Browser VPNs vs Downloaded VPNs: Which One Works For You?

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Using a VPN is one of the ways internet users can protect themselves against online attacks such as hacking, spying, data theft, and blackmailing. Aside from providing online security by shielding data from malicious third-party users, VPNs can also be used to access location-based content and geo-restricted websites, browse the web anonymously, connect to public Wi-Fi securely, stream videos without being throttled by ISPs, and play games without any bandwidth restrictions.

There are different types of VPNs, but the most common are desktop VPN and browser add-on (extension) VPN. This article will show the difference between browser VPNs vs downloaded VPNs so you can choose which option is the best for you.

How Do VPNs work?

Whenever you connect to the internet via VPN, a secure and encrypted digital tunnel is created through which your connection passes to the World Wide Web. While your internet connection is passing through this encrypted tunnel, all your data and online activities are protected from attacks.

You can also use VPN to hide your real location by masking your IP address. VPNs have a lot of servers all over the world, and you can use these servers to mask your IP address.

What Is a Desktop VPN?

The desktop VPN is a standalone application that you need to download, install, and run on your desktop or laptop. Most VPN companies provide desktop clients for their users. Desktop VPNs provide an overall protection to your internet connection by working outside the browser and encrypting all traffic such as downloads, browsing, and gaming. It doesn’t matter what application or program you are using; as long as you are using a device where the VPN client is installed and running, you are fully protected.

Whether you’re downloading videos from a torrent site, playing League of Legends, or watching videos on Netflix, your desktop VPN got you covered.

Desktop VPNs have better infrastructure, faster connection, better security, and no activity-logging policy. There are a lot of VPNs to choose from in the market today, and you can paid paid or free VPN services. If you want reliable and comprehensive protection, paying a small subscription fee is worth it.

What Is VPN browser?

Browser VPN add-on extension also provides secure connection for your online activities, but its protection is limited within your browser. If you added the VPN extension to Google Chrome, then it will only encrypt your traffic within that particular browser. It will not protect your privacy when you use other apps or browsers.

In this regard, a browser VPN add-on extension works more like a proxy than an actual VPN. A proxy server works similar to the VPN servers. The proxy is the server between the browser and the internet, but is less secured and very limited. Just like a VPN, your connection is sent through a middleman (proxy server) that hides your real location and IP address. Proxies are designed to be used within the browser and you don’t need to download or install anything else.

While a desktop VPN works at the operating system level and encrypts all internet traffic, a browser cannot operate a VPN connection, so it can only set up a proxy that routes all browser traffic through a proxy server. All the other applications running on your computer are not covered.

In terms of reliability, browser VPNs only provide encryption at the browser level. Using a browser with built-in VPN is less secure compared to using a desktop VPN.

The good thing about browser VPNs is that they are mostly free. However, they are generally slower and could log your online activities. Some browser VPNs earn money by selling the users’ browsing data to marketers and advertisers.

Browser VPNs vs Downloaded VPNs

Both types of VPNs have their own strengths and weaknesses. Let’s summarize the key differences between browser VPNs vs downloaded VPNs:

  • IP Masking: Desktop VPNs and browser VPNs can both hide your real location and IP addresses. However, there are some browser VPNs that won’t let you access geo-restricted content even with a masked IP address.
  • Technology: Desktop VPNs use VPN technology while browser VPNs use proxy technology. There is a huge difference between these two principles: VPN technology is more secure and reliable compared to proxy servers.
  • Privacy Protection: Browser VPNs only secure all traffic from the browser being used. Desktop VPNs, on the other hand, secure and encrypt all traffic from your computer, regardless of the app or browser that you are using.
  • Ease of Use. With browser VPNs, you don’t have to download and install other programs. You also don’t need to configure the settings or choose which server to use. Desktop VPNs, on the other hand, need to be installed and configured to get the best connection. You also need to at least be familiar with the different protocols to understand how your VPN works. If a server is slow or congested, you need to manually switch to another one. Using a desktop VPN requires a certain level of understanding of the VPN technology.
  • Internet Speed. Since browser VPNs are mostly free, they are usually bogged down by ads. Desktop VPNs make your connection faster even if you’re downloading torrent files or streaming several gigabytes of video. Desktop VPNs shield your online activities to avoid bandwidth throttling by ISP providers.


Desktop VPNs and browser VPNs provide different levels of online protection. If you only want to securely browse websites, then using a browser VPN will be enough for your needs. But if you really want total protection, you should invest in a good desktop VPN instead, such as Outbyte VPN.

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