With the internet abuzz with privacy concerns and the potential changes coming to net neutrality, you’ve likely heard about virtual private networks, better known as VPNs. When used correctly, a VPN can greatly strengthen your online privacy, assist in keeping your personal information secure, and even spoof your location in the world—allowing you to access websites or services that would otherwise be off limits due to region-locking.
With the increased popularity of VPNs has come an increased number of VPN providers vying for your business. That makes 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.
If nothing but the best will do, check out our routinely updated list of category leaders.
The best VPN services for Mac 2020
- NordVPN: Best overall [nordvpn.com]
- Mullvad: Best for security/privacy [mullvad.net]
- CyberGhost: Fastest VPN [cyberghost.com]
If you prefer to do your own shopping, we’ve got your back there, too: Each of the VPNs we test is thoroughly reviewed, allowing you to make an informed decision on which one to throw your money at. See complete summaries of our picks, and our full list of reviews below.
Best VPN overall for Mac
NordVPN offers above-average data encryption to keep their subscribers’ data safe while tunneling. It’s got a large network of servers, too: over 3,000 servers spread across more than 60 countries, allowing you to spoof a wide number of locations and avoid server congestion.
Moreover, its software interface is easy to use, making even new VPN users feel like online-privacy experts. While it’s not perfect, NordVPN gets more right than any of the other VPN providers we’ve tested so far.
Update (10/28/19): NordVPN recently revealed that one of its servers was hacked in early 2018. This news event does not change our recommendation as the risk to users was very low. The attack was against a single misconfigured server run by one of NordVPN’s contractors in Finland. The hackers were able to extract an expired TLS key, which cannot be used to decrypt user traffic. No customer account information was revealed during the intrusion. The hackers could’ve used the stolen TLS keys to impersonate the NordVPN website in a targeted attack, but it appears that didn’t happen. For anyone who is concerned about the attack, an option is to go with a VPN service that is directly responsible for its server network and does not use third parties, such as Mullvad or VyprVPN.
Best VPN for security/privacy on a Mac
Fastest VPN overall for Mac
The latest version of Romania-based CyberGhost maintains its edge in overall average connection speeds, making it superior to any other VPN we’ve tested so far. If you’re interested in connecting to VPN servers located within the continental United States, CyberGhost is the one to beat. (Read our full review of CyberGhost.)
Fastest VPN for other countries
If you are interested in connecting to servers in other countries, we’ve found the following to be fast options:
- UK: TorGuard welcomes P2P file sharing on its VPN servers with open arms and offers the best connection speeds to servers in the United Kingdom that we’ve seen so far.
- Europe: While TunnelBear gave us pause in the areas of user privacy and its ambiguous server numbers, the Canadian VPN provider takes first place when it comes to European connection speeds.
- Asia: While we weren’t thrilled with its logging policies and the fact that it only allows P2P file sharing on a single server, Israel’s SaferVPN gets top marks when it comes to connecting to servers in Asia.
- Oceania: If you want to connect with VPN servers down under, CyberGhost is the way to go.
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, I closed down all background internet processes on my Mac, using TripMode. The only traffic on my system able to upload or download any data was Ookla. I used this setup to ensure that the numbers that Ookla produced were not stymied by anything else that my computer may have been doing at the time. The speeds Ookla captured were then averaged, providing us with a final numeric score.
I then used 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.