A virtual private network is a great way to take control of your online experience and protect yourself from the hazards of digital life. With a lot of players on the market, though, the choice of which to use can be daunting. We’ve taken a look at some of the options to find the best VPN for Mac.
The Mac has had far less security issues than Windows over the years. Threats are on the rise, though, and it pays to take security seriously. Using a VPN will give you an edge against hackers and snoops.
If you’re using your Mac as an entertainment hub you may be frustrated at being unable to access overseas content. Mac users traveling the world may also find themselves in countries that restrict access to news or social media websites. A VPN can help you get around geoblocks and access the content you want in safety.
ExpressVPN, our overall winner, scores well on all these points, but more on that later.
The Best VPN for Mac 2018
What Makes a VPN the Best For Mac
Some built-in features on macOS, such as Time Machine, are nice to have, but can be improved upon, as our best cloud backup for Mac article shows. Cloud storage is another area where you might want to look at an external service.
Many of the benefits of a VPN are not dependent on the operating system. Our general article on VPN security explains the benefits a quality VPN service can provide, but there are things that will make a service especially suitable for Mac owners.
Mac software tends to be well-designed, simple and offers a clear, intuitive user interface. VPN apps that are a good match for the OS should integrate well with the platform and follow the appropriate conventions.
It should be easy to use and able to run without much fuss. While options for power users are welcome, being able to get up and running without having to do too much tweaking will score points here.
Quality customer service is also a key feature of the Mac experience, so we’ll be checking VPN providers for that, too. We’re looking for services that provide fast, reliable support, preferably via multiple channels. Thankfully, finding one of those wasn’t too hard.
Best VPN for Mac: ExpressVPN
Much like the Mac, ExpressVPN is slick, easy to use and expensive. That makes it a great fit for the OS. As discussed in our ExpressVPN review, it gets almost everything right.
Using the app is simple, with a big round button to click when you want to connect. The button turns green when connected. A smaller button lets you choose from the many server locations. It adds an icon to the Mac menu bar which you can click to quickly access its features.
With AES 256-bit encryption and a strict no logging policy, ExpressVPN has you covered for security and privacy.
It features split tunneling, which lets you control which of your apps use the VPN. It’s useful if you have specific services that work fine over your regular connection. We don’t see this feature included on VPNs often enough, so big points to ExpressVPN here.
There’s also a killswitch to prevent your VPN traffic from going through your other connection if the VPN fails. That can be important if you’re worried about the privacy of your regular connection.
Other Reasons We Like ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN offers blistering speeds and was the quickest in our roundup of the fastest VPN services. You can test the server speeds in the app and switch servers easily. Its speeds make it ideal for streaming, gaming or torrenting.
Customer service is excellent, offering live chat around the clock and email support. ExpressVPN also has an extensive knowledgebase and clear FAQ.
You are limited to three devices, which, price aside, is our only real gripe with the service. On the plus side, it supports a wide range of devices, including apps for PlayStation, Xbox and Apple TV, along with all major OS and smartphone platforms. It also has browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Safari.
ExpressVPN is not cheap, coming in at $99.95 per year. We think it is worth the price, though, considering the quality of service you get. In addition to being the best for Mac, we consider it the overall best VPN provider. There is a money-back guarantee for the first 30 days, too.
- Strong security & privacy
- Split tunneling
- Only three devices at once
With its highly-usable interface and general all-around quality, NordVPN is a great choice for Mac users. Signing up and installing it is a breeze. The simple UI is a good match for the Mac and the menu bar is supported.
NordVPN has an impressive range of security and privacy features, including AES 256-bit encryption, SOCKS5 and HTTP proxies, double-hop servers and a no-logging policy. You can find more details on those in our NordVPN review.
It features auto-connect and a killswitch, so, once you set it up, you don’t need to worry about it much. It does lack split tunneling, though.
Customer service is good, with a large knowledgebase and responsive live chat service available. There is also email support, but we found it slow. Still, should you run into an issue with NordVPN, you are well-served.
Other Reasons We Like NordVPN
It has an impressive network with over 4,000 servers in 62 countries, meaning it is likely to be fast wherever you are in the world. It also does well at connecting to streaming services. Our test results included successful connections to Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.
We saw the occasional speed drop over long-distance connections, but you have access to many servers and will usually be able to find a faster one.
NordVPN also offers “speciality servers” that cater to different needs. They include peer-to-peer servers, obscured servers for those in countries that restrict internet usage and other options focused on security and privacy.
Those wanting to use a VPN for Netflix may want to check out our guide on how to beat the Netflix VPN ban, too. Much like ExpressVPN, NordVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so take it for a spin.
- Large network
- Gets into streaming services
- Six device connections
- No split tunneling
- Speed drops over long distances
CyberGhost is another good all-around choice. As detailed in our dedicated CyberGhost review it had a few issues in the past that have been resolved, making it one of our favorite VPNs.
Signing up and downloading the app is fiddly, but after that, it is simple to setup.
The tile-based start-up UI might give Mac owners the uncomfortable feeling that they’re using Windows, but the app is straightforward and presents its server list and many options clearly. The brightly colored tiles are plainly labeled and allow you to navigate the app in a task-oriented fashion.
The various screens allow you to change settings based on your focus. There are options to help with unblocking streaming services, as well as adjust your privacy and security settings.
The “choose my server” tab, for example, lets you rank the available servers by speed. CyberGhost is fast, especially in Europe, and connected to all the streaming services we tested, but we needed to switch servers a couple of times to get the best out of it.
It lacks split tunneling, but has a killswitch and an “app protection” feature that automatically tunes the settings on start-up to the apps you have running.
Privacy and security are also strengths. It keeps no logs and doesn’t need any information from you besides your email address, which makes it ideal for privacy-conscious users. Like most of our favorite services, it uses AES 256-bit encryption for extra security.
CyberGhost activates automatically when connecting to wireless networks. Though convenient, WiFi networks can leave you vulnerable to hackers, as mentioned in our dangers of public WiFi article, so that is a useful feature.
Other Reasons We Like CyberGhost
CyberGhost provides the quality customer service that Mac owners expect with responsive live chat agents and email inquiries handled in good time. It also has an extensive knowledgebase to search through if you have problems.
At $59.88 for its annual plan, CyberGhost is easier on the wallet than the two services above and, like them, offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. The three-year plan is even better value at $99.99. You can also take advantage of its seven-day free trial if you want to dip your toe in the water before signing up.
Overall, CyberGhost is a good service that’s cheaper than our two top picks, but comes with a couple of minor quibbles.
- Lots of task-specific features
- Easy to use
- Strong customer service
- No split tunneling
Private Internet Access is famous for its advocacy of net neutrality and its service prioritizes security and privacy. It is a good choice if those are your concerns.
After going through the straightforward sign up and installation process, you have to enter your login details. The UI is minimalist and launched from the menu bar, though it does contain many options if you look for them.
Connecting is just a matter of selecting “connect” from the menu. You can accept the default server or pick from a list of countries and, in some cases, cities. You can also send a slow speed complaint from the menu, presumably allowing PIA to get on to fixing the problem.
PIA is very fast and hit impressive speeds throughout the world during our testing. That, combined with its low ping scores, makes it an ideal VPN for gaming. It isn’t as hot on streaming, though. Hulu and iPlayer blocked us.
PIA is big on privacy and, in addition to keeping no logs, allows you to sign up without providing much identifying information. It is also strong on security, using the OpenVPN protocol by default and passing all our leak tests, as described in our PIA review.
Customer service is via a knowledgebase and a support system that uses email and a web form. There’s no live chat and the response to our test email took a few hours to arrive. Though the knowledgebase is good, we wouldn’t describe customer service as one of PIA’s strengths.
Other Reasons We Like PIA
In addition to a killswitch, PIA includes automatic malware and ad blocking, but it doesn’t have split tunneling. At $39.95 per year, including five simultaneous connections, PIA is priced well for a quality service. It lacks a few frills, but the core features are excellent.
We recommend it for price-conscious and technically confident users who are happy to solve their own problems. Those who need quick, regular support are best served elsewhere.
- Good value
- Simple to use
- Limited support
- No split tunneling
- Weak on streaming
GooseVPN is a new kid on the block, but already boasts many impressive features backed by excellent support.
Setting it up is easy. Once installed, it looks pleasant, but the UI has minor issues, such as the client window not being dragable and the options menu being hidden when first opened.
It has a no-logs policy and offers several protocols. We recommend OpenVPN because it’s the most secure, if slower than the others. The AES 256-bit encryption should help keep hackers at bay, too.
It has a killswitch, activated by the “VPN always on” setting, which isn’t as clear as it could be. Split tunneling is not yet available, but will be soon, apparently.
Speeds are fast and GooseVPN has several P2P servers, making it a good choice for torrenting. Its pings are high for gaming, though, and connecting to streaming services was a mixed bag. We got into Netflix but not BBC iPlayer.
Its server network is limited, but that will hopefully improve. It has just over 100 servers, which are mostly in Europe and North America. Africa and South America only have one server each, so take a look at its website to confirm that it has servers where you need them.
Other Reasons We Like GooseVPN
GooseVPN claims it will try to add a server in a particular location if you let the company know you need it. As customer service goes that is impressive. Support is a strength of GooseVPN’s, with help offered 24/7.
As well as a live chat service, there is email support. During our testing, we got a response in less than an hour. The company says support is in-house, rather than outsourced. There’s also a FAQ and knowledgebase that includes useful YouTube videos.
As detailed in our GooseVPN review, the customer service is second to none and a strong point for Mac owners used to comprehensive support.
The standard annual package comes in at $59.88, which isn’t too bad and allows unlimited connections.
Overall, GooseVPN is a nice, fast option with great customer service and one that we hope will improve further over the coming months.
- Great customer service
- Plenty of P2P servers
- No split tunneling
- Limited network
As we’ve seen, Mac users have many strong choices for a VPN that works well on the platform. ExpressVPN comes out as our best option for the Mac, thanks to its speed, support and all-around quality, but there are other good choices.
For the budget-conscious, CyberGhost is cheaper than ExpressVPN and easy to use. PIA is even cheaper, with strong core features and low ping scores that make it ideal for gamers.
We’d love to hear your experiences with the VPNs on our list. They all have their strengths and we hope you can find one that matches your needs. If you know of any other VPNs that work well with the Mac, we’d like to hear about those, too. Please share your experiences in the comments. Thanks for reading.