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vpnMentor was established in 2014 as an independent site reviewing VPN services and covering privacy-related stories. Today, our team of hundreds of cybersecurity researchers, writers, and editors continues to help readers fight for their online freedom in partnership with Kape Technologies PLC, which also owns the following products: ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, and Private Internet Access which may be ranked and reviewed on this website. The reviews published on vpnMentor are believed to be accurate as of the date of each article, and written according to our strict reviewing standards that prioritize the independent, professional and honest examination of the reviewer, taking into account the technical capabilities and qualities of the product together with its commercial value for users. The rankings and reviews we publish may also take into consideration the common ownership mentioned above, and affiliate commissions we earn for purchases through links on our website. We do not review all VPN providers and information is believed to be accurate as of the date of each article.
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vpnMentor was established in 2014 as an independent site reviewing VPN services and covering privacy-related stories. Today, our team of hundreds of cybersecurity researchers, writers, and editors continues to help readers fight for their online freedom in partnership with Kape Technologies PLC, which also owns the following products: ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, and Private Internet Access which may be ranked and reviewed on this website. The reviews published on vpnMentor are believed to be accurate as of the date of each article, and written according to our strict reviewing standards that prioritize the independent, professional and honest examination of the reviewer, taking into account the technical capabilities and qualities of the product together with its commercial value for users. The rankings and reviews we publish may also take into consideration the common ownership mentioned above, and affiliate commissions we earn for purchases through links on our website. We do not review all VPN providers and information is believed to be accurate as of the date of each article.

Hotspot Shield Review 2024 — Is It Really Free, Fast, & Safe?

Our Score: 9.1/10
Ranked 9th out of 305 VPNs
Lawrence Wachira Updated on 15th January 2024 Fact-checked by Matthew Amos Senior Writer

Hotspot Shield is a VPN that’s undergone many changes recently. After dealing with several controversies, it overhauled its logging policy and is under new management. So, has it gotten better?

I tested everything it offers to see if HSS is safe. I fully explored its logging policy and found out if its security features can prevent data leaks. I also tested its speeds, customer support, streaming and gaming capabilities, and more.

My tests showed that Hotspot Shield is a top-quality VPN in nearly every category. It has great security features, reliable customer support, and a more precise no-logging policy. Only a few small issues keep it from ranking at the very top. The free version isn’t a bad way to try it, but you can explore all of its features with its 45-day money-back guarantee. I tested its refund policy to make sure it’s trustworthy, and it was easy to get a full refund.

Try Hotspot Shield Risk-Free >>

Short on Time? Here Are My Key Findings

Pros

Cons

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Money-Back Guarantee: 45 Days

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Hotspot Shield Features — 2024 Update

9.2
💸 Price 2.99 USD/month
📆 Money Back Guarantee 45 Days
📝 Does VPN keep logs? No
🖥 Number of servers 1800+
💻 Number of devices per license 5
🛡 Kill switch Yes
🗺 Based in country United States
🛠 Support 24/7 Live Chat Support
📥 Supports torrenting Yes

Streaming — Reliable for Local Streaming Platforms

8.9

Hotspot Shield Premium successfully worked with nearly all the local platforms my colleagues and I tested. The streaming quality was great for the most part too, with only a few exceptions. But, this is only true of the paid app.

The free version only worked with Peacock and Max, but the experience wasn’t great as the videos loaded slowly, and I experienced constant buffering. While it could open Disney+, ITVX, BBC iPlayer, and Amazon Prime Video, it didn't let us play any videos. When I tested it with Netflix, I got an error message. However, it does offer unlimited data, which I can’t say for many other free options.

The premium version offers streaming-optimized servers in the UK and the US. These servers are regularly tested to ensure they work. However, they didn’t perform better than the regular servers in my tests.

Important: My colleagues and I strongly oppose copyright violations. Most VPN providers commit to strict no-logging policies, ensuring that they do not track your online behavior. This means you are responsible for how you utilize a VPN, so it's essential to comply with all relevant laws and regulations.

Works With: Netflix

Hotspot Shield worked with local Netflix libraries for my global testing team and me in the US, the UK, Germany, Japan, and Canada. Unfortunately, the Brazilian team had trouble accessing the Netflix Brazil library. With only one server located there, it was difficult to determine whether the issue was with that particular server.

A screenshot showing Hotspot Shield can unblock NetflixWhile in London, both regular and streaming-optimized UK servers worked with my Netflix UK library

Though this was the only premium server that didn’t work, we also had a few other minor issues. The team in France recorded a very long loading time when trying to watch French Netflix with a local server.

However, it was impressive to see the VPN’s performance with a variety of local Netflix platforms, as most VPNs aren’t that reliable.

Works With: Disney+

I could easily watch my local Disney+ account with Hotspot Shield in HD buffer-free.

It did take about 10 seconds for the video to load, and it paused to load briefly whenever I skipped around. Otherwise, it played in great HD quality without buffering.

Works With: Max

My colleague in the US said it was just as easy to watch Somebody Somewhere on his Max subscription. The platform loaded in under 5 seconds.

After it loaded up, he didn’t have any issues while streaming. He was happy that he could instantly load videos and stream them in the highest quality. There were also no instances of buffering on the former HBO Max.

Works With: ITVX

I was impressed at how well the VPN worked with ITVX. The website loaded immediately, and live-streaming and watching went smoothly in crystal clear quality.

I appreciate that the UK streaming servers are supported on local streaming platforms. However, I do hope it adds streaming-optimized locations from more regions in the future. Some of its competitors have similar servers in 10+ countries spread around the world.

Also Works With: Amazon Prime Video, Peacock, All 4, BBC iPlayer, and YouTube

My global testing team and I recorded that Amazon Prime Video, Peacock, All 4, YouTube, and BBC iPlayer loaded quickly. But when skipping through content on Peacock, the US team encountered brief moments of buffering.

Not only can Hotspot Shield work with a large variety of platforms, but I was also pleased with how little troubleshooting was involved. There are a few VPNs that can seamlessly work with multiple platforms, but my experience with Hotspot Shield was hassle-free. I never had to switch servers or protocols, which I often have to do with other VPNs.

Doesn’t Work With: Hulu

While the US team could use the VPN with the other US platforms they tested, Hulu managed to detect VPN usage, and they couldn't even navigate beyond the login page.

A screenshot showing Hotspot Shield failed to unblock HuluHotspot Shield didn't work with Hulu, even though my US colleagues connected to a local server in Denver

Still, I was impressed that it was the only platform we could find that blocked VPN usage. Overall, Hotspot Shield is a compelling option for those looking for a VPN that works with most streaming sites.

Speed — Fast on Close Servers; Solid on Distant Locations

9.0

Hotspot Shield Premium provides great speeds on nearby servers and many distant ones too. I was very pleased with the performance of its paid servers. You’ll get the best speeds with Hotspot Shield’s proprietary Hydra protocol. I was surprised that it was even faster than WireGuard, which is usually the quickest option.

On the other hand, the free servers were consistently slow. I expected them to be faster since the free version doesn't put any caps on speed. Overcrowding is a common problem with free VPNs, and that was an issue here. For instance, the Singapore server was more than half full, with a load of 61% during my tests. The free locations were always at least twice as slow as paid servers in our tests, and sometimes much more.

These are the 3 main things we examine in our tests:

  • Download speeds. This lets you know how quickly you can receive information. You’ll want it fast for things like browsing, torrenting, and streaming. It’s measured in Mbps (megabits per second).
  • Upload speeds. It determines how quickly you send data. If it’s fast, you can send emails and upload videos rapidly. It’s also measured in Mbps.
  • Ping. This is how fast your data travels in either direction. It tells you how much latency you’ll have, so it’s most important for gaming. It’s measured in milliseconds (ms).

To ensure a fair and accurate comparison, we performed all speed tests from a single location using the same internet connection. Our UK-based speed expert conducted a minimum of 10 tests on each server before creating averages. All its servers were speed-tested using the Catapult Hydra protocol.

A screenshot showing Hotspot Shield's speeds across various serversMy speeds lowered by 3% on average with nearby servers, and 30% with distant ones

There are only a few VPNs I’ve tested that are faster than Hotspot Shield. On average, most VPNs will drop your speeds by around 10-20% on nearby servers, and HSS was several times faster. A lot of VPNs will also lower your speeds by 65% or more when you get past 6,000 km away, but our average long-distance speed with Hotspot was much better than that too.

The only small issue is you might get slower speeds than you expected due to its virtual servers. For example, the server in India dropped our speeds by 56%, which isn’t terrible. But, that server is physically located in Singapore, which is about 3,000 km farther away from our tester than India is.

Local Speed

In close proximity, my speed drops were minimal. For example, Ukraine and Germany lowered my connection by just 1%.

A Screenshot of Ookla speed tests done while connected to Hotspot Shield's Montreal server and with no VPN connectedHotspot Shield’s Montreal server dropped my speed by only 3%

Every server we tested in Europe gave us excellent speeds. I was also impressed that the server in Montreal lowered our rates by so little because it’s 5,000+ km away. The main difference was that ping rates started to raise quite a bit when the servers got that far away, which is typical.

Long-Distance Speed

Hotspot Shield can be fast on distant servers, but they tend to fluctuate more. Since Hotspot Shield is one of the most popular VPNs, our tester records results for it every week. Some weeks the India via Singapore server I mentioned above would only lower our speeds by around 30%. However, the average on the week when we created our chart was down to 56%, which was still fast enough that we hardly noticed it.

Screenshot of Ookla speed tests done while connected to Hotspot Shield's Brazilian server and with no VPN connectedEven though it’s 8,000+ km away, the Brazilian server only lowered our speed by 26%

I also like how much is displayed about your speeds within the app. It gives you an estimate of the latency, and there’s also an in-app speed test you can use to get an idea of what your upload and download rates are. The only small issue is I wish you could see what the load and ping rates are before you connect.

There are a few VPNs that can give you faster speeds at very long distances (around 9,000+ km). But, Hotspot Shield is still one of the fastest overall, and the drops won’t affect your online experience unless you have an unusually low base speed.

Gaming — Optimized Servers Are Great for Lag-free Play

9.2

HSS is ideal for online gaming. In my tests, it allowed me to play Dota 2 without problems. It let me enjoy the thrill of coordinating with teammates, executing well-timed maneuvers, and outsmarting opponents to secure victory without any lag.

A screenshot showing Hotspot Shield is good for online gamingA ping rate below 100 ms is recommended for a smooth gaming experience

The South African server consistently gave me a ping rate below 70 ms. I also tried its gaming servers, but the experience wasn’t that impressive because of the high ping rate they returned, over 200 ms. These servers are meant to enhance gaming performance. However, I recommend sticking with the closest server to you if you live far away from the United States.

Server Network — Good Coverage With Reliable Locations

9.0

Hotspot Shield has 1,800 servers in 80 countries and 35+ cities. Its coverage is expansive, stretching across the Americas, Europe, and Australia and extending to the Middle East, Asia Pacific, and even Africa. I like that it offers many countries you don’t often see in VPNs like Bhutan, Nepal, and even the UAE.

You get the most countries to connect to in the European continent (48). There are also a ton of locations in Asia (28). Africa gets the least, with only 3. However, there are many VPNs that completely neglect this continent, so it’s better than what most offer.

It ranks near the top when it comes to how many locations it has, but there are a fair amount of VPNs that offer more servers. This can help improve speeds by cutting down on overcrowding, which could explain why CyberGhost, ExpressVPN, and a few others are just a little faster.

The city-level servers are in the US, Italy, Spain, Australia, Canada, France, and the UK. These help you pinpoint your location more precisely, and you get the most options in the US.

Screenshot of Hotspot Shield's server network on the Windows app highlighting the US locationsExpressVPN and PIA offer more, but there aren’t many other VPNs that match this

Hotspot Shield also owns all its servers, which makes it more privacy-friendly. I always love it when VPNs maintain exclusive control over their servers, as they eliminate any intermediaries that could pose potential threats to your privacy.

Connecting to servers is quick too; it only takes about 10 seconds on average. It also has an Auto option that sets you up with the fastest city-level server in the US. But, I was a little disappointed that this only applies to one country. Most VPNs have a similar feature, but they usually attempt to connect you to whichever location will be the fastest for you out of every location in their network.

Should you encounter connection problems with a server, there are 2 simple tricks that worked for me. First, switch to a different protocol or set it to Automatic so that it chooses the best one for you. If that doesn't solve the problem, you can reach out to its 24/7 customer support for assistance.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t offer RAM-based and private DNS servers, which provide an extra layer of protection. I also wish it offered dedicated servers, which can come in handy if you’re running a website. Many of its competitors let you pay a little extra for static IPs, and a select few like hide.me, offer them for free.

Free Servers

You can connect to 5 locations with the free app on Windows and Mac. These are located in Los Angeles, New York, the UK, and Singapore. You also get to connect to the Auto option, which can give you a fifth location, if one of the cities listed above isn’t the fastest at the time.

However, you only get 1 location with mobile apps. So, while Hotspot Shield is still one of the best free VPNs, you can get more servers on your phone with other free options.

Virtual Locations

You can connect to a ton of locations with Hotspot Shield because all its servers are virtual. Virtual servers let you connect to an IP in one country, but they’re located somewhere else. This gives you a safer alternative to physical servers in countries where it might not be wise to house them, like China. The downside is how they can affect your speeds as you saw in our tests.

Optimized Servers

Hotspot Shield’s optimized servers are definitely a plus, but I hope it expands on them. Currently, the streaming servers can only connect you to the US or the UK. The gaming server is also restricted to the US, and you saw how that made it a bad option in my tests.

A screenshot showing hotspot Shield has special servers for gaming and streamingMobile apps also offer a specialized server for social networks and chat like Tiktok

Some VPNs offer more with their optimized servers. For example, CyberGhost has servers set up for specific streaming platforms, and they let you connect in many more countries. It also offers optimized servers for torrenting. However, Hotspot Shield’s solid performance in every category means this isn’t a big issue.

Security — Keeps You Safe Online With Advanced Features

9.2

Hotspot Shield offers all the necessary features you’d expect in a top VPN. It’s highly secure as it never revealed my true location, which I found out after running tests on 15+ servers.

A screenshot showing Hotspot Shield passed my leak testsThe tests could only detect HSS's IP in Cambodia, even though my physical location was different

Even though there are some rumors the app contains viruses or malware, that wasn’t the case in my tests. There were zero security flags on VirusTotal, a website that lets you see if companies like Avira, McAfee, or BitDefender have been blocking the setup file you upload.

You also get to use all of its security features with a free account, besides one missing protocol. Speaking of that, I do wish it offered OpenVPN. It’s also missing a multi-hop feature. This lets you route your traffic through 2 servers, but it’s really not necessary with the powerful encryption Hotspot Shield offers.

It also stopped bundling its call blocker (Robo Shield) with premium accounts. This feature attempts to block spam calls to your phone. It was a unique feature, but it didn’t necessarily increase your security, so I don’t really mind. It’s still available to purchase separately, but only in the US.

Encryption

HSS uses military-grade encryption (AES 256-bit) to make your data unreadable to third parties. This encryption is used by institutions like banks to secure classified information. It’s nearly impossible to break since it creates an encryption key so long it would take a supercomputer 100s of years or more to crack it.

It also uses Perfect Forward Secrecy to routinely change your encryption keys. This way, even if an old key is compromised (as unlikely as that is), your data remains protected with a new one. These are standard features for top VPNs, so I’m glad Hotspot Shield utilizes them.

Security Protocols

The VPN supports secure protocols, including its proprietary Catapult Hydra option that’s streamlined for faster connections. Hotspot Shield’s Hydra protocol helps conceal your VPN usage from internet service providers and DPI (Deep Packet Inspection) systems too. This is helpful if you’re in a country with restricted networks.

The WireGuard protocol is also built into its apps — many VPNs include it because it uses less code to boost speed. Even though Hydra was faster in my tests, I always like to see WireGuard on offer. Another plus is that it’s open-source. Hotspot hasn’t made Hydra’s code open to the public, but you can use WireGuard as an alternative if you feel safer with a protocol that’s publicly scrutinized.

There's also IKEv2 (IPSec), a reliable protocol that is particularly useful for mobile devices since it can quickly reestablish connections.

Both WireGuard and Hydra drain less battery as they’re less resource intensive. So, you’ll have to decide between quicker connections or battery power when you’re using HSS on your phone. Some VPNs do offer more protocols, and I especially hope it considers adding OpenVPN in the future. But, this is still a solid selection of protocols. However, be aware that IKEv2 isn’t available with the free version.

Kill Switch

This feature automatically cuts off your traffic if you lose connection to the VPN, reducing the chances of your IP and online activity being exposed. It ensured my connection remained protected while switching between servers. You’ll need to enable it yourself, and it's currently limited to the Windows app for the free version.

Split Tunneling

You can use this feature to choose which traffic is routed through the VPN. I like to use it to get local Google search results while gaming with a foreign IP. I’m glad that Hotspot Shield no longer calls this SmartVPN in its Windows app. That could be confusing because I’ve seen VPNs use that title for their auto-connect feature, which HSS also offers.

Auto-Protect

This is what Hotspot Shield calls its WiFi-protection function. This activates the VPN automatically upon detecting a connection to a new network, like public WiFi hotspots. It's a nice feature to have, especially if you connect your laptop or phone to coffee shop networks all the time like I do. There’s also an option to have the VPN connect on launch.

Malware Protection

Hotspot Shield keeps you a step ahead of potential online threats with malware detection for both desktop and mobile apps. It scans the websites you visit for threats and warns you about viruses, phishing, infected sites, dishonest adware, and other malicious programs. I like that you only have to connect to the VPN to enable this feature. HSS also offers its own antivirus software, available as a separate purchase.

The Onion Router (Tor) Compatibility

The VPN supports Tor usage across all servers. Using Tor over a VPN connection offers more protection than a regular Tor connection, as it shields against potential IP leaks that may occur during your Tor session. While such leaks are uncommon on the Tor network, should one occur, only the VPN's IP address would be revealed, keeping your actual IP address hidden.

Privacy — Doesn’t Store Your Identifiable Information

8.4

Hotspot Shield has a solid no logging policy, but there are a few improvements it could make. After several incidents, the company made big changes to its policies. Its past issues include a 2016 CSIRO report highlighting questionable activities, a 2017 complaint filed by the Center for Democracy and Technology, and a 2018 bug that exposed users' information like WiFi details.

After all these, its parent company merged with Aura, and its policies are much more clear. You will get a few extra privacy options when you use the premium version. While it doesn’t store any identifiable information long-term, the free app shares some user information with advertisers. I also wish it was headquartered in a more privacy-friendly country, but it wouldn’t have any vital information to share even if the authorities came asking for data.

Does Hotspot Shield Keep Logs? No

HSS claims it doesn’t log or share your browsing history with anyone. The VPN collects the duration of VPN sessions (timestamps), device hashes, and how much data you use. All of this is anonymized, meaning it’s not associated with any of your account details. While it records the server locations that its users connect to, this data is also anonymized, so they’re not linked to you.

It also calculates a rough estimate of your location while you’re connected to the VPN to find your nearest server locations. While this did worry me at first, I was happy to see that information about your location is deleted as soon as the VPN session is terminated.

When you use the free app, the advertisers Hotspot Shield works with might have access to the information it uses to maintain its services. This means that they can possibly see the server you’re on, what device you’re using, and the other information I detailed above. So, if you’re especially privacy conscious, I’d stick with the paid version.

While I’m comfortable with what HSS records, there are certainly some top VPNs that access less of your data. One other small issue is that it doesn't support cryptocurrencies. I like to use this mode of payment with a temporary email address to limit the data I share with a VPN. So, I hope it lets you use crypto in the future.

Was Hotspot Shield Audited? No

HSS's privacy policy hasn't been assessed yet, but its Hydra protocol has undergone an audit. I value the fact that this demonstrates its openness to the idea. Nevertheless, a lot of its primary rivals have had their complete privacy policies audited to indisputably substantiate their assertions. Given its previous controversies, I anticipate that a credible firm will scrutinize its policies in the future.

Based in the US

The US is a member of the 5 Eyes Alliance. The alliance is a group of countries that have agreed to share their citizens’ data with each other. However, Hotspot Shield doesn’t store any of your identifiable information, so it would have nothing to share if it was asked. On the other hand, I wish it kept up with its transparency reports. These show you when data is requested of a VPN company, but it hasn’t published one for several years.

Does Hotspot Shield Work in China? Yes

The VPN confirmed you can access your home country's online services from China.

A screenshot showing Hotspot Shield works in ChinaHotspot Shield uses obfuscated servers to remain undetected

While many VPNs are banned in China, the government seldom targets individuals who use them. However, my team and I don’t condone any illegal activities. Before you decide to use a VPN, we recommend you read up on the laws of the country you’re in.

Torrenting — Supports P2P on Every Server With Great Performance

9.4

Hotspot Shield helped me maintain short download times during my tests. I was able to complete a 431 MB file in just 2 minutes and 40 seconds while connected to a US server (12000+ km away). Without a VPN connection, I can download the file in 1 minute and 55 seconds, so the VPN hardly increased my wait time. However, the free servers made it take over 5 times as long, most likely due to high load.

With the closest server to me in the UK, I could download the file only a few seconds faster. So, I was impressed that I could torrent quickly on servers both near and far. Its robust DNS/IP leak protection and kill switch provided a sense of security while downloading torrents, and I also love that you can use P2P on any server.

While the act of torrenting itself is generally not illegal in the majority of countries, acquiring copyrighted materials typically is. To ensure you're in compliance with your country's regulations, it's important to be well-versed in its laws and to limit your downloads to files that are in the public domain.

Installation & Apps

9.2

Installation & Apps — Straightforward

Hotspot Shield maintains a simple interface across all devices. The conveniently located connect button and well-organized menus allow easy interaction with all its features.

A screenshot showing offers a nearly identical interface on both Mac and WindowsThey also exhibit almost identical information, except the Mac app doesn't display latency

Upon connection, the apps provide useful information like server load that you can leverage to select the best server for streaming, browsing, or gaming.

Setup & Installation

Installing and setting up Hotspot Shield is easy, even for beginners. It took me a few minutes to install it on each device I tested.

A screenshot showing Hotspot Shield's download pageYou can download the latest version for Android, iOS, and Mac from their respective stores

Router configurations are downloadable from the website. Downloads are also available on the Amazon and Microsoft app stores. By default, HSS launches on device startup and reconnects to the last used server. You can modify this behavior in the VPN's settings. On a final note, you’ll have to install it through the terminal on Linux since it only offers a CLI.

Here’s our step-by-step guide for installing Hotspot Shield:

Quick Guide: How to Install Hotspot Shield in 3 Easy Steps

  1. Download the app. On desktop, you can go to HotspotShield’s website to get the installation file. If you’re using your phone, you’ll get it through the proper mobile store.
  2. Complete the installation. To use the premium app, you can purchase a subscription risk-free with its 45-day money-back guarantee, or you can enter your payment details to use its free trial. You can also get started with the free version by completing the mobile download or opening the .exe file on your desktop device.
  3. Connect to a server. Log in or opt to use the Basic version. Then just select a server and click connect.

Device Compatibility

Hotspot Shield has a native app for all the most popular operating systems. However, it doesn't offer a smart DNS feature, which simplifies installation on devices that don't inherently support VPNs, like gaming consoles and smart TVs. If your device doesn't support the VPN, a workaround is to install HSS on your router. That way, you can protect all the devices in your network.

Desktop — Apps for Windows, Mac, and Linux

The desktop apps are simple and user-friendly. However, the Mac version offers fewer customization options, only allowing you to activate split tunneling and toggle between available protocols. The Windows app also lets you use some cool shortcuts although I never found it necessary since the app is so simple to use already.

The Linux version is available for Ubuntu, Fedora, CentOS, and Debian distros. Unfortunately, there is no free app for Linux, so it only works with a premium account. It’s also missing any extra features you get with the other apps. All you can do is connect to its servers with the Hydra protocol. Hopefully, the Linux version gets improved in the future.

Android and iPhone (iOS)

The mobile apps closely mirror their desktop counterparts, but the features within them differ slightly. For instance, the Android app lacks the IKEv2 protocol.

Screenshot of the Hotspot Shield Android app featuring the main, settings, and server network screensThe main difference is the “Always-On” feature is on iOS but not on Android

The VPN doesn't offer a direct APK download, but if you're having trouble installing the app from Google Play, it provides the file upon request.

Browser Extensions for Chrome

HSS only offers browser extensions for Chrome. Most VPNs today offer browser extensions for all major browsers. However, even if it did include more browser compatibility, I recommend using the app. It’s much safer to use because the extension only protects your browser. The app encrypts everything on your device, even if you’re only using the free version.

Apps for Android TVs, Amazon Fire TV, Fire Stick, and Fire Tablets

Like many leading VPNs, HSS offers a native app for Android TVs, Fire TVs, and Fire Stick. Setting it up on my large screen took me less than 10 minutes, and installing it on my Fire HD 10 tablet was just as easy. These are full-featured apps, which I appreciate. It would just be nice if it also offered smartDNS, so you could change locations on any smart TV.

Router Compatibility

Hotspot Shield supports ASUS-WRT, FreshTomato, DD-WRT, Asus-Merlin, and GL-iNET, complete with detailed setup guides for each. It also sells pre-installed Asus, Linksys, and Netgear routers. I always like when VPNs do that because installing VPNs on routers can be a little tricky if you’ve never done it before. Just be aware that you can’t install the free app on a router, which is too bad because the unlimited data would have come in handy there.

Simultaneous Device Connections

A premium account gives you 5 connections. This is the standard amount most VPNs offer. There are a few that offer more like IPVanish, which gives you unlimited connections. However, this is enough for me to protect the devices I use regularly, so I’m satisfied with it. There’s also the option to connect many more devices with the premium family account.

HSS also works great with multiple devices connected. I tested this by connecting my 2 Windows laptops, Android TV, and Android smartphone at the same time. Having multiple open connections didn’t impact my streaming experience — I streamed on all devices in great quality without any buffering. Lastly, the free version is limited to only 1 device, which is pretty common.

Pricing

8.8
3-year plan
$ 2.99 / month per month
1-year plan
$ 7.99 / month per month
1-month plan
$ 12.99 / month per month

HSS offers 2 paid tiers: premium and premium family. Pricing of these 2 packages varies by monthly and yearly subscriptions. You can get the best deal with Hotspot Shield’s yearly premium subscription for $2.99/month. The only difference with the family subscription is all the additional connections it offers (25 currently), so I wouldn’t recommend it unless that’s a huge concern for you. Otherwise, the paid plans all give you the same features.

The free version is one of the best around, but it still has restrictions. It comes with 5 server locations, is compatible with less devices, and there’s no live chat. It also has frequent ads on Android, but I appreciate that there’s no longer a 10 GB monthly data (it’s now unlimited).

Both premium versions have no data limits, and you can only pay via debit/credit card or PayPal. A 7-day trial is also available, but be aware it requires billing details upfront. This is true of nearly every trial, and I do recommend trying it out to see how much better the premium app is compared to the free one.

Hotspot Shield has a generous 45-day money-back guarantee period. Purchases via Apple or Microsoft stores require refund requests through the respective store, and HSS support can’t assist with those. For payments made with a card or PayPal, the cancelation can be made from your account page, but this doesn't automatically grant a refund. To obtain a refund, you’ll need to reach out to the support team.

A screenshot confirming Hotspot Shield processes refundsI saw the money in my account after only waiting for a few days

In general, Hotspot Shield's pricing is fairly standard. There are some VPNs that are significantly cheaper. For example, Surfshark has a yearly plan that’s about half the price of Hotspot Shield. However, most VPNs only cost less because they offer much longer subscription terms. When you directly compare its monthly and yearly subscriptions to its competitors, it offers a solid price.

Reliability & Support

9.4

Reliability and Support — Knowledgeable and Available 24/7

Hotspot Shield’s support team is accessible through live chat and email, but free users are restricted to email support only. The VPN responded quickly via live chat, so it was my go-to option whenever I needed to ask something.

A screenshot showing Hotspot Shield's dependable live chat support featureEven on weekends, I connected with a live support rep in less than a minute

I liked how the always-on chat feature retains past chats. As long as you don't close it, you can look at previous interactions anytime. Adding to the convenience, each chat session's transcript gets delivered to your associated email account.

Also, its website is packed with a detailed knowledge base, which is really helpful if you prefer self-service. There were some instances where I didn’t have to ask for help as I found these really useful. The only small issue is you have to get past a bot to access a support agent, but this is common with almost every VPN offering a live chat.

The Bottom Line

Final Verdict — A Great Choice for All Online Activities

Hotspot Shield has multiple features that really make it stand out. I was impressed with its ability to work with local streaming platforms, responsive customer support, robust security features, and easy-to-use apps. Plus, its dedicated app for Fire devices — a rare find among VPNs — is another thing I really loved.

There are only a few small changes it could make to be one of the very best. Some of its distant servers can be slow, and I really hope it gets its logging policy audited in the future. It would also be nice if it offered smart DNS to make it easy to avoid ISP throttling on more devices.

Otherwise, it’s a VPN I recommend giving a try. It’s easy to test out its free version. But, to see all its features, you can use its free trial or test it risk-free using its 45-day money-back guarantee.

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  • Fast speeds
  • Works with many streaming services
  • Secure with military-grade encryption
  • Supports torrenting on every server
  • Compatible with most devices
  • 24/7 customer support

FAQs on Hotspot Shield

Is Hotspot Shield safe?

Yes, Hotspot Shield is safe. It passed all of my leak tests, thanks to its military-grade encryption that’s nearly unbreakable, and IP/DNS leak protection. HSS is safe to install, and it comes with many other nice security features, like a kill switch. This blocks your connection if the VPN were ever to suddenly disconnect.

Does Hotspot Shield work with Netflix?

Yes, Hotspot Shield works with Netflix. I was able to watch my favorite local Netflix content in HD buffer-free using the server in my location. There were also many other streaming platforms that Hotspot Shield worked with.

Is Hotspot Shield really free?

Yes, Hotspot Shield does offer a free version. However, it has limitations, such as fewer server options, slower speeds, and ads. With a premium account, you can access more content and experience the full range of features that HSS offers.

Is Hotspot Shield a virus?

No, Hotspot Shield is not a virus. It's a legitimate VPN designed to keep you safe online. It even has an anti-malware feature to protect you from harmful downloads.

Which VPNs are better than Hotspot Shield?

ExpressVPN and CyberGhost are just a little better. Both are faster on long-distance servers on average. They also work well with Hulu. Along with that, they have had their logging policies audited by reputable firms. However, Hotspot Shield also has its own set of strengths that make it a strong contender.

Money Back Guarantee (Days): 45
Mobile app:
Number of devices per license: 5
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vpnMentor was established in 2014 as an independent site reviewing VPN services and covering privacy-related stories. Today, our team of hundreds of cybersecurity researchers, writers, and editors continues to help readers fight for their online freedom in partnership with Kape Technologies PLC, which also owns the following products: ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, and Private Internet Access which may be ranked and reviewed on this website. The reviews published on vpnMentor are believed to be accurate as of the date of each article, and written according to our strict reviewing standards that prioritize the independent, professional and honest examination of the reviewer, taking into account the technical capabilities and qualities of the product together with its commercial value for users. The rankings and reviews we publish may also take into consideration the common ownership mentioned above, and affiliate commissions we earn for purchases through links on our website. We do not review all VPN providers and information is believed to be accurate as of the date of each article.
Hotspot Shield User Reviews (User reviews are not verified)
7.8
Based on 337 reviews in 16 languages

Write a Review on Hotspot Shield

Please rate VPN.

All Speed Streaming Security Сustomer service
Alt
Alt
2/10
Blocked by Real-Debrid on just about every us city and nearly all countries

Easy to connect speed pretty good multiple platforms not great from streaming.. which is where you need the speed. Nord vpn and Express are both cooperative providers with real-debrid meaning no connection problems. Even if you do find a server that connects frequently this is blocked during streaming.

George
George
8/10
Great Interface, easy to use and smooth/zippy.

It just feels well put together. Turns on automatically, which is no bad thing (if you don't like that, turn the damn thing off with a click). The speed is consistently above average, and on a couple of inadvertent occasions, the Kill Switch operated as it should. I especially like the GUI, which is really simple, solid, yet has a refined/slick feel - far superior to a few I've tried but won't name here. I see no issues with it, although the security issues pointed out in the article are a bit alarming. I'm using the 'Business' version. Nice VPN, IMO.

Chris
Chris
4/10
Better late than never.

I recklessly bought a monthly subscription calculating its fast speed and ignoring that it could cooperate with other countries. The speed is not particularly fast but a lot of geolocation data is outdated and while I was trying to unblock content, Hotspot was blocking me from accessing the content. It is obvious that Hotspot's IP locations are not getting pulled from ripe databases. I asked for a refund twice, I did not get any response and it is now certain that I will not receive a refund. I do not mind but at least I know what Hotspot is. Better late than never. I hope my review will be published.

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About the Author

Lawrence Wachira, a Senior Writer at vpnMentor, is passionate about making the internet safer. Lawrence writes insightful product reviews, comparison pages, and blog posts to help readers protect their online privacy and choose the best VPNs.

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