Google Chrome is the most popular web browser in the world. It has a reputation for speed and compatibility, but using it with a VPN adds a layer of privacy and security to your internet access. A top VPN can also help you bypass Internet censorship, unblock websites, and get access to the content you need anywhere in the world.
Taking things one step further, a VPN browser extension for Chrome can offer a range of benefits, from the ability to control the VPN connection right from the browser window, to the ability to stop certain data leaks that would otherwise be outside the VPN’s control.
Unfortunately, since Chrome is so popular, Chrome users are also targets for the unscrupulous. The Chrome extension world is filled with products that don’t work well, steal your data, and aren’t really extensions of VPNs at all.
In this review, we highlight three top-notch VPN services that also publish high-quality VPN browser extensions for Google Chrome.
Ranking the best VPNs for Chrome
We used the following criteria to find the best Chrome VPNs from the major VPN services on the market:
- Successfully completed our testing without any leaking IP addresses or DNS lookups
- Fast and reliable performance throughout their server network
- High-quality VPN apps, including excellent browser extensions for Google Chrome
- Support for OpenVPN along with strong encryption
- A money-back guarantee that doesn’t make you jump through hoops to get your money
- A reputation for trustworthiness and a track record of good service
- A headquarters outside the Five Eyes countries, with reasonable respect for privacy
- No connection logs that could compromise your privacy
Note: To learn more about VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) in general, we’ve published ‘What is a VPN‘ which explains all the basics in plain English.
Here are our picks for the best VPNs for Chrome:
1. ExpressVPN – Overall best VPN for Chrome
|Based in||British Virgin Islands|
|Logs||No logs (audited)|
|Support||24/7 Live chat|
ExpressVPN is a British Virgin Islands-based VPN service that is our #1 overall pick among Chrome VPNs. Their network is fast and reliable, using the OpenVPN protocol to protect and transport your data with AES-256 encryption and a 4096-bit RSA key. Unlike many competitors, ExpressVPN even has OpenVPN working on their Android and iOS apps, giving you great security and privacy no matter how you connect to their network.
Enhancing that security is their Network Lock kill switch. When you activate it, the kill switch ensures that your data cannot leak out of the VPN tunnel. If the VPN connection fails for any reason, the kill switch blocks data from passing onto the Internet unprotected. You get solid DNS leak protection because ExpressVPN passes DNS requests through the encrypted VPN tunnel, meaning no one, not even your ISP, can spy on your DNS requests.
Beyond this great security and privacy, ExpressVPN is the best option when it comes to unblocking websites and streams. If you need access to content that is geo-blocked for any reason, ExpressVPN offers a huge network of global servers to give you access. It remains the best VPN for Netflix streaming with consistent access.
ExpressVPN Chrome extension tips
The ExpressVPN Chrome extension is excellent. Attractive and functional, it is also super easy to use.
Here are some important things to know about using the ExpressVPN Chrome extension:
The extension will not work unless you also have the ExpressVPN desktop client for your computer’s operating system installed. The Chrome extension is not available for iOS or Android apps.
While the ExpressVPN Chrome extension takes advantage of the desktop client’s capabilities, it has several benefits of its own that make it worth using this open source extension as well. You can turn the VPN desktop client on and off using the Chrome extension, which is nice. And thanks to an audit by Cure53, we know that the Chrome extension is secure.
Even nicer is the additional features that the Chrome extension gives you. WebRTC leak protection ensures your IP address and location are not exposed via WebRTC browser leaks. Location spoofing sets your apparent location to somewhere in the vicinity of the VPN server you are using, preventing HTML5 geolocation tricks from finding your true location.
ExpressVPN for Chrome also incorporates HTTPS Everywhere, a service of the Electronic Frontier Foundation that automatically redirects your browser to the more-secure HTTPS version if the web address. Here are the Privacy and Security settings of ExpressVPN’s Chrome extension:
There is even a bit of new eye candy, with the easy-on-the-eyes dark mode.
Given that the ExpressVPN extension for Chrome works primarily as a remote control for the desktop client, we recommend that you also check out our full ExpressVPN review. We think you will like what you see.
- Attractive, easy-to-use Chrome extension that lets you control the desktop app from the browser
- Chrome extension is open source and audited for security
- Fast and reliable Internet access across the server network
- Streaming and torrenting support
- No-logging of your online activities; verified by third-party audit
- Unblocks Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and many other geo-blocked streaming services
- OpenVPN and strong encryption give you security and privacy
- All servers upgraded to diskless operation for better physical security
- 24/7 live chat customer support
- 5 simultaneous connections
- Over 3,000 VPN server locations in 94 countries
- More expensive than some competing VPN services
2. NordVPN – A fast, secure Chrome VPN extension that can stand on its own
|Logs||No logs (audited)|
|Support||24/7 Live chat|
NordVPN consistently ranks as one of the top VPN services, and it is easy to see why. From their use of strong encryption in the OpenVPN protocol, to their enormous network (over 5,000 VPN servers) to their continual rollout of the latest security upgrades and features, NordVPN excels in all areas. Most recently, they rolled out NordLynx across all their clients.
What is NordLynx? It is a custom technology developed by NordVPN to take advantage of the WireGuard VPN protocol, without compromising your privacy. WireGuard is one of the newest VPN protocols, combining extreme speed with the latest in encryption algorithms. To create NordLynx, NordVPN combined WireGuard with something they call the double NAT system. This approach eliminates a known privacy risk in the WireGuard protocol without sacrificing the speed or efficiency of the protocol. We’ve been testing this for a while now, and don’t really want to give it up. Learn more about NordLynx here.
The NordVPN network is not only huge, but also diverse. In addition to their standard servers, they offer a range of specialized servers optimized for various functions:
- P2P servers – Hundreds of servers around the world designed specifically for secure torrenting and other file sharing activities. NordVPN’s automatic kill switch instantly blocks all internet traffic if the server connection fails, ensuring that your IP address is never exposed. (Currently the best VPN for P2P torrents.)
- Dedicated IP servers – If your application requires a dedicated IP address (a.k.a static IP address), NordVPN has you covered with dedicated addresses available in the USA, UK, Germany, Netherlands, and France.
- Double VPN servers – When extreme privacy is a requirement, you can turn to NordVPN’s Double VPN servers. Also called VPN server chaining, this system passes your data through two VPN servers instead of one, greatly increasing the difficulty for anyone trying to track your activities.
- Obfuscated servers – While a normal VPN will prevent snoops from seeing what you are doing online, they can see that you are using a VPN. If you are somewhere that the use of a VPN is prohibited (China, perhaps), obfuscated servers make your VPN connection appear to be normal Internet activity.
- Onion over Tor servers – Combines the benefits of The Onion Router (TOR) network with the benefits of a VPN.
NordVPN offers secure and user-friendly apps for all major operating systems and devices. It is currently the top VPN for Android, and also does well with other mobile devices and desktop operating systems. If you want a reliable VPN for streaming movies and media, NordVPN has you covered.
NordVPN passed all our leak tests with no problems. Like the other services reviewed here, NordVPN uses its own DNS servers to handle your requests, eliminating this sneaky path ISPs use to track you. In addition to all this, NordVPN is a verified no-logs VPN based in Panama, meaning your data is safe from government prying too.
NordVPN Chrome extension tips
The NordVPN Chrome extension differs from that of ExpressVPN in one big way: you don’t need to have the NordVPN desktop client installed to use the NordVPN Chrome extension. The extension does lack some of the capabilities of the full desktop client, but if all you need is basic VPN services in Chrome, you can run without the desktop client.
The NordVPN Chrome extension works well and is easy to navigate. Like ExpressVPN, it offers a quick connect feature that automatically seeks out the best server for you and connects you to it, saving you the hassles of picking one of their 5,300+ servers yourself.
The extension is limited in that you can only pick the country you want to connect to. The service simply finds you a server in that country, rather than allowing you to pick a specific location or server type, as you can with the NordVPN desktop client.
Given all this, you may be wondering how to set up a VPN on Google Chrome? Should you use just the NordVPN desktop client? Just the Chrome extension? Both?
The answer really depends on your needs. If you just need a basic VPN connection for only your Chrome browser, you can run just the extension with WebRTC protection turned on and you should be fine. If you need to protect applications that connect to the Internet without going through Chrome (chat apps, for example) or you need more sophisticated connections (perhaps Double VPN or a P2P servers) or simply want to play with the new NordLynx protocol, you’ll want to have both the desktop client and the Chrome extension running.
- The NordVPN Chrome extension can run independent of the desktop client
- A variety of specialized servers available for virtually any need
- Industry-leading privacy and security features
- The ability to defeat most geo-blocking with Obfuscated Servers
- Verified no-logging policy protects your personal data
- Passed all our leak tests
- 6 simultaneous connections
- Support via live chat and tons of help articles
- Over 5,000 VPN server locations in 60 countries
- CyberSec feature to block ads, tracking, and malware/phishing domains
- Pricing is excellent, but only if you commit to a multi-year subscription
- To get access to the full feature set, you need to use the desktop client
If the NordVPN Chrome extension looks as good to you as it did to us, you should probably check out our full review of NordVPN.
3. Surfshark – A low-cost VPN for Chrome
|Based in||British Virgin Islands|
|Support||24/7 Live chat|
Although Surfshark has only been around since 2018, they quickly raced to the top of the pack. The service boasts a surprising number of features, in addition to solid leak protection, and great support. It does a good job of unblocking geo-blocked content, giving you access to a wide range of streaming content services. If the ability to connect the maximum devices is important to you, you will be happy to know that Surfshark supports an unlimited number of simultaneous connections.
Like our top picks in this list, Surfshark is a no-logs VPN. They are based in the British Virgin Islands, the same jurisdiction as our favorite, ExpressVPN. The Surfshark Chrome app includes a kill switch for solid leak protection, and great security with OpenVPN support and AES-256-GCM encryption to keep your data secure. If you need even stronger security, Surfshark offers 13 double-hop VPN servers.
Surfshark also has some extra features built in that you might like. Their Whitelister allows you to control which applications use the VPN connection and which travel outside it. Camouflage mode is the Surfshark version of obfuscated servers, while CleanWeb is their combined ad blocker, and all-round bad web site shield. And Surfshark’s private DNS service provides solid DNS leak protection, preventing your ISP from tracking where you go by reading your DNS requests (a favorite trick of many Internet Service Providers).
It is the cheapest VPN service on our list, coming in at only $2.49 per month with the two-year plan. All subscriptions come with a 30 day money-back guarantee and 24/7 live chat support.
Surfshark Chrome extension tips
Surfshark’s Chrome extension can run on its own, without the desktop client even being installed. That said, the Chrome extension lacks a lot of the capabilities of the full client, and we would recommend you run them both for the maximum in protection.
While the Surfshark Chrome extension is limited in capabilities (beyond its strong basic VPN functionality) there are a couple of extra options we really like. As you can see in the image above, the extension gives you easy access to the locations you can connect to, in addition to the de rigeur quick connect button we’ve seen in both NordVPN and ExpressVPN. You also have the ability to turn CleanWeb on or off from the extension.
- Gives you unlimited simultaneous connections
- Easy to use apps for all devices and operating systems
- Basic, stand-alone (no desktop client required) Chrome extension
- Third-party audit of Chrome extension lauded its security
- CleanWeb feature block ads, other Internet junk
- Works great with Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other streaming sites
- Provides 24/7 live chat support
- Whitelister split tunneling feature
- Uses strong encryption algorithms and doesn’t leak
- Over 1,700 VPN servers
- Server locations in 63 countries
- Server speed has been inconsistent
- The Mac OS desktop client doesn’t support OpenVPN
If Surfshark is on our short list of Google Chrome VPN extensions, make sure you check out our full Surfshark review.
How to use a VPN with Chrome
The exact steps for using a VPN with Google Chrome vary depending on which service you choose. ExpressVPN’s Chrome extension requires you to install their desktop client for the Chrome extension to run. Other services, like NordVPN, provide Chrome extensions that don’t require a desktop client to be installed.
Since we recommend you use both the Chrome extension and the desktop client for the maximum in security, privacy and features, let’s visualize a generic setup process that includes both the desktop client and the Chrome extension.
How to set up a VPN on your operating system
Installing the VPN desktop client for your particular operating system is generally really easy, unless your particular operating system is a Linux distro (but we explain how to use a VPN for Linux here). In that case, you’ll want to skip this and head to the VPN service’s website to find out how painful it will be to install your new VPN. Since you are probably using a VPN with Windows 10, we’ll visualize that.
Here is what you will end up doing on your Windows PC:
- Go to the VPN service’s website and create an account. You will probably have to sign up for a paid subscription right now.
- Download the Windows 10 installer and install the VPN client on your computer.
- Start the VPN client (there will probably be an icon on your Windows desktop). Hit the Quick Connect button in the desktop client window. After a few seconds you should be connected to the “best” VPN server for you.
As long as the VPN desktop client is running, all your computer’s connections to the internet should be protected by the VPN. However, one thing that the desktop client can’t do for you is protect you against WebRTC leaks. This kind of leak originates in Chrome and some other web browsers, and is best controlled by a browser extension.
How to set up a VPN on Google Chrome
VPN browser extensions have some advantages and some disadvantages relative to a VPN’s full desktop client. A Chrome VPN extension can be much more convenient since it is right there in the browser window, instead of being another program you need to access and run.
At the same time, browser extensions can’t be as big as desktop clients, nor use as much computing power. As a result, VPN browser extensions either require the desktop client to be installed so they can function as remote controls for it (ExpressVPN), or they can function without the desktop client, but can only provide a subset of the capabilities of the desktop client (NordVPN, Surfshark, and many others).
Another potential drawback of the standalone VPN Chrome extensions is that they only protect communications between Chrome and the Internet. Anything that doesn’t use Chrome to communicate with the outside world will be unprotected.
From the security and privacy perspective, it is far better to run both the desktop client and the browser extension, ensuring you have access to the full power of your VPN service and protecting everything on your device that communicates over the Internet.
Most of the Chrome browser extensions for VPNs are available for download from the Chrome Web Store for free. However, you will still need an account with the VPN service to be able to use the extension.
Important: Make sure you download an official browser extension published by the VPN service itself. There are lots of creepy “free VPNs” and proxies that promise the benefits of a real VPN service while gathering and selling your personal data or doing creepy things to your computer with viruses and similar malware.
But enough of the negatives. Here’s what you will typically have to do to get a Chrome browser VPN extension running on your computer:
- If you haven’t already done so, sign up for an account with one of our recommended “Best VPN for Chrome” services.
- If you signed up for a service like ExpressVPN that requires the desktop client, make sure you have the desktop client all set up before going further with these instructions.
- Using Chrome (of course), go to the Chrome Web Store and search for the browser extension you need, then click Add to Chrome.
- Wait for your computer to download and install the extension.
- Click the browser extension’s icon at the top right side of Chrome.
- Enter the username and password you set up when you created your account to log in to the extension.
- Check the extension’s Settings to ensure that WebRTC protection and any other options you want to use are enabled.
- Either select a VPN server or location from among the options in the browser extension window and click Connect. Or if one is visible in the browser extension window, click the Quick Connect button to let the VPN network find the best server for you and connect you to it.
What about Chrome on Android and iOS devices?
The whole concept of Chrome extensions doesn’t apply to Android and iOS devices. This means that to use a VPN on your Android or iOS device, your only option for Android or iOS is the relevant VPN client from their respective app stores. (See our guide on the best VPNs for Android.)
What about free Chrome proxies and extensions?
This is an area where people frequently get confused, so let’s first define our terms.
A proxy (a proxy server to be more correct) is a server that you can connect to, which will make it appear that your computer is physically located somewhere else. If you wanted access to geo-blocked content in, say, England, you could connect to a proxy server located in England to bypass the geo-blocking. But that’s all a proxy extension does.
A VPN extension is a browser extension that connects to a VPN service. You can use the servers in the VPN’s network to get around geo-blocking the same way you use a proxy server. But a VPN takes great pains to provide for your privacy and security, encrypting communications between your computer and the VPN server, protecting you against data leaks with a kill switch and so on.
Proxy servers allow you to easily get around geo-blocking, with light-weight resources. Without the full encrypted tunnel provided by VPN services, they do not offer the same level of security as a standard VPN. Additionally, some of the free proxies also give you limited bandwidth unless you upgrade to a paid (or higher-priced) version. Unless you are doing something really simple, with no real ramifications for getting busted doing it, a proxy server is not the best idea.
But the “free proxy” situation is even worse than that. Free proxy services have fixed monthly expenses. To pay the bills, some proxy servers do stuff that can cause big problems for you. Secretly gathering user data and selling it is one of the more common scams. We’ve even heard that one proxy server has been used to launch botnet attacks by pooling processing power and bandwidth from its crowd of “free users.”
If you value your privacy and security, we urge you to only use VPN extensions from the reputable VPN services we recommend.
Conclusion: VPN for Chrome
If you visit the Chrome Web Store you can find dozens of extensions that claim to give you the ability to unblock websites while protecting your privacy. But most of them don’t unblock websites very well, or don’t protect your privacy very well, or both at once. Worse, many of them spy on you so they can sell your personal information. Some even secretly steal some of your computer time and resources to attack websites they don’t like. That means finding a Chrome VPN extension that does the job is tough. So we did the work for you.
The following table shows the top-rated Chrome VPNs that met all the criteria we listed at the top of this post. The VPN services are based in safe privacy jurisdictions and passed all tests with no data leaks. They offer good to excellent speeds, and use strong encryption. Most importantly from the perspective of this guide, their Chrome extensions are all real VPN extensions that really do protect your privacy, secure your data, and don’t cheat you or steal from you.
Stay safe when you browse the Web with Chrome. You can’t go wrong with any of these top Chrome VPN extensions.
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