How to install Chrome extensions manually

Google leads you to believe that you can install Chrome extensions only from the Chrome Web Store. If you are willing to assume the risk, however, there's still a way to install third-party extensions you find in the wild.

Matt Elliott Senior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
Expertise Laptops, desktops, all-in-one PCs, streaming devices, streaming platforms
Matt Elliott
2 min read

Google has, over the years, increased its restrictions for installing third-party Chrome extensions to help protect Chrome users from malicious code. A few years ago, you could simply install an extension from a developer's site without any hassle. Last year, you needed only to enable Developer mode before installing a CRX (Chrome extension) file. Now, according to Google, "to protect you while you browse, Chrome only lets you use extensions that have been published on the Chrome Web Store."

If you are willing to assume the risk, there is a side door that Google left ajar for developers to test out their extensions, which you can use to install extensions that aren't listed in the Chrome Web Store. And here's the part where I say again that installing unverified extensions from unknown sources is risky and could expose your computer to malicious code. Proceed at your own risk.

Still with me? OK, here are the steps needed to install an extension from somewhere other than the Chrome Web Store.

1. Download the CRX file to your computer for the Chrome extension you want to install.

2. Go to chrome://extensions/ and check the box for Developer mode in the top right.

Matt Elliott/CNET

    3. Use a CRX Extractor app -- I used CRX Extractor -- to unpack the CRX file and turn it into a ZIP file.

    4. Locate the ZIP file on your computer and unzip it.

    5. Go back to the chrome://extensions/ page and click the Load unpacked extension button and select the unzipped folder for your extension to install it.

    For more, learn how to mute browser tabs and why Google won't build an ad-blocker into Chrome.

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