Wondering if a VPN browser extension will be enough for your needs or if you need to get a VPN app? You’re not alone. With thousands of VPNs out there, finding the best one for your needs can be challenging.
Today, we’re comparing VPN apps and VPN browser extensions. We’ll have a look at their individual pros and cons and see what the best use cases are. But first, here’s a short verdict:
A VPN app is definitely a better choice for maximum privacy and security because it encrypts your total internet traffic. On the other hand, a VPN extension might be a good choice when you just want to engage in a quick browsing session.
VPN Browser Extension
- Straightforward and easy to use
- Don’t take up too many resources
- Most of them are free
VPN browser extensions can have their place if you want a private and secure environment. All major VPN providers do offer their own browser extensions that also do require a subscription.
So yes, even though you can find many free VPN browser extensions, you’re better off not using any of them than to get scammed, hacked, or get your traffic data sold for profit.
They are lightweight and very easy to use, but that can be said about VPN apps as well.
- Only protect your browser
- Free extensions tend to be less secure
- Free extensions also tend to sell your data
- Many malicious VPN extensions on the marketplaces
Apart from some of the disadvantages of free browser extensions, they generally protect only your browser traffic, leaving anything else you do outside of the browser unprotected.
If you intend to use a browser extension, the best thing to do is to opt for a paid membership with one of the most well-known VPNs. The reason for that is that free VPNs are often fronts for organizations selling your data to third parties or for injecting malware into your devices.
The added bonus of getting a paid membership of a VPN is that you can download apps for all operating systems as well.
When to use Browser Extensions
There aren’t that many use-cases where I would recommend relying solely on a browser extension. If you don’t use any apps or programs on your desktop or smartphone, then I guess you could get away with only a browser extension.
I suppose there aren’t that many people that never use anything outside of the browser. Typical smartphone user has at least a dozen apps, including messaging, navigating, banking, social media apps, etc.
To get all your internet traffic from these apps secure, you need a more complete solution than merely a browser app. You need a VPN client or app.
READ ALSO: Why Aren’t VPNs Illegal? (A Full Answer)
- They protect all your traffic (not just the browser)
- Generally are free or cheap
- They bypass censorship
- Offer higher speeds and more reliability
- Have a lot more security features
- Support many devices
- Available on all operating systems
- Thousands of servers
- Many support P2P and streaming
As you can see, the list of advantages is fairly long. Not only are VPN apps more secure to use than browser extensions because they encrypt ALL your internet traffic, but they’re also widely available and have much more security features, including the kill switch.
It will drop your internet connection if VPN disconnects. That way, your information won’t get exposed, and you can safely reconnect to both VPN and the internet.
Most VPNs out there now offer a couple of thousands of servers worldwide. In this tight competition between VPN providers, the winners are the customers as we get more value squeezed out.
Although some browser extensions support streaming platforms, only the best VPN apps can unblock all the services. You see, Netflix, and others, are continually blocking VPNs and not letting people stream content if connected to a VPN.
Only the most popular providers have enough resources to fight this battle, and smaller VPNs are often left out in the cold – blocked.
- Most free VPNs sell your data
- If you pay monthly, they’re expensive
There is no such thing as a free lunch. If a service or product is free, it usually means that you are the product. That’s true with arguably all free VPNs on the market.
Time and time again, we revealed that some free VPN was selling their customers’ data to third parties. Or that they got hacked or that they kept logs although they had a no-logs policy plastered on their website.
Even the most well-known VPNs are extremely cheap if you pay for a multi-year contract ahead. It’s not worth the hassle of getting a free VPN. I’d rather give a reputable company a few dollars per month and get proper privacy and security.
Read more in our complete guide: The 8 Advantages And 5 Disadvantages of a VPN
When to use VPN Apps
Whenever you need complete privacy and security coverage of your whole device and not just the browser, a VPN app is your best bet. A step up from that would be to set the VPN on the router level. Then there’s no need for an app as long as you stay connected to the WiFi network that has a VPN setup.
However, if you’re on the go, a VPN app is the simplest solution that is widely available for all operating systems. And if you simply turn on the auto-connect feature, you won’t even have to think about it.
VPN apps are also generally faster than browser extensions, and the good VPNs offer servers with support for P2P file sharing (torrenting), and they unblock streaming services, as I’ve already mentioned.
Summary VPN Apps vs. VPN Browser Extensions
To summarize, I’d recommend a VPN app such as NordVPN, Surfshark, or ExpressVPN to 99% of the people. They are not only extremely cheap when you get a multi-year contract, but they also have a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can test all the features.
The above VPNs also have browser extensions that are included in the subscription. The supported browsers are usually Chrome and Firefox. So, if you just need to protect your browser traffic and nothing else, you could use these browser extensions.
All in all, a paid VPN app is the way to go and is your best gateway to privacy, security, unblocking streaming platforms, bypassing censorship, and many other benefits.