Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are becoming increasingly popular. They have hundreds of uses, from companies or organizations that want to provide functionality to their work-from-home employees, to regular internet users who want to circumnavigate geo-blocking restrictions.
Recently, Opera decided to offer a free VPN within the browser for all its users. If you’re a Chrome user, you probably want something similar you can use within your favorite browser.
There are lots of paid VPN options available, but there are also some really good free ones, especially for Google Chrome users.
Here are six of the best Chrome VPNs for you to check out.
Note: If you are using these VPNs with the hope of accessing Netflix or BBC iPlayer, be aware these services and many others are now trying to block access for VPN-based IP addresses.
Free vs. Premium
With all VPNs, you get what you pay for. Yes, free VPNs are good, but they’re not comparable to a premium VPN service in terms of quality, speed, or security.
For example, lots of free VPN services only offer the PPTP protocol. The PPTP protocol is not as robust as other VPN protocols such as L2TP/IPSEC, OpenVPN, SSTP, or SSH — most of which are offered by the leading paid services.
You also need to consider browsing speed. VPN servers are very expensive to run and manage. If you’re on a free service, it’s probably already overloaded with other users. In contrast, premium providers reinvest a lot of their income on servers and bandwidth.
There are also intangibles to think about. Can you expect reliable support from a free provider? Is the uptime close to 100 percent?
Lastly, ask yourself this: why is it free? In the best case scenario, is it’s riddled with ads. At worst, the provider is stealing your connection and using your bandwidth for other users. Hola users will be familiar with the practice.
Bottom line: A free VPN is better than no VPN. But if you have the money and value your security, invest in a top paid subscription.
One of the best premium VPNs is ExpressVPN. It offers OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec, SSTP, and PPTP protocols, includes unlimited speed and bandwidth, provides servers in 94 countries, and allows for up to three simultaneous connections.
DotVPN has been around since 2014 and is now starting to gain serious traction. It has more than 500,000 users according to the Chrome Web Store, and has an average review score of 4 stars (from almost 5,000 reviews).
Some of its best features include:
- Unlimited bandwidth
- 12 virtual locations (Canada, Germany, France, Japan, Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom)
- Unlimited switches between locations
The developers are also keen to underline the security benefits; it uses 4096-bit key encryption – that’s two times greater than modern banking standards.
2. ZenMate VPN
ZenMate VPN brands itself as a “cyber security solution”. They have a worldwide network of highly secure proxy servers which encrypt your information and protect you from malicious websites.
The ZenMate VPN service can be broken down into three parts – Internet privacy, Wi-Fi security, and unrestricted Internet access.
With regards to privacy, this will prevent trackers from banner ads, website analytics, and social media following you around the web. From a Wi-Fi perspective it will add an extra line of defense when you’re on unsecured public networks, and from an unrestricted Internet standpoint it will help you overcome geo-blocking.
ZenMate VPN also offers a premium service which improves the speed, adds extra locations, and offers 24/7 support. It’s available from $7.99 per month.
Hotspot Shield is one of the new kids on the block.
Before we discuss its features, it is important to note that the service is operated by Anchor Free. Anchor is widely considered to be one of the most reliable companies in the industry; it’s more than 10 years old, has seen in excess of 400 million downloads across its different apps, and currently has 20 million active users in 190 countries.
In terms of the service, it’s both free and unlimited and has versions available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, OS X, and Windows.
Like ZenMate, there is also a premium version of Hotspot Shield. It starts at $2.08 per month, depending on your subscription length.
4. Browsec VPN
Browsec VPN claims to be “an advanced analog of ZenMate, Stealthy, Hola, and frigate”.
Its main benefits are letting its users access any sites from anywhere, enhancing user privacy online, and protecting user data from sniffers and trackers.
It makes a big push on the geo-blocking, but rather than focus on opening up content from different countries’ stores on Netflix or BBC, Browsec VPN instead mention services like Spotify, Pandora, and SoundCloud – some of which are completely blocked in certain regions.
Browsec VPN also advertises its service as a way to access sites that are blocked on office or school computers, such as Facebook, Reddit, and YouTube.
Of all the services we’ve discussed in this list, TunnelBear has the best reviews – an unprecedented 5 stars from almost 10,500 individual ratings at the time of writing. Rather than being a true VPN, this service is actually an encrypted proxy.
Readers who’ve been working with VPNs for a long time will be well-aware of the brand name; TunnelBear VPN has been around for many years and has made very successful desktop-based products for both Windows and Mac.
There is one key difference between this Chrome extension and the desktop offerings, and it’s an important one to understand — TunnelBear for Chrome only encrypts your browser traffic, whereas TunnelBear VPN for desktop encrypts 100 percent of your data.
TunnelBear boasts some of the fastest speeds of all the VPNs on this list and has servers available in 20 countries worldwide.
Which Extensions Do You Use?
VPNs have lots of benefits for end users. It can be something simple like improving your privacy, but it could also be allowing you to navigate to sites such as The Pirate Bay which certain browsers have intentionally deemed to be malicious.
Of course, you also need to be alert as to how these services operate. Despite their best claims, if something is free, it often means you are the product. You need to look no further than the debacle surrounding Hola last year for a case in point. The reality is that if you want 100 percent peace of mind, you should invest in a paid service.
Now it’s over to you. Which VPNs on this list have you tried? Have we missed out your favorite? Perhaps you’ve endured some bad Chrome VPN experiences that you want to share with your fellow readers? As ever, you can leave us your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.