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

6 Comments

  1. I wouldn’t use that application even if you paid me. It’s been packaging hidden malware and infected ads for years. Maybe you could try reviewing TunnelBear as it’s safe and secure.

    Here’s some info on Hotspot Shield: http://www.lavasoft.com/mylavasoft/company/blog/how-to-remove-hotspot-shield

    Also, a lot of these so-called VPS’s are nasty and I would suggest testing them in a sandboxed environment or via a virtual machine.

  2. Lojix Net

    Not to be an alarmist to other readers with regards to packaged malware in Hotspot Shield, I can’t really comment on that, but I would have to agree that readers are strongly advised to assess their options carefully and thoroughly when starting out at looking into VPN. There is a few fundamentals to familiarise yourself with, such as the various VPN protocols being at the top of the list. Getting just a little bit of understanding will have really big value.

  3. DutchPete

    I don’t understand why Mr Kumar spent/wasted his time checking out this app, when it has been known for years to be only pseudo-useful/good. There are other free VPNs out there which are better, e.g. SecurityKiss. This is not a suggestion to check out SK, HotSpot is bad, and whilst Spotflux may be better, in terms of privacy it still sucks. They can & will provide your data to government agencies if need be. In other words, your surfing is not that anonymous: Spotfulx themselves can & do track you.

  4. Arun Kumar

    I had problems with the ads but I don’t know if they are malicious as I do not proper set up to see if they are malicious. I read the link you provided. Thanks for the input. I did experience that even after removing Hotspot, my home page was not restored until I deleted and created a new Firefox profile

    I said it is good as it won’t drop connections as frequently as other VPNs do. I’ve tried out many and they make browsing too slow so thought this one is better at least from the others.

    I will try out Tunnel Bear for sure. Thank you for pointing it out and the inputs. 🙂

  5. John_Sydney

    I must have a different HotSpot Shield to the users who have commented so far, and even Mr Kumar.

    Or perhaps it’s because — since I’ve long been aware that if the product is free, then *you* are the product — I’ve never installed the free HSS.

    I installed HSS Elite in May this year. It did not hijack my homepage. I can’t recall if it offered to install FindWide or any other toolbar — but didn’t we learn years ago (even from allegedly reputable software houses like Adobe) that you need to keep your wits about you at install time and untick etc any such offers?

    So, on my fully updated/patched Win7 Enterprise system I have IE11 and Firefox 33.1.1 loaded. IE11 has no HSS extension. Firefox does use an HSS extension, which as far as I can tell does little more than give you a page status while HSS is running (see below). It also offers quick access to the properties box so you can change country of origin and see traffic data on mouseover. BTW, Canada & Germany are now on the list of country options.

    I could find (using Agent Ransack) none of the %Temp%… files mentioned in the Lavasoft article, which is not too surprising since I didn’t have HSS running at the time of the search. However, if they were likely to be left behind after an uninstall, they would likely have been some traces from the previous runtime.

    I have no brief whatsoever for HSS or associated companies and I will check out Tunnelbear to see if it provides a faster service, but I just wanted to let people know about an experience with HSS that seems markedly different to that of others who have contributed here.

  6. Rodolfo

    is not safe navigation with Hotspot Shield.
    for me.
    I do not recommend it.

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