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Best VPNs for Mac in 2021


One of the things that Apple has the edge over Microsoft is privacy. But while this is a fine starting point for Mac users, you can improve your privacy status even more with VPN software.

The problem is that most macOS VPNs perform worse than their Windows counterparts. In addition, some VPNs don't even offer macOS applications. Thus, most review websites focus on Windows when ranking the services.

So, in this short read, I'll pick the best VPNs for Mac with the features that matter.

Top 5 VPNs for Mac:

Need a quick TL;DR? Here are the VPN services that prove to be the best match with macOS devices. It works like magic!

  1. NordVPN – the best overall VPN for macOS
  2. Surfshark – the best value VPN
  3. ExpressVPN – premium VPN for Mac enthusiasts
  4. Private Internet Access – the service with the largest server fleet
  5. VyprVPN – the most feature-full VPN

How to connect your Mac to a VPN

Setting up a VPN on your macOS device is quite easy. Just follow these steps and you'll be enjoying all the perks of a VPN in no time:

  1. Go to the App Store and download the VPN you want. NordVPN is our top choice.
  2. Click Get and confirm your Apple ID
  3. Download the app and connect to your preferred country

VPN software for Mac – our detailed list

Although there are many VPNs to choose from, only a handful of them makes a good addition to your Mac device. After I filtered out those that underperform or cut essential features, I was left with only a few that nail the critical areas, like speeds, security, and additional subscription benefits.

1. NordVPN – the best VPN for Mac in 2021

Nordvpn banner
Based in:Panama
Servers/countries:5,500+ servers in 59 countries
Required macOS version:macOS 10.12 or later
Current deal:Get NordVPN, now 72% OFF + 3 Months FREE!

NordVPN has an awesome macOS app that doesn't skimp on any of the advanced features available elsewhere. They keep their signature high bar of quality. The app has received numerous improvements, and this tendency doesn't seem to be slowing down.

The Mac client of NordVPN has a kill switch and split tunneling, which are among the most important features in your VPN (and the ones that are most often axed). Split tunneling allows you to better control which apps use VPN and which can bypass it, while the kill switch shuts down your entire connection to protect you from IP leaks.

It's also unique that they exclusively added a Presets feature to their macOS apps. With it, you can create presets for server types that you want to join, so you can quickly access them from the main app screen. That way, with one click, you can instantly connect where you want to.

Another important thing to note is that there are two versions of the app: the one you can download from their website and the App Store will be different. The one from the website supports only OpenVPN but allows beta updates, while App Store has all the tunneling protocols unlocked.

NordVPN is currently one of the best pairings with your Mac.

2. Surfshark – the best price/value VPN service

surfshark banner
Based in:British Virgin Islands
Servers/countries:3,200+ servers in 65 countries
Required macOS version:macOS 10.12 or later
Current deal:Get Surfshark, now 81% OFF!

The macOS app of Surfshark received special treatment to make their app fit in with the overall macOS user interface. In turn, it's one of the better-looking VPN applications available. Yet it's in our top 3 not only because of its looks.

For protection, this VPN uses military-grade encryption and has a kill switch. Also, it has OpenVPN, WireGuard, and IKEv2 tunneling protocols - plenty of options for various use cases.

Surfshark is quite capable all around. It unblocks most streaming media websites, regardless of where you're located. You can use it with torrent clients to hide your downloads, and the service has a strict no-log policy to protect your privacy. Their upload and download speed test results leave most of the competition in the dust, as well.

Finally, Surfshark takes care of your data even beyond your connection. If your personal information ever leaks, you can set up real-time data breach alerts to monitor the dark web for your email, ID, or credit card information. That way, you'll be informed in time to mitigate any potential damage.

All of this is available for a price that makes the rest of the competition look too expensive. The value to price ratio for this service is outstanding, when you factor in unlimited bandwidth and simultaneous connections.

The only drawback is Surfshark Mac is missing a couple of features that are available on other devices: Shadowsocks and split tunneling (Whitelister). Some form of split tunneling can be achieved by using their browser extensions, but it will only cover your web traffic.

3. ExpressVPN – the most versatile VPN service

expressvpn banner
Based in:British Virgin Islands
Servers/countries:3,000 servers in 94 countries
Required macOS version: macOS 10.12 or later
Current deal:Get ExpressVPN, now 35% OFF!

ExpressVPN delivers a solid experience on desktop, including macOS. You'll get all the essentials for an anonymous and versatile VPN setup.

There are no feature cuts to hold you back: you're getting AES-256 encryption with a selection of Lightway, OpenVPN, IKEv2, and L2TP/IPSec tunneling protocols. This means that you'll be able to tailor your VPN to your needs. Want your VPN to be as fast as possible? Use Lightway. Need stronger online security? Switch to OpenVPN.

A kill switch and split tunneling aren't included in all VPNs by default, much less on macOS. Here, however, you will be getting both. Just note that if you can't find their kill switch, it's because they call it the Network Lock.

ExpressVPN's utility stretches beyond safe browsing. You can unblock most media streaming websites. All of their servers are compatible with P2P traffic, and it is said to bypass China's Great Firewall.

Not only that, ExpressVPN is great for unblocking streaming platforms like Netflix. With MediaStreamer (Smart DNS) functionality built-in, it will also work even with devices that don't support VPNs, like Apple TV boxes.

The only drawback is that all of this comes at a significant cost. ExpressVPN is one of the most expensive VPN services, though there are some discounts if you pick the longest subscription.

4. Private Internet Access – largest VPN network

Private Internet Access
Based in:USA
Locations:35,550+ servers in 70+ countries
Required macOS version: macOS 10.14 or later
Current deal:Get PIA, now 83% OFF + 2 Month FREE!

Private Internet Access is a giant among private network services: it has a fleet of 29,000 servers scattered across 77 VPN server locations. It means that they have more servers in some countries than some VPN providers have globally.

However, PIA isn't relying only on size. Their security suite includes a kill switch and secure tunneling protocols like OpenVPN and WireGuard. You can even customize the encryption settings: switch between AES-128 or AES-256, with CBC or GCM versions. There's even DNS leak protection.

If you're worried that on Mac, you'll be getting an inferior version, you shouldn't be. The app looks and feels almost identical. It even includes a split tunneling feature, which is always a welcome addition. Not every Mac VPN client has it by default.

The service is also pretty capable of bypassing various geo-restrictions that make some websites inaccessible. PIA unblocks Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube, to name a few. So, if you want to expand your media library, PIA can contribute.

All of their servers also support torrenting, which helps if you want to keep your downloads anonymous. You can even enable port forwarding, which should speed them up. Though, it will also be useful if you're trying to host a game server.

It's also worth mentioning that you can get it for a very attractive price. It alone rivals even the more technically proficient competitors. The feature suite and its versatility are just too good to pass up.

5. VyprVPN – the service with the best features

vyprvpn banner
Based in:Switzerland
Servers/countries:700 servers in 70 countries
Required macOS version: macOS 10.8 or later
Current deal:Get up to 12 months FREE!

VyprVPN is managed by a Swiss company that particularly emphasizes respect to its users' privacy. It's very on-brand for Swiss-made services.

Like Swiss banks, VyprVPN uses a very reliable security setup to ensure no gaps for snoopy individuals. When you connect to their servers, your connection is encrypted with the AES-256-CBC cipher.

They're coupling this with a wide array of tunneling protocols: WireGuard, IKEv2, Chameleon, and OpenVPN. Some of them, like Chameleon, are better at bypassing VPN blocks in restrictive countries. Others, like WireGuard or IKEv2, will be perfect for those wanting the best VPN speeds.

This is also one of the few VPN services with a better version on macOS than on Windows. Split tunneling is only available for VyprVPN's Mac users, letting you only use the VPN with apps that need it.

A kill switch is also included, and it can be customized to be either app-based or system-wide. Meaning that it either deactivates when the app is off or can be active even if you close VyprVPN. This adds additional reassurance that you'll stay safe. It's even possible to stop LAN traffic when the kill switch is triggered. This is a great way to become invisible on public wi-fi.

With VyprVPN, you can unblock most streaming services, like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, or DAZN - unexpected with their comparatively-modest server fleet. It even supports P2P downloads.

If you opt for the longest plan, VyprVPN is dirt cheap. Plus, there is also a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can try the service for a while, and if you don't like something – ask for a refund.

6. IPVanish – one of the cheapest quality VPN services

IPVanish banner
Based in:US
Servers/countries:1,900+ servers in 52 countries
Required macOS version: macOS 10.13 or later
Current deal:Save 65% OFF the IPVanish 1-year plan!

As you've probably guessed from the name, IPVanish can make your real IP address disappear.

To make the contents of your online activity manage as well, IPVanish uses the 256-bit AES cipher – a widely used military-grade standard. The connection itself is routed via IKEv2, IPSec/L2TP, and OpenVPN. This is a decent setup, although it lacks the latest WireGuard protocol.

The app has the most important features, including a kill switch and a connect-on-startup feature. Yet don't be surprised that some functions only unlock after selecting appropriate tunneling protocols. For example, scrambling and IPv6 protection are only available with OpenVPN.

It also works well with streaming services. During our tests, we managed to unblock Netflix and YouTube. So, if you occasionally want to watch a video unavailable in your area, IPVanish will come in handy.

Although they don't have specialized torrenting servers, P2P connections are supported. Your torrent client and IPVanish will be able to work in tandem, making your downloads secret.

Overall, the service isn't overly flashy and doesn't have a ton of features that blow your mind. Still, it offers every necessity that you need in your VPN package. Plus, it supports up to 10 simultaneous connections, which should be plenty to cover most households.

Arguably their biggest selling point is the price. The first billing period (whether it's 1 month or 1 year) has steep discounts, making IPVanish one of the cheapest VPN service providers. For a couple cents more, you can get their SugarSync cloud storage deal, which increases the value even more.

7. Mullvad VPN – the most anonymous VPN service

Mullvad vpn banner
Based in:Sweden
Servers/countries:761 servers in 36 countries
Required macOS version:macOS 10.13 or later

Mullvad wins over customers with its no-nonsense approach to privacy. When you're registering, you're assigned a randomly generated account number of 16 digits, skipping your email or a unique password. That's something that some services would consider too extreme, but it's the baseline for Mullvad.

It uses AES-256 encryption for your VPN connections, which is undecipherable even to the most powerful computers. It also uses open-source tunneling protocols in WireGuard and OpenVPN.

As a matter of fact, all of their apps are open-source. Plus, they provide all the most important features like a kill switch, IPv6 leak protection, auto-start, and auto-connect. You can even block connections on local area networks. This can make you invisible to other devices connected to the same router.

Although it lacks such quality of life additions like split tunneling, it supports additional scripts via their app. So, if you're a tech-savvy user, you can add commands that you'd like to trigger after you connect to a VPN. This is a unique benefit, although one that very few users will be able to take advantage of fully.

Perhaps the only real drawback is that Mullvad struggles with many streaming services (including Netflix), so it won't be your go-to pick to unblock more streaming media. However, Mullvad does support torrenting, so that's one silver lining.

All things considered, Mullvad is a perfect VPN for anonymity. Registration requires none of your info and if you want, you can pay with cash.

How we tested and selected these VPNs

First of all, we had to separate the wheat from the chaff. If a VPN service is boasting about new and amazing features, we have to check whether they actually apply to macOS users. Then again, several other factors are always important when choosing a safe VPN.

  • Security. The number one check box to tick when it comes to VPNs is security. You're using a VPN to improve your anonymity and online protection, so make sure that the service you'll be using meets the expected security standards. This includes strong encryption, secure tunneling protocols, and failsafe measures like a kill switch.
  • macOS client. It goes without saying that if you want to use the service on Mac, make sure that the provider actually has an app for it. However, even if it's available, make sure that it's actually functional. Some of them are stripped-down copies of their Windows counterparts with no kill switch, so steer clear of those.
  • Speed. Some internet speed reductions are completely normal with a VPN. That's the price you're paying for a safe connection. However, some implementations are more efficient than others, translating into real-world performance. Those VPNs get extra credit and are ranked higher.
  • Entertainment options. If you have a fast VPN, you might as well check whether they unblock streaming platforms and support torrenting. Why pass up all that awesome content?
  • Price. Most quality VPNs that you'd want to install on your Mac cost money. However, don't think that the more you pay for a service, the more you'll be getting. Sometimes you can get a lot for a small price, which completely changes the game. We always evaluate the pricing based on the overall package that you get.

Why do I need a VPN for macOS?

The reasons why you need a VPN on Mac have little to do with your OS selection. It's a more widespread Internet privacy problem and the various restrictions that prevent it from being free and accessible as it was in its inception. Thus, a VPN helps in two major ways:

  • Accessibility. Even as an Apple user, you're likely being denied some Apple Media Services if you're living in a smaller market. In contrast, if you're living in China, you're also denied access to most western websites. Both examples go to show that nowadays the Internet is heavily fragmented. Depending on where you're located, you could be cut off from parts of it. Even Netflix isn't offering the same TV shows and movies in different parts of the world. This is something that a VPN helps to solve by giving you access to the Internet as if you're connecting from another country.
  • Privacy. The Snowden leaks confirmed how closely your online activities are monitored. Yet the government isn't all you have to worry - private companies feed on your data for advertising and various other things. Doxxing and many other nasty exploits await unsuspecting users whose data has leaked somewhere on thenet. A VPN helps you shield your real identity with a brick wall. Hiding your IP (and the IP of the website your browsing) together with encryption can significantly increase your security.

Video review: best VPNs for Mac

Best VPN for Mac - video review

How do I set up a VPN on my Mac?

If you've chosen your VPN service provider, you'll need to set up the software. Nowadays, the process is as easy as installing an app. Each provider may have unique setup guides, so to be on the safe side, you should always consult their page to find exact instructions.

If you're using a Mac, there are two ways to obtain the software: the App Store and your provider's page.

Install via the App Store

  1. If you'll be getting it from the App Store, go to the app, and search for your VPN
  2. Once you find it, click Get and confirm your Apple ID to allow it
  3. When it downloads, you can connect to a VPN server

Install via Web page

  1. You'll have to go to the provider's web page and go to the downloads section.
  2. There, select your OS version, and download the .dmg file
  3. Once it downloads, you'll have to install it on your machine (open the file and follow the instructions)
  4. When the installation completes, you'll be able to log in using your credentials and start browsing safely

How to manually configure a VPN for Mac

It's also possible to set up a VPN on your Mac manually. However, this process is a bit more complicated than simply downloading a VPN. In any case, here's how you do it:

  1. Go to the Apple menu, then go to System Preferences and click on Network
  2. Click on the Add button and go to the Interface menu and click on VPN
  3. Open the VPN Type menu and pick the VPN connection type. Name the service and press Create
  4. Type in the server address and the account name for your VPN connection
  5. Go to Authentication Settings and enter the info you received from the network admin
  6. Go to Advanced to enter extra info 
  7. Choose Apply and click OK

Is it safe to use a VPN on Mac?

Due to how much safer macOS machines are overall when compared to Windows, you're getting the best of both worlds with a VPN. Not only are you using a secure UNIX-based operating system, but you're also routing your Internet connection through encrypted passages.

That is if you're using a trustworthy VPN service. Some free VPNs are notorious for collecting your data and selling it off to third parties. Such matches won't improve your privacy and could even be a security vulnerability.

Always do your research before picking up a VPN service provider. Look critically, if a VPN is only available as a free service - look into how it's funded. And as always, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

What is the best free VPN for Mac?

There are not that many free VPN services that could be good recommendations. Even on our list, there isn't a single one with a free version, only premium VPNs with 30-day money-back guarantees.

That said, some VPN services could pass as decent free alternatives. Usually, they're offered as teasers for the full paid version. One of the best picks in this category would be ProtonVPN. It has strong encryption and no data caps, so you can download as much data as you want. With that said, it's limited in other ways.

Bottom line

Although macOS VPN options aren't as abundant as those available on Windows, there are plenty of great VPNs to choose from. Whether you're focusing on privacy, streaming, or looking for the cheapest available option, there's something available for everyone.

A quality VPN service will remove Internet blocks and make you anonymous. Which is important whether you're on MacBook Air or iMac.


More VPN guides from CyberNews:

Best VPNs for Linux: improve your privacy on Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian or another Linux distribution

Best VPNs for iPhone in 2021: secure your Apple’s devices online

Best VPNs for Android: protect your online traffic and data

Best VPNs for Chromebook in 2021: access websites & apps securely


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