The Top 3 VPN Extensions for Google Chrome
Whether you want to surf the web more securely or stream geo-restricted content, there is little way past using VPNs. As if the sheer number of providers didn't make things hard enough, each offers different services and features, including browser extensions. But aren't VPN clients and browser extensions the same thing? What are the advantages and disadvantages of using browser plugins? And which VPN extension is the best for Google Chrome? Below, we'll answer all of these questions for you.
In contrast to a VPN client, a browser extension does not establish a VPN connection, meaning that those services, particularly free ones, which claim to provide connections through a browser extension, aren't exactly telling the truth. VPN clients are installed on your computer, specifically, your operating system, and once activated, route all Internet traffic from your computer through a secure VPN connection to the Internet. In contrast, browser extensions create a proxy connection which only sends browser data (and not Internet traffic) to the VPN server (or client, if installed on your computer).
Beyond differences in functionality, the types of encryption used by clients and browser extensions also vary. For example, VPN clients use VPN protocols like OpenVPN, which encrypt all data traffic which your device or computer sends. A browser extension typically will not feature such robust encryption, most often relying on HTML, again, only on the browser level.
Put briefly: A VPN client protects all data traffic you send from a computer or device, using more powerful encryption, whereas a browser extension only encrypts your browser traffic using (comparatively) weaker encryption. Of course, there are exceptions, but for most clients and extensions, this generally holds true.
With the differences explained, let's present our Top 3 VPN extensions for Google Chrome:
Top 3 VPN Extensions for Google Chrome
Google Chrome is the most-used browser in the world, which is at least partly attributable to its flexibility and adaptability. Most large VPN providers market their own browser extensions for Chrome, however, their performances are not always uniform. The list below shows the advantages and disadvantages of each of our Top 3, and how they compare with one another.
ExpressVPN - The Safe Bet
ExpressVPN not only came in first in our 17-provider evaluation, its browser extension also impressed us. Before continuing, we should mention that ExpressVPN's browser extension is not a stand-alone program, but can only be used in conjunction with the provider's client. As such, it is much more an integrated 'remote control' for the main client than a browser plugin which relies on creating a proxy connection to the client.
This has the disadvantage that it cannot be used independently of the program's client. However, in our eyes, its advantages far outweigh this solitary shortcoming: ExpressVPN's Chrome extension unifies both worlds, offering not only protection for your browser, but also the rest of your data traffic, and that at high speeds with the strongest-possible OpenVPN encryption. This means that you can also protect P2P programs or other apps by activating a VPN connection through your browser.
The extension's interface is identical to that of ExpressVPN's desktop client: Next to the big "Connect" button, you can select from all server locations, or even get recommendations. You can also set the browser extension to automatically connect to a VPN when you start Chrome. To configure further options or settings though, you'll need to head over to the desktop client.
ExpressVPN is one of the best VPN providers, and its Chrome extension doesn't fall short of this mark, with its comfort, speed, and security making it easily the best all-rounder.
Windscribe - The Freebie
Windscribe was unable to completely win us over during our evaluation, primarily because it was slow in comparison to the heavyweights. However, it did gain a nod as EXPERTE.com's pick for the best freemium provider, not least owing to its generous data volume (10 GB, spread across all synchronized devices) and comparably large number of servers (10 different locations). However, Windscribe is also a good choice for its (free) VPN browser extension.
Even in its free version, Windscribe offers access to a few features that are highly attractive. In contrast to ExpressVPN's Chrome extension, Windscribe's only encrypts what happens in your browser, however, in its interface you can see the desktop client's VPN connection. When you activate both simultaneously, you'll engage the so-called "Double-Hop" mode, which routes your data traffic through two separate proxy servers, ensuring even greater security.
That isn't all though: Windscribe's extension also comes with an integrated ad blocker and a variety of additional features that aren't limited to paying subscribers. With "Location Warp" and "Time Warp" you can take control over the GPS and time settings of your proxy connection, while "Split Personality" rotates Chrome's user agent, minimizing the risk of browser fingerprinting.
Windscribe offers an excellent Chrome extension, and owing to its low cost (free) is more than worth a look.
NordVPN - The Speed Demon
Our price-performance winner, NordVPN, also makes a strong impression with its Google Chrome extension. Particularly in terms of security, epitomized by its "Cybersec" feature, the extension also serves as an ad and malware blocker, all the while protecting you from WebRTC leaks. With "Quick Connect", you can establish an instant VPN connection to a specific country, or choose one from a list featuring the last three countries you've connected to. The browser extension creates an HTTPS-encrypted proxy connection in a matter of seconds, and operates independently from the desktop client, which doesn't even need to be installed. The downside to this is that only your browser traffic is secured when using the extension.
NordVPN is one of the fastest VPN services on the market, and its browser extension doesn't disappoint. For those who want to establish a proxy connection in the shortest time possible, look no further.
Most VPN providers offer browser extensions, and considering Google Chrome's popularity around the world, it is often the browser for which providers will first design extensions. Detailed reviews of 17 of the best and most reputable VPN providers can be found in our exhaustive and authoritative comparison.
Among these Top 3, similarly to our big VPN comparison, only premium and freemium providers were considered. However, in your own search for a VPN provider, you will most likely come across completely "free" services, especially for mobile apps or browser extensions. Unfortunately, as the old saying goes "If you're not paying for a product, the product is you", most of these use the data you supply to support and expand their operations. Particularly in a software segment that emphasizes security and privacy, we've made a conscious decision to focus on only those services, most of which must be paid for or who offer freemium, or limited versions of their offerings. Should you still decide for a "free" service, we recommend carefully doing your homework on the provider, as well as what is installed on your device or operating system when using their service.