Web browsers can almost be considered operating systems nowadays, or even self-contained virtual machines. While in the past browsers were used just for reading text and the occasional image, in 2020 they are used to watch movies, play games, run various apps (such as word processors and image editors), play music, etc. In fact, Chromium is also the backbone of Electron, the immensely popular web development framework designed to run on as many platforms as possible.
Thus, it’s no wonder that people are much more concerned about security and privacy while using a browser, given the fact that in many cases you can spend hours on end with a browser window open. Most malware is also spread through browsers as well, so there are more than enough reasons to take this problem seriously, even if you think you have enough knowledge to avoid scams or viruses.
However, when it comes to privacy, nothing beats a good VPN. Besides the fact that you can use the VPN to protect your online anonymity, it also comes in handy if you want to bypass censorship in certain countries, or if you want to unblock regional content on platforms like Netflix or Hulu.
If you don’t want to slow down your connection entirely while using a VPN, installing it as a simple Google Chrome extension can be a good idea, at least as long as you remember the risks involved when the rest of your traffic is not being rerouted. Not only that, but you should also take into account the fact that a Chrome extension is definitely not as secure as a proper VPN app.
On the other hand, such a lightweight solution may be exactly what you are looking for if you are not a hardcore privacy enthusiast. Furthermore, a Chrome extension doesn’t require nearly as many resources as a native app, which means that you don’t have to give up on too much RAM in order to use it.
What makes a VPN for Chrome good?
Right off the bat, it’s worth noting that a VPN Chrome extension does not come with nearly as many features as a fully-fledged app, so don’t expect a plethora of options. On the other hand, there are some basic necessities every extension should provide you with, such as multiple servers to choose from, or the ability to protect you from various kinds of leaks.
Naturally, since the VPN will only be working inside the browser, you don’t get a kill switch, since Chrome would not be able to kill your Internet connection. What this means is that you have to take a chance and hope that the VPN server you are using does not encounter any problems. Obviously, this shouldn’t be an issue when it comes to the larger VPN providers, given the fact that they offer very high-quality servers with great reliability and stability.
After that, a good Chrome VPN should also be able to make good use of your bandwidth, without taking too much of a hit in terms of speed and latency. Thus, if you want to download files or watch something on a video streaming platform, the VPN should not cause problems in terms of long buffering times or slow download speeds. Again, this is usually not an issue when it comes to the most popular and well-rated VPNs out there.
Lastly, the extension should not get in the way of your regular web browsing experience. In the case of free VPN services, this could mean ads that interrupt your activities or prevent you from using the VPN for certain reasons. None of our picks have these problems, however, so you don’t have to worry about that if you decide to go with one of the VPNs recommended by us below.
How to choose a good VPN for Google Chrome
One important thing you have to remember is that most VPN providers offer Chrome extensions as a bonus addition to their service, so you do not have to pay anything extra for them. This also means that the same subscription gets you the native app and the Chrome extension as well. Thus, if you decide to reroute your entire traffic and not just your web browser traffic, you don’t need to pay for anything extra in most cases.
Since Chrome is developed by Google and is usually considered the gold standard when it comes to web browsers, the app is constantly evolving in terms of features and functionality. This can sometimes mess with add-ons and extensions, which is why VPN developers must also keep up with these updates and make sure that their products still work as intended. Hence, make sure to pick a VPN that keeps their products updated on a regular basis.
In addition, some VPN extensions are also capable of unblocking Netflix, so if that’s something you are interested in, then you should look for that feature as well. In essence, most Chrome VPN add-ons act more like proxies than real VPNs, but they can still bypass Netflix limitations if they are good enough. As you can see, some of the picks on our list are definitely capable of dealing with Netflix, while others are not, unfortunately.
Best VPNs for Chrome in 2020
After all that, it’s time we present you with our list for the best VPNs for Chrome in 2020. As always, you should pick the one that makes the most sense to you and your needs, since everyone has different requirements when it comes to VPNs and security. In addition, there’s also the monthly subscription price to consider, because that depends on your budget and much much you are willing to pay for the features you want.
In order to quickly jump to one of the entries on our list, you can use the links below.
You can also compare all our picks side-by-side and gauge their capabilities by taking a look at the following table.
Private Internet Access is one of the most respected VPN services out there, especially since the company behind it has many years of experience in the field. Besides the popular native apps that work on a variety of devices and platforms, Private Internet Access also provides you with the possibility to install the VPN as a Chrome extension, while losing very little in terms of features and functionality.
To begin with, the list of available servers is very generous, as well as spread all over the world. However, you also get to sort the list in order to see which server has the lowest latency for your connection, which is a very nice option to have, and one that is not part of any other extension on this list. Not only that, but you can also mark servers as Favorites and quickly reach them again whenever you need them.
In terms of settings, the extension’s main panel provides you with a few quick-access buttons that are designed to quickly enable or disable important features. This includes the ability to use HTTPS everywhere, as well as the possibility to block access to your webcam and your microphone in case someone tries to hijack them while browsing the web. Additionally, it’s also possible to use this mini-panel to switch between Light and Dark themes.
Private Internet Access also provides you with a more extensive settings panel, and this one includes a plethora of options that can be tweaked however you wish. For example, you can block WebRTC leaks, as well as block Adobe Flash if some website tries to use the plugin while you are browsing, given the fact that Flash is both outdated and riddled with security flaws.
There are also many privacy settings that allow you to make it very hard for anyone to track you or steal your information. As such, you can disable auto-fill when it comes to credit card info, as well as disable third-party cookies and network prediction. All of these options can be toggled on and off however, so you don’t have to worry about website bugs that may appear when cookies don’t work as intended, for example.
Lastly, there’s also the fact that Private Internet Access includes a selective white-listing option, which allows you to manually decide which websites have the ability to bypass the VPN entirely. This comes in handy if you experience latency issues on certain websites, or if you trust the websites and you do not worry about them tracking you behind your back. The extension even offers support for popular websites like Netflix and Hulu, so you don’t have to add those manually.
+ Extensive settings panel with many security and privacy options
+ The ability to whitelist certain websites
+ The server list can be ordered by latency
+ Blocks WebRTC leaks, as well as Flash plugins
+ Quick access panel for the most important settings
– Somewhat high latency for almost all server locations
ExpressVPN’s Chrome extension is certainly more feature-rich than most others, especially since there are quite a few settings to tweak in order to have a smoother experience. However, you must be aware of the fact that the Chrome extension requires you to have the native app installed as well, even if you do not have to open it. In fact, you can’t even log-in inside the extension, so keep that in mind.
Once you get it set up, however, the interface is very similar to the one found in the native app, especially since you also have the option to switch to a dark theme in order to match it with your browser. Thus, the main screen allows you to connect to a server, view the list of available locations, as well as use the “Smart Location” feature to let ExpressVPN decide what’s the best server for your location.
The extension allows you to enable system notifications as well, which means that you will be notified if the connection drops, or if anything important happens with the extension while you are browsing the Internet. In addition, you can also allow it to automatically connect to your favorite server when Chrome starts, which comes in handy if you don’t want to forget about your VPN by mistake.
As a bonus, ExpressVPN enables you to always try to connect to the HTTPS version of any website you might visit, although this could fail if the website in question does not offer HTTPS for some reason. Thankfully, this feature can also be turned off if it causes too many issues since all you need to do is visit the Settings panel and disable it.
Lastly, the array of locations and servers is as impressive as always, which means that you don’t have to worry about limited resources inside the Chrome extensions. Granted, you don’t get a kill switch or the ability to use split-tunneling, but then again that is to be expected when dealing with a Google Chrome extension that only affects your browser traffic.
+ Great selection of servers with good speeds
+ System notifications that help if the browser is minimized
+ Successfully masks your real location and protects you from WebRTC leaks
+ Integrates seamlessly with the native desktop app
– Requires the native app in order to work
– Expensive monthly subscription price
Naturally, NordVPN provides you with a Chrome extension as well, just like it provides you with an app for a variety of other platforms and devices. In this case, the Chrome extension is a bit more barren than you would expect, especially when it comes to additional features, but then again the extension is not meant for heavy use anyway.
As such, the first thing you see after installing the add-on is a slim and easy-to-use interface, which allows you to quickly connect to a VPN server with just a simple click. The “Quick Connect” feature automatically searches for the best server for your connection and location, but you are also free to browse the list of servers and pick the one you are interested in. The most recent connections are also stored in the main interface for easy access.
Once you take a look under the hood, the NordVPN Chrome extension is about as simple as it can get, which means that you do not get too many advanced options and settings. On the other hand, you do get access to the CyberSec feature, which does the same thing as in the native app. In short, this option is designed to protect you from malware and various other online threats, so it’s a good idea to keep it on, especially since it doesn’t have too big of an impact on your system’s performance.
Server-wise, NordVPN is one of the leading names in the VPN market, which means that you get access to high-quality servers all over the world. The list of available countries is just as long as it is in the native NordVPN app, so you don’t lose much flexibility in this regard. On the other hand, you do lose access to other features, such as the kill switch, and a few others that are part of the native app.
+ Excellent server quality and plenty of locations to choose from
+ Comes with the CyberSec feature for added security and malware protection
+ Blocks WebRTC leaks
+ Simple interface with one-click connection
– Lacks advanced customization features
Surfshark is a regular occurrence on our lists, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the fact that the VPN is definitely one of the top solutions on the market at the moment, regardless of what you use it for. Naturally, the service provides you with a Chrome extension as well, which is actually a lot more feature-packed than you would initially believe, even if it’s definitely not as good as the native app.
To begin with, Surfshark comes with a “Quick Connect” option that allows you to instantly create a VPN connection to the fastest server available for your location. Sometimes this can be in the same country as you, even if the IP address is different, so you may want to manually choose a server instead if you want to hide that fact. Thankfully, the Chrome extension includes a very long list of locations spanning across most continents.
The user interface is very simple to navigate as well, especially since it’s very similar to the one found in the native app, which should be of great help if you are already familiar with Surfshark. Hence, besides the server list and the connection status, the interface displays buttons for all the other features at the bottom, making it easy to switch between them when you need to do so.
Speaking of which, the Chrome extension comes with a CleanWeb feature that comes in handy while browsing the Internet. In essence, this feature acts as an ad-blocker by removing intrusive ads from websites and providing you with a clean browsing experience. Obviously, this makes your regular ad-blocker obsolete, so you do not have to keep both of them open, which helps with memory usage.
Speed-wise, Surfshark is up there with the best of them in most regards, but there are some minor problems when it comes to certain servers that are too far away from your real location. Hence, using the US servers from Europe can lead to slow loading times and buffering issues if you are trying to watch movies, which is not a great sign. On the other hand, it depends on the chosen server, since some are faster than others, even if they are just as far away from you.
Lastly, Surfshark is also able to prevent WebRTC leaks, so you do not have to worry about being exposed while browsing the web. This also helps when it comes to unblocking streaming services since that’s what they use in order to detect your VPN. Hence, the Surfshark Chrome extension is definitely able to unblock Netflix, but you may have trouble getting a smooth stream if you don’t pick a good server.
+ The CleanWeb feature blocks intrusive ads
+ Great selection of servers all over the globe
+ Familiar user interface if you already use the native Surfshark app
+ Prevents WebRTC leaks
– Some servers can be very slow
– Not that many customization options or settings
The CyberGhost Chrome extension is about as simple as it can get in terms of functionality, which is a bit of a bummer when you consider how great the regular service is. However, the upside is that the extension is completely free to use for as long as you want, at least if you are happy with the lack of options and the very short list of servers to choose from.
In fact, the entire extension is just one panel that allows you to connect to a server, without any settings whatsoever. Not only that, but there are also only four servers to choose from, which means that you are severely limited in this regard. Thankfully, the server list includes a US server, although it must be mentioned that the CyberGhost extension is definitely not able to unblock Netflix, or any other streaming platforms for that matter.
In terms of connectivity and speed however, CyberGhost manages to provide you with great speeds for all the available locations, which is great if you want to use the extension to download files. However, if you want to do more than that you will have to use the native app, since it’s not possible to obfuscate your P2P traffic through the Chrome extension, which means that torrents are out of the question as well.
On the other hand, the hassle-free interface makes it incredibly easy for anyone to use a VPN, especially since everything can be achieved with only one or two clicks. This also means that the extension uses very little additional memory, making it a great choice for users with older computers, given the fact that Chrome is already pretty demanding if you open too many tabs.
Thankfully, even if the extension is free, there are no ads within the interface, except for a banner that urges you to purchase a CyberGhost subscription and download the native app. Obviously, you only see this when you click on the extension in order to connect or change servers, so it’s not very annoying and it doesn’t interfere with your regular browsing experience.
+ The Chrome extension is free-of-charge
+ Minimal and straightforward interface
+ Good download speeds and latency
– No settings of any kind
– Doesn’t protect you from WebRTC leaks
– Very short list of servers
As you can see, there are plenty of great Chrome extensions when it comes to VPNs, especially since all the major companies provide one for their products. On the other hand, many of these extensions are devoid of any advanced settings and options, which makes it difficult to customize your experience with them. Not only that, but in some cases, you also don’t get access to the full list of servers, which is definitely a bummer.
The important thing to remember, however, is that a VPN Chrome extension is not nearly as secure as a proper VPN app, mainly because it only works while your browser window is open. Hence, if you do anything else in the meantime, such as download torrents or use other online apps, that traffic won’t be protected, and everyone can see your real location.