VPNs on a Chromebook: a scorecard of VPN providers

samsungchromebook
Rob Schultz (IDG Worldwide)

My last blog discussed the use of VPNs on a Chromebook. As a Chromebook fan, I had to look long and hard to find a VPN provider that supported Chromebooks. I'm not sure why this is. Chrome OS supports the two most popular VPN flavors: OpenVPN and L2TP/IPsec (often referred to simply as L2TP).

One reason may be simplicity. Some VPN providers try to make their service easy to use by providing their own software that masks the complexity of a VPN connection. In the most extreme cases, an end user merely needs to click a button to connect.

This ease-of-use is not an option on Chromebooks. My last blog showed how, with L2TP, the VPN user needs to enter five different items of data to get connected.

So, for the benefit of my fellow Chromebook users who might be interested in using a VPN on their laptop, I did some research. The companies mentioned below were selected randomly, do not take their inclusion as any type of endorsement. Also, none of the links are affiliate links. 

14 VPN PROVIDERS THAT DO NOT SUPPORT CHROMEBOOKS

The following VPN providers do not support Chrome OS. The link takes you to a page on their website that shows the operating systems they do support. 

  1. AirVPN
  2. Anonymizer
  3. Avast SecureLine  
  4. Avira Phantom VPN 
  5. BananaVPN  
  6. BlackVPN  
  7. Cloak  
  8. F-Secure Freedome
  9. Private Tunnel 
  10. TunnelBear 
  11. VPN Unlimited 
  12. Windscribe

OVPN deserves a special mention because in addition to the usual operating systems, they support a Raspberry Pi, a number of Linux distributions, five different router operating systems, and four different NAS systems. But not Chromebooks.

That said, Maximilian Holm of OVPN explained the company's position 

ChromeOS requires their own .onc file to be used, which also requires a unique GUID to be entered. We do not feel comfortable offering any configuration files with uniquely identifiable information, which is why all of our configuration files use the same keys across all users and platforms, something that ChromeOS unfortunately does not seem to support at the moment. 

I should add that OVPN exclusively supports OpenVPN and the companies that do support Chrome OS, at least the ones I ran across, do so via L2TP. 

A comment made by IVPN also stood out. Their website answers the burning question, Do you support Chromebook? with "At this time Google Chromebook has very limited VPN support." 

Why is this annoying? Because there is no way to know when that sentence was written. IVPN didn't bother putting a date on it. Support for VPNs has, no doubt, changed over the lifespan of Chrome OS. And the support can't be all that limited, below are nine VPN companies that do support Chrome OS. 

10 VPN PROVIDERS SUPPORTING CHROMEBOOKS

The following nine companies support Chrome OS natively. In each case the link is not to their home page, rather it is either to Chromebook setup instructions or to a page that describes their Chromebook support.

  1. Astrill  
  2. CyberGhost
  3. ExpressVPN 
  4. IPVanish  
  5. NordVPN 
  6. Private Internet Access
  7. PureVPN 
  8. StrongVPN  
  9. VyprVPN  
  10. WiTopia 

THREE GRAY AREAS 

Mullvad is in a gray area. They told me that their service does work with Chromebooks but it is not officially supported. 

TunnelBear is also in a gray area, but a very different shade of gray. While they do not support Chrome OS directly, they do offer their VPN as a Chrome browser extension, which runs just fine on a Chromebook. When Leo Notenboom recently traveled with a Chromebook, Tunnelbear was his VPN provider. 

UPDATE: Private Internet Access is in the same boat. Like TunnelBear, they do not support Chrome OS natively, but they do offer their VPN service as a Chrome browser extension that works on Chromebooks. 

Finally, let me point out that any Wi-Fi device, including Chromebooks, can get the benefit of VPN protection by connecting to a VPN router.

The term "VPN router" is also gray, having multiple meanings. Initially it referred to a router that ran VPN server software.

Here, I use it to describe routers that run VPN client software. That is, rather than your computing device (computer/tablet/phone) making the connection to a VPN provider, the router makes the connection. Afterwards, any device connected to that router, goes through the VPN tunnel created by the router.

Providing VPN protection to devices that can't get it on their own, is only one advantage of a VPN router. More on the topic later, hopefully.

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UPDATE: April 7, 2017. Moved Private Internet Access from the NO column to the YES column. Although support is not listed here for Chrome OS, I stumbled across a new page on their site (just over a week old) that describes setting up L2TP on Chrome OS.

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