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The Best VPN for Mac in 2021

Illustration of MacOS devices, an iMac and a MacBook
Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

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

Although MacOS provides some fundamental security features, a good Mac VPN will offer more than just basic protection. We have tested and analyzed over 69 VPN services on our test MacBook Pro and iMac to identify the five best VPNs for Mac.

Using a VPN on your Mac prevents advertisers, governments, and your ISP from tracking your online activity. The VPN software will hide your IP address and route your traffic via a secure server, further encrypting and anonymizing your web traffic. This also bypasses geo-blocks, such as those applied by Netflix and BBC iPlayer.

The best VPNs for iMac and MacBook are:

  1. ExpressVPN: The best all-round VPN for Mac and MacBook. Read summary.
  2. NordVPN: The best value for money Mac VPN. Read summary.
  3. Surfshark: Very good VPN for Mac with a free trial. Read summary.
  4. PrivateVPN: The best budget VPN for Mac. Read summary.
  5. Private Internet Access: Very fast and highly secure Mac VPN.
    Read summary.

Every VPN on this list has been tested, reviewed, and ranked based on its speed, security, and usability on Apple Mac. All five VPN clients are therefore compatible with MacOS Big Sur, Catalina, Mojave, High Sierra, and Sierra.

Moreover, the Mac VPNs above all unblock multiple streaming platforms including US Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer.

Big Sur Update:

Despite misleading information from some publications, MacOS Big Sur does not bypass whole-system VPNs. All of the Mac VPNs we recommend work as intended and will encrypt all traffic. You can read more on this below.

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
    (1,758 user reviews)
    Visit ExpressVPN
    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
    1. More expensive than other VPNs
    2. No kill switch on iOS app

    ExpressVPN is the best VPN for Mac because of its feature-packed and intuitive app for MacOS. ExpressVPN’s native Mac app is incredibly easy to use with its large button for quick connections, as well as plenty of advanced security and privacy features.

    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 a 100Mbps test connection

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

    Best-in-class security protections

    By default, ExpressVPN encrypts internet traffic using AES 256-bit and a UDP OpenVPN connection — which gives you the best balance of performance and security. The VPN also comes with DNS and IP leak protection and a robust kill switch (called Network Lock), a feature that ensures your true location is not revealed if your VPN connection disconnects for any reason. 

    Unblocks US Netflix with fast speeds

    ExpressVPN has consistently proven itself to be the fastest VPN on long-distance connections, with our speed test results recording 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 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 providers in our list that works across all Apple products, even including specialist products like the Apple TV. The VPN’s MediaStreamer feature is the best Smart DNS tool we’ve tested and allows you to reroute your DNS requests and unblock geo-restricted content directly on your Apple TV. This is great for streaming content from US Netflix and HBO Max right on your biggest screen.

    The only real drawback for Apple users is that ExpressVPN’s iOS app doesn’t have an internet kill switch. The absence of this feature on iOS VPN apps is more common than we’d like, but some other VPNs have managed to implement it nonetheless. The lack of a kill switch on ExpressVPN’s iOS app means that your true IP address is at risk of being exposed if your iPhone VPN connection drops suddenly. 

    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 don’t forget, 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. ExpressVPN has the easiest to use Mac app on the market and the VPN integrates seamlessly with all other devices in the Apple ecosystem. Though slightly more expensive than other VPNs, ExpressVPN is worth the money if you want the absolute best Mac VPN.

  2. 2. NordVPN: Best Value VPN

    Fast and affordable VPN optimized for MacOS.

    NordVPN Mobile App Screenshot
    (246 user reviews)
    Visit NordVPN
    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
    1. Confusing differences between app versions
    2. Doesn’t accept PayPal

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

    Cheapest Price$3.71/mo over 24 Months See all plans
    US NetflixYes
    MacOS CompatibilityYosemite & later
    Apple TV SupportYes
    iOS App Store Rating4.5
    Top Download Speedi

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

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

    Great for private torrenting & Netflix streaming

    The VPN service operates under a verified no-logs privacy policy and allows torrenting on all of its VPN servers. In all, you can trust NordVPN to keep your P2P activity private and secure.

    What’s more, NordVPN is also one of the best VPNs at unblocking streaming sites like US Netflix from anywhere — helped by some of the fastest long-distance speeds we’ve seen. It also comes with a Smart DNS feature, so you can watch Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer on your Apple TV, too.

    Complicated set-up process

    Frustratingly, NordVPN has two different versions of its Mac app — one app is available through the Mac App Store and the other can be downloaded from NordVPN’s website. There are significant differences between the two NordVPN Mac clients, but it’s not clear which is better. 

    For instance, the IKE NordVPN app, which is available through the App Store, gives you the greatest amount of VPN protocol options — offering the choice of OpenVPN, WireGuard, or IKEv2. The kill switch on the IKE NordVPN app also works system-wide — an essential feature for privacy. On the other hand, the direct download client has no VPN protocol options and apps need to be manually configured to work with the kill switch. 

    The situation is further confused as the IKE app misses out on some key features that the direct download app includes. The direct download app allows you to connect to NordVPN’s specialty servers, like its Double VPN and Obfuscated servers, and to set custom DNS addresses. While these are great privacy and security features, the app’s lack of system-wide kill switch makes it less secure overall. We recommend downloading NordVPN through the Mac App Store for all users.

    Despite server breach, security is now exceptional

    It is also worth noting that a NordVPN server was compromised in March 2018. Despite NordVPN’s initial poor reaction to the breach, no user data or sensitive information was exposed and the company has rapidly improved its security in response. NordVPN’s renewed commitment to security, along with its no-logs policy, has allowed the VPN provider to regain our trust after an initially rocky period.

    More pleasingly, both NordVPN Mac apps encrypt traffic using AES 256-bit encryption, prevent leaks with DNS and IP protection, and the clients include CyberSec — NordVPN’s impressive ad and malware blocker.

    Helpful 24/7 customer support

    NordVPN’s apps are stable and easy to use, but if you ever do 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 was able to answer and resolve our query within two minutes.

  3. 3. Surfshark: Best for Beginners

    Very affordable beginner-friendly VPN for Mac.

    Surfshark app
    (91 user reviews)
    Visit Surfshark
    1. Available through the Mac App Store
    2. Free trial available on Mac
    3. Unblocks most streaming services
    4. Works on Apple TV
    5. Unlimited simultaneous connections
    6. iOS app includes kill switch
    1. No OpenVPN on non-App Store app
    2. Slow long-distance speeds
    3. Secretive ownership structure

    Surfshark provides enough bonus features for MacOS to make it a terrific budget VPN for Mac. The VPN has a convenient App Store download, 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 a 100Mbps test connection

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

    Can be downloaded through the Mac App Store

    Unlike NordVPN, the differences between Surfshark’s App Store app and its website-downloaded app are simpler. The only change is that the App Store version supports OpenVPN, whereas the other does not. For this reason, we strongly recommend downloading Surfshark through the Mac App Store

    Offers a free trial and cheap prices

    Unlike all 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, though, Surfshark is available for a bargain price. For the three-year plan, Surfshark works out to be just $1.94 per month — which is one of the cheapest prices we’ve seen from any VPN provider.

    Great for streaming & allows unlimited connections

    Surfshark is also a great VPN for streaming. The VPN unblocks most major streaming sites from around the world, including US and UK Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and HBO Max. You’ll be able to access your favorite TV shows and movies on your Apple TV, too, as Surfshark is one of few providers that offers a Smart DNS feature. You may have trouble streaming in 4K, though, as the VPN’s long-distance speeds aren’t quite as good.

    Surfshark is unique in that it allows simultaneous connections, allowing you to protect all of your devices and even share a Surfshark account with your friends and family. And though Surfshark’s Mac app is incredibly easy to use, the VPN is backed by a 24/7 customer support team, so you’ll always receive prompt assistance if you run into any issues. 

    Includes three different VPN server types

    The Surfshark Mac app splits the VPN servers into three distinct categories. This is great for transparency, but the different sections aren’t explained in the app. They are:

    • Locations: The default tab with all 61 of Surfshark’s available server locations. 
    • Static: The IP address you connect to remains the same whenever you use that server. While similar, this is not a dedicated IP address. This is because although the server IP remains the same, multiple users can receive the same static IP address. This feature is only available for servers in five countries – Germany, Japan, Singapore, UK, and the US.
    • MultiHop: Adds an extra layer of security by routing your traffic through an additional VPN server. This will slow down your internet speed but makes you harder to track.

    Surfshark’s intuitive and attractive Mac app makes it a great VPN for beginners. It has the only free trial of any good Mac VPN, and it is simply one of the best VPNs for streaming. Although Surfshark’s speeds lag behind competitors, the VPN can be purchased at a bargain price and offers as many desirable features as the most expensive VPNs on the market.

  4. 4. PrivateVPN: Best Budget VPN

    Cheap VPN for Mac excellent for streaming and torrenting.

    Image of PrivateVPN's app on mobile
    (1,736 user reviews)
    Visit PrivateVPN
    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
    1. Inconsistent internet speeds
    2. Limited live chat support
    3. No browser extensions

    Thanks to a recent update, PrivateVPN is now one of the best VPNs for Mac. The new app brings a load of long-missing features for MacOS — including a kill switch, dedicated streaming servers, and an attractive app design.

    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 a 100Mbps test connection

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

    One of the best VPNs for streaming

    PrivateVPN’s Mac app includes specialized servers for sites like Disney+, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and HBO Max. These servers are some of the most reliable we’ve tested, so you won’t have any trouble finding the content you want. The VPN also unblocks Netflix in a massive 32 countries — which is the second-best result of any VPN provider.

    Available at a bargain price

    Despite all of PrivateVPN’s advanced features, it can be purchased for an extremely low price. The VPN costs as little as $1.89 per month when bought on a two-year subscription, making it one of the best cheap VPNs on the market. 

    Gold-standard encryption & works in China

    We put PrivateVPN’s Mac app through our rigorous leak tests and found that the VPN did not leak our IP address or DNS requests. The VPN’s leak protection works in combination with PrivateVPN’s strict no-logs privacy policy and kill switch to ensure your online activity cannot be tracked by any third-parties, like governments or advertisers.

    PrivateVPN’s Mac app also includes a ‘Stealth VPN’ feature which circumvents VPN bans and deep packet inspection in countries with a large amount of government censorship. Unlike many other VPN circumvention technologies, Stealth VPN also works on iOS — so you can protect yourself on all of your Apple devices.

    Poor speeds & customer support

    The biggest downside to PrivateVPN is that it is slower than other top VPNs. Our automated VPN speed testing tool consistently finds PrivateVPN to be slower than the other providers on our list. We discovered that this is because PrivateVPN operates just 150 servers worldwide — which is 97% less than NordVPN’s server network. 

    PrivateVPN’s low amount of servers leads to them becoming overly congested, resulting in dramatically reduced speeds. Depending on your baseline internet connection, this could make it 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.

    Overall, PrivateVPN is simply a great cheap VPN for Mac. For beginners, the MacOS app is extremely easy but also includes enough advanced security features to satisfy advanced VPN users. The large range of dedicated streaming servers makes the VPN one of the best for streaming, but the VPN is held back from the top spot by its mediocre speeds, inconvenient customer support team, and limited platform support.

  5. 5. PIA VPN: Most Secure VPN

    Security-focused and highly configurable VPN for Mac.

    Private Internet Access
    (25 user reviews)
    Visit PIA VPN
    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
    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

    Private Internet Access (PIA) is a safe and secure VPN for Mac, featuring one of the most full-featured VPN apps we’ve seen for MacOS and monthly prices as low as $2.69 on a 26-month plan.

    Cheapest Price$2.69/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 a 100Mbps test connection

    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 feature is particularly useful when swiftly changing between geo-blocked streaming services without having to exit the browser, with our tests finding Private Internet Access unblocks US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu.

    Fast speeds on nearby servers

    On top of this, our manual and automated speed tests have found that Private Internet Access is one of the fastest VPNs on the market. On local-connections, PIA is persistently faster than other top VPN providers like ExpressVPN and IPVanish. The VPN fares slightly worse on international connections, though, so you may struggle to stream US Netflix in HD video from everywhere in the world.

    Advanced & customizable encryption options

    While many VPN Mac apps are basic and stripped back, PIA is extremely flexible and customizable. The app allows you to granularly configure settings — including the type of encryption, the data authentication method, and even the kind of VPN handshake. You can also choose between both a UDP and TCP OpenVPN connection, as well as try out the newer WireGuard VPN protocol.

    PIA’s strong encryption features also make it a great VPN for torrenting on your Mac. The VPN supports torrenting on all its servers and offers port forwarding — which increases the number of torrenting peers you can seed and leech with.

    Although PIA’s US jurisdiction is certainly a drawback, the VPN provider operates under a verified no-logs privacy policy and has always protected its users’ privacy and security in the past. Furthermore, the VPN comes with a robust kill switch, which is unique in that it prevents you from connecting to the internet before the VPN app has launched. Unlike many other VPN providers, the PIA iOS app includes a kill switch, too — ensuring you remain private and anonymous across all of your devices.

    Slow loading time worsens user experience

    The PIA Mac app has a few negative features that prevent it from being among our top picks, though. Most frustratingly, the app takes as long as five seconds to open on MacOS and server connection times are often slow. This can make the app feel sluggish, so we hope that the VPN makes efforts to optimize the app for MacOS in the future. Additionally, PIA cannot be placed in the Dock, and Mac keyboard shortcuts do not work with the app.

    In summary, Private Internet Access is a cheap and highly-customizable VPN that will keep you private and secure while you use your Mac. The VPN unblocks major streaming sites, including US Netflix and BBC iPlayer, as well as being the very fastest VPN on local connections. PIA is not as good as competitors like ExpressVPN or NordVPN overall, but it’s a great choice if you want the very fastest speeds for a low price.

Comparison of the Best Mac VPNs

We’ve put 10 of the most popular Mac VPNs through our expert testing process so you can easily compare them in terms of speed, price, and compatibility with MacOS.

Here are the full test results:

How We Chose the Best VPN for Mac: Research & Methodology

Almost all VPN providers choose to prioritize their apps for Windows due to its larger user base. This, in combination with MacOS’s more strict security and sandboxing means that Mac VPN apps are often left with fewer features.

As a Mac user, you still need a VPN that looks and feels native to MacOS, encrypts your online traffic, and allows you to bypass restrictive geo-blocks. To make sure you get the very best VPN for Mac we tested 69 VPNs for key attributes including speed, support, and server locations.

Our experts retest these VPNs daily to ensure that our information and findings are accurate and always up to date.

The VPNs in this list have been tested and verified to meet the following criteria:

Ease of Use

It is essential that we only recommend VPN software that comes with a pre-configured and intuitive app for MacOS. This gives you a VPN app that is as easy to use as your Mac’s native apps.

Strong Encryption

Macs are less vulnerable to viruses, malware, and security flaws than Windows devices — but there are still a large number of security threats that pose danger to your Mac. A VPN will secure your connection and prevent you from falling victim to online threats, like MITM attacks.

Security and Privacy

We often test VPNs for Mac that do not provide essential security features. For guaranteed security and privacy, all of our picks come with a built-in kill switch, IP, DNS, and WebRTC leak protection, privately-owned DNS servers, and strict minimal-logs privacy policies.

Fast Speeds

Whether you’re using your Mac for torrenting, streaming Netflix, or browsing the web, you mustn’t be left waiting on your VPN connection. To make sure the VPNs we recommend are the fastest on the market, we use the results from our in-house automated tool, which is the most comprehensive VPN speed testing tool around.

Use OpenVPN

Many VPN apps for Mac exclusively use less-secure VPN protocols, like IPSec or IKEv2. However, our picks must come with the choice of OpenVPN. OpenVPN has been consistently improved over 18 years of open-source development and has been audited by trusted third-parties, making it our preferred choice for both its fast speeds and high-security.

Large Server Network

Your internet speed will be harshly affected if you connect to a VPN server in a far-away location. All of our Mac VPNs provide servers in all the inhabited continents of the world, so you’re always able to connect to a fast nearby server, no matter where you are.

Many Simultaneous Connections

All of our VPN recommendations come with at least five simultaneous connections. This means that you can protect your Mac, iPhone, iPad, and your family’s devices on the same VPN subscription.

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

This is particularly useful when you connect to an untrustworthy public WiFi network. These WiFi networks are often unsecured and are easy targets for hackers to carry out MITM attacks. If you use one of these 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 all of your online activity from any 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 of our tests.

How to Set Up a VPN on Mac

Installing VPN software onto your Mac is easy, so long as you follow the tips in this guide. Like all five of our recommendations, just make sure your chosen VPN has a native Mac app.

To install and use a VPN on your Mac, follow the steps below.

  1. Visit the VPN provider’s website and sign up. After you have created your account, log in with your details.
  2. Locate the ‘Download VPN’ section and click the appropriate button for MacOS. If the VPN has an app in the Mac App Store (like NordVPN and Surfshark), then visit the App Store instead.How to use a VPN on Mac
  3. Open the downloaded file and follow the instructions in the set up assistant.
  4. Once the app has finished installing, input your username and password.
  5. Connect to your desired server location. For the fastest speeds, connect to a server in a nearby location.
  6. Your Mac is now covered with VPN protection. Continue to use your Mac as you normally would.

How to Set Up Built-in IKEv2 VPN on MacOS

Since MacOS El Capitan (released in 2015), all Macs have come with built-in IKEv2. This feature allows you to manually configure a VPN without the need for an app. 

Manually configuring a VPN on your Mac will still require a paid VPN subscription, but it’s a great option if you’re on a device that prevents any app installations — like on a work computer, for example.

IKEv2 is a flexible, relatively secure VPN protocol with very fast speeds. However, IKEv2 is a closed-source protocol so there is no guarantee that it has not been compromised.

As a result, we always recommend using OpenVPN whenever possible. However, MacOS does not come with built-in support for OpenVPN, but you can read how to configure it with a third-party app in the section below.

Of our recommendations, only NordVPN and Surfshark allow you to manually configure an IKEv2 connection on your Mac.

All other VPN services only support manual configuration with L2TP, which is a less secure protocol that we don’t recommend.

To set-up a VPN using MacOS’ built-in functionality, follow these instructions:

  1. Download an IKEv2 certificate from the VPN provider. Then open the certificate and select Always Trust in Mac Keychain.Install IKEv2 VPN on MacOS
  2. Open your Mac’s System Preferences and click Network. Then click the + symbol to add a new network connection. Select VPN in the Interface drop-down menu, and choose IKEv2 from the list of protocol options. After naming your connection, click create.
  3. Locate your desired server ID from the VPN provider. These are located here for NordVPN, and in your account settings for Surfshark. Paste these ID addresses into the Server Address and Remote ID fields in System Preferences.
  4. Click Authentication Details and input the username and password you used when signing up for the VPN service. Click Apply to save your changes.
  5. Click Connect and enable Show VPN status in menu bar. You are now connected to your chosen VPN server location and can connect and disconnect straight from the menu bar. The menu bar widget shows your connection status, along with your time connected to the server.Mac computer connected to IKEv2 server

Your Mac is now protected with the security and encryption of the VPN tunnel and you will be displaying the IP address issued from your VPN server. You can verify that your VPN is running successfully by using our IP lookup toolIf your IP address is displaying from a location that is not your own, then you’re all set.

How to Set Up Third-Party OpenVPN Clients on MacOS

Manually setting up a Mac with OpenVPN is relatively simple, but it does require third-party software. For this, we recommend Tunnelblick. Tunnelblick is free to use, open-source, and provides an easy-to-use interface.

Manually setting up a Mac VPN with Tunnelblick is easier than with the native IKEv2 implementation and, by using OpenVPN, you benefit from greater security and compatibility with a larger number of VPN providers. All five of our recommendations support this method of installation.  

To set-up a Mac VPN using Tunnelblick, follow these instructions:

  1. Download Tunnelblick from the website. Install the app by following the on-screen instructions.
  2. Download the OpenVPN manual configuration files from the VPN provider’s website. These can typically be found under the More Devices section in Setup
  3. Select the VPN server location you want and install the corresponding .ovpn file. Locate the .ovpn file in your downloads folder and open it with Tunnelblick.Install OpenVPN VPN on MacOS
  4. Click Connect and input the specialized username and password found on the VPN provider’s website. This will be a random string of characters and not your usual VPN login details. Mac connected to OpenVPN server
  5. You will now be connected to the VPN server. To make sure everything was set up correctly, use our IP leak test tool.

Conclusion on Mac VPNs

We strongly recommend that all Mac users install and use a VPN. A good Mac VPN will encrypt your online traffic, hide your IP address from third-parties, and unblock streaming websites from around the world.

We’ve spent years testing hundreds of VPNs on our MacBook and iMac to make sure our recommendations are the very best on the market. We analyze and retest these VPNs daily, so our information remains accurate, keeping you informed and abreast of any updates.

Based on our April 2021 tests, the best VPN for Mac is ExpressVPN. The VPN has a native MacOS app that is easy to use and install, consistently performs the best in our long-distance speed tests, and reliably unblocks US Netflix and Hulu from anywhere in the world.


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 have claimed that 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, we discovered that 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.

Instead, all the VPNs we recommend use MacOS’ built-in Packet Filter firewall, which does not exclude any apps from the encrypted tunnel and protects the whole system.

For this reason, all apps on MacOS Big Sur, including Apple’s, are protected by every system-wide Mac VPN.

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 AES-256, has a generous data cap of 10 GB per month, and unblocks US Netflix and BBC iPlayer with fast speeds.

The VPN has some problems, though, most notably that it’s based in a Five Eyes jurisdiction and hasn’t been independently verified as a no-logs VPN. On top of this, Windscribe Free comes with just 10 server locations and the 10 GB monthly data allowance will allow you to stream just four hours of HD content per month.

If you want to see alternatives, read our full line-up of the best completely free Mac VPNs.

What Is the Fastest VPN for Mac?

To ensure the VPNs we recommend are consistently the fastest on the market, we conduct daily analysis on the results from our in-house automated speed test tool. 

These automated speed tests run constantly, seven days a week, to deliver up-to-date and consistent results from all over the world. All tests are conducted under strict scientific conditions, with no human bias, and no relying on third-party websites. We own all the servers and infrastructure that we test with, and report the results exactly as we find them.

We’ve made sure that all five of our Mac VPN recommendations provide fast enough speeds for the most demanding online activity, including streaming 4K video and torrenting. However, you can see for yourself the live results from each VPN we recommended. 

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

Use our Speed Test Tool to compare the speeds of Mac VPNs across different countries.

Over the entire eight week period, NordVPN was the fastest VPN for Mac on local connections. The VPN’s speed remained fast and steady — falling to 91Mbps at its lowest point and peaking at 93Mbps. 

Surfshark and Private Internet Access also performed very well, with consistent speeds that just fell short of NordVPN’s results. The other VPNs were less impressive, however, with ExpressVPN’s speeds proving to be uncharacteristically unreliable. PrivateVPN performed the worst, with slow speeds that fluctuated wildly. 

Overall, all five of our recommendations for the best VPN for Mac will provide fast speeds for high-bandwidth tasks, like torrenting and streaming HD video. However, based on our most recent test results, NordVPN is the fastest VPN for Mac.

What Is the Best VPN Protocol to Use on Mac?

As with all other VPN connections, you should use OpenVPN on your Mac. OpenVPN is our preferred VPN protocol because it provides 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 any security issues. OpenVPN has been iterated on for over 18 years, so it’s now well-established as the most secure VPN protocol.

All five of our best VPNs for Mac come with OpenVPN without the need for manual configuration, so make sure to connect to it whenever possible. It may not be clearly labeled in the VPN app, though, so instead, 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 — so you can access US Netflix directly on your Apple TV. It also has great apps for iOS and iPadOS, so you can watch Netflix on your entire suite of Apple devices.

Over years of testing, we’ve found ExpressVPN to be the most consistent for unblocking US Netflix. The VPN also works with 18 other Netflix libraries, including the UK, Canada, Brazil, and Japan.

While ExpressVPN’s fast speeds and consistency make it the best Netflix VPN, it is not perfect. If you’re looking to unblock more total Netflix libraries, Windscribe works with 42 different Netflix catalogs while PrivateVPN unlocks 32. However, the less impressive Mac apps and the notable absence of Smart DNS means ExpressVPN is the better choice for most Mac users.

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 alternative to Safari browser extensions 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. This makes switching between streaming services from around the world quick and easy.

On top of this, a VPN app encrypts all of your activity, while browser extensions only protect your browser traffic. As a result, browser extensions leave all of your non-browser connections, like iCloud photo syncing, unencrypted and exposed.

However, if you are set on a VPN browser extension for Safari your options will improve from the end of this year. With MacOS Big Sur, Safari will support the Web Extensions API — making it easier for VPN providers to bring their Chrome and Firefox extensions over to Safari.

Alternatively, if you’re a Chrome or Firefox user, we’ve also listed our picks for the best VPN extensions for Chrome and the best VPN extensions for Firefox.

Are VPNs Legal?

Using a VPN in countries like the US, UK, and Canada is perfectly legal. VPNs only have illegal status in heavily-censored regions, such as North Korea.

VPNs provide a legitimate way of tunneling online traffic and are relied upon by many businesses and governments to encrypt sensitive data. As a result, criminalizing their use would make little sense.

However, it is worth remembering that anything illegal without a VPN is also illegal with a VPN. This includes torrenting copyrighted material, as well as harassment. If you are caught conducting illegal activity while using a VPN, you will be subject to the same criminal procedure as usual.

In other countries, the situation is more complicated. While many publications claim that VPNs are illegal in countries like China and Russia, government-authorized VPNs are legal to use.

However, to get legal status in these countries — VPN providers have to adhere to strict government-issued guidelines, such as invasive logging or website blacklists. These restrictions undermine the entire usefulness of using a VPN, so it should go without saying that you should not use any government-approved VPNs under any circumstances.

As a workaround, the best VPNs will provide alternative download links so you can use the software in high-surveillance countries without being detected.

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