Best VPN El Capitan, Sierra, High Sierra, Mojave

In 2016, Apple launched the macOS operating system to replace Mac OS X. El Capitan was the final version of Mac OS X, while Sierra, High Sierra, and the Mojave versions are all under the macOS name. This article will discuss the best VPNs for El Capitan, Sierra, High Sierra, Mojave, Catalina, Big Sur, and Monterey.

The macOS operating system has stronger security features than Mac OS X, and Mac continues to improve its resistance to viruses with each new release. However, controlling all of the events that your computer encounters on the Internet is often beyond the capabilities of the operating system.

You can read more about the threats to your privacy and security when you surf the web later in this guide. However, first look at the best VPNs for El Capitan, Sierra, High Sierra, Mojave, Catalina, Big Sur, and Monterey. If you haven’t got time to read the whole post, we have summarised a lot of the details on each of the VPN providers into this list:

  1. NordVPN Our top VPN for El Capitan, Catalina, Big Sur, and Monterey. Large network of secure and fast servers. Reliably unblocks most restricted sites and services. Includes a 30-day money-back guarantee.
    TIP In our testing we found that the cheapest NordVPN plan (Standard) works perfectly for Apple.
  2. Surfshark Hard to beat on value. Solid speeds, powerful security and privacy protections, and no connection limits. Apps for macs and MacBooks.
  3. IPVanish Great security features like auto wi-fi protection will keep your Mac safe. The servers were fast and reliable in our testing.
  4. ExpressVPN Easy to install and get started on Mac OS X. Good server speeds, great for streaming and downloads. Unblocks most geo-restricted sites and services.
  5. CyberGhost Beginner-friendly provider that hit some of the fastest download and streaming speeds in our tests. Easy-to-use apps and installation for Macs.
  6. PrivateVPN Solid on privacy and security. We had no issues with download speeds or getting connected. Easy to install and use.
  7. PureVPN A great choice for MacOS users. Boasts a large network, extremely high speeds, and the ability to beat just about any online restriction. Doesn’t log details of your activities.
  8. ProtonVPN: Security-conscious service with exceptional security and streaming ability. reliable servers in 80+ countries and lots of advanced features that aren’t often seen on Mac.

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There are no hidden termsjust contact support within 30 days if you decide NordVPN isn't right for you, and you'll get a full refund. Start your NordVPN trial here.

Best VPNs for all Mac OS X versions – at a glance

We’ve compared the most important features for the top VPNs here. Prefer to read the in-depth reviews? Start with NordVPN – our #1 choice for all Mac OS X versions.

No valueNordVPNSurfsharkIPVanishExpressVPNCyberGhostPrivateVPNPureVPNProton VPN
WebsiteNordVPN.comSurfshark.comIPVanish.comExpressVPN.comCyberghost.comPrivateVPN.comPureVPN.comprotonvpn.com
Ranking for mac OS versions12345678
Devices SupportedWindows, MacOS, iOS, Android, LinuxWindows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TVWindows, MacOS, iOS, AndroidWindows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Smart TVs, RoutersWindows, MacOS, Linux, iOS, AndroidWindows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Amazon Fire TVWindows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Smart TVs, Chromebook, RoutersWindows, Linux, MacOS, iOS, Android, Chrome, Firefox, Chromebook
Server countries111100751051006370+85+
Avg Speed (Mbps)100+ Mbps100+ Mbps100+ Mbps100+ Mbps100+ Mbps39 Mbps400 Mbps100+ Mbps
Money back guarantee30 days30 days30 days30 days45 days30 days31 days30 days
Best deal (per month)$3.39
Up to 72% off + a Saily eSIM data gift
$2.19
Save 86% on a 2 year Starter plan + 3 months free
$1.99
SAVE 85% on the 2 yr plan + 3 FREE months
$6.67
SAVE: 49% + 3 months free
$2.03
SAVE 84% on the 2 year plan + 4 months free!
$2.00
Save 85% on a one year plan + 24-months free
$2.14
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Criteria for the best VPNs for all Mac OS X versions

Plenty of VPNs are on the market, but they won’t all offer the same level of service. So to find the ones that will work best for you, we took the following factors into consideration:

  • App for Macs and MacBooks
  • A large selection of worldwide servers
  • Strong 256-bit encryption and a choice of VPN protocols
  • Fast speeds for streaming and downloading
  • DNS leak protection, automatic wifi protection, and a kill switch
  • Easy to install and use
  • Fair pricing with a money-back guarantee
  • Reliable customer support available via live chat

You can read more about how we test and rank our VPNs below. But for now, let’s take a closer look at the ones that made our list.

The Best VPNs for all Mac OS X versions

Here is our list of the best VPNs for El Capitan, Sierra, High Sierra, Mojave, Catalina, Big Sur, and Monterey:

1. NordVPN

NordVPN Jul 2024

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux
  • Background FireTV

Website:  www.NordVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

NordVPN is our number one VPN choice. As a leading VPN, NordVPN offers exceptional speeds that enable you to watch live video streams without faults or buffering. The service includes access to servers in 60+ countries, and the company runs 5,400+ servers worldwide. With all NordVPN subscriptions, you can connect to those servers on six different devices at once.

The version of the NordVPN app that is available in the app store is different from the version that NordVPN makes available on its website. The app store version is more “leak-proof: than the website version, so it is better to get the app from there.

The NordVPN app is really easy to use. It shows a map of the world with a marker in each country where the company has servers. You just click on a marker to establish a secure connection to that location. An alternative access method is provided by a server list. This gives you much more choice because, in this mode, you can specify the exact server and location to connect to rather than just the country.

The server list includes some interesting security connection options. For example, you can choose a special server path through which you can connect to the Tor network. There is also a choice of pre-set double-hop paths that will route your connection through two VPN servers in different counties and apply two levels of encryption.

Connection security is created by AES encryption with a 256-bit key. The RSA encryption for session establishment and key exchange uses a 2048-bit key. That could be stronger, like some of the other services on this list. However, it isn’t the worst in the industry.

NordVPN allows you to name a default server and set the VPN to start up with the operating system. This gives you constant coverage and includes automatic Wi-Fi protection. You can also set a kill switch to block all internet access should the VPN protection break. That kill switch can cut off the internet from the device as a whole or just specific apps and processes.

UPDATE 22 April 2021: NordVPN no longer installs on El Capitan. Its Mac app is available for Mac OS 10.12 and up, which includes Sierra, High Sierra, and Mojave.

Pros:

  • Their Mac app is available on their website and on the app store
  • One of the fastest VPNs we’ve tested
  • Doesn’t compromise on security
  • Unblocks the majority of streaming services with ease
  • Keeps no logs
  • 24/7 customer service

Cons:

  • Chinese residents aren’t able to connect via the iOS app

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

OUR #1 CHOICE:NordVPN is the best VPN for all Mac OS X Versions. A good all-rounder with excellent speeds and strong security features. Accommodates up to 6 devices. Includes risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full review of NordVPN.

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2. Surfshark

Surfshark

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.Surfshark.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

Surfshark offers simple yet powerful apps for all major operating systems, including macOS and iOS. These have a clean, neatly-organized interface, making them perfect for beginners. In fact, you can connect to any of this VPN’s 3,200 servers (in over 100 countries) in just a few clicks. Speeds do vary somewhat but are generally fast enough for most everyday tasks.

This VPN’s security features include a kill switch, DNS and IPv6 leak protection, and effectively uncrackable 256-bit AES encryption. Additionally, there’s a built-in malware scanner and ad-blocker, as well as a NoBorders feature designed to circumvent web-blocking in countries like China. Surfshark doesn’t keep any logs at all, so there’s no need to worry about privacy. Having problems? You can contact support, day or night, over live chat.

Surfshark has apps for iOS, Android, macOS, Linux, Apple TV, and Windows. Additionally, it can be manually installed on supported routers. All plans include a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Pros:

  • Apps are powerful yet user-friendly
  • Speeds are high enough for most tasks
  • Great unblocking capabilities
  • Puts your security and privacy first
  • Secure all of your devices at once

Cons:

  • Still has a few slow servers

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

BEST BUDGET VPN:Surfshark is a great, low-cost VPN for macOS users. Boasting solid speeds, strong unblocking ability, and a host of security features, there really isn’t much that it struggles with. What’s more, it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full Surfshark review.

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3. IPVanish

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.IPVanish.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

IPVanish is well known for its very fast speeds. The VPN includes 256-bit AES encryption for data. Session establishment and key exchange is covered by RSA with a 2048-bit key, which isn’t the strongest but is still uncrackable and far better than the fallible 1024-bit key that many VPNs use.

The app for IPVanish downloads from the website onto your Mac. Once you click on the downloaded file, the installation takes place automatically with just a few clicks. The process also installs an icon on your desktop. The app includes the option to set the VPN to connect as soon as the operating system starts up. You can specify a default server. IPVanish has more than 2,000 servers located in 75+ locations. It is easy to switch server locations through the app once the VPN is running.

A network lock option ensures that no program on your computer can communicate over the internet unless the VPN is active. This ensures that the VPN always covers you and gives you automatic wifi protection when you are out and about with your MacBook.

This service offers unlimited simultaneous connections. IPVanish gives all customers a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Pros:

  • Mac OS app downloadable directly from their website
  • DNS leak protection and kill switch enabled by default
  • Impressive server speeds
  • Unlimited connections

Cons:

  • Apps don’t work in China
  • Based in the US

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

EASY TO USE:IPVanish is great for families. A solid option for all Mac OS X versions and folks who need the highest standard of online privacy. 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full review of IPVanish.

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4. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.ExpressVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

ExpressVPN offers a very high-quality service. Its app is available on the company’s website. After paying for your subscription, just go to the download page and click on the install file for Macs. The installation wizard takes care of all of the setup for you, compiling the app for the VPN, creating an icon on your desktop, and installing all of the behind-the-scenes services that a VPN needs to operate on a Mac. Once the installation process finishes, the app will open automatically. The first time you use the app you will need to enter an activation code. You get this code from the user account section at the website, to which the ExpressVPN subscription program should send you a link once your payment clears.

You can set the app to start whenever you boot up your computer. This will establish a secure connection to a VPN server with no extra steps. You do have to specify in the settings which VPN server location the app should connect to. An automatic kill switch (called a ”network lock” in ExpressVPN parlance) prevents any communications from your computer outside of the secure VPN connection.

When the VPN is running, you aren’t tied into the server you specified as your default. You can switch VPN server locations easily from within the app. ExpressVPN has servers in 94 countries, so you will have plenty of choice. Having the VPN on all the time makes it very difficult for snoopers to hack into your connections. It also makes it impossible for your internet service provider and government agencies to track your activities on the web. As soon as you walk into a cybercafé with your MacBook, you are protected by ExpressVPN even if your MacBook connects automatically upon coming in the range of the wifi hotspot.

ExpressVPN offers good speeds, which is great if you like to stream video or music on your Mac. These speeds are achieved despite the fact that the security of ExpressVPN takes a lot of processing. A VPN connection consists of two phases.

All of your communications over the web are protected by encryption. ExpressVPN uses the AES cipher with a 256-bit key. This is the strongest type of encryption available in a VPN. However, AES has one big weakness: both sides use the same key to encrypt and decrypt data so that key has to be distributed. A different encryption system must protect the key’s transmission. ExpressVPN uses the RSA cipher for this task. Nearly all VPNs use RSA, but the strength of the cipher is created by the length of its key. ExpressVPN uses a 4096-bit key for RSA, which very few VPNs implement.

The ExpressVPN service is very secure and works well on Macs. You are allowed to connect three devices to the VPN simultaneously. The company is confident that it has put together a winning package and they are prepared to give you a 30-day money-back guarantee on your subscription.

Pros:

  • Installation wizard makes for an easy install on Macs
  • Powerful encryption makes for solid security and privacy
  • DNS leak protection shared IP addresses
  • Keeps no traffic logs
  • 24/7 chat support are well trained to handle complex situations

Cons:

  • Slightly more pricey than other services
  • Could provide more control over advanced functionality

Our score:

4 out of 5

EXTREMELY VERSATILE:ExpressVPN is a fast and reliable choice. Unblocks all major streaming services. Impressive security and privacy with 256-bit AES encryption, no browser logs, a kill switch, and leak protection. Includes a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full review of ExpressVPN.

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5. CyberGhost

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.Cyberghost.com

Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS

CyberGhost has a great-looking app. It’s very cool, and it installs on any macOS flavor with an installer, which you download from the CyberGhost website. CyberGhost offers very good speeds and has preset options to optimize the service for streaming or downloading. Those preset options appear as the opening screen of the CyberGhost app.

The interface has a funky graphic design with a cute ghost theme throughout. You can set the VPN to start up with the operating system, which requires you to specify a default server to connect to. A choice of over 9000 servers in 90+ countries lets you specify a location right down to the city.

The app’s settings include a kill switch and an obfuscation option that would come in very handy in countries with tight controls on internet access, such as China. Even without that option turned on, you get the very best protection from CyberGhost. As with the other VPNs on this list, data is covered by AES encryption with a 256-bit key. Session establishment and key exchange are protected by a 4096-bit key RSA implementation.

Each account can connect seven devices to CyberGhost servers simultaneously. The company offers a 45-day money-back guarantee to all customers.

Pros:

  • Slick Mac OS apps available on their website are very easy to install and use
  • A low-cost provider with some very fast servers for downloading and streaming
  • Keeps no user activity logs and provides strong encryption to bypass activity detection
  • Works well with Kodi, can select servers based on site you want to unblock
  • 45-day money-back guarantee

Cons:

  • Not as suitable for those that need control of advanced features
  • Doesn’t work in China

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

GREAT VALUE:CyberGhost is easy to use. A well-priced solid performer. Good option if you are looking for a fast, reliable connection and an easy-to-use interface. Can struggle with unblocking some popular streaming sites. 45-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full CyberGhost review.

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6. PrivateVPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.PrivateVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

PrivateVPN is based in Sweden. An install wizard gets the app on your Mac and puts a shortcut on your Desktop for easy access. You can set the VPN to connect when the operating system starts up. You will have to name a default server during that setup process. The company runs 200 servers in 63 countries.

The company’s founders campaign for internet freedom and, in particular, support downloading. They made their service very fast, so customers enjoy streaming video in high quality with no buffering. Optional security measures include a kill switch, which will prevent any access to the internet if the VPN connection drops. This, together with the ability to run the VPN connection at all times, provides automatic Wi-Fi protection.

The connection security has two options, which can be chosen within the app. These are the AES cipher with a 256-bit key and the Blowfish cipher with a 128-bit key. Session establishment and data encryption key distribution is protected by RSA encryption with a 2048-bit key.

Each account has the right to connect to the service times simultaneously, and the company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee on every subscription. Apps are also available for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android.

Pros:

  • Easy installation wizard for Mac OS available on their website
  • Kill switch and automatic wifi protection activate when a connection drops
  • Our tests revealed impressive speeds

Cons:

  • Support staff are good, but only operate during European business hours
  • New network with a smaller number of servers to choose from
  • Apps lack some advanced features, such as ad and malware-blocking options

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

GREAT SPEEDS:PrivateVPN is a good family choice. Speeds were surprisingly good at this end of the market. Could do with having more servers and lacks 24/7 support. 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full review of PrivateVPN.

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7. PureVPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.PureVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 31 DAYS

PureVPN operates more than 6,000 servers across 65 countries and delivers average speeds of almost 400 Mbps. It’s a strong choice for any day-to-day task, including torrenting, playing online games, or using public Wi-Fi safely. In fact, this VPN can even bypass most forms of regional blocking and works flawlessly in countries with extreme digital censorship. The apps are particularly newcomer-friendly, and users are allowed to connect up to 10 devices at the same time. There’s also 24/7 live chat, which makes getting help as easy as possible.

This provider uses uncrackable encryption (AES-256 if you choose the OpenVPN protocol and ChaCha20 on WireGuard). It’s also capable of blocking trackers and IPv6 or DNS leaks automatically. There’s no need to worry about anyone monitoring your activities since PureVPN follows a true no-logging policy and has verified this four times via independent audit. However, it is worth mentioning that the service’s kill switch is not available in the MacOS or iOS apps. As such, you’ll want to check the app periodically to make sure that you’re still connected.

PureVPN has apps for MacOS, iOS, Windows, Linux, and Android. If you’d rather secure your entire home network, you can manually install it on most popular routers.

Pros:

  • Speedy, versatile VPN
  • Perfect for streaming, torrenting, and video calling
  • Good set of security tools

Cons:

  • No kill switch on Apple devices
  • Fairly light on advanced functionality

Our score:

4 out of 5

BEGINNER-FRIENDLY:PureVPN is a sleek, simple service that works well on Mac and iOS. Delivers exceptionally high speeds and doesn’t compromise where privacy is concerned. New subscribers can take advantage of a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full PureVPN review for more details.

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8. ProtonVPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.protonvpn.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

ProtonVPN offers access to more than 80 server locations around the world and delivers exceptionally high speeds (roughly 330 Mbps as of our latest tests). It’s a great way for Mac users to securely stream their favorite shows, torrent anonymously, or browse the internet safely. Best of all, there’s a free plan which means you can take it for a spin without spending a cent. Upgrading to a paid plan comes with several benefits, though, including a higher connection limit and 24/7 customer support.

This VPN has a ton of privacy features, including uncrackable encryption, a kill switch, and automatic leak protection. Further, there are special Secure Core servers that send your data through multiple locations for the highest level of anonymity possible. This service is capable of blocking ads and trackers, or allowing certain apps to bypass the VPN entirely. ProtonVPN has been independently audited to prove that it doesn’t keep any logs and accepts Bitcoin payments. Our only complaint is that its port forwarding feature doesn’t work on MacOS.

ProtonVPN offers its own MacOS, iOS, Linux, Android, and Windows apps. Further, it can be manually configured to work with a huge range of routers.

Pros:

  • No-logs VPN with a high level of security
  • Extremely high speeds
  • Works well with most popular streaming apps

Cons:

  • Won’t let you set up port forwarding on MacOS
  • Secure Core servers could be faster

Our score:

4 out of 5

LARGE NETWORK:ProtonVPN offers far more server locations than its rivals and provides plenty of ways to customize your security setup. That’s not all: it also has 24/7 customer support, ultra-fast speeds, and a 30-day money-back guarantee on paid plans.

Take a look at our comprehensive ProtonVPN review.

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Methodology: How we selected the best VPNs for El Capitan, Sierra, Mojave, Big Sur, Monterey, and others

To evaluate and select the best VPN for legacy macOS platforms, we used the following criteria:

  1. Compatibility: We tested each VPN with El Capitan, Sierra, High Sierra, Mojave, Catalina, Big Sur, and Monterey to ensure they worked well across the various operating systems.
  2. Features: We considered features such as server locations, number of servers, simultaneous connections, NAT firewall, P2P support, and more.
  3. Network: We looked at each VPN’s server network to ensure it was large enough to offer good speeds and reliability.
  4. Speed: A fast connection is essential for a good VPN experience on any device, but it’s imperative on a Mac. We tested each VPN’s speed by downloading files from various servers and measuring the download. 
  5. Security: A good VPN will protect your privacy by encrypting your internet traffic and hiding your IP address. We tested each VPN by connecting to various servers and measuring the encryption strength.
  6. Ease of use: A good VPN for macOS should be easy to set up and use. We looked at how well each VPN’s software integrated with our test Mac and how easy it was to use the features.
  7. Customer support: If you have problems with your VPN, you’ll want to be able to reach customer support easily. We contacted each VPN’s customer support by email and live chat and tested their response times and quality.
  8. Value for money: We only recommend VPNs that we believe are good value. This, of course, includes the cost of a subscription. But that’s not all. We also look at discounts, money-back guarantees, simultaneous device limits, and more.

There’s a little more to our testing process, and you can learn more from our methodology guide.

Security hazards on Macs

Although Macs suffer fewer virus infections than Windows computers, the operating system is not immune to malware or hacker attacks. Apple keeps tightening security and acts quickly whenever a security flaw is discovered. When that happens, the company patches the flaw and integrates it into the Mac operating systems via an update. This applies to all versions of Mac OS, including El Capitan, Sierra, High Sierra, Mojave, Catalina, Big Sur, and Monterey. For this reason, keeping your Mac up to date is very important.

Privacy hazards on Macs

No matter how up-to-date your operating system is, Apple can’t help you in the fight against online tricksters. Your security can be compromised, and privacy weaknesses enable others to limit your access to the internet.

The difference between security and privacy is simple. Security is concerned with preventing others from accessing your Mac and your communications. This includes preventing malicious programs from infecting your computer. Anti-virus programs and firewalls act to prevent malicious intrusion into your computer. On internet connections, data encryption gives you security.

Privacy goes one step further because not only does it prevent others from reading the contents of your online communications, but it also includes a system that obscures all of your internet activity. All internet communications are transported in a structure called a packet. This carries segments of data in the payload and has a header on the front that contains administration details, including the origin and destination of that packet. Secure communication systems, such as HTTPS, encrypt the contents of the packet payload. Privacy systems encrypt the header as well. VPNs are privacy systems. This is a more comprehensive method than the data encryption services of secure systems. As a VPN encrypts the entire packet, it also covers the functions of internet security methodologies. So with a VPN, you get internet security as well as privacy.

Why is internet privacy important?

Prevent ISP throttling

Internet service providers can selectively slow down connections according to the type of traffic that the connection is carrying. This is a particularly common occurrence for video streaming and downloading. These applications create high volumes of traffic, and ISPs don’t like them because they force up costs. The privacy created by VPNs prevents ISP gateways from reading information about the connection, and so it is impossible for them to selectively throttle traffic.

ISPs can also log all of your internet activity, recording all of the sites that you connect to and the data that you download. Governments use the destination addresses in the headers of packets to block certain websites. Although some countries have tighter controls over which websites and internet services their citizens can access, pretty much all governments in the world impose some internet access restrictions. In very controlling countries, such as China, Iran, or Saudi Arabia, access to certain sites can even land you in jail. So, covering up the header information in packets is very important.

Access restricted content

Some websites use the user’s IP address to block them from using all or part of a website. This scenario is particularly prevalent with video streaming services. Companies like Netflix have to restrict access to content based on the location of the viewer. This is because licensing and censorship issues vary from country to country. Copyright holders of entertainment insist that broadcasters pay for the content on a country-by-country basis. So if a video site sends a video to a country where it doesn’t have permission to show it, it is breaking its contracts and can be sued.

Prevent Man-in-the-Middle attacks

Hackers can read the headers of packets because they normally travel in plain text, even when the contents of the payload are encrypted. The security weakness enables the hacker to pose as a server. This is called a man-in-the-middle attack, and it is particularly easy to implement on wifi networks. Any computer or mobile device can act as a hotspot, and you may mistakenly connect to a fake hotspot when in a public place.

The connection process downloads a script to manage connections, and that gives the hacker a chance to sneak malware and controlling programs onto your device. In a man-in-the-middle attack, your data is routed through the hacker’s computer. That computer will intercept your real connection and reply to your computer as if the connection has been established. The hacker poses as the server, reading, modifying, and deleting information that you send over the internet. This information could contain your credit card details and other personal details.

See also: 8 Common types of malware

The ever-increasing risk of man-in-the-middle attacks is the reason that VPNs include automatic wifi protection in their services. If your VPN is switched on and you have a kill switch engaged, you cannot pass any information over the internet until the VPN is connected. The VPN client on your computer will only take its encryption key from the VPN server that it connects to.

It doesn’t matter if you connect to a fake wifi hotspot while the VPN is connected. VPN encryption encapsulates the standard HTTPS security that the hacker tries to control. That VPN encryption lasts the entire length of the connection from your MacBook through to the chosen VPN server. As the true destination of your connection is obscured, the hacker can’t decipher your internet traffic or redirect you to forged websites.

Prevent DDoS attacks

A type of threat called a DDoS attack can shut down your access to the internet by bombarding your computer with fake connection requests. VPN servers have a lot of capacity, and they can easily absorb DDoS attacks. So, when an enemy reads your IP address and launches an attack against you, he ends up directing that attack at the VPN server instead. Your internet access remains open, and the VPN server takes the hit in its stride.

Mac OS X and macOS versions explained

The Mac operating system has gone through many different versions under the name of Mac OS X. The last time the Mac OS X name was used was version 10.11, better known as El Capitan. This version of Mac OS is still in production. Since its release at the end of September 2015, El Capitan has arrived at release 10.11.6, which was rolled out at the beginning of June 2018.

So, Mac OS X is still current even though the first version of macOS, the Mac OS X replacement, was made available in September 2016. This new operating system was built into Sierra, or Mac OS 10.12. High Sierra, released in September 2017, is the latest version of the Mac operating system and is also known as macOS 10.13. Mac OS 10.14, known as Mojave, arrived in the fall of 2018. Catalina and MacOS version Big Sur came out after Mojave. The most recent version is called Monterey (macOS 12.4), which came out on May 16, 2022.

Extra VPN protection for Macs

When you select a VPN server in the app on your Mac and then turn the VPN on, the client software on your computer takes control of access to your computer’s network card. No communications leave your Mac without passing through the VPN connection, called a tunnel. The client VPN program encrypts exiting data packets and encases them in outer packets addressed to the VPN server. The real destination address is still in the inner packet, but no one who captures the packet in transit can read that encrypted address.

When the VPN server receives a packet, it unwraps it and decrypts it. It then sends the original packet on to its intended destination, but with the VPN server’s address as the origin. That means that no one who captures that packet after it has passed through the VPN server can trace that packet to you.

That restriction of all internet communications to the tunnel also applies to incoming packets. While the VPN is active, no traffic can reach your computer without going through the VPN server first. This means that the VPN gives you extra virus protection. VPN servers give you a temporary address, or they use their own address for all customers. Because of this, no outsider can guess the real IP address of your computer, and so the VPN will block all unsolicited incoming connection requests. You will see this extra virus protection described as a NAT firewall. The address mapping that VPN servers perform is called network address translation, or NAT.

Free VPNs for Mac security and privacy

As you can see from the descriptions of the VPNs in our list, these services work very well to protect your internet connection, keeping them both secure and private. In some cases, VPNs do slow down connections to the point where it is impossible to watch streaming videos or play games online. Usually, these are free VPNs.

Operating fast servers and buying enough hardware to prevent traffic congestion costs a lot of money. VPNs have to pay for services from carrier networks. Premium VPNs, including those listed above, always opt for the top level of service with the highest speeds. Very cheap or free VPNs usually opt for the cheapest, slowest service.

Free VPNs can cut costs by implementing weaker encryption. This can mitigate the effect of a slow connection as well. Some VPNs are deceptive and don’t include any encryption at all.

Another method that free VPNs use to earn an income is injecting adverts into websites. Many free VPNs track your internet activity and sell that information on to marketers, so not only do they not offer you privacy, they compromise it. Some free VPNs sell access to your computer to third parties without your consent.

VPN for macOS FAQs

Does macOS have a built-in VPN?

No, macOS does not have a built-in VPN. It’s worth noting that the System Preferences interface allows you to connect to a VPN server. However, such servers are provided by third-party VPN providers. As such, you’ll need to sign up with a VPN service and then download the VPN’s app for Mac. You can then connect to a VPN server while using macOS.

Does Apple have a free VPN?

Apple doesn’t offer a free VPN of its own. While you can find many different free VPNs listed on the App Store, we don’t recommend them for a number of reasons. We discuss these in the “Free VPNs for Mac security and privacy” section of this post. Instead, we recommend you stick with one of the best VPNs for El Capitan, Sierra, High Sierra, and Mojave so you can enjoy the fastest speeds and strongest security (among other benefits).

Will a VPN make my macOS run slow?

A VPN is unlikely to make your macOS run slow. Instead, it’s more likely due to the hard drive getting full or because you have too many apps running in the background. Of course, a VPN may slow your browsing connection because it encrypts your internet traffic. However, the best VPNs for Mac have fast servers and offer unlimited bandwidth, so this still shouldn’t be an issue.

Can I use these VPNs on other Apple devices?

The vast majority of VPNs have their own apps for iOS and MacOS devices, and you can get them directly from the app store. This makes it easy to browse the web safely, bypass censorship, and regain access to geo-blocked platforms whether you’re using an iPad, iPhone, or Macbook. 

Now, if you’re using an Apple TV, the process is a little more complicated. You’ll have to either share a VPN connection from another device or install the VPN on your router. This takes a bit more time, but allows you to use region-locked apps without actually running the VPN on your TV itself. If you’re struggling, just get in touch with your VPN’s support team; they’ll be happy to walk you through the setup process.