Disclosure: Top10VPN is editorially independent. We may earn commissions if you buy a VPN through links on our site.

How to Set Up a VPN on Google Chrome

Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

Simon is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times, CNet and more. Read full bio

In this comprehensive guide, we'll show you how to install, set up, and use a VPN with Google Chrome.

VPN extensions installed on Chrome browser

Google Chrome is the most popular web browser in the world, and this makes it a major target. Without using a safe VPN for Chrome your ISP, the government, or malicious third parties can log your online activities and even surveil your internet traffic.

To browse the internet safely and anonymously, we recommend using a trustworthy VPN for Chrome.

The most effective way to do this is to install VPN software directly on your computer or smartphone. This protects all your internet traffic, including non-browser web connections. Follow the links below to our device-specific VPN setup guides:

However, some VPN services also come with useful Chrome-specific VPN extensions. That’s what we’ll focus on in this setup guide.

VPN browser extensions don’t provide the same level of privacy as full VPN software, but they’re very easy to install directly from the Chrome Web Store. Read our step-by-step instructions below and get started with a Chrome VPN in a few minutes.

Before you start, you’ll need...

  • The latest version of the Google Chrome web browser.
  • A subscription to a VPN service that offers a browser extension for Google Chrome. Not all providers make Chrome extensions, so it’s best to check before paying for a long-term plan. You can read our list of the best VPNs for Chrome here to make your decision easier.
  • A verified VPN account. Make sure you’ve clicked on the email verification link to activate the account, or it may not work.
  • The desktop application for your VPN (maybe). Some VPN providers need you to run the desktop and Chrome apps alongside each other. Check with your VPN service provider if this is necessary.

How to Set Up Your VPN Extension in Chrome

Here’s how to install a VPN in Chrome, using ExpressVPN as an example (we think it’s got the best Chrome extension on the market):

  1. Go to your VPN service provider’s website and find the download link for the Google Chrome browser extension. Clicking on that link will take you to the Chrome Web Store.
    By going through the VPN provider’s website you’ll avoid potentially dangerous copycat extensions posing as the real thing.Screenshot of ExpressVPN website Google Chrome browser extension page
  2. Click the Add to Chrome button to install the VPN extension.Screenshot of ExpressVPN entry in Chrome Web Store
  3. If you see a drop-down alert that tells you the permissions the extension needs in order to run review them carefully. If you agree to the permissions, click Add extension.Screenshot of ExpressVPN Chrome extension permissions
  4. The button on the Chrome Web Store will now say Remove from Chrome, indicating that your VPN extension is now installed (don’t click it).Screenshot of Chrome Web Store when ExpressVPN is installed
  5. In your Google Chrome browser, at the top-right corner, you’ll see the icon for your extension. This is usually the VPN provider’s logo. Click the icon once.
    This will open up the browser extension interface. ExpressVPN gives you some information about the browser extension. Click Skip to move onto the next slide.Screenshot of ExpressVPN Chrome extension intro slides
  6. Click Get Started to finish the installation.Screenshot of ExpressVPN Chrome extension end of installation
  7. The main screen of the browser extension will now show. ExpressVPN’s Google Chrome browser extension has a big connect button in the center, which is very common among other VPN services, too.Screenshot of ExpressVPN's Chrome extension interface
  8. Before you connect to a server take a look at the security settings. You can usually access these by clicking on a cog symbol or a burger menu (three horizontal lines), as is the case with ExpressVPN.
    Ensure that WebRTC leak blocking is enabled and HTTPS everywhere in order to optimize your online security.Screenshot of ExpressVPN Chrome extension settings
  9. To select a server location click on the three dots next Selected Location. Find your preferred location and click on it.
    Some VPN services, like ExpressVPN, come with a Smart Location feature, which automatically selects the best server for you – usually it’s the closest one to your physical location.Screenshot of ExpressVPN Chrome extension server locations
  10. Click the connect button. ExpressVPN’s connect button turns green when it has successfully connected.Screenshot of ExpressVPN Chrome extension connected

You don’t need to add a username and password if you’re using the ExpressVPN Chrome extension as it picks up your login details from the desktop app.

Other VPN services may require you to enter your account credentials before you connect to a server.

Here’s the login screen on NordVPN’s browser extension for Chrome:

Screenshot of NordVPN Chrome browser extension log in screen

Getting Help With Your Browser Extension & Troubleshooting

If something isn’t working as expected with your VPN browser extension for Chrome, your first port of call should be your VPN service provider as the customer support team is best equipped to troubleshoot any issues.

You should also double check that your credentials are correct – depending on the VPN service, you may need to log into the app using a username rather than your email address.

If you see a grey X on the ExpressVPN Chrome extension icon it’s a sign that the extension can’t find the desktop application.

Screenshot of ExpressVPN Chrome browser extension connection states

ExpressVPN works in tandem with the desktop application, so make sure that the app is installed first in order to connect.

Most other VPN services have browser extensions that work independently of the desktop app, so you don’t need to run the two pieces of software together – although we recommend that you do for ultimate privacy protection.

If your VPN browser extension still isn’t working, you may not have set it up properly, or it could be installed in the wrong place on your computer. To fix this, click the icon in Chrome and reinstall it.

What Is a VPN Browser Extension for Chrome?

Many VPN services provide browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and other web browsers, but what are they exactly?

Popular VPN browser extensions like NordVPN for Chrome generally create a proxy connection between you and a remote server. They’re not actually a full VPN.

While some VPN browser extensions encrypt your browser traffic, not all do, so watch out for those as they don’t offer full protection.

Even the browser extensions that encrypt browser traffic do not encrypt traffic outside the browser, so other apps are left unprotected.

You can read more about the difference between proxies and VPNs in our dedicated guide.

It’s a different story for ExpressVPN, though, as the browser extension works alongside the desktop app to provide full coverage for not only your Chrome traffic but also all other internet traffic on your device.

You can think of ExpressVPN’s Chrome browser extension as a remote control for the main app. It allows you to change the VPN servers without exiting or minimizing your web browser.

What Is the Best VPN for Google Chrome?

The best VPN for Google Chrome is ExpressVPN – the VPN extension we’ve used as part of this setup guide.

ExpressVPN is the full package; it’s fast, reliable, safe, secure, and it comes with a full-featured browser extension for Google Chrome.

Unlike other VPN browser extensions, ExpressVPN’s Chrome extension works alongside the desktop app to provide full protection, while providing an even easier and more accessible interface for heavy browser users.

Find out more in our latest review of ExpressVPN.

Are VPN Browser Extensions Safe?

Illustration showing the potential dangers of using a VPN browser extension

Not all VPN browser extensions are safe.

Hola for Chrome is one example of a dangerous browser extension that masks itself as a VPN service.

Not only does it log all of your online activities but it also works by including your true IP address in its network. This means that someone else can use your IP address to do whatever they want on the web.

While not all browser extensions are this extreme, you should keep in mind that browser extensions are proxies (not true VPNs).

This leaves all internet traffic outside of the web browser exposed to third parties.

Some proxy extensions don’t even encrypt browser traffic. They simply spoof your IP address, making you appear to be connecting from a different location.

For those reasons, we don’t recommend using browser extensions by themselves as they don’t offer the same levels of privacy as proper VPN apps.

If your VPN has a browser extension it may be possible to use it alongside the main VPN app.

Just be sure to check with your VPN service provider beforehand, as some browser extensions can’t be used when the main VPN app is connected.

Can You Get a VPN Browser Extension for Free?

Yes, you can get some VPN browser extensions for free but, as we’ve said before, some of them are dangerous to use.

Here are some free browser extensions for Chrome that are safe to use:

Screenshot of TunnelBear browser extension download page

Most free VPN browser extensions come with limitations, though, including data and speed restrictions, and a small server network.

If you want the best VPN browsing experience you’ll have to pay for it.

What to Do if Your VPN Doesn’t Have a Chrome Browser Extension

Don’t worry!

If your VPN service doesn’t come with a browser extension for Google Chrome isn’t not the end of the world.

As long as you are using a quality, safe VPN service, once you connect to a VPN server all of your internet traffic (including any from Google Chrome) will be funneled through the encrypted VPN tunnel.

Browser extensions are handy extras, but are by no means essential.

Are There VPN Browser Extensions for Mozilla Firefox, Opera, or Apple Safari?

Illustration of a browser with three logos: Safari, Opera, and Firefox

Yes, there are VPN browser extensions available for those web browsers too.

The majority of VPN browser extensions are available for either Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox – you can read about our top recommendations for Mozilla Firefox here – but there are some VPN providers that have extensions for Opera and Safari too.

TunnelBear and Private Internet Access are examples of VPN services that come with a browser extension for Opera. These are better than the browser’s in-built Opera VPN service, which we don’t recommend as safe to use.

There are currently no VPN browser extensions for Safari that we would recommend – in our testing they’ve all fallen short of our standards.

How to Uninstall a VPN Browser Extension for Chrome

If you don’t want to use your VPN browser extension anymore it’s super easy to uninstall it on Google Chrome.

Just open a Chrome window, right click on the extension icon, and click Remove from Chrome.

Screenshot of uninstalling ExpressVPN Chrome extension

What Are WebRTC Leaks?

WebRTC is a browser technology that allows audio and video communications to work inside web pages.

However, this technology can lead to your IP address being exposed, even when you’re using a VPN – although the best VPNs will ensure this doesn’t happen.

When your IP address is revealed it’s called a WebRTC leak. You can read all about WebRTC leaks in our leak testing guide.

You can run a leak test to find out if your IP address is being exposed by visiting this page. If you can see your true IP address on the test results, you’re experiencing a WebRTC leak.

Some VPN browser extensions come with WebRTC leak blocking, so make sure to enable it before you start browsing.

If after that you’re still experiencing WebRTC leaks it’s best to disable WebRTC altogether.

Disabling WebRTC is a little tricky if you’re using Google Chrome, though.

Unlike other web browsers, such as Mozilla Firefox, which allow you to disable WebRTC through the browser settings, you’ll have to use a third party add-on or extension to disable it on Chrome.

Even then, these extensions aren’t always 100% effective.

It’s best to use a high-quality VPN service like ExpressVPN to block WebRTC requests, or even start using a privacy-friendly alternative to Google Chrome.

If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, then read on for some suggestions.

Alternatives to Google Chrome Web Browser

Google Chrome may be one of the most popular web browsers around, but it’s far from the most private.

In fact, when you’re logged into your Google account, it collects loads of data about you, and uses that information for advertising purposes.

There’s also no way to disable WebRTC within the Google Chrome settings, something which could lead to your IP address being exposed.

While Google claims to be improving Chrome’s privacy, some critics are skeptical.

However, there are a handful of web browsers designed with privacy in mind – these Google Chrome alternatives offer the highest levels of privacy and security.

  • Firefox
  • Firefox Focus
  • Waterfox
  • GNUzilla IceCat
  • Brave Browser
  • Ungoogled Chromium

You may have to play around with the settings in order to optimize privacy levels, though – you can read all about this in our private browsers guide.

You should also consider using a privacy-friendly search engine like DuckDuckGo.com to further protect your personal data.

About the Author

  • Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

    Simon Migliano

    Simon is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times, CNet and more. Read full bio