If you are concerned about your privacy and security online using a VPN could give you some reassurance. Apple provides various measures in macOS that make Macs more secure, but if you want to ensure that the connection between your Mac and the internet is protected, rather than the computer itself, you need a VPN.
Using a VPN essentially makes you invisible on the web–your data is encrypted, your IP address is hidden, and you can even make it look like you are surfing from another country. This latter reason is the key motive many people using a VPN have: they want to access services that are locked to a particular region, such as the U.S. Netfilx from the U.K., or iPlayer from outside the U.K.
While accessing locked content is a bit of a gray area, due to licensing agreements, we don’t blame anyone who is desperate to watch the latest season of their favourite program when it airs in the U.S. rather than waiting for it to come to their country. We offer advice about watching BBC iPlayer outside the UK and accessing U.S. Netflix from the U.K.
If you are looking for a VPN to protect your privacy and security online, and to grant you a way to access content as if you are in a different country, we are here to help. There are a lot of VPN providers vying for your business, which can make finding the best one to suit your needs difficult. To help you sort out the right provider for you, we’ve committed to extensive research and testing of VPN services that cater to Mac owners in our guide to the top VPN services for Mac.
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Before we list our recommendations, there is a big question. Do Mac users even need a VPN? Since Apple introduced iOS 15 and macOS Monterey in 2021 the company has offered a handy private relay service. iCloud Private Relay acts a bit like a VPN because it encrypts your web-browsing traffic and sends it through a relay to hide your location, IP, and any information about what you were browsing. iCloud Private Relay solves part of the problem that Mac users have used VPNs for in the past–it mean that companies cannot build a clear picture of you on the web, thereby protecting your privacy.
Do Macs need a VPN?
iCloud Private Relay has some disadvantages: it only works when you are using Safari, you have to be a subscriber to iCloud, and you can’t use it to pretend to be surfing from another country in order to access content that is locked to a particular region. Read more here: iCloud+ Private Relay explained.
If you are a subscriber to iCloud, and only use Safari, then iCloud Private Relay will provide you with some anonymity when you are surfing the web. You may therefore be thinking that this means you don’t need a VPN to hide your location and identity. However, iCloud Private Relay does not allow you to choose an IP address or a region, and you won’t be able to make it look like you’re coming from another location. So you can’t watch geographically locked Netflix content, for example.
Issues with VPNs on Mac
One feature of VPNs is the ability to use Split Tunnelling to choose which apps go via a VPN and which don’t. However recent versions of macOS and the M1 and M2 Macs generally do not support this feature. Only Hide.me (reviewed below) supports Split Tunnelling on new versions of macOS and the M-series Macs.
Best VPN for Mac
Our current favourite service is Surfshark, which is a well-priced all-rounder, we also love NordVPN. But below you will find the top VPN services for Mac.
Most of these will cost less than $5/£5 per month, with some less than $3/£3. There are free VPNs available, but beware that some severely restrict which servers (and therefore countries) you can connect to and the amount of data you can download through those servers. You may be able to save money if you take a look at our round up of VPN deals
It’s also important to read the terms and conditions before using a free VPN, as in rare cases they sell your data to third parties to offset the cost of you using it without paying. It’s a bigger problem on iPhones and Android where unscrupulous companies try to cash in on the VPN ‘gold rush’ and offer up poorly put together apps. Stick with our recommendations and you’ll be safe from these, though.
Surfshark is a great-value VPN that offers a lot more than you’d expect for a small monthly price.
Its apps are easy to use and it reliably unblocks streaming services such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer. It’s missing the specialty servers offered by rivals such as NordVPN, who shares the same parent company, though.
Connection speeds are very impressive, and that’s thanks to the use of the WireGuard protocol. You really won’t notice any slowdown in your internet speed when Surfshark is running, so long as you have WireGuard selected and aren’t using servers the other side of the globe.
The company has upgraded all its servers so they run entirely in RAM, just like NordVPN and ExpressVPN. It’s also a member of the VPN Trust Initiative, while two-factor authentication (2FA) is a feature few VPN services offer. Being run from the Netherlands also means this is a privacy friendly option.
The other reason to consider Surfshark is because it undercuts almost all of its rivals on price, yet doesn’t place any limit on the number of devices you can use simultaneously. Unfortunately it can be pricy to renew once your initial contract runs out.
You can install and use it across many devices including your Mac, PC, Android and iOS devices, as well as browsers.
There’s a kill switch, a strict no-logs policy and a Multi-Hop feature which routes your connection via two VPN servers for an extra layer of protection. However, there’s no GPS spoofing or split tunnelling on the Mac.
NordVPN is one of the biggest and best-known VPN services. It sat firmly at the top of this list for years until Surfshark pipped it to the post. NordVPN is easier to use than Surfshark and has a more up-to-date independent audit. It also has speciality servers for specific purposes. But Surfshark is cheaper, offers unlimited connections and has more in-depth double VPN features.
There are more than 5,000 servers available across 59 countries. You won’t have to figure out which one to choose thanks to the handy ‘Quick connect’ feature that picks the server best suited to your needs.
Connections are fast and reliable, and NordVPN unblocks popular streaming services around the world including Netflix and BBC iPlayer. You can connect up to six devices simultaneously.
Nord has added support for the faster WireGuard protocol in NordLynx, making it one of the fastest VPN services out there. However, it’s only available on the ‘IKE’ version of the app, which only offers a permanently enabled kill switch. To have more control, you’ll need to download the ‘OpenVPN’ version, albeit with slightly slower speeds.
6 simultaneous connections
24/7 tech support
Works with Netflix & other streaming services
You can get 62% off the usual monthly price if you take advantage of the two-year plan. NordVPN offers three tiers: Standard, Plus and Complete. Plus adds Nord’s Password Manager and Data Breach Scanner, while Complete also comes with 1TB of encrypted cloud storage. See all prices and plans at NordVPN.com.
ExpressVPN is one of the most accomplished VPN services you can buy. Everything you’d expect from a modern VPN is here, including an effective kill switch, and impressive device support. There was split tunneling for app-by-app protection, but, as with nearly all VPNs, that hasn’t worked since macOS Big Sur. It is extremely easy to set up, with quick access via the menu bar one of the highlights.
ExpressVPN has often led the way when it comes to security, but other providers are quickly catching up. It’s no longer the only one with RAM-based servers, while solid device and tech support are the norm whichever service you use.
The Lightway protocol brings big increases to the speeds ExpressVPN is capable of, but its open-source technology many similar services will be able to make use of it. Many of these are significantly more affordable though, with ExpressVPN being one of the more expensive options here.
Hide.me is another VPN service which has improved considerably in recent years.
As well as offering a completely free version (which none of its rivals here do), it has also added WireGuard, which is considerably faster than other encryption protocols.
Other key features include a customisable kill switch and split tunnelling. Hide.me is the only VPN to offer Split Tunnelling in macOS. They state on their website: “hide.me VPN for macOS supports split tunnelling. You can configure it in the client’s settings.”
Hide.me also offers Stealth Guard, which stops selected apps from running without the security of a VPN connection.
It can unblock Netflix and allows you to access BBC iPlayer from outside the UK. There’s also solid device support, with up to 10 simultaneous connections permitted.
1900+ servers in 47 countries
24/7 live chat
10 simultaneous connections
However, the user interface on Mac is a bit clunky, and we’re still waiting for an update to the 2015 no-logs policy certification.
In our tests, FastestVPN maintained about 30 percent of the base speed across five locations on multiple test days, although there were some weak spots in Asia and Australia.
Supports 10 simultaneous connections
32 country connections with more than 250 servers
Internet kill switch blocks all online traffic if VPN connection drops
Despite it’s name it’s not the fastest VPN, but FastestVPN does make the right privacy promises in a way that’s easy to understand.
VyprVPN offers everything most people are looking for in a VPN, without needing to spend much money.
You get fast WireGuard speeds, alongside separate protocols focused on reliability, anti-censorship and ease of use. It’s also excellent at unblocking geo-restricted content, whether that’s local versions of Netflix or BBC iPlayer & ITV Hub from outside the UK. Premium features such as split tunneling and a kill switch are here too, even if the latter can’t be customised.
Kill switch and split tunneling
WireGuard protocol means fast speeds
30 simultaneous connections
Works with Netflix & other streaming services
Nonetheless, it’s still speedy, reliable and affordable – especially if you don’t mind subscribing for three years. That 36-month plan will set you back just $1.81/£1.36per month, representing excellent value for money.
ProtonVPN is an impressive VPN. It starts with a free tier with very limited features, is easy to understand, offers a collection of interesting features and great speeds.
The free tier has restrictions on the number of servers you can choose, and the speeds on offer. Those who pay for ProtonVPN get access to excellent speeds and can also use ‘Secure Core servers’ which route a connection through multiple servers improving privacy. ProtonVPN is also based in Switzerland, which is good for privacy.
Other extras include NetShield with DNS filtering to offer protection from malware-infested websites, ads and trackers.
55 country options
Includes NetShield malware and tracker blocker
Internet kill switch option
Works with Netflix and other streaming services
One of the fastest VPN we’ve tested on macOS
ProtonVPN is a ProtonVPN starts with a free tier with very limited features is an excellent service with fast speeds, the right privacy promises, a good amount of features including support for streaming services, and fair pricing. It’s well worth a look.
CyberGhost is one of the biggest names in the VPN industry. It’s affordable and user friendly, so is perfect for anyone using a VPN on their Mac for the first time.
Like certain rivals, it is constantly adding new servers and the current tally of over 6700 in 88 countries means you should always be able to get a fast connection. And in our tests, we’ve always seen great speeds from CyberGhost, especially following the introduction of the WireGuard protocol.
It works with phones, tablets, browsers and of course your Mac.
7 simultaneous connections
24/7 customer service
It’s not perfect, though – there’s no split tunneling on the Mac, no evidence of a recent independent audit of security credentials and a user experience that’s slightly rough around the edges. It also didn’t unblock BBC iPlayer in our testing. It’s based in Romania, which is good for privacy.
Still, at $2.25/£1.99 per month for 3-year deal (which currently gives you three months’ extra free), it still represents very good value for money.
Private Internet Access (PIA) is a compelling VPN at a relatively affordable price, making it a decent option for the Mac.
It has an incredible 33,665 servers across 73 countries – that’s far higher than almost any consumer VPN service. These include all the most popular locations, with the option for up to 10 simultaneous connections.
Speeds are excellent, thanks to the WireGuard protocol. PIA also benefits from a kill switch, a eature that is sometimes left out of Mac VPN services. Split tunnelling had also been a feature pre Big Sur, but that is no longer an option.
It allows you to access international versions of Netflix, as well as BBC iPlayer while outside the UK.
The service doesn’t log any of your details or activity, so even though it is based in the US, there’s no data to hand over should the authorities order PIA to do so.
10 simultaneous connections
24/7 customer service
However, it’s not perfect. There’s no evidence of an independent audit and the Mac app is clunky in comparison to some rivals.
Nonetheless, PIA is a solid VPN service at an affordable price. A two-year subscription works out at only $2.91/£2.37 per month. You also currently get two months extra for free.
Malwarebytes, probably best known for antivirus software and advice, also offers a standalone VPN service called Malwarebytes Privacy. It’s an easy to use app with the right kind of privacy promises – as you’d expect from a respected name in security based in the U.S.
Offers 32 country locations
More than 245 servers
In our tests Malwarebytes was a mid-tier performer in terms of speeds, but it should be good enough for most casual users.
Malwarebytes Privacy VPN does a good job and, starting at $3.33/£2.50 a month for one device, the price is right.
PureVPN is a service to consider if you need to connect to one or more of the countries which aren’t covered by its rivals.
PureVPN is now registered in the British Virgin Islands, which is much more privacy friendly than Hong Kong, where it operated previously. There are more than 2,000 servers available across 141 countries (the most of all services listed here).
However, some of those are achieved using virtual server locations. Virtual servers are usually rented from a datacentre, which means the VPN company may have less control over them. PureVPN is transparent about which servers are virtual and which are physical – you can see a small ‘v’ next to each virtual server on the
PureVPN website. Unfortunately Mac users do not see this information in the app though, whicle their PC counterparts to.
Virtual servers will still unblock content as you’d expect. You can also take advantage of the following:
Kill switch in macOS app
140+ countries covered
5 simultaneous connections
24/7 customer service
Works with Netflix & other streaming services
PureVPN used to log session information but these days operates a strict no-logs policy.
Standard monthly pricing isn’t that attractive for any VPN service, but like its rivals PureVPN always offers great deals if you’re happy to sign up for multiple years.
Ivacy doesn’t have as many servers as some of the options here, but it is a well-established VPN service which offers apps for macOS, iOS alongside other devices you may own. Its network isn’t the largest, but still offers servers in all the countries you are likely to want to pretend to be located in.
Over 3,500 servers in over 100 countries
5 simultaneous connections
Unblocks local versions of Netflix and BBC iPlayer
Speeds are decent, and support is responsive via 24/7 live chat. And with amazingly low prices, it’s a solid choice. However, the Mac app is a pale imitation of the Windows version, with only one protocol available on Mac, plus you miss out on split tunneling and a kill switch.
AtlasVPN is actually owned by Nord Security (which also owns NordVPN and Surfshark). Atlas is the cheapest Nord-owned option, it also offers a completely free plan. Free users get access to servers in the US and Europe, but the speeds you’ll get won’t be as fast as paid customers. Everyone else gets access to a small number of servers in popular countries.
1,900+ servers in 67 countries
10 simultaneous connections
Unblocked Netflix, Amazon, iPlayer, Disney+ and more
24/7 live chat support
Being based in the U.S. means it suffers from the unfavorable privacy laws there. Atlas VPN claims not to log any data though.
Atlas VPN supports IPv6 (unlike most VPNs). It also allows unlimited connections, so it can be used on multiple devices.
Unfortunately, while it’ll let us watch Netflix, HBO Max and other big names, it didn’t unblock BBC iPlayer, and some other services.
Hidden24 is designed from the ground up to offer the ultimate in privacy.
There are seven server locations to choose from: U.S., U.K., Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Sweden. Those servers run custom code, unlike most VPN servers which use open source software on top of Linux. Not even Hidden24’s staff can access those servers. Hidden24 also logs nothing. This is all great for privacy, one drawback is that you’re restricted to using just one device at a time. To get around that you could configure a compatible router with Hidden24 and connect all your devices to that router.
In our tests Hidden24 reliably unblocked Netflix, iPlayer and other streaming services which are available in the seven countries it supports.
7 servers in 7 countries
1 simultaneous connection
Unblocked Netflix, iPlayer and more
It’s a good cheap option if your priority is privacy over other features.
How we tested VPNs
For each VPN service we review, we conduct tests at three different times of the day: morning, afternoon, and evening, using
Ookla Speedtest. We start by measuring the speed of our unprotected internet connection before testing the upload/download speeds of the VPN service. These tests are conducted to servers located in North America, the UK, Europe, Oceana, and Asia over an ethernet connection with a service provision of 100Mbps.
To test upload and download speeds, we close down all background internet processes on the Mac, using TripMode. The only traffic on the system able to upload or download any data is Ookla. We use this setup to ensure that the numbers that Ookla produced were not stymied by anything else that the computer may have been doing at the time. The speeds Ookla captured were then averaged, providing us with a final numeric score.
We then use those scores to calculate a percentage of difference in speeds, which is what you’ll see in our reviews. Since internet speeds change constantly based on server load, how fast your connection is, and a gazillion other factors, we feel this provides a better picture of what you can expect from a service, on the whole, than merely quoting the exact upload/download speeds we encountered during testing.
Speed isn’t the only quantifiable metric that we look at. The number of countries that a VPN offers servers in, total number of servers worldwide, and how much it’ll cost you to connect to those servers on a monthly or annual basis are also taken into consideration when recommending a VPN service to you.
Additionally, we conduct hours of research into the VPN providers to find out who owns them, where they’re based, what they do with subscriber information, and whether the provider has a track record of questionable business practices.
What’s a VPN?
VPN stands for
virtual private network. If you’re not using a VPN, when your computer connects to the internet, it does so through the local gateway provided by your
internet service provider (ISP). Doing this allows you to connect to all of the online services you use everyday.
However, connecting this way also allows an ISP to know your physical location based on where you access the internet—be it at home, at work, in a cafe, or at a public Wi-Fi hotspot. This information is often sold to marketers and other parties interested in getting to know more about you and your browsing habits.
Worse still, if you connect to the internet through an access point with weak security, such as at an airport, mall, or local library, hackers connected to the same network could intercept personal information like your social media passwords or banking credentials through what’s called a
man-in-the-middle attack. A VPN service can help prevent all of that.
A VPN creates an
encrypted digital tunnel between your computer and the server of the VPN service you choose to use. Once this tunnel has been established, your web searches, the sites you access, and the information you submit online will be hidden from prying eyes. This means that your ISP can’t log or sell your information and hackers using the same network as you will find it difficult to initiate an attack on you. Almost no one will have any idea of what information you’re accessing.
What a VPN can’t do
A VPN can’t protect you from viruses, malware, or ransomware attacks if you choose to download an infected file, or a visit site designed to inject your computer with malignant code. It won’t keep spoofed sites from stealing your personal information, if you happen to visit one. So, you’ll want to
bone up on online security best practices.
You should know that while using a VPN will allow you to anonymously engage in peer-to-peer file-sharing/torrenting, some service providers may cancel your VPN subscription or turn over your information to the authorities if they catch you trading copyrighted material with others.
What to look for in a VPN
Know where the provider is based. Many countries have no laws demanding that VPN providers maintain logs of their users’ activity. This makes maintaining your privacy more assurable than it would be if you use a VPN located in a country that requires that user-activity records be maintained. Some companies, in an effort to make their network of servers look bigger or more varied than it actually is,
spoof the locations of their servers.
The more servers, the merrier. Choosing a VPN provider with a ton of servers around the world is important for a couple of reasons. First, having a multitude of servers to choose from means that you won’t be forced to connect to an overpopulated server where the data flows like mud.
Second, having a wealth of servers to choose from both at home and internationally means more opportunities for spoofing your location, allowing you to hide where you are or access region-locked content with ease.
Multiple payment options. It’s a vicious circle. Paying for a VPN with a credit card online before you have access to a VPN could allow your financial information to fall into the wrong hands. Look for providers that offer alternative payment options such as PayPal, Bitcoin, AliPay, or via the Mac App Store.
An easy-to-use interface. It takes a lot of digital wizardry to connect to a VPN. Some people want to see how their VPN operates, behind the scenes. Using an open source VPN client like
Tunnelblick is great for this. Most folks, however, just want their VPN to work with minimal frustration. Look for a VPN service that offers a Mac client with an easy-to-use interface.
Protection for all of your devices. A good VPN service will offer licenses for multiple devices to protect your loved ones’ computers as well as your personal smartphone and tablet. To this end, before investing in a VPN subscription, make sure that it provides software clients for all of the devices you own.