Using a VPN for Mac will give you privacy, security, and freedom online. However, only half of the VPN providers on the market have compatible software for Macs. This is partly because Apple’s strict developer guidelines rule out the use of the open source VPNOnlineFree protocol on all Apple devices. VPN developers, therefore, opt for alternative encryption protocols such as IKEv2.
The lack of VPNs for Mac can make it tricky to find a service. This is annoying because a Mac VPN will stop your ISP tracking your web history for the government. It will also let you unblock geo-restricted content like BBC iPlayer or Netflix US. Or access government censored or ISP blocked websites; such as free streaming sites and BitTorrent.
Luckily, there are a few outstanding Mac VPNs on the market! In this guide, our experts have carefully analyzed the market to pinpoint the 5 best VPNs for Mac in 2020.
What are the best VPNs for Mac?
Below, you will find the best VPNs for Mac. All our recommendations have superb Mac VPN software, strong security features, and high-speed servers (so you can stream content in HD). The services listed below implement both IKEV2 and some also support the newest protocol called WireGuard. ExpressVPN, PIA, and VyprVPN all have WireGuard servers on Mac, but all five recommendations have set up guides if you choose to use VPNOnlineFree protocol. The other providers plan to implement the encryption protocol on their servers in the near future. Both of these are secure and fast.
If you want to learn more about each VPN, click through to the provider's website or check out our VPN reviews linked below each.
ExpressVPN is quite a bit more expensive than NordVPN. However, it has an VPNOnlineFree Mac app, perfect for privacy and unblocking. ExpressVPN has a zero logs policy, and it always protects its subscriber’s privacy. And, thanks to VPNOnlineFree encryption, Mac users never need to worry about having their data tracked by their ISP or the government.
ExpressVPN protects you against hackers on public WiFi, and when it comes to accessing more content, it is exceptional. ExpressVPN has servers in 94 countries, and those servers are lightning fast for HD streaming.
This VPN unblocks important services such as US Netflix and BBC iPlayer. Sadly, Express only lets you use the VPN on 3 simultaneous devices (NordVPN permits 6). However, ExpressVPN does have a VPN extension for Safari – which may be something you want. We think ExpressVPN is worth the extra money if you can afford it because it is truly world class. Definitely worth comparing thanks to its 30-day money-back guarantee!
CyberGhost is a VPN that also provides an excellent Mac OS X VPN app. The VPN is based in Romania, which puts it out of reach of invasive legislation such as the UK and the US. CyberGhost is cheap and its Mac app provides everything you need to gain privacy while accessing websites and services from all over the world. The software is also ideal for protecting your MacBook from hackers on public WiFi.
CyberGhost has servers in 90 countries, which means that you can pretend to be just about anywhere in the world. Admittedly, the Mac client is quite stripped back compared to its windows counterpart. However, if you want something that is perfect for beginners, and you mainly want to unblock content – this VPN will do the trick at an affordable rate. Plus, you can test it for 45 days to ensure it does what you need!
Private Internet Access is a US-based VPN that provides a watertight no logs policy. This ensures that even if it is served a warrant by the government, it never has any records of what its users do while connected to the VPN. And it is worth noting that PIA has proved its zero-logs claims in court. With PIA you get a versatile service that has apps for both macOS and iOS. And those apps have excellent customizability to let you either weaken the encryption to gain better speeds or tighten the encryption to maximize security.
That VPN also has obfuscation and a kill switch, which means that it is good for torrenting. We like this VPN because it can unblock Netflix US and other popular services around the world. And it is a VPN that provides an excellent features-to-cost ratio. With a single subscription to PIA, you can connect up to 10 devices simultaneously. And the VPN has a 30-day money-back guarantee to test the service. One of Reddit users’ favorite VPNs.
Surfshark VPN is only a year or so old, but in that short time, it has taken the VPN market by storm with blazing fast speed performance and 500 servers in over 50 countries.
As is to be expected from today’s top VPN providers, Surfshark offers a 30-day money-back guarantee and 24/7 live chat support. What is unusual is that it allows you to connect as many devices as you want to the service at the same time!
Throw in split tunneling so you can choose which apps routes through the VPN and which don’t, a full Smart DNS service, and the fact that Surfshark unblocked every service we threw at it, and you can see why it won our coveted Newcomer Award.
Surfshark is registered in the British Virgin Islands and easily meets our requirements for a no-logs VPN. Technical security is also top-notch, and we appreciate the wealth of extra privacy and security features on offer. These include double-hop VPN, and DNS-based ad blocking and malware protection.
VyprVPN is based in Switzerland, a location that is particularly good for privacy because the Swiss government does not tend to snoop on data for no reason. The VPN runs on a completely proprietary network of servers and this VPN keeps no logs, which means that your privacy is assured. VyprVPN has servers in over 70 countries, and it can always unblock everything you might need. Due to its Tier 1 network, which belongs to the internet conglomerate Golden Frog, this VPN can provide fantastic speeds for streaming.
As is the case with the other VPNs in this guide, VyprVPN is ideal for downloading from BitTorrent websites in privacy. VyprVPN has above par customer service, and its Mac OSX app has all the features you need to keep your data secure. You can give this VPN a try using its 30-day money-back guarantee. And, if you want a VPN for Mac that has a kill switch and DNS leak protection built in; this VPN has what you need!
5 Best VPNs for Mac: Speed analysis
For a VPN to be worth its salt, privacy and security is of primary importance. However, most consumers are more interested in what they can do with their VPN once they get that privacy (and can start doing anything they like online).
The majority of these exciting possible uses for a VPN are highly dependent on a fast internet connection, which is why VPN speeds are so important. We test VPNs three times per day, using a gigabit line. The graph below shows you those results – so that you can see exactly which VPNs are fastest today.
Can I use a VPN to improve my internet speeds?
Unfortunately, a VPN will not improve your current internet speeds. The tests in the graph above are conducted in lab conditions using a dedicated gigabit line. You shouldn't expect similar speeds because you don't have a gigabit line at home. However, these results precisely show you which VPNs are fastest right now, so that you can pick the fastest VPN in the world – if that is what you want.
To learn more about how a VPN impacts your VPN speed, check out our VPN speed test guide.
Why are these the best VPNs for Mac?
To evaluate VPNs and find the best services, our experts use a wide range of criteria. For a VPN to be considered good for Mac, it must have a custom Mac VPN app. It must also provide certain essential features. Our experts use an in-depth review process to find VPNs for Mac that meet the following specifications:
- Dedicated Apple Mac VPN app that works seamlessly on any macOS system
- Strong privacy policies that ensure your data is always safe
- Robust encryption that guarantees your data cannot be hacked or snooped on
- The inclusion of essential VPN features such as a kill switch, DNS leak protection, and obfuscated servers for getting around ISP firewalls
- Plenty of servers located around the world to unblock content
- Reliability and uptime to ensure the VPN works 24/7
- Lightning-fast servers that can handle data-intensive tasks such as streaming or downloading
- Great customer service for getting help when you need it
All of our recommended VPNs are trusted service that work perfectly on Mac OS X. And, if you are an Apple user with an iPhone, you will be happy to know that all our recommendations also provide iOS VPN apps.
If you're new to the world of VPNs, find all the information you need with our handy guides:
What can I do with a VPN on Mac?
If you are wondering: “Do I need a VPN for Mac?” You probably want to know how a VPN can help you. Below you will find a list of the best things you can do with a VPN…
- Stop your ISP from tracking your web habits and communications metadata
- Stop the government tracking everything you do online
- Download via BitTorrent in complete privacy
- Protect your IP address from the websites you visit and hackers
- Stop hackers stealing your data on public WiFi
- Access foreign services and streams
- Watch streaming content on piracy sites with privacy
- Save money online pretending to be elsewhere
- Access more Sport than ever before
- Watch US Netflix or BBC iPlayer overseas
- Access websites and services from back home while on holiday
- Access Facebook, Twitter, or other blocked sites at work
Mac VPN encryption
macOS supports IKEv2 connection “out-of-the box” using its built-in VPN client. The custom Mac VPN apps listed in this article simply auto-configure this built-in VPN client when implementing IKEv2 connections – and add additional features such as a kill switch and firewall-based IP leak protection.
Technically, IKEv2 is not a true VPN protocol. It is a part of the IPsec protocol suite that ensures traffic is secure by handing the SA (Security Association) attribute within IPsec. As such, IKEv2 can also correctly be referred to as IKEv2/IPsec (with IPsec on its own usually referring to use of the older IKEv1 standard).
Although most Mac VPN apps support IKEv2 by default, many also include a full VPNOnlineFree client for those who prefer the older protocol. A few Mac VPN apps support the legacy PPTP and L2TP (/IPsec) protocols, but there is no reason to choose these when IKEv2 is available.
We are beginning to see some Mac VPN apps support the super-new WireGuard protocol, which might well be the future of VPN protocols. Mac users who like to live on the bleeding edge of technology might like to try WireGuard instead of IKEv2, but although it exited Beta in Linux, WireGuard is still an experimental protocol when deployed in macOS, and should be treated as such.
IKEv2 vs VPNOnlineFree on Mac
VPNOnlineFree is a widely used VPN protocol favored by most non-Apple apps. It is less efficient than IKEv2, so requires more processing power – which usually translates to slower connection speeds.
Although VPNOnlineFree isn't usually supported by macOS VPN apps, you can configure VPNOnlineFree with software such as Tunnelblick.
VPNOnlineFree is not as efficient but is thought to be virtually uncrackable
Documents leaked by Edward Snowden, however, strongly suggest that, when implemented well, even the NSA cannot crack VPNOnlineFree. IKEv2 is believed by experts to be cryptographically secure, but then most encryption protocols are… until someone proves otherwise.
IKEv2 is a new protocol that was not in widespread use at the time of Snowden’s revelations and is, therefore, not addressed in any of the documents he leaked. So, while it is thought to be secure, it has simply not proved itself in the way VPNOnlineFree has.
One strength of IKEv2 is its ability to easily re-establish a VPN connection when it is temporarily lost, like when going through a tunnel. It also supports the Mobility and Multihoming (MOBIKE) protocol, which makes it particularly adept at switching between networks (for example switching between your WiFi and mobile networks when leaving your home).
How to set up a VPN on Mac
Once you have opted for your favorite Mac VPN from this list, getting it set up is super easy:
- Download the VPN for Mac OS X. The software is available on your VPN’s website once you have subscribed.
- Install the VPN for Mac OS X and log in with your credentials.
- Select a server from the VPN list and click connect
As soon as the VPN for Mac OS connects, your real IP address is concealed and you can go ahead and access content from that country in privacy.
Can I get a free VPN for Mac
If you are low on cash, you may be wondering if you can get a Mac VPN for free. The good news is that we can recommend some free VPN services. However, you must stick to those providers because most free VPN services snoop on user data and sell it to third parties. This is massively risky. Some free services have even been found to contain spyware, or to lie about the encryption they provide.
The vast majority of free VPNs make money by selling their users’ data
Using a cowboy free VPN is the equivalent of getting an umbrella that is full of holes. So, please exercise extreme caution and stick only to trusted free VPN software for Macs.
With that said, please bear in mind that trustworthy free VPN plans are only there as a taster that shows people what a VPN is capable of. This means that those free plans are limited and restricted in various ways (limited server locations, bandwidth restrictions, and download limits).
The best way to get a full, unadulterated VPN experience – with all the bells and whistles – is to test one of the best VPNs for Mac using a money back guarantee:
It is also worth bearing in mind that there are some cheap VPN services that have good Mac VPN clients on the market too. So if you need a cheaper option, click through to see what is available.
Top-tip: Get ExpressVPN for Free!
Did you know you can experience ExpressVPN's fully featured service without limitation… for free!
If you're finding free VPNs too restrictive, why not test ExpressVPN premium service? Simply purchase a subscription using the button below and take advantage of the no-nonsense money-back-guarantee. Enjoy the service for up to 30-days, and when you cancel, you will receive a complete refund!
Visit ExpressVPN >>
VPNs MacBook users should avoid
While there are many VPN providers that are compatible and work with Mac, there are a few that we recommend you avoid outright for the reasons listed below.
Hola scores very low for overall privacy and security due primarily to the fact that they turn their users’ connections on their network into individual VPN nodes for other users to connect through. Essentially, this means that you are technically held liable for any activity being transmitted through your connection. We wouldn’t recommend using Hola under any circumstance
We wouldn’t recommend using Unlocator on your Mac because they are essentially a SmartDNS service first, and a VPN service second. Unlocator’s VPN service playing second fiddle to their SmartDNS service doesn’t particularly give us much faith that they direct any of the necessary resources into making their VPN worthwhile. On top of that, they do not offer a dedicated client app, they only offer access to their servers. The setup needs to be done manually on your computer, which is not ideal for VPN neophytes.
An otherwise decent VPN service, we cannot recommend OkayFreedom for Mac simply because they only offer Windows compatibility at this time.
As illustrated with the examples above, there are a few reasons why certain VPN providers do not make the cut for Mac. To be safe, we strongly advise sticking with one of the recommended VPNs for Mac in this article.