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When you're shopping for the best VPN for your Mac, we recommend looking at services that meet a minimum set of specs: kill switch, no leaking, and decent speed. From there you can consider other factors like price, features, and personal preference.
When comparing VPN services, you can easily get stuck in the weeds. There's a lot to consider, so to help narrow down your choices, decide how you'll use a VPN and work from there.
You probably want to use a VPN service to protect your connection from multiple devices. Every provider we've listed below allows for five or more simultaneous connections. So if you have an iPhone, iPad, and Mac, you can protect all three with one license. Each VPN provider we've highlighted also has a full money-back guarantee for 30 days, so you'll have enough time to test the service and decide if it makes sense for you.
With that, let's dive in.
NordVPN is one of the heavy hitters in the VPN market. In our aggregate speed test ranking, it landed on our list of fastest VPNs. Nord's user interface is crisp and clean, and the product is quick and easy to install. Plus, it doesn't get in the way. It runs when you want it to, but you can quickly shut it off when you're back at home or in the office.
Also: Our NordVPN review
We were intrigued by the five communications services offered: P2P, Double VPN, Dedicated IP, Onion Over VPN, and Obfuscated (which means to render obscure, unclear, or unintelligible). The Double VPN feature is designed to run your data through a second VPN server. However, while that's a great idea, I found it was unreliable in real-world usage.
Autumn sale: Get three free months of NordVPN with a two-year plan
NordVPN supports Apple mobile devices running iOS 11 or later, and Apple laptops and desktops running macOS 10.10 or later. Beyond Apple platforms, NordVPN supports Windows, Android, Linux, and Android TV. There are also browser-specific extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge.
Surfshark VPN specifications
Surfshark VPN is on our list of best VPNs for great reasons. In terms of download speed, it performed on par with NordVPN, only reducing speeds by an average of roughly 28%. Although we found its connection times to be a touch slower, it's a small price to pay for a service you can have for an average of $2.21/mo with ZDNET's exclusive offer for an additional three free months with a two-year plan.
Full review: Surfshark VPN review
Although Surfshark VPN's native apps for macOS and iOS lack a split tunneling option, the apps are loaded with other features. You'll have access to a blocker for ads, trackers, and malware, as well as both MultiHop and Static IP servers. Unlike some other VPN providers, which tend to have less robust Apple apps, Surfshark has a toggle kill switch, and you can choose between a number of protocols (IKEv2, WireGuard, and OpenVPN (UDP or TCP)). The iOS app also allows you to rotate your IP address, so you can maintain the same VPN location if your IP address changes. Plus, it has a NoBorders option so you can use the VPN even when there are network restrictions.
Exclusive offer: Get 24 months + 3 months free
Installing and setting up Surfshark is straightforward, and the user interface is clean and simple to use. Surfshark VPN supports macOS 10.12 or later and iOS 10.3.3 or later.
ExpressVPN ranked third in our aggregated performance testing. It was more like NordVPN than Hotspot shield, in that the standard deviation was low. This means is the performance numbers were generally consistent across all testers.
Full review: Our ExpressVPN review
ExpressVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, and if you make testing a priority, you can certainly determine if ExpressVPN works for you within a month. ExpressVPN even offers payment via Bitcoin. If you want to remain as anonymous as possible, Bitcoin payment makes sense.
One feature I really like is the network-wide speed test. You can tell ExpressVPN to scan its entire network and measure server speeds for each server. It takes a few minutes, but it's great for not only picking the fastest server, but also for getting a feel for network performance overall. And it has servers located in more countries (94) than any service on this list, so you'll have plenty of options to choose from.
Exclusive offer: Get three months free with an annual plan
I like ExpressVPN. It's a breeze to set up and configure. I like how you can determine server speed across the entire network -- searching, saving, and configuring locations is simple. If you're using a VPN to protect your coffee shop surfing, it works.
ExpressVPN is compatible with macOS 10.11 or later, and iOS 12 or later (manual configuration available for iOS 11 and below). You can download the iOS app on its website or through the Apple App Store, but the macOS app is only available for download from ExpressVPN's website. The iOS app doesn't support split tunneling and it's only an option on macOS versions below 11.
The best VPN for Mac is NordVPN. Our analysis shows NordVPN has solid connection and download speeds, along with excellent reliability and the best security features.
|Best VPN for Mac||Price||Kill Switch||Apple App store rating||Simultaneous connections|
|NordVPN||$3.09/mo w/2-year plan + 3 free months||Yes||4.7 (iOS & macOS)||6|
|Surfshark VPN||$2.21/mo w/2-year plan + 3 free months||Yes||4.9 (iOS), 4.8 (macOS)||Unlimited|
|ExpressVPN||$6.67/mo w/1-year plan + 3 free months||Yes||4.7 (iOS)||5|
This comes from the question some readers ask about whether they should limit their VPN choices to products sold on the Apple App Store because Mac programs that are built expressly for the Mac tend to integrate better.
You definitely want a well-integrated VPN client, but the Apple App Store puts some limitations on how a VPN can function. While I wouldn't necessarily shy away from Apple App Store VPNs, it's not necessarily a plus either.
When you choose a VPN, the most important factor is the security infrastructure of the VPN provider. You're not just installing an app; you're adopting a network.
Look for VPNs with clean, responsive clients that have kill switches in case the connection drops.
|Choose this VPN...||If you want...|
|NordVPN||The best mix of features, value, and performance|
|ExpressVPN||The most server locations|
|Surfshark VPN||To save money|
|Surfshark VPN||Unlimited connections|
|NordVPN||Support for older macOS devices (10.10 or above)|
|Surfshark VPN||Support for older iOS devices (10.3.3 or above)|
The VPN providers on our best VPNs for Mac list had to meet certain minimum standards for performance, privacy, and security. On top of that, they also needed to include certain features on their native apps for iOS and macOS, most notably a kill switch. We narrowed down the options further based on user experience, variety of features, and reputation.
Mac is often considered more secure than Windows. By virtue of both the smaller number of units sold (making it a less juicy target for hackers) and Apple's tight lock on hardware/software integration, the Mac is somewhat more secure than Windows. That means less malware runs on the Mac platform.
But a VPN isn't used primarily to protect against malware. You use a VPN to protect the data you transmit and receive, in addition to preventing your location from being determined by your site visits.
So, yes, you need a VPN on the Mac if you want to protect your communications and current location.
In general, if a VPN service has invested heavily in making a great product for macOS devices, it'll often have solid offerings for iOS products (iPhone, iPad, etc.). This is why our best VPNs for iPhone list is similar to our best Mac VPNs list.
In fact, we've ranked NordVPN as the best VPN for iPhones and iPads, as well as the top VPN for macs. If you're wanting a VPN for Apple mobile devices and desktops or laptops, then the services we've highlighted here should meet your needs.
There are a number of free VPNs which are compatible with Apple devices, but there are two main issues with free VPN services.
With free VPNs, you run the risk of using a service that doesn't have the resources, or intention, to keep your data secure and private. It costs money to develop and run a VPN service. If you're not paying, then the company needs to find another source of revenue. This could be through ads, or with less reputable providers, by selling your data.
There are reputable VPN services we recommend that have a free version of the paid service. But, there are also practical issues. The free version of the VPN may be just as secure as the paid service, but the performance is often so limited it makes the service impractical for real-world use. Many of these free VPNs have data and speed restrictions that are so low the service amounts to a very limited free trial.
If you've tried out the products on our best Mac VPNs list and haven't quite found what you're looking for, there are other services you should consider. CyberGhost VPN, Atlas VPN, and ProtonVPN are all reputable VPNs that meet ZDNET standards for security and privacy.