Chrome is far and away the most popular web browser out there, so it makes sense that a lot of Chrome users are looking for a compatible VPN to enhance their digital privacy and security.
Before we take a look at the best VPNs for Chrome, however, there’s an important distinction to understand (and trust us, it’s critical). When we’re talking about VPNs, there are really three types: VPNs for routers, stand-alone VPNs, and VPN browser extensions.
Router VPNs tunnel all the traffic from any device connected to your network through their servers to keep you protected. Stand-alone VPNs are software you download onto your computer that will encrypt all of your online traffic. And VPN browser extensions are add-ons designed for your specific browser that add an extra layer of protection to that browser only.
FYI: Calling it a “browser-based VPN” is actually a bit of a misnomer. By design, browsers cannot initiate VPN connections; they can only set up proxies that forward the browser traffic through a proxy server. If you want to be more secure online, you should use a stand-alone VPN.
Browser extensions are usually lightweight and faster than their stand-alone counterparts, but they are less private and less secure because they only anonymize actions that happen in the browser rather than encrypting all of your internet traffic. They’re great for beefing up your security, but you shouldn’t rely on them alone as your primary means of internet security.
With that in mind, we’re going to be looking at three VPNs that offer great extensions for Chrome as well as excellent stand-alone service.
ExpressVPN is one of the best VPNs on the market today, hands down. It’s reliable, secure, and lightning-quick — those are the three major judgment criteria, and this VPN nails all three. For Chrome users, it’s easily our top pick.
One of the first things that immediately jumped out to us when we put ExpressVPN to the test was how simple it was to use. Once it’s installed, you press a big “on” button, and that’s it — you’re secure. No exaggeration — it’s just that simple.
But don’t let the simplicity fool you. Express offers some of the most sophisticated protections on the market today; namely, it’s because of their huge network of RAM-only servers. Since no data is ever written to a hard drive, there’s no way for ExpressVPN to ever compromise your privacy, even if they wanted to. And this isn’t lip service. Their network has been independently audited to confirm these privacy protections.
But what about Express on Chrome, specifically? Good question. ExpressVPN’s chrome extension requires the stand-alone version to work. Now we did include that in the “cons” category, but honestly, it’s a toss-up for us. Sure, you might be looking for a lightweight browser extension to add a thin layer of protection to what you do online, but ExpressVPN’s browser extension has the full weight of its onboard client behind it, meaning that security is going to be that much more robust.
And speaking of the extension, it’s pretty secure in its own right. It automatically blocks vulnerable WebRTC connections and includes HTTPS everywhere, which automatically converts insecure HTTP websites to the much more secure HTTPS automatically. This means you’re going to be protected while you’re browsing without even having to think about it.
The one drawback we can point to with ExpressVPN is the price. We’re not going to sugarcoat it: It’s pricey. You can learn more about that in our guide to ExpressVPN’s costs, but as the saying goes: You get what you pay for. If you want a Mercedes, you’re going to have to pay more for it than a Ford. But honestly, ExpressVPN is worth every penny (it’s our daily-use VPN).
NordVPN is also a personal favorite of ours. Not only does it have a great Chrome extension, its stand-alone client has one of the best user interfaces we’ve encountered. Add to that its hefty list of elevated security features, and you’ve got yourself a rock-solid selection for your lifelong VPN.
One of the many reasons we love NordVPN is because they strike a great balance between form and function. In our NordVPN review, we found the desktop client to be extremely well designed, and they offer some of the most advanced security measures available in the industry.
There’s a lot to like with Nord, but we want to talk specifically about their Chrome extension. Simply put, it’s elegant. Not only does it block WebRTC connections, it also includes a bypass list which is essentially browser-level split tunneling. This will prevent you from running into interruptions on websites that recognize VPN protocols as bot traffic.
The extension also makes available a pretty powerful filtration system called CyberSec toggle. This feature blocks websites that host malware or phishing scams while also removing annoying ads that disrupt your browsing experience. Additionally, your traffic will be encrypted using the Transport Layer Security protocol, which greatly increases your anonymity online.
Similar to Express, though, the one drawback of Nord is the cost. Month-to-month, they’re a little on the pricey side, but the good news is that if you sign up for a long-term subscription plan, you can realize some pretty significant savings. Check out our guide to NordVPN’s pricing and services for more information on that.
While they might not be as well known as the other two VPNs on our list, Surfshark is still a workhorse of a VPN that packs a punch where it counts. They offer a powerful Chrome extension, as well as an exceptional desktop client. This makes them a well-rounded choice for anyone seeking privacy online.
Surfshark is one of those VPN services that doesn’t get enough credit. They offer state-of-the-art protections, as well as cutting-edge privacy, that will allow you to bypass extreme government censorship and be totally anonymous while doing so.
Surfshark VPN is also great for Chrome users in particular. Its browser extension offers fast speeds and powerful filtration tools to protect you from malware. And as an added bonus, Surfshark’s browser tool has been audited by third-party penetration testers to ensure the company isn’t making empty promises in regards to its security features.
And unlike the previous two VPNs on our list, we’d place Surfshark squarely in the “affordable” category. Their month-to-month rate is a little high, but the savings roll in once you purchase a long-term subscription. There’s more information on that in our guide to Surfshark’s costs. And be sure to read our full Surfshark review to learn more about the features and tech.
There are several browsers out there that now offer built-in VPNs (but like we said above, these are more accurately described as proxies rather than honest-to-goodness virtual private networks). As of now, Chrome isn’t one of them.
Pro Tip: Want to see how our two favorite VPNs for Chrome stack up against each other? Head over to our NordVPN vs ExpressVPN comparison page. While they’re both excellent services, there are some pretty significant differences to consider.
While Chrome does offer plenty of security features, those features alone aren’t enough to keep you protected online. For that, we recommend running a VPN whenever you’re online and coupling that VPN with a browser extension.
To understand the difference between a stand-alone and a browser-based VPN, consider exactly how much of your day-to-day digital activity relies on an internet connection, and exactly how much of that goes through your browser alone.
For example, if you’re only using a browser-based VPN, your Outlook client isn’t going to be protected, which will leave your emails exposed. None of your online gaming traffic will be anonymized. Neither will online stores and services like iTunes, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom. When you start thinking about it that way, it’s clear to see why relying on a browser extension alone to protect you isn’t the best move.
Instead, for Chrome users, we recommend coupling the stand-alone VPN with the browser extension to ensure that all of your traffic remains protected at all times, no matter if its origin is your browser or a different internet-connected platform.
In this day and age, it’s more important than ever to take your online privacy and digital security seriously. Currently, the best way to do that is by utilizing a VPN — regardless of the browser you happen to be using.
While Chrome in and of itself is reasonably secure, coupling Chrome with a VPN will significantly enhance your security posture. Selecting one from the list above will ensure all your bases are covered; however, if you’re not sold on any one of them, a great place to start your search would be our list of the top 10 best VPNs of 2021.
This goes without saying, but if you’re looking for a VPN optimized for use on Chrome, you should seek one out that offers a specific Chrome extension. Is that absolutely necessary for a stand-alone VPN to work? No, not necessarily, but by adding the extension to your browser you’ll enjoy an added layer of protection.
We consider this to be a game-changing feature. A kill switch will terminate your internet connection if your VPN service is ever interrupted, and without one, we wouldn’t consider the VPN to be complete. If you value your privacy, make sure your VPN has a kill switch.
Some folks want to use a VPN to protect themselves while torrenting or to unblock geo-restricted media on streaming platforms. If you fall into either of those camps, make sure you select a VPN that is optimized for these activities.
Also sometimes called a zero-log policy, this means your VPN provider won’t or can’t track what you do. Obviously the latter is preferable and achieved by utilizing a network of RAM-only servers. Just make sure they’ve been audited by a third-party security analyst, though. A lot of services say they’re no-log, but when push comes to shove they’ll give up their clients’ data.
In a similar vein to the above recommendation, you should also seek out a VPN that’s headquartered in a privacy-friendly country. Depending on where they are located, some VPN services are beholden to international data-sharing agreements with law enforcement or other government agencies. These are obviously less desirable than providers that can legally ignore subpoenas.
This feature doesn’t usually get top billing on any provider’s marquee, but it's one we think is pretty important. Split tunneling allows you to take control over what traffic goes through your VPN and what traffic goes through standard ISP channels. The ultimate conclusion of this is a much faster connection and one that isn’t constantly interrupted by “prove you’re a human” security measures.