Ultrasurf is one of the most popular 100% free content unblockers that assign you a unique IP address through a proxy along with a decent level of encryption, and that is all. So, technically speaking, it is not a VPN. Instead, Ultrasurf recognizes itself as a simple anti-censorship tool.
Unlike actual VPNs, Ultrasurf does not offer 24/7 customer support, advanced security and privacy features, and an intuitive user interface. But for a free tool, Ultrasurf gets the job done well.
Ultrasurf is a product of the UltraReach Internet Corporation, a Silicon Valley company founded by Chinese freethinkers. Initially released in 2002, the main idea behind Ultrasurf was to provide regular internet users in mainland China a free and reliable tool to circumvent strict internet censorship. Today, it has a user base of 11 million from China, the Middle East, and everywhere else.
Ironically though, Ultrasurf mentions that it may still censor content that it deems offensive. The definition/perception of “offensive” might vary from user to user. So, in that sense, Ultrasurf might also be doing exactly what it claims to fight against.
Overall, this tool is designed to combat censorship. It should not be treated as an internet security tool, and that is exactly what the company also suggests on the official website.
As I delved deeper, I found out that Ultrasurf only encrypts HTTPS traffic and not regular HTTP traffic. Also, their logging policy is not too comprehensive and suggests that data may be retained for up to 30 days.
Of course, since Ultrasurf is a 100% free tool with no premium plans, it does not ask for payment or credit information. Still, to comply with US laws, the company states that it may hand over user data to any concerned parties. Not to forget, this tool is partly funded by the US Broadcasting Board of Governors.
I would recommend Ultrasurf only for accessing legal geo-restricted websites. For instance, the tool might be suitable to access Disney+. However, it cannot unblock Netflix US.
With that, Ultrasurf offers no custom streaming servers. The US is the only server location it offers, and so you cannot choose a different one. This lack of servers and slow speeds might be a deal-breaker for some people.
To figure out whether this tool is worth it, I thoroughly tested its multiple aspects, including speed, security, device compatibility, gaming, streaming, and torrenting.
For a free tool, the results were satisfactory, and I must say — Ultrasurf can unblock most legal geo-restricted websites, some of them successfully, others not so much — mostly due to the speeds it offers. While the speed results were not impressive, the connection was stable and consistent. Though, Ultrasurf lacks robust security features and hence, should not be equated with actual high-security VPNs.
To learn more about Ultrasurf, I suggest you read this vpnMentor guide until the very end.
Short on Time? Here Are My Key Findings
- Suitable for unblocking geo-restricted websites. Ultrasurf is designed for censorship circumvention. For a freeware tool that does not have any bandwidth limitations or hidden costs, Ultrasurf gets the job done pretty well. Check out the streaming section below for more information.
- One server location. Unlike other paid tools, Ultrasurf offers an unknown number of servers only in one country — the US. Furthermore, users also get no control over the IP addresses, although my tests have shown that the IP addresses vary over long intervals. Take a look at Ultrasurf’s server network here.
- End-to-end encryption. While Ultrasurf is not designed for high-end security, it does encrypt HTTPS data end-to-end. However, the official website also states that regular HTTP data is not encrypted between the user and Ultrasurf’s servers. Read more about this in the security section.
- Free to use. Perhaps the best thing about Ultrasurf is that it is free to use. This VPN service has no paid packages, no bandwidth limitations, hidden costs, and no time restrictions. You can use this basic content unblocker without paying a single penny. Jump to the pricing section for more information.
- Unblocks Disney+. While Ultrasurf struggles with streaming (especially Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime due to slow speeds), it performs surprisingly well for Disney+. Find out more in the streaming section.
- Easy to use and set up. Overall, Ultrasurf is fairly easy to use. The set-up is quick, and the tool establishes a connection as soon as it is turned on without any additional settings. Take a look at the connection guides here.
- Slow and inconsistent speeds. As a free tool, Ultrasurf does not have high connection speeds. In terms of speed, I would consider it mediocre at best. See my speed test results below.
- Inactive customer support. The only way to reach out to the Ultrasurf customer support team is via email. However, their response time is slow. In some cases, users may not receive a response at all. For more information about this, check out our support section.
- No registration process. The Ultrasurf Windows client comes in the form of an executable, which directly establishes a browser-based connection when it runs. That too, without the need to register on the website. Go to the set-up and installation section to find out more about this.
- US jurisdiction. The Ultrasurf team is based in the United States. This means that the tool is liable to follow US laws, including strict data retention laws. Hence, the Ultrasurf team may at any point be liable to cooperate with spy agencies and to reveal user data to the authorities. Read more about this in the privacy section.
- Supports three platforms. Ultrasurf works on Windows, iOS, and Android. For more information, check out the device compatibility section.
Ultrasurf Features — Updated in September 2021
|Does VPN keep logs?||No|
|Number of devices per license||1|
|Based in country||United States|
Streaming — Unblocks Disney+ US library and YouTube but fails to unblock Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, and Hulu
My tests reveal that Ultrasurf can easily bypass geo-restrictions set by Disney+. At the same time, the tool can also seamlessly access YouTube, which could be a big benefit for users in mainland China, where YouTube remains restricted to this day.
However, Ultrasurf fails to unblock HBO Max, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu. These services seem to be blocking Ultrasurf IP addresses. According to some sources, the Ultrasurf team has previously stated that the tool is designed to help bypass internet censorship, but it does not normally help evade bans. With that, the overall streaming quality is rather mediocre as Ultrasurf significantly reduces the connection speed. Furthermore, some streaming services might have Ultrasurf IP addresses blocked.
Disney+ is notable for its strict region-blocking, and it was surprising that Ultrasurf managed to bypass that. However, the speed and performance may vary considerably depending on the connection. Out of the platforms on which I tested Ultrasurf, the tool only performed reasonably well on Disney+ and YouTube.
Unblocked: Disney+ and YouTube
The performance of Ultrasurf on Disney+ was surprisingly good. I was easily able to unblock the Disney+ US library with Ultrasurf. Although I had to wait around 30 seconds for the movie title to load, the quality was pretty decent, and there were no buffering delays either.
Overall, you can enjoy uninterrupted streaming via Ultrasurf on Disney+. Though, the initial wait time can vary among users depending on the connection speed. Once you get past that, it’s all well.
However, since Ultrasurf only has servers in the US, you can only access the Disney+ US library. This should not be a problem, as the Disney+ library in other regions is not much different. Either way, the US library of Disney+ is the most comprehensive one.
Next, I decided to run a YouTube performance test. After all, it is among the biggest content streaming websites out there, and yet it is still geo-restricted in China. So, I was specifically interested in figuring out if Ultrasurf will seamlessly unblock YouTube.
With Ultrasurf, I was able to access YouTube without any delays or lags. Next, I played a video to test the streaming quality and buffering speeds. To my surprise, the video played buttery smooth at 480 pixels.
However, when I increased the quality to 720p and 1080p, I could notice some lags due to an overall reduction in connection speed. Users shall set the quality depending on the speed. Rest assured, YouTube is fully accessible with Ultrasurf.
Blocked by: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, and Hulu
While I could unblock the Netflix US website with Ultrasurf, the loading time was somewhat less than ideal. It took around thirty seconds for the library to load. After choosing a title, I waited for an additional two minutes for the movie screen to show up. After waiting, I received an error message.
I considered the possibility of this being a one-time error. So, I repeated the process over 5 times with multiple titles. However, the pattern was the same. Hence, I concluded that Ultrasurf is pretty much useless when it comes to streaming on Netflix.
While it technically still unblocks Netflix, the slow speed makes Ultrasurf less than ideal for streaming, and hence, you will struggle to establish a connection with Netflix servers in the first place.
If you want to stream high-definition movies and shows on Netflix, we suggest you check out our list of the top VPNs for Netflix.
While I was able to access the Amazon Prime Video website using Ultrasurf, the movie titles did not load even after multiple attempts. First, a “Streaming Delay” pop-up appeared, and after about 30 seconds, an error message showed up as shown in the shot below:
So, Ultrasurf can certainly access the Amazon Prime Video website, but you might have difficulty loading and buffering. As for me, the titles did not load in the first place, which defeats the purpose. And since Ultrasurf only offers US servers that you can’t choose from, there was no room for further tests on a different server.
Just like Amazon Prime Video, Ultrasurf fails to run any titles on HBO Max despite successfully accessing the website. In my test, it took forever to load the HBO Max homepage. Of course, the streaming platform itself is accessible. The performance might vary depending on the internet connection speed.
Of course, HBO Max does not explicitly state the reason. But at the back-end, it seems to be blocking the connection. Based on this, I concluded that Ultrasurf is not suitable for streaming on HBO Max.
The results on Hulu were pretty much the same. The website was accessible after a loading delay of 20 seconds. However, the movie titles kept loading for around a minute without any progress in the buffering. After a minute of loading to no avail, I received an error message.
Just like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and HBO Max, Hulu also seems to be blocking Ultrasurf on the back-end, although the base website is accessible. This could be due to the WebRTC leaks that reveal the public IP address, as indicated in my security tests.
On a side note, the Ultrasurf team suggests using WebRTC blocking extensions with Chrome for added security. However, I tested two extensions designed to block WebRTC leaks, yet the leaks still occurred in the tests (more on this in the security section). Based on that, I concluded that such browser extensions would not help unblock the streaming services listed above.
Furthermore, Ultrasurf only uses a limited number of IP addresses to connect to the web servers. Since streaming services are often strict with geo-restrictions and there is not enough variation in the IP addresses, one should not expect Ultrasurf to unblock most streaming services.
Ultrasurf speeds are slow and inconsistent. While testing this anti-censorship tool, I experienced significant fluctuations in the loading times. Amidst lengthy wait times, there were short bouts of good speed. At times, some pages failed to even load at all.
However, since this is a free content-unblocking service, one should not expect unmatched performance.
At one point in the past, Ultrasurf had to struggle with overloaded servers due to increased traffic from Iran. This caused the servers to crash often, which was also confirmed by the team on the official website. The current slow speeds could hence be a result of overloaded servers due to high traffic from countries that have tough internet censorship.
At the same time, Freedom House reports, “Ultrasurf’s user base expands every time a significant social event takes place in China, such as the 2003 SARS outbreak or the Tibetan uprising in 2008.” Perhaps the recent COVID-19 outbreak could have also caused an overload on the Ultrasurf servers due to a high user base.
Nevertheless, I decided to quantify my experience with the help of a speed test. First, I ran an Ookla speed test on my regular connection, with Ultrasurf turned off. These were the results:
Then, I turned on the Ultrasurf tool, and it automatically connected to a US server. Though, despite waiting for a considerable period, speed test by Ookla could not find an optimal server for the speed test, as shown in the shot below:
I then headed to another speed-testing service called FAST, which is powered by Netflix. Unlike the speed test by Ookla, Ultrasurf was able to establish a connection with FAST. Though, the speed results were a bit too underwhelming.
While my upload speed remained somewhat the same, the download speed and latency took a significant hit. I consistently observed slower browsing and longer loading times on websites that would otherwise be quick to load.
Here is a summary of my internet speed test results:
|Download speed (Mbps)||5.1 Mbps (86% decrease in speed)|
|Upload speed (Mbps)||6.1 Mbps (63% decrease)|
|Ping (ms)||364 ms (21 times higher than before)|
Hence, I can conclude that Ultrasurf will significantly reduce your internet speed. This might make Ultrasurf less than ideal for streaming, torrenting, or other data-intensive tasks.
Are Ultrasurf’s Speeds Fast Enough for Gaming? Not Suitable for Gaming
Ultrasurf is not an actual VPN. It is a browser-focused tool with the sole purpose of bypassing geo-restrictions on your specified browser (either the default Internet Explorer or Chrome).
However, it would not make any difference to other applications running on your PC. That is because all the other applications that are not based on your browser will still register your actual IP address, and hence, you need to be cautious.
So, gaming with Ultrasurf is totally out of the equation as the tool does nothing to hide your IP address outside your chosen browser.
As far as the server locations go, Ultrasurf only offers US-based IP addresses. However, there is no mention of the number of servers in the US on their official website. I also tried reaching out to their customer support; however, their email-based customer support is notable for being painstakingly slow.
After all, it is a free internet circumvention tool. So, one can expect it to have limited funds, which explains the lack of server locations and proper customer support. Nevertheless, during my tests, I did notice that my assigned IP address changed every once in a while.
However, it remained consistent over shorter intervals. This suggests that Ultrasurf does offer multiple IP addresses. However, there is no way for users to choose any specific IP address. Instead, the tool assigns one automatically.
Along with that, some sources suggest that Ultrasurf uses cloud services to update its IP addresses, hence improving its geo-unblocking capabilities.
Ultrasurf is a freeware product that is primarily meant for the circumvention of internet censorship.
This tool bypasses the firewalls and censorship through secure HTTPS end-to-end encryption. For that, Ultrasurf makes use of the TLS/SSL protocols (it does not give you an option to choose between either of these). However, according to the official website, the regular HTTP internet traffic goes through without encryption. In comparison, a full-fledged VPN would encrypt your entire device traffic.
Unlike other paid options, UItrasurf does not use any advanced security protocols such as OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard, and Shadowsocks that would otherwise significantly enhance a user’s security. Furthermore, it does not have features such as split tunneling, Tor over VPN, or double VPN.
In that aspect, it lacks the power of an actual VPN. All in all, it relies on security through obscurity (STO) design, which inherently is not reliable enough.
Regarding the low-security capabilities, the official Ultrasurf website itself states, “Ultrasurf does not increase your online privacy, and should not be considered or used as an online security tool.”
To test Ultrasurf’s security, I ran a DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC leak test. While I did not observe any DNS or IPv6 leak, the WebRTC leak test revealed my public IP address.
According to Ultrasurf, WebRTC leak is inevitable on Chrome as the browser does not let users disable WebRTC. However, the team suggests downloading additional WebRTC blocking extensions that can improve your security on the internet. This is particularly important if you want to run Ultrasurf in Incognito mode.
To test this claim, I installed two WebRTC blocking extensions called WebRTC Control and Easy WebRTC Block, reconnected Ultrasurf, and ran the tests again. Well, nothing really changed, and I could still see my original public IP address in the WebRTC leak test. So, WebRTC blocking extensions may not enhance Ultarsurf’s security.
Overall, I would not consider Ultrasurf as reliable enough in terms of security. It is not an open-source project, as a result of which no community audits can verify its claims.
I also noticed that there is no automatic kill switch option. So, in case you lose your internet connection, upon restart, your information might be susceptible to getting leaked. This is a must-have security feature that Ultrasurf lacks.
Also, Ultrasurf does not have a Camouflage mode as actual VPNs do. The camouflage option makes it impossible for websites/services to know that you are using a VPN or a proxy. Hence, you cannot hide the fact that you are encrypting your traffic while connected to Ultrasurf.
The official Ultrasurf website states that it does not manage or modify your data in any way. All that Ultrasurf does is tunneling the internet traffic through a “secure encrypted tunnel” to provide uncensored access to content.
Ultrasurf also repeatedly suggests that it shouldn’t be treated as an online security tool because it does nothing to increase the privacy of internet users. The company further states, “If privacy is your primary concern, you may use privacy tools in combination with Ultrasurf.”
One good aspect of Ultrasurf is that it does not directly ask for users’ personal information such as credit card details, name, etc., unlike paid VPNs and other censorship circumvention tools.
However, it logs a significant amount of user activity on its website. This includes:
- Public IP address
- Pages viewed on their official website
- Number of links clicked on their official website
- The date and time of the visit
- The webpage that links you to their website
Ultrasurf also mentions that it does not disclose any personally identifiable information to third parties unless it is in compliance with the law or for the company’s protection.
However, I found a 2012 report by a Tor investigator, according to which the Ultrasurf team confessed to disclosing information to the US Government at one point.
Along with that, significant vulnerabilities have been pointed on in this report, especially those related to data retention. For instance, the report mentions that Ultrasurf logs connections of all users in a way that invades privacy. It would be easy to tie all the logged data to individuals, which can help identify even long after the individual stops using Ultrasurf.
Ultrasurf did respond to the report yet fails to publicly provide more information about its encryption specifications and detailed data logging process to this day.
Given the seemingly poor logging policies of Ultrasurf and the fact that it is based in the United States, where data retention laws are relatively strict, I would not consider Ultrasurf reliable.
With that, Ultrasurf also censors a big chunk of content on the internet that it deems offensive. This includes pornographic material, gore/shock websites, or other harmful and unsafe websites.
Torrenting — Slow and Unsafe
Ultrasurf does not limit torrenting activities. However, torrenting can only be done through the web versions of BitTorrent or Utorrent. That is because Ultrasurf is a browser-based content-blocker.
But as far as torrenting goes, you should note that Ultrasurf is not the best when it comes to security and privacy. After all, it is primarily designed to circumvent geo-restrictions on internet content, and that is all.
Given the WebRTC leaks from my tests earlier, and because torrenting is restricted in many locations, I would not advise torrenting while connected to Ultrasurf.
With that, the Ultrasurf team states on the official website, “Ultrasurf is not intended to be used for illicit or illegal activities online, and Ultrasurf does not condone such activities.”
Note that torrenting is not legal in many countries because of issues related to copyright infringement. Neither vpnMentor nor Ultrasurf promotes any sort of abuse or misuse. So, we highly advise you to check your local laws before considering torrenting.
Does Ultrasurf Work in China? Yes
Yes, Ultrasurf works in China. Ultrasurf was explicitly made for users in mainland China to provide unrestricted internet access to the general public. After all, the government in China has set up strict internet censorship.
Most users on the internet in various forums state that they have had no difficulty setting up Ultrasurf. However, most users do complain about the slow internet speeds. But for a free tool, Ultrasurf does perform well in China.
The Ultrasurf team mentions on the website that there are “millions of users from over 180 countries.” Other than China, Ultrasurf is also popular among users in multiple other countries with strict censorship laws, including Syria and Iran.
Simultaneous Device Connections — None
Ultrasurf is a free tool with no paid plans or packages. You can download and run it without making an account. Hence, you can simultaneously connect on as many devices as you want and use the tool independently on each device.
Ultrasurf is available for Windows, iOS, Android, and Chrome. This tool does not offer a separate extension/client for Linux, Mac, Firefox, and routers. With that, it also lacks a separate Internet Explorer extension, although the Windows client does support both Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox.
Note that when I first downloaded the Ultrasurf Windows client, my Windows Defender flagged the file as CoinMiner malware. I then found out that many sources on the internet flag the Ultrasurf Windows client for suspicious behavior. Regarding this, the Ultrasurf website states, “some anti-virus software companies misclassify UltraSurf as a malware or Trojan.”
According to the Ultrasurf team, anti-virus software flags it for suspicious activity because Ultrasurf circumvents censorship and encrypts the data. However, technical details as to why it happens have not been provided by the Ultrasurf team.
If you are worried about your device’s health and security, the Chrome extension would be relatively safer to use. I tested that too, and it seemed to work just the same as the regular Windows client.
With that, I also installed the iOS version from the App Store, where it is listed as “Ultrasurf VPN.” Since Ultrasurf is not a VPN in the true sense, I find it somewhat misleading to title it as such.
Nevertheless, the interface of the iOS is pretty neat and minimal, just like the Windows client and Chrome extension. All it would take is a single tap to connect to the internet anonymously.
Here is a side-by-side comparison of both the iOS and Android applications of Ultrasurf:
As you can see, both applications have a similar design and are geared towards usability on the go, with minimal customization options available. Of course, that could be a strength as well as a limitation.