PCWorld (USA)

The best free VPN for Chrome

How to play it safe on the cheap.

- BY IAN PAUL

If you have a Chromebook or don’t want yet another program on your Windows desktop there is an alternativ­e to a full VPN: a Chrome extension. Many people are looking for a VPN solely to use with their web browser anyway. So why bother with the full program? With an extension you can have your browser appear as if it’s somewhere else, while the rest of your desktop programs use the local IP address.

Even better, depending on your needs, you can get this service for free. There are a number of free “VPN” extensions in the Chrome Web Store. The problem is the same with all other types of free services, however. Namely, which ones do you trust? All of the extension recommenda­tions we have here have been tested by us and the services have been reviewed on Windows.

VPNS VS. PROXIES

The services recommende­d here also come as full VPNS when you download their respective desktop apps. However, as

Chrome extensions, these services are almost always proxies.

What’s the difference? A VPN connects all of your computer’s traffic to its servers. When that happens, no matter whether you’re connecting with Chrome or the Epic Games Launcher, your computer programs believe they are in whatever location you selected in the VPN app.

A proxy via a Chrome extension, meanwhile, only tunnels the traffic for the browser it’s running in. The only exception to this is on Chrome OS, where Google provides an API that allows Chrome extensions to function as a VPN. That API is not available on other operating systems such as Windows or macos. In this article, however, we won’t worry about that distinctio­n. Nearly all of the extensions identify themselves as proxies with the exception of Zenmate. We’ve asked Zenmate to clarify its status on Chrome OS, but we have yet to hear back.

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