Tue. May 21st, 2024


The best Mac VPNs help you stream geo-blocked content on streaming platforms and secure your connection. In this guide, we help you find the best VPN for Mac based on feature set and performance.


What to Look for in a VPN for Mac

Choosing a VPN for your Mac can feel daunting if you’ve never used one. The terminology may sound overly complex, or you may not fully understand how VPNs work. Before we jump into our top picks, let’s quickly talk about things to look for in a Mac VPN.

The first thing to look for is device support. Most VPNs have an app for macOS, but you might also consider support for other devices like iOS, Apple TV, and more. If you want a VPN to secure your Mac, look for a strict no-logs policy. Zero logging ensures none of the data transmitted from your device is readable to anyone who intercepts it—this includes your internet service provider (ISP) or even the government. All VPNs in this guide have a zero-logging policy.


On the other hand, security is a factor of the VPN’s encryption protocol and cipher. If you don’t want to understand these terms, look for VPN protocols like OpenVPN, IKEv2, and WireGuard combined with ciphers like AES-256 or ChaCha20.

If you plan to use the VPN to unblock geo-blocked content on streaming websites like Netflix, look for VPNs with a proven track record of successfully unblocking these websites. We tested the VPNs to unblock Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and other major platforms. If you want to unblock a local streaming platform when traveling abroad, you can always try many of the services below, as they have a free trial available and offer a money-back guarantee.

How Did We Research

Models Evaluated

Hours Researched

Reviews Analyzed

12

8

9

How-To Geek’s product recommendations come from the same team of experts that have helped people fix their gadgets over one billion times. We only recommend the best products based on our research and expertise. We never accept payment to endorse or review a product.
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Best VPN for Mac Overall: ExpressVPN

Illustration of the ExpressVPN Keys password manager.
ExpressVPN


Pros

Cons

Fast

Expensive

Easy to use

Unblocks all popular streaming platforms

ExpressVPN is our top pick because it’s fast, secure, easy to use, and offers an extensive feature set. It tops our list of the best VPNs overall, and we’ve given it our Editor’s Choice award in our ExpressVPN review. Setting up ExpressVPN takes just a few minutes. Once you install the app, you can click the one-click connect button, and ExpressVPN connects you to the best server based on your location.

If you want to connect to a specific server location—ExpressVPN has servers in over 100 countries—the VPN server list is accessible via the home screen. For example, if you want to stream content on Netflix U.S. when traveling abroad, connect to a U.S. server.


ExpressVPN can be used on up to eight devices simultaneously, and beyond Mac, the app is compatible with Apple TV, iPhone, Android, and more. It also has a Safari browser extension if you want to encrypt the browser’s traffic.

The VPN secures your connection with encryption protocols. The Mac app offers OpenVPN, IKEv2, and Lightway (ExpressVPN’s proprietary protocol). These protocols are combined with AES-256 encryption for top-notch security.

Encryption tends to slow down the connection speed, but ExpressVPN manages to keep that reduction in speed to a minimum. The VPN also helps unblock all the popular streaming platforms, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu. This means you can stream your favorite content in 4K without buffering.

expressvpn logo

ExpressVPN

Best Overall VPN

ExpressVPN is fast, easy to use, and will let you browse as if you’re in the US or the UK.

Private Internet Access logo


Pros

Cons

Pocket-friendly

Not great for torrenting

Excellent security

Fast

Private Internet Access (PIA) is a low-cost VPN with a minimalist interface that works on macOS 10.14 and higher. But don’t be fooled by its low price tag—PIA packs a wide range of features and offers excellent performance, as we explain in greater detail in our Private Internet Access review.

The app uses AES-128 encryption by default, but you can change it to the recommended AES-256 for maximum security. You can also choose between three VPN protocols: OpenVPN, WireGuard, and IPsec (which is only available on iOS). This VPN service has a no-logs policy, meaning the PIA doesn’t store user data.


PIA allows connecting unlimited devices simultaneously, meaning you can use PIA on all supported devices simultaneously. Supported devices include Windows, Mac, iOS, Linux, Android, and smart TVs.

However, the interface is a little different from a typical VPN. The app is clean and intuitive but less aesthetically pleasing than competing VPN apps. The one-click connect button is the first thing you see when you open the app. To access more settings, you need to click the downward arrow at the bottom.

PIA unblocks most streaming services, including Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. However, during our tests, it failed to unblock Hulu.

Private Internet Access

Best Budget VPN for Mac

Private Internet Access is a low-cost VPN that offers excellent speeds and keeps latency to a minimum. It’s a great choice if you’re looking for a secure and reliable service with an affordable price.

Best Free VPN for Mac: Proton VPN

The Proton VPN logo on a blue and black background.
Andrew Heinzman / How-To Geek

Pros

Cons

Generous free plan

Expensive paid version

Fast and secure

Parent company has a good reputation


If you’re looking for a free Mac VPN, Proton VPN is your best bet. The app is available for macOS 10.12 and higher and other devices running iOS, Windows, Android, and Linux.

Proton VPN offers a generous free plan with unlimited data, bandwidth, and server access in five locations—the U.S., the Netherlands, Japan, Romania, and Poland. Unlimited data and bandwidth are a rare combination on a free VPN plan, so you’ll be able to stream your favorite content without worrying about running out of data or experiencing any major buffering.

Most features are available only on the paid plan, but essentials like a kill switch are available to all users. Switching to the paid plan gives you access to more features like Secure Core servers (a fancy name for double VPN), NetShield (an ad and malware blocker), and port forwarding. However, the paid plans are quite expensive compared to services offering similar performance. So, the VPN deal is only worth it if you’re bundling it with other apps, like the popular Proton Mail.


VPN-logomark-noborder

Proton VPN

Best Free Mac VPN

Proton VPN is a VPN famous for being private and secure. Its free plan comes with the same guarantees, though the paid plans are expensive.

Fastest VPN for Mac: NordVPN

Pros

Cons

Extremely fast for a VPN service

Expensive after new user deals

Can get past geo-blocks

Easy to use

According to our tests, NordVPN is the fastest VPN. When connected to a nearby server, we experienced a reduction of roughly 15%. That is excellent performance for a VPN, which can often throttle your speeds.

We were surprised to see that, even on a distant server, the speed didn’t plummet. Our tests showed a reduction of just 18% on servers halfway across the world. The latency shot up significantly, but that’s a problem only when you need two devices to work in sync, like during a video call or gaming.


Even as the fastest VPN, NordVPN doesn’t compromise encryption to boost connection speeds. It offers OpenVPN, IKEv2, and NordLynx (a proprietary protocol inspired by WireGuard) combined with AES-256 and ChaCha20 encryption. Moreover, the app has security features, like Threat Protection, which protects against malware, trackers, ads, malicious downloads, and vulnerable apps.

You can install NordVPN on almost any device, including Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. Once installed, you can use NordVPN to unblock all popular streaming platforms on these devices, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu. Thanks to NordVPN’s fast connection speeds, you’re unlikely to experience any buffering even when streaming in 4K.

NordVPN

Fastest Mac VPN

NordVPN offers excellent gaming security with its four types of specialty servers. NordVPN delivers great speeds even when you’re using an additional layer of security through one of its specialty servers.

Best VPN for iPhone: ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN company name and logo against red background


Pros

Cons

Pocket-friendly

Expensive

Excellent security

Fast

ExpressVPN dominates most VPN roundups for a reason—this is the best VPN for iPhone because it offers excellent performance, an easy-to-use interface, and top-notch security.

As an iOS user, you can try ExpressVPN with its seven-day free trial. Of course, you can extend your risk-free trial by paying for a plan and using the 30-day money-back guarantee in case you’re not satisfied with the service.

You can use ExpressVPN to stream content on all popular streaming platforms on your iOS. Since ExpressVPN offers lightning-fast connection speeds, you won’t experience any lags when streaming. Of course, the speed doesn’t come at the cost of security—ExpressVPN offers OpenVPN, IKEv2, and Lightway protocols on the iOS app and a range of security features like Threat Manager (ExpressVPN’s tracker and malware blocker).


expressvpn logo

ExpressVPN

Best VPN for iPhone

ExpressVPN is fast, easy to use, and will let you browse as if you’re in the US or the UK.

FAQ

What is a VPN?

A VPN (virtual private network) is a software solution that helps you secure your network and access geo-restricted websites. VPNs are also a great tool to bypass government censorship in countries like China.

In rare cases, when the ISP has been throttling your connection speed, VPNs can help improve connection speeds. In a typical scenario, VPNs reduce your connection speed because they transmit your data through a server in another location—the farther the location, the slower the connection speed.

What does VPN stand for?

VPN stands for virtual private network.

How does a VPN work?

A VPN connects your device to a remote server. This creates a point-to-point tunnel that encrypts your internet traffic, assigns another IP address to your device, and helps access geographically restricted websites. Put simply, a VPN creates a secure connection.

When connected to a public network, a VPN protects you against hackers trying to intercept your data through encryption. Since VPNs also mask your real IP address (which is what websites look at to determine your location), you can use it to access websites only available on a specific region.


Does a VPN slow down my internet speed?

Yes, in most cases, VPNs slow down your internet speed due to encryption. VPNs encrypt your data before transmitting it over the internet. Encryption helps protect your privacy and improves data security, but the addition of a step before transmitting data from your devices requires time and reduces internet speed.



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By John P.

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