Hide My Ass! VPN Review 2018
Hide My Ass! is an efficient, easy-to-use VPN service. While the 1-month pricing is a bit high, the provider offers nice discounts for 6-month and 1-year subscriptions.
The service’s VPN app is easy to set up and use, and provides a fast, steady connection. However, users with a need for multiple, simultaneous connections should probably look elsewhere.
Ease of use
Using your computer or mobile device on an open hotspot is just simply a bad idea. Surfing the web is dangerous enough, but if you’re also conducting business, shopping or doing your banking on an open connection, you’re just asking for trouble. By using a VPN like Hide My Ass!, users can protect themselves from having their sensitive personal information stolen by crooks or government creepers.
My job for an IT firm regularly takes me to several countries, and I find myself more and more concerned about the security of the data I transmit back to my home base. I also need to access websites and online content that might not normally be available in the countries I visit. So, I’m continually on the lookout for reliable VPN providers who won’t charge me an arm and a leg, and quality VPNs that aren’t difficult to install and customize for my needs.
Enter Hide My Ass! VPN.
What is Hide My Ass! VPN?
The distinctively-named Hide My Ass! VPN (HMA!) provider began serving users in 2005 as a free proxy service, eventually becoming one of the largest VPN service providers on the internet today. While Privax Ltd. is the parent company of the HMA! service and is located in the United Kingdom, it is owned by AVG, the U.S. firm that is better known for their antivirus products for Windows and Mac PCs. AVG has offices in multiple countries, as well as the U.K. and the U.S.
The service’s encrypted connection offers great protection for your personal data and online activities from hackers, your ISP and the government. It also allows you to appear to be connected in numerous locations around the world, giving you access to websites and services that aren’t normally available in your area due to government, institutional or geographical restrictions.
How Hide My Ass! VPN Works
Hide My Ass! VPN, or any VPN for that matter, acts as a cloak to protect your actual internet IP address from prying eyes. HMA! routes your traffic through the HMA! Virtual Private Networking servers, giving you one of its own IP addresses instead of your original IP. Data that you send and receive via your VPN is sent securely through the HMA! servers, offering a valuable security tool to protect your important, confidential data.
VPNs also supply a convenient way for you to access internet sites and services, such as geo-sensitive sites and video-streaming, that would typically be banned or blocked in your area by governments or other organizations.
I was told by a helpful HMA! customer support rep that Hide My Ass! does support P2P file sharing and torrenting, as it is a legitimate technology used to share data through the internet. However, they do not support the use of torrents to share copyrighted materials illegally. If you use the HMA! VPN service for such activities, it’s likely that the service would receive DMCA notices from the copyright holders, possibly resulting in the termination of your VPN subscription.
The Hide My Ass! Website
The Hide My Ass! website offers a clean, easy-to-follow layout. The front page of the site provides a sufficient amount of information about the service, including how it works, the pricing structure available and what devices the service will work with.
I especially like the “How Does VPN Work?” section of the website, which offers an easy-to-digest explanation as to how a VPN works to protect your connection and personal data.
The section explains that using your real IP address is like having mail sent directly to your home address, while using a VPN-assigned IP address is like having a P.O. box at the post office. No one knows your real home address. I hadn’t really thought of it that way, but that’s how I’ll be explaining a VPN in the future.
The website offers an easy-to-follow layout and supplies a wealth of information, including support, pricing, server locations, a blog, contact options and much more.
Subscription Options and Pricing
Signing up for HMA! via the website is quick and easy. The service offers a 7-day free trial. While signing up for the service does require a method of payment to be entered, HMA! does not charge your card until the trial period is up.
All signup is done with an HTTPS connection for security, and payment can be made by credit card, PayPal, cash at your local 7-Eleven or Family Dollar store, bank wire/transfer and UnionPay. Sadly, Bitcoin does not appear to be a payment option.
Hide My Ass! offers 1-, 6- or 12-month subscriptions. It also gives discounts for longer subscriptions, with the greatest discount if you opt for the 1-year commitment. HMA! has a 30-day money-back guarantee, but unfortunately, that is not available if you choose to pay via in-app purchases on iOS or Android devices.
The charge for Hide My Ass! shows up on your credit card statement as “AVNGATE*HMA PRO VPN” so no need to worry about explaining to your suspicious spouse or boss why you have a charge for “Hide My Ass!” on your credit card statement each month. (Although, I would love to hear some of the initial reactions to such a charge…)
Subscription terms and costs are as follows:
I signed up via the browser on my Mac, but signup is also available on the HMA! iOS mobile app. If you sign up through the mobile app, you’ll be routed to make the payment as an in-app purchase, which is maintained by Apple and will be charged against your iTunes account.
However, it isn’t charged until the 7-day trial has expired. It’s advised that you mark the calendar for the end of the 7-day trial if you decide HMA! isn’t the VPN for you.
Hide My Ass! offers reasonable pricing, especially for those who opt for the annual subscription. Users are advised to be cautious when signing up for the service, due to HMA!’s policies on money-back guarantees and free trial periods, as mentioned above.
Installing the App on Your Computer
I installed the app myself, and it was quite simple. The service’s download page offers links to installation files for Mac, Windows, Android, iOS and Linux systems. Installation files are also available for older versions of Mac OS X and Windows (including XP, Vista, 7 and 8).
Once the short download was complete, installation on my Mac consisted of double-clicking the install file seen above and running the installation app. The app automatically installs - no need for selecting any complicated options or settings.
Once installed, the Hide My Ass! app automatically opened, ready for me to enter the username and password I created online when I first opted to purchase an HMA! subscription.
Windows users can be assured of the same ease of installation, as the HMA! Windows app is supplied as an .exe file, which needs just a simple double-click to run the installation program. (Although, you may need to right-click the installation file and select “Run as Administrator” if you’re not logged in under an account with administrator-level permissions.)
Installing the App on a Mobile Device
Installation on the iPhone was like the installation of any other iOS app. Due to Apple’s rigid rules about installing apps on an iOS device, the app is downloaded and installed via Apple’s own App Store.
Download took only a few moments, and with a quick tap of the app’s icon, I was ready to go. Upon the first connection to a VPN service, the app installs a certificate on the device to allow connection to the server.
The app is also available for Android devices, downloaded and installed directly from the Google Play store. The Android download takes almost no time at all, and the app is ready to run with a tap of your finger.
Features & Use
After installation, using the app was a breeze. Simply run the app, enter your username and password, and then select which mode you wish to use to connect to the VPN service. Hide My Ass! offers three modes for a VPN connection. They are as follows.
This option finds the fastest server available from your current location. With one click, the app finds the best server and connects to it. Since I was located in central Tennessee when I conducted my tests, it usually hooked up to a VPN server either inside Tennessee or in a nearby state. The VPN disconnects with a single click.
This is perfect for a quick, no-fuss VPN connection. I used this option when I accessed the net via a Wi-Fi hotspot at my favorite local coffee shop, and when I connected to the Wi-Fi connection in my hotel room in the evening when I was trying to catch up on personal business after a busy workday.
This option allows you to connect to a particular VPN server. It offers an easy-to-use search function as well as a list of servers in more than 190 countries. You can simply click a country or city, and the app will ask permission to connect to a server in that locale, or you can opt to manually select a server from a list of available servers in that locale. Click the server, and the app instantly connects to that server. Again, disconnecting takes just one click.
I’ve found that this option is great for when I’m looking to access a website or other internet service that isn’t normally available in the locale I find myself in. Perfect for when I’m relaxing in my hotel room in London, or some other foreign location, before heading to bed, and I want to binge a bit of a U.S.-only television show or movie using my DirecTV NOW subscription. (Netflix and Hulu have not proven to be a workable option. More details in the next section.)
This option enables you to connect to the fastest VPN server located in the nearest free-speech country. This is a great option for users who may want to access websites and services that are normally blocked by their local governments.
I enjoy staying in touch with my family and friends on Facebook, and some countries (like China) block the service out of hand. This feature allows me to remain up-to-date with all the news from back home.
App preferences also allow you to load the app automatically when the computer boots up, have it log in when the app launches, connect to a server immediately after logging in and show the app-status icon in the menu bar. If you want, you have the ability to hide the app when it launches.
The app itself proves to have a small footprint and doesn’t take up much room on the hard drive, nor does it chew up too much available RAM or steal away an inordinate amount of precious processor cycles from other apps. There was no noticeable slowdown when running the HMA! app.
If you like to rock it old school, you can also manually set up an HMA! VPN connection in your computer’s network settings. This is particularly attractive if you’re a Mac user, since you might need to communicate via Apple’s FaceTime, which, while it works by default on iOS devices under the HMA! VPN, requires setting up a protocol that isn’t available via the Mac app. More about that next.
The Hide My Ass! app offers the ability to automatically run and connect to a VPN when booting up your computer, which is great for absent-minded individuals such as myself. The app’s 3 methods of connecting are quite handy. I especially liked the “Freedom Mode,” which is a great way for users in especially restrictive countries to connect to the outside world.
Sadly, the app is lacking when it comes to available protocols on the Mac. The app doesn’t allow for point-and-click setting of protocols, instead requiring a manual setup of other types of VPN connections in the macOS Network Settings. Also, a limit of only 2 simultaneous connections makes this provider a no-go for users with families.
Ease of Use:
The app is small and doesn’t put a heavy hit on system resources. It’s easy to use, and most users shouldn’t have any issues. However, I do wish HMA! didn’t require a manual protocol to be set up in order to use FaceTime on my Mac.
The app is almost too simplistic, lacking some of the options offered by other providers. This includes the ability to change the connection protocol or view the fastest servers in each country.
Connection Quality and Speed
To test the quality of the connections provided by Hide My Ass!, I tested the ping times, download speeds and upload speeds of three different connections: that of my local internet provider in Tennessee, a VPN server located in the United States and a server located in the United Kingdom. All ping and speed measurements were made via Speedtest.net.
Ping, Download & Upload Speed
Local Internet Provider
U.S. VPN Server
U.K. VPN Server
As you can see from the numbers above, the differences in my normal internet connection and the U.S. VPN connection were minimal for download and upload speeds, while my ping response time only suffered by 13 ms. Meanwhile, my U.K. connection came in at over twice the wait time on ping measurements, and my download speed was cut in half.
Upload speed, oddly enough, remained competitive, with less than a 1 Mbps speed penalty. In both cases, the connection was more than acceptable, with no noticeable lag in any of my online activities.
On the internet, as in many aspects of life, faster is better. However, when it comes to the security of personal data or the ability to hide our actions on the net, we should be willing to accept a slightly slower connection in favor of “hiding our asses.”
A number of aspects can affect a VPN connection. These include the distance between you and the VPN server, the current load on the VPN server, the selected level of encryption and even your own internet service provider.
You can see in the table and screenshots above that my unfettered connection from my ISP offered a perfectly acceptable level of low ping numbers and high upload and download speeds. The U.S. VPN download numbers only dropped a few Mbps. The U.K. VPN numbers dropped considerably download-wise, but the connection was still completely acceptable for normal usage.
Ping numbers on a VPN connection can be affected by distance. The farther away your location is from the selected VPN server, the higher your ping numbers will be. This is due to the increased time it takes for data packets to travel back and forth along the connection.
Slightly-increased ping numbers won’t generally affect your day-to-day usage. However, the numbers can be important to online gamers, as too much lag is a killer in today’s run-and-shoot multiplayer online games.
Server loads can also affect ping times and data transfer numbers. Any server will run slower when a large number of clients are hitting it. You’ve probably experienced this on a lower level on Cyber Monday when attempting to shop at popular online retailers.
This is the main principle behind Denial of Service (DoS) attacks. A DoS attack is an attempt to overwhelm a server or other resource with a massive amount of requests, making it unavailable to its intended users. Targeting an online merchant, such as Amazon, with such an attack can cost the merchant millions of dollars in lost revenue, depending on the intensity and length of the attack.
The VPN protocol used to connect to and protect your VPN connection can also affect the overall performance of the said connection. Generally, the higher (and better) the selected encryption, the slower the connection.
That said, today’s protocols and their accompanying encryption are optimized for performance, so using 256-bit encryption in the place of lesser encryption methods likely won’t significantly affect the satisfaction level of most users.
Last but not least, remember that any internet connection is only as fast as its slowest point along the way. Much like how highway construction or an auto accident can affect your trip on any highway, a slow point along the way can also affect your journey on the internet superhighway.
Following the speed tests, I also put the VPN connections through a series of real-world tests. Generally, I stream 1080p video from YouTube and then attempt to stream content from both Netflix and Hulu. I also used the connections to perform my everyday tasks, including using the Google Docs suite of internet-connected apps, browsing websites, connecting to social networks and making video and audio calls via both Skype and FaceTime.
YouTube content played well, with full-screen 1080p video content streaming quickly and with no issues whatsoever. There was a short period of buffering before each video began playing, but it played beautifully once it started. This was true for both the U.S. and U.K. VPN connections I tried.
Click here to see the best VPNs for Youtube.
My Netflix experience with Hide My Ass! was the usual. While I recall being able to connect to Netflix early in testing, I was not able to replicate my success later on. I tried every available U.S. VPN connection and was met each time by a message from Netflix saying that I appeared to be using a proxy and the service does not allow that.
My attempts to connect to Netflix via any of the available U.K. VPN connections was also met with failure. While this is a disappointment, it’s a sad fact of the streaming industry today that there is a back-and-forth chess match going on between streaming companies and VPNs.
Netflix and other companies work to ferret out the IP addresses being used by VPNs in order to block them from accessing the service, while the VPN companies work to add new IPs or develop new ways to get around the blocking. This means that a VPN server that can access Netflix one day might not be able to the next week - or even the next minute.
Click here to see the best VPNs for Netflix.
Hulu was the same situation as Netflix. Absolutely no access to the service was allowed, no matter which connection I tried, in both the U.S. and the U.K.
Click here to see the best VPNs for Hulu.
Skype and FaceTime
Skype audio and video calls performed well on both the U.S. and the U.K. connections. Skype seems to be connection-agnostic, working well with any type of connection I have thrown at it.
However, Apple’s FaceTime video-chatting service gave me fits for a while. Although audio FaceTime calls worked well, even completing calls to landline phone numbers, video FaceTime calls refused to work under the HMA! connection.
I contacted Hide My Ass! support via their online chat system, and they offered a list of various VPN servers to try. I ran through the list but had no luck. I then searched through the HMA! website for any other possible fixes and stumbled upon a page about how to manually set up various types of VPN connections for use with HMA!.
I manually set up an L2TP HMA! connection in my Mac’s network settings. Once I connected using that option, the FaceTime call performed quite well. Still, I’m not fond of the idea of having to use a completely different VPN setup simply to successfully use a built-in macOS app.
Click here to see the best VPNs for Skype.
As I grow older, I find myself playing games less and less. But I do try a new one now and then and binge on them from time to time. One game I have come back to recently is Doom 3 on my Mac. (Nostalgia, I suppose.) I loaded the old beast up and joined a deathmatch while using the HMA! VPN connection. The game performed well, with no lag at all. (The only reason I died in the game is because I play horribly.)
Click here to see the best VPNs for Gaming.
General Internet Use
I used both the U.S. and U.K. HMA! VPN connections to perform my daily online work. This usually consists of staying in touch with fellow employees and customers through emails, texts and video chats, connecting to remote servers to troubleshoot issues and more. In all tasks, the connections were more than up to the task.
The iOS Hide My Ass! app provided a speedy connection via a U.S. server and somewhat slower U.K. server. The U.S. VPN connection offered ping results 10 ms slower than my unprotected ISP connection, while the U.K. connection came in at 76 ms slower.
Both VPNs offered download speeds slower than my normal connection (the U.K. connection was considerably slower). However, both VPN connections performed quite close to my unfettered connection when it came to upload speeds.
Note: The results posted below were obtained following a speed upgrade from my ISP, which bumped my internet speeds from 60 Mbps up to 100 Mbps.
Ping, Download & Upload Speed
Local Internet Provider
U.S. VPN Server
U.K. VPN Server
Hide My Ass! provides some really great connection speeds and low ping numbers most of the time. It works great for day-to-day internet use, performs well when gaming or streaming video and also allows for smooth Skype calling.
Global Server Coverage
Hide My Ass! offers connections from almost anywhere in the world, boasting 780+ VPN servers in 280+ locations across 220+ countries. This means that HMA! should have your connection covered, no matter where you need to hook up.
As you can see in the screenshot below, Hide My Ass! offers comprehensive coverage around most of the globe. Their coverage includes a goodly amount of Europe, Asia, the United States, Africa, and South America. The only areas lacking coverage are Canada, China and Russia.
Global Server Coverage:
Hide My Ass! offers the best global server coverage of any of the VPN providers I have reviewed. Considering that the average number of countries covered by VPNs I’ve reviewed is 77 countries, Hide My Ass! stands out.
Privacy, Security & Legal
HMA! supports the protocol OpenVPN (over UDP and TCP). The company is planning on providing more options in the near future. However, OpenVPN furnishes a great layer of security, and I am not aware of any issues with it.
The HMA! VPN service can be used on 2 devices at the same time (connected to different servers), but users can install the application on as many devices as they’d like. There is no monthly data cap for the HMA! VPN service. The only cap is in reference to refunds. The service offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, providing you have used under 10GB of bandwidth.
Hide My Ass! Logging Policy
Hide My Ass! says they store a timestamp and IP address when users connect to and disconnect from the VPN service, the amount of data transmitted (upload and download) during the session, along with the IP address of the individual VPN server used by the user.
HMA! does not store details of, or monitor, the websites that are visited with their VPN service. They collect aggregated statistical (non-personal) data about the use of their mobile apps and software.
This data is stored on their system for between 2 to 3 months unless they are required, for legal reasons or under exceptional circumstances (including their own investigations of fraud or abuse), to retain the data for an extended period.
If HMA! receives a report from a person or organization (including law enforcement) that leads them to suspect that an account has been used in connection with any illegal activities, they may, at their discretion, suspend the account, but they won’t disclose any personal information that may identify the user, unless they are legally compelled to do so.
Hide My Ass! has, in the past, supplied information about illegal activities when compelled by law enforcement agencies. In one instance, HMA! supplied information about a client’s activities related to the hack of the Sony Pictures website.
Hide My Ass! scores low in this category due to their retaining of logs for 2 to 3 months and their demonstrated willingness to turn them over when requested.
There will be those who say you shouldn’t worry if you have nothing to hide, and to those people I say: let me borrow your smartphone for a few minutes. As for myself, I prefer a strict “no logs” policy when it comes to VPN providers.
This provider also doesn’t offer any privacy-protecting payment options, such as Bitcoin. This is a definite minus when it comes to protecting your identity online.
While using Hide My Ass!, I did have a situation where I needed to contact HMA! customer support. I was curious whether the VPN would work with my Apple TV set-top streaming box. So, I sent a support request via the website’s support form.
I asked if the VPN software was compatible with my Apple TV and Apple AirPort Extreme router. I was pleased to find that I received a reply within 30 minutes. The request was sent around 6 p.m. Eastern Time (5 p.m. local), which makes the response time that much more impressive.
I received an email confirmation when I submitted the support request as well as an email with the reply to my question. Sadly, I was disappointed with the answer, but more on that below. The actual response was friendly, and the support tech did a good job of answering my question, giving a clear explanation as to why my setup would not work.
In addition to email and online chat support, the support site also features a good number of helpful FAQ documents as well as a user forum, where issues and ideas can be discussed among the customers. Unfortunately, they do not offer phone support, but this is standard amongst VPN providers.
When I queried HMA! customer support about perhaps using my Apple TV and AirPort Extreme router with the VPN service, it was explained that I would need to purchase a compatible router for use with HMA!, as it’s not possible to customize the AirPort Extreme in the manner other routers can be. The response suggested multiple routers that could be used, listing them by name.
As mentioned previously, I also conducted an online chat with an HMA! support agent about my inability to use FaceTime while connected to the HMA! VPN service. While their suggestions didn’t fix my issue (I instead stumbled on the solution while viewing support articles), they responded promptly and did their best to be helpful.
I found Hide My Ass! customer service to be responsive, offering a quick reply to the question I submitted via their online support form. They also provided great service when I asked a question through their online chat feature. Plus, HMA! provides a good number of FAQ documents as well as an active user forum.
Alternative VPN Options
Hide My Ass! VPN is based in the United Kingdom, and its parent company is located in the United States. That combination is double trouble when it comes to security, because both the U.K. and the U.S. governments have been known to request server and user activity logs, which compromises your privacy. Luckily, if this is a concern, you’ve got options.
If you’re concerned with the lack of privacy Hide My Ass! may present, I’d suggest taking a closer look at ExpressVPN, NordVPN or PureVPN. All 3 providers offer excellent privacy, and while they each have their own shortcomings, they offer the best security ratings of all of the VPN providers I have reviewed.
ExpressVPN is located in the British Virgin Islands. Even though the Islands are considered a British territory, they are not subject to the privacy-unfriendly data retention laws of the U.K. Also, ExpressVPN does not keep logs of traffic or user browsing activity, so even if logs were requested by a law enforcement agency, they would not be available.
NordVPN is based in Panama City, Panama and as such is not required to store traffic or user activity logs. The provider says the only information they keep on hand about their users is their email address (used as a login, and for marketing and troubleshooting purposes), and their billing information.
PureVPN is based and operates in Hong Kong, where there are no mandatory data retention laws. The company is not legally obligated to store user data or share it with anyone. The company says they only share information with authorities when their service is used in violation of the Terms of Agreement users agree to when signing up for the service.
PureVPN will only supply specific information about the activity in question, “provided [they] have the record of any such activity.”
Hide My Ass! VPN, while likely not to be mentioned in mixed company or to your priest, is a capable and efficient VPN. The app is lightweight and easy to install and use, with options that are easy to understand and make use of.
Connection speed and response was impressive, responding well to my day-to-day usage, as well as the specific tests I subjected the connections to. In all cases, I was able to use my internet connection in my usual manner, no matter which VPN server I was connected to. Other than the special setup required for using FaceTime, video-centric apps performed well while using HMA!’s servers.
While I was disappointed that Hide My Ass! doesn’t accept Bitcoin as payment, using retail store gift cards is a solid option, especially if you usually make use of Bitcoin to keep your payment information anonymous.
I highly recommend Hide My Ass! if you’re concerned about cloaking your online activities and may also need to access internet sites or services that are normally blocked by your government or by the geographical restrictions of the services themselves.
My only concern is the fact that the service’s parent firms are located in the U.K. and the U.S., both countries where online privacy is less than respected by their governments.
Hide My Ass! makes for an excellent choice for users wishing to take advantage of the security and flexibility a VPN offers, but who don’t want to get too involved with the technical side of things.
The HMA! VPN app is easy to install and use, and the monthly tariff isn’t too steep - especially if the customer takes advantage of the impressive discount on the 6-month and 1-year subscriptions. For more information, and to sign up for Hide My Ass! VPN service, visit the Hide My Ass! website.