Many people feel macOS is a more secure operating system than Windows. Much of that has to do with its Unix roots combined with Apple’s tight control of its software ecosystem. However, while the data on your hard drive might be pretty safe, that safety goes out the window when your data goes online. This best VPN for Mac guide will help keep unwanted eyes away.
Every time you connect to the Internet, you face a potential security hole. How problematic this is will depend on your specific connection, but data that you send and receive over the Internet will always be, at some level, insecure without a VPN tunnel to protect it.
At home, your Internet service provider can legally monitor your browsing activity. It can then aggregate that data and sell it to advertisers or even hand it over to government agencies. On public WiFi you’re even more vulnerable: such networks are a prime target for cybercriminals. Passwords, credit cards and other private information could be vulnerable without first securing your connection with a reputable VPN service.
VPNs don’t stop others from grabbing your data. However, they do encrypt it so that anybody who does get ahold of it won’t be able to make sense of it. VPNs aso spoof your IP address and location, making traffic monitoring impossible. With location spoofing, you can even appear as though you’re in a different country, making VPNs useful for getting around geoblocking while traveling so you don’t have to miss the latest episode of Game of Thrones.
The benefits of using a VPN are extensive and the risks of not using one are high. If you want to know more about the technical details, our best VPN guide is a good place to start. But for now, let’s talk about the common VPN needs of Mac users.
The Best VPN for Mac 2018
- Payment methods PayPal, Credit card, AliPay
- Simultaneous connections 3
- Bandwidth cap
- Allows torrenting
- Payment methods
- Simultaneous connections
- Bandwidth cap
- Allows torrenting
- Payment methods PayPal, Credit card
- Simultaneous connections 5
- Bandwidth cap
- Netflix U.S. only
- Allows torrenting
What Makes a VPN Best for Mac
Finding the right VPN to use can be a daunting task, but we’ve done the heavy lifting for you. Depending on your individual use case, some VPNs may be a better fit for you than others, but certain considerations tend to rise to top for most typical Mac users.
As a Mac user, you’re likely used to streamlined software that integrates well with the operating system. Leave the messy file system and poorly integrated apps to the Windows users.
As Macs are popular computers among power users, you may also find yourself looking for a highly customizable experience. Some VPNs offer a barebones experience to appeal to users who just need it to simply work, but if you need specific capabilities like a certain VPN protocol or split tunneling, there are more feature-driven VPNs available.
With most Macs sporting super-fast SSDs for storage, we Mac users have also grown used to very responsive experiences. VPNs will always take at least a small toll on your Internet speeds, but they’re not all created equal. Some will hinder your browsing experience, but the fastest VPN providers should hardly make a difference.
Of course, pricing is also important. Even if a service offers the features you need, if it’s overpriced, you’ll want to look elsewhere.
All of that said, let’s take a look at our picks for the best VPNs for Mac users.
Best VPN for Mac: ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN is a well rounded, if slightly expensive, VPN service for Mac. The user interface is clean and easy to use, but those who want extra features will be able to find them in menus.
It also sports solid support for the macOS menu bar so you can always get a quick view of your connection status or even connect without having to open the desktop client.
ExpressVPN is also very fast. In most cases, you likely won’t even notice a difference. If you very fast Internet, the percentage of speed drop will be higher (that’s true of all VPNs), so large file transfers such as those that occur during online backup may suffer slightly. Day-to-day use will still feel responsive and streaming videos shouldn’t be a problem. It even has a built-in speed test so you can make sure the server you’re using is performing as you expect it to.
ExpressVPN also manages to fit in a fair amount of options. It’s not as customizable as AirVPN, but most users will find the preferences page to offer all they need. To read more about this speedy VPN option, checkout Cloudwards.net’s full ExpressVPN review.
Other Reasons We Like ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN is great for Mac, but there’s a good chance you’ll want a VPN for your other devices, too. ExpressVPN has very good device support, offering coverage for the major operating systems as well as Amazon Kindle, four flavors of Linux and extensions for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Safari.
With some manual setup or a VPN-capable router, you can even include smart TVs, Apple TV, Playstation and Xbox in your coverage. Router setup also helps alleviate the fact that ExpressVPN can only be used on three devices simultaneously, one of its few drawbacks.
- Great user interface
- Fast tunneling speeds
- Mac split tunneling
- A bit expensive
- Limited to 3 connections
- Most servers blocked by Netflix
AirVPN is probably the service with the least Mac feel to it. Despite this, it still delivers with a highly customizable experience, strong speeds and great security options. AirVPN is a respected name and while the general user experience could be better, those in need of a diverse feature set will likely find it to be a worthy compromise, especially with its reasonable subscription cost.
The download page makes it pretty clear from the start that AirVPN is targeted at experienced users and is willing to compromise on ease of use to achieve this. There are four ways to download the application and one of these doesn’t offer a GUI.
Those versions with a GUI also lack some usual Mac niceties like a menu bar icon or full selection of menu bar options (the only items are “application” and “window”). But if you can look beyond these issues, AirVPN is a powerful utility. It offers all the basic necessities like a kill switch and server selection, and doesn’t stop there.
AirVPN’s server browser displays information like ping and the percentage load for a transparent view of how the service is running. A built-in speed test lets you verify this information and make sure you are always connected to the fastest AirVPN server.
AirVPN also offers some serious security features. It will work with Tor, can run with SSL or SSH tunneling to hide its existence and can be paid for using Bitcoin. These all add up to an excellent service for anyone who requires the utmost anonymity. To read more about its impressive list of features, read our full AirVPN review.
Other Reasons We Like AirVPN
AirVPN backs up its service with knowledgeable customer support so if you are interested in learning more about its advanced feature set, you’ll be able to get the help you need. AirVPN also offers clients for Windows, Linux, iOS and Android as well as a Chrome browser extension and browser support so you can keep all of your devices protected.
- No logs
- Highly secure
- Support for Tor, OpenVPN over SSH & OpenVPN over SSL
- Clunky user interface
- Not very “Mac”
- Only 3 simultaneous connections
VyprVPN puts user friendliness first. While VyprVPN’s logging of some user data means that it won’t be the first choice for those seeking total privacy, it’s still a secure service that works well with macOS. When you first install it, the VyprVPN application will actually walk you through enabling certain features.
The user interface with VyprVPN also lives up to the high standards we have as Mac users. Everything looks crystal clear on a retina display and the menu bar icon gives you quick access to important functions.
VyprVPN also offers solid speeds and decent pricing making it a compelling buy for someone seeking a simple and intuitive VPN that still has some features to boot. Check out our full VyprVPN review for more information.
Other Reasons Why We Like VyprVPN
VyprVPN allows up to five simultaneous connections which is higher than most of our selections.
If you need an easy-to-use solution that you can apply to several devices other than your Mac, VyprVPN is a strong contender thanks to broad platform support including Windows, Linux, Android and iOS.
- Up to 5 connections
- Mac split tunneling
- Works with Netflix
- No refund after 3 days
- Some logging
- No encryption on basic plan
IPVanish offers a strong feature set with lots of information and options for power users, while at the same time managing to not look too ugly. The home screen of the app presents connection data in a neat layout so you can see what’s going on with a quick glance.
This will be more information than the average user will need, but the strong design keeps it from being too overwhelming. That said, there are bugs with the interface as well as some inaccurate labels.
IPVanish’s server list is impressive, with over 40,000 different connection options. What hooks most users, though, is the VPNs extensive list of security features that includes a few tricks you won’t find with many other VPNs like automated IP switch and port forwarding. Our IPVanish review discusses these features in more depth.
Other Reasons We Like IPVanish
IPVanish permits up to five simultaneous connections.
This is enough for most people to keep all their devices connected, though it is worth noting that running IPVanish on a Chromebook is not as simple as installing a Chrome extension and actually requires manual configuration.
- Killswitch & IP switching
- 40,000+ shared IPs
- Mediocre support
- Slightly slow
Private Internet Access is a solid all-around service with some nice bonus features. It comes in as a strong budget option for those who would otherwise choose ExpressVPN.
The interface is easy enough to use, if not particularly good looking, and it includes the major features you’d want out of a VPN including a kill switch, auto login and peer-to-peer connections. PIA also offers a built in blocker for adware and malware, a less common VPN feature.
Along with a solid feature set, PIA puts up great speeds, even though the server location options are bit limited.
Maybe the most compelling reason to pick PIA as your Mac VPN though is its price. PIA costs just $40 a year when subscribing annually. That’s less than half the price of our top choice, ExpressVPN. PIA doesn’t come with a great desktop client, but with those savings, who cares. Take a look at our full PIA review if you’re intrigued.
Other Reasons We Like Private Internet Access
Private Internet Access supports up to five devices. This is good to see at this price point.
If you’re on a budget, you probably don’t want to find that you need multiple subscriptions to keep your devices protected.
- Solid speeds
- Zero-logging policy
- No trial version
- Doesn’t work with Netflix
- Only 24 countries
Honorable Mention: NordVPN
NordVPN isn’t as feature rich as the services that made our top five, but not everyone is looking for lots of customization. NordVPN delivers a very simple experience that is good for enhanced security without a sacrifice to speed.
The friendly user interface is clean, easy to use and very Mac. Nord behaves the way that you expect premium Mac software to. It has full menu bar support and integration with notification center. It also features the two major features needed for a set-it-and-forget-it VPN: a kill switch and auto connect.
Pricing for NordVPN is a bit expensive with a monthly plan, but six month and annually subscriptions are significantly cheaper, keeping the service competitive. This pricing also looks more tempting when you consider that you can have six simultaneous connections. If you don’t need your VPN to be highly customizable and just want some extra security, Nord may be your answer. If you want to know more, our NordVPN review awaits.
If it’s within your budget, ExpressVPN offers a very compelling combination of features, speed and user experience. That’s why it’s not only our recommendation as the best VPN for Mac, but our pick for the best VPN overall, too.
That being said, power users may benefit from the versatility of AirVPN. The budget conscious can also save some money by choosing a more tailored solution from this list like Private Internet Access. Or, if you’d like to go hunting for other options, our collection of VPN reviews will get you started.
Does ExpressVPN pique your interest or do you think another VPN is better suited to the Mac experience? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks for reading.