There are numerous VPNs on the App Store, and it is easy to become overwhelmed when you're trying to decide which one to choose. To help, we have put together this guide to highlight the best VPNs to use on MacOS in 2021 and why.
The Best Mac VPNs at a glance
Below, you'll find a quick summary of our 5 top picks for MacOS VPNs. For more information on any of these providers, or for some alternative choices, click here.
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[[post-object type="gotolink" class="btn btn-md btn-primary" provider="expressvpn"]]Get ExpressVPN the best VPN for Mac users[[/post-object]]
Using a VPN on your Mac will give you privacy, security, and freedom online. It's interesting to note, however, that only about half of the VPN providers on the market today have compatible software for Macs. This is partly because Apple’s strict developer guidelines rule out the use of the open-source OpenVPN protocol on all Apple devices. VPN developers, therefore, opt for alternative encryption protocols such as IKEv2 – we'll discuss this in more detail further on.
The scarcity of Mac VPNs can make it tricky to find a service that will work with your Mac. This is annoying (to say the least) because a VPN is an essential online privacy tool that will prevent your ISP from tracking your web history on behalf of the government. Not just that, but it will let you unblock geo-restricted content like BBC iPlayer, Hulu, or Netflix US. A VPN can also help you access government censored or ISP blocked websites; such as BitTorrent sites.
Luckily though, there are a few outstanding VPNs for Mac that you can download today! In this guide, our experts have carefully analyzed the market to pinpoint the 10 best VPNs for Mac in 2021.
To evaluate VPNs and find the best services, our experts use a wide range of criteria. For a VPN to be considered good for Mac, it must meet the following specifications:
- A dedicated Apple Mac VPN app
- Strong privacy & security
- Robust encryption
- VPN features such as a kill-switch & DNS leak protection
- Plenty of servers
- Lightning-fast servers
- Great customer service
All of our recommended VPNs are subjected to full reviews and have been found to be trustworthy services that work perfectly on MacOS. And, if you are an Apple user with an iPhone, you will be happy to know that all of our recommendations also provide excellent iOS VPN apps.
What are the best VPNs for Mac?
Below, you will find our in-depth list of the best VPNs for Mac. Based on the criteria above, they all have superb Mac VPN software, strong security, and high-speed servers. All of our recommendations use the IKEV2 protocol and some also support WireGuard.
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Which is the fastest Mac VPN on the list?
Choosing a fast VPN for Mac will allow you to play games, watch HD streams, download content, and enjoy the fast internet speeds they pay their ISP a premium for.
Unfortunately, in 2021 there are still huge numbers of VPNs on the market that have an inferior server network. These will make your internet sluggish as soon as you connect to them. As a result, you will suffer from buffering and an inability to do data-intensive tasks. That is why you must pick the right Mac VPN in the first place.
At ProPrivacy we understand your needs, which is why we have recommended only the fastest VPNs for macOS. Our recommendations invest in super-fast Tier-1 servers all around the world – to let you stream 4K HD and engage in video conferencing without issues. This also ensures that our recommended VPNs for MacOS are perfect for gaming and torrenting.
All of our recommendations have fast VPN servers, but you may want to know which is fastest. To find out, you can check out the table below! It updates automatically three times a day to show you exactly how each VPN is performing in real-time.
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To learn more about how a VPN affects your connection speeds, check out our VPN speed test guide.
Can I use a VPN to improve my internet speeds?
Many people (and websites) tell stories about using a VPN to increase internet speeds. The reality is that the way a VPN works will nearly always cause some latency.
To do its job, a VPN must route your traffic via the VPN server on its way to the website or online services you use. It must also encrypt and decrypt your traffic numerous times as it makes that journey. This will cause a VPN to slow down your internet a little.
The fastest VPNs for Mac are so-called because they are so quick that they make the slowing imperceptible. As a result, you get to use your VPN (and its advantages) while still enjoying the base-line internet speeds you pay your ISP for.
So, why do people say VPNs make the net faster?
Some ISPs are known to engage in bandwidth throttling. They do this to prevent network congestion for their users. This results in some people having their internet speeds restricted at peak times (when many people are all using the internet at the same time).
Under these circumstances, a VPN can make your internet faster. So, if you believe your ISP is purposefully shaping your traffic it is definitely worth giving a VPN a try to see if it helps.
When you connect to a VPN, your ISP can no longer track what you are doing. It doesn't know whether you are gaming, downloading torrents, or streaming in HD. For this reason, it can no longer throttle you when you engage id data-intensive tasks.
What can I do with a VPN on Mac?
If you are new to VPNs, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. The privacy that a VPN provides can sometimes seem like an existential benefit, however, it is extremely important if you want to protect your digital footprint. The good news is that other VPN benefits are much more observable (which is why VPNs are so versatile and popular). Below we have listed what a VPN can do:
Want to know more? If you're new to the world of VPNs and privacy, find all the information you need with our handy guides:
- What is a VPN? A beginner's guide
- Ultimate online privacy guide
- Are VPNs legal?
- The ultimate Mac security guide
- How to set up a VPN on MacOS
How to set up a VPN on Mac
Once you've picked out your favorite Mac VPN from our list, getting it set up is quick and easy.
- Download the VPN for MacOS. The software is available on your VPN’s website once you have subscribed.
- Install the VPN for MacOS and log in with your credentials.
- Select a server from the VPN list and click connect.
As soon as your VPN for MacOS connects to a server, your real IP address is concealed and you can go ahead and access content from that country in privacy.
A note on IKEv2 VPN encryption
IKEv2 is made up of various cryptographic primitives. It primarily leverages IPsec to ensure traffic is secure. Thus it is actually correct to refer to it as IKEv2/IPsec. (If you see a VPN advertising IPsec for Mac it is usually referring to the older IKEv1 standard).
MacOS is designed to support IKEv2 connections within its native VPN client. Custom Mac VPN clients just auto-configure the built-in client. However, they also implement additional security features such as a kill-switch and firewall-based IP leak protection, which are not available in the Mac VPN client by default.
Although most Mac VPN apps support IKEv2 by default (because of the ease of implementation), many also include a full OpenVPN client. Some Mac VPN apps support the outdated PPTP protocol, and L2TP (/IPsec). However, there there is no reason to choose these when IKEv2 is available – because IKEv2 is much more robust and provides excellent speeds.
We are now also beginning to see some VPN apps support the new WireGuard protocol, which many consider the future of VPN encryption. Mac users who like groundbreaking tech may want to try WireGuard instead of IKEv2. However, we recommend sticking to tried and tested protocols (like OpenVPN and IKEv2) if you want proven data security.
But, which is better IKEv2 or OpenVPN?
IKEv2 vs OpenVPN on Mac
Unfortunately, there is no real straightforward answer here. It ultimately depends on what you need and what you are using your VPN for.
OpenVPN is a widely used VPN protocol favored by most non-Apple apps. It is less efficient than IKEv2, so requires more processing power - which usually translates to slower connection speeds.
Although OpenVPN isn't usually supported by MacOS VPN apps, you can configure OpenVPN with software such as Tunnelblick.
Documents leaked by Edward Snowden, however, strongly suggest that, when implemented well, even the NSA cannot crack OpenVPN. IKEv2 is believed by experts to be cryptographically secure, but then again, most encryption protocols are... until someone proves otherwise.
IKEv2 is a relatively new protocol that was not in widespread use at the time of Snowden’s revelations and is, therefore, not addressed in any of the documents he leaked. So, while it is thought to be secure, it has simply not proved itself in the way OpenVPN has.
One strength of IKEv2 is its ability to re-establish a VPN connection when it is temporarily lost, like when going through a tunnel. It also supports the Mobility and Multi-homing (MOBIKE) protocol, which makes it particularly adept at switching between networks (for example, switching between your WiFi and mobile networks when leaving your home).
VPN extensions for Safari and other browsers
While most VPNs offer extensions for Chrome and Firefox users, it's rare to find a provider that offers a similar browser extension for Safari. Of the VPNs we've highlighted in this guide, only ExpressVPN has plans to roll out a Safari browser extension. However, the timeline for this release has still not been confirmed.
But, before you make your choice based on whether your favorite browser is supported by a VPN, you should consider the implications of using a browser extension instead of using a standalone app.
When using a VPN browser extension, only your activity within the browser is protected. This means any external processes running in the background as still using your real IP address. Because of this, we strongly recommend that when using a VPN you get into the habit of booting up and using the dedicated app before you begin browsing, rather than relying solely on a browser extension.
Top-tip: Get ExpressVPN for Free!
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[[post-object type="gotolink" provider="expressvpn" tag="mac" class="btn btn-md btn-primary"]]Visit ExpressVPN >>[[/post-object]]
VPNs MacOS users should avoid
While there are many VPN providers that are compatible and work with Mac, there are a few that we recommend you avoid outright for the reasons listed below.
[[post-object type="accordion" question="Does Mac have a built-in VPN?" answer="While MacOS doesn't provide a full-on built-in VPN, it has built-in support for establishing a VPN connection. This means that even VPNs that don't have native MacOS support can be manually configured on MacOS devices. This can certainly be convenient for many users, but for anyone looking for a MacOS VPN solution that is more of the plug-and-play variety, a manual setup is probably not ideal. The good thing is that each Mac VPN provider listed in this guide offers excellent native MacOS client software that will work automatically on your Mac right away without the need to fuss around with any sort of manual configuration." /]]
[[post-object type="accordion" question="Is it safe to use a VPN on Mac?" answer="Yes, it is completely safe to use a VPN on Mac. That is, of course, if you are using a VPN that includes the necessary privacy protections to keep you safe and secure online. It's important to be aware of the fact that the majority of VPNs out there simply do not do what it takes to secure your connection and protect your privacy from prying eyes. Many fail to provide adequate encryption or other privacy features that work to keep your data secure. This is why it's crucial to go with a VPN (like the ones listed in this guide) that takes your privacy seriously and truly goes the distance to safeguard your online activity." /]]
[[post-object type="accordion" question="Do I need a VPN for Mac?" answer="Yes. The notion that Apple Macs can't get viruses is a common misconception - you'll still need privacy protection and <a href='/privacy-service/comparison/best-antivirus'>anti virus software</a>! Macs are increasingly being targeted by hackers and malware as they become more popular." /]]
[[post-object type="accordion" question="Can I get free VPNs for Mac?" answer="You can absolutely find a free VPN for Mac. We'd recommend exercising caution when choosing one, though. You'll find lots of free VPNs on the App Store but they can't all be trusted. Many free VPNs lie about their functionality, leak your IP, sell your data to advertisers and even contain malware. To help you navigate the minefield of picking a free VPN, we have compiled a list of <a href='/vpn/comparison/free-vpns-mac'>free VPNs for Mac</a>. All of these services provide you with the security features that you should get from any VPN and they will respect your privacy." /]]
[[post-object type="accordion" question="VPN extension for Safari? " answer="Some of our recommended VPNs offer a Safari VPN extension - check out our individual summaries to find which providers offer which services. We'd actually recommend that our readers use a VPN app instead. Doing so, all of your internet traffic will be encrypted, not just what you're doing on your browser. Some VPNs (such as ExpressVPN) offer a feature called split tunneling. This allows you to decide what apps use the VPN connection and what don't." /]]
[[post-object type="accordion" question="Why do Mac VPNs use IKEv2 and not OpenVPN?" answer="The open-source protocol OpenVPN is not allowed on the app store - thanks to Apple's strict developer guidelines. Many VPN providers choose to use the IKEv2 protocol for their Mac products, instead. IKEv2 is considered a secure standard and slightly faster than OpenVPN. If you'd still like to use OpenVPN, all of our recommendations support it with some manual configuration. Find out more in our guide to <a href='/vpn/guides/install-vpn-on-mac#tunnelblick-vpn-for-mac'>configuring OpenVPN with Tunnelblick</a>." /]]
[[post-object type="accordion" question="Does Apple provide a VPN for Mac?" answer="No. Apple computers support third-party VPN apps, but one is not provided on your machine by default." /]]
[[post-object type="accordion" question="Are VPNs legal?" answer="VPNs are legal in most countries, yes. If you'd like more information, visit our<a href='/guides/are-vpns-legal'>are VPNs legal? guide</a>." /]]
Now that you have all the information you need to pick a VPN for your Mac, let's review our top picks:
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