How To Install

How to Install a VPN on Chrome

Simon Migliano
Simon MiglianoUpdated

Using a VPN browser extension on Google Chrome is simple and takes just a couple of minutes to set up. Once installed, it’s a great extra feature to use alongside your main VPN app.

Google Chrome is the most popular web browser in the world in 2019, and you’re probably on this page because you’re one of the millions using it every single day.

But that popularity also makes Google Chrome a major target.

Did you know that without using a VPN for Chrome your ISP, the government, or malicious third parties can log your online activities and even interfere with your internet traffic?

The good news is that it’s super easy to install and set up a VPN for Google Chrome.

The easiest (and safest) way to protect internet traffic while using the Chrome web browser is to install a VPN at device-level, on your desktop or laptop computer or smartphone.

Just download the VPN software and connect – all internet traffic, from Chrome or any other app you’re running, will flow through the encrypted VPN tunnel.

Follow the links to read our separate installation guides for these devices:

Some VPNs come with extra tools specifically for Google Chrome.

These are called VPN browser extensions, and that’s what we focus on in this installation guide.

While they generally don’t provide the same level of privacy as using OS-level VPN software, VPN browser extensions for Chrome can be a great added feature for heavy browser users.

They might even come with extra tools such as WebRTC leak blockers and ad-blockers.

Setting up the VPN browser extension takes just a few minutes with our helpful, user-friendly instructions to guide you through the process.

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 guide 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 Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and other web browsers, but what are they exactly?

Well, a browser extension generally creates a proxy connection. It’s not actually a VPN.

While some VPN browser extensions encrypt 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 service we’ve used to make this installation 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.

You can read our full, independent review of ExpressVPN here.

Are VPN Browser Extensions Safe?

Screenshot of Hola promotion

Not all VPN browser extensions are safe.

Hola is one example of a dangerous browser extension which 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 the vast majority of them 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?

Firefox logo on a web browser tab

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.

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

Tenta Browser Logo

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 two Google Chrome alternatives offer the highest levels of privacy.

These web browsers default to private browsing – unlike Chrome which requires you to open up an Incognito tab – and they come with features that block trackers and ads, too.

Both Tenta and Epic Browser also provide VPN browser extensions to encrypt browser traffic, but be sure to use a true VPN service to protect the rest of your connections.

We call these VPN browsers. You can read more about the best VPN browsers here.

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 leads our investigations into VPN safety and internet freedom research. His work has been featured on the BBC, CNet, Wired and The Financial Times. Read full bio