5 Best VPNs for Mac in 2020 | Secure Wireguard & IKEv2 VPNs for MacOS

Using a VPN on your Mac will give you privacy, security, and freedom online. However, only half of the VPN providers on the market have compatible software for Macs. This is partly because Apple’s strict developer guidelines rule out the use of the open source OpenVPN protocol on all Apple devices. VPN developers, therefore, opt for alternative encryption protocols such as IKEv2 - more on this later.

The lack of Mac VPNs can make it tricky to find a service. This is annoying because a VPN will stop your ISP tracking your web history for the government. It will also let you unblock geo-restricted content like BBC iPlayer, Hulu or Netflix US. Or access government censored or ISP blocked websites; such as free streaming sites and BitTorrents.

Luckily, there are a few outstanding VPNs for Mac on the market! In this guide, our experts have carefully analyzed the market to pinpoint the 5 best VPNs for Mac in 2020.

How we picked our best VPNs for Mac list

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:

All of our recommended VPNs are subjected to full reviews and are all found to be trusted services that work perfectly on Mac OS X. And, if you are an Apple user with an iPhone, you will be happy to know that all our recommendations also provide iOS VPN apps.

What are the best VPNs for Mac?

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

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN offers great features for security & unblocking, as we all as fast speeds. They also support WireGuard, IKEv2 and a Safari extension is in development.

  • Pricing

    From $6.67 - $12.95
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer

ExpressVPN is quite a bit more expensive than NordVPN. However, it has an OpenVPN Mac app, perfect for privacy and unblocking. ExpressVPN has a zero logs policy, and it always protects its subscriber’s privacy. And, thanks to OpenVPN encryption, Mac users never need to worry about having their data tracked by their ISP or the government. 


ExpressVPN protects you against hackers on public WiFi, and when it comes to accessing more content, it is exceptional. ExpressVPN has servers in 94 countries, and those servers are lightning fast for HD streaming. 


This VPN unblocks important services such as US Netflix and BBC iPlayer. Sadly, Express only lets you use the VPN on 3 simultaneous devices (NordVPN permits 6). However, ExpressVPN does have a VPN extension for Safari - which may be something you want. We think ExpressVPN is worth the extra money if you can afford it because it is truly world class. Definitely worth comparing thanks to its 30-day money-back guarantee!

2. CyberGhost VPN

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

  • Pricing

    From $2.75 - $12.99
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer

CyberGhost is a VPN that also provides an excellent Mac OS X VPN app. The VPN is based in Romania, which puts it out of reach of invasive legislation such as the UK and the US. CyberGhost is cheap and its Mac app provides everything you need to gain privacy while accessing websites and services from all over the world. The software is also ideal for protecting your MacBook from hackers on public WiFi. 


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!

3. Private Internet Access

PIA 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

    From $2.85 - $11.95
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer

Private Internet Access is a US-based VPN that provides 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. With PIA you get a versatile service that has 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.


That VPN also has obfuscation and a kill switch, which means that it is good for torrenting. We like this VPN because it can unblock Netflix US and other popular services around the world. 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. And the VPN has a 30-day money-back guarantee to test the service. One of Reddit users’ favorite VPNs. 

4. Surfshark

Surfshark is the newest VPN on our list, but offers excellent features and solid speeds and unblocking capabilities.

  • Pricing

    From $1.94 - $11.95
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer

Surfshark VPN is only a year or so old, but in that short time, it has taken the VPN market by storm with blazing fast speed performance and 500 servers in over 50 countries.


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 as many devices as you want to the service at the same time!


Throw in split tunneling so you can choose which apps routes through the VPN and which don’t, a full Smart DNS service, and the fact that Surfshark unblocked every service we threw at it, and you can see why it won our coveted Newcomer Award.


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 ad blocking and malware protection. 

5. VyprVPN

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

  • Pricing

    From $2.50 - $12.95

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. The VPN runs on a completely proprietary network of servers and this VPN keeps no logs, which means that your privacy is assured. VyprVPN has servers in over 70 countries, and it can always unblock everything you might need. Due to its Tier 1 network, which belongs to the internet conglomerate Golden Frog, this VPN can provide fantastic speeds for streaming. 


As is the case with the other VPNs in this guide, VyprVPN is ideal for downloading from BitTorrent websites in privacy. VyprVPN has above par customer service, and its Mac OSX 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!

Which is the fastest Mac VPN in the list?

For a VPN to be worth its salt, privacy and security is of primary importance. However, most consumers are also interested in how fast the VPN is for activites like gaming, streaming and torrenting.

The majority of these exciting possible uses for a VPN are highly dependent on a fast internet connection, which is why VPN speeds are so important.  We test VPNs three times per day, using a gigabit line. The graph below shows you those results - so that you can see exactly which Mac VPNs are fastest today. 

Can I use a VPN to improve my internet speeds?

 

Unfortunately, a VPN will not improve your current internet speeds. The tests in the graph above are conducted in lab conditions using a dedicated gigabit line. You shouldn't expect similar speeds because you don't have a gigabit line at home. However, these results precisely show you which VPNs are fastest right now, so that you can pick the fastest VPN in the world - if that is what you want. 

To learn more about how a VPN impacts your VPN speed, check out our VPN speed test guide.

What can I do with a VPN on Mac?

If you are wondering: “Do I need a VPN for Mac?” You probably want to know how a VPN can help you. Below you will find a list of the best things you can do with a VPN…

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 have opted for your favorite Mac VPN from this list, getting it set up is super easy:

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

As soon as the VPN for Mac OS connects, 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

macOS supports IKEv2 connection "out-of-the box" using its built-in VPN client. The custom Mac VPN apps listed in this article simply auto-configure this built-in VPN client when implementing IKEv2 connections - and add additional features such as a kill switch and firewall-based IP leak protection.

Technically, IKEv2 is not a true VPN protocol. It is a part of the IPsec protocol suite that ensures traffic is secure by handling the SA (Security Association) attribute within IPsec. As such, IKEv2 can also correctly be referred to as IKEv2/IPsec (with IPsec on its own usually referring to use of the older IKEv1 standard).

Although most Mac VPN apps support IKEv2 by default, many also include a full OpenVPN client for those who prefer the older protocol. A few Mac VPN apps support the legacy PPTP and L2TP (/IPsec) protocols, but there is no reason to choose these when IKEv2 is available.

We are beginning to see some apps support the super-new WireGuard protocol, which might well be the future of VPN protocols. Mac users who like to live on the bleeding edge of technology might like to try WireGuard instead of IKEv2, but although it exited Beta in Linux, WireGuard is still an experimental protocol when deployed in macOS, and should be treated as such.

But, which is better IKEv2 or OpenVPN?

IKEv2 vs OpenVPN on Mac

Unfortunatley there is no straight forward answer here. It ultmatley depends on you 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 most encryption protocols are... until someone proves otherwise.

IKEv2 is a realtivley 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 easily re-establish a VPN connection when it is temporarily lost, like when going through a tunnel. It also supports the Mobility and Multihoming (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

Currently, many VPN providers do not support a Safari VPN extension, but they do support other popular browser - namely Chrome and Firefox. On the list, on ExpressVPN has plans to roll out a safari VPN addon in the near future.

However, before making a decision based on whether or not your broswer of choice is supported by a VPN provider, you should consider the benefits of using a standalone app instead.

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. We strongly recommend that when using a VPN you get into the habit of botting up and using the dedicated app before you begin browsing, rather than relying on a browser extension.

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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 due primarily to the fact that they turn their users’ connections on their 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 they are essentially a SmartDNS service first, and a VPN service second. Unlocator’s VPN service playing second fiddle to their SmartDNS service doesn’t particularly give us much faith that they direct any of the necessary resources into making their VPN worthwhile. On top of that, they do not offer a dedicated client app, they only offer access to their servers. The setup needs to be done manually on your computer, which is not ideal for VPN neophytes.

OkayFreedom

An otherwise decent VPN service, we cannot recommend OkayFreedom for Mac simply because they only offer 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 sticking with one of the recommended VPNs for Mac in this article.

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 - supports IKEv2 & WireGuard, fast speeds, as well as great security features
  2. CyberGhost VPN - is a cheap option with IKEv2 support and an easy to use app
  3. Private Internet Access - has an excellent macOS app, keeps zero logs and supports WireGuard
  4. Surfshark - is the new kid on the block, but stands up to the veterans with excellent features
  5. VyprVPN - is a cheap option if you're looking for WireGuard support

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.
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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.
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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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