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5 Best VPNs for Mac OS X – Which Mac VPN Software is Best?

Douglas Crawford

Douglas Crawford

September 14, 2017

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) for Mac OS X or macOS is arguably the most single most useful Mac app you can have on your computer.

With a VPN Mac client, you can bypass geographic restrictions in order to access blocked content such as BBC iPlayer or US Netflix. It’s also a great way to bypass state censorship and propaganda in order to access international news services.

Quick Links to our best 5 VPNs for Mac Computers

  1. ExpressVPN Special Deal: Save 49% Today!
  2. NordVPN
  3. CyberGhost
  4. IPVanish
  5. PrivateVPN

An Apple Mac VPN can improve your privacy by hiding your IP address from websites you visit, and everything you do online from your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Hiding what you get up to online from your ISP will also defeat most blanket government surveillance measures.

In addition to this, good MacBook VPN or iMac VPN software allows you to torrent or stream content using Kodi in safety. For an in-depth discussion on what VPNs are, how they work, and what they can do for you, please see VPNs for Beginners – What You Need to Know.

Best VPNs for Mac OS: Summary

BestVPN Editor's Choice Award
ExpressVPN Homepage
PROS:
  • Special Deal: Save 49% Today!
  • Super Fast for Streaming
  • Works brilliantly on Mac
  • No usage logs
  • Servers in 100+ countries
  • Excellent 24/7 live chat support
CONS:
  • Some minimal connection logs kept (aggregated only)

ExpressVPN is an awesome Mac OS X VPN that has everything you need. It is lightning fast and has servers in 94 countries, which gives you the ability to unblock just about anything. Privacy is guaranteed thanks to military grade encryption. In addition, the privacy policy is outstanding.

The VPN software for Mac OS X is very easy to use. In addition, you can install it on three simultaneous connections - which means you can put it on all your devices, no matter what platform they run on. ExpressVPN will keep your data secure both at home and on public WiFi. What's more, the VPN is fully featured with a kill switch, stealth mode, and Domain Name System (DNS) leak protection.

Customer care is provided via 24/7 live chat and the VPN has a no quibbles, 30-day money-back guarantee so that you can test the service. Unblock anything securely with this unbelievable Mac VPN.

Special Deal: Save 49% Today!

Visit ExpressVPN »30-day money-back guarantee!

#2 Best VPN for Mac 2017: NordVPN

NordVPN Homepage
PROS:
  • Fantastic Mac compatibility
  • Zero logs
  • Outstanding security features
  • Servers in over 60 countries
  • Excellent customer support
CONS:
  • Can get a bit slow if you use double encryption mode

NordVPN is an excellent and highly secure VPN with lots of top-end security features. As such, it's a great choice for people who need all those extra features from their Mac VPN. These include: DNS leak protection, a kill switch, VPN into Tor, stealth mode, and double encryption.

Servers are lightning fast and are located in over 60 countries, so perfect for unblocking content from all over the world. As with ExpressVPN, peer-to-peer (P2P) is permitted. NordVPN is extremely easy to use and reliable, which is why it's such an amazing Mac VPN for the price. Finally, it has a 30-day money-back guarantee.

#3 Best VPN for Mac 2017: CyberGhost

CyberGhost Homepage
PROS:
  • Superb Mac software
  • No usage logs
  • Kill switch and DNS leak protection
  • Servers in 34 countries
  • Easy to use
CONS:
  • Some minimal connection logs

When it comes to getting a VPN for Mac OS X, Buffered has everything that you require. It has superb Mac OS X software, which is fully featured and easy to use. Encryption is military grade and the privacy policy is excellent. What’s more, this awesome VPN has a fantastic reputation for providing privacy.

With lightning fast servers in 34 countries, streaming in HD is no problem with this Mac VPN. Finally, it has the best customer care in the industry (24/7 live chat) and a 30-day money-back guarantee to test the service.

#4 Best VPN for Mac 2017: IPVanish

IPVanish Homepage
PROS:
  • Fantastic Mac VPN software
  • Zero logs
  • Kill switch and DNS leak protection
  • Servers in over 60 countries
  • Easy to use
CONS:
  • Based in the US

IPVanish is a US-based provider that has excellent software for Mac. It's a zero logs VPN that provides strong military grade encryption. Customer care is via email only, and is available in US business hours only. As such, if you require regular or immediate help, you might be better off selecting a VPN for Mac with 24/7 live chat.

Servers are located in over 60 countries, and all of them are lightning fast for streaming content in HD. This VPN will keep your data secure both at home and on public WiFi. It has all the necessary features, is easy to use, works reliably, and has a seven-day money-back guarantee.

#5 Best VPN for Mac 2017: PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN Homepage
PROS:
  • 30-day money back guarantee
  • Servers in over 50 countries
  • Strong OpenVPN encryption
  • Zero logs
  • 24/7 customer support
CONS:
  • Not much

PrivateVPN is a well-established VPN service based in Sweden. It is a secure service with a custom client that can be used on up to six devices simultaneously. It is azero logs VPN service that has 80+ servers in 52 countries around the world. (br>
Encryption is strong , and the availability of HTTP Proxy, SOCKS5, and port forwarding is also a huge benefit. The Mac client is simple but works well, and its auto-reconnect and killswitch features are a nice addition.

VPN for Mac Users: Considerations

What Is a VPN for Apple’s OS X or macOS?

In order to use a VPN on your Mac computer, you need to subscribe to a VPN service and download a software VPN app. The app acts as a client to connect your iMac or MacBook to a server run by the VPN provider using an encrypted connection.

Use a VPN Mac app for privacy

This means that no-one – not your ISP or even the NSA – can see what you get up to on the internet. Although an ISP is still needed to connect your Mac to the VPN sever, it cannot see any data that passes between your Mac and the VPN sever. It also cannot see what websites you visit beyond the initial connection to the VPN server.

On the flipside, websites you visit will see the IP address of the VPN server, not your real IP.

Use a VPN to Unblock Netflix and BBC iPlayer

If you connect to a VPN server in another country, as far as websites are concerned you appear to be in that country! This is a great way to access services that are otherwise banned to overseas visitors.

This means you can unblock not only the ever-popular US Netflix and iPlayer, but US cable TV channels such as FOX, ESPN, and CNN (on the geo-restricted service SlingTV, for example).

If you would like to know more about unblocking Netflix on other devices, check out our Best 5 VNS for Netflix.

Sports fans are also in for a treat when using a macOS VPN. A VPN allows you to unblock live sporting events from around the world, such as the recent Mayweather Vs. McGregor fight. It can also allow you to subscribe to services such as BeIN, which provide a cheap way to watch the English Premier League and other competitions.

Check out the new BestVPN.com Sports Hub for more details!

Use VPN on an Apple Mac Computer to Evade Censorship

As I’ve already noted, a VPN will prevent your ISP and government from seeing what you get up to online. If you connect to a VPN server in another country, then you’ll be able to access the full range of internet content available to citizens of that country.

Using a VPN macOS client is therefore a great way to evade censorship – be it on social, religious, moral, political, or copyright grounds.

A VPN Will Protect You from WiFi Hackers

A Mac-based VPN will protect you from hackers when using public WiFi hotspots, as your data is secure between your Mac computer and the VPN server. Even if you connect to a fake “evil twin” hotspot, your data will be protected because it is encrypted.

A Mac VPN app will also protect you when peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing. Anyone monitoring a torrent will only see the IP address of the VPN sever, not your real IP address.  Do be sure, however, to choose a provider that permits P2P use. Not all do.

Is It Safe to Use a VPN on My Apple Mac?

The first thing to think about is what you mean by “safe” – safe from whom?

Outside Russia, using a VPN is legal pretty much everywhere. VPNs are routinely used by businesses to secure their resources, so using one is in no way considered “suspicious.”

Although your ISP can no longer see what you get up to online, your VPN provider can. If privacy is important to you, it is therefore important to choose a VPN service for your iMac or Macbook that keeps no logs that can be used to trace your internet activity back to you. For more discussion on this subject please see 5 Best No Logs VPNs.

As already noted, a VPN will keep you safe from snooping by your ISP or government, safe from WiFi hackers, and safe from copyright holders when torrenting.

Do please be aware, however, that great as they are, VPNs are not a one-stop privacy and security solution for your Mac. Think of them instead as a vital tool in your online privacy and security toolkit.

Other important tools include good Mac antivirus software, browser add-ons that prevent websites from tracking you, and a good two-way firewall. Please check out The Ultimate Online Privacy Guide for lots of useful information and handy Mac links on this subject.

How to Set up a VPN for macOS Sierra or High Sierra

Many, if not most, VPN services these days provide a custom VPN Mac app. Simply sign up for the service, download the app, install the software, sign-in using your subscription credentials, and off you go!

To check that your Apple Mac has connected to the VPN correctly and isn’t suffering from any IP leaks, visit ipleak.net.

If your chosen VPN provider does not offer a custom Mac client, never fear! It will almost certainly offer manual setup guides. Just in case, however, here are instructions for the setup of an OpenVPN connection in macOS Sierra or High Sierra using the free and open source Mac VPN app, Tunnelblick.

How to Set up OpenVPN using Mac Tunnelblick

  1. Download and install Tunnelblick software for Mac.
  2. Visit your VPN provider’s website and download its OpenVPN configuration files (.ovpn).
  3. If the files are zipped, unzip them. Right click on one -> Open with -> tunnelblick.app. You can do this for as many server configuration files as you want.
  4. Choose whether you want to allow other users of your Mac to use the VPN connection, or just yourself.
  5. Enter your macOS username and password.
  6. Click on the status menu icon that looks like a tunnel -> select a server from one of the .ovpn configurations files you imported.
  7. Enter your VPN subscription username and password and Save in keychain (or not, if you prefer).
  8. After a short “connecting” animation, the Tunnelblick status menu icon should go dark to indicate that you are connected.
  9. To disconnect, click the same VPN server in the active connections list.

Best Mac OS X and macOS VPN: Conclusion

Although not quite as well supported as Windows machines, Macs users are well catered for by most VPN services. Most offer custom Mac VPN clients, but you can always set up the VPN manually if not.

VPNs are incredibly flexible and versatile tools, and should be a key element in every Mac users’ online toolkit.

Best VPNs for Mac OS X: Side-by-side Comparison

Douglas Crawford

I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. You can now follow me on Twitter - @douglasjcrawf.

35 responses to “5 Best VPNs for Mac OS X – Which Mac VPN Software is Best?

  1. I looked at NordVPN – it is good in that it has servers everywhere, but, when the VPN server drops, unless you set up the app to kill with it, you’re left connected with no VPN security. It’s the same when you first connect – you have to open your browser, so if you restore previous session, every website you were visiting, now gets to know your IP address, until you connect and establish a VPN connection to NordVPN servers.
    I use AirVPN and prefer that it locks your network immediately if the VPN connection drops, and because the network is locked, you can continue to look at your browser.

    1. Hi gramic,

      Well… The NordVPN client does have a per-app kill switch. You can choose which apps will be shut down in the event of a VPN disconnection. This is very handy, but it is not a firewall-based kill switch like AirVPN’s. So if the NordVPN client itself crashes, the specified apps will not shut down and can continue to access the internet. I’m not sure what you mean by having to open your browser. You can run the client before you open your browser…

  2. I’m confused because I’ve read and experienced inability to use the BBC iPlayer, Netflix, (and Hulu) with a VPN yet this article says the opposite. Years past one could use a VPN with the BBC Player and Netflix without problem but now I receive a Proxy error for Netflix and a similar error for the iPlayer. Please explain if I’m missing something.

    1. Hi Anna,

      Netflix, iPlayer and Hulu are actively trying to block VPN users from using their services. They do this simply by blocking IP addresses that are known to belong to VPN providers. There are ways around these blocks (such as a provider regularly recycling its IP addresses), however, and some providers are better at it than others. In our reviews we always test to see if we can access US Netflix and iPlayer. At present I know that NordVPN and ExpresVPN work with these services (you may need to contact ExpressVPN to ask which servers they recommend using). We are currently working on a system to regularly check which VPN serverces do and don’t work with Netflix and iPlayer (and hopefully other services going forward).

  3. Would like to configure our Apple Extreme to have VPN capability or service that will block our location. Is there anything out there that we can try?

    Appreciate the feedback.

  4. Suggest you review Cloak VPN.

    I tried Cloak, Tunnelbear and Expressvpn on my western USA mac going to the closest US server and got speed losses of 5, 8 and 18%. Expressvpn mac version had some serious flaws on my system including a failure to always reconnect automatically after computer sleep. The kill switch also malfunctioned at these times. Tunnelbear was slower because they seem to only have one US server located on the east coast.

  5. After in-depth reading reviews on VPNs to use in Canada, Friends suggest Hotspot Shield being #1 and others have crappy service…(Free vs Paid) . Should I go with ExpressVPN (despite Buffered is Best)?
    Its a split 50/50 for torrenting US shows + streaming online tv from Hong Kong/Taiwan/Korea using my MacBook Pro (Sierra) + looking into Kodi for Asia programs / Soccer Games for the elderly + using Android for Asia radio, etc…
    What are your suggestions? Is it 100% completely safe from Spys, cyber security? I was told CISCO has a way around that can hack into our internet even the Gov’t can’t.
    Originally I partly installed OpenVPNGate than deleted after running into problems with Sierra. Will having VPN affect Hardware Upgrades on Mac?
    Thanks.

    1. Hi JJ,

      – Both ExpressVPN and Buffered are good for torrenting US shows.

      -To stream shows from Hong Kong/Taiwan/Korea, you will need a service with servers in those countries. Buffered has a server in South Korea, but ExpresdsVPN has servers in all these countries.

      – Nothing can be 100% guaranteed. Both Buffered (Gibraltar) and ExpressVPN (British Virgin Islands) are based in British Overseas Territories. How this might or might not affect vulnerability to UK spying is unclear. For most purposes, though, I’d say both services are fine in this regard.

      – If you run the VPN in software, then all data will be encrypted as it passes through the router. So it doesn’t matter if the router has a backdoor.

      – Running a VPN will have no effect Mac hardware upgrades.

    1. Hi Bahadir,

      ExpressVPN keeps no usage logs, but does keep some very minimal connection logs. From my full ExpressVPN Review,

      “ExpressVPN keeps no usage logs:

      “We never keep traffic logs, and we also don’t keep any logs that might enable someone to match an IP and timestamp back to a user. We work entirely on the basis of shared IPs, meaning that a single IP does not track back to an individual user.”

      However, it does keep some (pretty minimal) connection logs:

      “For the purpose of improving network resource allocation, we record aggregate data-transfer amounts and choice of server location, neither of which are data points that can identify a specific user as part of an investigation. We may collect the following information: dates (not times) when connected to our service, choice of server location, and the total amount of data transferred per day.”
      Furthermore,

      “Our software may send diagnostic data to a third party analytics provider for the purpose of identifying connection errors and possible bugs in our application. The information collected is generic in nature and does not contain personally identifying information.”

      This last part is important. ExpressVPN only keeps logs in aggregate form. This means that the minimal amount of information collected for troubleshooting purposes is not associated with the IP addresses of individual customers.

      Privacy purists may still not be entirely happy about even this level of logging, but it is unlikely to be of concern to most users.”

  6. Can VPVArea and AirVPN support different operating systems i.e. Window 7 and OS X at the same time as I have both iMac, MacBook Pro and Windows 7?
    I also have Android and iphone (Win 7 is not on Boot Camp partition).

    1. Hi Ton Bon,

      Yes. VPNArea allows you to run the service on 5 devices at once. It’s custom clinet is Windows-only, but but MacOS/OSX, iOSW and Android devices are fully supported using third party software.

      AirVPN permits 3 simultaneous connections and has custom VPN clients for Windows and MacOS/OSX (and also for Linux). iOS and Android are both support via third party software.

    1. Hi Rhiannon,

      – If you use the Facebook app, then yes, it can get a huge amount of information about your device as the app communicates directly with Facebook.
      – If you access Facebook via its web portal, then Facebook will know a great deal less. I would still recommend using ad-blocking and anti-tracking browser add-ons (eg.g uBlock Origin + Privacy Badger), however.
      – Simply by having a Facebook account, of course, you are giving away a great deal of information.
      – Of course, the second you sign-in, Facebook

  7. There are only FOUR VPNs for Mac that do not leak.
    How to test yours is on there too.
    I suggest everyone research on Reddit.
    There is now a master chart with # 164 VPNs
    with everything you need to know. A simple chart too. Amazing.
    And, a new review with leaking tests for Mac and PC.

    1. Hi Paula,

      Regarding Mac leaks, the article you are referring to is this article. The results are interesting, but do not that it only tests relatively small sample of all the VPN providers out there (29). I am a little surprised about AirVPN’s results, however, so have contacted the provider to ask for its thoughts on the matter.

      1. I asked about this on the AirVPN forums. Apparently the test must have been performed without Network Lock activated (with Network Lock activated there should be no IP leaks on a Mac, even during re-connection). Questions have been raised about why the test was performed without Network Lock activated.

  8. Looks like all the VPN providers require me to use their proprietary VPN connection software. I’m not paranoid at all, but that just seems like adding another layer of insecurity. Do you have any thoughts on that? Do you think it’s possible to just use the built-in client that comes with OS X? Thx!

    1. Hi Bob,

      Custom VPN software can provide valuable bells and whistles such as port selection and firewall-based DNS leak protection and killswitch. The excellent custom software from Mullvad and AirVPN is even fully open source. As with all OSs, MacOSX does not natively support OpenVPN, which is generally regarded as the best and most flexible VPN protocol, so to use OpenVPN, third party software is always required. OSC does natively support IKEv2. Only a few VPN providers support IKEv2, but if yours does, then it is also regarded as secure. Please see PPTP vs L2TP vs OpenVPN vs SSTP vs IKEv2 for more details.

      1. Are there any particular reasons AirVPN did not make the list? You had me sold on it in other articles.

        Thanks!

        Rob

        1. Hi Rob,

          Which providers make our lists, and in which order, is a group decision made by the entire BestVPN team. This is necessary, as no one of us is familiar with all 100+ serves that BestVPN has reviewed. Personally I would put AirVPN at the top of this list, but our figures show that AirVPN is simply not very popular with our readers, which is why the team decided not to include it here.

          1. Hi Rob,

            Yes. I do not use OSX, but the AirVPN Linux client is identical to the Windows version, and I understand the OSX one is too. IMO it is easily the best VPN software currently available.

  9. Oh, one other thing I forgot to mention: if you buy on a yearly basis, they’re even cheaper than NordVPN!

  10. As a Mac user of both NordVPN and Private Internet Access (PIA), I’m frankly a little surprised that PIA didn’t make the top 5. In terms of privacy (logs), PIA is right up there with your list. In terms of speed (I generally use UDP instead of TCP), I find that PIA is almost always faster than NordVPN in terms of downloads, surfing and connecting to a VPN server.

    After using the NordVPN software, as well as Tunnelblick and Viscosity, Viscosity wins, hands down. The NordVPN software under 10.10.5 (the latest version of Yosemite) is generally a disaster. Why? If I leave it open for any extended period of time, it gobbles up an incredible amount of memory. I’ve seen it go as high as 4gb! Unacceptable!

    The PIA software is simple and clear, but also allows for advanced settings. It also is very conservative in it’s memory use.

    As I said, and for these reasons, I’m surprised you didn’t include PIA.

    1. Hi Eaux,

      PIA is a fine VPN provider (and is indeed very cheap when purchased yearly), but I have received many complaints from Apple users (both Mac OSX and iOS) regarding its software. As a Windows/Linux/Android user I find it difficult to comment. It seems that you use Viscocity rather than PIA’s custom software, which may be why you have had a much more positive experience with the service.

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