While Mac users might be a little more cyber secure in terms of malware and viruses than their Windows-based counterparts, a VPN will dramatically increase your online security posture no matter what platform you’re using. But not all VPNs are created equal. Make sure you’re choosing the right one for your specific operating system.
ExpressVPN is constantly one of the top-ranking VPNs in the industry for a reason. It’s fast, it’s secure, and it’s easy to use — all the things you want to hear when you’re shopping for the perfect VPN for your Mac.
Two thoughts kept recurring as we reviewed ExpressVPN: User-friendly and secure. Let’s start with the latter first.
ExpressVPN is one of the only VPNs on the market to offer its own private DNS server, and all the servers in their network are RAM-only. This means no requests are ever going outside their VPN network, and no data is ever written to hard drives. Any record of who you are or what you’re doing is erased without the potential for recovery any time the server is reset. This is quite literally the gold standard of privacy right here.
And you’re not going to need an advanced degree in networking to realize these security benefits. ExpressVPN’s user interface couldn’t be simpler — with one click you’re protected, and their more advanced features are clearly organized and explained.
And speaking of those advanced features, one thing you’ll find when shopping around for VPNs for your Mac is that oftentimes the features they advertise are only available on Windows machines. Not so with ExpressVPN. Regardless of platform, you’re going to have access to the full suite of services.
Although it’s a little pricey — you can read our breakdown of ExpressVPN’s costs for more information on that — it’s well worth the cost. From a security standpoint, ExpressVPN outperforms the competition, and it’s so simple to use that we’d recommend it to just about anyone.
NordVPN takes a unique approach to VPN protections. Their user interface marries form and function, they offer security powerful enough to protect activists in hostile regimes, and their huge server network allows for blazing-fast speeds. And let’s not forget it works seamlessly on Mac machines. Add it up and NordVPN is among the best out there for macOS.
One of the main reasons Macs are so popular is because they do a great job of balancing design and utility. Not only do they look great, they perform really well, too. We found the same to be true while using Nord in our NordVPN review.
First of all, their user interface is one of the coolest we’ve seen. It’s map-based, and it’s fully functional. Click on the country you’d like to appear in, and bang — that’s where you are. NordVPN offers that sleek, understated cool that Mac users are accustomed to, and will integrate perfectly into your portfolio of applications.
And there’s more to NordVPN than just looks. This VPN offers some of the most advanced privacy features and protections in the industry — to the extent that they’re trusted by folks whose safety and freedom depend on anonymous internet connections. We’re not talking about your average joe who doesn’t want his ISP spying on him — we’re talking about journalists- embedded-in-North Korea-level safety here.
While it’s not as user-friendly as the other VPNs on our list (some of the advanced features and customizations can be a little difficult to set up), NordVPN is still one of the best VPNs in the industry today. Check out our guide to NordVPNs pricing to see our full breakdown of their monthly plans.
One of the most privacy-focused VPNs on the market today, ProtonVPN is the perfect blend of design and utility.
We’ll come right out and say it — we love ProtonVPN. They are really easy to use, their UI is fantastic, their securities are military-grade, and their list of features goes on and on. When we analyzed ProtonVPN, we found they were just as powerful on a Mac as they are on a PC, and their design integrated seamlessly into our overall collection of day-to-day apps and programs. Mac users will certainly appreciate Proton’s design and their set-it-and-forget-it approach to VPN protection.
Let’s talk for just a second about their features, though. Right off the bat, their Secure Core functionality alone is worth the cost of entry — which isn’t much, by the way (check out our guide to ProtonVPN’s pricing and plans for more information on that). Secure Core runs all of your traffic through servers in privacy-friendly countries like Switzerland or Sweden before it reaches its final destination, making it a lot harder for governments to arbitrarily track.
They also offer Perfect Forward Secrecy, which is a fancy way of saying their encryption keys are guaranteed to never be compromised even if the algorithms they were created with are. We’re talking about James Bond-level security here.
While ProtonVPN does fall a little short in the customizability category — you can’t even switch between what protocol you’re using — their core protections alone more than make up for this shortcoming.
Cybersecurity is one of the main selling points of owning a Mac. We’re sure you’ve heard it said at one point or another that “Macs don’t get viruses,” or some iteration of that notion.
Unfortunately, that’s simply not true. Although Macs might be less susceptible to malware than Windows machines, they can certainly become infected. Depending on the software, this can have consequences ranging from annoying to potentially devastating.
And concerns over malware only begin to scratch the surface of cybersecurity concerns out there. Your online privacy — or a lack thereof — has very little to do with what type of computer you’re using to access the internet. It has far more to do with how you’re connecting and from where.
And although they have the reputation of being “unhackable,” that rumor is right up there with the “Macs don’t get viruses” myth. Previous iterations of macOS — like Catalina and El Capitan — had known security gaps that bad actors were able to exploit for their own gain. Big Sur has closed many of those holes, but it still goes to show that Macs can still be vulnerable to exploits.
FYI: Number two and number three on our list of the best VPNs for Mac users both have a ton of great features. See how they measure up against each other in our comparison of NordVPN and ProtonVPN.
With that in mind, if you want to be safer online, yes, you do need to use a VPN even if you’re on a Mac. Despite the company’s prioritization of cybersecurity, VPNs protect in a way that other methods simply can’t.
If you select a VPN that’s optimized for use on a Mac like the three best VPNs for Macs we’ve listed here, there aren’t going to be too many drawbacks to running a VPN. For the most part, setup is incredibly easy — you’ll download the .dmg file just like any other program, execute it, and drag the program over to your applications folder. Switch it on and you’re protected.
FYI: If you’re looking for more information on virtual private networks, check out our VPN resource page. You’ll find all the information you could want there.
One thing you might notice, though, is a slight decrease in your internet connectivity speeds; however, this has far more to do with your individual connection than your operating system. Since VPNs route your traffic through a private network of non-local servers, performance can suffer. The trade-off — privacy and security for speed — is usually more than worth it.
If you’re really worried about the slowdown a VPN might cause, look for a service that operates a large number of servers. When we reviewed HMA VPN, for example, we found blazing speeds across a network of over 1,000 endpoints across the globe.
FYI: Interested in seeing how the two best VPNs for Mac stack up? Read our ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN comparison guide.
Another potential drawback you might experience while running a VPN on your Mac is that to certain websites — particularly online stores and banking apps — your data might look like bot traffic. This means that you’re going to be interrupted by CAPTCHAs and other security measures to prove you’re a real-life human on a real-life computer. To nip this in the bud, look for a VPN that offers dedicated IP addresses.
As mentioned, even though Apple makes some of the most secure computers on the market, they aren’t without vulnerabilities. A lot of those gaps can be spanned by deploying a solid VPN optimized for use on a Mac.
And while these are our favorite VPNs for the iOS and Mac operating systems, they are by no means the only ones that will work. If you’d like to shop around a little more, a great place to start is our exhaustive list of the best VPN services of 2021. We go into painstaking detail, comparing the ins and outs of the best brands in the industry.
First and foremost, if you’re looking for a VPN for your Mac, make sure all of its features are compatible across platforms. There are several VPNs on the market that advertise a litany of services, but only a handful are available on non-PC machines.
Regardless of platform, you’re going to want to find A VPN with a functional kill switch. This functionality will terminate your internet connection should the VPN service become interrupted for any reason, making sure your IP address is never accidentally exposed. Many have this feature built-in, but with some you’ll have to toggle on and off.
While this isn’t a critical function, we thought we’d point it out anyway. A lot of folks use VPNs to access international versions of streaming platforms, and some services have optimized specific servers for this. If you like relaxing after work with some Netflix, a VPN optimized for streaming can open up a world of possibilities. If you're a movie buff, be sure to check out our CyberGhost review. Streaming is what they do best.
Without getting into the weeds, Tor is a browser that utilizes very specific networking protocols to protect the anonymity of anyone using it. Adding a VPN into that mix can be complicated, but the results are worth it from a privacy perspective. If this is of interest, there are a handful of VPNs on the market today that come Tor-ready, right out of the box.
Torrenting is growing in mainstream popularity, and similar to streaming optimizations, some VPNs have tuned a portion of their server network specifically for this activity. Just be sure you’re not downloading copyrighted materials — even if you’re using a VPN, that’s still illegal. If this is something you’re into, CyberGhost has you covered here, too.
One cool thing about VPN use is that you can make yourself appear to be anywhere on earth without ever leaving your house. If you venture out though — specifically to a country with oppressive internet restrictions like China or Russia — you’re going to want a VPN that can mask its protocol traffic to get around government firewalls. In our Surfshark test, we found some of the best geographic protections around.
To complicate matters in your quest for privacy, your VPN might also be tracking what you’re doing. Make sure you look for one that has a no-log policy — meaning that they don’t track any identifiable information about your connection or your traffic — ideally one that has been audited by a third party.
How much or how little your VPN is subject to data-sharing agreements with law enforcement agencies depends on where the company is headquartered. Unfortunately, the U.S. isn’t super privacy-minded, but the British Virgin Islands are. While we don’t condone illegal activity, it’s nice to know your VPN isn’t beholden to any and every subpoena that comes down the pike. Privacy is the ultimate goal, right?
Where exactly are you most vulnerable online? Here’s a hint — it’s not on your home network. Look for a VPN with a strong iPhone app to protect you while you’re out and about on unsecured Wi-Fi connections. The best VPNs for Mac will more than deliver in the mobile-app department.