Hotspot Shield VPN review and free download

We have covered plenty of free VPN software and other privacy tools on The Windows Club. So far, the best VPN we found is Spotflux. Hotspot Shield VPN was mentioned by a reader so I thought of checking it out. This review of hotspot shield VPN is the result of my experiment with the privacy tool.

Hotspot Shield VPN review

Hotspot Shield VPN

Review of Installation

The installation on my Windows 8.1, took some time as compared to SpotFlux, which is installed in less than a minute. During installation, it changes your home page – on all browsers, especially the Internet Explorer – it opens as soon as you are finished with installation. It also attempts to install Findwide Toolbar. You can however, decline the offer by clicking on DECLINE – but you are still left with a changed homepage that the Hotspot Shield selects for you. This is the first turn-off!

You also get some extensions for Firefox and Chrome, and IE Helpers for the Internet Explorer while installing the software. I tried to disable the extension in Firefox – but it said it is necessary for proper functioning of the program – so I gave it the benefit of doubt.

It seems, unlike Spotflux, which creates a virtual network adaptor, Hotspot Shield uses browser extensions. This made me feel the tool is more of proxy, rather than a complete VPN.

Pros of Hotspot Shield VPN

As the builders of Hotspot Shield VPN claim, you can access different websites by pretending you are in a different country. You can select countries from a dropdown list that contains Australia, Japan, UK and the US.

Your privacy remains protected to some or more extent. The Hotspot Shield provides you with a virtual tunnel through which, you access different websites and thus, you are sure to be anonymous as your ISP etc. cannot snoop on what websites you are visiting.

The websites too, cannot track you as the IP address is changed. The IP address was changed and whatismyipaddress.com could not resolve it as proxy. It maintained that site got my router IP address – which is good. If your computer has Flash cookies, and the website employs browser fingerprints, chances are that the marketing companies related to the website, may find out who you are – based on your surfing habits.

You can also browse safe at public WiFi hotspots. There are many dangers of public WiFi as explained in the linked article. You can be hacked or at least, be watched by others who might be snooping on your computers’ outgoing and incoming data packets. A free VPN that offers anonymity along with proxy can help you stay secure.

The Hotspot Shield VPN offers all of the above. So we can assume the VPN is good, especially as it comes free. There are paid versions as well if you wish to go ad free.

Cons of Hotspot Shield VPN

One of the cons of Hotspot shield is the slow connection. It is not same during all the hours of the day (and night) but when the traffic is good on the Internet (speaking of the Western world), the VPN is exceptionally slow, causing DNS resolution timeouts so then the webpages do not load.

It also drops connections at times during high traffic hours but reconnects automatically. If you just initiated a visit to any website and the connection is dropped, the website will know your real IP address. That could give you away or at most, you may not be able to access the website if it is censored in your office or country. Also, every time it reconnects, it will open up the Internet Explorer, which may be irritating if you use other browsers.

The major irritation is that Hotspot Shield places many advertisements – in the application interface when you open it using system tray and in websites you open. In the websites you open, ads appear in a frame, towards the top of the website so part of your screen-space would be an ad from Hotspot VPN. If a website already has a top bar as advertisement, half of your screen space goes to ads. Besides, some ads appear in new tabs without any trigger (or when the connection is set and reset) and these are the ones very frustrating.

The Verdict

Hotspot Shield VPN is good – as long as you are able to put up with the intrusive ads in form of top banners and popups in new tabs. The speed is slow and the ads are pretty intrusive. Go get it here if you would like to download it.

If you have any suggestions or names of free VPNs, please drop them in the comment box so that we can create a list of best free VPN.

Tomorrow we will have a look at Globus Free VPN Browser.

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Arun Kumar is a Microsoft MVP alumnus, obsessed with technology, especially the Internet. He deals with the multimedia content needs of training and corporate houses. Follow him on Twitter @PowercutIN