If you're looking for a VPN service for your Mac, you probably have a good reason.
Credit: Denys Prykhodov/Shutterstock
You may want to protect your data while on unsecured Wi-Fi networks, such as in cafes, hotels or airports. You may worry that your internet service provider (ISP) is logging your browsing history. Or you may want to evade geographic restrictions on streaming video or online games.
Whatever your needs, and whatever your abilities, there's a VPN service for you. We tested several of our favorite VPN services on a mid-2015 MacBook Pro running macOS Mojave, and here are our picks.
Best Overall: Windscribe
Windscribe has a very generous free plan that offers up to 10GB of free data per month. That's plenty of data for checking email, doing some light web surfing and maybe even watching a couple of hours of streaming video while you're on vacation.
But if you step up to Windscribe's paid plan ($9 per month or $49 for a full year), you get access to the service's dedicated "Windflix" video-streaming servers in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Of all the VPN services we tested for this roundup, only Windflix consistently connected to Netflix in the U.K. and U.S., and BBC iPlayer in the U.K. That opens up a whole world of video goodness, one that no other VPN service could match.
One caveat: Streaming Netflix from other countries probably violates Netflix’s Terms of Service, and the company could terminate your account as a result.
Best Value: Private Internet Access
There's one clear choice for people who really want to explore everything a VPN can do: Private Internet Access. Not only is this service very inexpensive when you pay yearly, at $40 per year (it's $7 monthly), but it was also among the fastest in our tests.
Private Internet Access provides an almost dizzying array of possibilities, letting you choose from among different ports, transmission protocols and dozens of encryption permutations. Despite the complexity, PIA's interface is easy to navigate, and the PIA website has lots of explanations to clarify the technical details.
The only downside is that all this choice might be overwhelming. And while PIA can get around Netflix blocking in some countries, that didn't always work in the U.S. or U.K.
Best VPN for the Newbie: TunnelBear
There's no VPN that's simpler to use than TunnelBear, whose logo is a cute cartoon bear. He pops up out of a jar at your location on TunnelBear's connection map and roars when a connection is made to a far-off pot of honey (i.e., a TunnelBear server).
Despite the user-friendly interface, TunnelBear is quite sophisticated, giving you options such as changing networking protocols, making encrypted data look like regular data and killing all online activity when the VPN connection is lost. It's fairly privacy-minded, letting you pay with Bitcoin or cash as well as credit cards.
On the downside, TunnelBear's connections could be a bit slow in our testing, and it wasn't that great at getting around Netflix blocking in other countries. TunnelBear gives you 500MB of free data per month, or 1.5GB if you tweet at the company; for unlimited data, it's $10 per month or $60 per year.
Best VPN for Privacy: Mullvad
If you're worried that your ISP, a foreign government or even your own government might be spying on you, then Mullvad is the VPN service to get.
Mullvad doesn't take names, or even email addresses, so you won't leave any digital trail. You just visit the Mullvad website and generate a 16-digit account number, which serves as both username and password.
You can pay with a credit card, which will blow your cover, or with Bitcoin or cash, which shouldn't. You can just mail an envelope containing any form of currency, plus your account number, to Mullvad's headquarters in Sweden.
In our tests, Mullvad was easy to set up and use and connected quickly to its servers around the world. It wasn't the best at getting around Netflix's blocking, except in a couple of countries, but that's not what you'd get Mullvad for. (Other overseas streaming services, such as France's TF1 Replay and the Dutch-language BVN.tv, were accessible through all the VPN services we tested for this report.)
The service costs 5 euros, or about $6, per month; there’s no volume discount, so that adds up to about $72 per year.