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. So, technically speaking, it is not a VPN. Instead, Ultrasurf recognizes itself as a simple anti-censorship tool.
The main idea behind Ultrasurf was to provide regular internet users in mainland China with a free and reliable tool to circumvent strict internet censorship. Ironically though, Ultrasurf mentions that it may still censor content that it deems offensive. The definition of “offensive” might vary from user to user. So, in that sense, Ultrasurf might also be doing exactly what it claims to fight against.
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, it gets the job done well. Since it is a free tool, 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.
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.
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. During my tests, it unblocked Disney+, but not Netflix. While the speed results were not impressive, the connection was stable and consistent.
If you decide that Ultrasurf is not the tool for you, visit vpnMentor for more reviews, and you'll find the one that suits you best.
Short on Time? Here Are My Key Findings
- Suitable for unblocking geo-restricted websites. While Ultrasurf struggles with streaming (especially Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime Video) due to slow speeds, it performs surprisingly well with Disney+. Check out the streaming section below for more information.
- One server location. 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. This VPN service has no paid packages, no bandwidth limitations, hidden costs, and no time restrictions. Jump to the pricing section for more information.
- 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. Ultrasurf does not have high connection speeds — they're 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. 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. 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 VPN Features — Updated in February 2023
Does VPN keep logs?
Number of devices per license
Based in country
Streaming — Unblocks Disney+ US 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's 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's 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
Ultrasurf's performance on Disney+ was surprisingly good. I was easily able to unblock the Disney+ US library. 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.
Streaming on Disney+ with Ultrasurf
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.
Streaming a YouTube video with Ultrasurf
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 Netflix US 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.
After the slow loading times, an error message appeared on Netflix
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:
A “Streaming Delay” notification and an error message popped up when I tried to stream on Amazon Prime Video
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.
Ultrasurf failed to load titles on HBO Max
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.
Loading times were slow on Hulu, and an error message appeared too
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 extra security. However, I tested two extensions designed to block WebRTC leaks, yet leaks still occurred (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.
Speeds — Slow and Inconsistent
Ultrasurf's 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. Hence, the current slow speeds could 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:
My speed test results before using Ultrasurf
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:
A message by Ookla notifying me to try to connect to a server again
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.
Speed test results while connected to Ultrasurf
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 on the US server:
|Download speed (Mbps)
||5.1 Mbps (86% decrease in speed)
|Upload speed (Mbps)
||6.1 Mbps (63% decrease)
||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? No
My speed tests showed a very high latency on the US servers I tested, which means Ultrasurf's speeds aren't fast enough for gaming. Furthermore, it 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). You can still use it for browser-based gaming. But, I wouldn't suggest that since Ultrasurf didn't pass all my WebRTC leak tests.
So, gaming with Ultrasurf is totally out of the equation as the tool doesn't provide fast speeds and lacks security.
Server Network — One Server Location With an Unspecified Number of Servers
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 addresses. 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.
Security — Not the Best
Ultrasurf is a freeware product that is primarily meant for the circumvention of internet censorship.
This tool bypasses firewalls and censorship by using 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's 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.”
A screenshot of the security page on Ultrasurf’s website
To test Ultrasurf’s security, I ran a DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC leak test. While I did not observe any DNS or IPv6 leaks, 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.
Leak test results while connected to Ultrasurf
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, it 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.
Privacy — Safe but Not Reliable
The official Ultrasurf website states that it does not manage or modify your data in any way. All that Ultrasurf does is tunnel 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 it is a browser-based content-unblocker.
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 this tool.
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 illegal 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. It 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, it is also popular among users in multiple other countries with strict censorship laws, including Syria and Iran.
Simultaneous Device Connections — 1
Ultrasurf is a free tool with no paid plans or packages. You can download it on as many devices as you want and run it on each device independently without making an account.
Device Compatibility — Works on All Major Devices
Ultrasurf is available for Windows, iOS, Android, and Chrome. This tool does not offer a separate extension/client for Linux, Mac, Firefox, and it doesn't support 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 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 app is pretty neat and minimal, just like the Windows client and the Chrome extension. All it would take is a single tap to connect to the internet anonymously.
Here is a side-by-side comparison of Ultrasurf's iOS and Android applications:
Ultrasurf’s iOS and Android app interface
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.