5 Best VPNs for El Capitan, Sierra, High Sierra, and 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 upcoming Mojave versions are all under the macOS name. In this article, we’ll discuss the best VPNs for Mojave, Sierra, High Sierra, and El Capitan.

The macOS operating system has stronger security features than Mac OS X, and Mac continues to improve the operating system’s resistance to viruses with each new release. However, controlling all of the events that your computer encounters out 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 on in this guide. However, first take a look at the best VPNs for Mojave, El Capitan, Sierra, and High Sierra.

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. ExpressVPN Our #1 choice. Easy to install and get started. Impressive server speeds, great for streaming and downloads. Unblocks most geo-restricted sites and services. 30-day money back guarantee has you covered.
  2. NordVPN Hard to beat on value. Large network of secure and fast servers. Reliably unblocks most restricted sites and services.
  3. CyberGhost Budget provider that hit some of the fastest download and streaming speeds in our tests. Beginner-friendly installation.
  4. IPVanish Great security features like auto wi-fi protection will keep your Mac safe. Servers were fast and reliable in our testing.
  5. PrivateVPN Solid on privacy and security. We had no issues with download speeds or getting connected. Easy to install and use.

We took the following factors into consideration:

  •        App for Macs and Macbooks
  •        Strong encryption
  •        DNS leak protection, automatic wifi protection, and a kill switch
  •        Easy to install and use

The Best VPNs for all Mac OS X versions

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

1. ExpressVPN

Express VPNJun 2019

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 server location the app should connect to. A 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 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 very 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 does have one big weakness, which is that both sides use the same key to encrypt and decrypt data, so that key has to be distributed. The transmission of the key has to be protected by a different encryption system. 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
  • Best-in-class encryption makes for solid security and privacy
  • DNS leak protection, shared IP addresses and keeps no traffic logs
  • Operates over 3,000 servers in 94 countries
  • 24/7 chat support are well trained to handle complex situations

Cons:

  • Slightly more pricey than other services

BEST VPN FOR all Mac OS X Versions:ExpressVPN is our #1 choice. A fast and reliable choice which unblocks all major streaming services. Best-in-class security and privacy with 256-bit AES encryption, keep no browser logs, kill switch and leak protection. Try it risk-free with the 30-day money back guarantee.

Read our full review of ExpressVPN.

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2. NordVPN

NordVPN is one of the best VPNs on the market, which is why it makes our list. However, the price is astonishingly low compared to other quality VPNs. 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.

As a leading VPN, NordVPN offers respectable speeds that enable you to watch live video streams without faults or buffering. The service includes access to servers in 62 countries. In total, the company runs 4,438 servers all over the world. You can connect to those servers on six different devices at once with all NordVPN subscriptions.

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. You can also activate extra DDoS protection for free.

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 gives you the option of naming a default server and setting the VPN to start up with the operating system. This gives you constant cover and includes automatic wifi protection. You can also set a kill switch to block all internet access should the VPN protection break. That kill switch can be set to cut off the internet from the device, as a whole, or just specific apps and processes.

You automatically qualify for a 30-day no-quibble money-back guarantee when you subscribe to NordVPN.

Pros:

  • Their Mac app is available on their website and on the app store
  • Budget provider that doesn’t compromise on speed or security
  • Unblocks the majority of streaming services with ease
  • Easily bypasses restrictions on major geo-locked platforms

Cons:

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

BEST BUDGET VPN:NordVPN is great value. A good all-rounder that works well with all Mac OS X versions. Strong security features and accommodates up to 6 devices. Includes 30-day money back guarantee.

Read our full review of NordVPN.

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3. CyberGhost

CyberGhost has a great looking app. It’s very cool and it installs on any Mac OS 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 servers in 54 countries lets you specify a location right down to the city.

The settings of the app 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 is protected by a 4096-bit key RSA implementation.

Each account can connect seven devices to CyberGhost servers at the same time. The company gives all customers a 30-day money-back guarantee.

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

Cons:

  • Not as suitable for those that need control of advanced features

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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4. IPVanish

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 1,000 servers located in 60 countries. It is easy to switch server location 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 you are always covered by the VPN and gives you automatic wifi protection when you are out and about with your Macbook.

You can connect to this service 10 times concurrently on different devices. IPVanish gives all customers a 7-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

Cons:

  • Apps don’t work in China
  • Doesn’t reliably unblock Netflix, Hulu

EASY TO USE:IPVanish is great for families. Generally solid for all Mac OS X versions and folks who need the highest standard of privacy. Can struggle with some popular streaming services and doesn’t work in China. 7-day money back guarantee.

Read our full review of IPVanish.

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5. PrivateVPN

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 100 servers in 56 countries.

The founders of the company 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, combines to provide automatic wifi 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 six times simultaneously and the company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee on every subscription.

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 chose from
  • Apps lacksome  advanced features, such as ad and malware blocking options

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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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, and Mojave. For this reason, it is very important to keep your Mac up to date.

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 to 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, 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 its 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.

Unblock 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.  These three versions of the Mac operating system are still in production and installed on new Macs that you buy in stores. Mac OS 10.14, known as Mojave, is expected to arrive in the fall of 2018.

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 servers 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 impossible to watch streaming video or play games online. Usually, these are the free VPNs.

Operating fast servers and buying in 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 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.

One free service calls itself a VPN but doesn’t include any encryption, monitors your activities and sells that information, and even sells your bandwidth to paying customers. This is Hola and it channels connections through its users’ computers rather than its own central servers. The problem is that anyone can use the service for cover when hacking or launching attacks on other computers. This means that if law enforcement traces the origin of the attack, they could arrive at your IP address and not that of the hacker. So, you have to be very cautious about using a free VPN for your Mac. You can end up with no security, compromised privacy, and at risk of arrest for cybercrimes.

Select a VPN for El Capitan, Sierra, High Sierra, or Mojave

Hundreds of VPNs litter the market and it would take too long to investigate all of them.  A VPN that may be the best choice for one person might not suit someone else. This is why we recommended five VPNs for Mac to choose from.

An essential feature that put these VPNs on our list is a money-back guarantee. This means you don’t face the risk of signing up for a year up front—two or three years in some cases—only to find that you don’t like the VPN or it doesn’t work well in your particular situation. You don’t have to worry about committing to a service that you might not want.

While all the VPNs we recommend have simple-to-use installers and apps, you might require assistance or just want to learn more. All of the VPNs in our list offer very comprehensive user guides and knowledge bases that educate you about encryption systems and how to use a VPN to its maximum potential. Remember, VPNs are remote services, so they are available anywhere in the world where you have an internet connection, not just when you are at your home address.

Give these VPNs a try and leave a message in the Comments section below to let us know how you got on. If you already have a favorite VPN installed on your Mac, leave us a note in the Comments section to tell us about it and what features make it your first choice.

Image: El Capitan – Last Light by Anita Ritenour via Flickr. Licensed under CC by 2.0