10 Best VPNs for Mac in 2021 | VPN software for MacOS

Using a VPN for Mac can vastly improve your online security, boost your privacy, and allow you to unblock websites and services that aren't available in your location. 

But with so many VPNs on the App Store, trying to decide what VPN to use can be overwhelming. Well, we're here to help, we have put together a list of the best VPNs to use on MacOS in 2021 below. We also answer Mac users frequently asked questions relating to Mac VPNs.

The Best Mac VPNs at a glance

Below, you'll find a quick summary of our top 5 MacOS VPNs.

  1. ExpressVPN - The best VPN for Mac. ExpressVPN offers IKEv2 & WireGuard for fast speeds and secure connections, as well as great security features.
  2. NordVPN - A great VPN for Mac and iOS devices. If you own more than one Apple product, NordVPN might be an attractive choice for you.
  3. CyberGhost VPN - An easy to use Mac VPN. You get IKEv2 support, which is fast and secure, and works just as well on iPhones and iPads as well.
  4. Private Internet Access - A secure Mac VPN option. This macOS VPN app keeps no logs, supports WireGuard & is packed with privacy features.
  5. Surfshark - A cheap VPN for Mac. From just $2.49 a month this VPN app has excellent features, unblocking power & fast speeds.

See full list & analysis

Using a Virtual Private Network for Mac is the best way to gain privacy, security, and freedom online. That said, only half of the VPN providers on the market actually have apps for Mac computers. As a result, you must do even more research to find a suitable Mac VPN.

If you're wondering why fewer VPNs provide apps for Mac, it is largely because Apple’s strict developer guidelines make it harder to implement VPNs on macOS – especially using the OpenVPN protocol. As a result, most VPN providers opt to implement alternative VPN encryption protocols such as IKEv2.

The lack of Mac VPNs makes it harder to find a service that works seamlessly on your MacBook. This is frustrating because a VPN is just as important on a Mac as on any other system. 

A VN is necessary to prevent your ISP from tracking you, and to stop WiFi hotspot providers from knowing which websites you visit. They are also necessary for bypassing censorship, geo-restrictions, or website blocks in school and at work. 

A VPN also lets you unblock geo-restricted content like BBC iPlayer, Hulu, or Netflix and helps you access BitTorrent sites in complete privacy.

Get ExpressVPN the best VPN for Mac users

Luckily though, there are a few outstanding VPNs for Mac that you can download today! In this guide, our experts have carefully analyzed the market to pinpoint the 10 best VPNs for Mac in 2021.

To evaluate VPNs and find the best services, our experts use a wide range of criteria. For a VPN to be considered good for Mac, it must meet the following specifications:

We thoroughly test all the VPNs that we recommend. We check their apps to make sure they work correctly, and we compare them to ensure that we know which services are faster and most reliable.

We also read their policies to make sure they aren't doing anything dodgy behind the scenes. If you want t know more about any of the VPNs in this guide, simply head over to our in-depth reviews.

If you are an Apple user with an iPhone, you will be happy to know that all of our recommendations also provide excellent iOS VPN apps.

What are the best VPNs for Mac?

Below, you will find our in-depth list of the best VPNs for Mac. Based on the criteria above, they all have superb Mac VPN software, strong security, and high-speed servers. All of our recommendations use the IKEV2 protocol and some also support WireGuard.

ExpressVPN offers great features for security & unblocking, as well as fast speeds. It also supports WireGuard, IKEv2 and a Safari extension is in development.

  • Pricing

    • 12 month: $6.67/mth
    • 6 month: $9.99/mth
    • 1 month: $12.95/mth
  • Also available for

    • Windows
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Browser extensions

    • Firefox
    • Chrome
  • OpenVPN available?

    • Yes

ExpressVPN Demo

ExpressVPN Demo
ExpressVPN Demo


ExpressVPN is the best VPN for Mac users, despite being quite a bit more expensive than the others on this list, as it has - great apps, strong encryption, and advances security features to ensure users are kept safe when connected to the VPN server.


Great security features


You truly getting what you pay for here. I loved that Express offers users access to OpenVPN within their Mac app. This is something many services don't provide as Macs  making it perfect for privacy. I was also impressed with ExpressVPNs zero-logs policy, as it made me feel like my identity was protected when I was connected to the service. And, thanks to it's robust encryption, Mac users never need to worry about having their data tracked by their ISP or the government.



Unblock more content than ever!


When testing this VPN I found that ExpressVPN unblocked Netflix (US, UK, Japan, Germany, France, etc.) and BBC iPlayer with ease. And because is super-quick I was able to stream in HD without bufering. This service also allowed me to unblock Hulu outside of the US and it was really handy for accessing Youtube videos that weren't available in the UK.


Super fast servers worldwide


ExpressVPN has servers in 94 countries, and I found that these servers were lightning-fast when testing them. Usually when you connect to a VPN service you internet connections are slowed down somewhat, however, I didn't notcie any change when connected to ExpressVPN. 


Other things to know


Sadly, Express only lets you use the VPN on 5 simultaneous devices, this is less than what other services offer. SurfShark and IPVanish allow users to connect an unlimited amount of devices to their VPN with one subscription for instance. But personally, I found five to be enough to cover all of my devices.


Express is is fully compatible with router setups which is great to as using a VPN router will allow you to connect all your devices at once and without having to download them on each device indiviually.


I personally think that ExpressVPN is worth the extra money if you can afford it because it is truly the best VPN for Mac. They offer a 30-day money-back guarantee too so why not test it out?


Tested by Hannah

NordVPN is a great VPN for multiple Apple devices. It combines security, unblocking and speed to make it a great all-round choice for Mac, iPad or iPhone alike.

  • Pricing

    • 24 month: $4.13/mth
    • 12 month: $4.92/mth
    • 1 month: $11.95/mth
  • Also available for

    • Windows
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Browser extensions

    • Firefox
    • Chrome
  • OpenVPN available?

    • Yes

Nord Demo

Nord Demo
Nord Demo


NordVPN is a well-established VPN provider that is pretty well-known nowadays. NordVPN has two Mac clients, which is a little confusing. The older client is an OpenVPN client, however, when testing this on my Macbook Air I found that it had a leak. The newer IKEv2 client doesn't leak the users IP address, but it has slightly less features than the OpenVPN client.


Great privacy features


Nord is a no-logs service that is perfectly suited to macOS users in need of advanced VPN features. With NordVPN, you get a service that comes with a ton of awesome security features like a kill-switch, obfuscated (stealth) servers, DNS leak protection, double-hop encryption, OpenVPN, split tunneling, VPN over Tor, and browser extensions. This makes the VPN great for concealing your online habits from your ISP, the government, local network administrators, and WiFi hotspot providers.



A good choice for torrenters


NordVPN permits P2P connections, which means that this VPN is suitable for torrenting without being tracked. However, please bear in mind that it doesn’t have port forwarding, which may be a deal-breaker for some. I found that NordVPN has super fast, which makes it good for downloading or streaming in HD.


Unblock more content


Nord is great at unblocking content. I was able to access popular services such as Netflix, iPlayer, and Hulu. And because it had hundreds of servers in over 60 countries, you can easily switch between servers to find the best server for what you want to unblock. 


Well worth comparing to our other recommendations using its 30-day money-back guarantee.


Tested by Aaron

CyberGhost is a great cheap choice & supports IKEv2. The Mac app is super slick, fast & easy to use, it just works.

  • Pricing

    • 26 months special: $2.25/mth
    • 36 months: $2.25/mth
    • 24 months: $3.49/mth
    • 12 months: $3.99/mth
    • 1 month: $12.99/mth
  • Also available for

    • Windows
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Browser extensions

    • Firefox
    • Chrome
  • OpenVPN available?

    • Yes

CyberGhost Demo

CyberGhost Demo
CyberGhost Demo


CyberGhost is a top-class VPN provider that also provides an excellent macOS VPN app. They provide users with a load of features, however, it's their apps are super easy to navigate and use.


An cheap way to Improve your online privacy 


CyberGhost is based in Romania, which puts it well out of reach of invasive legislation such as the UK and the US. This is a win for the privacy concious. CyberGhost is cheap and its Mac app provides everything you need to gain privacy. It doesn't offer OpenVPN encryption by default, however, it has IKEv2 and WireGuard both of which are still super secure and fast protocols. If you want to use OpenVPN with this VPN you will have to set it up manually.



Optimized streaming servers


When testing this app I was able to access websites and services from all over the world, including Netflix, Hulu, Fox, TF1, ORF. I loved that CyberGhost listed what servers are optimized for unblocking specific streaming services within the app as it makes it easy to find the right server.


Other things you should know 


CyberGhost has servers in 90 countries, which means that you can pretend to be just about anywhere in the world. Admittedly, the Mac client is quite stripped back compared to its Windows counterpart. However, if you want something that is perfect for beginners, and you mainly want to unblock content – this VPN will do the trick at an affordable rate. Plus, you can test it for 45 days to ensure it does what you need!


Tested by Aaron

Private Internet Access is a no-logs VPN with the option for WireGuard servers with great privacy features. This means it's both fast and secure, giving you the best of both worlds.

  • Pricing

    • 38 months: $2.08/mth
    • 12 months: $3.33/mth
    • 1 month: $9.95/mth
  • Also available for

    • Windows
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Browser extensions

    • Firefox
    • Chrome
  • OpenVPN available?

    • Yes

PIA Demo

PIA Demo
PIA Demo


Private Internet Access is a fantastic service for the privacy concious. They have proven that they don't log user data, offers strong encryption, and has some great features including an adblocker.


Secure your online privacy with a proven no logs policy


Private Internet Access (PIA) provides users with a watertight no-logs policy. This ensures that even if it is served a warrant by the government, it never has any records of what its users do while connected to the VPN. And it is worth noting that PIA has proved its zero-logs claims in court on multiple occasions. They offer Mac users WireGuard and 


Great Mac VPN apps


With PIA you get a versatile service that has superb apps for both macOS and iOS. And those apps have excellent customizability to let you either weaken the encryption to gain better speeds or tighten the encryption to maximize security. You can also change the theme of the app (including dark theme) and move the settings about so the thing you need to most from your VPN is always jsut a click away. 


Great for torrenting and unblocking


That VPN also has obfuscation and a kill-switch, which means that it is good for torrenting. This service also offers portforwarding which isn't offered by Express and other services on this list. I found it was a great service to torrent with and speeds were great.



I like that I was able to unblock Netflix US and other popular streaming services around the world using PIA. And it is a VPN that provides an excellent features-to-cost ratio. With a single subscription to PIA, you can connect up to 10 devices simultaneously. This is probably the reason why it is a favorite amongst redditors.


It has a 30-day money-back guarantee to test the service so why not try out it for yourself.


Tested by Ray

Surfshark is a cheap VPN for Mac, but don't be fooled by the price. This VPN offers excellent features, solid speeds and unblocking capabilities.

  • Pricing

    • 24 months: $2.49/mth
    • 6 months: $6.49/mth
    • 1 month: $12.95/mth
  • Also available for

    • Windows
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Browser extensions

    • Firefox
    • Chrome
  • OpenVPN available?

    • Yes

Surfshark Demo

Surfshark Demo
Surfshark Demo


Surfshark VPN has only been around for a couple of years, but in that short time, it has taken the VPN market by storm with blazing fast speed performance and 1700 servers in over 63 countries. I really love this VPN because of the amount of features it offers users and the price of the service is reasonable.


Lots of features


I loved this service because it has so a lot of features. SurfShark has split tunneling so you can choose which apps routes through the VPN and which don’t, this is really handy if your torrenting and want to access sites that won't allow VPN users like online banking. It has a full Smart DNS service which is great for unblock content on Smart TV, it unlocked every service I threw at it, and has an in-built adblocker.



With SurfShark I was able to unblock Netflix US, UK, Japan, and France. I could also watch iPlayer when outside of the UK, I could stream Hulu, Fox, NBC and ABC. The speeds were great too, so I could watch stuff in HD.


Unblocks content from around the world


Great for privacy


Surfshark is registered in the British Virgin Islands and easily meets our requirements for a no-logs VPN. Technical security is also top-notch, and we appreciate the wealth of extra privacy and security features on offer. These include double-hop VPN, and DNS-based adblocking, and malware protection. 


Great customer service


As is to be expected from today’s top VPN providers, Surfshark offers a 30-day money-back guarantee and 24/7 live chat support. What is unusual is that it allows you to connect an unlimited number of devices simultaneously!


Latest SurfShark update 


Recently SurfShark released a new version of their Mac OS app (V 3.4.0) making the VPN service compatible with Apple's latest M1 chip. This allows Mac users to use Surfshark on Macs from 2020 with no third-party software, it won't drain your battery as much, and it offers more stable connections. This is a great addition to the current MacOS client.


Tested by Attila

VyprVPN is the cheapest VPN with WireGuard support. The service runs its own network of servers, perfect if you're security conscious.

  • Pricing

    • 36 months: $1.67/mth
    • 18 months: $2.5/mth
    • 2 months: $6.47/mth
  • Also available for

    • Windows
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Browser extensions

  • OpenVPN available?

    • Yes

VYPR Demo

VYPR Demo
VYPR Demo


VyprVPN is based in Switzerland, a location that is particularly good for privacy because the Swiss government does not tend to snoop on data for no reason. I thought it had great apps for Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac, and it offers users great speeds too.


Complete privacy


VyprVPN runs on a completely proprietary network of servers and this VPN keeps no logs, which means that your privacy is assured and your connection speeds will be quick. Vypr invited a third-party to audit their no logs claim and they passed. I like that they made the audit public too. VyprVPN has OpenVPN encryption on their Mac apps as well as - IKEv2, WireGuard, and their own anti-censorship protocol "Chameleon". 



Fast servers worldwide 


VyprVPN has servers in over 70 countries, and it can reliably unblock anything and everything you might want to unblock from around the web. Due to its Tier 1 network, which belongs to the internet conglomerate Golden Frog, this VPN can provide fantastic speeds for streaming.


Great for torrenting 


As is the case with the other VPNs in this guide, VyprVPN is ideal for downloading from BitTorrent websites in privacy. The servers were super fast when I tried downloading P2P files and the encryption offers ensured that I was kept secure. 


Great customer service


VyprVPN has above par customer service, and its macOS app has all the features you need to keep your data secure. You can give this VPN a try using its 30-day money-back guarantee. And, if you want a VPN for Mac that has a kill-switch and DNS leak protection built-in, this VPN has what you need!


Tested by Aaron

IPVanish is a feature packed VPN for Mac. It's equipped with a kill-switch, OpenVPN encryption, obfuscation and a SOCKS5 proxy to name a few.

  • Pricing

    • 12 months: $3.2/mth
    • 1 month: $10.99/mth
  • Also available for

    • Windows
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Browser extensions

    • Chrome
  • OpenVPN available?

    • Yes

IPVanish Demo

IPVanish Demo
IPVanish Demo


IPVanish is a US-based VPN provider with a watertight no-logs policy. This ensures that the company never has any records about what its users do online on its network. It has other great pricey features and a nifty app for Macs. 


Perfect for improving privacy


This makes it perfect for any Mac user looking for string levels of digital privacy both now and in the future. IPVanish has superb apps for all platforms, which means that you can install it on all of your devices.


Its macOS client is a fully-featured app that comes with a kill-switch, DNS leak protection, OpenVPN encryption, obfuscation, and a SOCKS5 proxy. This makes the VPN suitable for torrenting and other sensitive online tasks that require complete privacy.


A wide choice of servers


We enjoy using IPVanish because it has a wide choice of servers in over 75 countries. This allows you to get good speeds no matter where you happen to live. It also means that you can easily unblock all kinds of geo-restricted content from around the world.


With IPVanish you can gain privacy and security on your Mac both at home and when connecting to public WiFi. This VPN is ideal for bypassing local network restrictions in school or at work. Plus, I was able to unblock Netflix US and other sought-after streaming services.


Use it on unlimited devices with one subscription


IPVanish is one of the rare VPNs that permits unlimited simultaneous connections to its servers – which makes it ideal for families and for people who own a lot of devices.


Unlimited simulaneous connections


I loved that IPVanish allow unlimited connections, not because every device I use is now secured with strong encryption.


Test it using its 30-day money-back guarantee, and you'll see what all the fuss is about. 


Tested by Attila

Ivacy is the cheapest VPN for Mac on our list. From just $1.50 a month, this VPN can take care of all of your unblocking and streaming needs. But if you want to torrent, you're out of luck.

  • Pricing

    • 60 months: $1/mth
    • 12 months: $3.5/mth
    • 1 month: $9.95/mth
  • Also available for

    • Windows
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Browser extensions

    • Firefox
    • Chrome
  • OpenVPN available?

    • Yes

Ivacy Demo

Ivacy Demo
Ivacy Demo


Ivacy is a VPN is often recommended because it represents excellent value for money. The VPN is very cheap considering the level of features you get in its apps.


Fast servers


With Ivacy, you get servers in over 52+ countries with 100+ locations that are ideal for unblocking streams, game servers, and anything else you can think of. And this VPN works with Netflix US, iPlayer, and many other streaming services from around the world.


A good VPN for streaming


I was able to unblock Netflix US, Japan, Canada and France. I was also able to access restricted Youtube videos with ease. I love that in the app you can select streaming servers within the app which is pretty handy as it allows you to find the right server easily. 



Great apps, but lacking in some features


Ivacy has great apps for MacOS, unfortunately, does not come with a kill-switch, however. So if you do intend to torrent, you may want to look elsewhere. It does have DNS leak protection and L2TP/IPsec, though, to keep your data secure. I found the apps were really easy to navigate though and it would be a great service for VPN beginners. 


For those who want to connect using OpenVPN, you should know that this isn't provided by default, however Ivacy provides the config files so that you can connect using the third party Tunnelblick client.


Tested by Ray

ProtonVPN is a trusted VPN for Mac. It reliably protects privacy thanks to an arsenal of features and IKEV2 encryption. If privacy is a concern – this pick has pedigree.

  • Free option

    Yes

    Pricing

    • Free trial: $0/mth
    • 24 months: $3.29/mth
    • 12 months: $4/mth
    • 1 month: $5/mth
  • Also available for

    • Windows
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Browser extensions

  • OpenVPN available?

    • Yes

Proton Demo

Proton Demo
Proton Demo


ProtonVPN is a reliable, and trustworthy VPN service based in Switzerland. It is a VPN service brought to you by the developers of the popular secure email provider ProtonMail, which makes it a highly respected service.


A great reutation and great apps


I have used ProtonVPN for a while and it has a superb reputation among it's users, who praise it for its dedication to privacy and excellent apps and it's easy to see why. It has excellent security features, easy to use apps and is able to unblock streaming sites. With ProtonVPN you get apps for all platforms, including macOS. And, users are permitted to use the VPN on up to 5 simultaneous devices.


Good privacy features


The macOS client has a kill-switch, which makes this VPN suitable for torrenting on a Mac computer. It also provides strong IKEv2 encryption to protect your online habits from being tracked.


Offers a free plan



While ProtonVPN does have a free plan, it is very limited. However, it does allow you to try it out, and if you like it you can upgrade to get access to all 50+ countries. However, the free version will not unblock streaming services as the servers are too slow. Once you pay for an account, you will be able to unblock Netflix US on your Mac, and access all manner of restricted content from around the world.


An excellent VPN for users who want a VPN from an established privacy service provider.


Tested by Hannah

PrivateVPN is the Mac VPN of choice for streaming fans. Thanks to a handy set of features it works with most major streaming services, and it has speeds for streaming HD with ease.

  • Pricing

    • 24 months: $1.89/mth
    • 3 months: $4.2/mth
    • 1 month: $7.12/mth
  • Also available for

    • Windows
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • OpenVPN available?

    • Yes

PrivateVPN Demo

PrivateVPN Demo
PrivateVPN Demo


PrivateVPN has a superb reputation among consumers. It is a no-logs VPN with apps for all platforms - including excellent apps for macOS and iOS.


Has great security features


This VPN definitely lives up to it's name as being private. It comes with a kill-switch, port forwarding, obfuscation, a choice of encryption settings for OpenVPN, and DNS leak protection. This makes it perfect for engaging in sensitive online tasks like torrenting. It also makes it ideal for bypassing government restrictions and accessing geo-restricted content privately.


Great apps, easy to use apps


We enjoy using PrivateVPN on all platforms, and the apps are definitely good for beginners. Because PrivateVPN has fast servers in over 60 countries, you can easily use it for streaming HD content.



Unblock streaming sites


With this VPN I was able to unblock a variety of Netflix catalogs, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Prime Video, and many other popular international streaming services. If you need help, you can rely on this VPN’s live chat support, which is available 24/7. And, if you own other devices, one subscription is fine, because you can install and use the VPN on up to 6 devices at the same time.


A superb service that you can test yourself using its money-back guarantee.  


Tested by Ray Walsh

Which is the fastest Mac VPN on the list?

Unfortunately, when you connect to a VPN server the added encryption and increased physical distance from your computer and the server will slow down your internet speeds. However, if you choose a fast VPN service then you won't notice much difference in your connection speeds.

At ProPrivacy we understand your need for speed, which is why we have recommended only the fastest VPNs for macOS. Our recommendations invest alot of time and money in their server network to let you stream 4K HD and engage in video conferencing without issues. This also ensures that our recommended VPNs for MacOS are perfect for gaming and torrenting.

Check out the table below to see the fastest service today. We run VPN speed tests every day and this table updates automatically three times a day to show you exactly how each VPN is performing in real-time.

Place Provider Average Speed Max Speed Visit Site
1. 71.63 Mbit/s 91.32 Mbit/s Visit Site
2. 63.07 Mbit/s 72.26 Mbit/s Visit Site
3. 61.60 Mbit/s 89.13 Mbit/s Visit Site
4. 52.51 Mbit/s 77.32 Mbit/s Visit Site
5. 46.98 Mbit/s 56.32 Mbit/s Visit Site
6. 43.78 Mbit/s 55.21 Mbit/s Visit Site
7. 43.11 Mbit/s 68.91 Mbit/s Visit Site
8. 40.68 Mbit/s 82.54 Mbit/s Visit Site
9. 36.27 Mbit/s 103.38 Mbit/s Visit Site
10. 0.00 Mbit/s 0.00 Mbit/s Visit Site

Can I use a VPN to improve my internet speeds?

Many people (and websites) tell stories about using a VPN to increase internet speeds. The reality is that the way a VPN works will nearly always cause some latency.

To do its job, a VPN must route your traffic via the VPN server on its way to the website or online services you use. It must also encrypt and decrypt your traffic numerous times as it makes that journey. This will cause a VPN to slow down your internet a little.

The fastest VPNs for Mac are so-called because they are so quick that they make the slowing imperceptible. As a result, you get to use your VPN (and its advantages) while still enjoying the base-line internet speeds you pay your ISP for. 

So, why do people say VPNs make the net faster? 

Some ISPs are known to engage in bandwidth throttling. They do this to prevent network congestion for their users. This results in some people having their internet speeds restricted at peak times (when many people are all using the internet at the same time).

Under these circumstances, a VPN can make your internet faster. So, if you believe your ISP is purposefully shaping your traffic it is definitely worth giving a VPN a try to see if it helps.

When you connect to a VPN, your ISP can no longer track what you are doing. It doesn't know whether you are gaming, downloading torrents, or streaming in HD. For this reason, it can no longer throttle you when you engage id data-intensive tasks.

What can I do with a VPN on Mac?

If you are new to VPNs, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. The privacy that a VPN provides can sometimes seem like an existential benefit, however, it is extremely important if you want to protect your digital footprint. The good news is that other VPN benefits are much more observable (which is why VPNs are so versatile and popular). Below we have listed what a VPN can do:

Want to know more? If you're new to the world of VPNs and privacy, find all the information you need with our handy guides:

How to set up a VPN on Mac

Once you've picked out your favorite Mac VPN from our list, getting it set up is quick and easy.

  1. Download the Mac App. The software is available on your VPN’s website once you have subscribed.
  2. Install the VPN and log in with your credentials.
  3. Select a server from the VPN list and click connect.

As soon as your VPN connects to a server, your real IP address is concealed and you can go ahead and access content from that country in privacy.

A note on IKEv2 VPN encryption

IKEv2 is made up of various cryptographic primitives. It primarily leverages IPsec to ensure traffic is secure. Thus it is actually correct to refer to it as IKEv2/IPsec. (If you see a VPN advertising IPsec for Mac it is usually referring to the older IKEv1 standard).

MacOS is designed to support IKEv2 connections within its native VPN client. Custom Mac VPN clients just auto-configure the built-in client. However, they also implement additional security features such as a kill-switch and firewall-based IP leak protection, which are not available in the Mac VPN client by default.

Although most Mac VPN apps support IKEv2 by default (because of the ease of implementation), many also include a full OpenVPN client. Some Mac VPN apps support the outdated PPTP protocol, and L2TP (/IPsec). However, there there is no reason to choose these when IKEv2 is available – because IKEv2 is much more robust and provides excellent speeds.

We are now also beginning to see some VPN apps support the new WireGuard protocol, which many consider the future of VPN encryption. Mac users who like groundbreaking tech may want to try WireGuard instead of IKEv2. However, we recommend sticking to tried and tested protocols (like OpenVPN and IKEv2) if you want proven data security.

But, which is better IKEv2 or OpenVPN?

IKEv2 vs OpenVPN on Mac

Unfortunately, there is no real straightforward answer here. It ultimately depends on what you need and what you are using your VPN for.

OpenVPN is a widely used VPN protocol favored by most non-Apple apps. It is less efficient than IKEv2, so requires more processing power - which usually translates to slower connection speeds.

Although OpenVPN isn't usually supported by MacOS VPN apps, you can configure OpenVPN with software such as Tunnelblick.

Documents leaked by Edward Snowden, however, strongly suggest that, when implemented well, even the NSA cannot crack OpenVPN. IKEv2 is believed by experts to be cryptographically secure, but then again, most encryption protocols are... until someone proves otherwise.

IKEv2 is a relatively new protocol that was not in widespread use at the time of Snowden’s revelations and is, therefore, not addressed in any of the documents he leaked. So, while it is thought to be secure, it has simply not proved itself in the way OpenVPN has.

One strength of IKEv2 is its ability to re-establish a VPN connection when it is temporarily lost, like when going through a tunnel. It also supports the Mobility and Multi-homing (MOBIKE) protocol, which makes it particularly adept at switching between networks (for example, switching between your WiFi and mobile networks when leaving your home).

VPN extensions for Safari and other browsers

While most VPNs offer extensions for Chrome and Firefox users, it's rare to find a provider that offers a similar browser extension for Safari. Of the VPNs we've highlighted in this guide, only ExpressVPN has plans to roll out a Safari browser extension. However, the timeline for this release has still not been confirmed.

But, before you make your choice based on whether your favorite browser is supported by a VPN, you should consider the implications of using a browser extension instead of using a standalone app.

When using a VPN browser extension, only your activity within the browser is protected. This means any external processes running in the background as still using your real IP address. Because of this, we strongly recommend that when using a VPN you get into the habit of booting up and using the dedicated app before you begin browsing, rather than relying solely on a browser extension.

Top-tip: Get ExpressVPN for Free!

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VPNs MacOS users should avoid

While there are many VPN providers that are compatible and work with Mac, there are a few that we recommend you avoid outright for the reasons listed below.

Hola

Hola scores very low for overall privacy and security, primarily due to the fact that the provider turns its users’ connections on its network into individual VPN nodes for other users to connect through. Essentially, this means that you are technically held liable for any activity being transmitted through your connection. We wouldn’t recommend using Hola under any circumstance.

Unlocator

We wouldn’t recommend using Unlocator on your Mac because it is, essentially, a SmartDNS service first, and a VPN service second. Unlocator’s VPN service playing second fiddle to its SmartDNS service doesn’t particularly give us much faith that the company directs any of the necessary resources into making its VPN product worthwhile. On top of that, Unlocator does not offer a dedicated client app, it only offers access to its servers. The setup needs to be done manually on your computer, which is not ideal for VPN neophytes. All in all, we recommend staying far away from Unlocator.

OkayFreedom

An otherwise decent VPN service, we cannot recommend OkayFreedom for Mac simply because it only offers Windows compatibility at this time.

As illustrated with the examples above, there are a few reasons why certain VPN providers do not make the cut for Mac. To be safe, we strongly advise you stick with one of the recommended VPNs for Mac in this article.

How does the Big Sur update affect Mac VPNs?

The new macOS Big Sur was released on November 14 and it has already started causing some concerns over VPN use. According to initial reports, some of Apple's native apps can now bypass firewalls and VPNs to send back telemetry data to Apple. According to reports, it allows the firm to track which applications Mac customers use on their machine.

The Big Sur update allows the Apple App store – and a whopping 50 other Apple apps – to bypass user-defined internet routing rules. 

The GateKeeper program specifically, is designed to check the certificate of any program running on your Mac and it sends that data back to Apple alongside a timestamp and your IP address. This creates privacy concerns, because it could allow Apple to begin tracking what apps you use, when, and from where.

Will this prevent me from using my VPN?

What it is important to note, is that the new privacy-invading telemetry collected by Big Sur should not prevent you from using your VPN to get around geo-restrictions. The VPN will still function normally when you access online services, and your ISP will still be unable to track what you do online. 

Can you trust Apple?

Apple claims that it does not intend to use this telemetry to track the programs that Mac owners use. The firm has stated:

"Gatekeeper performs online checks to verify if an app contains known malware and whether the developer’s signing certificate is revoked. […] We have never combined data from these checks with information about Apple users or their devices. We do not use data from these checks to learn what individual users are launching or running on their devices.”

Despite these claims, the data collected by Apple could be a concern depending on your threat model. 

Can the Big Sur update expose me to malware?

The reality is that the GateKeeper app and the new updates in Big Sur are meant to protect macOS users against malware. It allows Apple to check the program’s developer ID certificate for authenticity, which should prevent the user from becoming infected with malware.

However, some security experts are warning that the ability to bypass the Firewall installed on macOS could be exploited by hackers. Anybody that does become infected by malware (and there are many exploits for macOS nowadays) could potentially end up having their data forwarded to servers controlled by the cybercriminals. Check out our antivirus for mac page for more information about avoiding virus on your mac.

FAQs

Conclusion

Now that you have all the information you need to pick a VPN for your Mac, let's review our top picks:

  1. ExpressVPN - The best VPN for Mac. ExpressVPN offers IKEv2 & WireGuard for fast speeds and secure connections, as well as great security features.
  2. NordVPN - A great VPN for Mac and iOS devices. If you own more than one Apple product, NordVPN might be an attractive choice for you.
  3. CyberGhost VPN - An easy to use Mac VPN. You get IKEv2 support, which is fast and secure, and works just as well on iPhones and iPads as well.
  4. Private Internet Access - A secure Mac VPN option. This macOS VPN app keeps no logs, supports WireGuard & is packed with privacy features.
  5. Surfshark - A cheap VPN for Mac. From just $2.49 a month this VPN app has excellent features, unblocking power & fast speeds.

This post available in: Arabic German English Spanish French Hindi Dutch Portuguese Russian Turkish

Written by: Ray Walsh

Digital privacy expert with 5 years experience testing and reviewing VPNs. He's been quoted in The Express, The Times, The Washington Post, The Register, CNET & many more. 

29 Comments

gramic
on September 18, 2017
Reply
I looked at NordVPN - it is good in that it has servers everywhere, but, when the VPN server drops, unless you set up the app to kill with it, you're left connected with no VPN security. It's the same when you first connect - you have to open your browser, so if you restore previous session, every website you were visiting, now gets to know your IP address, until you connect and establish a VPN connection to NordVPN servers. I use AirVPN and prefer that it locks your network immediately if the VPN connection drops, and because the network is locked, you can continue to look at your browser.
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Douglas Crawford replied to gramic
on September 18, 2017
Reply
Hi gramic, Well... The NordVPN client does have a per-app kill switch. You can choose which apps will be shut down in the event of a VPN disconnection. This is very handy, but it is not a firewall-based kill switch like AirVPN's. So if the NordVPN client itself crashes, the specified apps will not shut down and can continue to access the internet. I'm not sure what you mean by having to open your browser. You can run the client before you open your browser...
Anna
on September 15, 2017
Reply
I'm confused because I've read and experienced inability to use the BBC iPlayer, Netflix, (and Hulu) with a VPN yet this article says the opposite. Years past one could use a VPN with the BBC Player and Netflix without problem but now I receive a Proxy error for Netflix and a similar error for the iPlayer. Please explain if I'm missing something.
Anna replied to Anna
on September 29, 2017
Reply
Thank you for your helpful reply. I'll have to try out one of the 2 VPNs you suggested. I look forward to when you're able to say which VPNs are currently working with US Netflix and the BBC Player. On a similar note I live in the US and I'd love to be able to access UK Netflix shows. Is that also possible with these VPNS do you know? Thanks again
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Douglas Crawford replied to Anna
on October 3, 2017
Reply
Hi Anna, If you have problems, please let me know, but they should work (and come with 30-day money-back guarantees, so you'll have plenty of time to check). Not sure about UK Netflix, but since you are trying those services anyway, there is no harm in checking for yourself.
https://cdn.proprivacy.com/storage/images/proprivacy/02/member-dougjpg-avatar-image-default-1png-avatar-image-default-minpng-avatar_image-small.png
Douglas Crawford replied to Anna
on September 18, 2017
Reply
Hi Anna, Netflix, iPlayer and Hulu are actively trying to block VPN users from using their services. They do this simply by blocking IP addresses that are known to belong to VPN providers. There are ways around these blocks (such as a provider regularly recycling its IP addresses), however, and some providers are better at it than others. In our reviews we always test to see if we can access US Netflix and iPlayer. At present I know that NordVPN and ExpresVPN work with these services (you may need to contact ExpressVPN to ask which servers they recommend using). We are currently working on a system to regularly check which VPN serverces do and don't work with Netflix and iPlayer (and hopefully other services going forward).
Ariel G
on August 5, 2017
Reply
Would like to configure our Apple Extreme to have VPN capability or service that will block our location. Is there anything out there that we can try? Appreciate the feedback.
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Douglas Crawford replied to Ariel G
on August 23, 2017
Reply
Hi Ariel G, I'm afraid that running a VPN on an Airport Extreme router is not easy. Check out this article from Flashrouters on the subject.
JJ
on May 29, 2017
Reply
After in-depth reading reviews on VPNs to use in Canada, Friends suggest Hotspot Shield being #1 and others have crappy service...(Free vs Paid) . Should I go with ExpressVPN (despite Buffered is Best)? Its a split 50/50 for torrenting US shows + streaming online tv from Hong Kong/Taiwan/Korea using my MacBook Pro (Sierra) + looking into Kodi for Asia programs / Soccer Games for the elderly + using Android for Asia radio, etc... What are your suggestions? Is it 100% completely safe from Spys, cyber security? I was told CISCO has a way around that can hack into our internet even the Gov't can't. Originally I partly installed OpenVPNGate than deleted after running into problems with Sierra. Will having VPN affect Hardware Upgrades on Mac? Thanks.
https://cdn.proprivacy.com/storage/images/proprivacy/02/member-dougjpg-avatar-image-default-1png-avatar-image-default-minpng-avatar_image-small.png
Douglas Crawford replied to JJ
on May 29, 2017
Reply
Hi JJ, - Both ExpressVPN and Buffered are good for torrenting US shows. -To stream shows from Hong Kong/Taiwan/Korea, you will need a service with servers in those countries. Buffered has a server in South Korea, but ExpresdsVPN has servers in all these countries. - Nothing can be 100% guaranteed. Both Buffered (Gibraltar) and ExpressVPN (British Virgin Islands) are based in British Overseas Territories. How this might or might not affect vulnerability to UK spying is unclear. For most purposes, though, I'd say both services are fine in this regard. - If you run the VPN in software, then all data will be encrypted as it passes through the router. So it doesn't matter if the router has a backdoor. - Running a VPN will have no effect Mac hardware upgrades.
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