what laws and governance the VPN must operate under.
Copyright violation laws are another aspect to consider with jurisdiction. As discussed in the VPN for torrenting guide, Canada has some strict laws against copyright violations, along with data retention that is used to prosecute piracy (copyright infringement) cases.
4. AI-based support system
One thing that I found rather annoying with Windscribe is that they are using a robotic AI-based support system, which they call “Garry”. When attempting to get help with some connection problems, I fired up a chat window. Garry did provide some suggestions and tips, but ultimately I wanted to speak with a human, rather than an AI bot.
After growing frustrated with the AI bot, Garry eventually offered me the option to “talk to a human”. This opened a screen where I could submit a support ticket and get help via email. There was no option to chat with a human.
Most of the top VPN providers, such as ExpressVPN and also NordVPN, offer 24/7 live chat support with real humans. On a positive note, however, someone did email me some suggestions within 24 hours. Nonetheless, live chat support with a human being would be a lot better.
5. Issues with professionalism
One strange thing I noticed with Windscribe is that it really seems to be lacking in the professionalism department.
The first red flag I noticed was during the Windows client installation process. If you choose “Custom Install” you will see the following options under the “customize the experience” tab:
- Slow down the connection
- Disconnect randomly
- Show random errors all the time
Below this, you see in light grey letters, “Just kidding. These checkboxes actually don’t do anything.”
I guess this is Windscribe’s idea of a funny joke. Perhaps I’m old fashioned, but given the importance of security and privacy, I don’t see this as the best venue for jokes about VPN errors and problems.
I saw another user on reddit also pointing out Windscribe’s unprofessionalism:
Maybe these jokes are popular among the Windscribe crowd – I don’t know. Either way, this is rather strange behavior for a VPN service.
Update: More unprofessionalism
When you uninstall Windscribe, you are redirected to a page with a monkey picture, profanity, and a YouTube video of the 90’s boy band N’ Sync. At the bottom of the uninstall page, you’re greeted with this message:
Keep it classy, Windscribe.
Additional research findings
Below are some additional findings for this Windscribe review.
Windscribe logging policies
In my previous Windscribe review, I called them out for falsely claiming to “delete everything” – a claim that does not align with their own policies.
Previous false claims:
On the Windscribe features page, you can see they are now claiming to have “no identifying logs”.
Current logging claims:
So let’s examine the fine print.
At the very bottom of the Windscribe End User License Agreement (EULA) you find the following:
“When you use Windscribe, we keep the following data associated with your account:
- Total amount of bytes transferred in a 30 day period. Bandwidth reset date is in your “My Account” section.
- Timestamp of your last activity on the Windscribe network.
This data is used to enforce free tier limitations, prevent abuse and weed out inactive accounts.”
Verdict: In terms of logging policies, this isn’t too concerning.
Many VPNs record timestamps (see ProtonVPN) and/or data transfer, which alone cannot be used to identify users.
If privacy is a concern, there are also a handful of no logs VPNs that have been verified.
Does Windscribe work with Netflix?
I tested Windscribe’s ability to unblock Netflix for this review and the results were rather interesting.
First, I found that Windscribe does indeed unblock Netflix. I tested this with the Windflix US and Windflix Canada servers. Both worked without getting blocked.
I did run into some problems, however, with playback speed and buffering. The connection did not seem very stable and consistently fast. To verify these issues, I ran some speed tests with the Windflix US server, which gave me around 5 Mbps.
Overall, Windscribe might be an OK option for streaming, but it’s not the best VPN for Netflix due to the speed issues.
Is Windscribe good for torrenting?
Windscribe may not be the worst VPN for torrenting, but it’s also not the best. The main issue is the speeds. After all, torrenting with a slow VPN can be a real drag.
Windscribe’s official policy is that they allow torrenting on most servers. From their website:
You can use the Bit Torrent protocol in any Windscribe server location except India, Japan and WINDFLIX. Simply connect to any other Windscribe location in our desktop applications and use any torrent client as you normally would. That being said, we don’t condone using Windscribe for any illegal activity.
There are other good VPNs for torrenting, although Windscribe certainly is not the worst choice.
Windscribe VPN prices and refund policy
The prices for the paid plans with Windscribe are about average for the VPN industry.
The “Build A Plan” option allows you to select which server locations you want and pay accordingly.
Although Windscribe is not one of the cheapest VPNs, it still offers a pretty good value when you consider all the features.
Windscribe’s refund policy contains some fine print. Here are three important points to keep in mind before you purchase a subscription:
- The refund window is for 3 days.
- The refund policy only applies if you purchase directly from Windscribe (no third-party sites like StackSocial)
- If you use more than 10 GB of data your refund will be void.
Here is the exact wording from their website:
A shorter refund window is not too surprising since they encourage people to test out the free service before going with a paid subscription.
Windscribe review conclusion
Windscribe has both pros and cons, as we have detailed above in the review.
I’d say the biggest “pros” with Windscribe are the features, particularly the robust ad-blocking feature (ROBERT). The apps are also user-friendly and offer some great preferences and leak-protection settings.
With that being said, there are two remaining issues:
- Windscribe is based in Canada, a bad privacy jurisdiction.
- Windscribe is slow (at least based on my tests with the OpenVPN protocol)
The performance issues are a serious drawback, as this affects browsing, torrenting, downloads, and even streaming Netflix. For a seriously fast VPN with consistent performance, ExpressVPN or NordVPN would be better choices.
While Windscribe has made some improvements, there are better options to consider.
Best alternatives to Windscribe
Click the VPN name below to read our full review – or grab the discount for the best savings. All three of these VPNs have a 30 day money-back guarantee.
- ExpressVPN [49% discount + 3 Months Free]
- NordVPN [68% discount]
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You can also check out our guide on the Best VPNs for 2021.
If you have used Windscribe VPN, feel free to share your honest review (good or bad) below.