Virtual private networks encrypt the user’s Wi-Fi connections. Their purpose is to protect the user’s online anonymity and privacy. However, VPN providers who also safeguard their customer’s privacy by offering a no-logs policy—or logless VPN—should be the first choice for Windows PC users.
Free VPN services might seem attractive, but the best VPN for a Windows PC include a no-logs policy. But those free services cannot earn ad income, market user analytics, and track their customers without logs. In fact, one VPN review at proprivacy.com reports, “About 95% of the free VPNs available on the market are either useless or even dangerous.”
But the same report admits that “there are now a few providers that do offer genuinely excellent free products.” That free cost comes with some caveats, restricted bandwidth, ads, and user tracking. Some providers sell the user’s bandwidth and processing power to third parties. Some others are known to have been heavily infested with malware.
Since the philosophy behind VPN is anonymity, a free VPN that engages in activity that compromises that anonymity defeats its own purpose. Free VPN services have to meet expenses, and even the reputable ones do that by harvesting user data and selling it to marketers.
Read the fine print on logs
Comparitech.com describes VPN logs as “the data the providers keep regarding usage of their service.” Anyone who goes online should know that their internet service provider has implicit permission to monitor everything the user does. When the user employs a VPN provider which logs user activity, everything the ISP provider once monitored is now available to the VPN provider.
Types of logs
When dealing with a free VPN provider, pay close attention to the “words of art” applied to logs. Sometimes VPN providers muddy the waters with obfuscation and fine print. Also, beware of VPN providers who place tracking cookies on their websites as another ploy to monitor user’s online activity.
Here are three common log practices free VPN services rely on to pay their bills:
Diagnostic or connection logs
These are the records of data that VPN providers keep. They record routine user activity. The data includes timestamps, the location of the VPN server, and the amount of user bandwidth consumed. VPN providers can tie this data to individual accounts; however, they mostly collect it on an aggregate basis to run and monitor their operation.
Logs that track IP addresses
Most free VPN providers keep logs of their users’ IP addresses that access their service. The IP address can be traced back to an individual or the individual’s Wi-Fi router. That tracking, in turn, can compromise personal identifiable information. With timestamp information from connection logs, even if the connection is encrypted, snoopers can link web activity to individuals.
Intrusive traffic logging.
Traffic logs are the worst kind of VPN logs. They record the contents of internet traffic—the user’s browsing history, the files the user downloaded, and the user’s online purchases. They go deeper into monitoring what messages the user sent and the software employed during online sessions.
The motivation behind traffic logging is mainly profit. Free VPNs employ traffic logging to build consumer profiles with a record of activity so advertisers can personalize and inject advertising into each web page the user visits.
A related and somewhat quaint term is the “warrant canary.” Some VPN services advertise the warrant canary as a web page they maintain to safeguard user privacy. Once a month the VPN provider updates the page with information on which states have not issued secret government subpoenas to track internet use. If a statement is removed, the user gets a passive alert that the government is on the prowl to track online activity.
The benefits of truly no-logs VPNs
A no-logs VPN, on the other hand, does not collect or “log” user information and activity. The user’s online privacy is safeguarded from advertisers and hackers, as well as the VPN provider. Even if a government agency served the no-logs VPN a subpoena to provide user information, a no-logs VPN provider would have no information to provide.
Even the best no-logs VPN providers still collect user and traffic information.
When looking for a no-logs VPN service for Windows, remember that the VPN provider needs basic information to provide its service. That information concludes the user’s email address and an encrypted password. Also, the service needs to collect basic billing information and maintain a history of service orders.
Likewise, the no-logs VPN must collect anonymous information for operational diagnostics. That information includes aggregated and anonymous data on service performance. The provider also needs to monitor crash reports and unsuccessful connection attempts.
As mentioned previously, the best VPN providers are subscription based and have a robust no-logs policy. Subscription costs are reasonable with great deals for multi-month orders and a money-back guarantee. In addition to a strict no-logs policy, look for premium features including data-leak protection and features that hide online VPN activity from the internet provider.
Finally, the best no-logs VPN service for windows has the AES 256 encryption and IKEv2/IPsec as the default protocol on all platform apps. Users who prefer to stay with OpenVPN should also have that option.
When choosing a VPN service, the best bet is one with a no-logs policy. There are hundreds of free VPN services. But most do not provide the privacy protection that subscription services like Surfshark offer.
There are logging practices that free VPN services engage in:
- diagnostic logs that VPN providers need to run their service and tie to individual accounts
- IP address trackers that can be traced to personal Identifiable Information.
- traffic logging–the worst kind of VPN intrusion.
- warrant canaries for passive government subpoena alerts
No-logs VPN products do none of the above and provide user privacy and anonymity online.
When shopping for the best no-logs VPN provider for Windows, look for a clear statement of the information the service will gather and how they will use it. Also, go for tiebreakers like data leak protection and state-of-the-art encryption.