Best VPN Google Chrome

Google products sometimes fall short when it comes to privacy, but the reality is that many schools issue Chromebooks to all students, and many adults also own Chromebooks. Because VPNs are privacy-oriented, many VPNs do not make apps for the Chrome operating system. As an alternative to using a full VPN service, you can add a browser extension to Chrome (or any Chromium-based browser).

A browser extension lacks many of the benefits of a VPN, but it will hide your IP address. By letting you use an IP address assigned to another location, you can browse privately (although Google is still watching) and access websites and web content that are blocked from people in your actual location.

In general, browser extensions are risky and slow. VPN browser extensions are among the most likely to be dangerous. However, this guide will help you choose a safe extension and encourage safer web browsing practices. More detailed explanations follow, but here’s a quick summary of the safest and best VPN browser extensions for Chrome:

  1. NordVPN: My #1 VPN browser extension for Google Chrome. Unsurprisingly, the best VPN makes the best browser extension for Chrome. Will work on a Chromebook without having to install an app and comes with a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.
  2. Surfshark: Top premium budget VPN that gives you extra security features in its extension, including ad-blocking. Surfshark provides a Chromebook app.
  3. ExpressVPN: This provider’s Android app works on most Chromebooks. Browser extension includes various protection features.
  4. Windscribe: Its impressive Chrome extension can be used for free. Blocks ads and removes trackers.
  5. CyberGhost: Its free browser extension for Chrome VPN has limitations, but can be installed without having to register.
  6. Private Internet Access (PIA): Inexpensive and its Chrome browser extension has the most features, providing users with more advanced options.

Most Chrome browser extensions are bundled with full VPN services from the same company. Unless you only want a VPN to use on a Chromebook, that is no disadvantage. Therefore, the same criteria I use for identifying the best VPNs apply here, along with evaluating the functionality of the extension itself. More detailed explanations are available in the testing methodology section below, but here is a short list of considerations:

  • VPN-type features beyond just serving as a proxy
  • High speeds
  • Reliable connections
  • Lots of server locations
  • Strong security and privacy features
  • Responsive customer support
  • Ease of use
  • Accessibility from China

Best VPN browser extensions for Google Chrome

So, having considered the above criteria, here are the best browser extensions for Chrome.

1. NordVPN

NordVPN is my top recommendation for a Chrome browser extension. You can use it on a Chromebook without having to install an app. It includes a feature you can activate called Threat Protection Lite that blocks ads, unsafe connections, and malicious websites.

The extension is capable of split tunneling, so you can disable the VPN connection when you want websites to recognize you. You can also disable the WebRTC protocol, the browser feature that enables real-time audio and video communication, but can leak your real IP address.

Connection to NordVPN is fast and easy, and the extension is lightweight, meaning it won’t cause noticeable slowing. You can choose to connect to a server in a specific country or just let NordVPN find you the fastest connection. NordVPN has more than 5,600 servers throughout the world.

When you use the full premium VPN service on a device other than a Chromebook, you get a wealth of privacy and security features, including the full Threat Protection. It gives you protection against malware and blocks pop-ups and trackers. NordVPN collects no data about your identity or web usage.

Pros:

  • Browser extension works on Chromebooks
  • Exceptional speed
  • Works with major streaming media services
  • Great security features
  • Works in China

Cons:

  • Must pay for the VPN service to get the browser extension

BEST VPN BROWSER EXTENSION FOR CHROME:NordVPN gives you many of the benefits of a VPN with just a browser extension. It is also the best all-around VPN and comes with a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.

2. Surfshark

Surfshark is the best budget premium VPN. Its Chrome browser extension will work on a Chromebook without having to install an app. The extension is loaded with features, including the ability to block those obnoxious cookie-notice pop-ups. It also blocks malicious websites, ads, and trackers.

You can automatically connect to the fastest server or choose a server in a specific country. The MultiHop feature even lets you connect to two servers at once.

With just the browser extension, Surfshark is able to access all major streaming media services wherever your travels abroad take you. It’s less expensive than other premium VPNs.

Surfshark has a strict no-logs policy. No information about you is collected or stored and it also allows unlimited simultaneous connections.

When using the VPN’s apps on devices other than a Chromebook, you’ll get additional security and privacy features, including obfuscated servers, kill switches, and private DNS.

Surfshark is the fifth fastest VPN and has more than 3,200 servers in 95+ countries.

Pros:

  • Browser extension works on Chromebooks
  • Very fast
  • Accesses all major streaming media services and works in China
  • Bonus security and privacy features
  • Unlimited connections

Cons:

  • Canceling service is difficult
  • Must pay for the VPN service to get the browser extension

BEST BUDGET PREMIUM VPN:Surfshark gives you a tremendous amount of features and benefits for a low price. The browser extension enhances your online security and can be trialed using the provider’s 30-day money-back guarantee.

3. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is the third fastest VPN. ExpressVPN’s browser extension for Chrome will not work on a Chromebook, but its Android app will, so you can get full protection. With other operating systems, you must have an app installed to use the Chrome extension. ExpressVPN explains that its browser extension is essentially a remote control for an app.

You can connect, disconnect, change locations, and adjust settings using the extension. It also lets you block WebRTC.

ExpressVPN is relatively expensive, even for a premium VPN, but its service rivals any other premium VPN. ExpressVPN has servers in almost 100 countries and is very good at accessing streaming media services and VPN-blocking countries such as China.

The provider has strong security and privacy capabilities. It blocks trackers, keeps no user activity or connection logs, and uses its own encrypted DNS on every server. ExpressVPN makes apps for every type of device.

Pros:

  • Browser extensions make app use simpler and easier
  • Very fast
  • Vast server network
  • Good at accessing streaming media services

Cons:

  • Prices are much higher than average
  • Owned by Kape Technologies

IDEAL FOR INTERNATIONAL TRAVELERS:ExpressVPN provides very good speeds, security features, and customer service. It has servers near most of the world’s population and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

4. Windscribe

Windscribe is a freemium VPN. That means it offers free and commercial options. The free option limits you to 10 GB of data per month, and the commercial option gives you more useful features. Windscribe’s pricing chart is confusing and four different pages on its website quote different annual fees. However, the lowest of those prices are higher than average for a VPN.

You can use the Chrome browser extension for free. It will work on a Chromebook without needing an app. Nevertheless, Windscribe recommends using the browser extension in combination with an app.

Windscribe’s Chrome extension will block ads, malware-dispensing sites, and trackers. The desktop apps also include a firewall. Other features include MultiHop, split tunneling, the WireGuard protocol, and static IP addresses (for an extra charge). Windscribe allows unlimited simultaneous connections. The apps are simple, yet very customizable and Windscribe has a no-logs policy.

The provider has servers in about 70 countries, but the free plan limits you to servers in 10 countries. Unblocking capabilities are good, and it will work in China.

Pros:

  • Browser extension works on Chromebooks
  • Can be used for free
  • Firewall blocks non-VPN traffic

Cons:

  • Prices are high on commercial option
  • Measly three-day money-back guarantee

BEST FREE VPN BROWSER EXTENSION FOR CHROME:Windscribe has the option of a free, ad-blocking VPN browser extension with catches that are harmless. A good option for users that can’t afford a premium VPN provider.

5. CyberGhost

CyberGhost offers a free VPN browser extension for Chrome that can be used without subscribing to a full VPN service or even registering. All you have to do is install it.

A free tool from one of the best VPNs must have a catch, and the CyberGhost browser extension has a bunch of them. It will slow browsing, but you can turn it on and off anytime you want. You get no support with just the extension and you are limited to eight servers in four countries.

Streaming may be a challenge with the extension. That’s because CyberGhost wants you to subscribe to the full VPN service, which includes dedicated servers for streaming.

On the plus side, you can switch between servers, which may resolve any problems you encounter. CyberGhost has no data caps or bandwidth limits. The provider’s strict no-logs policy extends to the browser extension and the company collects no data about you.

The CyberGhost VPN browser extension for Chrome gives you a little more functionality than a proxy would. If you just want to hide your IP address and gain the benefits of encryption, this free tool from a trustworthy VPN is a solution.

Pros:

  • Browser extension works on Chromebooks
  • Its browser extension is free
  • Complete anonymity

Cons:

  • Will slow browsing
  • Minimal functionality
  • Limited server availability

QUICK INSTALLATION AND EASY TO USE:CyberGhost makes a browser extension for Chrome that stands apart from its VPN service, meaning all you have to do is install it. It is completely anonymous and the VPN service comes with a 45-day money-back guarantee.

6. Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access (PIA) is a full-featured, inexpensive VPN.

PIA’s Chrome browser extension has the most features and the most options, but you do need to subscribe to the VPN service to get the browser extension. It will work on a Chromebook, but PIA does not make a Chrome OS app.

The extension’s features include encryption, tracker and cookie blocking, split tunneling, webcam blocking, forced HTTPS, Adobe Flash blocking, and the ability to disable the WebRTC protocol.

PIA gives you control over security and privacy settings, tracking options, and appearance. You can connect to the server of your choice.

As a full VPN service, PIA is one of the best, but not on par with NordVPN, Surfshark, or ExpressVPN. Those VPNs are better at accessing streaming media sites, navigating repressive governments, and have better customer relations.

PIA has an extensive server network, with excellent coverage in the U.S. Impressive security and privacy features include ad and malware blocking, kill switches, cloaking technology, and anonymous payments.

Pros:

  • Browser extension works on Chromebooks
  • Great price for the 26-month plan
  • Great security and privacy features

Cons:

  • Must pay for the VPN service to get the browser extension
  • Customer relations are subpar
  • Not great for accessing streaming media services

PERFECT FOR ADVANCED USERS:Private Internet Access gives advanced users the most options and controls in its highly configurable extension. Comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Methodology: How I evaluate the best VPN browser extensions for Chrome

I evaluated and compared these extensions/VPN services by assessing:

  • VPN-type features: A good VPN browser extension is more than just a proxy with encryption. A standalone extension, in particular, should give you extra functionality and privacy features.
  • Speed: Using a VPN slows your internet connection. The fastest VPNs and extensions make little difference. They should be fast enough for streaming and torrenting. Some VPNs, including most free ones, are inadequate for those types of online activities.
  • Server networks: More servers and more locations are generally better. Bigger server networks allow you to be able to access more content. They increase the likelihood of finding a server near your physical location, which enables faster speed.
  • Security: Encryption methodology, connection protocols, the availability of kill switches in apps, protection against data leaks, and extra features such as ad-blocking are all important.
  • Privacy: I review logging practices, data collection, government requirements in the VPN’s home country, the possibility of anonymous registration, and company history regarding privacy.
  • Responsive customer support. VPNs/providers of extensions should be easy to reach and able to respond quickly. They need helpful websites, tutorials, and a good customer service department.
  • Ease of use: Extensions, in particular, should be lightweight, simple, and self-explanatory. VPN apps for major computer and smartphone operating systems should be user-friendly.
  • Good for travelers: People use VPN extensions and VPNs to bypass content with geographic restrictions. I test all VPNs with popular streaming services including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, and Disney+ to determine whether they can successfully overcome blocking attempts.
  • Value: Price is part of value, but what you get per dollar determines value. VPNs try to make oranges-to-oranges price comparisons difficult, but I find ways to make comparisons. I look for money-back guarantees and test their credibility. I note upselling practices and report any unsavory business practices. I also report extra features that competing VPNs do not routinely offer.

My testing methodology is explained in even more detail here.

How to install a Chrome VPN browser extension

The process is very simple. The extensions listed above are available from the Chrome web store. Just click add to Chrome. If you choose an extension that is part of a VPN service, you will need to sign up for the service before you can use the extension. You will have to log in to the service.

Proxy vs. VPN browser extension

Please see my article, “What proxy servers are and how they differ from VPNs,” for an explanation of what proxies are (in this context).

By definition a proxy is someone who acts on behalf of someone else. A corporate spokesperson or an agent for an actor or professional athlete is a proxy. As Smokey Robinson sang about a proxy in 1965, “Although she may be cute, she’s just a substitute, because you’re the permanent one.” In this case, a proxy is a substitute for your actual IP address.

IP addresses identify your physical location. By using someone else’s IP address, you are pretending to be someone else or somewhere else. A proxy will fool some websites some of the time. If you want to access websites or web content that is location-restricted, you need to fool those websites. Also, you gain some privacy with a proxy.

Most proxies do not encrypt data, which can defeat their purpose. A true VPN browser extension will, at the very least, encrypt data. VPN browser extensions also give you some of the capabilities and protections of a full VPN service. That varies by browser extension, which is the point of this article.

So, a VPN browser extension is more likely to achieve your objective than a mere proxy.

VPNs vs. VPN browser extensions

A Chrome browser extension only protects your Chrome traffic. If you use multiple browsers, you need a separate extension for each one. If you use a local email program (e.g. Microsoft Outlook), you are not protected. If you use a torrenting program or other local file-sharing programs (e.g. a Usenet program), you are not protected. People commonly use various types of programs to access the internet. A VPN will protect you when you use any of them.

The VPN can also be on when you use Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, or other standalone real-time communication programs. Every program you use that does not go through a VPN can be recognized and tracked by your ISP.

VPN browser extensions vary in what protections they give you. None of them give you all the capabilities of a full VPN service. See the testing methodology section above for an idea of the common features you can expect from a VPN.

You may not need a VPN, but you should be aware of the reasons they are generally better than just using a browser extension. A browser extension may have an advantage. In theory, it should have very minimal impact on speed. Although the best ones don’t, some cause more slowing than a typical VPN does.

Can I safely use a free VPN browser extension for Chrome?

Yes. Some of them are completely safe. Windscribe and CyberGhost, both described above, are the best of them.

On the other hand, many free VPN browser extensions are just as risky as free VPNs. The creators of these tools must find a way to make money from giving them away. In the best cases, the extensions are marketing tools to entice you to subscribe to the developer’s full VPN service.

Many free browser extensions will track you and sell that information. Some serve ads. Some dispense malware. If you can’t easily determine how a developer benefits from a free VPN browser extension, you should assume the extension is dangerous.

These are just a few of the unsafe free VPN browser extensions you should avoid:

  • DotVPN
  • Hola
  • RusVPN
  • SetupVPN
  • Turbo VPN

Browser extensions for Chrome FAQs

Can Google track me if I use a VPN?

If you use Google Chrome, Google can and will track you. If you use a Chromium-based alternative to Chrome, Google can only track you if you sign in to any Google service: Gmail, YouTube, sites you sign into with your Google account, Google Docs, etc.

What is a browser extension?

A browser extension is an applet that gives the browser some additional functionality. Common extensions include ad blockers, Adobe Acrobat, and password managers. Every time you open a browser, it loads the extensions, which adds a bit more time to the process.

Most VPNs create extensions for Chromium-based browsers. In most cases, they are superfluous. They don’t give you any additional functionality over what the VPN’s apps give you, and you shouldn’t bother to install them. The exception is if you use a Chromebook. Unless you subscribe to a VPN that makes a Chromebook app, a browser extension is your best choice. The catch is that most commercial VPNs don’t let you just install the extension; you must pay for the service whether or not you use an app. If you also access the internet with a smartphone, PC, or other devices, you can use all of them with the VPN service for a single subscription fee. Then, the browser extension for your Chromebook is just a nice bonus.

When you install any browser extension, you are usually giving the developer permission to access your device. That’s why they are risky. Extensions can install adware or malware on your device. They can track you.

Browser extensions can be changed in unexpected and undesirable ways. For example, a free extension originally called YouTube+, and later Particle for YouTube was sold by the developer. The new owner turned the extension into adware.

Even Google acknowledges that add-ons can be dangerous. In the Google Chrome Privacy Notice, it warns that “Add-ons can have permission to do various things, like:

  • Store, access, and share data stored locally or in your Google Drive account
  • View and access content on websites you visit
  • Use notifications that are sent through Google servers

Why is Chrome slow?

One main reason is that Chrome is a RAM hog. If your device doesn’t have a lot of RAM, slowness will be more noticeable.

The other main reason is that Chrome serves ads. Those ads take time to load. Multimedia ads take more time to load than static ads do.

A third reason is that Google tracks you. Background processes slow any software.

A fourth reason is that many people use browser extensions with Chrome. Because Google is in the advertising business, it does not block ads by default. As a result, many users install AdBlock Plus or uBlock Origin to block ads. People also install password managers, news and weather extensions, productivity tools, and many other utilities. The Chrome web store has thousands of extensions you can add to any Chromium-based browser. Whether good, bad, or both, all extensions will slow your browsing experience.

Should I use Chrome?

The short answer is no. Chrome fits every definition of adware and many definitions of malware. As Private Internet Access explains, “One simply cannot ignore that Chrome belongs to the company that makes millions from knowing everything about you. And although there are ways around this, it doesn’t change the fact that Google is using Chrome to learn about you and then monetizing that information.”

The longer answer is that some people must use Chrome. If you own a Chromebook, you use Google Chrome, and you have little choice about it. Opera (see below) makes a version of its browser for Chromebooks. Some employers require employees to use Chrome.

If you use an Android device, Google Chrome is the default browser. In fact, Google Chrome is the world’s most popular web browser, even though it is the least secure and the slowest (tied with Microsoft Edge in both regards). Google Chrome is based on Google’s open-source Chromium code. Most other browsers are also Chromium-based. Popular ones include:

  • Brave
  • Comodo Dragon
  • Epic Privacy
  • Microsoft Edge
  • Opera
  • SRWare Iron
  • Torch
  • Vivaldi

Most Chromium-based browsers have a very similar user interface to Chrome. In particular, they are stripped of a lot of functionality and very easy to use. The biggest difference you’ll notice in some cases is the lack of ads. Unless you love donating all your personal information to Google, pick a browser from the next section.

Chromium-based Chrome alternatives

Firefox and Apple’s Safari are the only major browsers that aren’t Chromium-based. Tor is also not Chromium-based. All the major browsers are free.

The speed, quality, and security of Chromium-based browsers vary considerably. I use multiple browsers, but have used Brave as my default browser for quite a while.

Brave blocks ads and tracking very effectively and rarely prevents any site functionality. I almost never see ads in Brave. It’s faster than ad-laden browsers because it doesn’t load those ads. It runs well on Windows and Android. Brave is frustratingly lacking in features and customization capabilities that I’m used to with my favorite browser, a now out-of-date version of Maxthon. Brave has a couple of unusual features. You can use Tor within Brave for greater privacy, and you can download torrents within the browser.

Brave lacks some basic essential capabilities, such as automatically opening a favorite in a new tab. It is only good at letting me view sites in my choice of fonts; Maxthon excelled at that type of user control. In summary, Brave is excellent for speed, privacy, and freedom from ads. Advanced users may want more user control.

The current version of Maxthon lacks most of the things I loved with the old version, although it still has mouse gestures. Maxthon is also Chromium-based. Many people are paranoid about using it because the company is Chinese. You may not be familiar with it, but this browser has two-thirds of a billion users. Maxthon’s privacy policy is not good. It does track you, but it claims it only does that to improve your browsing experience. At best, Maxthon is viable as a secondary browser. You do not want to create a Maxthon account.

Like Brave, Vivaldi is secure and it blocks ads. Vivaldi is feature-laden. It claims to support mouse gestures, but I’ve never been able to get them to work.

Vivaldi blocks trackers and ads, but “do not track” is turned off by default. Vivaldi has a built-in translation tool. Versions are available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android.

One of Vivaldi’s flaws is its unique user interface. For example, the settings icon is in the bottom left-hand corner. Vivaldi gives you many more settings options than Brave does, but many users will be stymied by a lot of them. Other Chromium-based browsers are fairly standardized. Brave is easier to use than Vivaldi. If you want lots of features and control, try Vivaldi.

Like Vivaldi, Opera takes its name from classical music. Opera lets you block ads and trackers, but those features are turned off by default. Furthermore, the mobile versions serve ads.

When you install Opera, it automatically becomes your default browser. That should never happen. Opera logs some data for analytics purposes. Like Maxthon, Opera is owned by a Chinese company. In general, Opera is subpar for privacy and security. However, a new feature is an integrated free VPN.

Opera does not provide enough information about its VPN, but it will upsell you to a commercial version. Neither myself nor reputable competitors have reviewed the browser’s VPN capabilities yet.

Like Chrome, Opera uses a lot of RAM. Opera is satisfactorily fast. As mentioned above, a version is available for Chromebooks.

Beyond the basic information I’ve given you, the best browser is a matter of personal taste. Although neither Maxthon nor Opera can be considered secure, all of these browsers are less invasive than Google Chrome is. They are also faster.

These Chromium-based browsers have other things in common. Any browser you choose will let you import your Chrome bookmarks. You can easily see how each browser makes money. For example, several have tiles for commercial websites on their default homepage. You can assume those are sponsored.