When it comes to choosing a Chrome VPN, you have several different options. To start, you need to decide whether you’re willing to shell out for a paid version of the best VPN or whether a free VPN can meet your needs. You also need to evaluate what type of browser VPN is best suited for you.
There are two types of VPN extensions: ones that control a desktop client and ones that operate as standalone apps. In this guide, we’ll explain how each type works and help you decide which is best for your needs.
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Chrome extensions that control the client
Some browser VPN extensions are designed not to operate on their own, but rather to provide a shortcut to a desktop-based VPN software. This can be useful because you get all the features and customization options of a desktop VPN, including some important privacy tools like IP leak protection. At the same time, you have the ability to change server locations and privacy settings from inside Chrome to manage your connection.
The downside to this type of Chrome extension is that at the end of the day, it’s just a shortcut to your desktop VPN. You must have the desktop software installed for the browser extension to work. In addition, you may still need to open up the desktop app in order to modify more advanced settings.
Another thing to keep in mind is that most desktop VPNs are paid software. So, if you’re looking for a Chrome extension that controls a desktop client, you’ll likely need to sign up for a VPN subscription.
Standalone Chrome VPN extensions
Standalone VPN extensions for Chrome don’t require desktop software in order to function. Only web traffic in Chrome is routed through your VPN, and you can control all the settings for your connection through the browser extension.
Using a standalone extension can be good for two reasons. First, these are often free. You might face bandwidth or server network limitations, but you may still be able to use your VPN to unblock streaming content. The second advantage to standalone VPN extensions is that they don’t require installation. So, they’re a great option when you want a lightweight VPN or do not have administrative access to your computer.
The catch to these standalone extensions is that they’re often proxies rather than true VPN apps. You can route your Internet connection through a global server network, but your web traffic won’t be encrypted for security. Keep this in mind before you log into sensitive accounts when using a standalone VPN extension.
In addition, many standalone proxies don’t have the same depth of features as a desktop-based VPN. This can make them simpler to use, but it also limits your ability to customize your connection.
Which type of Chrome VPN is better?
The type of VPN extension that is best for you depends on what you need. If online security, privacy, and customization are most important to you, we recommend a Chrome extension that controls a desktop client. ExpressVPN is a great option in this category since it offers advanced features like split tunneling, multiple VPN protocols, and IP leak protection.
If you aren’t worried about security, but rather want a VPN for disabling ad trackers or unblocking online content, a standalone extension is a cost-effective and lightweight solution. There’s a good selection on the market, but we’d recommend Windscribe. It offers up to 10 GB of bandwidth per month for free, and provides a bunch of privacy features often missing from lesser free services.
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Michael Graw is a freelance journalist and photographer based in Bellingham, Washington. His interests span a wide range from business technology to finance to creative media, with a focus on new technology and emerging trends. Michael's work has been published in TechRadar, Tom's Guide, Business Insider, Fast Company, Salon, and Harvard Business Review.