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The best Chrome VPN and extension 2021

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Partner up your Chrome browser with the best VPN service for a safer approach to surfing online, and get all the perks of a virtual private network all in one window. Continue to benefit from Chrome's versatility and keep reading, as we summarize  the best Chrome VPN to install into your browser.

For many, Google Chrome is your default browser, rising above the likes of Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Edge. With a friendly and easy-to-use interface, Chrome also offers a multitude of ways to customise your browser and make it yours. And it feels truly endless when you consider the amount of extensions out there to boost your efficiency and get what you need out of your time online.

It makes sense, then, that VPN providers would invade this space with their very own Chrome extensions, bringing the joys of a virtual private network right into your window without the need to click away.

In this guide we'll bring you the best of the best when it comes to the right Google Chrome VPN extension for your needs, including free and paid-for options.

How to choose the best Chrome VPN

Of course, among this bewildering array of potential add-ons for Chrome are extensions from VPN providers, but how do you pick out the ideal VPN for Chrome?

For starters, your VPN should be just as easy to use and navigate as Google Chrome itself. From setting up the extension to using on a day-to-day basis, we really value ease-of-use.

You’ll doubtless be looking to protect your privacy while surfing, and to bypass censorship or unblock geo-restricted content. And as always, you’ll want strong encryption and protocol support for tight security. All of the choices below have those assets in common. Performance levels are also important, especially if you’re keen on using Chrome to access streaming services or downloading torrents - you don't want your VPN to slow down what you're doing.

The five options we've picked out below are all paid-for, fully fledged 'premium' VPNs that offer unlimited use once you've signed up, rather than free extensions that have their limitations. We explain more about the distinction further down this article - picking up a free option may suit you better in some circumstances.

1. ExpressVPN - the best Chrome VPN

1. ExpressVPN - the best Chrome VPN
Not merely a barebones iteration of its full-fat counterpart, the Chrome ExpressVPN extension boasts a robust offering, which is easy-to-use and has some neat features to use within the browser. Get it 100% risk free with its 30-day money back guarantee and benefit from 3 months free.

2. Hotspot Shield - a speedy Chrome VPN

2. Hotspot Shield - a speedy Chrome VPN
Offering both a Free and Elite version, Hotspot Shield's Chrome client is a speedy performer with the latter a great tool for worldwide streaming and keen torrenters. A couple of clicks away, this is a great extension to have in your browser.

3. Windscribe - a reliable free option

3. Windscribe - a reliable free option
Giving you up to 10GB on its 'freemium' tool, you can hop on servers based in over 10 countries and benefit from geo-spoofing. You can also feel reassured with a more secure connection using its ad and malware-blocking tools.

The best Chrome VPNs in 2021

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

1. ExpressVPN

Best all-round VPN for Chrome and beyond

Dedicated chrome extension: Yes | Chrome Web Store rating: 4.5 | 24/7 live chat: Yes | Free trial length: 30 days | Maximum devices supported: 5 | Servers/countries: 3,000+/90+

Quality extension - not just a proxy
Impressive server coverage
Superb customer support
Reliable, speedy performance
Can’t use extension without the app

Best Chrome VPN 2021 - Get 3 months free with an annual plan

ExpressVPN routinely delivers on the software front, and its Chrome VPN extension is no exception. It’s easy-to-use, has some neat features and - unlike a lot of the competition - is a genuine extension rather than a mere proxy.

TechRadar Editor's Choice label

Right from the get-go, you can tell that the Chrome extension has all the usability and smarts you'd expect from ExpressVPN's usual Windows and Mac clients. So you can immediately turn on, change location and change your settings right there from the extension - it will come as little surprise when you start using it that ExpressVPN tops our charts as the overall best VPN out there.

The Chrome VPN service did well in our performance tests, with speeds only slightly slower than our normal (non-VPN) rates. And this provider maintains a favorable privacy policy with no logging of traffic data and online activity. Indeed, on the security front, the ExpressVPN extension also boasts settings to prevent HTML5 geo-location from revealing your real location while using using HTTPS Everywhere to automatically force connections to the HTTPS versions of websites whenever they're available. It's always about safety first with ExpressVPN.

If the main reason for kitting your Chrome browser out with a VPN is to stream shows from abroad, then you'll also be pleased to hear about Express's pretty faultless unblocking record. Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video - it can get around geo-restrictions on them all.

One thing to bear in mind here is that you cannot use the ExpressVPN browser extension without having the appropriate ExpressVPN desktop app installed as well. If this is a major problem for you, then there are standalone Chrome extensions that can be used instead (Windscribe listed below is a good example). That may make the choice for our #1 spot seem controversial to some.

But if you're coming into this wanting all the bells and whistles a premium product offers then you're probably going to want to use it on your desktop (and mobile, and streaming device, etc) anyway, so this doesn't feel like a major disadvantage to us. In our view, ExpressVPN is the best overall option on the market, and that means the same goes for Chrome.

Get the best Chrome VPN with 3 months extra FREE

Get the best Chrome VPN with 3 months extra FREE
Time and again Express tops our lists of the most impressive VPN for pretty much all your needs. Streaming, torrenting...Express can do it all. And the good news is that ExpressVPN has agreed to give TechRadar readers three months extra free when you sign up for its annual plan. And if you're not 100% happy, you can cancel for a full refund within he first 30 days.

2. Hotspot Shield

Fast Chrome VPN with excellent freebie option

Dedicated chrome extension: Yes | Chrome Web Store rating: 3.7 (4.4 for free version) | 24/7 live chat: Yes | Free trial length: 45 days | Maximum devices supported: 5 | Servers/countries: 3,200+/80+

Fast download speeds
Super simple to use
Plenty of unblocking power 
Not available on some other platforms

In our latest round of VPN testing, Hotspot Shield made a great jump up our list. It's always been super fast, but it has made strides when it comes to usability and the amount of geo-restricted sites and services it can access.

When it comes to its Chrome-based VPN, this provider really has its cake and eats it, too! Type in 'Hotspot Shield' to the Chrome Web Store and you'll be faced with two options: Free and Elite.

The former option is a quick-start version of the product that tops our best free VPN listings. The reasons we like it remain the same as we state in that guide: that it's a friendly app to use, won't slow down your web traffic and will help mask your IP address and block WebRTC without the need to part with a single dollar. But the downfalls also remain the same, the main two being the fact you're stuck using only one server based in the US and you only get an allowance of 500MB per day of use.

So by all means give the free version a whirl, but for something more fully formed you'll want to pay the effective few dollars a month and crank things up to Elite. That shows off all of Hotspot Shield's best bits, making it a proper tool for watching worldwide streaming content no matter where you are and proving a handy companion to torrenters. 

Either way, the Chrome VPN extension only takes a couple of clicks before you’re up and running. While with the Elite, app, you’re automatically assigned to the optimal server with the fastest connection speed. And if you just want to get stuck straight in with that paid-for option, you do get a 45-day safety blanket within which you can cancel and get your money back.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

3. Windscribe

Easy-to-use extension with a really handy free version

Dedicated chrome extension: Yes | Chrome Web Store rating: 4.7 | 24/7 live chat: No | Free trial length: 30 days | Maximum devices supported: Unlimited | Servers/countries: 400+/63

Excellent free option
Loved by its users
So simple start up and use
Live chat support would be welcome
Premium version has fewer servers than most

When it comes to browser extensions, Windscribe is in its element. Look at some of the blogging that its team does around what the best Chrome VPN extensions really look like and you'll get some pretty...forthright opinions.

In short, the provider takes the 'freemium' model to its Chrome extension. That's great news for you, as it means that there's a very solid free option on offer for all that you can get started with and start using in Chrome in mere seconds (literally).

That gives you plenty of geo-spoofing prowess and IP privacy with a monthly data-use limit of 2GB (or a very generous 10GB if you're happy to give Windscribe your email address). And even with this option, at our last count there were over 10 countries that you could connect to, including the US, Canada, Germany and the UK. And it doesn't stop there as it also kicks in added extras to make your browser a better place, with additional ad and malware-blocking.

Of course, in an ideal world, Windscribe wants you to be so impressed that you'll go on and sign up to its Pro plan. It's a little pricier than much of the competition these days, but means you can use the service on unlimited devices simultaneously (including Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and Linux) and offers 100+ server locations across more than 60 countries.

4. Private Internet Access

Brings extra features and security to Chrome

Dedicated chrome extension: Yes | Chrome Web Store rating: 3.7 | 24/7 live chat: No | Free trial length: 30 days | Maximum devices supported: 10 | Servers/countries: 20,000+/77

Really easy to use
Jam-packed with features
Bonus privacy tools
No live chat support
Requires sign up

When we tested and reviewed Private Internet Access (PIA for short) one of the things that stood out most was the quality of its browser extensions. They genuinely add value - which is saying something, considering how affordable PIA is to subscribe to.

Using it on Chrome is really easy and it brings loads of extras to the table. There are bonus privacy tools for starters, that can prevent websites accessing your location, camera or microphone. They're able to stop WebRTC leaks, and variously block or disable Flash, third-party cookies, website referrers, hyperlink auditing, address and credit card auto filling, and more. That's strong stuff, in a market filled with extensions that are merely veneer extensions.

The extension on offer here applies only to Chrome browser traffic and outside of Chrome, it isn't as fleshed out a service as ExpressVPN - but that doesn't mean it isn't worth considering, especially at the reasonable price points available for longer term plans. If you're in it for the Netflix unblocking, then we successfully got PIA working across regions for that, Hulu and YouTube (although not BBC iPlayer). And the download speeds while the VPN was turned on were above average, too - even when we jumped on to a server in new Zealand.

5. NordVPN

A mere proxy - but still a VPN provider of note

Chrome Web Store rating: 2.8 | 24/7 live chat: Yes | Free trial length: 30 days | Maximum devices supported: 6 | Servers/countries: 5,500+/59

Great server coverage
Unlocks tons of streaming services
A very secure VPN
Can't control the whole VPN suite
Not brilliantly reviewed on Store

NordVPN doesn’t offer a free Chrome extension, so you’ll need to set up an account with the provider to get its for Chrome. Some of the major benefits here include the firm’s CyberSec feature which is designed to block adverts and prevent you accessing malware-laden sites, making your browsing a more streamlined and safer experience. The extension is also lightweight and user-friendly with just a simple couple of clicks needed to get things going.

Performance-wise, speeds were solid enough and certainly acceptable. Users have a large server network at their disposal, with over 5,000 servers and counting across the globe. NordVPN has a ‘no logs’ privacy policy, too, that's audited by the esteemed and independent PricewaterhouseCooper.

You'll see above that NordVPN scores pretty low compared to most from users on the Chrome Web Store. Some reviewers suggest it's pretty buggy - although that's not something we encountered to any degree in our testing. Thankfully Nord has a handy 24/7 live chat support system in place, which should come to your rescue if anything goes wrong.

Chrome VPN FAQ

What is the best Chrome VPN?

If you're looking for a complete Chrome experience, then we'd direct you ExpressVPN's way. Also topping our guide to the best all-round VPNs, Express packs a huge amount of functionality to its Chrome extension in terms of privacy, security and unblocking geo-restricted content. We also like how handy its 24/7 live chat support is - real human beings on hand to get you out of any pickles you find yourself in.

What can a Chrome VPN extension do?

There's several reasons why adding a Chrome VPN extension is well worthwhile on your computer. Firstly, in the case of providers like ExpressVPN and NordVPN, it just makes functioning your VPN much quicker and easier to do - the best Chrome VPNs have super straightforward On/Off button and all the basic tools you need for changing servers and avoiding those geo-blocks.

Picking one of our top providers from this article means access to Netflix unblocking, geo-spoofing and online security from the convenience of the browser you use day-in day-out.

Google Chrome extension VPN

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

What are Chrome VPN proxies?

Some - or rather, most - VPN proxies only work within the Chrome browser itself. So take a provider like Windscribe, for example, that has its own free Chrome proxy that can still hide your IP address and unlock streaming content (with data limitations in place) but lives separately from its 'Pro' VPN tier.

The rare alternative is how a provider like ExpressVPN works. Its Chrome extension works like a a control hub for the core VPN tool that you need to have downloaded to your computer already. So handy if you're a fully signed up member of that service already, but not so good if you were just looking for a standalone proxy to live and work in your Chrome browser only.

Does Chrome have its own VPN?

This article would be a whole lot shorter if it did! No, Google doesn't offer a VPN to its loyal tribe of browser users. But luckily the Chrome Web Store is practically overflowing with them and Google does allow these third party extensions and proxies to be added to your browser for quick easy use.

Should I install a free Chrome VPN?

You certainly can, but we'd exercise a little caution before you do.

There are literally hundreds (possibly thousands) of free VPN extensions in the web store. But unlike our top picks above, they very infrequently are able to boast the kind of protection and verified privacy policies that you can rely on. They may allow you to change location to another server, but what about the ads, the lack of extra functionality, and where exactly is your information going to next?

Don't forget that these free services have to make their money from somewhere. And at least the free options on this list work to a 'freemium' model where the free proxy is a gateway to hopefully convert you into a paying customer in the long run.

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Adam is the Editor-in-Chief of Subscriptions and Services at Future, meaning that he oversees many of the articles TechRadar produces about antivirus software, VPNs, TV streaming, broadband and mobile phone contracts - from buying guides and deals news, to industry interest pieces and reviews.