Douglas Crawford

Douglas Crawford

Jun 12, 2018

If you have a Mac then you will want a VPN. Macs themselves are pretty secure, and Apple can be trusted to look after your privacy far more than Microsoft can! But no matter how secure your Mac is, your internet connection is no more secure or private than it is for any other internet device (hint… not very!).

A VPN for MacBook, iMac Pro or Mac Mini will improve your online security and privacy. If that sounds worthy but dull, a VPN for Mac will also let you watch TV shows that are usually restricted to people in other countries and torrent safely.

We’ll explain how it all works in a minute, but let’s start with a quick look at our pick of top VPNs for Mac. Our experts have tested over 150 VPNs in the last 5 years – searching for the best VPNs for Apple Macs. Let’s take a quick look at our top picks, if you would like more information on any of the services, scroll down to our in-depth analysis below…

The Best VPNs for Mac: Side-by-side analysis

ProviderPriceOur ScoreVisit
1Visit Site »
NordVPN review »
From
$2.75
/month

10.0

Our Score
Visit Site »
NordVPN review »
Special Offer: 77% off today!
2 ExpressVPN review »Visit Site »
From
$6.67
/month

9.0

Our Score
Visit Site »
ExpressVPN review »
3 CyberGhost review »Visit Site »
From
$2.75
/month

8.4

Our Score
Visit Site »
CyberGhost review »
4 PrivateVPN review »Visit Site »
From
$2.73
/month

7.6

Our Score
Visit Site »
PrivateVPN review »
5 VyprVPN review »Visit Site »
From
$4.17
/month

6.8

Our Score
Visit Site »
VyprVPN review »

The best VPNs for Mac

10.0/10.0

Editor's choice

Editor's choice

NordVPN Homepage
PROS:
  • Special Offer: 77% off today!
  • 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 VPN. These include: DNS leak protection, a kill switch, VPN into Tor, stealth mode, and double hop.

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 a reliable vpn, which is why it's such an amazing Mac VPN for the price. Finally, it has a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Try the Best VPN for Mac

Visit NordVPN »30-day money-back guarantee

9.0/10.0

ExpressVPN Homepage
PROS:
  • Special Offer: 49% off today!
  • Super Fast for Streaming
  • Works brilliantly on Mac
  • No usage logs
  • Servers in 100+ countries
  • Excellent 24/7 live chat support
CONS:
  • A bit pricey - but worth it!

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 user friendly. 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 VPN.

8.4/10.0

CyberGhost Homepage
PROS:
  • Special Offer: 77% off 1-year plan!
  • Excellent macOS software
  • No logs worth mentioning
  • Kill switch
  • Servers in 56 countries
  • Great customer support
CONS:
  • Live chat in UK working hours only
  • Could be faster

CyberGhost‘s software is easy-to-use while also being very fully featured. It uses very strong encryption, and 5 simultaneous connections is generous. Being based in Romania and keeping no meaningful logs is also a big draw. Like ExpressVPN, some minimal statistics are kept, but with no time stamp or IPs recorded, these present no threat to users' privacy.

CyberGhost’s great logging policy, decent local (burst) speeds, and fully featured software are a winning combination. And with a 7-day free premium trial plus 30-day no-quibble money back guarantee, there is zero reason not to give it a whirl.

7.6/10.0

PrivateVPN Homepage
PROS:
  • 30-day money back guarantee
  • Servers in over 50 countries
  • Strong OpenVPN encryption
  • Zero logs
  • 24/7 customer support
CONS:
  • No kill switch for macOS (yet)

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 a zero logs VPN service that has 80+ servers in 52 countries around the world.

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. There is no kill switch as yet, but I am told it is on the developers to-do list.

6.8/10.0

VyprVPN Homepage
PROS:
  • 70 server locations
  • Strong encryption
  • Switzerland based
  • Proprietary technology
  • No usage logs
CONS:
  • Not good torrenting choice
  • Connection logs stored for 30 days

VyprVPN is a Switzerland-based VPN service that would excel as your Mac OS or iOS VPN. The only reason VyprVPN is so low on our list is because it’s not a good VPN provider for torrenting. Other than that, VyprVPN offers 70 server locations – ideal for accessing geo-restricted content on TV streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. VyprVPN also allows up to five simultaneous devices and offers 24/7 live customer support.

This VPN includes better than average server speeds, strong encryption protocols and proprietary technology for added security. If you prefer to sample your Mac OS/iOS VPN before committing, you can use VyprVPN’s free 3 day trial.

VPN Mac | FAQs

What is a VPN?

A VPN is a way to securely connect your Mac to a server run by a commercial VPN provider. Your Mac then connects to the internet via this VPN server.

  • Using a VPN is arguably the single most effective measure you can take to improve your online privacy and security.
  • All data passing between your Mac and the VPN server is encrypted. The VPN hides your data from your Internet Service Provider (ISP), so that it cannot spy on what you do online.
  • VPN providers usually run servers in different locations around the world. This is great for avoiding censorship, as you can simply connect to a server located in a country where there is no such censorship.
  • When you connect to the internet via a VPN server, anyone on the internet will see the Internet Protocol (IP) address of the VPN server, not your real IP.

Most VPN services offer custom Mac VPN clients, and all VPN services can be manually configured for MacOS and OSX.

If you’re interested in knowing how a VPN works in more detail, check out our VPNs – What You Need to Know guide.

Why use a VPN for Mac?

VPNs are something of an online privacy and security Swiss Army knife, and should part of every serious Mac user’s toolkit.

Use a VPN Privacy

With a VPN running, your internet provider cannot 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 the two. It also cannot see what websites you visit beyond the initial connection to the VPN server.

Almost all mass government surveillance programs rely on ISPs to log what you do on the internet and hand those logs over to agencies such as the NSA and GCHQ. Using a VPN is therefore a very effective way to prevent this form of untargeted government spying.

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

For those who are fed up with being monitored online, a VPN is a great first step! To find out what more you can do to protect your privacy online, check out our Ultimate Guide to Online Privacy and our no logs vpn guides.

Use a Mac 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 blocked to overseas visitors.

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

For more information, visit our dedicated list using the links below:

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

VPNs are the ultimate censorship evasion tool. To find out who we rank as the best services for the job, take a look at our Best VPN Services list.

Use a VPN to Protect Your Mac 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.

More information on protecting your privacy when you’re out and about can be found in our VPNs for Wifi Hotspots guide.

Use a Mac VPN to Torrent Safely

As the synonyms P2P and filesharing suggest, BitTorrent is a very sociable protocol. You can see who is downloading files stored on your computer, and other torrenters can see when you download files from theirs.

Ah, sharing! It could give you a nice warm feeling in your tummy if it wasn’t for the fact that copyright holders can also easily see when you download their content, and can take action against you.

Now… stealing intellectual property is not big or clever, and BestVPN.com in no way condones it.  By using a VPN torrent websites are made a lot safer, check out Best VPN for Torrents guide for more details.

Installing a VPN for Mac

Thanks to their popularity, Macs are very well supported by VPN services – most of which offer custom VPN clients. The only slightly annoying issue is that, thanks to Apple’s strict guidelines on what developers can and cannot publish for the platform, these apps sometimes lack features available in their Windows VPN versions.

Alternatively, you can manually configure the built-in macOS VPN client using the PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, or IKEv2 VPN protocols, or use the open source Tunelblick client for OpenVPN. The latest beta version of Tunelblick even includes a kill switch!

Check out How Do I Install a VPN on a Mac? for more details, and you might also be interested in our Tunnelblick Review for more information on configuring your own VPN.

VPNs, Safari, and Privacy

Unlike Chrome, Firefox and Opera, the Safari browser does not support the Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) standard. This means that WebRTC leaks are not something Safari VPN users need worry about.

In addition to this, Apple does not make money from ads and so does not have Google’s incentive to spy on what you do online. Cases such as the stand-off it had with the FBI over access to a San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone show that it does care about its users‘ privacy.

But then again, Safari is a closed source browser, and Apple cooperated with the NSA in its PRISM mass-surveillance program. I therefore recommend using an open source privacy-focused browser like Firefox, instead of Safari. Just remember to check that WebRTC is disabled if using Firefox or a browser based on either Firefox or Chromium.

If Safari is not your main browser, you can find our customised VPN lists for the popular browsers below:

Will a Mac VPN work on my iPhone and iPad?

macOS and iOS are different platforms, so a macOS app will not work in iOS and vice versa. Most VPN services, however, allow you to run a VPN app on a number of different devices using the same VPN account at the same time. This is often referred to as “simultaneous connections.”

This means that if five simultaneous are allowed by your provider you could run a VPN on MacBook, an iOS app on your iPhone and iPad, a Window’s app on your desktop gaming PC, and have a spare connection for a partner or family member to use!

If you have Android devices that you would like to protect with a VPN, check out our best VPN apps for Android.

Using a free VPN for Mac

Free VPNs do exist, and of course you can use them on your Mac. The problem is, though, that free VPNs either not very good (if you’re lucky) or are complete scams (if you’re not).

If you are willing to dice with death or prefer to take the most cost-effective route possible, check out our 5 Bests Free VPNs page.

Best VPN Protocols for Mac

A VPN protocol is the set of instructions used to negotiate a secure encrypted connection between two computers. A number of such VPN protocols are commonly supported by commercial VPNs. The most notable of these are discussed below:

PPTP

This is an old VPN protocol that hasn’t been considered secure for years. It is supported in macOS, but we don’t recommend using it.

L2TP

This is usually implemented with the Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) authentication suite (L2TP/IPsec). It is almost certainly not secure against the NSA, but for most purposes is generally regarded as being secure.

IKEv2

A new standard that is increasingly popular because it is both fast and secure. How secure it is against the likes of the NSA, however, is unproven. Apple is a fan of IKEv2, and MacBook users on the go may prefer it to OpenVPN thanks to its improved ability to reconnect when an internet connection is interrupted.

OpenVPN

This open source and now fully audited protocol is widely regarded as the most secure and versatile VPN protocol available (if well implemented). Our general recommendation is to use OpenVPN whenever possible. Be wary, however, about the much-advertised use of AES-256. This is indeed a gold-standard cipher, but it is in itself fairly meaningless as the devil is in the detail.

For more information on this subject please check out VPN Encryption: The Complete Guide, which is designed to be as layman-friendly as possible. In addition to using strong encryption, a good VPN provider should prevent IPv4 DNS leaks, IPv6 leaks, and WebRTC leaks that may give away your real IP address even when using a VPN.

Conclusion

Almost every day a news story breaks showing the extent to which our privacy is abused by governments and businesses alike. There is not such thing as a one-stop privacy fix, but running a VPN on your Mac is an important start.


For more information about using a VPN on other Apple products, see the guides below:

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.

29 responses to “5 Best VPNs for Mac in 2018

  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).

    2. Thank you for your helpful reply. I’ll have to try out one of the 2 VPNs you suggested. I look forward to when you’re able to say which VPNs are currently working with US Netflix and the BBC Player.

      On a similar note I live in the US and I’d love to be able to access UK Netflix shows. Is that also possible with these VPNS do you know? Thanks again

      1. Hi Anna,

        If you have problems, please let me know, but they should work (and come with 30-day money-back guarantees, so you’ll have plenty of time to check). Not sure about UK Netflix, but since you are trying those services anyway, there is no harm in checking for yourself.

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