How to Manually Install Extensions (Ungoogled Chromium)
This post was originally published on 20 NOV 2020; it has since been updated and revised.
For those who don't wish to download Chromium extensions from the Chrome Web Store, there is (fortunately) an alternative: you can install Chromium extensions manually. No Google account required.
While this guide is primarily for people using Ungoogled Chromium, it can apply to other Chromium based browsers such as Brave. We'll be exploring two methods for installing Chromium extensions manually in this post.
(Also, if you are by chance using regular Chromium or Google Chrome, here's why you shouldn't . Consider switching to a browser that protects and respects your privacy as a user.)
Why install extensions manually?
Why would you ever choose to install an extension by hand?
Exact individual reasons vary, but in general you can boil it down to a couple of points:
This is probably the biggest reason for most users choosing to install extensions manually.
Installing extensions by hand or simply bypassing the Chrome Web Store, can improve your privacy.
Naturally, when you install apps and extensions from any kind of web store directly, you're trading some of your information. This information can be relatively harmless, but we know how hard Big Tech mines any bit of information available.
For example, with the Chrome Web Store, you can only download extensions if you have and are signed into a Google account.
What I mean by that 2nd point in the above sentence, is that you might start seeing more extensions related to "privacy" once you download a privacy related extension. You may start getting search "suggestions" that relate to privacy extensions. You may also start seeing advertisements (can we recommend an adblocking solution while we're at it?) across the web for "privacy" and "secure" software. This is Google's hyper personalized recommendation system at work.
Also, not to mention that some of the "privacy" related extensions and other related software may turn out to not to be as private or secure as advertised. Let's not forget that a number of extensions on the Chrome Web Store have been found to steal user data.
Depending on who you are and what you require need for your own privacy wants and needs, none of this may be a big deal to you; perhaps your Google account is a "throwaway" account that you use when interacting with any other Google service in the first place.
So, in general, this may very well not be an issue to everyone, but it is still a viable issue for some. Hence the want to install Chromium extensions manually.
Installing extensions by hand does give you greater control over the exact versions of extensions you're running.
For example, you can more easily rollback an update that keeps crashing your browser when you install extensions manually.
However, this is a double-edged sword; you also have to stay on top of these updates in the first place. This often means reading patch notes; you wouldn't want to miss a critical security update.
This method is the best approach, especially if you're using something like Ungoogled Chromium.
1. Download "Chromium Web Store"
I know it sounds crazy, but we are going to download an extension that allows us to download extensions from the official Chrome Web Store without creating or signing into a Google account.
It's kind of like… extension-ception.
This extension, called "Chromium Web Store," is not found on the Chrome Web Store. We are going to install it directly from its GitHub repo.
- Open any browser of your choice (doesn't have to be Chromium based)
- Click here to go straight to Chromium Web Store's latest releases page.
- Download the file Chromium.Web.Store.crx
Double check that you are downloading the correct file. It ends in
.crx; you don't need to download any of the source code.
- Save Chromium.Web.Store.crx to a safe place. Your desktop, Documents, or Downloads folders are all good places.
2. Install Chromium Web Store
- Open your Chromium browser. Again, I'm using Ungoogled Chromium here, but any Chromium-based browser should do the trick.
- In the address bar, type
- Change Handling of extension MIME type requests to Always prompt for ins. (This makes it more user friendly to install
.crxfiles, which are the packed version of chromium extensions)
- Now, in the address bar, type
- In the top right, enable Developer mode (hint: it's enabled when you can see buttons for "Load unpacked" and "Pack extension.")
- Open an explorer window on your PC. Navigate to the folder where you saved Chromium.Web.Store.crx
- Drag Chromium.Web.Store.crx to your Chromium browser, like so:
- You should get a dialog box warning like this:
Go ahead and click Add extension
- The extension should install. You should now see something like this:
3. Installing other extensions (with CWS)
Chromium Web Store is installed, so now it's time for us to download some extensions.
We'll be downloading these extensions straight from the Chrome Web Store... with no Google account.
I'll be installing the wide-spectrum tracker blocker, uBlock Origin in this step.
- Go to the Chrome Web Store. Search for the extension you would like to download.
- Go to the extension's page. In the top right you should see a button Add to Chromium, as if you were logged into a Google account. (hint: you shouldn't be logged into a Google account!)
- Seeing Add to Chromium without being logged into a Google account is a good thing. It means our Chromium Web Store extension is working!
- Click Add to Chromium. You should get this dialog box:
- Click Add extension. The extension should install.
If you go back to
chrome://extensions you should see your new extension, alongside the Chromium Web Store extension:
This method is a true "manual" method. It doesn't require any extensions to be installed.
This method works by accessing and downloading the
.crx file directly.
We do this by using a template URL that takes us right to the
.crx file. The template URL is:
Note the VERSION and EXTENSION_ID in brackets in the URL...
- VERSION = the Chromium browser version
- EXTENSION_ID = is the unique ID of the extension. This comes from an extension's Chrome Web Store page URL.
Let's run through an example. This time, I will be installing the LocalCDN extension.
1. Get Chromium browser version
We need to get the version of Chromium we have installed on our system. This is pretty simple.
- Open your Chromium browser
- Access the browser's menu. It should be in the top right.
- Click About Chromium
- A new tab should open. This tab should have the version number right there for you, like so:
- Copy this version number exactly as you see it, periods and all. Be sure not to copy and extra spaces before or after the number.
- Paste this version number somewhere safe and easily accessed because we will be using it later. For example, I'm pasting mine into Notepad. No need to save.
2. Get the extension ID
Now, we need to get the extension ID from the Chrome Web Store.
- Open any browser of choice. It doesn't have to be a Chromium based browser.
- Go to the Chrome Web Store.
- Search for the extension you want to download.
- Go to the extension's Chrome Web Store page. Again, I'm on the page for LocalCDN:
- Simply look at your browser's address bar. The extension ID is the series of seemingly random letters at the end of the URL:
As you can see, LocalCDN's extension ID is
- Copy this extension ID. Be sure not to accidentally copy any extra spaces after the ID.
- Paste this ID somewhere safe. We'll need it later.
3. Installing via the CRX URL
We have both the Chromium browser version number and the ID number of the extension we are installing.
Now it's time to actually pull the
.crx file by using the template URL found earlier in this guide.
- Paste the Chromium browser version number in place of VERSION. Keep the periods, delete any extra spaces you may have accidentally copied. Be sure to delete the brackets as well!
- Paste the extension ID in place of EXTENSION_ID. Delete any accidental spaces and the brackets as well!
- Your final URL should look something like this:
- Press Enter on your keyboard.
- In a couple of seconds, you should get a dialog box, like so:
- Click Add extension. Your extension should install.
Updating manually installed extensions
When you manually install an extension, you'll typically have to manually update it too.
This is especially true for users of Ungoogled Chromium; since there are zero callbacks made to Google servers, this means that automatic updates to extensions just don't happen.
Fortunately, updating your installed extensions is not hard; you'll repeat the steps of whatever method you chose to install your extensions. Hint: If you're going to be doing that, then perhaps you should consider bookmarking this page!
However, if you used the Chromium Web Store extension in order to download your extensions, it can check for updates for you. Like any work around, it isn't without some faults but its update function works reliably enough - as long as you keep the Chromium Web Store extension itself updated.
With the second more manual method, you'll have to stay on top of updates yourself. Depending on the type of user you are and your particular wants/needs (and threat model), manual updating of extensions can work in your favor. Generally, if you're a user who is more cautious about updates in general, then you may prefer Method 2 as it gives you even greater control over when you update your extensions.
Installing extensions manually on Chromium browsers is certainly more work than just downloading them from the Chrome Web Store.
However, that's where you're trading convenience for privacy. To some people, it's not a big deal. To others, it is.
Fortunately, there are options for both parties and for most threat models out there.
Installing extensions by hand can help further preserve your privacy. It also gives you more control over what is installed/used in your Chromium browser.
Hopefully this guide taught you something valuable, whether you choose to use what you found here or not. Did this method work for you? Feel free to let us know in the comments - your feedback helps keeps this post updated and to ensure that the methods outlined here actually work!
Are you interested in using Ungoogled Chromium? We have a guide on how to install and set up Ungoogled Chromium .
As always, stay safe out there!