With over 300 VPNs currently on the market, finding the best VPN for Mac OS can be rather challenging.
Important: As a longtime Mac user, I’ve found that many Mac VPN applications simply do not work very well. Whether it’s due to data leaks that reveal your identity or broken features, many Mac VPN apps simply don’t make the cut.
Fortunately, there are still a few VPNs that work very well on Mac OS, which we’ll reveal below. This Mac VPN guide highlights five VPN services that passed all tests for security and performance.
What is the best VPN for Mac?
The best VPN for Mac OS, based on all the testing conducted for this guide, is ExpressVPN.
While NordVPN came in a close second, it’s also important to point out that all of the Mac VPN services listed on this page offer great apps that work very well on Mac OS. Therefore take your time browsing this page, examining the features and VPN providers, then selecting whichever service best meets your needs.
Ranking criteria: All five of the Mac VPN services below meet the following criteria:
- Offer a custom Mac OS VPN apps using the OpenVPN protocol and strong encryption standards.
- Located in a good privacy jurisdiction (outside of 5/9/14 Eyes countries).
- Passed all tests with no leaks found whatsoever (no IP address leaks or DNS leaks).
- Established company with a good track record and history (no new/unknown VPN providers).
- Offers a money-back guarantee (between 7 and 30 days).
Now let’s get into the test results.
British Virgin Islands
While there are many providers claiming to be the best VPN for Mac, the latest test results show that ExpressVPN earns the title. It’s based in the British Virgin Islands and offers a high-performance network, superb applications for Mac users, and a large selection of server locations.
ExpressVPN is often recommended due to its high-quality apps that are very secure and reliable. The ExpressVPN Mac OS app performed well in testing for the ExpressVPN review. There were no leaks, bugs, or connection issues identified. All connections were stable and the speeds were excellent. Here is one speed test with a nearby server, which nearly maxed out my baseline (100 Mbps) internet speed:
ExpressVPN is also a good choice if you enjoy streaming or torrenting. It currently holds the spot as both the best VPN for Netflix and also the best VPN for Kodi. While ExpressVPN does not offer any port-forwarding features, it’s still one of the top recommendations in the VPN for torrenting guide.
The ExpressVPN apps include advanced leak protection features, split tunneling, and secure DNS. Their support is also top-notch, with 24/7 live chat assistance and a 30 day money-back guarantee with all plans.
Right Now ExpressVPN is offering an exclusive discount for three months free.
- User-friendly and very secure apps
- Exceptional speeds throughout the server network
- 30 day money-back guarantee
- Split tunneling feature (for Mac OS, Windows, and routers)
- Works with Netflix and other streaming services
- 24/7 live chat support
- Slightly more expensive (but more affordable with the coupon below)
NordVPN for Mac
NordVPN also offers a great Mac OS OpenVPN client that is user-friendly and fully-featured. These privacy features include double-hop VPN servers, Tor-over-VPN servers, as well as an ad-blocking feature called CyberSec. You can also see on the NordVPN website that they offer a huge selection of servers around the world.
One of the main drawbacks with NordVPN, however, is that speeds can be somewhat variable throughout the server network. But as I pointed out in the NordVPN review, speeds have greatly improved since they added hundreds of new servers over the past year. I was able to get near-maximum baseline speeds on most nearby NordVPN servers.
When using NordVPN on Mac OS, you have two different options, each of which has a different type of kill switch:
- OpenVPN Mac app – This app uses the OpenVPN protocol, but only offers an “app kill switch”. This means that if the VPN connection drops, certain apps will be automatically shut down, but internet traffic will not be blocked through the firewall.
- IKEv2 Mac app – This Mac OS VPN app is available only through the Apple store and includes an “app kill switch” as well as a firewall-based kill switch that will effectively block traffic if the VPN connection drops.
Considering the 75% discount prices currently being offered, NordVPN is certainly one of the best values for a basic, user-friendly Mac VPN service.
- User-friendly apps
- 30 day money-back guarantee
- Double-hop VPN servers
- Tor-over-VPN servers
- 24/7 live chat support
- No logs
- Works with Netflix
- Competitive price
- Ad blocking feature
- Variable speeds with some servers
VPNArea for Mac
VPNArea is a smaller VPN provider out of Bulgaria that offers a good Mac OS client with lots of features. It is a great choice for privacy-focused users due to VPNArea’s no logs policies, excellent jurisdiction, secure applications, and ad-blocking DNS servers. Extensive testing of the Mac OS client did not find any leaks, problems or bugs.
VPNArea is also a good choice for streaming and torrenting. It is one of the few VPNs that continues to work with all major streaming services, including Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. They also offer a wide range of servers that are optimized for torrenting and P2P filesharing. It is one of the few VPNs that offer a static IP, which may be useful for some users.
Additionally, VPNArea provides great customer support with 24/7 live chat assistance, a user forum, and a 7 day money-back guarantee.
- No logs
- Excellent speed and reliability
- Works with Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and other streaming services
- Anonymous payment options
- Strong security features, with self-hosted DNS
- Ad blocking
- Dedicated IP addresses available
- Large server network
- 24/7 live chat support
- Limited number of Netflix streaming servers (but still works well)
Perfect Privacy for Mac
Perfect Privacy is a no-logs, Switzerland-based VPN provider that offers a maximum security VPN service with advanced privacy features. It is easily one of the most advanced Mac OS VPN clients I’ve tested. The Perfect Privacy Mac client was released in July 2018 and offers the following features:
- Self-configurable multi-hop VPN control (dynamically select up to 4 different VPN servers to use at the same time)
- Advanced leak protection settings (protecting users against DNS leaks, IP leaks, and WebRTC leaks)
- Full obfuscation features to get around VPN blocks
While Perfect Privacy is one of the most fully-featured Mac VPN apps you will find anywhere, it is also one of the most expensive, at about $10 per month with the two-year plan (€8.95/mo). Nonetheless, if you are looking for one of the most secure, fully-featured, high-performance VPNs on the market, it is definitely worth considering.
Below I’m using the Perfect Privacy Mac VPN client, cascading my VPN connection over three separate servers: Berlin > Amsterdam > Oslo (see the benefits of this in the multi-hop VPN guide).
- Multi-hop VPN chains, up to 4 servers (self-configurable)
- NeuroRouting (dynamic, server-side multi-hop that can be used with all devices)
- Zero logs with an unlimited number of connections
- Dedicated bare-metal servers with full IPv6 support
- Customizable firewall/port-forwarding options
- TrackStop filter (advertisement, tracking, and malware blocker)
- Higher price (one of the most expensive VPNs on the market)
VPN.ac is another great Mac VPN that performs very well in all categories – from security to speeds and performance. VPN.ac is run by a small team of network security professionals (Netsec Interactive Solutions), with a focus on security and overall quality. Their Mac OS client performed well in testing for the VPN.ac review – no leaks, bugs, or problems to report. The network speeds and reliability were also quite impressive (up to 100 Mbps).
VPN.ac is mainly a privacy and security-focused VPN service. They offer some interesting features such as double-hop VPN configurations, various VPN encryption protocols, and a secure proxy browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.
While these unique privacy features are great for some users, VPN.ac is not the best option for streaming and they do not offer live chat support. Nonetheless, their Mac OS VPN client is secure, user-friendly, and it offers great features and performance. The one drawback with VPN.ac is that they keep basic connection logs for security purposes, but these are erased daily and never include browsing/activity logs.
- Dedicated bare-metal servers with self-hosted encrypted DNS
- Excellent speeds with plenty of available bandwidth
- Multi-hop (double VPN) server configurations (18)
- Great obfuscation features with many different encryption options
- Secure proxy browser extensions
- Minimal connection logs (no activity, erased daily)
How to download and configure a VPN on Mac OS
Downloading and configuring a VPN on your Mac is extremely easy. Here are the basic steps using ExpressVPN (but the same applies for the other VPNs as well):
- Go to the ExpressVPN website and sign up for a subscription.
- Log in to your account on their website, then download the application for Mac OS.
- Open the application and enter your credentials (with ExpressVPN, you only need to enter the activation code found in your account)
- Connect to a VPN server and enjoy using your VPN service.
If you want to visually see the step-by-step process for installing and configuring ExpressVPN on your Mac, just watch this video:
The steps above explain how to install a dedicated VPN client on your Mac operating system. However, there’s also a way to use a VPN on your Mac without any clients/apps using the IKEv2 protocol.
How to setup the native IKEv2 VPN on Mac OS
Another option available on Mac OS (El Capitan and later) is the built-in IPSec/IKEv2 VPN settings. This is an app-free solution that integrates directly with the Mac OS operating system and firewall.
The IKEv2 protocol is considered very secure, reliable, and less CPU-intensive than OpenVPN. It can also run natively on your Mac OS operating system (without any applications). While it is not open source, like OpenVPN, it is still a great option because it is simple, reliable, and leak proof. (See the Pros/Cons of IPSec/IKEv2 here in comparison other VPN protocols.)
When you use this VPN setup on your Mac OS, it will essentially create an “always-on” VPN when you select “connect on demand” from your network settings area. What this means is that it will work perfectly with your Mac OS firewall, forcing all apps through the VPN connection. No VPN connection = no internet connection.
This makes for a 100% leak-proof VPN that does not crash or stall out like many OpenVPN apps on Mac OS.
To use this setup, you simply need to import the IPSec/IKEv2 configuration files from your VPN service into your network preferences area. Once you have imported the server configurations, you can simply connect directly from the Mac OS X menu bar – no apps required!
This shows you your real-time connection status, along with the server you’re connected to in the drop-down menu. In the screenshot above, I have imported the server configurations I want to use from Perfect Privacy, which fully supports the IKEv2 protocol throughout their server network.
Leak proof – To make your setup leak proof (no IP address leaks) simply activate the “Connect on demand” option. This utilizes the native Mac OS firewall and forces all traffic through the VPN. It basically acts like a kill switch and will automatically block all traffic if the VPN connection drops.
Perfect Privacy – If you want to utilize the IPSec/IKEv2 setup, Perfect Privacy is a great option. You will also benefit from their server-side features, which will be active whenever you connect to the VPN.
VPN.ac – VPN.ac is another option that offers support for the built-in IKEv2 setup.
Tip for School or Work Computers: If you are on a school or work computer that will block third-party software (such as OpenVPN apps) from running on the operating system, then this IKEv2 setup is one of the best solutions. It will not show up as third-party software on your machine, while still giving you a simple, easy VPN connection whenever you need it through your Mac OS network settings.
OpenVPN clients for Mac (third party)
You can also utilize third-party OpenVPN clients for Mac OS X. Here are two options that support OpenVPN on Mac OS:
Tunnelblick – Tunnelblick is a good, basic Mac OS VPN client that is free and open source. The main drawback is that Tunnelblick is very limited on features – such as a kill switch or IP leak protection. Unless you create custom firewall rules, your regular internet traffic will leak out whenever the VPN connection is not active.
Viscosity – Viscosity is a great third-party OpenVPN client that’s offered for Mac OS and Windows. The Viscosity Mac OS client provides many features and customization options. Unfortunately, Viscosity also does not have a kill switch.
Mac VPN tips
Here are some general tips for using a VPN on Mac OS:
Leaks – Be careful with leaks when using a VPN on Mac OS. While many Mac VPN clients have bugs and problems with data leaks, all of the VPNs recommended in this guide passed all tests and were found to be secure. You can run your VPN through some basic VPN tests to identify issues.
Firewall monitor – A firewall monitor is a great privacy tool that allows you to see exactly which apps are using your internet connection. One great option is Little Snitch by Objective Development. Some people combine the free Tunnelblick OpenVPN client with Little Snitch for a firewall kill switch option.
Secure browser – When using a VPN on a Mac it’s good to remember that your internet browser can be a major vulnerability. As discussed in the browser fingerprinting guide, there are many advanced methods to identify and track your activities, even if you’re behind a good VPN. One tip would be to stop using the Safari browser and instead use Firefox with some privacy modifications, such as disabling WebRTC. See also the Firefox privacy and the secure browser guides.
Mac OS VPN Conclusion
As you can see, there are many good Mac VPN options. If you want get going right now with the best VPN for Mac OS, you can try out ExpressVPN with this coupon for three months free (applied on checkout page).
While ExpressVPN earned the title of Best VPN for Mac, there are many great options from this guide that may be the best fit for you. Each Mac VPN option has its pros and cons. The goal of this guide was to simply illustrate the different options for Mac users.
All of our exclusive Mac OS VPN discounts can be accessed through the links in the table at the bottom of this page.
RECAP: Best VPN Services for Mac OS
To wrap everything up, the table below highlights the best Mac OS VPN services for 2018.
As we mentioned earlier, all of these VPNs meet the following criteria:
- Offers a custom Mac OS VPN client using the OpenVPN protocol and strong encryption standards
- Located in a good privacy jurisdiction (outside of 5/9/14 Eyes countries)
- Passed all tests with no leaks found whatsoever (no IP address leaks or DNS leaks)
- Established company with a good track record and history (no new/unknown VPN providers)
- Offers a money-back guarantee (between 7 and 30 days)
That concludes the Mac OS VPN guide – stay safe and free online!
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