Whether you own a Chromebook or just use the Chrome browser, a VPN can improve your online privacy, bypass censorship, and unblock content. Many of the best VPNs now make browser extensions, but not all of them are trustworthy, and some aren’t really VPNs at all.
In this article, we’ll look at what makes the best VPN for Chrome. We cover a lot of detail, but in case you only have time for a summary, here is our list of the best Chrome VPN Browser extensions:
- ExpressVPN Our top choice VPN for Chrome. Chrome extension is well designed and protects your browser’s traffic. When combined with the app, your device achieves a high level of security and privacy. Includes 30-day money back guarantee.
- NordVPN Budget VPN for Chrome. An easy to use app and corresponding Chrome extension. Private and secure.
- SaferVPN This VPN’s Chrome extension acts as a HTTPS proxy and is easy to use.
- Windscribe VPN with an impressive Chrome extension that can be used as a standalone or in combination with app.
- StrongVPN Simple chrome extension lets you change your IP address.
The Best Chrome VPN Browser Extensions
We’ve selected VPNs based on the following criteria:
- App design and features
- Speed and reliability
- Suitability for streaming (Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, BBC iPlayer etc)
- Customer service
- Number of servers
We’ve listed our top five most recommended VPNs for Chrome users, based on these criteria.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
ExpressVPN tops our list again thanks to security and performance that even the most privacy-conscious among us can appreciate, combined with an app so easy to use a toddler could use it. Performance is fast and stable. ExpressVPN can unblock pretty much anything. That includes being able to bypass the Great Firewall and watch Netflix in a browser or on the mobile app. ExpressVPN makes apps for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux (command-line), and certain wifi routers.
ExpressVPN makes a fantastic browser extension that manages your device’s native VPN connections. This is especially useful for Chromebook users that can’t run the Windows or iOS versions of the app. The extension does not function by itself, and requires you have ExpressVPN installed or configured first. The extension adds in some extra privacy features, including the ability to randomize the location reported by Google’s geo-location API to somewhere around the chosen VPN server. This prevents websites from learning your real location both through Google and via your IP address.
ExpressVPN’s browser extension recently passed an audit by a third-party cybersecurity firm and all the code is now open source.
- Dedicated, slick Chrome extension that manages your devices connections from the browser
- Superfast server network is great for streaming and downloading
- Unblocks Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer
- Best-in-class encryption makes for solid security and privacy
- Live chat customer support – 24/7
- Operates a network with over 3,000 servers in 94 countries
- Some rivals are slightly cheaper
BEST VPN FOR Chrome:ExpressVPN is our Top Choice and a pleasure to use. It has a vast network of servers that is fine-tuned for high-speed connections. User-friendly Chrome extension and apps for all operating systems. Tough to beat on privacy and security. There is a 30-day no-quibbles money-back guarantee so you can try it risk-free.
Read our full review of ExpressVPN.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
NordVPN checks off all of our criteria plus it adds special servers. They include anti-DDoS, ultra-fast streaming, double VPN, and Tor over VPN. The service is completely logless and touts top-of-the-line encryption standards. It unblocks everything, including Netflix and Hulu, even on mobile apps. The apps let you easily connect either by choosing a location on a map or a server from a list. NordVPN makes apps for Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS.
NordVPN makes a standalone browser extension that functions with or without installing the native NordVPN app. By itself, the extension only protects Chrome traffic. It also prevents WebRTC leaks that could expose your real IP address from your browser even with the VPN enabled. Nord’s CyberSec feature comes built into both the extension and the app to block ads, trackers, and malware.
- Provides a standalone Chrome extension that can work independently of the app
- Fast enough servers for HD streaming
- High-grade privacy and security built into apps
- Vast server network can unblock most geo-restricted content
- Extensive support documentation and live chat option
- Desktop app can be awkward to use
BEST BUDGET VPN:NordVPN is a good value all-rounder. A great value option that works well with Chrome. Connects up to 6 devices simultaneously. Also works well with most popular streaming services and achieves consistently good speeds. 30-day money back guarantee.
Read our full review of NordVPN.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
SaferVPN is an Israel-based provider that boasts fast speeds and a simple, lightweight app. The service unblocks US Netflix along with a few other geographically restricted streaming sites. The app uses 256-bit AES encryption, DNS leak protection, and an optional kill switch secure the VPN connection. SaferVPN keeps no logs.
A Chrome extension that functions as an HTTPS proxy is free up to 500 MB per month. After that, you’ll need a SaferVPN subscription to access the 34 server locations available. Upon installation, the extension requests permission to “read and change all your data on the websites you visit”, which is a bit disconcerting, but SaferVPN states, “There are no ads, no logs and we’ll never sell your data to third parties.” You’ll still need to install the VPN app to protect any apps or processes other than Chrome.
- Has a Chrome extension that acts as a HTTPS proxy for browser traffic
- Impressive security and privacy features
- Doesn’t log user identifiable logs
- Testing revealed good streaming and download speeds
- iOS and Android apps couldn’t unblock Netflix during our tests
SIMPLE INTERFACE:SaferVPN has fast servers. Reliably unblocks geo-restricted content and has great privacy credentials. Lacks some popular features. Includes 30-day money back guarantee.
Read our full SaferVPN review.
Money-back guarantee: 3 DAYS
Windscribe is an up-and-coming VPN provider from Canada. Among its many perks are unlimited simultaneous connections, no logs, and fast speeds. It works in China and unblocks Netflix US. Only the strongest encryption is used across a selection of VPN protocols. Windscribe doesn’t have a kill switch, exactly, instead opting for a firewall that “blocks all connectivity outside of the tunnel to ensure there is zero chance of any kind of leak.”
Windscribe makes one of the best browser extensions of any VPN company. It can be used independently but performs best when combined with the native VPN app. By connecting both at once, data is passed through two VPN servers, doubling the encryption and preventing attackers from correlating traffic and tracing it back to the user. Windscribe’s Chrome extension also blocks adds and removes trackers, including social media widgets.
- Most impressive Chrome extension that can perform independently of app
- App has a native firewall that blocks all non-VPN traffic to avoid data leaks
- Unblocks Netflix and similar sites
- Mobile app is slick but limits user choices
- No true live chat will frustrate some users
EASY TO USE:Windscribe hits good speeds. Solid for using with Chrome. Stores no logs and uses tunneling techniques for good security and privacy. Lacks true 24/7 support. 3-day money back guarantee.
Read our full Windscribe review.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
StrongVPN is a veteran censorship bypasser, a favorite among users in China. It was also able to unblock Netflix and Hulu in our tests. Users can choose from SSTP, L2TP, and OpenVPN connections. Prompt customer service will be there to help you round the clock if you run into any issues. The network of servers spans the globe. Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS.
StrongVPN makes a browser extension called Strong Proxy for Google Chrome. It’s a simple proxy that just changes your IP address—you don’t get any encryption. Several locations are available to choose from, which makes it suitable for unblocking geo-locked content, but you’ll want to rely on the StrongVPN app for privacy.
- Chrome extension changes your IP address and acts as a simple proxy
- Reputable for bypassing censorship restrictions
- Favoured by users in China
- Chrome extension doesn’t have any encryption, just IP masking
- Waning support for manual configuration
- Speeds were OK during testing but not great on the whole
PRIVATE & RELIABLE:StrongVPN confidently overcomes geo-blocking. Reliable network of servers. Good on privacy and they retain no internet browsing logs. Ample security. Manual configuration can challenge some users. 45-day money back guarantee.
Read our full review of StrongVPN.
How to use a VPN with Chrome
To use a VPN with Google Chrome, you have a couple options depending on what your VPN provider offers:
Install a VPN app on your operating system
Most VPN providers make “native” apps that install directly onto an operating system, such as Windows, MacOS, iOS, or Android. You can download these from the VPN provider’s website or an official app store for your device.
- Sign up for the VPN
- Download and install the app for your device
- Open the app and select a VPN server or location
- Hit the Connect button and wait a few seconds
- Once the connection has been established, open Chrome
All the internet traffic from Chrome—as well as the rest of your device—should now be encrypted and pass through the VPN server. Your IP address stays hidden and you can unblock region-locked content.
Add a VPN browser extension to Chrome
In addition to native apps, many VPN providers these days also make browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox. They are typically found on the Chrome Web Store, but be wary of sketchy “free” offers—more on that later.
- Find the browser extension you want on the Chrome Web Store and click Add to Chrome
- Wait a few moments for it to automatically download and install
- An icon should appear at the top right side of Chrome. Click it.
- Select a VPN server or location and hit the Connect button
- Once the connection has been established, your browser is now protected and able to unblock region-locked content.
Note that these extensions only work with the desktop browser version of Chrome and not on Android. For that, you’ll need a VPN app as per the first option above.
Browser extensions vs real VPNs
ZenMate, DotVPN, Hola … None of these browser plugins are real VPNs. In fact, most Chrome extensions cannot function as real VPNs at all. Instead, they are just encrypted proxies, usually SSL or HTTPS proxies. These Chrome extensions are VPNs in name only.
True, they function in a similar manner to VPNs. Traffic is encrypted (we hope) and sent through an intermediary server. This can help get around censorship, unblock websites, and protect your privacy.
But these “clientless” VPNs only encrypt traffic coming from the Chrome browser. A true VPN will encrypt all of the traffic travelling to and from your entire device. Furthermore, so-called VPNs that run solely as Chrome extensions are vulnerable to a number of security issues because they do not use OpenVPN or an IPSec-encrypted VPN protocol (L2TP, IKE, SSTP), both of which require a native client to be installed on the user’s device. Finally, they do not extend your network to access remote machines, a key defining feature of a genuine VPN.
Charlie Hosner, a security expert from the University of Michigan, details the vulnerabilities of clientless SSL VPN extensions in a blog post. Those vulnerabilities include man-in-the-middle attacks, worms, keyloggers, and remote management tools.
Furthermore, most free VPN services, whether they run as browser extensions or native apps, are severely limited. They impose bandwidth throttling, data caps, and waiting queues. Many inject tracking cookies and advertisements into your browser, which in effect can actually take a counterproductive toll on user privacy. The worst of them use a decentralized peer-to-peer structure, which eats up idle bandwidth on users’ machines, exposes them to a litany of threats, and in one infamous case (Hola) leverages everyone connected to the network to perform a massive botnet attacks and mine bitcoin.
So, the next time you Google “free VPN for Chrome,” remember that most of the top results you see are not true VPNs. If you want a real VPN, you’re going to have to configure it in your operating system or install a native application, not a browser extension. With very few exceptions, you’re also going to have to pay for it (note: ZenMate’s premium service is a real VPN, but the free browser extension is not).
How to install VPNs on Chromebook
Most VPN providers don’t make apps specifically for Chromebook like they do for Windows and Mac. Instead, VPNs must either be manually configured on Chrome, or you must use a browser extension. The latter is certainly the easier option if it’s available.
If you want to manually configure a VPN, follow these instructions from Google:
- If you haven’t already, sign in to your Chromebook
- Click the status area, where your account picture appears
- Click Settings
- In the “Internet connection” section, click Add connection.
- Click Add OpenVPN / L2TP
- In the box that appears, fill in the information below
- Click Connect
How to prevent WebRTC leaks
Some apps that run inside Chrome require a feature called WebRTC. Those include extensions for torrenting, voice calls, and video chats. WebRTC was built into Chrome and other browsers so that separate plugins wouldn’t have to be installed.
A key way that VPNs protect users’ privacy is by masking their true IP addresses. Unfortunately, WebRTC can expose a device’s original IP address even when the VPN is enabled in what’s known as a WebRTC leak.
To prevent a WebRTC leak in Chrome, you’ll (somewhat ironically) require an extension. A handful are available, but this one is the official release from Google. Once installed, right-click the extension icon and go to Options. Check the box next to “Use my proxy server (if present):” and exit the pop up window to save your settings.
You should now be protected from WebRTC leaks when using a VPN.
- 1 The Best Chrome VPN Browser Extensions
- 2 1. ExpressVPN
- 3 2. NordVPN
- 4 3. SaferVPN
- 5 4. Windscribe
- 6 5. StrongVPN
- 7 How to use a VPN with Chrome
- 8 Browser extensions vs real VPNs
- 9 How to install VPNs on Chromebook
- 10 How to prevent WebRTC leaks