Apple’s Macintosh lineup of computers debuted January 24, 1984, when Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced it onstage during one of the first now-familiar Apple media events.
Mac computers have gone through a lot of changes over the years, as has their operating system, which is currently macOS. Apple’s Mac lineup currently targets both general and professional users, with both laptop models (such as MacBook or MacBook Air) and desktop models (such as iMac and Mac Pro).
While macOS is one of the more secure operating systems available today, it’s vulnerable to some of the same online attacks as other operating systems are. Mac users can be subject to online phishing attempts, monitoring, man-in-the-middle attacks and other dangers.
In addition, Mac users face geographical restrictions on content, connection throttling, restrictions on P2P file sharing and other injustices.
Luckily, there’s a way to protect your internet connection from the above hazards: a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service.
A VPN protects your internet activities from attacks and observation by encasing your connection in a tunnel of encryption. While an outside observer may be able to tell that you’re connected to the internet, they can’t see what exactly you’re doing while connected.
A VPN also has the ability to make it appear as if your device is connecting from another geographic location. This helps open access to blocked content, such as streaming content from Netflix, game servers and other types of content.
Below, I assess the top 5 best VPNs for use with your Mac, as well as the features that are most important to look for in a provider.
How to Use Your VPN With a Mac
To protect your Mac with a VPN, do the following:
- Subscribe to your VPN provider of choice.
- Install the provider’s macOS app to protect all of your online activities. You can also install a browser extension for your favorite browser (if available) to provide quick protection for your browsing sessions.
- Log into the VPN.
- Select a VPN server and connect to it.
- Enjoy your incognito online activities.
Best VPNs for the Mac
I ran numerous top VPN providers through a series of testing hoops to discover which was the best for the Mac. My Mac is my daily driver device, so much of this testing was conducted in real-life conditions.
I found that the 5 providers listed below performed the best on my Mac. Here’s a quick summary:
- ExpressVPN: The provider delivers fast connections, top-notch privacy and security, and some of the best global server coverage in the VPN industry. ExpressVPN’s app is easy to use, providing a one-click “Quick Connect” option.
- NordVPN: This provider offers excellent customer support and comprehensive protections for their users’ privacy. Its well-protected connections come with plenty of bandwidth.
- CyberGhost: This bargain-priced provider delivers performance that easily belies its low price. CyberGhost delivers some of the fastest connection speeds in the VPN industry, and its easy-to-use apps offer one-click protection.
- IPVanish: IPVanish keeps things uber-private with its self-owned and -operated server farms, which keep third parties away from your data. The provider’s global server coverage is fair-to-middlin’, and their macOS app could be confusing to new users.
- PrivateVPN: This provider delivers fast connection speeds, which are well protected with military-grade encryption. Their server numbers could definitely use some bumping up, but they do choose great locations for the servers they do have.
I evaluated and ranked the top Mac VPNs using the following criteria:
- macOS app availability
- Strong security and privacy protections
- Fast connections with unlimited bandwidth and no data caps
- A large, global network of servers
- Top-notch customer support
- Bonus points for allowing torrenting
Here’s my top 5 picks for the best VPNs to use with your Mac.
ExpressVPN is your best option for protecting and enhancing your Mac’s internet connection thanks to excellent privacy and security protections, an easy-to-use app and a comprehensive global server network.
The provider offers a native macOS app, which is easy to install and use, and includes a handy “Smart Location” option that connects users to the best-performing server located in their country. Browser extensions are available for the Chrome and Firefox browsers.
Your security is covered thanks to ExpressVPN’s highly encrypted, kill switch-protected connections. Your privacy is protected just as well thanks to the service’s no-logs policy and Bitcoin subscription payment option.
Your favorite macOS apps will never lack in online performance, as ExpressVPN offers excellent connection speeds. The provider is an excellent choice for peer-to-peer file-sharing users, as it allows P2P action on all of its servers and never restricts your online antics with data caps or bandwidth restrictions.
ExpressVPN has the globe covered in servers, with 3,000+ servers located in 94 countries.
The service’s customer support department is tip-top, with responsive 24/7 live support chat, email support, a trouble ticket tracking system and a do-it-yourself troubleshooting and support library.
ExpressVPN’s somewhat limiting simultaneous connection allowance of 3 devices may disappoint. Luckily, the provider is also compatible with numerous brands and models of routers, allowing access to multiple devices via a single login.
- Offers browser extensions and a macOS app
- Allows P2P file-sharing action on all servers
- Customer support among the best
- Top-notch security and privacy protections
- Optimal global server coverage
- Only 3 concurrent connections allowed
BEST VPN FOR THE MAC:ExpressVPN is the best option for protecting your Mac. The provider offers easy-to-use apps, fast connections, tight encryption and optimal privacy protections. Great for torrenting. 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full review of ExpressVPN.
NordVPN is a solid 2nd-place performer in this 5-spot lineup thanks to its low price, yet high level of service.
NordVPN’s macOS app offers excellent protection, with the ability to block malware and ads, and use obfuscated servers, which make it tougher for a service to detect that you’re using a VPN. Chrome and Firefox users can take advantage of the provider’s browser extensions.
NordVPN does a good job of protecting your online travels from prying eyes by using military-grade encryption and offering kill switch protection. Any worries about privacy violations should be allayed by the provider’s no-logs policy and Bitcoin payment option.
NordVPN’s connection speeds should be up to handling any of your online enjoyments. No data caps or bandwidth restrictions to be found here.
While NordVPN’s server coverage isn’t as comprehensive as that of some providers, it has nothing to be ashamed of in this department, with 5,200+ servers located in 60 countries. Although NordVPN allows P2P traffic, it limits the activity to a select number of their servers.
NordVPN provides reliable service, but on the off chance that you need assistance, the service provides email support, 24/7 support chat and a searchable support library.
Apps are available for most popular operating systems. The provider allows up to 6 simultaneous connections on a single account. If that’s not enough for your needs, take advantage of their excellent compatibility with numerous router brands.
- 5,200+ servers in 60 countries
- macOS app and Chrome extension availability
- Value pricing
- Allows P2P activity on select servers
- Kill switch protection must be applied to apps one by one
BUDGET-FRIENDLY MAC VPN:NordVPN delivers top-notch VPN protection for a budget price. I recommend NordVPN to Mac users who are looking to save a few bucks. The service delivers above-average connections and excellent privacy protections, along with optimal customer support. 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full review of NordVPN.
CyberGhost is the best choice for macOS users who are looking for blazing speeds for their streaming, downloading and gaming needs.
The provider’s macOS app delivers excellent protection, offering an ad-blocker, the ability to force websites to use HTTPS if available and more. Chrome and Firefox browser extensions are available.
CyberGhost users’ privacy is well protected via their strict no-log collection policy and their acceptance of Bitcoin for subscriptions.
Security could be a bit better. While the provider does use military-grade connection encryption, the macOS app does not offer kill switch protection.
CyberGhost delivers the fastest connection speeds on this list, with plenty of speed for gaming, streaming audio and video, downloading and sharing files, and more. No worries about data caps or bandwidth restrictions ruining the fun.
Accessing geo-blocked content won’t be a problem thanks to CyberGhost’s 3,700+ servers, which are stationed in 60 countries around the world. While CyberGhost does allow P2P traffic, such traffic is limited to a select number of servers.
If you ever experience a problem, CyberGhost has you covered. The VPN provider offers a live support chat option, a searchable support catalog and a trouble ticket tracking system.
CyberGhost provides apps for most other popular devices, and it offers a rather generous 7 concurrent connections allowance. However, if that isn’t enough, you can always protect additional users with the VPN’s extensive router compatibility.
- Provides a native macOS app, as well as Chrome and Firefox extensions
- Excellent encryption
- Top-speed connections
- Comprehensive privacy protections
- No kill switch protection in the macOS app
BEST VPN FOR STREAMING AND GAMING:CyberGhost delivers the best speeds for streaming content, online gaming and downloading files (although it does limit P2P activity to certain servers). A 45-day money-back guarantee makes trying this provider a no-risk proposition.
Read our full review of CyberGhost.
IPVanish is a good VPN choice for Mac users, as it delivers an extra level of protection not offered by most of its competitors.
The provider’s macOS app delivers optimal protection, with kill switch protection, auto reconnect, the ability to use 3rd-party DNS servers and more. Unfortunately, the provider does not offer browser extensions.
Security is strong with this one, as the company covers your connection with highly secure encryption. Optional kill switch protection is available, too.
Privacy is a bit of a mixed bag. While IPVanish doesn’t keep any logs related to your online activities, it doesn’t offer a Bitcoin payment option, leaving your payment info open to possible exposure.
Most Mac users should find IPVanish’s connections speeds to be more than adequate. IPVanish places no data caps or bandwidth restrictions on its users.
IPVanish’s global server coverage of 1,300+ servers in over 50 countries should gain you entry most geo-restricted content caches. P2P file sharing is allowed on all servers.
That “extra level of protection” I mentioned earlier comes via IPVanish’s self-owned and -operated server farms. This adds a layer of security by removing any third-party access to your information.
IPVanish “represents” when it comes to customer support. 24/7 live support chat, email support and a support knowledge base have you covered.
IPVanish provides apps for most other popular operating systems and devices, and it allows up to 10 concurrent connections on a single account. Extensive router compatibility is available to protect multiple devices via a single point of access.
- Added security from self-owned and -operated server farms
- Allows 10 simultaneous connections
- Allows P2P file sharing on all servers
- No browser extensions
- No Bitcoin payment option
EXTRA-SECURE SERVERS:IPVanish delivers above-average macOS VPN protection thanks to its kill switch-protected, well-encrypted connections. Self-owned and -operated server farms keep your data safe from third parties. I wish their 7-day money-back guarantee matched the usual 30-day period.
Read our full review of IPVanish.
PrivateVPN fills out our top 5 with both its reliable and fast connections and strong privacy and security offerings.
The provider’s macOS app provides reliable connections, offering IPv6 leak protection, the ability to automatically start VPN protection on system startup and more.
PrivateVPN uses military-grade encryption to secure its connections. While the macOS app doesn’t offer a kill switch, it does offer the option to automatically reconnect to the company’s servers if the connection fails.
Privacy is held in high regard here, as the provider never keeps track of its users’ online adventures, and it keeps your payment information undercover by accepting Bitcoin.
This provider’s connection speeds are comparable to some of the best around and can easily provide enough horsepower for any of your online needs. Not only that, it doesn’t place any data caps or bandwidth limitations on your connections.
The provider’s actual server count, at 150+, is the lowest I’ve seen. However, those servers are well spread out in over 60 countries around the globe. P2P file sharing is allowed on all 150+ servers.
PrivateVPN customer support can best be termed as “okay.” While the provider offers live chat support, it’s not 24/7. A non-searchable FAQ and a “Contact Us” form are available for questions.
In addition to a macOS app, PrivateVPN also supports the Windows, iOS and Android platforms. Router support is available. Up to 6 devices can connect to the service at once using the same login info.
- Impressive connection speeds
- Allows up to 6 concurrent connections
- P2P file sharing allowed on all servers
- Server count is low
- Customer support is a bit lacking compared to that of other providers
P2P USERS WELCOME:PrivateVPN is an excellent option for users looking for fast connections for their P2P file sharing. While their server count is a bit low, they do a good job of working with what they have. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read our full review of PrivateVPN.
Is a Free VPN a Good Option for Use With a Mac?
A “free” VPN isn’t a good option for use with any device. Anytime, anywhere, for any use. There’s simply too much of a risk to your privacy, features are limited, and many are inconvenient to use.
Gratis VPNs have many drawbacks, but their main hazards are in the hidden costs you pay to use a “free” VPN provider. You will pay with your valuable privacy and time.
Many “free” VPN providers make a nice piece of change by monitoring and recording their users’ online activities and then selling that information to advertisers and others who would love to know what you’ve been up to.
These providers have also been caught injecting unwanted tracking cookies and ads into their customers’ browser sessions. “Free” is fairly expensive when you look at it that way, eh?
You also pay for a “free” VPN with your valuable time. Many freebie VPNs will herd their users into a queue, forcing them to wait before connecting to a server. Then, once they’re allowed to connect, the server selection is limited, if they’re even allowed a choice at all.
You may also find that a freebie VPN will throttle your connection speeds and subject you to monthly data caps. VPNs are supposed to free you from restrictions, not impose more on you.
A month of paid service from a reliable VPN provider will cost you less than a first-run movie ticket. Sure, you might miss a fifth showing of Avengers, but I think you’ll find that it’s worth it.
A Note About Using VPN Browser Extensions With Your Mac
While using a browser extension can allow you to quickly protect your internet browsing, there’s one important caveat to keep in mind.
When you use a VPN browser extension, only your browser session is protected. That means that any website or online service you access via the browser is kept incognito, but your other apps’ internet activities can be monitored by outsiders.
However, when you use the macOS app, all of your online activities are protected. Your web browsing, P2P file sharing, messaging – any activity that uses an internet connection – it’s all protected.
If you’re only concerned about your browsing activities, then a browser extension could be right for you. But if you want comprehensive protection, be sure to download the app.
I would advise Mac users who are searching for a reliable way to protect and enhance their online activities to investigate the use of a Virtual Private Network.
In addition to keeping your online activities undercover, a VPN can also enable access to content and services that may normally be unavailable in your region.
As a Mac user, ExpressVPN is my #1 choice for protecting my Mac’s online connection, and I strongly recommend it to my readers. The provider delivers reliable online protection, while its global server network enables me to access my favorite content, no matter where it’s located.
For more information or to purchase a subscription, visit the ExpressVPN website.