Difficulty ⬤⬤⬤⬤◯ — Hard
You might not know this, but Mac OS has built-in VPN functionality.
That means if you don’t want to use an application you can actually connect to your VPN by using only the Network Preferences section of the System Preferences application.
There are some downsides to this that you should take into account before proceeding. For example, you don’t get a kill switch, which is a safety device used to turn off your internet connection should your VPN connection drop, preventing any unwanted leaks and exposures of information.
You also need to manually set up each server location rather than automatically having access to a provider’s entire – and typically sizeable – VPN server network.
But this is an option worth considering for people living in censored nations that restrict access to VPN websites or if you have a subscription to a VPN like TrustZone that requires manual configuration to use on Mac.
But how is it done? We’ll show you, using ExpressVPN again as an example.
- We need to find the L2TP/IPSec connection details much like we did with OpenVPN in Method 2. So head to ExpressVPN’s website and log on to the client area by clicking My Account.
- Navigate to the ‘Manual Config’ page found when you select ‘Setup’. It’s at the bottom.
- You’ll see options for OpenVPN alongside PPTP & L2TP/IPSec. Click on that. It will come up with a warning telling you that its security benefits are not as strong as OpenVPN (which cannot be used in this instance), which is true and should be taken into account when employing this method for setting up a VPN on Mac.
- Leave that for now and open up System Preferences on your Mac, then click on Network.
- Click the small plus (+) icon in the bottom left of the window to add a connection.
- In the Interface drop down menu, select VPN.
- You’ll also see a VPN Type drop down menu. Click and select L2TP over IPSec.
- Beside Service Name you can give it whatever name you wish. It makes sense to use the location of the server you want to connect to as the name for ease of future reference.
- Leave the Configuration option as Default. Head back to the ExpressVPN website and you’ll see a list of locations. Choose the location you want to connect to and copy the server address.
- Paste it into the Server Address field. Now add your username found back on the ExpressVPN site to the Account Name and click Authentication Settings.
- This is where you will add the password, found beside the username on the ExpressVPN website. In Shared Secret type 12345678 and then click OK to close the dialog.
- Back on the Network options window, click Advanced in the bottom right corner and tick the box that reads Send all traffic over VPN connection. Click OK once done.
- Tick the box that says Show VPN status in the menu bar, then Apply.
Now, at the top-right of your Mac’s display, you’ll see an icon that looks like a tiny progress bar. That’s your VPN connection.
Click the first list item to connect. As your Mac establishes the connection, you’ll see the VPN icon gradually change color.
If you need to disconnect or check your connection status, click the icon again.
That’s how it’s done. You can easily turn your connection on and off from your Mac display.
To ensure your VPN is on and working, it’s best to check your IP address while connected. If you know your IP you can just type into Google What’s My IP and see if it matches.
If you don’t know your IP, you at least know where you live. To see if you’ve successfully connected to another IP you can head to What is My IP Address and see where your connection is on the map. As you can see, we’re connected to Chicago, as we wanted: