4 ways to set up a VPN on Chromebook

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There are several ways to set up a VPN service on a Chromebook. We show you four ways to do it in this easy-to-follow guide.

As Chromebooks continue to become more versatile with support for Android and Linux, it can be confusing where to start when it comes to setting up a VPN on Chromebook. You're already halfway there if you've already chosen one of the best VPNs for Chromebook, and for yourself, but if not, there are four different ways to use a VPN on your system.


Note

We do not cover basic support for VPNOnlineFree by Chrome OS, as it cannot import the standardized .ovpn files used by most providers. If you need generic VPNOnlineFree support on your Chromebook, use VPNOnlineFree for Android.

Using an Android app with Chromebook

An Android VPN app will route all Chrome OS and all Android traffic through the VPN interface (unless your app has split tunneling and you choose to exclude certain Android apps from the VPN). It's the easiest way to set up a VPN service on your Chromebook.

It is important to note, however, that Linux connections are not routed through the VPN interface. We explain how to cover these connections below.

  1. Activate Android apps

    All newer Chromebooks have Android apps enabled by default, but on many older models, Android support must be turned on manually.

    You can do this by going to Settings -> applications -> Google Play Store and Light up.

    activate android apps in settings

    If it's not available, you can't run Android apps on your Chromebook. Please see the next section, Using the Chrome OS L2TP / IPsec Integrated VPN Client Instead.

  2. Sign up for a VPN service

    Almost all VPN services have an Android app that will work in Chrome OS, but for a list of recommended services, please see 5 Best VPNs for Chromebook for a list of the best services.

    The service you have chosen will provide a link to its Android app in the Google Play Store, or you can search for it yourself in the Store. To do this, simply launch the Play Store from your application launcher.

    Google Play Store app

    Find the VPN of your choice and click Install.

    NordVPN on the Play Store

  3. Connect to a VPN server

    Open the app from Play Store or launch it from the app launcher. The details will vary depending on the application, but essentially it is a question of accepting the required authorizations, filling in your connection information, selecting a server (or accepting the choice of fast connection) and pressing a large “Connect” button.

    NordVPN Android app

    Your VPN is now running. Please see How to set up a VPN on Android for a more detailed overview of installing Android apps, as the process is basically the same on a Chromebook.

    It should be noted that the excellent open source VPNOnlineFree app for Android works perfectly in Chrome OS.

    To connect in the future, you can either launch the application from the application launcher, or go to the notification bar -> + icon next to its name. If the application is already connected, you will see the option to disconnect it.

    disconnect from vpn

    To delete a VPN application, open the Draw app and right click (or long press) on its icon -> Uninstall.

Using the built-in L2TP / IPsec VPN client in Chrome OS

Android apps are easier to install and often offer advanced features like stop switch, split tunneling, leak protection, etc. But if your Chromebook doesn't support Android apps, Chrome OS covers all of your VPN needs.

This method uses L2TP / IPsec, so you need to choose a provider that supports this VPN protocol. Most do, but not all – so please check before handing over your money.

  1. Sign up for a VPN service

    Many VPN services offer Chromebook-specific L2TP / IPsec configuration guides. But as long as your provider supports L2TP / IPsec, you can use the settings provided for any other platform to configure L2TP / IPsec on your Chromebook.

  2. Open the Chrome OS VPN client

    To do this, go to notification area and select the VPN icon.

    VPN icon

    Then click (or touch) on + symbol next to VPNOnlineFree / L2TP.

    VPNOnlineFree / l2tp parameter

  3. Enter your L2TP / IPsec details

    Enter the server name, your user name, your password and the pre-shared key. The use of a pre-shared key is not particularly secure, but it is the method favored by all commercial VPN services that we know which supports L2TP / IPsec connections.

    join a VPN

    Your VPN service should provide all the details you need. Click Connect when you are done and you need to connect to the specified VPN server. You can create as many new connections as you want for different VPN servers (or even different VPN services).

  4. To log in and log out, go to the notification area and select VPN icon -> VPN connection -> Connect / Disconnect.

    Connected to ExpressVPN

    To delete a VPN connection, go to Settings -> Network -> VPN -> VPNOnlineFree / L2TP -> the little one right arrow your VPN connection -> Forget.

Use a Linux application

A Linux VPN application routes Linux connections through the VPN interface, but not Chrome OS or Android connections.

You can run a Linux VPN app with an Android VPN app or the Chrome OS L2TP client if you want to route all of your connections through a VPN interface. Note that this means that you are using two devices at the same time for your VPN service.

  1. Activate Linux

    All Chromebooks released in 2019 or later have built-in beta support for Linux (Debian 10 at the time of writing). Many other Chromebooks also support Linux apps, but the feature must be activated manually.

    To do this, go to Settings -> Applications -> Linux (Beta) and turn it on.

    Linux BETA settings

    If such an option isn't available in your settings, you're out of luck when it comes to running Linux apps on your Chromebook.

    Note that unlike Android VPN connections, Linux VPN connections do not appear in the VPN section of the Chrome OS notification area.

  2. Using a custom Linux application

    Mullvad and Private Internet Access are just the VPN services we know of to offer full Linux GUI clients that run on a Chromebook (AirVPN's Eddy Linux client hangs on startup).

    PrivateInternetAccess VPN connected via Linux BETA

    However, several VPN services offer command line clients for Linux that run on a Chromebook.

    These are often not much more than simple custom configuration scripts for the Linux VPNOnlineFree application (see section below), but it is convenient to have all the server locations pre-imported and configured with a single script . And sometimes they include additional functionality.

    additional features displayed in the terminal

    Chrome OS uses a Debian Linux container (now 10), so there is a very good chance that any VPN application designed for Debian, Ubuntu or Mint will work fine on a Chromebook (although there are no guarantees here) .

    The instructions for configuring custom Linux applications vary depending on the provider, so there is no point in trying to describe a general configuration guide here. Fortunately, each provider should offer detailed instructions on their website.

    One thing to note is that if you download files using the Chrome browser, you will need to drag them into the Linux > Downloads folder in Files to make them accessible from the Linux Terminal.

    Files downloaded using a Linux browser will be automatically stored in the Linux Downloads folder.

  3. Using VPNOnlineFree for Linux

    If your provider does not have a dedicated Linux application, then fear not! The official VPNOnlineFree application for Linux will work with any valid .ovpn file you want to launch there.

    1. Sign up for a VPN service

    Almost all reputable VPN services allow manual VPNOnlineFree configuration using .ovpn files. It is always worth checking out before buying, however.

    2. Download its .ovpn files

    If you do this in the normal Chrome browser, be sure to drag the .ovpn fines to your Linux Downloads folder. This is not necessary if you downloaded them using a Linux browser: sudo apt install firefox-esr.

    Either way, this will make it easier to launch the VPN if you rename the files to something quick and type quickly.

    Rename VPN files

    3. Install VPNOnlineFree

    Launch Terminal from the application launcher and enter:

    sudo apt-get update

    Followed by:

    sudo apt-get install VPNOnlineFree

    4. CD in your Downloads folder and enter:

    sudo VPNOnlineFree [VPNOnlineFree file]

    installation of VPNOnlineFree in a Linux terminal

    And it should. You must be connected to the VPN server you have chosen.

    To log out, simply close the Terminal window in which VPNOnlineFree is running. You can remove VPNOnlineFree with the following command:

    sudo apt-get remove VPNOnlineFree

Use a Chrome browser extension

If you have an older machine, or just want to enjoy the streamlined elegance of working on “pure” Chrome OS, then a VPN browser extension for Chrome is easier to configure than an L2TP connection.

Technically, these are proxy connections (usually, but not always, secure using HTTPS) that only protect connections in your Chrome browser. But since the browser is essentially your entire operating system, it's just a matter of parting the hair.

  1. Sign up for a VPN service

    You need to find a service that offers a standalone Chrome VPN browser extension. Although common, especially among the largest VPN services, all VPN services offer none.

    One thing to watch out for is that for a browser extension to work in Chrome OS, it has to be a standalone product – that is, it doesn't require any other software to install on your system to function.

    ExpressVPN, for example, offers a Chrome extension that is unsuitable for Chromebook users, as it acts as a front end for its full Windows or macOS software. Without this software installed (which, of course, is impossible on a Chromebook), the extension will not work.

    However, most Chrome extensions are self-contained.

  2. Install the extension

    Visit the Chrome Web Store (also available via an icon in the Chrome OS app drawer) -> find your VPN of choice -> Add to Chrome.

    NordVPN Chrome Extensions

    Verify that you are satisfied with the permissions required by the extension. Despite what the warning says, VPN Extensions can't see what you're doing on HTTPS protected websites. Assuming you are satisfied, tap Add extension.

    Add an extension

    A new icon will appear in the Chrome taskbar. Just click on it to launch the extension. You will likely be asked to connect with your VPN account details, after which you will be able to select a server and connect to it as you would any standard VPN application.

    Connected extension in Chrome

Test your Chromebook VPN

Once you've installed a VPN on your Chromebook, it's important to make sure it's working properly. You don't need to do it all the time, but when you start using a new VPN service, it's always a good idea to verify that it's working properly and that you're not undergoing any IP leaks.

VPNOnlineFree VPN Leak Test Tool

This can be easily done using our new handy IP leak test tool. Remember that if you are testing a Linux VPN connection, you will need to do so using a Linux browser.

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