Minimum criteria to appear in our list of the best VPN for Mac:
- MacOS Native App
- Reputable VPN company
- Audited by 3rd party
- Kill Switch feature
- Works good for streaming and torrenting
Our choice for the best Mac VPN – NordVPN (read more)
By now, you probably know that there are dozens of VPN providers out there trying to get your business. If you’re a Mac user, read on to find out about the best VPN for Mac.
What Makes A Good VPN For Mac?
In the grand scheme of things, there’s not too much difference between installing a VPN server on a PC versus installing one on a Mac. But if you’re a Mac user, you know that a Mac and a PC work on different operating systems, and they each have a slightly different user interface.
If you’re looking for the best VPN client for Mac, then there are a few things that you need to take into consideration.
A Dedicated Mac App
This is a no-brainer, but the first thing you’re going to want to look for is whether or not a given VPN provider has a dedicated Mac app. Most reputable VPN providers produce dedicated Mac apps for their services.
A dedicated Mac app means that a VPN app can be downloaded, installed, and run on your Mac. The best VPN services for Mac will be available for download from the app store, although occasionally, you might find one that will require you to download their dedicated Mac app from their own website.
Before you set up a VPN on a Mac, you’re going to want to take a few minutes and check out what features a VPN service provides. While the features that all of these different VPN services provide will vary slightly from one service to another, if you’re looking for the best VPN service Mac, you’re going to want to look for a few different features.
The first feature you’ll want to look for is a kill switch. A VPN service with an automatic kill switch will protect your Mac by ensuring that your internet connection is immediately terminated if it is no longer private.
Protection Across Multiple Devices
If you’re an Apple enthusiast looking for the best VPN for Mac, then you probably have another Apple device, or two, or three. It’s a good idea to look for a VPN service that can also protect your iPhone, Ipad, or Apple TV.
If you find a VPN provider who’s capable of giving you extra protection beyond your laptop or your Mac, then take the time to compare subscription packages. While many VPN providers award multiple “licenses” with every purchased subscription, there’s often a cap on the number of devices you can protect with one subscription.
If you end up purchasing a subscription to a VPN service that allows you to protect multiple Apple devices, you’ll want something seamless, and preferably from the app store, that will let you activate your VPN protection with a tap of the finger or the click of a mouse.
Major VPN providers are offering Mac subscription packages that allow the subscriber to cover multiple devices simultaneously with only one subscription.
If you’re a casual user who’s just looking for basic protection from malicious actors, then the other feature you’ll want to look for in a top VPN for Mac is a quick installation. All of the VPN providers we’ve covered in this review make installation a breeze-you’ll go to the app store and hit the download button.
From there, you’ll be asked to create a username and password, and you’ll be able to tweak the basic features of your VPN as needed.
Do you want a VPN service for your Mac that starts up automatically every time you turn on your computer? Do you want one that will allow you to default to a server in a specific location? Do you want to store the link to your VPN server in the dock on your home screen?
Again, basic features like this are standard nowadays, but these are still questions you’ll want to consider if you want to set up a VPN on your Mac.
Intuitive User Interface
Finally, if you’re looking for the best VPN service for your Mac, you’re going to want a VPN server that’s easy to use and easy to navigate. You’ll want a VPN service that clearly indicates whether protection is active or inactive, and also one that’s easy to turn on and off. If you’re traveling or you know you’re going to want to use a different server, you’ll want a VPN server that makes it easy to toggle between servers in different locations.
If you’ve got a little more experience using a VPN server, then there are probably different features that you’re interested in. If you’re looking for the best VPN for Mac, you’ll want to look for the following advanced features.
This is a new advanced feature for most of the major VPN providers. With a double VPN feature, you’re protected twice because your VPN provider is routing your connection through two servers instead of just one.
A static IP address means that when you activate your VPN service, you’ll be assigned a single, static IP address that won’t change, rather than a dynamic IP, which can change over time and is common with most unprotected web traffic.
Split Tunneling is another advanced add-on that’s becoming more common across the major VPN providers. With split-tunneling, you can adjust your VPN server to protect some of your web traffic over a static IP while allowing other web traffic originating from your computer to travel over local connections.
A feature like split tunneling is important because there are times where transmitting all of your web traffic over a single protected connection could devour all of your bandwidth and leave you with a slow connection.
With split tunneling, you can only transmit certain important data over a protected connection while sending other non-sensitive traffic through a non-protected connection. Used properly, split-tunneling can help you save a considerable amount of bandwidth.
Another common feature offered by many of the best Mac VPNs is known as port forwarding. Simply put, when you have an active firewall in place across your private network, and another web-connected computer or device tries to connect with your device, that connection will be blocked by your firewall.
Port forwarding allows these connections to go through without being blocked as long as they are using specific ports that have been configured by the user or network administrator. Simply put, port forwarding is an effective way to block some unsolicited traffic while letting other, more benign unsolicited traffic through administrator-approved ports.
DNS Leakage Protection
The DNS system is what translates a web query into an IP address. Let’s say you opened a browser and typed in www.expressvpn.com. The DNS system translates your typed web query into a specific numeric IP address and then takes you to the website you want to go to.
When you’re connected to a VPN, all of your traffic should go through a private connection directly to the VPN server. However, sometimes your protected information ends up traveling on your ISP’s servers, which leaves your data unprotected and vulnerable to malicious third parties.
DNS Leakage protection makes sure that your transmitted data stays on your protected VPN connection where it belongs. This is a feature that comes in handy if you’ve configured your VPN Mac manually or if you visit websites that are still using the IPv4 protocol.
The advantage of choosing a VPN for Mac with protocol flexibility is that you’ll have the option to choose which of the five major VPN protocols (OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, IKEv2, and SSTP) to use as you surf the web.
Other Factors to Consider
Whether you’re a casual VPN user just looking for some basic protection for your web traffic, or a more advanced user concerned with split tunneling and the ability to toggle back and forth between different protocols, there are some other, broader factors you should take into consideration when choosing the best mac VPN.
Speed And Stability
As you’re shopping around for the best Mac VPN, look for a VPN that maintains a fast and stable connection that won’t hog all of your bandwidth.
You’ll want to look for a VPN provider with servers in as many countries as possible. You’ll also want to make sure your VPN provider actually owns all of their servers and does not rent servers from other companies.
As you choose the best VPN for Mac, focus on companies that provide a clear record of their ownership and management structure.
A reputable VPN will also provide data such as network or server outages, speed test scores, and the number of law enforcement inquiries about subscriber activity.
VPN Protocols Used On A Mac
MacOS supports all of the VPN protocols except PPTP. If you want to install a VPN on a Mac, the most basic question you’ll face is whether to use the client software provided by the VPN or to configure the VPN’s settings manually after purchase.
All of the VPN providers we focus on for this review will ask you whether you want to use the client software or configure your settings manually early in the installation process.
While using the client software is definitely the easiest way to configure your VPN, if you want to do it manually, check out this great article from the pros over at Makeuseof.
The Best VPNs For Mac
Now for the good stuff. If you’re looking to set up a VPN on your Mac, we’ve gone out and done all the legwork for you. The following companies provide stable and secure VPN coverage at a reasonable price. In the following VPN reviews for Mac, you’ll find everything you need to know to make an informed decision.
Available In App Store: Yes
This probably won’t surprise many of you, but NordVPN takes the top spot when it comes to being the best VPN for Mac. NordVPN is a respected name in the field of online security.
With 5,400 servers across the globe, and a full menu of advanced features such as split-tunneling, browser extensions, and protection for up to six devices upon the purchase of a subscription, NordVPN has a reputation for being stable and secure, with a strict no-log policy, meaning that your data is never saved or tracked.
There are one-month, one-year, and two-year subscription plans available.
Available In App Store: No
The second entry on our list is also one of the more established and respected names in the VPN industry. Express VPN offers all of the usual advanced features, including split tunneling and a private DNS for every server.
There’s also a wide variety of browser extensions and VPN protection for a surprisingly wide array of devices that goes beyond phones, tablets, and computers. You can also use ExpressVPN to protect your Apple TV, Roku, and game console.
ExpressVPN also offers many other cool native features such as an IP locator, DNS leak test, speed test, and a password generator.
There are one-month, six-month, and one-year plans available for protection on up to five devices.
Available In App Store: Yes
The biggest advantage of Surfshark is that a subscription allows you to protect as many devices as you want. This VPN also boasts a truly impressive array of features, including the ability to hide your IP address and a camouflage feature that won’t allow your ISP to tell that you’re using a VPN.
There’s also protection against DNS leakage and a NoBorders mode that allows users to use Surfshark in regions with a history of web surveillance and censorship.
There are browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox and an awe-inspiring degree of platform compatibility. Surfshark is compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux and will protect a wide array of phones, tablets, streaming devices, and game consoles.
The only drawback with Surfshark is that this VPN defaults to IKEv2/IPsec, which will be problematic for Mac users. Surfshark gives users the option of switching to the OpenVPN protocol if they need to. There are one-month, six-month, and two-year packages available, offering protection for an unlimited number of devices.
Available In App Store: No
Swedish VPN provider Mulvad is the no-frills contributor to our list of the best VPN’s for Mac. Mulvad defaults to the newer Wiregaurd VPN protocol, although subscribers get the option of switching to the OpenVPN protocol if they want to.
A subscription to Mulvad gives you access to its own internal audits and a strict no-log policy. There’s a kill switch feature and a state-of-the-art firewall. You’ll also get access to the advanced cross-platform proxy Shadowsocks and a port-scan feature that lets you know which ports are open.
The only real drawback with Mulvad is that a quick look at their server network reveals that they rent many of their servers. There are one-month, one-year, and ten-year packages available for protection across five devices.
Available In App Store: No
PrivateVPN is the scrappy up-and-comer on our list. Similar to Mulvad, it is a no-frills VPN provider based in Sweden that markets itself as secure and reliable. PrivateVPN is compatible with numerous VPN protocols and has lightning fast server speeds across its global network.
With the purchase of a subscription, you’ll have access to a VPN supporting torrenting and P2P file sharing. There’s broad platform compatibility that covers Windows, Android, OS, and iOS. You’ll also get IPv6 leak protection, port forwarding, and a strict no-log policy.
Perhaps more than any other provider on this list, PrivateVPN tries to make unblocking geo-restricted media content much simpler than other providers by providing you with a list of open ports that work well with foreign content.
There are one-month, three-month, and one-year subscription plans available, with protection across a maximum of six devices.
The Best Free VPN For Mac
If you’re looking for the best free VPN Mac, we’ve got you covered. The following VPN providers are ready to protect your data at no charge. Read our free VPN reviews for Mac to get the low down on the best free Mac VPN.
Available In App Store: No
Considered one of the best free VPNs for Mac, ProtonVPN is based in Switzerland and follows a “freemium” pricing model. The basic free package gets you medium browsing speed, protection for a single device, and access to servers in three countries.
However, even under the terms of the bare-bones free membership, there’s still an imposing list of features. You’ll still get AES-256 encryption with an OpenVPN protocol, ad-blocking, and a strict no-log policy.
There’s also a kill switch feature, DNS leak protection, and the bonus of being protected under Switzerland’s strict privacy laws. For it’s paid packages, ProtonVPN follows a tiered pricing model that unlocks more features with each subscription level.
You can get features like split-tunneling, torrenting, and P2P file-sharing with the paid packages. There is a free package, plus three different paid packages, with subscription rates listed in euros. If you want protection for multiple devices, you’ll have to upgrade to one of the paid packages.
Available In App Store: No
Another free Mac VPN, Canadian VPN provider Windscribe also follows a “freemium” pricing model. For users with the free plan, the only real limitation you’re stuck with is that you only have access to 10 of Windscribe’s 63 servers.
Beyond that, you get access to everything else. Besides an intuitive and easy-to-use client interface, you have a state-of-the-art proprietary IP and domain blocker, a strict no-log policy, and AES-256 encryption.
Windscribe boasts wide-ranging platform compatibility and works with several different protocols, including OpenVPN, IKEv2, Wireguard, and SOCKS. You’ll also get a Static IP, port forwarding, and split tunneling.
Best of all, you get free connections across an unlimited number of devices. The one catch here is that Windscribe follows a strict one-account-one-user policy. If Windscribe finds out that a single account has more than one user, you’ll be asked to upgrade.
Many of the VPN providers we’ve covered here today will give you the option of downloading a browser extension during the setup process.
If you choose to download the browser extension, every time you open a new web browser, you’ll see a button in your toolbar that allows you quick, one-click access to your VPN server, meaning that you can turn it on and off quickly, without having to start up your VPN server from the dock or the launchpad.
Browser Extensions Will Not Protect All Web Traffic
While browser extensions are handy, be aware that you’re only protecting your web browser if you turn on your VPN server from a downloaded native browser extension.
Browser extensions will not protect data transmitted online by games, media players, or other apps. If you want full protection for all of the data transmitted by your device, it’s best to activate your VPN from the client dashboard of the installed app.
On the other hand, if you want to use your VPN server without hogging all of your bandwidth, browser extensions offer a quick way to protect your web browser while letting other web-connected applications use local connections.
Most VPN Providers Will Not Offer Extensions For All Browsers
If you’re looking for the best VPN for Mac, then chances are you’re doing all of your web browsing with either Chrome or Safari.
Most VPN providers will provide browser extensions for Chrome, but not for Safari. If you want a VPN server with a browser extension, make sure the provider offers one compatible with your browser type.
Other Mac Security & Privacy Tips
It’s true that finding the best VPN for Mac is an important step toward securing your online data, but a good VPN is only one tool in the toolbox. Here are a few other basic tips for keeping your Mac private and secure.
Use A Password Manager
By now, we’ve all heard horror stories about phishing attacks and stolen passwords. It’s important to use secure passwords for all of your web surfing activities, but the problem is that truly secure passwords are often difficult to remember.
Stay in the habit of using and managing secure passwords by using a password manager to keep track of all of your passwords. For a list of the best password manager apps out there for your Mac, see this handy list from Cnet.com.
Use A General Maintenance App
Apps like these provide a quick way to delete your browser history and temporary internet files. They can also reindex your Spotlight, fix broken disk permissions, and remove old chat records.
They also provide a quick way to identify and shut down RAM-hungry processes and apps that might be running in the background and slowing your computer down.
In terms of security, apps like these will also scan your computer for viruses and malware.
Activate Two-Factor Authentication
Activating two-factor authentication is one of the most simple steps you can take to keep your Mac secure. Once it’s been activated, you’ll be required to enter your username, password and provide a fingerprint to access your devices.
The fingerprint is a vital extra layer of protection in case your username or password is compromised.
There are a lot of different reasons to want the best VPN for Mac. If you’re concerned about keeping your family’s web traffic private, or you want an easy way to unblock geo-restricted content, there are a ton of different VPN providers to choose from.
Ensure you install a VPN on mac provider that is transparent about their policies and who they are as a company. Ensure that you have access to features such as split-tunneling and reliable browser extensions, and make sure that whatever VPN provider you end up going with has a proven track record of security and stability without using up valuable bandwidth.
Still got questions about the best VPN for Mac? We’ve got answers for you below: