A free VPN client based on OpenVPN encrypts all of your Internet activities and not just web browsing.
Pros & Cons:
Hotspot Shield is a free VPN client based on OpenVPN. Unlike other anonymous surfing options, such as JonDo or Tor, Hotspot Shield encrypts all of your Internet activities and not just web browsing. This is ideal for people who want to anonymise other applications without the need to 'proxify' them, which can be a complicated and tedious task.
Anchorfree does not collect any identifiable information about you, so you can rest assured that your privacy is not compromised. Another advantage to using this option compared to others is its speed. I was pleasantly surprised when I first used Hotspot Shield as the speed was noticeably much faster than Tor and JonDo's free servers combined. It can load web pages nearly as fast as my unencrypted connection can even in ideal circumstances.
One catch to the service, however, is that Anchorfree displays advertisements on every web page that you visit. Luckily, those who have the AdBlock Plus and NoScript addon for Firefox won't see ANY adverts at all; but those who use Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Opera, Safari or any other browsers without equivalent plug-ins will see them. This isn't necessarily a bad deal considering what you are getting; namely, a commercial-like service for the sake of a few adverts (or none if you're a Firefox/AdBlock Plus/NoScript user). If you really cannot tolerate the advertisements, then I highly recommend that you use JonDoFox, a free Firefox profile which includes all the necessary plugins (including AdBlock Plus and NoScript) for greater anonymity and to block Hotspot Shield's adverts.
We've already sung the praises about JonDoFox above in the JonDo review, I really recommend you get it! Hotspot shield can seem a bit intrusive as it always loads with Windows and cannot be stopped unless you disable its services. This isn't necessarily a bad thing for fast computers but if you're using something with minimal resources, then you'll want to preserve as much RAM as possible. In that case I would suggest you configure your operating system to disable HotSpot shield's services, of which there are three in total. If you're a regular user, this may be an advantage to you!
Now for a few technical points regarding the program. There is no standalone GUI for the program, but instead it uses a web page interface. It is very simple to use as it has only two buttons, connect and disconnect. It is a relatively small download (5258kB), which includes the necessary OpenVPN components, and it uses around 68Mb of memory when running. No registration is required. Anchorfree has a number of high-speed dedicated servers based in different locations in the United States.
More information about the data that Anchorfree does collect can be found at this page. Anchorfree also offers a UK version of this popular product called ExpatShield, which can be used to access the popular BBC iPlayer service from outside the UK.
Here are some of my personal ratings and a few technical points regarding the program:
- Speed Rating: Fast
- Anonymity Rating: High
- Usage Allowance: Medium. 5 GB per month.
- Logging Level: Minimal. They log connection times and volume of traffic.
- Server Location(s): USA UK
- WOT Rating: Good.
Hotspot Shield was reviewed by Gizmos Freeware on based on version 2.78.