As the market for VPNs continues to grow, some browsers now offer built-in VPNs of their own. These tend to be better than the free VPNs you’d find while casually looking through the Google Play store – if only for their attitude toward collecting user data. However, they pale in comparison with most subscription-based VPNs. So what is the best browser with a built-in VPN? We’ve rounded up the most popular options and chosen those with the most to offer.
Best browser with a built-in VPN in 2024:
Several web browsers now incorporate VPNs into their apps. We’ve looked at those that offer their services for free. Here’s a summary of our findings – scroll down for a more in-depth analysis of each.
- Aloha Browser: Provides device-wide protection and access to servers in 80+ countries. Comes with a kill switch and DNS leak protection.
- Opera free VPN: Stalwart provider with fast connection speeds. Protects traffic to and from the browser. Adheres to a zero-logs policy.
- Epic Privacy Browser: Open-source browser protection with a VPN. Has servers in eight countries.
- Microsoft Edge Secure Network: Free VPN built-in to the Edge browser. Secure and requires minimal user input once activated.
- Maxthon VPN: Free service that has a wide range of different virtual locations available and uses the IKEv2 tunneling protocol.
Criteria for testing browsers with built-in VPNs
When creating the above list, we used specific criteria to compare providers against. You can read more about our testing methodology later in the article. For now, here’s a summary of what we were looking for:
- Good browser functionality
- Free VPN that’s easy to access
- Encrypts traffic
- Provides multiple virtual locations
Best browsers that come with a VPN built in
Here’s our list of free browsers with a built-in VPN:
Aloha is a VPN browser primarily for iOS and Android. A Windows version is currently in beta testing. It’s a great service considering it’s free, with many of the same features found in subscription-based software.
The first thing to note is that the Aloha VPN is an actual VPN in that it offers device-wide protection rather than just limiting itself to traffic to and from the browser.
The Aloha VPN, which is easily enabled by tapping the lightning shield symbol, allows users to choose from servers in 80+ countries. Alternatively, users can let Aloha choose a server for them by selecting the Fastest Server option.
If the VPN connection fails for whatever reason, Aloha will sever the internet connection to prevent user traffic from being transferred unencrypted – a feature known as a kill-switch.
Other features include an autostart setting that automatically fires up the VPN when you open Aloha, and DNS leak protection. Aloha VPN supports the IPSec and IKEv2 tunneling protocols. The company is developing proprietary protocols, though full details of these have yet to be released.
Aloha says that it keeps no logs of user activity while connected. However, it uses third-party servers, which can collect your IP address. Similarly, it says that “certain” third-party websites accessible by the Aloha browser could “log your actual IP” – even with the VPN feature enabled. This is far from ideal, requiring as it does, a great deal of trust in Aloha’s unspecified “select partners.”
If privacy is important to you, we suggest using a VPN provider with a robust no-logs policy that’s been independently verified by third-party auditors. NordVPN, Surfshark, and ExpressVPN all fit the bill in this regard.
- Device-wide protection
- Servers in 80+ countries
- DNS leak protection
- Uses VPN tunneling protocols
- Third-party servers and websites record IP addresses
- Not available on macOS
Opera is one of the oldest browsers around, first launched in 1995. In that time it has garnered several hundred million users worldwide and undergone several changes – the most pertinent of which was the addition of a free VPN in 2016.
This “VPN” will only protect traffic flowing to and from the browser. All other connections on your device are unprotected. This is very different to true VPNs, such as NordVPN or Surfshark, which protect all internet traffic flowing to and from your device.
The Opera VPN lets users choose to connect to a server in either Europe, Asia, or the Americas. You don’t get to choose a specific country or city. If you don’t choose a region, you are automatically assigned an optimal location, which should provide the fastest available server.
Once connected, your IP address will change to that of the server and your traffic will be encrypted. Note that you have to manually enable the VPN for every tab you open – it doesn’t connect automatically.
The Opera VPN isn’t particularly bad compared to other free VPNs, though there have been reports of issues with staying connected for prolonged periods (despite users being allowed unlimited data). If the connection does drop out, your real IP address will be exposed, because the VPN has no kill switch. This is a standard feature of subscription-based services like NordVPN.
Strangely for a service that advertises itself as a VPN, Opera’s offering doesn’t use a tunneling protocol like WireGuard or OpenVPN. Instead it relies on TLS. That’s the same sort of encryption you get with any HTTPS site.
Like other free VPNs, Opera is not suitable for streaming. It doesn’t work with the major streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer. On the plus side, it’s fast – the majority of users won’t notice any slow down of their connection while connected.
In addition to its free VPN, Opera has introduced a paid-for VPN Pro option. We wouldn’t recommend this as there are better services available for less and which don’t tie you into using the Opera browser.
- Fast connection speeds
- Not a true VPN
- No kill switch
- Limited server choice
- No good for streaming
- Doesn’t use a tunneling protocol
As its name suggests, the Epic Browser focuses on privacy. It blocks fingerprinting scripts and functions like image canvas data, as well as cookies, trackers and certain types of WebRTC calls.
Its free VPN is, like some others in our list, actually an encrypted proxy. It doesn’t protect anything beyond the browser, so look elsewhere if you want to spoof your IP address while using torrenting apps or games.
The VPN can be activated in a single click and provides access to a limited number of servers in the UK, US, Canada, Singapore, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. DNS requests are also routed through the proxy.
Once connected, the proxy for Windows, macOS and Android protects traffic flowing to and from the user’s browser using TLS. In iOS, it uses IKEv2, which is a common protocol used by most major VPNs.
The Epic VPN collects no information that could identify users. Like the top subscription-based VPN providers, it only collects aggregated data on the bandwidth used. We like that Epic is open-source, which means its code can be inspected by anyone. Less appealing is Yahoo! as the default search engine.
- iOS app uses IKEv2
- Great for privacy
- Open source
- Note very fast
- Not a true VPN
- Severs in eight countries
- Yahoo! the default search engine
Microsoft’s Edge browser comes with a built-in VPN, which it calls Secure Network. This is designed to be as hands-off as possible, which might appeal to those who prefer the very least interaction with their devices. If you’re reading this, then you’re probably not one of them and we’d recommend you opt for a different service.
The first issue with the VPN is that you need to sign in to Edge with your Microsoft Account, to access it. This immediately raises some red flags in terms of privacy. However, Microsoft says that it stores “minimal support data and access tokens which are only retained for the duration of the required service window.”
The VPN limits you to 5GB of data each month, though this is preserved fairly well by the VPN automatically turning itself on and off when needed. For example, it will turn on when visiting an unsecure HTTP site or when you connect to an open wi-fi hotspot.
There’s a similar lack of control over which VPN server you connect to. The Secure Network simply connects you to the nearest available. This renders the VPN unsuitable for accessing services which require an IP address in a specific country.
There’s no kill switch, so if your connection to the VPN drops out, your IP address will be exposed. Microsoft says that while users are connected, their traffic is sent through an encrypted tunnel. It doesn’t provide details on what protocols are used to do this.
- Largely automated
- Can’t choose servers
- Unspecified encryption
- No kill switch
- Requires sign-in before use
Maxthon is a multi-platform web browser that’s been around for more than a decade. It stands out for having a built-in blockchain wallet to facilitate cryptocurrency payment, though it’s not the best for security. Maxthon added a VPN to its browser in 2022, hence its inclusion in our list.
Maxthon’s VPN is actually provided by BrightVPN, which is a product of Bright Data (formerly Luminati). Bright Data also owns Hola!, a popular – though flawed – VPN we’ve discussed in comparison pieces elsewhere.
BrightVPN works differently to other VPNs. It essentially functions as a network of residential proxies. If you agree to use BrightVPN, you agree to allow it to use your device’s free resources and IP address to download public web data from the Internet.
In essence, you agree to let Bright Data’s clients use your device’s internet connection to research everything from product prices to flight information. Bright Data says that it will only use your IP address for “approved business-related use cases and never for unauthorized cases.”
BrightVPN’s model seems like a direct contradiction to what a VPN should do, and will make many people feel uncomfortable. For its part, BrightVPN repeatedly reassures users that they “do not track nor store logs of your browsing activity, including no logging of browsing history, traffic destination, data content, or DNS queries.”
The main benefit of BrightVPN is that it has servers/ users in a wide range of countries – typically 100+. This is rare for a free VPN, so can be useful if you need an IP address in a specific place. The service uses the IKEv2 tunneling protocol, and allows users to connect up to 10 devices. It is able to access some streaming platforms, which may be enough to convince some users to ignore its privacy issues.
- Uses the IKEv2 protocol
- Servers in 120+ countries
- Uses your computing resources for profit
- Shares your IP address
Alternatives to browsers with built-in VPNs
If the options above leave you feeling a little underwhelmed, we’re not surprised. None manage to meet all of the minimum requirements for a VPN. Some lack adequate privacy, others fail to provide appropriate security. Many aren’t even true VPNs.
The good news is that there are plenty of VPN providers out there that are just as convenient, but that don’t force you to make privacy or security sacrifices. They do require a subscription, though. It’s not cheap running a VPN, which is why those services listed above can’t offer everything you might like.
The best subscription-based services – such as NordVPN – are fast, secure, and able to access popular streaming platforms with ease. They’re far easier to install and get started with than switching browsers and using a built-in VPN.
If it’s the “free” aspect of a browser with a built-in VPN that interests you, there are still options. Several subscription-only services offer pared down versions of their main VPN as a form of trial product. These typically have the same robust security and privacy features as their parent product, though with limited access to the server network and slower speeds. Good examples include the CyberGhost browser extension, and the free version of Proton VPN.
We recommend avoiding standalone free VPNs that are ad-supported. To make money, these VPNs usually sell user data and therefore have some form of logging policy. Many have additional security issues, and some will leak your IP address.
Best browsers with paid-for VPNs
If you’re set on using a browser with a built-in VPN – and don’t mind paying for it – there are a couple of worthy options. The best of them is the Mozilla VPN, which is a repackaging of the Mullvad VPN. Mullvad excels in protecting user privacy and was the fastest VPN in our latest round of testing. Existing Firefox users who want to support the non-profit Mozilla organization can do so by subscribing to the Mozilla VPN for $4.99 a month.
Alternatively, the Brave browser has a Firewall + VPN offering that costs $9.99 a month. This is particularly expensive, so it’s only really worth it for die-hard Brave fans.
Methodology for choosing the best browser with built-in VPN
Just because you like and/or trust a particular browser, that doesn’t mean you should automatically use its VPN. Like any other product, it pays to be objective, which is why we compared browsers with built-in VPNs against a list of criteria as part of our testing methodology. These are discussed below:
- Good browser functionality: Browsers are our way of accessing the internet, so you want to make sure that you’re using one that doesn’t limit what you can do or unduly threaten your security or privacy.
- Free VPN that’s easy to access: There’s no point using a built-in VPN if it’s difficult to access. We looked for VPNs that could be activated in a couple of clicks.
- Encrypts traffic: One of the attractions of using a VPN is that it encrypts the traffic flowing to and from your device. Browser VPNs should, at the very least, encrypt traffic to and from the browser.
- Provides multiple virtual locations: Another big draw for VPNs is that they allow you to use the internet with a different IP address. The best VPNs have IP address options in multiple countries.
What browsers are good for privacy?
If you’re generally looking to improve your online privacy, a good place to start is with your browser. The best software will prevent tracking cookies harvesting information, won’t share your search history, and will operate according to strict privacy principles.
We’ve already mentioned some of the better options, including Brave and Mozilla Firefox. Other great options include DuckDuckGo and LibreWolf. If you can handle the slow speeds, the Tor browser provides the ultimate in private browsing, but is arguably excessive for general day-to-day use.