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How to Install a VPN on Firefox

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

It’s quick and easy to set up your VPN account in your browser with the help of Firefox extensions. This guide shows you how, with helpful tips to make the process as simple as possible.

An illustration of a VPN running on Firefox

Mozilla Firefox is a great private web browser. However, a Firefox VPN extension will boost your privacy by hiding your IP address, geo-spoofing your location, and encrypting your web traffic.

An important note, though, is that most browser VPN extensions are not really VPNs at all, they are proxies that do not encrypt your traffic securely, and only reroute your browser traffic.

Any traffic from other apps, like Skype, BitTorrent, or Steam, will not be anonymized at all, and even your browser traffic will be visible to your ISP.

That said, there are still real benefits to a browser proxy – they make a lightweight addition to your browser without the need to install a full VPN, and they can often give you access to geo-restricted content, like Netflix.

Installation is super simple, too, and won’t take more than a couple of minutes of your time.

If you’re looking for a VPN to use with Firefox, we keep our best VPN for Firefox list regularly updated.

Method 1: Install a VPN Extension

This is the quickest and easiest method. With a few exceptions, it is the best way to get a VPN on Firefox. To demonstrate we’ll use ExpressVPN.

Installing an add-on is easy:

  1. Find the download link for the extension on your VPN service’s website or in the Mozilla add-ons library.Screeenshot of the ExpressVPN Firefox Add-on Download

It is really important at this point that you make sure you’ve downloaded a legitimate add-on which is actually released by your VPN provider, and not a counterfeit one.

If you download the add-on directly from your provider’s website then you’re all good. Fake add-ons aren’t too common and are usually pretty obvious (with weird logos or design), but it pays to be careful.

Comparison of real and fake VPN browser add-ons

An example of a fraudulent add-on (left), alongside the real deal (right)

  1. Install the add-on by pressing “Get Extension” (or equivalent) on your provider’s page, or press “+ Add to Firefox” if you’ve found it in the add-on library.Screenshot of the ExpressVPN add-on in the Firefox Add-on library
  2. The add-on will appear in the top left of your browser window.Screenshot showing ExpressVPN in Firefox
  3. Click the icon to access the VPN or alter any settings. For some add-ons you will need to log in, but ExpressVPN can automatically detect whether or not you have logged into the desktop app.

Method 2: Manually Configure a Browser Proxy

If you don’t want to install yet another add-on on your already-busy browser, but do want to run an in-browser proxy, there is an alternative method: manually configuring the proxy.

We have demonstrated this using ibVPN. The method will vary slightly, but not significantly, with other providers:

  1. Click on ‘hamburger menu’ in the top right hand corner of your browser, then select Option.Screenshot of the Firefox menu
  2. Scroll to the bottom and, under Network Settings, click “Settings…”Screenshot of Network Settings in Firefox
  3. Tick “Manual proxy configuration”Screenshot demonstrating how to manually configure a browser proxy VPN in Firefox
  4. You will need to find the correct “IP address” and “port” to connect to from your VPN provider.
  5. Enter them into the fields provided, then click “OK”.
  6. If prompted, enter your username and password.

Because this is a manual configuration, it is more prone to problems than simply downloading an extension. If you want to change proxy location you will need to repeat the process, and you may also find you need to periodically change to a more up to date IP address.

What Kind of VPN Add-on Should I Choose?

Broadly speaking there are two kinds of VPN browser extension:

  • Lightweight browser proxies
  • Remote-controls for your computer’s VPN

Which type you use is up to you, but there are some important differences to keep in mind before you make a commitment.

Lightweight browser proxies will mask the IP address of some of your activity – but only for things carried out in the browser. They will not affect traffic from other apps, such as email or video chat.

They also don’t provide encryption. This means that anyone, from your ISP, to hackers to the government, could look in on your activity.Diagram of how a proxy server works

A VPN remote control, on the other hand, connects to a full VPN installed on your computer.

This means it takes up more space on your device (you will need the actual VPN app installed as well), but also allows it to offer a full VPN rather than just a proxy.

Unlike a proxy the full VPN is encrypted and protects everything on your device, from in browser or from any other apps.

The vast majority of VPN ‘add-ons’ are lightweight browser proxies. Examples include NordVPN, Cyberghost, Hola, and many others.

The only popular remote control add-on belongs to ExpressVPN. Windscribe has suggested 9t intends to transition towards a full remote, but has not yet fully implemented it.

Are All VPN Extensions Safe?

There are lots of VPNs out there – particularly free VPNs – which either won’t work properly or are dangerous. So it’s always important to make sure you stay away from add-ons you don’t know and trust.

Our security study of free VPN apps for mobile, we found 18% potentially contained malware, 25% leaked information, and 67% asked for unnecessary and intrusive permissions.

There are two kinds of browser extensions you need to watch out for:

  • Fraudulent add-ons imitating legitimate VPN providers
  • Low quality or exploitative add-ons from shady providers

Hola, for instance, is an add-on we never recommend using. Not only is it poorly-encrypted and prone to leaking, but it has also previously been caught selling user data and even mobilized as a botnet.Hola untrustworthy VPN logo

Troubleshooting Problems

There are lots of little things which could go wrong with your browser proxy, but thankfully they are generally easy to solve.

You can always contact your provider’s customer service team for technical help, but feel free to try the following first:

  • Make sure you have a valid subscription. A paid VPN service won’t work unless you subscribe to it.
  • If you are using ExpressVPN, make sure you have the desktop app installed. ExpressVPN’s add-on controls the desktop app, so it won’t work unless they are both installed.
  • Make sure your add-on is legit. There are some fraudulent add-ons posing as legitimate providers. Always make sure you have the correct add-on before you install it or enter any of your personal details.

If all else fails, contact your VPN provider.

How to Uninstall a Firefox VPN Extension

Whether you have moved on from a VPN provider or decided that a browser extension doesn’t provide the same level of protection as a desktop app, uninstalling a VPN extension is quick and easy.

To remove a VPN extension from Firefox simply do the following:

  1. Right click on the extension icon in the top left corner of your browser window.Screenshot demonstrating how to remove a Firefox extension
  2. Select “Remove Extension.”

If you suspect the add-on you have had installed is fake and/or malicious, you might want to Report it first. You can do this by right clicking on its icon and clicking “Report Extension.”

Either way, the extension has now been removed.

How to Optimize Your Firefox Browser for Privacy

Your IP address isn’t the only thing that can give your identity away online.

Basic things like tracking cookies and more advanced techniques like browser fingerprinting allow advertisers and malicious third parties to follow your activity online.

Fortunately, Firefox is one of the best browsers to protect yourself from this online-surveillance – it just needs a small amount of configuration to optimize your privacy.

First of all you need to disable telemetry – which Mozilla uses to collect several kinds of diagnostic information from your browser.

To disable telemetry:

  1. Select the ‘hamburger menu’ in the top right hand corner of your browser window.Hamburger menu which appears in the top right of Firefox
  2. Navigate to Options > Privacy & Security > Firefox Data Collection and Use.
  3. Make sure that every box in this section is unticked.

    Screenshot of Firefox telemetry settings.

    How to disable Telemetry in Firefox.

Firefox includes a great feature called Enhanced Tracking Protection. It safeguards your privacy by blocking trackers, cookies, fingerprinting techniques (which can be used to identify you even while a VPN is running) and cryptominers.

To enable Enhanced Tracking Protection:

  1. Select the ‘hamburger menu’ menu in the top right-hand corner of your screen.
  2. Navigate to Options > Privacy & Security > Enhanced Tracking Protection.
  3. Choose your protection mode: strict, standard, or custom.

There are different modes available for different risk models: strict, standard, and custom. In our experience the ‘strict’ mode will break some webpages, but is generally quite stable.

Screenshot of Firefox Browser tracking protection.

How to enable tracking protection in Firefox.

If you encounter a problem, you can always disable content blocking for specific sites by clicking on the shield symbol to the left of the URL bar.Firefox URL search bar

You can also change your default search engine from Google to a more private alternative, like DuckDuckGo or Startpage.

To change your default search engine:

  1. Select the settings menu in the top right hand corner of your screen.
  2. Navigate to Preferences > Search > Default Search Engine.
  3. Choose your preferred search engine from the drop-down menu.

There are even more advanced privacy options available through Firefox, which you can learn about here.

Does Firefox Have a Built-In VPN?

Mozilla does have its own proxy service, called Firefox Private Network, available as an extension of the desktop version of the Firefox browser.

Firefox Private Network logo

Like many browser “VPNs,” this isn’t really a full VPN, but it does hide your IP address.

Right now, the Firefox browser extension is free, but there are plans to make it a premium feature costing $12.99 per month.

The extension doesn’t allow you to choose a location to connect to. In fact Cloudflare, which provides the service for Firefox, has stated in its privacy policy that “Avoidance of geographical restrictions is explicitly not the goal.”

There is nothing wrong with Firefox’s proxy, but it lacks some of the fundamental utility offered by other proxies, and much of the security offered by a full VPN.

While we generally recommend Firefox as the best browser for privacy, the same cannot be said of its VPN extension.

You’re better off using a third-party VPN extension. Read our review of Surfshark VPN, which has a very good browser add-on.

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