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The Best VPN for Mac in 2020

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 VPN will offer more than just basic protection. Our experts have tested and analyzed over 70 VPN services on our own MacBook Pro and iMac to find the five best VPNs for Mac.

A VPN for your Mac prevents advertisers, governments, and your ISP from tracking your online activity. The VPN software will hide your IP address and secure your traffic through an encrypted tunnel, allowing you to browse all websites privately.

The best VPNs for Mac in September 2020 are:

  1. ExpressVPNThe best all-round VPN for Mac, with the fastest long-distance speeds, the greatest compatibility with Apple devices, and the ability to unblock US Netflix. Read summary
  2. NordVPN: The best value for money Mac VPN, featuring a zero-logs privacy policy, Double VPN, and fast speeds. Read summary
  3. Surfshark: The only VPN for Mac with a free trial and it unblocks 15 Netflix libraries. Read summary
  4. PrivateVPN: The best budget VPN for Mac, costing just $1.89 per month with dedicated streaming servers for sites like Disney+ and Hulu. Read summary
  5. Private Internet Access: The most secure VPN for Mac, coming with a verified no-logs policy, customizable encryption, and rock-solid protection of user privacy. Read summary

If you want more information about our top five recommendations for Mac, you can jump ahead to our in-depth analysis of each VPN service.

Most of the other VPN providers we tested lacked advanced security features on MacOS, were unable to unblock Netflix, or were too slow. We test the VPNs in this list daily to make sure our recommendations stand out and offer the advanced security features necessary to protect your Mac.

Every VPN on this list has been recently tested and scored based on its speed, security, and usability on Mac and other Apple platforms. We have also reviewed each VPN in-depth to make sure they are safe, trustworthy, and capable of hiding your IP address. All five VPNs also work with multiple streaming sites — including US Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and Disney+.

If you are looking for the best free VPN for Mac, you can find our recommendations later on in this guide along with instructions for how to install a VPN on MacOS and the best Mac VPN for Netflix.

All five of the following Mac VPN clients are compatible with MacOS Catalina, Mojave, High Sierra, and Sierra.

Wondering why you should trust our reviews?
See How We Review VPNs.

5 Best VPNs for Mac (In-depth Analysis)

1. ExpressVPN

The best overall VPN for Mac

  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
  • Best Price

    $6.67/mo over 15 Months

    See all plans

  • Top Speedi

    85Mbps same city speed

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

  • Servers

    94 countries, 3,000+ servers

  • Compatible with

    • Windows logoWindows
    • Mac logoMac
    • iOS logoiOS
    • Android logoAndroid
    • Linux logoLinux

The Bottom Line

Ranked #1 Best VPN for Mac

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.

ExpressVPN for Mac

Security & Encryption

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. 


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.

Apple TV & iOS App

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. 

MacOS Compatibility
Yosemite & later
iOS App Rating
US Netflix
Live Chat Support
Apple TV Support


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.

For a more in-depth look, read our full ExpressVPN review.

2. NordVPN

Fast VPN optimized for MacOS

  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 work well with Apple TV
  3. Doesn’t accept PayPal
  • Best Price

    $3.71/mo over 24 Months

    See all plans

  • Top Speedi

    93Mbps same city speed

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

  • Servers

    59 countries, 5,394 servers

  • Compatible with

    • Windows logoWindows
    • Mac logoMac
    • iOS logoiOS
    • Android logoAndroid
    • Linux logoLinux

The Bottom Line

Ranked #2 Best VPN for Mac

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.

NordVPN MacOS app

Logging, Torrenting & Netflix

The VPN service operates under a verified no-logs privacy policy, allows torrenting on all of its VPN servers, and is 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 from any VPN.

Our tests found that NordVPN cannot unblock Netflix on streaming devices like Apple TV, though, and its Amazon Fire TV app only works with the US, UK, and Canada Netflix libraries. For the most part, you’ll be confined to your Mac and iPhone when catching up on your favorite TV shows and movies. 

Apps & Ease of Use

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.

MacOS Compatibility
Yosemite & later
iOS App Rating
US Netflix
Live Chat Support
Apple TV Support

Security & Privacy

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.

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.

For a more in-depth look, read our full NordVPN review.

3. Surfshark

Beginner-friendly Mac VPN software

  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
  • Best Price

    $2.49/mo over two-years

    See all plans

  • Top Speedi

    85Mbps same city speed

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

  • Servers

    66 countries

  • Compatible with

    • Windows logoWindows
    • Mac logoMac
    • iOS logoiOS
    • Android logoAndroid
    • Linux logoLinux

The Bottom Line

Ranked #3 Best VPN for Mac

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.

Surfshark MacOS App

App & Ease of Use

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.

Price & Free Trial

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.

Unblocking Netflix & Streaming

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. 

MacOS Compatibility
Sierra & later
iOS App Rating
US Netflix
Live Chat Support
Apple TV Support

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.

For a more in-depth look, read our full Surfshark review.

4. PrivateVPN

Cheap and excellent for streaming & torrenting

  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. Mediocre internet speeds
  2. Mediocre internet speeds
  3. Limited live chat support
  4. No browser extensions
  • Best Price

    $1.89/mo over 24 months

    See all plans

  • Top Speedi

    94Mbps same city speed

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

  • Servers

    60 countries, 150+ servers

  • Compatible with

    • Windows logoWindows
    • Mac logoMac
    • iOS logoiOS
    • Android logoAndroid
    • Linux logoLinux

The Bottom Line

Ranked #4 Best VPN for Mac

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.

PrivateVPN MacOS app

Unblocking Streaming Sites

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.


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. 

Security & Bypassing Censorship

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.

Speed & 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. 

MacOS Compatibility
El Capitan & later
iOS App Rating
US Netflix
Live Chat Support
Apple TV 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.

For a more in-depth look, read our full PrivateVPN review.

5. Private Internet Access

Security-focused, configurable, and fastest VPN for Mac

  1. Fully-featured Mac app
  2. Fastest VPN on local connections
  3. iOS app includes a kill switch
  4. Advanced customizable encryption options
  5. Includes ad-blocker
  6. Verified no-logs privacy policy
  1. 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
  • Best Price

    $2.69/mo over 26 Months

    See all plans

  • Top Speedi

    89Mbps same city speed

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

  • Servers

    74 countries, 12,204 servers

  • Compatible with

    • Windows logoWindows
    • Mac logoMac
    • iOS logoiOS
    • Android logoAndroid
    • Linux logoLinux

The Bottom Line

Ranked #5 Best VPN for Mac

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.

Private Internet Access MacOS app

App & Ease of Use

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.

Speed Performance

On top of this, our manual and automated speed tests have found that Private Internet Access is the fastest VPN on the market. On local-connections, PIA is persistently faster than other top VPN providers like ExpressVPN and NordVPN. 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.

MacOS Compatibility
High Sierra & later
iOS App Rating
US Netflix
Live Chat Support
Apple TV Support

Advanced Encryption & Privacy

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.


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.

For a more in-depth look, read our full Private Internet Access review.

Mac VPN Comparison Table

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

Here are the full test results:

VPN Provider Astrill CyberGhost ExpressVPN IPVanish NordVPN PIA PrivateVPN ProtonVPN Surfshark Windscribe
Cheapest Monthly Price $10 $2.75 $6.67 $3.25 $3.71 $2.85 $1.89 $6.63 $1.99 $4.08
Mac App Store? No No No No Yes No No No Yes No
Apple TV Support? No Yes Yes No No No No No Yes No
Unblocks US Netflix? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Unblocks BBC iPlayer? No Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Top Download Speed 53Mbps 87Mbps 85Mbps 84Mbps 93Mbps 89Mbps 87Mbps 86Mbps 84Mbps 95Mbps
Logging Policy Anonymous Logs Anonymous Logs Anonymous Logs No Logs No Logs No Logs No Logs Anonymous Logs Anonymous Logs Anonymous Logs
Kill Switch? No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Simultaneous Connections 5 7 5 10 6 5 6 5 Unlimited Unlimited
Live Chat Support 24/7 24/7 24/7 Limited Hours 24/7 24/7 Limited Hours No 24/7 No

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 70 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, it’s crucial that you’re not 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.

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 Macs 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.

If you’re unaware of the dangers of unsecured public WiFi networks, read our guide to help understand the risks and why connecting to a VPN will protect you.

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 in the world. 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.

If you’re still having issues, or you want extra tips, read our dedicated guide ‘How to Install a VPN App on Your Mac’.

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 providers 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 this 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 an IP lookup tool. We recommend you use BrowserLeaks. If 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 an IP lookup tool. We recommend you use BrowserLeaks. If your IP address is displaying from a location that is not your own, then your VPN is running successfully.

Best Free VPN for Mac

The best free VPNs for Mac are:

  1. Windscribe
  2. ProtonVPN Free
  3. TunnelBear

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.

On the other hand, ProtonVPN Free comes with an unlimited data cap — which is a unique feature for a safe free VPN. This means that no matter what you use your Mac for, ProtonVPN Free will encrypt your traffic without exhausting any monthly data allowance. ProtonVPN Free is a great choice for security, too, with fully open-sourced apps from a reputable provider.

However, unlike the paid version, ProtonVPN Free cannot unblock any streaming service and offers just three server locations. These servers are located in the US, Netherlands, and Japan. The limited number of servers means that the three that are available are often heavily congested, too, making ProtonVPN Free a notably slow VPN.

Make sure to stick closely to our recommended free Mac VPNs, though, as most free VPN providers cannot be trusted.

Our latest independent investigation found that 10 of the most popular free VPN apps in the US are Chinese-owned, and over 200 million people could be using unsafe free VPNs which hand over their personal data to third-parties.

But rest assured, all of our recommended free VPNs come with robust logging policies, reputable ownership, and a good track record of protecting user privacy. If you want to read more about why these free VPNs are our favorites, 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.

While competing protocols like IKEv2 and WireGuard are good alternatives, we discourage using them unless necessary. In short, IKEv2 is a closed-source protocol and there are suggestions that it has been compromised by the NSA. WireGuard is still under heavy development and has not yet been audited by a third-party, making it currently unproven as a tool for security.

You can view a full breakdown of the most popular VPN protocols in the table, below.

Table of VPN encryption protocols and their security risks.

OpenVPN is the most secure VPN protocol.

As you can see, 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.

Best VPN for Netflix on Mac

ExpressVPN is the most reliable Mac VPN for Netflix.

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.

Safari VPN browser extension

Menu bar apps are more secure than browser extensions and retain a similar level of convenience.

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. You can read more about this in our full ‘Proxy vs VPN’ guide.

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.Map showing where VPNs are illegal or restricted

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. 

If you wish to read more about the specifics of VPN legality around the world, read our full guide

Other Ways to Improve Security on Your Mac

Using a reliable VPN is the best way to secure and anonymize your Mac’s network connections. However, VPNs cannot protect you from all threats, so there are other areas to consider if you want comprehensive Mac protection.

Here are some of our expert tips on how to wholly secure your Mac computer:

1Use a private web browser

We recommend using Safari on your Mac. Unlike third-party browsers, Safari comes pre-installed with the operating system, includes tons of extra privacy features, and doesn’t require any manual configuration.

By default, Safari comes with ‘Intelligent Tracking Prevention’, an anti-tracker feature that uses machine learning to block third-parties from tracking you across the internet. The browser also works to prevent ‘fingerprinting’ — a process whereby advertisers and websites use the characteristics of your Mac to create a unique profile, allowing them to specifically target you. From Fall 2020, the browser will even include a ‘Privacy Report’ feature, which will give a full list of the trackers employed by every web page you visit.

Best private browser on Mac

Safari comes with anti-cross-site tracking by default.

All of Safari’s privacy protections are in particular contrast to Google Chrome, where the browser operates with extremely intrusive data collection. We strongly recommend all Mac users to avoid Chrome, as Google’s revenue depends on its personalized advertising business. Chrome logs information like a user’s IP address, purchases, and browsing history.

2Use iCloud Keychain

iCloud Keychain is Apple’s password management system that works with your existing iCloud account. The feature auto-fills unique passwords for all of your online accounts and then stores them securely. Your passwords are encrypted using AES-256, an encryption method that is considered unbreakable.

Password security on Mac

iCloud Keychain auto-fills unique and secure passwords for all of your online accounts.

Without a password manager, you’re likely to resort to reusing the same memorable password for all of your online accounts. The danger with this is that if a hacker discovers the password you use, they can then access all of your online accounts — leaving you vulnerable to theft and fraud.

With iCloud Keychain, even if a hacker manages to get access to one of your accounts, they are unable to access any others.

3Download apps exclusively from the App Store or from ‘notarized’ developers

Downloading files from suspicious and disreputable websites is your Mac’s biggest weak spot. A 2020 Malwarebytes report revealed that the amount of Mac malware is now outpacing Windows for the first time. A Mac typically gets infected by downloading misleading apps from the internet.

To prevent this, you should download apps from the App Store whenever possible. Every App Store app is manually verified by Apple to ensure it contains no malicious code. If the app you want is not in the App Store, make sure that it has been ‘notarized’. This just means that it has passed an automatic scan for any known security issues.

Security protections on MacOS

MacOS prevents the installation or running of disapproved apps.

Installing a virus or piece of malware to your Mac can lead to fraud, theft, and ransomware. By ensuring that the apps you install are clean and from reputable providers, your Mac’s built-in security software will prevent anything malicious from running.

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 September 2020 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.

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