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The best Mac VPN in 2020

best mac vpn
(Image credit: Krisda/Shutterstock)

Many Apple fans might think they don't need a Mac VPN – after all, macOS is famously stable and secure, and well-known for its excellent in-built security features.

However, while that's true, the purpose of a VPN isn't necessarily to keep you safe from malware or protect you locally. Rather, it's to safeguard your information after it's left your Mac. Once your data is out in the badlands of the web, the fact it's come from a Mac is of no importance, and the best VPN for Mac is a privacy essential

A Mac VPN isn't just for protecting your online banking details and staying safe when torrenting, though. A hugely popular use is to unblock regional Netflix libraries, and gain access to other streaming services in locations you wouldn't normally be able use them. Whatever you're planning on using it for, though, your Mac VPN should be able to do it all.

What makes the best Mac VPN?

As with any service on any operating system, your Mac VPN should first and foremost be an effective privacy tool. There are so many options on the market that any that fail here should be swiftly disregarded.

Then, consider what you'll be using your VPN for. If you're an avid streamer, make sure your Mac VPN can access Netflix, iPlayer, Hulu, and any other service you regularly use, and swift connections are a must, too. It's also worth considering the apps themselves – as Mac users we want form and function; something that's simple, powerful, and looks great in the process.

You'll see below that we've crowned ExpressVPN the best Mac VPN on the market. That's simply because does pretty much anything you could ask of a VPN without breaking a sweat – and it's great on pretty much any device, not just your Mac. However, there's plenty of worthy competition, so keep scrolling to find out what we rank as the five best Mac VPN services available today.

1. ExpressVPN – The very best Mac VPN
Perfect if you've got a Mac, ExpressVPN's clean interface, huge range of servers, one-touch functionality and unrivalled privacy credentials makes it our top pick as a Mac VPN. What's more, you can now save your cash and claim three months absolutely free through Tom's Guide.View Deal

2. Surfshark – secure your Mac for as little as possible
If you want maximum bang for your buck, Surfshark is a great option. It's not quite as powerful as Express, but for just $2.49/mo plus three months free for Black Friday, you'll have plenty of change left over to go towards Apple's next groundbreaking gadget.View Deal

3. NordVPN – Fire Stick VPN from the biggest name around
NordVPN is a name you'll have heard of before, and it's great as a Mac VPN. You'll get incredible speeds and great security, and the apps tie in well with Apple's 'it just works' philosophy. And now, for Black Friday, Nord's giving you the chance to win up to two years free – potentially bringing the monthly price below $2.View Deal

The best five Mac VPNs you can get today

expressvpn mac vpn

1. ExpressVPN

Simply the best Mac VPN

Also works on: Windows, Linux, iOS, Android | Unblocks: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu | Money-back guarantee: 30 days | Number of servers: 3,000+ | Maximum devices supported: 5

Works seamlessly on Mac
Crisp, clean apps on all devices
Class-leading support
Excellent connection speeds
Only 5 simultaneous connections

ExpressVPN is the best Mac VPN because it checks all the boxes, and does it without breaking a sweat. It offers excellent speeds on pretty much all its servers around the globe, has an excellent dedicated Mac client, and offers 24/7 live chat support in the rare instance something doesn't work as it should.

However, under the surface ExpressVPN boasts serious privacy credentials, too – you'll have the choice of OpenVPN UDP and TCP,  L2TP/IPSec and IKEv2 protocols to tailor your experience, plus IPv6 leak protection. Express also owns all its DNS servers, meaning at no point is your data entrusted to a third party.

ExpressVPN is also an excellent VPN for streaming. In our tests it was able to unblock absolutely everything we threw at it, from Netflix and YouTube to the notoriously difficult BBC iPlayer. If you're a TV addict, Express has got you covered.

The only real downside to Express is the limit of five simultaneous connections on one subscription. While that's not as many as some competitors, you'll still be able to protect your iMac, MacBook, iPhone and smart TV, plus an extra connection left over for whatever you want. 

If you're after the best Mac VPN money can buy, look no further than ExpressVPN.

Get 49% off plus 3 free months of the best Mac VPN
We keep our lives on our Macs, so it's worth getting the best to protect it – and Tom's Guide readers can save by getting three free months of ExpressVPN. That's 15 months for the price of 12, alongside a saving of 49%. Not bad for the best service on the market.View Deal

Surfshark VPN Mac VPN

(Image credit: Surfshark)

2. Surfshark

Speed and value in an attractive package

Also works on: Windows, Linux, iOS, Android | Unblocks: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu | Money-back guarantee: 30 days | Number of servers: 3,200+ | Maximum devices supported: Unlimited

Incredibly cheap longer plans
Super straightforward to use
Excellent Netflix and iPlayer unblocking
Unlimited connections
Not as configurable as some

Surfshark is a slick, easy-to-use Mac VPN and – if you've just blown all your savings on a new Mac Pro – it's a serious bargain, too. However, just because it's the cheapest on this list doesn't mean it's underpowered, and it blows plenty of the more expensive competition out the water.

With a full complement of VPN protocols, excellent AES-256 encryption, double hop and split tunneling, Surfshark doesn't lack features that will please experienced users. However, the simple layout and cheerful branding make it very appealing to first-time VPN users. 

Streaming fans will also be happy, as Surfshark is capable of unblocking Netflix, iPlayer, Hulu and more – a much better performance than plenty of its more expensive competitors.

And that's beauty of Surfshark. While it can't compete with ExpressVPN in terms of out-and-out power and functionality, it offers a fully featured experience for less than $2.50 a month if you go for the longest plan – which we certainly advise.

So, if you're after a top-tier Mac VPN for a less-than-Apple price, Surfshark's your best bet. 

Sign up now on the Surfshark website

nordvpn mac vpn

(Image credit: NordVPN)

3. NordVPN

Security, speed and simplicity

Also works on: Windows, Linux, iOS, Android | Unblocks: Netflix, iPlayer, Amazon, YouTube, Hulu | Money-back guarantee: 30 days | Number of servers: 5,500+ | Maximum devices supported: 6

Some useful security extras
Loads of servers
Lots of extensions
Not always the best user experience

NordVPN is a hugely well-known VPN, and that's for good reason. The desktop apps go nicely with the clean Mac look, and you'll also have excellent security covering your back – 256-AES encryption, DNS leak protection and two kill switches, plus Double VPN and even Onion over VPN.

You'll also have access to over 5,400 servers spread across 59 countries, with many of them delivering excellent speeds. This is also helped out by the fact Nord's WireGuard-based NordLynx protocol has finally rolled out everywhere, delivering incredible speeds of over 300Mbps.

However, while VPN client looks great, on both Mac and iOS it lacks some depth. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though, as they both deliver plenty of features on the surface to satisfy the vast majority of users, especially if you're only after a seriously quick Netflix VPN and perhaps want to check your emails securely.

Combine all that with zero logging and a 30-day money back guarantee, and Nord starts to look like an excellent choice for keeping your Mac private. 

Head over to NordVPN's website to sign up.

Hotspot Shield Mac VPN

(Image credit: Hotspot Shield)

4. Hotspot Shield

The fastest Mac VPN on the market

Also works on: Windows, Linux, iOS, Android | Unblocks: Netflix, iPlayer, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Hulu, Disney+ | Money-back guarantee: 30 days | Number of servers: 1,800+ | Maximum devices supported: 5

Unbeatable speeds
Great for streaming any service
Super simple to use
Relatively poor support center
App on other systems lack depth

If you want the absolute quickest connection speeds on your Mac, there's only one option: Hotspot Shield

With its proprietary Catapult Hydra protocol, in our testing it delivered speeds of over 400Mbps – faster than the vast majority of Internet connections the world over, and is one of the best fast VPN services around. Do be aware, however, that these speeds are only available with the premium version.

Streaming performance goes hand in hand with great connection speeds, and thankfully Hotspot Shield can unblock the full gamut of services. If you want to watch overseas Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, Amazon Prime video and more, you'll be able to do so with Hotspot Shield, and at blazing speeds.

While Hotspot Shield is fairly transparent about what information they collect on users (including IP addresses, your approximate geographic location and your ISP), if you're after a zero-logging VPN you might want to look elsewhere. However, this information is impossible to tie back to the user, so unless you're someone who's look for the most secure VPN, we wouldn't worry about Hotspot's logging too much.

So, if you want blazing speeds, simple apps, and excellent streaming power alongside online anonymity, Hotspot Shield is a seriously good option – plus you'll get a 1Password subscription alongside robo-call blocking and identity theft protection thrown in for free.

Sign up now on the Hotspot Shield website

cyberghost vpn mac VPN

(Image credit: CyberGhost)

5. CyberGhost

Good Mac VPN for streaming and torrenting

Also works on: Windows, Linux, iOS, Android | Unblocks: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu | Money-back guarantee: 45 days | Number of servers: 6,600+ | Maximum devices supported: 7

Great for streaming
Tons of servers
45-day money-back guarantee
Great value
Clients can be a little clunky

CyberGhost says it's created its software specifically for Mac, which in theory should give you the best VPN experience on your machine. Thanks to almost 7,000 servers in 88 countries, the claim's not too far from the truth.

CyberGhost's huge server network isn't all it's got to brag about, though, because its clients have some really nifty features that should assist you in getting the most out of it with a minimum of effort. One of these – which we'd like to see in every VPN – is a filtering system, designed to display the best server for whatever purpose you want, be that streaming Netflix or sharing P2P.

Thanks to a no-logs privacy policy, a functional kill switch and superb encryption you can rest easy knowing you're anonymous, and it'll even block ads for you, stop trackers and avoid malicious websites – all in the name of keeping your Mac safe.

All that's holding CyberGhost back are some minor glitches we experienced when using the apps. However, other than that there's not a lot we can find fault with, and if you're looking for a cheap Mac VPN that makes streaming and torrenting a joy, then CyberGhost is worth having on your list.

Head over to the CyberGhost website to sign up.
  

Mac VPN FAQs

Do Macs need VPNs?

Widely regarded as a safer option than Windows PCs, it's true that Mac users can quite easily get away without antivirus software. However, a Mac VPN covers your data once its left your computer – and there's absolutely nothing any PC can do, Windows or Mac, once your data has entered the ether of the internet on an unsecured connection.

A VPN provides you with a safe, secure network to access the internet on wherever you are – whether you want to torrent safely at home or work on public Wi-Fi when you're out and about. 

Macs are great at stopping malicious software getting into your computer, but they can't do anything once your data has left. A VPN is the only way to do that.

Does my Mac have a VPN built in?

Short answer – no. 

All Macs have the functionality to support VPN usage, but Apple doesn't provide it's own VPN software. Therefore, if you want real privacy, you'll have to use a third-party service.

The good news is there's a huge amount to choose from, and we think the five on this page are the absolute cream of the crop.

How do I get a Mac VPN?

Getting a Mac VPN is as simple – if not simpler – than on a Windows device. Firstly it's a good idea to sign up to a VPN plan, and then you'll have two options.

On the one hand, you can download the VPN software directly from the VPN provider's website. You'll end up with a .DMG file, which you can then install. In the process you'll likely have to give the software permissions. 

On the other, many VPNs have apps available in the Apple App Store. Here, you can install the app, accept the same permissions and you're away. In either case, after that stage you'll need to input your login details and get covered. 

Is a Mac VPN legal?

Having a Mac VPN is 100% legal – fact – but using a VPN doesn't make illegal acts acceptable in the eyes of the law. Many people have associated VPN usage with criminal activity, but that stigma is fading due to the services becoming more mainstream and their legal uses becoming better known.

However, the anonymity a VPN provides is attractive to those breaking the law. All we can say is that we do not condone any unlawful usage of VPNs, and encourage our readers to make the most of what they can provide within the confines of the law.

Are Mac VPNs different to other VPNs?

In essence, not really. While macOS is different to Windows, iOS, Linux, and Android, for the user there's very little difference in how a VPN will behave – much like Microsoft Word or Photoshop.

One thing to note, however, is that some VPNs may vary very slightly depending on where you download them from. For example, in our testing we discovered that NordVPN's kill switch is always on and not a user option in the version downloaded from the App Store, while the user has control over it in the .DMG version downloaded from the site. 

This sort of thing is easily solved by using live chat, and further indicates how valuable a good support system like ExpressVPN's is.

Read more:

  • Brits should seek out the best UK VPN
  • Save money with our pick of the best cheap VPN providers
  • Or go all the way – here are the best free VPN services