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The Best VPNs for Mac

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Illustration of MacOS devices, an iMac and a MacBook
Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN
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Simon is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times, CNet and more. Read full bio

We tested and analyzed over 68 VPN services on our MacBook Pro and iMac to identify the five best VPNs for Mac.

We tested, reviewed, and ranked each VPN based on speed, security, and usability on Apple Mac.

Based on our latest MacOS tests, the best VPN apps for Mac in 2021 are:

  1. ExpressVPN: The best all-round VPN for Mac. Read summary or Visit ExpressVPN
  2. NordVPN: The best alternative Mac VPN. Read summary or Visit NordVPN
  3. Surfshark: Very good VPN for Mac with a free trial. Read summary or Visit Surfshark
  4. PrivateVPN: The best budget VPN for Mac. Read summary or Visit PrivateVPN
  5. Private Internet Access: Highly secure VPN for Mac. Read summary or Visit PIA VPN

The five VPN clients above are all compatible with MacOS Big Sur, Catalina, Mojave, High Sierra, and Sierra.

Using a VPN on your Mac prevents your ISP and snoopers from tracking your online activity. VPN software hides your IP address and routes your traffic via secure servers. This encrypts and anonymizes your web traffic.

The top VPNs for Mac we recommend also bypass strict geo-blocks. We’ve verified they work with many streaming platforms, including US Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and HBO Max.

Comparison of the 10 Best Mac VPNs

Use the comparison table below to compare 10 of the most popular Mac VPNs in terms of speed, price, and compatibility with MacOS.

The 5 Top VPNs for Mac: Performance Ratings

Below is a table summarizing how the five best VPN clients for Mac perform in each key testing category:

BIG SUR UPDATE: Despite misleading information on the web, MacOS Big Sur does not bypass whole-system VPNs. The Mac VPNs we recommend work as intended on Big Sur and encrypt all web traffic. You can Read more on this below.

The 5 Best VPNs for iMac and MacBook

  1. 1. ExpressVPN: Best Mac VPN

    Very fast, secure and overall best VPN for Mac.

    ExpressVPN's new app on mobile devices
     96% 
    (1,773 user reviews)
    Visit ExpressVPN

    Pros

    1. Attractive & intuitive Mac app
    2. Fastest VPN for long-distance connections
    3. Compatible with all Apple devices
    4. Unblocks Netflix, Hulu & BBC iPlayer
    5. Best-in-class security & privacy protections
    6. Allows torrenting on all servers

    Cons

    1. More expensive than other VPNs
    2. No kill switch on iOS app

    Overall Mac Rating: 9.5/10

    This overall rating is determined by the following subcategory ratings. Read more about our Mac VPN testing methodology here.

    • 9.59.5/10
    • 9.89.8/10
    • 9.69.6/10
    • 9.79.7/10
    • 9.29.2/10
    • 8.78.7/10

    ExpressVPN is the best VPN for Mac because of its feature-packed and intuitive app for MacOS.

    ExpressVPN’s native Mac app is very easy to use with its large connect button.

    Also, the VPN comes with plenty of advanced security and privacy features, for more experienced users.

    Cheapest Price$6.67/mo over 15 Months See all plans
    US NetflixYes
    MacOS CompatibilityYosemite & later
    Apple TV SupportYes
    iOS App Store Rating4.5
    Top Download Speedi

    Based on 100Mbps local test connection

    88Mbps
    Compatible with
    1. macosMacOS
    2. iosiOS
    3. appletvApple TV
    4. routerRouter

    Best-in-class security protection

    By default, ExpressVPN encrypts internet traffic using AES 256-bit and a UDP OpenVPN connection. This gives you the best balance between performance and security.

    The VPN also comes with DNS and IP leak protection and a robust kill switch (called Network Lock).

    Network Lock ensures your true location is not revealed if your VPN connection disconnects for any reason.

    The ExpressVPN Mac application

    ExpressVPN’s Mac app is attractive and easy-to-use.

    Unblocks US Netflix with fast speeds

    ExpressVPN has consistently proven itself to be the fastest VPN on long-distance connections.

    Our speed test results recorded just a 20% speed loss when connecting to the US from the UK.

    Fast speeds are essential as ExpressVPN unblocked all major streaming services in our streaming tests, including US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu.

    ExpressVPN’s unmatched performance on international connections means that no matter where you are, you can always stream geo-restricted movies and TV shows in HD and 4K.

    Works with every Apple device

    ExpressVPN is also one of only two VPN services in our list that works across all Apple products, including Apple TV.

    The VPN’s MediaStreamer feature is the best Smart DNS tool we’ve tested. It reroutes your DNS requests and unblocks geo-restricted content directly on your Apple TV. This is ideal for streaming US Netflix and HBO Max on your TV screen.

    No kill switch on iOS

    The only real drawback for Apple users is that ExpressVPN’s iOS app doesn’t have an internet kill switch.

    The lack of a kill switch on the iOS app means your true IP address is at risk of exposure if your iPhone VPN connection drops suddenly.

    The absence of a kill switch on iOS is common among VPN apps. Having said that, a handful of VPN services have managed to implement it.

    More expensive but worth the extra cost

    Although the VPN has an impressive amount of features, it is no secret that ExpressVPN’s prices are higher than other VPN providers.

    You can spend 50% less if you opt for Private Internet Access’ long-term plans over ExpressVPN’s.

    But, ExpressVPN does come with a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can always get a refund if you decide the VPN is not worth the price.

    In short, ExpressVPN is the best VPN you can use on your Mac. It has the most user-friendly Mac app and the VPN integrates seamlessly with all other devices in the Apple ecosystem.

  2. 2. NordVPN: Best Value Mac VPN

    Fast and affordable VPN optimized for MacOS.

    NordVPN Mobile App Screenshot
     94% 
    (246 user reviews)
    Visit NordVPN

    Pros

    1. Very fast download speeds
    2. Convenient download through the Mac App Store
    3. Unblocks US Netflix & BBC iPlayer
    4. Double VPN feature for extra security
    5. Cheap on long-term plans
    6. Kill switch on iOS app

    Cons

    1. Confusing differences between app versions
    2. Doesn’t accept PayPal

    Overall Mac Rating: 9.4/10

    This overall rating is determined by the following subcategory ratings. Read more about our Mac VPN testing methodology here.

    • 9.29.2/10
    • 9.89.8/10
    • 9.59.5/10
    • 9.89.8/10
    • 9.59.5/10
    • 8.18.1/10

    NordVPN is a great option for Mac users due to its easy-to-use MacOS app, large server network, and low price.

    Cheapest Price$3.30/mo over 27 Months See all plans
    US NetflixYes
    MacOS CompatibilityYosemite & later
    Apple TV SupportYes
    iOS App Store Rating4.5
    Top Download Speedi

    Based on 100Mbps local test connection

    93Mbps
    Compatible with
    1. macosMacOS
    2. iosiOS
    3. appletvApple TV
    4. routerRouter

    Great for private torrenting and Netflix streaming

    The VPN service operates a verified no-logs privacy policy, and it allows torrenting on all its VPN servers.

    What’s more, NordVPN is also one of the best VPNs at unblocking streaming platforms like US Netflix from anywhere.

    The service also has some of the fastest long-distance streaming speeds we’ve tested. 

    NordVPN also comes with a Smart DNS feature, so you can watch Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer on your Apple TV, too.

    NordVPN's Mac app

    NordVPN’s app for MacOS includes support for NordLynx and Double VPN.

    Two different Mac clients

    Frustratingly, NordVPN has two different versions of its Mac app: one app is available via the Mac App Store, and the other from NordVPN’s website.

    There are significant differences between the two NordVPN Mac clients, but it’s not clear which is better.

    The IKE NordVPN app, available through the App Store, gives you the most VPN protocol options. Also, the kill switch on this app works system-wide — an essential feature for privacy.

    The direct download client has no VPN protocol options and apps need to be manually configured to work with the kill switch.

    The IKE app misses out on some key features the direct download app includes. For example, the direct download app lets you connect to NordVPN’s specialty servers and to set custom DNS addresses.

    Despite this, the direct download app’s lack of a system-wide kill switch makes it less secure. We therefore recommend downloading NordVPN through the Mac App Store.

    Exceptional security since a 2018 server breach

    NordVPN’s Finland server was compromised in March 2018. Despite the initial poor reaction to the breach – which we cover in our NordVPN review – no user data or sensitive information was exposed.

    Since the incident, the company has rapidly improved its security with additional security audits and the introduction of disk-less servers.

    As always, both NordVPN Mac apps secure traffic with AES 256-bit encryption, prevent DNS and IP leaks, and include CyberSec — NordVPN’s ad and malware blocker.

    Helpful 24/7 customer support

    NordVPN’s apps are stable and easy to use, but if encounter any issues, the VPN is backed by a great 24/7 customer support team.

    When we had an issue with finding WireGuard in the NordVPN app, a customer service agent answered and resolved our query within two minutes.

  3. 3. Surfshark: Best for Beginners

    Very affordable beginner-friendly VPN for Mac.

    Surfshark app
     82% 
    (120 user reviews)
    Visit Surfshark

    Pros

    1. Available through the Mac App Store
    2. 7-day free trial available on Mac
    3. Unblocks most streaming services
    4. Works on Apple TV via Smart DNS
    5. Unlimited simultaneous connections
    6. iOS app includes kill switch

    Cons

    1. No OpenVPN on non-App Store app
    2. Slow long-distance speeds

    Overall Mac Rating: 8.8/10

    This overall rating is determined by the following subcategory ratings. Read more about our Mac VPN testing methodology here.

    • 7.87.8/10
    • 9.59.5/10
    • 9.29.2/10
    • 9.89.8/10
    • 8.68.6/10
    • 8.58.5/10

    Surfshark provides enough bonus features for MacOS to make it an ideal budget VPN for Mac.

    The VPN has a convenient App Store download, a 7-day free trial, and Smart DNS feature for Apple TV.

    Cheapest Price$2.49/mo over 24 months See all plans
    US NetflixYes
    MacOS CompatibilitySierra & later
    Apple TV SupportYes
    iOS App Store Rating4.5
    Top Download Speedi

    Based on 100Mbps local test connection

    85Mbps
    Compatible with
    1. macosMacOS
    2. iosiOS
    3. appletvApple TV
    4. routerRouter

    Available through the Mac App Store

    Unlike NordVPN, the differences between Surfshark’s App Store app and its website-downloaded app are simpler.

    The only difference is the App Store client supports OpenVPN, whereas the website version doesn’t. For this reason, we strongly recommend downloading Surfshark through the Mac App Store.

    Surfshark’s MacOS apps are very intuitive and easy to use for beginners. You also have access to 24/7 live support, in case you encounter difficulties.

    Surfshark's Mac app

    Surfshark’s Mac app is available on the App Store.

    Offers a free trial and cheap prices

    Unlike the other VPNs in this list, Surfshark offers a 7-day free-trial to Mac users, so you can try out the VPN before committing to a paid plan.

    When it does come to paying, Surfshark is still very affordable. On a three-year plan, Surfshark costs just $2.49 per month. This is one of the cheapest prices offered by a top-rated VPN service.

    Great for streaming on unlimited connections

    Surfshark is also a great VPN for streaming. The VPN works with most major streaming services, including US and UK Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and HBO Max.

    You can access geo-restricted TV shows and movies on your Apple TV, too. Surfshark is in fact one of few services to offer a Smart DNS feature.

    You may have trouble streaming in 4K, though, as the VPN’s long-distance speeds aren’t as good as ExpressVPN’s or NordVPN’s.

    Surfshark is unique in that it allows unlimited simultaneous connections. You can therefore protect all your devices, and even share your VPN account with friends and family.

    Three different VPN server types

    The Surfshark Mac app splits the VPN servers into three distinct categories. However, this isn’t explained in the app.

    These are the three different server categories:

    • Locations: The default tab with all 65 server countries.
    • Static: The IP address you connect to remains the same when using that server. This is not a dedicated IP address; although the server IP remains the same, multiple users can use the same static IP address. This feature is only available on Germany, Japan, Singapore, UK, and US servers.
    • MultiHop: Adds an extra layer of security by routing your traffic through an additional VPN server. It slows down your internet speed, but makes you harder to track.
  4. 4. PrivateVPN: Best Budget VPN

    Cheap VPN for Mac excellent for streaming and torrenting.

    Image of PrivateVPN's app on mobile
     98% 
    (1,736 user reviews)
    Visit PrivateVPN

    Pros

    1. Simple & attractive Mac app
    2. Exceptional value for money
    3. Unblocks US Netflix, Hulu, iPlayer, & more
    4. No-logs privacy policy & no leaks
    5. Uses OpenVPN with 256-bit encryption
    6. Stealth VPN bypasses government censorship

    Cons

    1. Inconsistent internet speeds
    2. Limited live chat support
    3. No browser extensions

    Overall Mac Rating: 8.5/10

    This overall rating is determined by the following subcategory ratings. Read more about our Mac VPN testing methodology here.

    • 8.38.3/10
    • 77.0/10
    • 9.99.9/10
    • 9.19.1/10
    • 8.98.9/10
    • 8.48.4/10

    PrivateVPN is a very good cheap VPN for Mac. The new Mac app now includes long-missing features like a kill switch.

    For beginners, the MacOS app is well-designed and extremely easy.

    However, slow speeds hold the VPN back from challenging its higher-ranked rivals.

    Cheapest Price$1.98/mo over 24 months See all plans
    US NetflixYes
    MacOS CompatibilityEl Capitan & later
    Apple TV SupportNo
    iOS App Store Rating4.4
    Top Download Speedi

    Based on 100Mbps local test connection

    94Mbps
    Compatible with
    1. macosMacOS
    2. iosiOS
    3. appletvApple TV
    4. routerRouter

    One of the best VPNs for streaming

    PrivateVPN’s Mac app works with streaming platforms like Disney+, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and HBO Max.

    The streaming-specific servers are some of the most reliable we’ve tested.

    The VPN also unblocks 32 Netflix regions, based on our Netflix VPN tests. Only Windscribe unblocks more.

    PrivateVPN's Mac app

    PrivateVPN’s Mac app is simple and intuitive.

    Available at a bargain price

    Despite all of PrivateVPN’s advanced features, the service is available at an extremely low monthly price.

    The VPN costs as little as $1.98 per month on a two-year subscription plan, making it one of the best cheap VPNs on the market.

    Gold-standard encryption and works in China

    We put the Mac app through rigorous leak tests in our PrivateVPN review, but the VPN never leaked our IP address or DNS requests.

    The VPN’s leak protection works in combination with its strict no-logs privacy policy and kill switch to ensure online privacy against third-parties, like governments or advertisers.

    PrivateVPN’s Mac app also includes a ‘Stealth VPN’ feature. It beats VPN bans and deep packet inspection in countries with heightened government censorship, like China.

    Unlike many other VPN circumvention technologies, Stealth VPN also works on iOS, to beat censorship on all your Apple devices.

    Poor speeds and customer support

    The biggest downside to PrivateVPN is that it’s slower than other top VPNs.

    Our in-house VPN speed test tool consistently finds PrivateVPN slower than the other VPNs we recommend.

    This is because PrivateVPN operates just 150 servers worldwide. For context, this is 97% less than NordVPN’s server network.

    Fewer servers leads to higher traffic congestion, resulting in dramatically reduced speeds. Depending on your baseline internet connection, it may be impossible to stream geo-blocked video in HD.

    The live chat customer support team can also be hard to contact at times.

    PrivateVPN’s live chat feature is not scheduled, so it’s entirely random whether a support agent will be available at the time you need them.

    This can be frustrating if you’re experiencing any issues with the VPN and have to rely on less convenient and slower email support.

  5. 5. Private Internet Access: Most Secure VPN

    Security-focused and highly configurable VPN for Mac.

    Private Internet Access
     86% 
    (29 user reviews)
    Visit PIA VPN

    Pros

    1. Fully-featured Mac app
    2. Very fast
    3. iOS app includes a kill switch
    4. Advanced customizable encryption options
    5. Includes ad-blocker
    6. Verified no-logs privacy policy

    Cons

    1. The app is slow to load on Mac
    2. Doesn’t work with Mac keyboard shortcuts
    3. Based in US (Five Eyes jurisdiction)
    4. Doesn’t unblock as many streaming sites as competitors

    Overall Mac Rating: 8.5/10

    This overall rating is determined by the following subcategory ratings. Read more about our Mac VPN testing methodology here.

    • 99.0/10
    • 77.0/10
    • 99.0/10
    • 8.88.8/10
    • 8.58.5/10
    • 8.68.6/10

    Private Internet Access (PIA) is a very private and secure VPN for Mac.

    The VPN service provides one of the most full-featured and customizable VPN clients for MacOS.

    It’s also affordable, with monthly prices as low as $2.08 on a two-year plan.

    Cheapest Price$2.08/mo over 26 months See all plans
    US NetflixYes
    MacOS CompatibilityHigh Sierra & later
    Apple TV SupportNo
    iOS App Store Rating4.6
    Top Download Speedi

    Based on 100Mbps local test connection

    98Mbps
    Compatible with
    1. macosMacOS
    2. iosiOS
    3. appletvApple TV
    4. routerRouter

    Menu bar app allows for convenient connections

    By default, PIA’s MacOS app resides conveniently in the Mac menu bar, allowing you to quickly switch VPN server locations.

    This is useful when swiftly changing between geo-blocked streaming services, without having to exit the browser.

    Our streaming tests confirm Private Internet Access unblocks US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu.

    Private Internet Access' Mac app

    PIA’s MacOS app can be placed in the menu bar.

    Fast speeds on nearby servers

    In addition, our manual and automated speed tests show how Private Internet Access is one of the fastest VPNs around.

    On local connections, PIA is often faster than top services like ExpressVPN and IPVanish.

    However, the VPN is slower on international connections. Streaming US Netflix in HD from overseas shouldn’t be a problem, though.

    Advanced and customizable encryption options

    While many VPN Mac apps are basic and stripped back, PIA is extremely flexible and customizable.

    You can configure the most granular settings, including the type of encryption, the data authentication method, and even the kind of VPN handshake.

    Its strong encryption features make PIA great for torrenting on your Mac.

    The VPN supports P2P traffic on all servers, and offers port forwarding, which increases the number of torrenting peers you can seed and leech with.

    Although PIA’s US jurisdiction isn’t ideal, the VPN’s verified no-logs privacy policy guarantees user privacy.

    Furthermore, the VPN comes with a robust kill switch, preventing internet connections before the VPN app has launched. The kill switch is also available on iOS.

    Slow loading time affects user experience

    The PIA Mac app has a few negative features that prevent it from being among our very highest picks.

    Most frustratingly, the app takes as long as five seconds to open on MacOS, and server connection times are often slow. The app can therefore feel sluggish.

    Additionally, PIA VPN can’t be placed in the Dock, and Mac keyboard shortcuts do not work with the app.

How We Test Mac VPNs

To make sure you get the very best VPN for Mac we tested 68 VPNs for speed, encryption, streaming ability, and more.

We retest these VPNs weekly to ensure our information and findings are accurate and always up to date.

For use on MacOS specifically, we test every VPN for:

  • If the VPN has an intuitive and easy-to-use app for Mac.
  • Whether the VPN has good compatibility with all Apple platforms.
  • If the VPN works with geo-locked streaming services, like Netflix.
  • OpenVPN functionality, a kill switch, and AES-256 encryption.
  • Fast download speeds on nearby and far-away servers.
  • Servers optimized for torrenting and quick P2P file-sharing.

Here’s a full list of the factors we test for when ranking the best VPNs for Mac:

1. Mac App: 25%

Minimum Requirement: A Native app for Mac with limited features.
We Recommend: An intuitive and fully-featured Mac app that can be downloaded through the App Store.

We only recommend VPN software that comes with a pre-configured and intuitive app for MacOS. These are the most user-friendly, and are as easy to use as your Mac’s other native apps.

We download every VPN we test onto our iMac and MacBook Pro, to get a full sense of how well each service performs on different device types and screen sizes.

We analyze every VPN’s Mac app and keep a detailed record of what features it is and what’s missing.

In particular, we check whether the app can be downloaded through the Mac App Store, whether it runs natively on Apple Silicon, and if the app can be placed in the Mac menu bar.

2. Apple System Integration: 20%

Minimum Requirement: Has native apps for iOS and iPadOS.
We Recommend: An easy-to-use app for iPhone, an optimized app for iPad, and a Smart DNS feature for Apple TV.

As a Mac user, you’ll likely also have an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV. To ensure a VPN scales well across the entire suite of Apple devices, we test each one on every platform. This includes iOS, iPadOS, and tvOS.

Linked to the above, the VPN must also allow the use of at least five devices simultaneously.

When testing on the range of Apple’s operating systems, we determine whether the VPN has an intuitive iPhone app, if the iPad app is optimized for a larger screen, and whether it provides a Smart DNS tool for Apple TV.

To quantify the rating for this subcategory, each VPN is penalized by 0.2 for each missing feature. We keep this data in a table updated weekly based on our ongoing tests.

3. Streaming: 15%

Minimum Requirement: Works with US Netflix and BBC iPlayer.
We Recommend: Works with more than 10 Netflix libraries, HBO Max, DAZN, and Amazon Prime Video.

Without a VPN, there are many streaming platforms and video content you won’t be able to access.

A top-rated VPN hides your IP address and spoofs your location, so you can stream previously blocked TV shows and movies.

We test each VPN with every popular streaming service, including Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video. The more streaming apps a VPN can access, the higher the rating.

We track every VPN’s streaming performance over time, with results stretching back over four years. This tells us how reliable the VPN is, not just that it worked at a single moment in time.

To be considered good, a VPN must have worked for at least the previous four weeks for any given streaming service.

4. Encryption & Security: 15%

Minimum Requirement: AES-256 encryption, OpenVPN, and a kill switch.
We Recommend: Double hop, customizable encryption, and dedicated IP addresses.

Without strong encryption and security, a VPN will do nothing to protect your Mac against online threats.

The above is particularly important on Mac, where many VPN services don’t provide a kill switch or split tunneling feature.

We check each VPN for the most essential encryption features, including the AES-256 cipher, DNS leak protection, and the OpenVPN protocol.

To verify encryption features are being properly implemented, we then run each VPN through packet-sniffing software.

We reward VPNs that adequately encrypt and protect your data, with the very best VPNs offering advanced features, such as double hop and dedicated IP addresses.

We decrease the rating of any VPN that doesn’t include the option to change VPN protocol, or secure traffic with a kill switch.

5. Speed: 15%

Minimum Requirement: Average download speeds above 70Mbps.
We Recommend: Download speeds of at least 80Mbps and server connections under 3 seconds.

To make sure the VPNs we recommend are the fastest on the market, we use the combined results from our extensive manual speed test process and our automated VPN speed test tool.

To calculate a speed rating for each VPN, we test every service while connected to servers around the world.

After performing over 12 monthly tests per location, each VPN is assigned a local and international speed rating out of 10. The lower the download speed loss, the higher we rate the VPN.

Using our 100Mbps test connection, a fast VPN will have speeds above 90Mbps on a local connection and above 70Mbps on an international one. We don’t recommend any VPNs on this page that fall below this benchmark.

6. Torrenting: 10%

Minimum Requirement: Some P2P-friendly servers and a minimal-logs privacy policy.
We Recommend: Torrenting allowed on all servers, a kill switch, and a no-logs privacy policy.

MacOS is the only Apple platform that supports torrent downloads. We test every Mac VPN on BitTorrent and uTorrent.

After downloading a copyright-free torrent file, we rate each VPN based on key P2P attributes. This includes the recorded bitrate, the number of P2P servers, and its logging policy.

Testing P2P-specific criteria gives us a comprehensive view of each VPN’s torrenting ability.

The highest-rated VPNs have fast P2P speeds, robust security, and a no-logs privacy policy. We downgrade any VPNs that collect user data or any that limit torrenting activity.

Why You Should Use a VPN on Your Mac

While MacBooks and iMacs have historically been much less prone to security vulnerabilities than Windows devices, this system-level protection does not necessarily apply to online activity.

Macs don’t come with any form of built-in security features that prevent your ISP or hackers from snooping on your online traffic. This makes a VPN essential for your MacBook or iMac.

Here’s a quick summary of the main benefits of using a VPN on your Mac:

1Encrypt and anonymize your web traffic

A secure VPN encrypts and anonymizes your internet traffic, making it impossible for anyone to see the data being passed through the VPN tunnel.

A VPN is particularly useful connecting to an untrustworthy public WiFi network. These WiFi networks are often unsecured and easy targets for hackers to carry out MITM attacks.

If you use an insecure public WiFi networks without a VPN, your most sensitive information is left vulnerable.

2Hide your IP address

Your IP address is your unique identifier on the web. It allows websites and applications to know your location, and third-parties, like governments and advertisers, to track and target you.

When you connect to a VPN server, your real IP address is replaced by an anonymous IP address from the VPN server. Once connected to a no-logs VPN, your web activity is virtually untraceable. This conceals your online activity from third-parties, including advertisers and surveilling governments.

3Stream geo-blocked content

VPN software allows you to geo-spoof your location and access TV shows and movies that aren’t available in your region. As a result, with a good Mac VPN, you can stream services like US Netflix from anywhere. The US Netflix library has the most video titles in the world, so a VPN allows you to get the maximum value from your existing Netflix subscription.

All five of our best VPNs for Mac work with other streaming services, too. This means that no matter where you’re located in the world, you can watch titles from sites like BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and Hulu in HD.

4Bypass online censorship

Countries with a large amount of government censorship often ban websites and apps that do not conform to the ideals of the government. For example, Instagram and YouTube are banned in China, and ProtonMail and Dailymotion are banned in Russia.

The best VPN clients use clever obfuscation tools that beat censorship in countries like China. This means that using the VPN will allow you to circumvent web censors and access all previously restricted websites and apps.

If you plan on using your Mac VPN in a heavily censored region, we recommend using ExpressVPN, Surfshark, or PrivateVPN. These VPNs have been the most reliable at bypassing censorship in all our tests.

Additional research by Luke Williams

Mac VPN FAQs

Does MacOS Big Sur Bypass VPNs?

No, MacOS Big Sur does not bypass VPNs. Claims to the contrary are based on a misunderstanding of Apple’s network monitoring and security software.

Widespread reports claim the latest version of MacOS, named Big Sur, deliberately allows Apple’s apps to bypass VPN software. This is because Apple has added 56 of its own apps, including FaceTime and iCloud syncing, to a network exclusion list.

However, these Apple apps only bypass NEAppProxyProvider, which is a feature used by per-app VPNs.

Per-app VPNs therefore do not apply to Apple apps, but these are rare and not widely available.

The Mac VPNs we recommend use MacOS’ built-in Packet Filter firewall. It doesn’t exclude apps from the encrypted tunnel, and protects the whole system.

What Is the Best Free VPN for Mac?

Based on our extensive testing, Windscribe is the best free VPN for Mac.

Windscribe encrypts traffic using the AES-256 cipher, and it unblocks US Netflix and BBC iPlayer with fast speeds.

The VPN has some problems, though. It’s based in a Five Eyes jurisdiction and it hasn’t been independently verified as a no-logs VPN.

On top of this, Windscribe Free only offers 10 server locations, and a limiting 10 GB monthly data cap. That’s just four hours of HD streaming time.

For other alternatives, read our full line-up of the best completely free Mac VPNs.

What Is the Fastest VPN for Mac?

Based on our most recent test results, ExpressVPN is currently the fastest VPN for Mac.

It’s crucial we recommend the fastest (and safe) VPNs for Mac available. We conduct daily analysis on the results from our automated speed test tool.

These automated speed tests run seven days a week, delivering up-to-date speed results from around the world.

Here are the latest results from our five best VPNs for Mac on a New York to New York connection:

VPN Speed Performance Comparison Chart

Compare the speeds of Mac VPNs across different countries

The chart above shows how ExpressVPN was the fastest VPN for Mac on short-distance connections over the past eight weeks.

What Is the Best VPN Protocol to Use on Mac?

You should use OpenVPN on your Mac. OpenVPN is our preferred VPN protocol because it strikes the best balance of speed and security.

Unlike most other VPN protocols, OpenVPN is open-source — meaning anyone can contribute to its development.

As a result, OpenVPN benefits from the security and error checking of a large community, reducing the likelihood of security issues.

OpenVPN has been iterated on for over 18 years, so it’s now well-established as the most secure VPN protocol.

Our top-rated VPNs for Mac come with OpenVPN without the need for manual configuration. If it’s not clearly labeled in the VPN app, look for ‘UDP’ and ‘TCP’. These are communication protocols that work on top of OpenVPN, with UDP maximizing speed and TCP maximizing compatibility.

What Is the Best VPN for Netflix on Mac?

ExpressVPN is the best Netflix VPN for Mac. It has a superb Mac app, fast speeds for buffer-free HD streaming, and is the most consistent VPN for streaming dozens of Netflix libraries.

Unlike most VPN services, ExpressVPN also includes a Smart DNS feature to access US Netflix directly on your Apple TV.

The VPN also has great apps for iOS and iPadOS, so you can watch Netflix on your entire suite of Apple devices.

Over years of testing, ExpressVPN has been the most consistent at unblocking US Netflix. The VPN also works with 18 other Netflix libraries, including the UK, Canada, Brazil, and Japan.

If you’ want to stream even more Netflix libraries, Windscribe streams 42 Netflix regions while PrivateVPN unlocks 32. However, their Mac apps are less impressive and they don’t have a Smart DNS tool.

What is the Best VPN Browser Extension for Safari?

There are no VPN browser extensions for Safari. This is because Apple removed support for traditional browser extensions with Safari 12 (released in 2018), in favor of ‘Safari App Extensions’ — which come bundled with apps downloaded from the Mac App Store.

Due to the App Store’s strict sandboxing and permission allowances, very few apps offer browser extensions compatible with Safari 12.

The best solution is to use your VPN app in your Mac’s menu bar. By doing this, you retain the convenience of always having your VPN app accessible.

Moreover, a VPN app encrypts all your device’s web activity, while browser extensions only protect your browser traffic. In fact, browser extensions leave non-browser connections, like iCloud photo syncing, unencrypted and exposed.

With the release of MacOS Big Sur, Safari will soon support the Web Extensions API. This will make it easier for VPN services to bring their Chrome and Firefox extensions over to Safari.

About the Author


  • Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

    Simon Migliano

    Simon is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times, CNet and more. Read full bio