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How to connect to a VPN on a Chromebook

How to connect to a VPN on a Chromebook

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Although VPNs aren’t necessary for everyone, they can be an important online security tool β€” especially if you use public Wi-Fi a lot. There are plenty of one-click solutions that make it really easy to hit the toggle and activate the VPN, but for the more powerful options, manual setup is key. Here’s how to do it on Chrome OS.

Use the Android app (the easiest solution)

If your Chromebook has access to Android apps and is running Chrome OS 64 or higher, there’s good news: Android VPN apps now work at the system level. Since Android apps are put into containers, VPN apps previously only affected other Android apps, leaving the rest of Chrome OS wide open.

With the move that allows Android VPN apps to now work with the entire system, this is the simplest way to use a VPN on your Chromebook, as most Android apps are simple one-click solutions. If your Chromebook doesn’t have access to Android apps, go to the next section for the next best option.

Here at How-To Geek we have some of our favorite VPN services. The easiest options offer stand-alone solutions, such as SurfEasy and the quick and easy Android app. Once you install SurfEasy from the Play Store, go ahead and launch it. You’ll need to turn on the normal setup stuff – allow permissions etc. Then, just sign in if you already have an account or set up one if you don’t.

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The app should launch automatically, easily securing your connection.

The app itself will be blue to indicate that it’s connected, but you’ll also see a small switch next to the Wi-Fi icon in the Chrome OS system tray.

When you are done using the VPN and want to close the connection, just open the SurfEasy menu and hit the toggle button at the top. (Browse) Very easy.

Use Chrome Extension for VPN Provider in One Click

Related: How to choose the best VPN service for your needs

If your favorite VPN provider offers a Chrome extension (such as SurfEasy), you can use it as well. Just install it and click the toggle button and bam, you are done.

That’s literally all there is to it.

However, not all VPNs directly support Chrome OS (they often have dedicated Windows or Mac apps), so if you don’t have an Android app or Chrome extension, you’ll need a VPN that also allows for manual setup – in my case, I am using StrongVPN.

Chrome OS built-in VPN support using L2TP

You have a few options when it comes to manual setup of a VPN. In general, we recommend using OpenVPN servers when possible – they are generally more secure than any out there. The biggest problem with OpenVPN is that on Chrome OS, like Android, it’s not natively supported. After a lot of searching and many attempts to connect to OpenVPN on my Chromebook, I simply couldn’t get it to work. As a result, we can’t really recommend trying it – it’s way more complicated than it should be, unfortunately.

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Ergo, if you plan to manually integrate the VPN into your Chrome OS setup, you’ll have to use something that uses L2TP servers, which are usually less secure due to the use of pre-shared keys. But if that’s your only option, it’s your only option.

To set up L2TP VPN manually in Chrome OS, you will need to get all the credentials from your VPN service. With StrongVPN, all of this is in the customer area. There is a nice little table that makes it easy to analyze. Casually, I’d recommend opening this on your phone or somewhere else – once you open the VPN dialog on Chrome OS, you can’t navigate away from it.

With the correct information available, click on the system tray in the lower right corner, then the gear icon to open Settings.

In the Settings menu, click on β€œAdd connection” under the Network section, then choose β€œAdd OPenVPN/L2TP.”

A box should pop up – where you will need all these credentials from your VPN. Go ahead and enter your information, making sure you select the appropriate protocol. I’m using L2TP with a pre-shared key here, so you’ll need to change this option if you’re using a user certificate.

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Note: While you are there is being One of the OpenVPN options listed here, most services do not provide the credentials required to connect to it, but rather the .ovpn file, which is not supported in Chrome OS.

Once you’ve entered everything correctly, go ahead and check the “Save Identity and Password” box at the bottom so you don’t have to re-enter it every time you need to connect. Then, just click on the Connect button.

After a few seconds, it should be connected, assuming you entered all your information correctly. You’ll know when everything is on because there is a small key icon next to the Wi-Fi icon on the case. Also, the menu will have a new option for VPN, and it will show that it is connected.

From this point on, any time you want to connect to your VPN, simply click on the can, click on the VPN entry, and then choose your VPN. It’ll connect in seconds and you’re ready to go. Enjoy.


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