5 Best Chromebook VPN Services in 2017 - BestVPN.com
NordVPN

5 Best Chromebook VPN Services

Douglas Crawford

Douglas Crawford

July 10, 2017

Just like with every other computing platform, you can greatly improve your online privacy and security by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) with your Chromebook. But it’s not just the boring stuff that VPNs are good for! Chromebook VPN services are great for bypassing censorship, unblocking Netflix, and protecting you while downloading torrents.

For a full discussion on what VPNs are and why you really do want one, please check out my VPNs for Beginners guide.

I must admit that I was highly skeptical when I first heard about Chromebooks and Chrome OS. An entire operating system that is basically just a browser? Really? Well, turns out the idea really does have legs, and a lightweight, cloud-based OS does everything that many people ever need.

This functionality has, in fact, recently been massively expanded. It is now possible to run Android apps on your Chromebook, although it’s still early days for this, and there will inevitably be some teething problems.

Nevertheless, this development basically means that you can do anything on your Chromebook that you can do on any other platform.

An interesting aside to this development is how VPNs work when running Android apps in Chrome OS. I discuss this and other Chromebook VPN issues after the following VPN provider recommendations.

Best Chromebook VPN Services Summary

Rank Company Score Price Link
1
ExpressVPN review
$6.67 / monthVisit Site
Special Deal: Save 49% Today!
2
VPNac review
$4.80 / monthVisit Site
3
NordVPN review
$3.29 / monthVisit Site
4
Windscribe review
$7.50 / monthVisit Site
5
TunnelBear review
$4.99 / monthVisit Site
Editor's Choice Award

Winner

ExpressVPN

5/5

Chromebook VPN Services

  • ProsPROS
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • No usage logs
  • Servers in 94 countries
  • Great customer service
  • OpenVPN Android app
  • ConsCONS
  • Connection logs
  • A bit pricey

Our reviews of ExpressVPN have always found they excel at providing a great customer experience. At the forefront of this is 24/7 live chat support, and a genuine no-quibble 30-day money-back guarantee.

ExpressVPN serves Chromebook users well. Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP)/Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) setup instructions are available for Chromebook, as are Chromebook-specific instructions for its Android VPN app. Unusually, the ExpressVPN Chrome browser add-on is not a browser proxy, but an interface for the full desktop app (which must be installed). This means that the Chrome browser add-on does not work on Chromebooks.

The other desktop and mobile software from ExpressVPN is very easy to use, and is fully featured. Those wishing to evade censorship (such as users in China) will appreciate ExpressVPN’s Hong Kong-based “stealth” servers and dark web (.onion) address. Although ExpressVPN is a little pricey, the fact that it throws in a free Smart Domain Name System (DNS) service for all users makes it good value for money.

Additional features: three simultaneous connections, DNS leak and WebRTC protection, peer-to-peer (P2P) permitted.

Get the best VPN service for Chromebook now!

Visit ExpressVPN »

30-day money-back guarantee

2nd place

VPN.ac

4.3/5

VPNAC_Homepage

  • PROS
  • No usage logs
  • Six simultaneous devices
  • Servers in 17 countries
  • Android app
  • Chrome extension
  • CONS
  • Connection logs

Although we had some reservations about the technical side of things when we reviewed this Romanian provider some time back it, we nevertheless liked it. On the human/privacy side of things, VPN.ac keeps no usage logs (but some connection logs,) has great customer support, and allows you to connect up to six (!) devices at once.

Accepting anonymous Bitcoin payments is good to see, and we’re also now pleased to our VPN.ac review found that they seem to have sorted out the services technical weakness, and offers superb security with great speeds.

VPN.ac offers no explicit L2TP/IPSec support for Chrome OS, but its generic L2TP/IPSec settings should work just fine (see below). It does have a Chrome browser extension (account required), however, which works very well.

Additional features: P2P permitted, based in Romania.

Visit VPN.ac »


3rd place

NordVPN

4/5

NordVPN Logo

  • PROS
  • No logs kept
  • Six simultaneous devices
  • Servers in 47 countries
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Chrome add-on
  • CONS
  • So-so support

Based in Panama (a non-Fourteen Eyes spying alliance country), NordVPN is an excellent choice for the more NSA-phobic out there. It keeps no logs at all, uses strong encryption, and accepts anonymous payment via Bitcoin. NordVPN is let down a little by many of its servers being somewhat slow, but with a little trial and effort it isn’t too hard to find a fast one.

Additionally, P2P is allowed, and many users appreciate NordVPN’s “double-hop” service, which routes your VPN connection through two different servers in order to make tracking more difficult.

Chromebook VPN support comes in the form of setup instructions for L2TP, a Chrome add-on, and an Android app.

Visit NordVPN »


4th place

Windscribe

3/5

Windscribe Logo

  • PROS
  • No logs
  • Chromebook VPN add-on
  • Android app
  • Limited free service (2GB)
  • P2P: yes
  • CONS
  • Limited customer support
  • Based in Canada
  • No L2TP support

Windscribe has made something of a splash on the VPN scene, thanks to its high level of technical proficiency. The OpenVPN encryption it uses, for example, is among the best available anywhere. Perfect forward secrecy is used, and DNS and Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) leaks are blocked by the firewall in the custom client. This firewall also acts as a kill switch, and should prevent any Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) leaks.

Like NordVPN, Windscribe supports “double VPN” chaining. I am yet to be convinced about the security value of this, but others disagree, and it’s a nice extra to have. Windscribe does not support L2TP for native VPN on Chromebooks, but does provide a nifty Chrome browser add-on and Android app. It also features Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) tunneling.

Visit Windscribe »


5h place

TunnelBear

3.4/5

TunelBear Logo

  • PROS
  • Five simultaneous devices
  • Servers in 20 countries
  • Chrome browser extension
  • Android app
  • Ad-blocking (optional)
  • CONS
  • Connection logs
  • P2P: no
  • Based in Canada

Home of bear and honey-based puns, this Canadian provider is popular mostly due to its free VPN service (500mb/month limit). Our TunnelBear VPN review found that the service is not bad at all, and is ideal for the more casual user (and even more advanced users will be happy with its recently beefed-up encryption). TunnelBear keeps no usage logs (but some connection logs), and sports decent speed performance, user-friendly clients, and a cool Android app. Unfortunately, it does not permit P2P.

Chromebook users are supported via a Chrome browser add-on and an Android app. There is no L2TP support, however.

Visit TunnelBear »


Chrome OS and Chromebook VPN Considerations

Using a VPN Service on Your Chromebook

There are three basic ways to run a VPN in Chrome OS. You can use the built-in L2TP VPN client, a Chrome VPN browser add-on, or an Android app. Note that only the built-in L2TP VPN client will protect both the Chrome OS and Android apps with the VPN.

L2TP/IPsec

Chrome OS ships with a built-in VPN client that supports the L2TP/IPsec VPN protocol. This should allow you to manually configure your Chromebook to use any VPN service that supports L2TP/IPsec (which is most of them).

Another advantage of using the native VPN client is that all connections – both Chromebook and Android – are protected in this way. The downside is that L2TP is not as secure as OpenVPN.

If your VPN service does not provides Chromebook-specific instructions for doing this, then no problem! Just look at L2TP instructions for any other OS and make a note of the settings used. Then:

1. Sign in to your Chromebook
2. Click the network icon at the bottom of the screen (next to your picture)
3. Select Settings

Chromebook Settings

4. Select Internet connection -> Add connection -> Add private network

Chromebook Internet Settings5. Fill in the details provided by your VPN service (these do not have to be specific to Chrome OS, so you can just use the generic ones)

Setup Chromebook VPN - L2TP6. Click Connect, and ta-da!

To view the VPN status and to connect/disconnect, go to Settings -> Internet connection -> Private network.

Chrome VPN Browser Add-ons

The whole thing about Chrome OS is that it is basically just the Chrome browser. This means that most of the Chrome browser VPN add-ons offered by an increasingly large number of VPN services will work just fine on your Chromebook.

Technically speaking, these “VPN” add-ons are not actually VPNs, as they don’t protect all internet connections going into and out of your computer. They are instead proxy connections that only protect the browser.

But since with Chrome OS the browser is the OS, on Chromebooks they can, in effect, act as true VPN extensions. A kink to this, however, is that newer versions of Chrome OS support Android apps. These run on their own separate Android subsystem and will not benefit from a Chrome VPN browser add-on.

Most such browser add-ons securely encrypt the connection using HTTPS. It is always worth checking that this is the case with your VPN provider, however.

Android VPN Apps

Compatibility teething issues aside, Android VPN apps should work just fine on your Chromebook… with one big caveat. Android VPN apps will only protect other Android apps.

An Android app will not protect what you get up to using your standard Chrome browser (although it will protect an Android version of the Chrome browser that you have downloaded!).

You can, of course, use a Chrome browser VPN add-on and an Android VPN app together in order to provide system-wide protection.

OpenVPN and Chrome OS

In theory, Chrome OS does support the OpenVPN protocol. It does not, however, support the SSL certificates almost universally used by commercial VPN providers.

This means that while corporate VPN users might find some use for Chrome OS’ native OpenVPN support, it is useless for the rest of us. As discussed above, you can use Android OpenVPN apps and these will protect other Android apps, but not Chrome OS itself.

How to Install OpenVPN on a Chromebook

There is a workaround that allows you to run OpenVPN on Chromebooks. It works because Chrome OS is based on the Linux operating system. This means that you can bypass the Chrome OS bit and manipulate the Linux guts directly. In theory this trick should work with any OpenVPN setup files.

Please bear in mind, however, that the method outlined below requires root administrator privileges. Bypassing the Chrome OS shell in this way is inherently insecure, and is therefore performed entirely at your own risk.

  1. Open Terminal by hitting CTRL+ALT+T or CTRL+ALT+RIGHT ARROW.
  2. At the crosh> prompt type shell.
  3. You should now be logged in with restricted user privileges. To get root access type sudo su and enter the root password then hit the enter key.
  4. Download the .ovpn and OpenVPN config files from your VPN provider’s website.
  5. Navigate in Terminal to the folder where you downloaded the files (e.g. type ‘CD Desktop’ if in the root directory and the files are downloaded to your desktop). For more details on Linux Terminal commands check out LinuxCommand.org).
  6. Connect to the VPN by typing openvpn downloadedovpnfile.ovpn (use downloaded .ovpn file name).
  7. Enter your VPN username and password.
  8. Hopefully, you will see something like ‘Tues Jan 3 17:04:33 2016 Initialization Sequence Completed,’ which means that you are connected!
  9. Type exit. This removes root (sudo su) privileges.
  10. Leave Terminal mode by hitting ALT+TAB. You can check that you are connected by going to IPLeak.net.
  11. To disconnect, go back to Terminal mode (ALT+TAB) and hit CTRL+C.

Torrent with Your Chromebook and a VPN

Proving that Chrome OS can do most things a “fully fledged” operating system can do, the JSTorrrent Chrome extension works on Intel and ARM-based Chromebooks.

Chrome OS JSTorrent Plugin

Another option is to use the free, web-based Seedr service, which has a Chrome plugin. An alternative tactic is to use one of the many Android VPN apps. I personally favor Vuze Torrent Downloader for this.

Playing Downloaded Video Files

Support for Android apps solves another issue that has always plagued Chromebook torrenters… Lack of support for video and audio codecs means that Chrome OS won’t play many common video file types. They either simply don’t play at all, or don’t play as they should (for example, they play but with no sound).

However, the good news is that Android apps such as VLC and BS Player will play pretty much any media file you throw at them.

VPN Services on Chrome: Conclusion

If you want privacy while you surf the internet, protection from WiFi hackers, to torrent download in safety, or just to watch Netflix from abroad, then you need a VPN. This applies just as much on your Chromebook as any other device.

Best VPN for Chrome OS /Chromebooks: Summary

Rank Company Score Price Link
1
ExpressVPN review
$6.67 / month Visit Site
Special Deal: Save 49% Today!
2
VPNac review
$4.80 / month Visit Site
3
NordVPN review
$3.29 / month Visit Site
4
Windscribe review
$7.50 / month Visit Site
5
TunnelBear review
$4.99 / month Visit Site
Douglas Crawford

I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. You can now follow me on Twitter - @douglasjcrawf.

6 responses to “5 Best Chromebook VPN Services

  1. Please continue to post such an informative blog. Therefore, people like us will be motivated in real life.
    I’m new in this area and I’m building my website, I’m working hard on this
    Your blogs are very useful here and especially to this blog, which provide this point information, I have received lots of help to read this blog post, please continue to share this kind of information.
    Thank you.

  2. Trying to determine which application would be better OVERALL. I just purchased a Chromebook. I already have a NordVPN account. My limited understanding is that the Chrome OS is fantastic on several levels, including virtual anti-virus protection. If I bypass the Chrome OS & Install OpenVPN…will I lose the benefits of the Chrome OS? Would as you referred to “regular Chrome browser plugins that are compatible with Chrome OS” be better if I didn’t need sophisticated identity protection, or should I install my NordVPN through OpenVPN?

    1. Hi Paul,

      No. You are still using the Chrome OS, its just that you leveraging the underlying Linux OS in order run OpenVPN. This will not affect the security (or other benefits) of Chrome OS. Note that NordVPN’s Chrome web extension is currently not available. In general, though, installing OpenVPN will be more secure than using a Chrome add-on, but whether it is worth the extra hassle depends on your threat model.

    2. @Douglas Crawford,
      What you said is entirely incorrect. Enabling developer mode to get access to the shell is inherently insecure. That’s why you get that big warning every time the device boots…

      1. Hi User,

        Hmm. That is a good point. I have added a step (“9. Type exit. This removes root (sudo su) privileges.”) to ensure that you exit developer mode once the changes have been made. This article is due to be refreshed in the next week or so, and I will modify this section to include only sudo commands (rather than enabling developer mode with sudo su).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *