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VPNs and ad blockers help you surf the web privately so that websites and advertisers can’t track your online activities to learn where you go and what you do. You’ll find a plethora of VPNs and ad blockers with different price tags and degrees of effectiveness, but one program worth trying is Windscribe. Defined as a VPN with ad and tracker blocking at its core, Windscribe adds other privacy features of value and attempts to make the whole process as simple and seamless as possible.
Note: This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best VPNs. Go there to learn about competing products, what to look for in a VPN, and buying recommendations.
Windscribe Pro: Features
Windscribe is available for a variety of platforms. Beyond the desktop versions for Windows, macOS, and Linux, there are mobile apps for iOS, Android, and Blackberry OS. Browser extensions are accessible for Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge. There are even versions for certain smart TV systems and for router configurations. For this review, I focused on the Windows version—which supports Windows 7, 8, 10, and 11—and on the browser extensions.
With the Windows program and browser extension working as a team, Windscribe provides several benefits. Working silently in the background, the VPN keeps your web traffic private using standard protocols such as WireGuard, IKEv2, and OpenVPN. For its lineup of VPN servers, Windscribe offers access to 112 city locations across 69 different countries. A feature dubbed R.O.B.E.R.T. is a customizable DNS and IP level blocker for the Windows client capable of blocking ads, trackers, malware, and objectional websites (gambling, adult content, crypto mining, etc.). Additionally, a MAC address spoofing tool can disguise your PC’s hardware address.
Plus, more advanced options are available. A port forwarding feature lets you securely access your home computer, network, or NAS remotely via a Windscribe connection. A Config Generator helps you create configuration files for different VPN protocols. And though the IP address assigned to your computer will change dynamically, there is an option to upgrade to a static address.
Windscribe Free vs. Pro edition
As with many internet and security products, Windscribe comes in a free edition as well as a subscription-based Pro mode. The free flavor restricts the number of VPN locations and the amount of bandwidth you can use. By default, you’re granted 2GB of bandwidth per month. Adding and confirming your email address boosts that to 10GB per month. Otherwise, the free plan imposes no speed or performance caps.
The Pro flavor grants you access to all the VPN city locations around the world as well as unlimited bandwidth. This plan also offers three different options depending on what you need and how much you want to pay. The less expensive Pro subscription costs $5.75 per month when billed annually, while the more expensive one costs $9 per month when billed monthly. Feature-wise, though, the two are exactly the same.
A Build-a-Plan option lets you pay only for what you use via an a-la-carte approach. Don’t need or want access to all the accessible VPN servers? You can limit the scope to just certain server locations. For example, you could buy access to all 35 VPN server locations in the US for $1. For each country you add, you get an extra 10GB of data per month. You can also grab unlimited data for your plan for another $1 a month. Ultimately, you need to spend at least $3 per month if you opt to build your own plan.
Windscribe Pro: Installation
The Windscribe setup process is smooth and helpful. After installing the software, clicking the Get Started button takes you to the website to create a free account if you haven’t yet done so. After supplying your username, a password, and an optional email address, return to the software to sign in with your new account.
By default, the Windows client picks the best VPN server based on location and availability, though you can easily change this. Select the country or region you wish to use, such as the U.S., the UK, Canada, Italy, Australia, Japan, or South Korea. Then pick a specific city, such as New York in the U.S. or Rome in Italy. Your VPN server and IP address change based on your selection. Choosing your VPN server this way can improve performance and let you access region-specific websites, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and BBC iPlayer.
Once your VPN server is set, a performance graph shows the speed of your connection. In case you’re disconnected from the server, a firewall switch is available should you need to block all connections to your PC. Plus, settings are accessible to determine if and how the VPN automatically launches, how the list of VPN locations is sorted, whether the firewall kicks in automatically or manually, and whether you wish to spoof your PC’s MAC address.
Windscribe Pro: Browser extension
You must be wondering: Why use a browser extension when you’ve already got the Windows client? Windscribe explains the reasons in this handy YouTube video. In a nutshell, the extension is designed to reduce your online footprint among advertisers and tracking sites, shield your online activities from your ISP, and speed up your browsing by eliminating online ads and trackers. The browser extensions rate highly, with the ones for Firefox, Chrome, and Edge mostly garnering five stars from users.
The extension offers a short tutorial to show you which buttons control which features. As you can with the Windows client, you’re able to turn the extension’s VPN on and off, allow it to select the best VPN server or choose one yourself, and control what gets blocked—ads, malware, social network sites, cookies, and more. Plus, you can whitelist specific sites that you don’t want affected by the blocking.
Windscribe Pro: Help and support
To help you with the software, Windscribe offers tips and instructions along the way right when you need them. There’s no live phone support, but there are several other options. For self-help, you can turn to online setup guides, a Knowledge Base, and an FAQ. And if you need technical support, you can submit a ticket, talk to a chatbot named Garry, or consult Windscribe’s subreddit.
Windscribe Pro: Security and privacy
Based in Canada, Windscribe is a small operation founded in 2015 by Yegor Sak. Canada is a member of the Five Eyes Alliance, an organization in which member countries promise to share intelligence data with each other. But that hasn’t yet affected Windscribe. The company’s transparency report shows that it has rejected all requests for user information from government agencies due to a lack of relevant data.
Windscribe Pro: Performance
Overall, Windscribe worked smoothly. Website loading and performance were generally good with both the Windows client and the browser extension enabled. Browsing to sites such as IPLeak and DNS Leak Test confirmed that my actual IP address was obfuscated by the one assigned by a Windscribe VPN server. And with R.O.B.E.R.T. in charge, ads and certain types of websites that I included in the block list were easily blocked. Using region-specific VPN servers, I was able to connect to and stream content from Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and other services, a feat that other VPN products can’t always achieve.
I did run into one hiccup. When opening a link with my default web browser, the Windscribe extension wouldn’t always load quickly enough to activate. In that case, I’d receive a dialog box for a proxy server prompting me to sign in with a username and password. Cancelling the dialog box and refreshing the page allowed me to use the linked site normally, but the interruption still proved frustrating.
Windscribe is a simple yet effective VPN and ad blocker that does its job well. The Windows client and the browser extensions make for a powerful team that will protect your privacy and block annoying ads and objectionable content as you browse the web. And with the free version of Windscribe already being so good, you can always start there and then jump to the Pro edition if you need more capability.
Editor’s note: Because online services are often iterative, gaining new features and performance improvements over time, this review is subject to change in order to accurately reflect the current state of the service. Any changes to text or our final review verdict will be noted at the top of this article.