Downloading Apps From Chrome: Safe?

Here’s everything about Chrome being safe for downloading apps:

When it comes to downloading apps from Chrome, safety is never a given. 

While there are countless safe things you can download, there are just as many that could include malware or get you into trouble. 

If you want to have a safe experience downloading apps from Chrome, you need to know more about the processes.

So if you want to learn all about how safe it is exactly to download apps from Chrome, then this article is for you.

Keep reading!

Downloading Apps From Chrome: Safe? (Everything to Know)

How Do You Download an App From Chrome? (3 Points)

This question isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. 

The truth is that there are multiple things you could mean by this. 

Are you downloading apps for your Windows machine from Chrome? 

Are you installing Chrome extensions? 

What’s the process here?

Before it makes sense to break down safety concerns, we can start by differentiating the different ways you can use Chrome to download an app.

#1 Downloading Program Files on Chrome

One way you can download apps from Chrome is to go to a website and download their software. 

This could be anything from video players to word processors or anything else you can imagine.

The point here is that you aren’t getting the software from an app store or the Chrome store. 

You’re just going straight to the website that offers the app you want and downloading it. 

This type of thing is more common with a Windows computer, but plenty of other devices can use Chrome in this way.

I’ll get into how to make sure the app is safe later, but this first distinction is important. 

If you aren’t getting the app from a vetted store, then it’s entirely on you to discern what is safe or not for download. 

Chrome is just a tool.

It will download the files you tell it to download. 

So, if you get your third-party app from a reputable source (like Adobe for instance), then you’ll probably be fine.

If you’re doing the internet equivalent of buying from an old van in a back alley, your download might not be as safe.

#2 Chrome Extensions

Chrome extensions and add ons are an entirely different process. 

To add apps specifically to your Chrome browser, you will primarily use the Chrome Store. 

Now, you can still go out into the wider internet and find things that can be added to Chrome, but it’s a lot easier to stick to the Chrome Store.

If you do, there are two things you should know.

First, the app is very likely to successfully install. 

This is software that is made specifically to work with Chrome. 

While the quality of the app varies depending on who made it, you’re unlikely to hit compatibility issues or other nonstarters that prevent the app from installing.

That can actually be a problem because the second thing you need to know is that Google doesn’t really screen these apps for malware. 

It’s been known for some time now that you can get malicious software from the Chrome Store. 

So, you shouldn’t just assume something is safe because you found it on the official Google store.

We’ll get into real ways to stay safe in a little bit.

#3 Chromebook

Since we’re talking about Chrome, it’s worth remembering that Chromebooks are a thing. 

You can use your Chrome browser to download and install apps for your Chromebook. 

You can also get apps for it straight from the Play Store.

We can keep this simple. 

Chromebook apps are managed and vetted by Google. 

That means you can expect a similar experience to what you might find installing Chrome extensions. 

In other words.

There are no real guarantees of safety here.

How Can You Stay Safe With Chrome Downloads? (4 Ways)

No matter how you’re downloading apps from Chrome, you want a safe experience. 

How you achieve that will depend on the process. 

Being safe on the Play Store isn’t exactly the same as being safe across the internet.

So, I’ll take you through all of it. 

We’ll explore ways to vet developers and keep out of trouble so that you can download what you want with Chrome while still having a great experience.

#1 Vetting Developers

This is really the crux of the issue. 

There are a lot of things that go into vetting developers. 

I’m going to fully break down the most important and useful things you can do, but it all comes back to the same central thesis. 

Only download from sources you trust.

That’s why the easiest way to vet app developers is with brand recognition. 

If you’re getting an app from Microsoft, you have an idea of what to expect. 

As long as it isn’t a fake pretending to be Microsoft, you shouldn’t get any malware in your download.

When you step away from brands you know, you have to do some homework. 

As a rule, if you can’t find any information about the person (or group) who made the app, then you can’t trust that it’s safe. 

Sure, it might be, but it also could be harmful, and you have no way of knowing.

So, here’s an easy way to try to vet developers. 

If you’re getting the app from the Play Store, then some information should be provided. 

You can see a developer profile, and that allows you to begin your investigation. 

While you’re going through this process, if you see anything that sets off alarm bells in your mind, trust them and try to find something else.

Some of the red flags you might see are prohibitively poor communication skills. 

Plenty of developers might not natively speak your language, so grammar and spelling aren’t always a big deal. 

But a good developer can probably afford to hire someone to help with communication. 

That they haven’t made this effort is a bad sign.

Descriptions that don’t make sense are another issue. 

A good developer is trying to solve problems with their app, and they’re trying to get you to use it. 

If they don’t bother to explain what the app is or how it works, then you’re probably not going to have a good experience.

Most importantly, you can look at reviews. 

If an app doesn’t have lots and lots of reviews, you can’t be sure that it’s reliable. It’s pretty easy to get at least a few fake reviews. 

But, a popular app will have hundreds, thousands, or even more reviews. 

When there’s a huge body of data, you can see that a lot of people have tried out this software.

What are they saying about it? 

Reading through those reviews will give you a good idea as to whether or not the app is safe.

#2 Contacting Developers

Whether you are using the Play Store or not, it should be possible to contact the developers of the app, usually through some customer service mechanism. 

If you can’t contact the developer, then you should ask why they don’t want to talk to you. 

It’s not a good sign.

Even if contact information is published, you should verify that you really can reach the developers. 

That doesn’t mean you need a direct line to the company’s CEO. 

It does mean that you should try out customer service and make sure someone answers you. 

It’s one of the best ways to vet any company, software developers included.

#3 Terms and Conditions

Good apps have terms and conditions. 

This is because the developers are invested in getting a lot of people to use the app. 

If they succeed, they could face massive liability issues. 

Terms and conditions help to protect them, and the fact that they are trying to stay legal and above board in all of this is a good sign.

Among the terms and conditions, you will often find a privacy policy. 

This is where software developers tell you who they really are. 

If they want to steal and sell your data, it will actually be outlined here (for companies that operate legally). 

If the privacy policy bothers you, then the app probably doesn’t live up to your ideas of safety. 

If nothing in the privacy policy bugs you, then you’re in a good place with your vetting process.

#4 Extra Downloads or Installations

This is an oldie but a goodie, as the saying goes. 

One of the easiest ways to unwittingly install bad software is to get it bundled with something you actually want. 

As long as this trick has been going around, it still works.

Here’s the gist. 

You find an app you want. 

For the sake of an example, let’s say it’s a Chrome extension. 

You look through it, find good reviews, and decide to go for it. 

So, you tell Chrome to install it. 

As part of the process, Chrome hits you with a few popup questions.

Can the app know your location? 

Do you want it to access your contacts? 

You’ve seen a lot of this before. 

You’re fine, so you click or tap your way through everything, and the app is fully installed. 

When you look through your extensions later, you find something you didn’t expect, and you’re not sure what it does.

You fell for one of the classic blunders. 

While you rapidly clicked through all of those prompts, one was to install an extra extension that you didn’t want. 

Now, you have an app that is doing who knows what on your browser.

This has a simple fix. Pay attention to the prompts. 

Most of the time, software that installs like this is all about ads, so it’s usually more annoying than dangerous. 

But either way, if you pay attention to each prompt, you can simply tell your device not to install the extras that you don’t want.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.