If you’re wondering which is the best VPN for Mac, we’ve looked at the best Mac compatible VPNs that work on the latest versions of macOS including M1 Macs.
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.
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 access a Mac remotely, especially in wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
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 with just one VPN subscription, 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.
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 for Mac computers has never been more competitive with huge discounts available on subscriptions.
After extensive research, we chose NordVPN for Mac as the best VPN for Mac due to it’s rock solid security measures, fast connections worldwide and support for Apple Silicon M1 Macs.
- What Is A VPN?
- Why Use A VPN?
- Are VPNs Legal?
- Is Using A VPN On A Mac Safe?
- Best VPN For Mac: What We Looked For
- Best Free VPNs For Mac
- Best VPNs For Mac Compared
- 1. NordVPN (Best Overall)
- 2. Surfshark (Best For Multiple Connections)
- 3. CyberGhost (Best For Torrents)
- 4. ExpressVPN (Best For Speed)
- 5. Private Internet Access (Best For Servers)
- 6. OVPN (Best Open Source VPN)
- Using VPNs With A VPN router
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.
Why Use A VPN?
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 VPNs Legal?
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.
Is Using A VPN On A Mac Safe?
Using a VPN is perfectly safe and in fact, recommended if you want to protect your privacy online.
Using a VPN actually makes your Mac less vulnerable to attack by cyber criminals and hackers as your internet traffic is encrypted and much harder to intercept.
Best VPN For Mac: What We Looked For
There are a few essential features we looked for when choosing the best VPN app for Macs.
- Mac Desktop Client: Most VPNs work across platforms nowadays via a browser but not all offer a Mac desktop app. All the VPNs featured here have a Mac desktop app and are guaranteed to work seamlessly on macOS Big Sur. Note that the VPNs for Mac reviewed here should all work with macOS Monterey although none have been officially updated to work with it.
- M1 Compatibility: All of the VPNs reviewed here work with M1 Macs. However, some VPNs require Rosetta to “translate” them to work on M1 chips which doesn’t work as well as native M1 chip compatible VPN clients. We have made it clear which VPNs reviewed here are natively compatible with the M1 chip and are the best VPNs for M1 Macs.
- 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.
- 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. However, some providers allow unlimited VPN connections.
- 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 while some have strict no-logging policies, others promise that your data will be deleted periodically.
- 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.
- 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 be as much as a few months. Most VPNs also allow you to try them for free first.
Best Free VPNs For Mac
Some of the VPNs featured here offer a free trial including our top pick NordVPN so you can use them for free before deciding to use them.
While there are some VPN providers that offer free Mac VPNs, none of them come close to offering 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.
In addition, most of them offer very limited bandwidth which means they stop working typically after 500MB of data has been transferred using them.
For more, check-out our guide to the Best Free VPNs For Mac.
Best VPNs For Mac Compared
|NordVPN||Surfshark||CyberGhost||ExpressVPN||Private Internet Access (PIA)||OVPN|
|Mac Desktop App||✔️||✔️||✔️||✔️||✔️||✔️|
Get 72% Off
Get 81% Off
Get 85% Off
Get 35% Off
Get 78% Off
Get 30% Off
With this in mind, here are the best VPNs for Mac of 2021.
1. NordVPN (Best Overall)
We ranked NordVPN as the best VPN for Mac of 2021 due to a combination of rock solid privacy and M1 Mac support.
Canada based NordVPN has a strict zero logs policy which means it does not record any of your user data or browsing history.
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.
The Mac desktop app from the NordVPN website supports the most secure OpenVPN protocol and we strongly recommend downloading that one.
However, there is also a NordVPN app on the Mac App Store but we don’t recommend it as it can only use the IKEv2 protocol which isn’t quite as secure.
Both apps support the latest Apple Silicon M1 Macs and NordVPN was one of the first VPNs to support M1 chip Macs.
NordVPN also includes its own specially encrypted chat tool for chatting securely online, special browser extensions for extra protection and integration with OpenVPN.
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.
NordVPN also has a very easy to use mobile app for iOS so you can use it on iPhone and iPad.
You can currently get a massive 72% off NordVPN for Mac on 2 year subscriptions.
You can try a free trial of NordVPN for Mac and then you have the choice of 4 different plans with a 30 day money back guarantee.
You can also check out our full NordVPN for Mac review for a more in-depth look.
- Incredibly secure
- Huge choice of servers worldwide
- Fast, reliable and stable
- Easy to share connections with other devices
- Works natively on M1 Macs
- Supports maximum of 6 devices on one subscription
2. Surfshark (Best For Multiple Connections)
Surfshark is one of the best VPNs for Mac due to an impressive combination of value for money, performance and features.
SurfShark is definitely one of the cheapest VPNs out there offering up to 81% off 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.
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.
If you want to be extra secure, Surfshark also offers a “MultiHop” list which means it connects to a VPN in one country and exits the connection in another making it almost impossible to trace your IP address.
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.
Like with most VPNs, the longer you sign up for, the cheaper the price.
Surfshark is offering 81% off plus 3 months free on 24 month subscriptions which works out at just $2.49 per month.
You can also try a fully functional 7 day free trial to see how Surfshark performs first.
There’s much more to Surfshark than this and we recommend checking out our full Surfshark For Mac Review for more.
- Supports an unlimited number of devices
- Lots of servers
- Connections are stable and fast
- Extremely easy to use
- Great for unblocking Netflix and BBC iPlayer
- Works natively on M1 Macs
- Not many advanced configuration options
- No split tunneling or GPS spoofing on Mac
3. CyberGhost (Best For Torrents)
CyberGhost has been in the VPN business over 15 years and is one of the most well known providers out there.
CybrerGhost for Mac offers ultra high privacy with a no logs policy and 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 currently offering 85% off subscriptions making it just $2.75 per month with a 45 day money back guarantee.
You can try CyberGhost free for 24 hours before you buy too.
You can also check out our full CyberGhost For Mac review for more.
- Specializes in torrents and streaming via VPN
- Lots of servers
- 45 day money back guarantee
- Free trial is only 24 hours
- Not natively compatible with M1 Macs
- Only allows 7 connections at once
4. ExpressVPN (Best For Speed)
ExpressVPN is extremely simple to use with lightening fast connections and huge selection of regions to choose from. With ExpressVPN’s Lightway feature, it provides some of the fastest connections we’ve ever seen using a VPN.
ExpressVPN boasts one of the widest networks of more than 3000 servers of any VPN service with 94 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.
Not only this but ExpressVPN is one of the few VPN providers that owns its DNS servers which means that your data or IP address is not contracted out to a third party.
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 makes it very easy to setup 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.
The main downside is that ExpressVPN is limited to 5 simultaneous connections on one subscription but this means you can easily connect a couple of Macs, iPhones and an iPad.
There’s no free trial of ExpressVPN but ExpressVPN is currently offering 35% off 12 month subscriptions making it $6.67 per month with a 30 day money back policy.
You can also check our full ExpressVPN For Mac review.
- Huge choice of locations worldwide
- Verified secure by an independent audit
- Supports split tunneling
- Easy to use
- 24/7 live chat cupport
- Only supports 5 devices at once
- No free trial
5. Private Internet Access (Best For Servers)
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.
The main feature of PIA for Mac is that it’s completely open source. The source code of PIA is completely free to inspect by anyone that knows what they’re looking for in terms of security holes or anything that could compromise your anonymity when using it.
In fact, PIA users are even able to contribute their own code and modify the app to make it secure against new threats or security issues that affect other VPNs.
The other thing that makes PIA VPN for Mac stand out is that it claims to have more than 30,000 servers in 70 countries and offers multi-gigabit connections for extremely fast connections. This is by far the biggest number of servers in the VPN market and 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.
There’s no free trial of PIA but Private Internet Access is currently offering 78% off on three-year deals which works out at $2.08 per month with a 30 day money back guarantee.
You can check out our full Private Internet Access For Mac review for more.
- Strict no logs policy
- Open source VPN
- Over 30,000 servers
- Unlimited bandwidth and usage
- Thousands of servers
- Up to 10 connections at once
- Connections can be unstable
- Technical for beginners
- No native M1 Mac support
- Netflix and BBC iPlayer unblocking can b shaky
- No free trial
6. OVPN (Best Open Source VPN)
The main attraction of Sweden based OVPN is that it’s an open source VPN that offers total transparency in the code it’s built on.
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.
OpenVPN aslo 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.
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.
- Promises the most “extreme” no logs policy
- Useful browser extension
- Even allows users to take out privacy insurance
- Technical for beginners
- No native M1 Mac chip version
Using VPNs 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.