4 Best VPNs for Mac (And 2 to Avoid) – Tested September 2021
With hundreds of top-rated VPNs available on the App Store, it’s not easy to find the best service for your Mac. I tested 37 VPNs on my MacBook Pro (running Catalina 10.15) and learned the hard way that you can’t rely on app ratings. While there are some excellent Mac VPN apps, I found many fake reviews promoting shady VPNs that secretly sell your private data.
So you don’t have to risk your own safety (or waste your time and money), I shortlisted the 4 best VPNs for Mac in 2021. Every provider on this list is trustworthy and works with all macOS versions, although ExpressVPN stands out as the #1 Mac VPN with its blazing-fast speeds, strong privacy features, and user-friendly app. It even has a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can test out every feature on your own Mac with zero risk.
Quick Guide: Best Mac VPNs for 2021
- ExpressVPN – #1 Mac VPN with excellent speeds, security, and 30-day money-back guarantee. Easily unblocks Netflix, Disney+, and more.
- CyberGhost – Optimized servers ensure smooth streaming and torrenting on Mac, but ad blocker doesn’t reliably work.
- Private Internet Access — Huge list of customizable security features for new and advanced Mac users, but has trouble unblocking streaming services like Disney+
- IPVanish – Basic VPN for Mac and suitable for beginners looking for standard protection, but a bit pricey for what it offers.
4 Best VPNs for Mac (Reviewed & Tested in September 2021)
- Easy-to-use apps available for macOS and iOS
- No bandwidth limits for fast streaming and speedy torrenting on Mac
- Access 3000+ servers in 94 countries
- Protect your Mac with 256-bit encryption and zero-logs policy
- Supports 5 devices on a single subscription
ExpressVPN is the best choice for Mac users in 2021. It has fast speeds for streaming Netflix, advanced security measures, and an excellent dedicated app that works on all versions of macOS. ExpressVPN’s top-tier encryption ensures you also get the best security offered on the market. Throughout my testing, I never had to worry about a DNS leak or my connection dropping and showing my personal data.
It only takes a single click to connect to a server on the Mac app, and your internet will be instantly secured with military-grade encryption and a strict no-logs policy. The Network Lock kill switch even prevents data from leaking if there’s an unsteady connection by blocking all traffic. ExpressVPN also employs a unique technology called TrustedServer, which wipes all data from its servers with every reboot. These safeguards make it impossible for third parties to spy on your Mac, including your Internet Service Provider (ISP), hackers, or the government agencies.
ExpressVPN’s strong security standards means that it can also circumvent firewalls and online restrictions with ease. Not only is it one of the only VPNs that works in China, but ExpressVPN is a top choice for unblocking streaming platforms. During my tests I easily unblocked Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Hulu, and HBO Max on multiple US servers (I recommend the Los Angeles, New York, and Washington DC servers).
I easily streamed shows and movies in HD with zero lag or buffering, with average speeds of 20Mbps on US and UK servers. Even when I connected to a server that was 17,000km away in New Zealand, I still got fast speeds of 15Mbps. With more than 3000 servers in 94 countries, you can always find a fast server available. Every server also supports peer-to-peer (P2P) activities like torrenting — unlike the other VPNs on this list, you don’t need to connect to a specialty P2P server to torrent on Mac.
The Mac app is incredibly user-friendly with a similar interface on iOS, making it easy to switch between both devices. You can connect to the fastest server nearby by clicking on the large power button. If you click on the “Recommended” tab, you’ll get a list of the fastest servers in nearby countries.
You can use ExpressVPN on your Mac and 4 other devices at the same time. You can even install it on devices like Apple TV, which don’t come with native VPN support. While you’ll need to manually set up the MediaStreamer feature to do this, it only takes a few minutes. If you have any questions or need technical support, customer service is available 24/7 via the live chat option on the website.
The 30-day money-back guarantee is available for all plans, and the best part is that it’s a “no questions asked” refund policy. I was able to use ExpressVPN to get the fastest VPN speeds on Mac before confirming I could get a refund after using it. The customer support team immediately approved my refund via 24/7 live chat (I didn’t even need to provide a reason for leaving), and the money returned to my bank account in 4 days.
Compatible with macOS: 10.9 (Mavericks), 10.10 (Yosemite), 10.11 (El Capitan), 10.12 (Sierra), 10.13 (High Sierra), 10.14 (Mojave), 10.15 (Catalina), and 11 (Big Sur).
ExpressVPN also works on: iOS, Windows, Android, Linux, Chromebook, Blackberry, Raspberry PI, Windows Phone, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire Stick, Chromecast, routers, and smart TVs.
September 2021 Update! ExpressVPN has dropped prices for a limited time to a crazy $6.67 per month for the 1-year plan (you can save up to 49%) + 3 months free! This is a limited offer so be sure to grab it now before it's gone. See more information on this offer here.
- Native apps available for Mac, iPhone, and iPads
- Fast speeds with no bandwidth restrictions for streaming and torrenting
- Connect to 6900+ servers in over 90 countries
- Zero-logs policy with military-grade encryption keeps Apple devices safe
- Connect up to 7 devices at once
CyberGhost makes it easy to stream and download files on your Mac with its well-designed app. The app splits its servers into “For downloading” and “For streaming”, so you don’t have to manually find and connect to the best available server for either of these activities.
In the “For streaming” tab, I found a list of servers specifically optimized for popular streaming services, including Netflix and Disney+. Servers are listed based on number of locations and for specific streaming services. After selecting the “For streaming” tab, CyberGhost displays a full list of locations and you can even favorite ones you like the best.
To fully test these servers, I tried watching multiple shows from different services. When I connected to a US server optimized for Netflix, I only waited for 3 seconds of buffering before streaming an entire episode of Stranger Things in HD.
To download torrent files, simply click on the “For downloading” tab on the app. You’ll be presented with a list of 70+ countries with the number of users, server load percentage, and geographical distance from your location. In my tests, I connected to a server in Greece for the fastest speeds as it had the fewest users, lowest load percentage, and closest physical distance.
One of my favorite features is CyberGhost’s ad blocker. You’ll need to switch this option on before it can be used in the settings. I loved this feature because CyberGhost blocked malicious websites, web trackers, and ads that contained malware, so I was never at risk of getting infected through an ad. That said, CyberGhost won’t block every ad that pops up, and I had to use a third-party app to get a fully app-free experience.
Regardless of which server you choose, your Mac is always protected by 256-bit encryption and an automatic kill switch. The zero-logs policy ensures all your torrenting, streaming, and browsing activity remains anonymous while you’re connected. There is an ad blocker available in the “Connection features” tab, but I was disappointed to find that it only removes ads with malware. This means you’ll still see ads while streaming and browsing online.
You can try CyberGhost at no risk with its 45-day money-back guarantee, which is the longest money-back period available on the market. You can connect a total of 7 devices at once, so it’s completely risk-free for your family and friends to test CyberGhost with you too.
Compatible with macOS: 10.12 (Sierra), 10.13 (High Sierra), 10.14 (Mojave), 10.15 (Catalina), and 11 (Big Sur).
CyberGhost also works on: iOS, Windows, Android, Linux, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Amazon Fire Stick.
September 2021 Update: CyberGhost has dropped prices for a limited time to a crazy $2.25 per month for the 2-year plan (you can save up to 83%)! This is a limited offer so be sure to grab it now before it's gone. See more information on this offer here.
- Native apps available on macOS and iOS
- Huge range of customizable VPN settings to create more personalized security
- 34400+ secure servers in 78+ countries
- No-logs policy AES-256 encryption, OpenVPN protocol, kill switch, malware blockers, and leak protection
- Protect up to 10 devices simultaneously
Private Internet Access (PIA) gives you complete freedom to apply custom security settings for your Mac. I could choose which encryption protocol I wanted to use as well as various other options, like turning my kill switch on and choose how strong my malware protection could be.
As an example, I enabled the toughest AES-256 encryption to check my bank account so I knew there was no risk of my information leaking. However, the more advanced encryption settings you enable, the slower your download speeds will be — so if you only need the VPN to secure your device while streaming, it’s best to choose a lower data protocol or no encryption at all. Even with the latter option, your IP address and login details are still fully invisible to prying eyes.
While altering security options may be offered by other VPNs on desktop versions of their apps, not many allow you to change them on your mobile devices. I was pleasantly surprised that PIA gives you total freedom on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS, meaning you’re able to choose the level of protection for each of your devices.
As for its download speeds, PIA’s servers didn’t underperform during my tests when compared to other VPNs on the list. While their speeds depended on which country I wanted to connect to, most PIA servers still provided me with speeds above 18Mbps. That was enough for me to easily watch various Twitch streamers live without buffering.
The one area in which PIA really struggles compared to its competitors is consistently bypassing location restrictions. The provider often failed to unblock various streaming platforms, like Hulu and Disney+, forcing me to manually look for a working server myself.
As a new user, you’ll get a chance to try PIA’s features risk-free for 30 days. I found it extremely helpful as it took me a few days to fully understand how to make the most of PIA’s customized settings. I canceled my subscription online after using PIA for 27 days and received a refund directly to my bank account a week later.
Compatible with macOS: 10.13 (High Sierra), 10.14 (Mojave), 10.15 (Catalina), and 11 (Big Sur).
Private Internet Access works on: Windows, Android, Linux, PlayStation, Xbox, Chrome, routers, and more.
September 2021 Update! For a limited time only, save 77% on PIA's 2-year plan + get an additional 2 months free! Hurry and check out the deal here!
- User-friendly app for macOS and iOS
- Stream and torrent without any bandwidth restrictions
- 1300+ servers in 75+ countries
- No-logs policy with 256-bit encryption
- Connect an unlimited number of devices at once
IPVanish offers a clean and simple app for Mac, which is perfect if you’re a beginner and new to VPNs. There’s a large green “Connect” button on the app homepage — all you have to do is click once and you’ll be automatically connected to the fastest available server. There are pull-down menu options that let you select specific countries, cities, or servers, but it’s set to “Best Available” by default.
While the app is easy to use on Mac and even iOS, IPVanish doesn’t offer as many special features as the other VPNs on this list. You’ll enjoy basic VPN protection, such as 256-bit AES encryption and a kill switch. However, there are no dedicated servers for torrenting and Tor (like ExpressVPN) or streaming (CyberGhost).
From a privacy standpoint, I was also initially concerned that IPVanish is headquartered in the US. The US is known for conducting mass surveillance and it’s part of the 5 Eyes intelligence network with Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. However, IPVanish employs a strict zero-logs policy to counterbalance this. This means even if the government asks for information, there’s no user activity to provide to the authorities.
If you like simplicity and you just want an extra layer of safety online, then I highly recommend you try IPVanish risk-free with its money-back guarantee for 30 days on your Mac. It’s extremely easy to get your money back if you don’t like it — you don’t even need to speak to anyone! Just cancel on the website and your refund will automatically be processed with no questions asked.
Compatible with macOS: 10.10 (Yosemite), 10.11 (El Capitan), 10.12 (Sierra), 10.13 (High Sierra), 10.14 (Mojave), 10.15 (Catalina), and 11 (Big Sur).
IPVanish also works on: iOS, Windows, Android, Linux, Amazon Fire TV, and Amazon Fire Stick.
How to Choose the Best VPN for Mac
If you’ve never used a VPN before, it can be tricky to know how to choose the best one. I’ve used VPNs on my Mac for years and here’s my criteria:
- Fast speeds – Look for a VPN with unlimited bandwidth for bufferless streaming, fast torrenting, and zero lags.
- Global server network – Servers in different countries helps you access online sites and streaming services normally unavailable in your region, such as Netflix.
- Military-grade encryption – Protect your internet traffic from being intercepted by advertisers, hackers, internet service providers, and the government.
- Strict no-logs policy – This ensures zero records can be found of your online activity while connected to the VPN.
- Dedicated Mac app – Find an app compatible with macOS Big Sur, Catalina, Mojave, Sierra, High Sierra, Maverick, and El Capitan.
While all the top 4 VPNs meet the above criteria, the overall winner for September 2021 is ExpressVPN. This provider offers the best combination of speed and security for Mac users — and it’s risk-free if you want to test it out first. ExpressVPN has a 30-day money-back guarantee, which means you can try every feature on your own Mac before you commit to a plan.
Warning! Avoid Downloading These VPNs on Your Mac
1. Opera Free VPN
Opera offers a free web browser with a built-in VPN — but I wouldn’t trust it on my Mac. This provider keeps logs of your activities while you’re using it and then sells your data to third parties.
Plus, Opera’s VPN only works on a browser, so your other online activities aren’t secured. For example, you won’t be able to torrent anonymously when using P2P clients like BitTorrent.
2. Betternet VPN
This data includes your IP address, device details, the websites you visit, and more. Even though your browsing history can’t be traced back to you specifically, it’s still concerning that such private information is being tracked and stored.
If you’re looking for a VPN offering complete anonymity and privacy, then I suggest you consider ExpressVPN for your Mac.
Quick Setup Guide: 3 Easy Steps to Install a VPN on Mac
The easiest way to install a VPN on your Mac is to download the native app for macOS. Every provider on my list works on Mac Pro, Mac Mini, iMac, iMac Pro, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air.
- Download and install a VPN for Mac. ExpressVPN is the best all-round for Mac with fast speeds and advanced security (try it without risk for 30 days!)
- Log in and connect to a server. You can choose from over 3,000 servers in 94 countries.
- Enjoy online privacy and freedom on your Mac! Now you can stream Netflix, torrent anonymously, and safely browse the internet from anywhere in the world.
FAQs: Using a VPN on Mac
Can I get a free Mac VPN?
There are free VPNs that will keep your Mac safe, but you need to be careful. Most free VPNs include in-app purchases, so you can’t use the premium features unless you pay. If you don’t, you’ll suffer through slow speeds, endless pop-up ads, limited server locations, and no access to streaming services.
This is the best case scenario. Unfortunately, some free VPNs resort to selling your browsing history and personal data to advertisers in order to make money. Even worse, others are downright dangerous and will infect your Mac with malware as soon as you download the app.
Personally, I believe it’s much safer to invest in a quality VPN for your Mac. You might not even need to spend any money. For instance, you can sign up for ExpressVPN and use its money-back guarantee. This lets you use the service for free for 30 days – I even tested it myself and I easily got a full refund.
What’s the best Mac VPN for Netflix?
I recommend either ExpressVPN or CyberGhost for Netflix, since both will help you avoid the proxy error message while streaming. This is the message that appears when Netflix detects that you’re using a VPN and it’ll block you from streaming any content.
Fortunately, I rarely experience any issues when streaming Netflix on my Mac with ExpressVPN or CyberGhost. I’ve found that both VPNs are extremely fast to replace their servers whenever Netflix has blocked it. On the odd occasion that a server can’t connect to Netflix, I simply switch servers or clear my browser’s cache.
Which Mac VPN works in China?
ExpressVPN is one of the few VPNs that work reliably in China. My colleagues in China run daily tests on Mac and iPhone in China, and it easily unblocks Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, YouTube, and more. Just make sure to download ExpressVPN before you arrive in China — the provider’s website is censored inside the country, so you can’t access it once you’re there.
Will a VPN slow down my Mac?
You can expect a small drop in speed but there shouldn’t be a huge slowdown — especially if you try some of these quick fixes on your Mac. The best way to get the fastest speeds is to connect to a nearby server with a low number of users.
As a general rule, slightly slower speeds are normal as the VPN needs extra time to mask your Mac and encrypt your internet traffic. Other contributing factors are your usual connection speed, your distance from the VPN server, and the number of users connected to the same server.
Can I use a Mac VPN on my iPhone?
Yes! You can use any of the recommended VPNs for Mac on your iPhone and iPad. In fact, the top VPN services will often have excellent apps for non-Apple devices too. For example, ExpressVPN is one of the best providers for Windows and Mac.
Do I really need a VPN for my Mac?
You might believe that you’re safe because Macs can’t be hacked, but unfortunately, this is a myth. As the proud owner of a MacBook Pro, I strongly recommend you find a quality VPN to protect your Mac and your personal data.
In the early days, Macs weren’t targeted by hackers because the majority of the population used Windows. As Macs gained popularity, hackers started focusing on macOS and iOS devices. As a result, it’s become equally as important to use a VPN on both Mac and Windows.
When you switch on a VPN, it creates an encrypted connection between your Mac and a server controlled by the VPN provider. You can safeguard your internet traffic and identity, access websites only available abroad, and get around firewalls, censorship, and other online restrictions.
Don’t Risk Your Mac! Get a VPN to Protect Yourself Online
It’s simply not true that your Mac is immune to online spying and attacks. Even though Apple frequently releases security updates, your Mac is still vulnerable to identity theft, surveillance, and hacking.
You can reduce these risks by protecting your Mac with a quality VPN. Personally, I use ExpressVPN on my MacBook Pro and I highly recommend it. ExpressVPN offers the fastest and most secure app for Mac in 2021 – and it even comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. This means it’s completely risk-free to test it out on your own Mac before you make a final decision.