Best VPN Mac users

Want to unblock websites or streaming services on your Mac? Interested in preventing the government from tracking everything you do online? Perhaps you want to watch TV platforms on vacation? In this guide, we’ve recommended the best VPNs for Mac, so you can gain privacy, online freedom, and access region-locked content.

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) encrypts all the internet traffic coming from your Mac and directs it through a VPN server in a location you choose. This prevents local networks, ISPs, and government agencies from tracking you online. It also protects you against hackers on public wifi. Not all VPNs are suitable for your Mac, but in this guide, you’ll find a roundup of the best providers.

Our recommended Mac VPNs are versatile and serve multiple purposes, including bypassing censorship, securing public Wi-Fi, and accessing region-locked websites and apps like Netflix US, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu. Whether you own a Macbook, Macbook Air, or Macbook Pro, these VPNs are compatible and ready to enhance your online experience.

Don’t worry if you’re using an older version of macOS, either. These VPNs are designed to support all versions. Thanks to our comprehensive testing and research, you’ll be able to find the perfect Mac VPN for your personal needs and gain privacy no matter where you connect to the internet. Let’s dive in and discover the best VPN options for Mac.

Below is a quick summary of the best VPNs for Mac in 2024. Keep scrolling for detailed summaries that will help you pick between them:

  1. NordVPN: Our top pick VPN for Mac. Huge server network so there’s always a fast one available. Can access Netflix and other streaming sites. Zero logs and robust security. 30-day money-back guarantee included. TIP In our testing we found that the cheapest NordVPN plan (Standard) works perfectly for Macs.
  2. Surfshark: Best budget Mac VPN. A great all-rounder with secure, reliable connections, a no-logs policy, and superior unblocking potential. Doesn’t set a connection limit.
  3. ExpressVPN: Fantastic security, excellent connection speeds, and securely accesses most streaming sites like Netflix on Mac. Allows you to split-tunnel by application. Includes a 30-day money-back guarantee.
  4. CyberGhost: Beginner-friendly Mac app that won’t break the bank. Access Netflix while keeping your connection private.
  5. IPVanish: Torrent-friendly VPN with good internet speeds and strong security. A favorite among those using Kodi on Mac.
  6. PrivateVPN: A lesser-known option for Mac users that punches above its weight class when it comes to speed, security, and the ability to watch streaming sites like Netflix.
  7. PureVPN: A solid everyday VPN that makes it as easy as possible to secure your connection. Doesn’t include a kill switch on Mac but works in China and provides ultrafast speeds.
  8. ProtonVPN: This no-logs VPN is fast, customizable, and suitable for any task. Provides 24/7 customer support and refuses to compromise where your privacy is concerned.


NordVPN is offering a fully-featured risk-free 30-day trial if you sign up at this page. You can use the VPN rated #1 for macOS for a month with no restrictionsgreat if you're looking to browse safely during a short trip abroad.

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 Mac and Macbook – Our hands-on review

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

No valueNordVPNSurfsharkExpressVPNCyberGhostIPVanishPrivateVPNPureVPNProton VPN
Ranking for Mac12345678
Devices SupportedWindows, MacOS, iOS, Android, LinuxWindows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TVWindows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Smart TVs, RoutersWindows, MacOS, Linux, iOS, AndroidWindows, MacOS, iOS, AndroidWindows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Amazon Fire TVWindows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Smart TVs, Chromebook, RoutersWindows, Linux, MacOS, iOS, Android, Chrome, Firefox, Chromebook
Total number of servers6,000+3,200Undisclosed11,000+2,200+200+6,500+3,800
Avg Speed (Mbps)100+ Mbps100+ Mbps100+ Mbps100+ Mbps100+ Mbps39 Mbps400 Mbps100+ Mbps
Activity logsNoneNoneNo identifying dataNo identifying dataNo logs storedNone
Best deal (per month)$3.09
Up to 74% off + 3 months FREE
Save 86% on a 2 year Starter plan + 3 months free
SAVE: 49% + 3 months free
SAVE 83% on the 2 year plan + 2 months free!
SAVE 76% on the 2 yr plan
Save 85% on a one year plan + 24-months free
Up to 82% off the 2-yr standard plan + free months
Up to 64% off a 2-year plan

How we choose the best Mac VPNs

Pretty much all VPN providers make an app for macOS, but only a few of them are worth your time and money. Here is some of the criteria we use for assessing VPNs for Mac:

  • A user-friendly app for MacOS packed with powerful features
  • A large selection of worldwide servers
  • Reliable speeds for streaming and downloading
  • Strong encryption and a strict no-logs policy
  • A generous connection allowance (unlimited is preferred)
  • Reliable customer support available on live chat

You will find a lot more about our VPN testing methodology later in this article.

The 8 best VPNs for Mac

Here is our list of the best VPN providers for Mac and Macbooks:

1. NordVPN

NordVPN May 2024

Apps Available:

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


Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

NordVPN offers over 5,500 servers in 59 countries, nearly half of which are in the United States. The VPN keeps no logs about your connection or your activity and is protected with military-grade encryption. Live customer support is available on the website. An app-specific kill switch, full kill switch, and DNS leak protection come built-in making it one of the most secure VPNs on the market. You are allowed up to six simultaneous connections.

NordVPN has specialized servers for several different tasks, including double-hop VPN, Tor over VPN, ultra-fast optimized servers for streaming, and more. These are all laid out in the app’s server list. NordVPN works with several popular geo-locked streaming sites, including Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and Amazon Prime Video.

You can get NordVPN’s MacOS app from the App Store or directly from NordVPN’s website.

Apps are also available for Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android.

NordVPN speed test data

No valueNordVPN
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)354 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)262 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)284 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$3.09
Up to 74% off + 3 months FREE


  • Dedicated Mac apps work seamlessly
  • Doesn’t compromise on security
  • Faster than any other VPN we’ve tested
  • Vast server network can unblock most geo-restricted content
  • 24/7 live chat support available


  • iOS app doesn’t work in China

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

BEST VPN FOR MAC USERS:NordVPN is our first choice. A security-first provider that works reliably with major streaming platforms. Connects up to 6 devices simultaneously. Try it risk-free with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our review of NordVPN.

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2. Surfshark


Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux


Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

Surfshark currently has around 3,200+ servers in 100+ countries. It’s fast and offers more comprehensive protection than many of its rivals. There’s effectively uncrackable 256-bit encryption, for instance, as well as a kill switch (in all versions), automatic ad and malware-blocking, and protection against WebRTC, IPv6, and DNS leaks. Further, Surfshark doesn’t log any personally identifiable information.

This service is capable of securely accessing a huge range of popular services abroad, including Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu to name a few. It’s ideal for streaming since there’s no connection limit, and if you’re having any issues, you can reach support 24/7 over live chat.

Surfshark also offers apps for iOS, Windows, Android, and Linux.

Surfshark speed test data

No valueSurfshark
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)521 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)702 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)561 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$2.19
Save 86% on a 2 year Starter plan + 3 months free


  • Fast and reliable
  • Keeps no logs
  • Strong commitment to your security
  • Connect any number of devices
  • Excellent unblocking ability


  • Some servers are slower than others (but it has many to pick from in each location)

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

Read our full review of Surfshark here.

BEST BUDGET VPN:Surfshark delivers well in most areas, including online security, privacy, unblocking, and ease of use. Affordable option with no connection limit and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

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3. ExpressVPN


Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux


Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

ExpressVPN is a great all-round VPN for Mac. Fast speeds and unlimited bandwidth ensure you can stream in HD and download large files quickly. It operates upwards of 3,000 optimized VPN servers in 94 countries. Strong encryption pairs with perfect forward secrecy for best-in-class security. ExpressVPN keeps no logs of your activity or real IP address. A kill switch, dubbed “network lock”, and bulletproof leak protection come built-in. ExpressVPN’s Mac app includes a split tunneling feature that allows you to choose which apps are tunneled through the VPN and which use the normal, unencrypted internet connection.

ExpressVPN provides secure access to sites like Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer. Not all servers can do the job, though, so contact 24/7 live chat support to ask which ones work with your favorite streaming site.

Apps are also available for Windows, iOS, Android, Linux, certain wifi routers, and Amazon Fire TV Stick.

ExpressVPN speed test data

No valueExpressVPN
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)319 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)303 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)278 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$6.67
SAVE: 49% + 3 months free


  • Strong no logs privacy policy and high-grade security built into apps
  • Superfast connection speeds with no bandwidth or data restrictions for the best performance
  • macOS apps are easy to install and use
  • Support services are top-notch and staff are knowledgeable


  • Slightly more expensive
  • Users can’t tweak many advanced settings

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

HIGHLY VERSATILE:ExpressVPN is capable of handling almost anything. Fast, reliable, and able to unblock all major streaming services. Great security and online privacy with 256-bit encryption. Keep no browser logs. Kill switch and leak protection. 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full review of ExpressVPN.

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4. CyberGhost

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux


Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS

CyberGhost allows you to choose a server not only by country, but according to how you plan to use it. For example, you can opt for a server that works to stream US Netflix or one to use for P2P filesharing. The Romania-headquartered provider upped its game recently, expanding its server network and unblocking capabilities. It scored well above average in our download speed tests. CyberGhost now operates 9,000+ servers in 89+ countries. It can access Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer, among others.

The company stores no logs of users’ data. Strong encryption protects all internet traffic to and from your Macbook. Additional features include malware, ad blocking, anti-tracking, and automatic HTTPS redirect.

Apps are also available for Windows, Android, Linux, and iOS.

CyberGhost speed test data

No valueCyberGhost
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)449 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)269 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)167 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$2.19
SAVE 83% on the 2 year plan + 2 months free!


  • No issues for macOS in our tests
  • Streams HD video seamlessly and has good connection speeds for downloading
  • Easy to use, select activity type and be connected to the most appropriate server – Best location feature


  • Doesn’t work in the UAE or China
  • Has few advanced features

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

Easy-to-use apps:CyberGhost is easy to use. A great option for users on a budget. Strong on privacy. Streams HD video reliably. Works with most streaming sites, and has dedicated servers for streaming platforms in dozens of countries. 45-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full review of CyberGhost.

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5. IPVanish

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux


Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

IPVanish is a veteran provider that operates over 2,200+ servers in more than 50 countries. Connection speeds are fast, and connections are reliable. Security boasts strong encryption and perfect forward secrecy. A kill switch, traffic obfuscation, DNS leak protection, and IPv6 leak protection can all be toggled in the settings. You can also set your IP address to change at a specified interval. IPVanish stores zero logs about users’ activity and connection details.

IPVanish isn’t as great for unblocking streaming services as the other VPN providers on this list, but it’s great for P2P traffic and Kodi. Kodi users with Android-based devices will have no problem setting up and using IPVanish thanks to a simple, lightweight app and remote control-friendly interface. IPVanish works with all of the Kodi add-ons we’ve tested.

Apps are also available for Windows, iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire TV Stick.

IPVanish speed test data

No valueIPVanish
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)277 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)237 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)352 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$2.99
SAVE 76% on the 2 yr plan


  • Apps work well with macOS
  • Impressive security and privacy features
  • Allows unlimited connections


  • Apps don’t work in China
  • Doesn’t offer a cryptocurrency payment method

Our score:

4 out of 5

NO DEVICE LIMIT:IPVanish is great for families with unlimited multiple connections. Easy to use with Kodi and preferred by users who need high standards of privacy. Can’t unblock as many streaming services as some of its rivals. 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full IPVanish review.

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6. PrivateVPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux


Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

PrivateVPN is an up-and-coming provider making a strong first impression thanks to its download speed, security, and ability to bypass geographic restrictions. Despite its smaller server network, it performed above average in our speed tests. Admittedly, it isn’t as fast as our top recommendations, but it still works without issues for streaming.

Security standards are on par with what you expect from a much larger provider, including 256-bit encryption and perfect forward secrecy. A kill switch and DNS leak protection are included. PrivateVPN is completely logless.

PrivateVPN is great for accessing geo-locked sites like Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and Amazon Prime Video. A basic plan allows you to simultaneously connect up to six devices. Live chat is available on the website during business hours.

Apps are also available for Windows, iOS, and Android.

PrivateVPN speed test data

No valuePrivateVPN
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)94 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)57 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)62 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$2.00
Save 85% on a one year plan + 24-months free


  • Solid Mac app
  • Port forwarding feature
  • Excellent reputation for unblocking popular streaming sites from anywhere


  • Small number of VPN server locations
  • Live chat isn’t 24/7
  • Doesn’t work in China

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

GREAT SPEEDS:PrivateVPN is consistently reliable. Good for general purpose use and HD Streaming. Speeds aren’t as good this year as they were last. 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full PrivateVPN review.

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7. PureVPN


Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux


Money-back guarantee: 31 DAYS

PureVPN is another solid choice for Mac users. For starters, it operates more than 6,000 servers in 65 countries. This means that, no matter where you are in the world, you can count on a high speed, low latency connection. Unlike some of its competitors, PureVPN is able to access platforms that normally block VPNs outright, such as Netflix and Disney+. The apps are very simple and easy to use but if you run into any problems, don’t panic; support staff are available via live chat 24 hours per day.

This VPN keeps you safe using uncrackable 256-bit AES encryption (or ChaCha20 encryption with the WireGuard protocol). Further, it prevents IPv6 and DNS leaks and automatically obfuscates your traffic if it realizes you’re in a country with extreme online censorship. Best of all, PureVPN has undergone four independent audits, Proving that it doesn’t like any data that could identify you. There is also a kill switch but this doesn’t work on Apple platforms, and a tracker-blocker, though this is only included on Plus and Max plans.

PureVPN has its own apps for Mac S, iOS, Android, Windows, and Linux. It provides detailed setup instructions for users looking to run this service directly on their router.

PureVPN speed test data

No valuePureVPN
Avg Speed (US)628 Mbps
Avg Speed (UK)324 Mbps
Avg Speed (Asia)246 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$2.11
Up to 82% off the 2-yr standard plan + free months


  • Beginner-friendly VPN
  • One of the fastest services we’ve tested
  • Can handle whatever you throw at it


  • No kill switch on MacOS or iOS
  • We’d prefer if tracker-blocking was included on all plans

Our score:

4 out of 5

READY FOR ANYTHING:PureVPN is just as comfortable streaming as it is torrenting or making video calls. It boasts better than average speeds, strong security, and a 31-day money-back guarantee so you can try it for yourself.

Read our full review of PureVPN to learn more.

PureVPN Coupon
Up to 82% off the 2-yr standard plan + free months
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8. ProtonVPN

Proton VPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux


Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

ProtonVPN has a free plan but we’d suggest upgrading to a paid subscription if possible. This grants access to a network of roughly 3,800 servers in more than 80 countries, 24/7 customer support, and allows you to secure up to 10 devices simultaneously. Additionally, paid users are able to access plenty of stubborn streaming services and no longer have their speeds restricted. That’s a pretty big deal considering this provider averaged 330 Mbps in our most recent tests.

Let’s talk about security. ProtonVPN uses industry-approved encryption, a kill switch, tracker-blocking, and leak protection to ensure your activities are kept private at all times. It even operates special Secure Core servers that are stored in underground data centers for maximum security (though understandably, these are quite a bit slower). This provider follows a no-logging policy, which has been confirmed by external auditors. Finally, it accepts Bitcoin and cash payments, making it easy to sign up without providing any personal information.

ProtonVPN offers apps for iOS, MacOS, Linux, Windows, and Android. It can also be installed on a wide range of routers, though you’ll have to follow manual setup instructions.

ProtonVPN speed test data

No valueProton VPN
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)390 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)306 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)295 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$3.59
Up to 64% off a 2-year plan


  • Quick and reliable performance
  • Maintains most of its functionality on MacOS
  • Strong privacy credentials and a proven no-logs policy


  • No port forwarding on Apple platforms
  • Lots of restrictions for free users

Our score:

4 out of 5

CUSTOMIZABLE SECURITY:ProtonVPN has everythingyou’ll need to browse the web safely on Mac. There are also plenty of advanced features including automatic ad and tracker-blocking. Better still, this service includes a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Check out our complete ProtonVPN review.

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Why Mac owners should use a VPN

macOS is generally considered a fairly secure operating system, but there are still many reasons for Mac owners to employ VPNs. Macs may be less susceptible to malware than PCs, but they’re still at risk when it comes to online tracking and restrictions:

  • Spying on your online activity by governments, corporations, and hackers
  • Attacks that intercept, modify, or divert your internet connection
  • Geo-locked content such as videos and content that can only be watched from certain countries
  • Websites and apps that track your location and device address
  • Web censorship by governments and corporations

You can read more about Mac OS security on Apple’s page here and our own article, which asks if Macs need antivirus.

The number one reason to use a VPN on a Mac is to improve privacy. Your Mac’s security and privacy only extend to the data that is stored on your Macbook. Once data is passed over the internet, it may no longer be secure or private. Your internet service provider, local wi-fi networks, or hackers on public wi-fi could intercept your data.

This information can be used against you in many ways, such as your ISP throttling your bandwidth as punishment for using P2P applications – or a hacker conducting a man-in-the-middle attack to piggyback on your sessions and potentially infect you with malware.

Besides the obvious privacy and security benefits, VPNs are extremely useful for accessing geo-locked content. If you want to watch a video or access an app that’s only available to users in a specific country, for example, you can set your VPN server location to that country and connect to it to unblock the content. This works whether it’s the government, your ISP, or the website itself doing the blocking.

Some apps and websites have caught onto VPN users, such as Netflix and Hulu, which prevent VPN users from watching videos from abroad. However, a handful of Mac VPNs have figured out a workaround so their users can bypass the VPN ban and watch from anywhere in the world. ExpressVPN and NordVPN, for example, both work to watch Netflix and Hulu on certain servers.

Our Methodology: Finding the best VPNs for Mac users

There’s an almost endless choice of VPNs, but it pays to think carefully about which one you use. They all differ in terms of performance, reliability, and security. To make sure we only recommend the very best providers, we considered how Mac users would likely use their VPN, and created a list of key areas where the service must excel:

  • macOS and iOS support: We require beginner-friendly apps for macOS and iOS devices. Further, while some functionality, such as a kill switch, may not be present on iOS, most features should be included in both versions.
  • Performance: We run speed tests regularly to help us see which VPNs are the fastest, and how they’ve improved since last time. Naturally, we’ll only recommend fast enough services for tasks like live streaming, torrenting, and video calling.
  • Anti-censorship: Our international team tests VPNs against all manner of geo-blocked services to see which are best at beating regional restrictions. We also like to see providers that offer tools specifically for beating mass surveillance in places like China.
  • Server locations: The more locations your VPN has to choose from, the greater the range of services you can access. Further, the odds of you having a nearby server increase, meaning you’re less likely to experience high latency while connected.
  • Security and privacy: All of the VPNs we recommend must include uncrackable encryption, protection against DNS and IPv6 leaks, and a no-logs policy. This is just a baseline, and we prioritize services that go even further.
  • Pricing: Never pay more than you have to. We frequently compare VPNs’ prices to those of their rivals. We’ll always let you know if any deals, discounts, trials, or money-back guarantees are available.
  • Customer support: Customer support is an important part of any VPN. If you need technical help or have any questions, you should be able to reach out quickly and get a timely response. We test the quality and responsiveness of all VPNs before recommending them to our readers.

Interested in learning more about how we put services to the test? We have a full post that breaks down our VPN testing methods.

How to use a VPN with macOS

Setting up a VPN works more or less just like installing any other type of app on macOS,  just follow these steps below.

  1. Choose a suitable VPN provider, we particularly recommend NordVPN.
  2. Download the VPN app from your provider’s website
  3. Double click on the downloaded file to install it. Confirm any prompts that might appear.
  4. Launch the VPN app from your Applications menu or the dock at the bottom.
  5. Enter your username and password to log in. Depending on your provider, you might need additional verification upon first setup.
  6. Select a VPN server in the location that you wish to access the internet from.
  7. Double click the server or hit the Connect button
  8. Wait for the connection to be established.

And that’s it! You can now torrent anonymously, unblock region-locked content, secure public wi-fi connections, and much more. You can check that it’s working by Googling, “What’s my IP?” Your IP address should be different while the VPN is turned on.

Should I use a free VPN on Mac?

We recommend against using so-called “free” VPN services for many reasons. First of all, they’re slow or limit downloads. Most free VPNs cap data transfers and implement bandwidth limits that are too restrictive for anything but basic web surfing.

Second, free VPNs tend to have poor privacy practices. They may use outdated encryption or keep logs on your activity, for example. Some even inject tracking cookies and advertisements into your browser and sell your browsing data to third parties. That’s the opposite of what VPNs are meant for.

Finally, free VPNs often carry malware that will infect your Macbook once installed. Stick to paid VPN services with good reputations and strict privacy policies.

Which are the best free VPNs for Mac?

Chances are that if you search for information regarding the best free VPNs for Mac online, you’ll be pointed to VPNs that aren’t actually free. This usually consists of VPNs that provide money-back guarantees or free trials. However, we’ve rounded up a list of the best free VPNs for Mac that genuinely provide free plans. A free VPN subscription tier is more limited but you won’t pay a penny.

Here are the best free VPNs for Mac:

  1. Proton VPN: Best free VPN for Mac. Servers in the US, Netherlands, and Japan. No bandwidth or speed limits. Privacy protection with its no-logs policy.
  2. Hotspot Shield: Offers US servers and 500 MB of data per day. Military-grade encryption keeps your internet traffic secure.
  3. TunnelBear: 2 GB of bandwidth a month. Access to servers in nearly 50 countries. Secure thanks to its use of 256-bit AES encryption.
  4. Windscribe: Unlimited connections and access to servers in 10+ countries. 2 GB of data a month (10 GB/month with a confirmed email) address.
  5. 8 free server locations and unlimited bandwidth. Doesn’t require you to sign up for an account. Ad-free with 24/7 support.

The problem with free Mac VPNs

GoVPN claims to be a free VPN for Mac and iOS devices. It is currently unknown what this app does, but connecting to a VPN service is not on the list. It will claim to be connected to a VPN, but your computer’s IP address is still visible to any site on the internet. Avoid at all costs.

Fresh VPN offers a free trial for connecting to their service. Unfortunately, the free trial is considerably less than NordVPN’s 30 days. It only lasts five minutes. Seriously. That’s all their going to give someone to test out and evaluate their service on a Mac. Not enough time for a real evaluation, and only shows what little faith the vendor has in the product on offer.

If you open the Mac app store and search for “VPN” you’ll get a long list of apps, including several that claim to be free. Most of those free VPNs include “In-App Purchases”, non-functioning connections or even blatant malware of some form or another. Even some of the paid-for VPNs have advertising embedded in their free, or trial version apps. Expect to encounter download caps, bandwidth limits, and waiting queues.

How to manually set up a VPN on a Mac

Our preferred VPN protocols are OpenVPN and Wireguard, but Macs don’t come with built-in support for them. You could configure a third-party VPN client, but this typically requires you to manually configure individual servers, a tedious process. It’s much easier to install a provider’s custom app that comes pre-configured with all the servers you’ll need, plus other benefits like a kill switch and DNS leak protection.

If your VPN provider doesn’t make an app or you just prefer not to use third-party VPN software, Mac users have a few options for manually configuring a VPN. We’ll explain how to set up three of the most popular:

  • Built-in VPN support (L2TP and IKEv2)
  • Tunnelblick (OpenVPN)
  • Viscosity (OpenVPN)

How to set up an L2TP VPN connection on macOS

L2TP/IPSec is a VPN protocol with built-in support on Macs that offers comparable speed and security to OpenVPN. To set up a VPN connection that uses the L2TP protocol, you’ll need the following information from your VPN provider:

  • Your VPN provider account credentials (username or email and password)
  • The VPN server addresses for each location you want to connect to
  • VPN provider’s shared secret OR certificate

With that information in hand, follow these instructions:

  1. Go to Apple menu > System Preferences > Network icon
  2. Click + in the bottom left corner to create a new network interface
  3. Click the Interface drop-down list and choose VPN
  4. Click the VPN Type drop-down list and choose L2TP over IPSec
  5. In the Service Name field, type a name for this VPN connection (can be anything you like)
  6. Click Create and the VPN settings will appear
  7. Using the default configuration, in the Server Address field, type the VPN server address
  8. In the Account Name field, type your VPN account username
  9. Click Authentication Settings
  10. In the Password field, type your VPN account password
  11. If using a shared secret, select Shared Secret and type the pre-shared key (a.k.a. shared secret or secret key)
  12. If using a certificate, select Certificate, then Select and find the VPN provider’s certificate
  13. Click Apply to save changes
  14. The VPN is now set up, you just need to connect. Go to the Apple menu > System Preferences > Network icon
  15. Choose the VPN connection you created in the Network box
  16. Click Connect

How to set up a VPN with Tunnelblick on a Mac

Tunnelblick is a VPN client for Mac that works well with the OpenVPN protocol. You’ll need the OpenVPN configuration file for each server location you wish to connect to (.ovpn) from your VPN provider to get started, and possibly your VPN account username and password.

Tunnelblick can be downloaded for free here. Once downloaded, double-click the .dmg file and then on the Tunnelblick icon to install it. You may need to confirm and enter your Mac login credentials.

  1. Launch Tunnelblick and click the button that says “I have configuration files”
  2. Go to where you downloaded your .ovpn files and double-click them. You’ll be prompted to install the configurations for all users or just you. Choose whichever you like.
  3. Once the configuration is installed, click the Tunnelblick icon in the top right corner of your screen and choose Connect
  4. Enter your VPN username and password if prompted
  5. A notification will appear to let you know the connection is established

How to set up a VPN with Viscosity on macOS

Viscosity is a paid VPN client for macOS that works well with the OpenVPN protocol. A 30-day free trial is available, after which the software costs $9. You can download the client here. Install it by clicking on the .dmg file and then dragging the app to your Applications folder. You may need to confirm and enter your Mac login credentials.

To set up OpenVPN with Viscosity, you’ll need an OpenVPN configuration file (.ovpn) for each server you wish to connect to, and possibly your VPN account username and password.

  1. Click the Viscosity icon in the top right corner of your screen and choose Preferences…
  2. Click the + sign in the bottom left corner of the window that appears and choose Import connection > From file…
  3. Navigate to and select the .ovpn file you downloaded from your VPN provider
  4. Click the Viscosity icon in the top right corner again, and the VPN connection should be listed. Click it to connect

Best VPNs for Mac Users FAQ

What is the best VPN extension for Safari?

ExpressVPN is the only VPN on our list—and one of the only VPNs in the world—that makes a browser extension for Safari. Note, however, that you will still need to install the ExpressVPN native app, which you can then control from the Safari extension.

Most other VPN browser extensions are limited to Chrome and Firefox. You can still use them on a Macbook if you have one of those browsers installed. You can also install any VPN’s MacOS app and it will cover Safari along with all other apps on your device.

Can I use a VPN to bypass campus blocks?

Yes. If you’re accessing the web from a school, university, or office network that censors certain sites, apps, and services, those blocks can be bypassed with a VPN.

Simply log on to your VPN app, choose a server and wait for a connection to be established. Make sure to clear your browser’s cache and cookies before visiting the website you’d like to access. You should now be able to browse the internet without restrictions.

Which is better, OpenVPN or IKEv2?

In terms of speed, both offer about the same throughput.

OpenVPN is open-source, which means anyone can inspect its code. It’s generally considered the safest option for that reason. IKEv2 isn’t known to suffer from any security issues, but it’s not open source.

If you’re on the move and using a VPN on a mobile device that routinely switches networks or loses service, IKEv2 is preferable. It reconnects much more quickly.

Is using a VPN on a Mac legal?

VPNs are legal in most countries. In fact, there are only a handful of countries in which VPNs are banned. It doesn’t matter which device you’re using to access the VPN, be it on desktop or mobile via Windows, Mac, Android, or iOS. What matters the most is the location you’re in. Of course, while VPNs are legal to use in most locations, it’s still illegal to use a VPN for illegal activities.

Can I also use my Mac VPN on my iPhone?

Yes, most major VPN providers offer VPN apps for desktop and mobile operating systems, including Mac and for iPhone and iOS. Furthermore, most high-quality VPN services also allow you to connect multiple devices simultaneously (often 5 or 6 at once). This means you can connect to VPN servers on your Mac and your iPhone at the same time without restriction.

Is there an Apple VPN for Mac?

If you’re a paid iCloud subscriber, you already have access to a feature called Private Relay. However, while many have referred to this as “a built-in VPN”, it doesn’t allow you to spoof your location, access geo-blocked services abroad, or bypass local internet restrictions. 

The good news is that most VPNs offer dedicated apps for macOS and iOS. Further, unlike Apple’s Private Relay, these services will encrypt data from all of your apps, not just the Safari browser. Additionally, major providers usually don’t log your real IP address, which is a huge advantage for anyone concerned about their digital privacy. 

How do I change my IP address on Mac?

There are a few ways you can change your IP address on macOS. Before you dive into the system settings, though, try resetting your router. This should assign you a new IP address automatically. If this seems like too much work, you can connect to a VPN app, or follow the steps below to manually refresh your IP address:

  1. Open the menu by clicking the Apple icon
  2. Select System Preferences, then Network
  3. Choose your network in the list, then click the Advanced button
  4. Open the TCP/IP section and click Renew DHCP Lease
  5. That’s it – you should now be browsing with a completely new IP address

Will a VPN slow down my Mac?

Usually, your data goes directly between you and your ISP. However, your VPN acts as a middleman, which allows it to encrypt your traffic but also adds an extra step to the process. This means that your speeds will always be slower when connected. 

On the plus side, leading providers have started making real progress in this area, with many releasing their own blazing-fast protocols instead of relying on the 20-year old OpenVPN protocol. Unless you’re working with an extremely slow connection to begin with, you shouldn’t have any issues. 

Which VPNs for Mac are the best to avoid DNS leaks?

All of the VPNs for Mac listed above are excellent choices for avoiding DNS leaks. Each of them has been carefully tested and found to be leak-free. Additionally, they all offer strong security features, so you can be sure your data will be safe when using them.

Do Macs have an inbuilt VPN?

No, Macs don’t have a built-in VPN. You can manually configure a connection to a VPN server via the Systems Preferences application (System Preferences > Network and then select “+” followed by “VPN”). However, such VPNs services come from third party providers such as those covered in this post. 

So while Macs don’t have an inbuilt VPN, you can get one by signing up directly with one of the best VPNs for Mac. You’ll then be able to download and install the VPN’s Mac app. This is the quickest and easiest way to set up a VPN on your Mac. Indeed, it should only take a couple of minutes.

I'm using a VPN - do I still need antivirus on my Mac?

Yes. Although VPNs and antiviruses are both security tools that provide you with online protection, they are designed to perform different jobs.

A VPN is a privacy tool that encrypts your internet traffic to stop eavesdroppers, hackers, and government agencies from being able to intercept your traffic. This protects your data and web browsing habits against snooping.

An antivirus is a program that scans your devices for malware infections and removes any dangerous infections if they are found on your devices. The very best antivirus programs also scan all incoming files for malware, to stop you from getting an infection in real-time.

Admittedly, some VPNs nowadays use DNS-based filtering to block access to a list of malicious websites and to block malware from making its way onto your devices. This may make it seem like you don’t need an antivirus for your Mac, but this is false.

DNS-based ad blocking and malware filtering is an excellent additional layer of protection that can help to protect your devices, however, it does not scan your computer for infections or has the power to remove infections, which is what an antivirus does.

This means that you must use both a VPN and an antivirus program or you could end up with a nasty infection that causes you to lose data or end up having your accounts and data stolen for nefarious purposes such as fraud or identity theft

What does my ISP see when I'm connected to my VPN?

When your VPN is connected, your ISP can see that you’re using a VPN and the amount of data being transferred between your device and VPN. Your ISP cannot see what you’re up to, though as the packets of data being sent and received are encrypted. So your ISP won’t be able to see what you’re streaming on Netflix, the websites you visit, or the game you play online.