If you are looking for a free VPN to make the web more secure and more private, Microsoft Edge VPN has you covered. It now includes one, but is it good? It is certainly an interesting offering.
Many people pay for VPNs, myself included, but for various reasons, some people want or need a free one. Having a VPN on your computer or phone makes the web and the internet in general, more secure and more private.
I am sure you don’t need to be told, yet again, how VPNs work. There is to much of that on the internet, and what is more interesting and what people want to know, is which is best? Are free VPNs worth it?
Microsoft Edge VPN, which is actually provided by Cloudflare rather than Microsoft, announces itself with a welcome panel and an icon is added to the toolbar in the top right corner of the browser.
Click the Get VPN for free button and then you can click the toolbar icon to turn it on and off. I recommend turning it off until you have explored the settings or you might accidentally burn through your 1 GB of free data without realizing it.
Let’s look at the features, settings and limitations of Microsoft’s free VPN.
Edge VPN limitations
Free VPNs always have some kind of limitation. For example, they may limit the amount of data that can be transferred, they limit the speed, or what internet services they support, like streaming Netflix and others.
Microsoft Edge free VPN limits the data that can be transferred to 1 GB a month. This means that video streaming is out of the question. You could use your whole 1 GB in an hour streaming a high resolution movie.
In fact, 1 GB is not even sufficient for general web browsing. The limit may increase in the future, but right now, data usage is a worry whenever it is turned on. With this in mind, Microsoft has created some interesting ways to deal with it as we will see shortly.
Another limitation is that you cannot select the server to connect to and you cannot select a country. This makes it like Clourflare WARP and Google VPN. Edge VPN is designed to make your internet connection more private and more secure. It is not for people that want to pretend they live in another country so they can access services like streaming movies and TV.
Microsoft Edge VPN settings
Either click the VPN icon in the toolbar and then click the settings link or click the three dots to open the Edge menu and click Settings > Privacy, search, and services. Scroll down to the Microsoft Edge Secure Network section.
It is a bit hard to see that screenshot, so here is a larger image of the important bit, the VPN options.
All Sites: The VPN is enabled all the time for everything that happens in Edge browser. (Unlike a normal VPN, activities in other apps are not protected.) This is the most secure, the most private and most comprehensive option. However, it is also the one that uses the most data. You will not last a month with this enabled and many people will not last a week.
Optimized: When this setting is selected, the VPN is only active when Edge detects that you are using a public Wi-Fi hotspot, such as with a laptop computer. It also reduces data by disabling it for streaming video. In this mode the VPN is automatically deactivated at home, at work and when video streaming. Basically, it only enables it when it is needed for security, like public Wi-Fi. It is automatic and it seems like a sensible option for a limited-data VPN.
Select Sites: This is another interesting option for reducing VPN data usage and it enables you to use the VPN only with websites you select. Let’s take a closer look. Click Manage Secure Network sites below the three options.
Secure network sites and exceptions
This screen appears and there are two lists, one for websites that always use Edge VPN and one for websites that never use Edge VPN. Here is a larger view after adding some websites.
Click either of the Add a site buttons and then enter a URL like https://rawinfopages.co.uk. Edge will then automatically either enable or disable the VPN depending on which list you add it to.
Remember that nearly all websites use secure encrypted https connections these days, so when it says Never use Secure Network for these sites, it does not mean that your connection is insecure. It just lacks the additional security of a VPN.
Edge VPN is provided by Cloudflare, but Cloudflare WARP VPN, which can be installed separately, is free, protects all internet access including outside of the browser, and offers unlimited bandwidth. Edge is restricted to 1 GB and only protects inside the browser.
Proton VPN has a free plan and it offers unlimited data too. Opera has had a free VPN built into the browser for years and doesn’t limit data, although it can be slow at peak times of the day.
It is early days with Edge VPN and it may change over time. My guess is that an unlimited data version will be bundled with a Microsoft 365 subscription or even with just OneDrive storage. Google does that and Google VPN is bundled with all storage plans, even the cheap 100 GB one.
There are better alternatives to Edge VPN in free mode, but it will be a useful extra for business users subscribing to Microsoft 365 if unlimited data is added, as I suspect it will in order to compete with Google.