Whether you want to protect your data and privacy online or access websites that are restricted in your region, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is definitely your best option.
But choosing the best VPN software for Mac isn’t easy nowadays with so many options available.
The good news for Mac uses is that the VPN market has never been more competitive with huge discounts available on subscriptions.
Mac users are increasingly being targeted by cybercriminals and VPNs are an extremely cost-effective way to protect yourself from eavesdropping, theft of passwords, logins and financial data.
VPNs are also a useful secure way to connect to the office for those who need to work remotely, especially in cases such as the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
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VPNs also allow you to access sites that may be blocked by your office, educational institution, Internet Service Provider (ISP) and enable you to stream content on sites such as Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer or via Kodi that may be blocked in your region.
The other great thing is that you can also share a VPN connection on your Mac via WiFi with other devices such as PlayStation, iPhone, iPad, XBox and more so that they can use it too.
However, there are definitely some VPN services that are better than others and some that work well with macOS compared to others.
We’ve tried and tested the best VPN services that work on Mac and give you our opinion on the best ones to use for 2020.
- What is a VPN?
- In which situations is a VPN useful?
- Are there any free VPNs for Mac?
- Is it legal to use a VPN service?
- Using a VPN with a VPN router
- What To Look For In The Best Mac VPN Clients
- 1. Surfshark (83% Off)
- 2. NordVPN (68% Off)
- 3. CyberGhost (82% Off)
- 4. Hotspot Shield Elite (81% Off)
- 5. ExpressVPN (35% Off)
- 6. Private Internet Access (82% Off)
- 7. TunnelBear
- 8. Encrypt.me
- 9. ZenMate Ultimate (85% Off)
- 10. Avast SecureLine (47% Off)
- 10. OVPN
What is a VPN?
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is basically a “tunnel” that masks your location and encrypts or re-routes your internet traffic.
This has three main advantages:
- Your internet usage and IP address remain anonymous or at the least, very difficult to trace.
- Your internet activities are encrypted so that no one, including your ISP or even VPN provider can intercept and read anything you submit over the net (including which apps you’re using at any one time).
- You can access websites or unlock streaming services that may be geo-blocked in your region.
For most people though, the number one reason for using a VPN is privacy protection.
In the early days of the internet, there was far less tracking by both internet service providers, advertisers, search engines and authorities.
However, as the internet developed and invaded every facet if our day-to-day lives, this situation changed until most people are tracked one way or another from the minute they turn on a computer or mobile device until the moment they switch it off.
In which situations is a VPN useful?
A VPN can be useful in a variety of circumstances but the most common are:
- To protect your privacy either on a public WiFi point or from your Internet Service Provider (ISP) at home. Particularly if you access a WiFi network in a coffee shop or hotel for example, there are no guarantees that the network is secure. Your login details for banking and passwords for other sites are at risk if someone is listening in. Just because a WiFi connection is protected by a password, does not mean it is a secure. A hacker can “listen in” to your Mac’s communication between the WiFi network and your Mac and steal data. These attacks are often known as man-in-the-middle attacks. Even many ISPs monitor and sell your data onto third parties so even your home connection is not as private as you think it is nowadays.
- To get around geo-restrictions. Many websites, apps and services have content that is only accessible in certain countries such as Hulu and Netflix in the USA and the BBC iPlayer in the UK. A VPN can allow you to to circumvent these restrictions by making the app think you are accessing it from an authorized region. So for example, if you want to access US Netflix on Hulu outside of the US, a VPN can help you do so. Some sites forbid streaming of their content outside of specific countries or regions though so you should also be aware of this too. It should be noted however that content providers are constantly updating their systems to prevent streaming outside of authorized regions and you may find that your VPN is suddenly unable to unlock it anymore.
- To access a closed network from another location. For example, if you want to work at home or away from the office, a VPN can allow you to do so. By logging into the VPN, you can access your office network securely as if you were in the office. Office VPN networks are usually setup by your office administration team and don’t involve commercial VPN services that are featured here as this can also be achieved with remote desktop software on Macs.
Note that although a proxy can perform some of these functions, a VPN is not the same thing as a proxy. Although using a proxy re-routes your internet connection via a different location, it doesn’t provide anything like the protection or reliability of a VPN.
Are there any free VPNs for Mac?
You won’t find any free VPN services to Mac that offer the kind of security and reliability of the apps featured here.
The most important catch with any free VPN is that they simply do not offer the same level of security, features and privacy as a paid service.
In fact, a trade-off for using the service for free is that your personal data is either exposed or sold on to third parties.
Free VPNs also tend to install either toolbars or third-party software on your Mac so our advice is, if you want a reliable VPN for Mac, you’re much better off paying for one.
However, most of the Mac VPN apps reviewed here either offer a money back trial period or in some cases, a limited free version.
Is it legal to use a VPN service?
It’s perfectly legal to use a VPN as long as it’s for legitimate purposes. If you are planning on using a VPN for illegal activities however, then think again.
No VPN provider is above the law and if an authority legitimately suspects you of criminal activity, it can demand data about your activities from the VPN provider you’re using.
This may include using a VPN for P2P downloading which is illegal for copyrighted material in many countries.
It goes without saying that MacHow2 does not endorse the use of VPNs for unlawful means. It is the users responsibility to ensure that they adhere to lawful use of VPNs.
However, as long as the material you are downloading is legal and not copyrighted, a VPN is perfectly legit and can even help in boosting download speeds.
Using a VPN with a VPN router
Finally, if you really want to take your maximize your security using a VPN, then you need a dedicated VPN router.
Most standard routers or those provided by ISPs can still be vulnerable to attack or snooping even if you use a VPN to secure your internet connection.
A VPN router is far more secure and guarantees snooping against even the most aggressive attempts to steal your data.
There are an increasing number of VPN routers on the market but one worth checking out is Swedish based Vilfo VPN Routers which works with all VPN networks that support the OpenVPN protocol such as Surfshark and NordVPN.
You can check out our full review of Vilfo VPN router for more.
We can also recommend Flashrouters which specializes in VPN routers of all kinds.
What To Look For In The Best Mac VPN Clients
There are a few essential features to look for in any reputable VPN network. All of the VPN apps reviewed here have the following:
- Mac Desktop Client: Most VPNs work across platforms nowadays and offer a Mac desktop app. All the VPNs featured here are guaranteed to work on Mac or have a Mac app.
- Multiple Servers: The more servers a VPN tool has, the more locations can you can mask yourself in and generally the more reliable the service is in terms of up time as it can fall back on another server if one fails. Note that most VPN services don’t actually own all of the servers they use although some like VyprVPN do.
- Strong Encryption: Almost all offer a minimum of AES 256-bit encryption which is extremely strong. However, some like NordVPN offer “double encryption” for extra security. Terms such as “military grade” or “bank level” security is purely sales talk and AES 256-bit encryption or better is what to look for.
- Simultaneous Connections: If you want to connect your phone or more than one Mac/PC, most VPN services support multiple connections usually anything from 3 to 7 depending on the service.
- Kill Switch: If your internet connection fails for any reason, it’s important your VPN connection cuts the connection to prevent your data being suddenly exposed. All reputable VPNs include a kill switch which triggers automatically in the event of an outage or security issue.
- No Log Policy: Most VPN providers do not log any history your internet usage for your own protection and privacy. This also protects the VPN services as they have none of your data to steal or hand over. However it should be noted that some do this in different ways to others and if this is a concern, you should check with the provider.
- Leak Protection: This protects you against holes in any software that you’re using that may allow your ISP to discover your identity or track your activity.
- OpenVPN Integration: OpenVPN is an open source VPN protocol which is widely considered the most secure there is. Many of the best VPN apps for Mac are based on OpenVPN and in some cases, OpenSSL too.
- Torrent Support: Most VPNs support downloading of torrents but some don’t so it’s best to check before you buy. Note that it is your responsibility to ensure that you follow copyright laws in your country and no VPNs condone downloading of copyrighted material.
- Customer Support: Without doubt, at some stage you’ll have problems whichever VPN client you choose on your Mac. Many sites, especially streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, are constantly updating their technology to block things like VPNs. Good customer support can help you find a solution to this and all of the VPNs featured here have responsive and helpful online assistance.
- Money Back Guarantee: All reputable VPN software allow you to get your money back if you’re not satisfied. This is usually 30 days but can vary. Many VPNs also allow you to try them for free first.
With all this in mind, here is our list of best VPNs for Mac in 2021.
Surfshark is the best VPN for Mac due to an impressive combination of value for money, performance and features.
There are so many different VPN services out there today and the decision for many usually comes down to cost.
SurfShark is definitely one of the cheapest VPNs out there offering 83% off and 3 month free and yet in our tests, the performance and features are up there with any VPN provider on the market.
Even better, unlike most VPNs there are no device limits with Surfshark so you can use one subscription with your Mac, iPhone, Apple TV, Playstation and any other supported device at no extra cost.
Once the app is installed and you open it, you’ll see a two-panel window.
To the left you’ll see the servers of which country and city you’d like to connect to, and to the right is the connect button.
Just choose server, press connect and that’s it. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. You can choose to select from either the Fastest Server or Nearest Country.
There’s no display of latency in each location but the app automatically recommends your fastest options to stream based on server loads.
Establishing a connection is very quick – usually no more than 5 seconds and you’re good to go.
If you minimize the desktop app, you can still access Surfshark via the macOS Menu Bar and switch between VPNs if you want.
If you don’t want to connect to a dynamic IP address, you can also choose a static IP list for selected countries (currently UK, USA, Germany, Japan and Singapore) which means every time you connect, it will be with the same IP address in that country.
This may be necessary if you’re connecting to a network or service that only allows static or restricted IPs.
There’s much more to Surfshark than this and we recommend checking out our full Surfshark Review for more.
Like with most VPNs, the longer you sign up for, the cheaper the price. Surfshark is offering 83% off plus 3 months free on 24 month subscriptions which works out at just $2.21 per month.
This is one of the lowest prices we’ve ever seen for a VPN.
You can also try a 7 day free trial which is fully functional to see how Surfshark performs first.
NordVPN is one of our top rated VPNs on Mac for one main reason – rock solid privacy.
Most people who want a VPN are looking for privacy protection and NordVPN takes measures to protect you that go that little bit further than any other service.
Most VPNs encrypt your internet traffic once.
NordVPN uses a special “Double VPN” system which encrypts your traffic not just once but twice making it virtually impossible to read or decrypt.
Not only this, but NordVPN is extremely fast with over 5000 servers in 62 countries. This makes it easy to stream content that’s usually not available in your region or download via P2P.
In addition, NordVPN offers not one, but two different Mac desktop apps for two different security protocols.
However, there is also a NordVPN app on the Mac App Store but it can only use the IKEv2 protocol which isn’t quite as secure.
NordVPN also includes its own specially encrypted chat tool for chatting securely online, special browser extensions for extra protection and integration with OpenVPN.
Canada based NordVPN has a strict zero logs policy which means it does not record any of your user data or browsing history.
NordVPN also allows you to easily switch region and stream content that’s blocked in your country including Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Note that for watching Netflix securely using NordVPN there are specific instructions.
NordVPN also has a very easy to use mobile app for iOS.
You can try a free trial of NordVPN and then you have the choice of 4 different plans with a 30 day money back guarantee.
You can currently get a massive 68% off NordVPN plus 3 months free on 3 year deals.
Overall, NordVPN is our number one VPN for Mac due to it’s ultra secure double lock security, speed, reliability and excellent Mac desktop application.
You can also check out our full NordVPN for Mac review for a more in-depth look.
Like NordVPN, CyberGhost offers ultra high privacy with a no logs policy. If there’s any interruption to your encrypted connection, CyberGhost immediately triggers a kill-switch.
CyberGhost is extremely easy to use. Just flip a switch and you are instantly connected to one of CyberGhost’s 3000+ servers in over 60 countries and totally anonymous online.
CyberGhost even has special servers dedicated to delivering high-speed torrent downloading.
For streaming blocked content in another country, you can instantly switch to an IP address in that region and get around geo-restrictions.
Finally, you can also customize CyberGhost to trigger depending on which WiFi network or device you’re connecting from.
Overall, CyberGhost is extremely fast, safe and easy to use.
CyberGhost is also currently offering 79% off subscriptions making it just $2.75 per month with a 45 day money back guarantee.
Hotspot Shield is made by Silicon Valley’s AnchorFree and was one of the very first VPNs. It now claims it has around 650 million users using its Virtual Private Networks.
Hotspot Shield uses over 2500 servers and has over 30 patents on its encryption technology providing extremely secure connections.
Hotspot Shield also uses multiple server locations at one time which deliver stronger and faster speeds over long distances.
Hotspot Shield is one of the few VPN providers that offers a decent limited free VPN service with no time restriction on how long you can use it.
The free version of Hotspot Shield requires no sign-up, credit card or other details to get started although it’s nowhere near as fast, secure and powerful as Hotspot Shield Elite.
Hotspot Shield is currently offering a whopping 81% off on two-year subscriptions which works out at $3.99 per month.
ExpressVPN boasts one of the widest networks of more than 3000 servers of any VPN service with 148 locations covered. So if you need to stream content from a specific country, it’s probably covered by ExpressVPN.
ExpressVPN also uses the open source OpenVPN protocol which is widely recognized as the securest VPN standard there is.
It also has a open source browser extension for enhanced security which has passed an external security audit.
We also like the fact that ExpressVPN supports split tunneling which means you can specify which apps can and can’t use the VPN connection on your Mac.
ExpressVPN has a desktop client for Mac and works on all version of macOS. There are also apps for iPhone or iPad and you can even setup for Mac to share a VPN connection over WiFi with other Macs or devices.
ExpressVPN is extremely simple to use with lightening fast connections and huge selection of regions to choose from.
ExpressVPN is currently offering 35% off 12 month subscriptions with 3 months extra for free making it $6.67 per month.
Private Internet Access (PIA) is often overlooked by Mac users because it’s not so well-known but it’s actually a very secure, solid and fast VPN app for macOS.
PIA for Mac has more than 3000 servers in 33 countries and offers multi-gigabit connections for extremely fast connections. This includes Tunnels for OpenVPN, PPTP and IPSEC/L2TP VPN.
PIA does not keep any traffic or request logs, is DD-WRT VPN compatible, allows unmetered VPN transfers and includes a SOCKS5 proxy.
PIA is also a popular recommendation among users looking for the best VPN for Mac on reddit which is often a good endorsement of any software.
Private Internet Access is currently offering 82% off on two-year deals which works out at $2.91 per month with a 7 day money back guarantee.
What we like about TunnelBear is its jargon free, user-friendly approach to VPNs.
TunnelBear is also the only VPN in the world that’s been independently audited for security.
Although all VPNs are easy to use nowadays, TunnelBear is about the easiest you can use with a simple interface that shows you where in the world you’re connected and other locations available.
There are only 22 locations available in TunnelBear which is less than many other VPNs but connections are fast and all major regions are covered.
TunnelBear uses strong AES 256-bit encryption and blocks any unsecured traffic until it can guarantee that your identity and surfing habits are untraceable. It also has a strict no-logging policy so that your internet message isn’t recorded anywhere.
TunnelBear is currently offering 58% off 12 month subscriptions which works out at $4.17 per month.
Encrypt.me (formerly known as Cloak) is a simple, cross-platform VPN that you can download for Mac, Windows, Android and iOS.
Encrypt.me is very straightforward. Once you’re connected to a network, it gives the option to secure the connection or continue using it unsecured.
Encrypt.me doesn’t have many other features and the regions are based on continents not countries. You can however set up rules for trusted networks that you always want to connect securely to.
If you want an extremely simple VPN with virtually no customization necessary, Encrypt.me maybe for you.
Encrypt.me costs $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year. You can also try EncryptMe free for 14 days first.
ZenMate Ultimate is powered by OpenVPN and has around 22 million users although most of these are on Windows rather than Mac.
Although ZenMate Ultimate offers secure browsing and identity protection, one of the main appeals is the deal it runs with MacAfee.
You currently get a free one year license of McAfee Total Protection anti-virus software with every one or two-year ZenUltimate subscription.
Again though, this is of more interest to Windows users than Mac users as anti-virus software is not as essential on macOS.
One thing ZenMate is missing is a kill switch so if your connection stops working or get unsecured for any reason, it’s not as easy to switch it off.
ZenMate normally costs $11.99 per month but you can currently get a special deal of 85% off ZenMate plus you get a free one year license of McAfee Total Security.
Avast SecureLine is from the makers of Avast Anti-Virus and is based on both OpenVPN and OpenSSL. It’s a cross-platform VPN designed to protect all of your devices.
Avast SecureLine offers 29 locations in 19 countries. It has special support for P2P networking, lag-sensitive twitch gameplay and it blocks IPv6 requests.
All traffic is encrypted with 256-bit encryption and Avast has a no logging policy so it doesn’t know which apps, websites or content you’re engaged with.
Subscriptions for Avast SecureLine are currently 47% off starting at $5.33 per month.
OVPN is a Swedish based VPN which is based on OpenVPN and pledges the most extreme “no logs” policy anywhere. Unlike many VPNs, OVPN is configured so that no logs are even temporarily stored on its servers.
What we like about OVPN is that they’re very transparent about what security measures they take even down to publishing the coding they’ve used on servers to prevent logging.
OVPN has a browser extension that allows you to easily activate the VPN at any moment.
OVPN even goes as far as taking insurance out for users to help protect members in case of legal demands for user information.
OVPN is currently offering 30% off 12 month subscriptions making it $7 per month.
We hope this article has helped you choose a VPN on your Mac that fits your needs.
If you have any experiences, suggestions or comments based on the apps reviewed here, leave them in the comments below.