Hotspot Shield is a free VPN connection from AnchorFree that is designed to make your web browsing safer when you’re on the go. By routing all of your traffic through a secure VPN connection, you would gain these benefits according to their website:
- Hide your IP while you’re online.
- Access all content without censorship; bypass firewalls.
- Protect yourself from snoopers at Wi-Fi hotspots, hotels, airports, corporate offices and ISP hubs.
- Works on wireless and wired connections alike.
To get started, you download the 4.9 MB installer and run through the setup which will take up a 13.7 MB installed footprint. During the setup, you’ll want to pay careful attention as there are a number of options you are not likely to want set on your computer (and frankly makes the whole software seem a little sketchy as a first impression). I prefer a very lean installation and if you do as well, uncheck:
- Install Hotspot Shield Community toolbar
- Set the Hotspot Shield Private Search as my default in IE
- Set my home page to the Hotspot Shield Private Search page
- Enable me to get instant hotspot shield privacy and security alerts
- Fix “page not found” errors
One of the things you will notice if you’re monitoring the installation process is that it will install a ‘Hotspot Shield Routing driver’. Not that there is anything to be unexpected by that, but installing at the driver-level does require a little bit of trust and mean the installation can be a little more complicated.
Once you get the service installed there will be a shortcut on your desktop and if the service is running, a system tray icon to go along with it. You can control the connection through the system tray icon and it has a legend as follows: red – disconnected, yellow – connecting, green – connected.
When you are connected, you’ll be taken to this page telling you that you’re connected with Hotspot Shield and you can search securely through an Ask.com bar. If you double-click on the desktop icon to connect or check the status of the connection, you’ll be taken to this URL: http://127.0.0.1:895/config/?action=connect〈=eng which shows you your status and VPN IP address.
When you continue your browsing, you’ll find that Hotspot Shield is ad supported. On every page you’ll see a banner ad like this at the top of the window:
It’s not a terrible trade off for the service, but it does impact your browsing experience and you should throw this into the mix to determine if this is worth it to you. A number of people outside the US use Hotspot Shield in order to access license limited services like Hulu. Hotspot Shield is listed as working with these operating systems:
- Windows Vista
- Windows XP
- Windows 2000
- Mac OS X (10.5 Leopard)
- Mac OS X (10.4 Tiger)
Version reviewed: 1.30
If you’re interested in the service provided by Hotspot Shield, you can learn more and download it from http://hotspotshield.com/