VPN for Mac: Up-to-date rating of paid and free services (5+5)

Last updated: October 30 2019 By Sam Chester

Best VPNs compatible with Mac

Even today, Macintosh computers are known for their security and reliability. Now, however, along with the Internet’s development, there are new threats and restrictions that force users into implementing special network technologies even on MacBook.

How does a VPN relate to it?

Quite directly.  A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is one of such technologies that reliably protects the data transfer channel and bypasses most blocks and restrictions easily. A VPN allows one to be absolutely anonymous online.

There are hundreds of VPN providers that offer Virtual Private Network services.

How to find the best VPN?

I’ll help you make sense of it. You will also be able to choose a VPN that is the best for you. I have previously published recent lists of 5 best and 5 relatively good free Mac VPNs.

Best VPN services for Mac

PIA
Express vpn

Best Free VPN services for Mac

Windscribe
Hide me
VPN Gate

This article will tell you:

  • when a free solution is enough and when you need a paid one;
  • which VPNs are most compatible with MacBook;
  • about the peculiarities of use;
  • about my expert recommendations (you’ll find them in all chapters of the article).

You can use the quick navigation menu to jump ahead to any section:


Where to begin?

Well, you are looking for a VPN for your Mac, aren’t you? To choose the one that is the best, let’s determine for how long you’re going to need it first. That’s right. This is exactly what you should consider first when choosing a VPN service.

This and the kind of tasks that you need to solve will determine whether a paid or a free VPN suits you better.

I’m not trying to sway you into spending money. I use free VPNs on my Mac occasionally and think it’s okay.

There are tasks, though, which can’t be carried out by a free VPN to an adequate degree or at all.

So if you require a VPN to use it one or two times for the following purposes:

  • to sign up on a website using an alias;
  • to unblock a website;
  • to download software;
  • to browse a potentially dangerous resource and not expose your IP.

and at the same time:

  • there’s no important or confidential info on your MacBook;
  • you aren’t using banking data, important logins and passwords;
  • you don’t care if your Internet speed may drop to dial-up levels;
  • you don’t need to change your IP-address to an IP from a specific country.

then you can use a free VPN.

In all other cases, I recommend that you use a fast and full-fledged paid VPN.

But remember that you definitely won’t be able to do the following things for free comfortably and on a recurring basis:

  • watch Netflix, Hulu, etc.;
  • use torrents anonymously;
  • use a VPN without noticing (low speeds and heavy traffic restrictions are bound to be noticed).

Good VPNs for Mac also support various VPN protocols whereas the rest can only take control of the out-of-the-box IKEv2 protocol.

The ability to choose a protocol is not so much a necessity as it is a statement of the app developers’ high level of commitment. In some cases, however (like in China or other countries that block the use of VPN technology), a VPN won’t work without special protocols.

There aren’t many providers who actually have pro-level software. Even fewer offer a free trial. So we will start with paid VPNs as they are better suited for Mac.


Best VPNs for Mac based on a thorough selection (Top 5)

Following are the 5 VPNs that I’ve selected from more than 30 most notable services that are a perfect match for Mac.

1. NordVPN: The Best VPN for Mac ($3.49-$11.95 per month)

NordVPN is registered in Panama. Combined with the fact that it certainly doesn’t keep user activity logs, it makes the service a great choice for even for the most delicate tasks.

High speed, reliable personal data protection, ability to bypass blocks, streaming support—NordVPN checks every mark consistently and decently.

It is available on MacBook as an exe file and in App Store. The setup doesn’t require any extra knowledge while the initial settings are chosen automatically for optimal privacy and speed.

It’s hard to find a more popular paid VPN service than NordVPN. And that isn’t just because of marketing. It is the result of consistent quality work.

The incredible 5700 servers located in 60 countries make it the largest VPN in the world as well.

NordVPN is the only one among all VPNs that offers two apps for Mac.

One is called NordVPN IKE. It’s a simplified version that supports only the standard protocol for macOS. This app is convenient because it’s available on the Mac App Store.

The second app is available on the official website and is identical in its functionality to the PC app. It offers the choice of VPN protocols, obfuscation, and many other features.

No issues were found in either version while testing them. Everything works as intended and the connection is stable. The speed of NordVPN is among the best ones.

NordVPN’s functionality allows using it for virtually any purpose:

  • Hiding the IP-address;
  • Encrypting any requests to websites;
  • Reliable information protection;
  • Secure public WiFi use;
  • Website unblocking;
  • Watching Netflix, Hulu, etc.;
  • Safe torrenting;
  • KODI;
  • Roku;
  • Other cases where VPN technology is applicable.

I’d like to specifically mention the kill switch function that dependably protects your computer when a reconnection occurs (if a location changes or an emergency happens). This simple but often underrated feature prevents the user’s real IP-address from leaking.

Extra features of NordVPN available on Mac:

  • Dedicated servers for torrenting (almost 5000);
  • VPN obfuscation (helps to bypass VPN blocks);
  • Dedicated IP (allows Web-browsing with the same IP address constantly);
  • Double VPN (double protection);
  • Dedicated Onion Over VPN servers (3 in 2 countries);
  • You can use up to 6 devices simultaneously;
  • A 30-day money-back guarantee.

NordVPN is also recommended by Redditors for almost any purpose including streaming and torrenting.

NordVPN is rated very highly on the App Store:

NordVPN app rating on the App Store

Peculiarities of using on Mac:

  • Super-quick connection;
  • Full functionality.

Tariffs of NordVPN:

  • $3.49 per month ($125.64 for 3 years)
  • $4.99 per month ($119.76 for 2 years)
  • $6.99 per month ($83.88 for 1 year)
  • $11.95 per month when subscribing for 1 month

The only way to use NordVPN on MacBook for free is to request a refund during the first 30 days. It can be done by contacting the 24/7 customer support.

Visit NordVPN

Or you can read the full review of NordVPN.

2. Surfshark: Best affordable VPN for Mac ($1.99-$11.95 per month)

During literally one year of its existence, Surfshark turned into one of the leading VPN providers. Its multifunctional nature and the levels of its service have become almost on par with the largest VPNs in history.

1000 servers in 60 states are just the right amount to be considered among the best. Moreover, P2P/torrenting is allowed on all those servers.

One of Surfshark’s main advantages is the fact that the DNS is set up on every server (the DNS server transforms the domain name into an IP-address). This allows for the guaranteed hiding of the addresses of the websites you visit. Many of Surfshark’s competitors use only a few DNS or even free public DNS (not 100% safe).

Surfshark is registered in the British Virgin Islands in the offshore jurisdiction. That allows it to be less vulnerable to political or other pressure. Concurrently, Surfshark doesn’t keep logs and protects its users’ traffic with “banking-grade” encryption technologies.

Another advantage of Surfshark is the presence of 15 double VPN variants. This technology doubles the already high degree of user privacy. So, if you’re feeling paranoid… :)

Isn’t Surfshark a perfect solution for the most delicate tasks?

Surfshark is available on MacBook not only as an executable file but also on the App Store so its installation doesn’t cause any problems.

The Mac app is nicely designed and very convenient to use with a mouse. On a touchpad, however, it’s hard to scroll the server list. This sad drawback may cause some inconvenience in public spots where very few people use a mouse.

Surfshark’s functionality allows using it for many purposes:

  • Hiding the IP-address;
  • Great encryption of any requests to a website;
  • Reliable data protection;
  • Public Wi-Fi protection;
  • Website unblocking;
  • Streaming Netflix, Hulu, etc.;
  • Safe torrenting;
  • KODI;
  • Roku;
  • Other cases where VPN technology is applicable.

The kill switch is always on by default but can be turned off at any moment.

Surfshark’s extra features available on Mac:

  • MultiHop (double VPN);
  • CleanWeb. Blocks ads and cookie tracking;
  • You can connect up to 7 devices simultaneously;
  • 30-day money-back guarantee.

Surfshark’s rating in App Store is not yet calculated.

Peculiarities of using it on Mac:

  • Surfshark VPN app is available for download on the App Store and from the official website as a dmg installer;
  • No traffic obfuscation present by the PC version;
  • No protocol choice.

Surfshark’s tariffs:

  • $1.99 per month when subscribing for 2 years ($47.74)
  • $5.99 per month when subscribing for 1 year ($71.88)
  • $11.95 per month when subscribing for 1 month.

You can get a refund within 30 days by contacting the 24/7 support team.

I recommend Surfshark for its unparalleled quality-to-price ratio. I’m not aware of another provider of comparable power that would cost less than $2.

Visit Surfshark

Alternatively, you can read the full review of Surfshark.

3. CyberGhost: Multifunction VPN for Mac (1-day free trial, $2.75-$12.99 per month)

CyberGhost is one of the largest VPN services. Its history begins in 2011, and it has proved to be one of the best general-purpose VPNs as well as one of the best VPNs for Netflix.

It has more than 5300 servers in 90 countries and this number constantly grows.

It’s under the safe Romanian jurisdiction and has a strict no-logs policy. These facts make it an excellent choice for torrenting and other tasks that require extra privacy. Moreover, just like NordVPN, it has servers solely dedicated to torrenting (on Mac, they’re called “For downloading”).

Some of the great features of CyberGhost include:

  • a free trial;
  • servers for streaming. Every server on the list actually has a tip telling which video service or TV channel it is optimized for:

Servers for streaming list in the Mac app

The installation of CyberGhost is done with the help of a pkg installer file. The implementation of a trusted digital signature doesn’t force the customer into doing any extra work. The initial setup is done automatically so there’s no need to set up anything else for the first launch.

The interface of the app is intuitive as all the connection settings, as well as the server selection, are represented on the main screen.

CyberGhost uses the IPsec tunneling protocol which is employed by most VPN apps for macOS.

The CyberGhost app’s functionality allows using it for a variety of tasks:

  • Hiding the IP-address;
  • Encrypting any requests to a website;
  • Reliable data protection;
  • Public Wi-Fi protection;
  • Unblocking websites;
  • Streaming Netflix, Hulu, etc.;
  • Safe torrenting;
  • KODI;
  • Many other cases where VPN technology is applicable.

The kill switch function is integrated into the app but isn’t mentioned in the settings. It makes people think that CyberGhost doesn’t have it, which isn’t true. It is there and always active.

Extra features of CyberGhost that are available on Mac:

  • Dedicated servers for torrenting in 25 countries (no US servers on this list);
  • Dedicated servers for streaming (more than 40 in different countries);
  • Block Ads, Block Malicious Websites and Block Online Tracking (cookie);
  • You can use up to 7 devices simultaneously;
  • A 45-day money-back guarantee.

Server speeds are generally great but there are slow locations. It’s hardly a problem, though, as the app allows for a manual server selection inside a specific country.

CyberGhost isn’t that popular on Reddit. There, it’s most often mentioned in discussions of free VPN services and as a perfect tool for watching Netflix.

Peculiarities of using it on Mac:

Functionality differences from the full PC version are caused by macOS’s peculiarities. One example of it is the “Smart rules” menu that doesn’t have an option to turn the VPN off for selected apps and URLs.

Here’s the list of the differences I’ve found during the tests:

  • In some cases, the kill switch can “freeze”. Even after you connect to a server, your traffic remains blocked for some reason. It’s best to contact the support team in this case.
  • No protocol choice.
  • No choice between TCP/UDP.

Tariffs of CyberGhost:

  • $2.75 per month ($99 for 3 years)
  • $3.69 per month ($88.56 for 2 years)
  • $5.99 per month ($71.88 for 1 year)
  • $12.99 per month when subscribing for 1 month

CyberGhost also offers a 24-hour free trial or a 45-day refund that you can get by getting in touch with the 24/7 support team.

I recommend using CyberGhost not only on Mac but on the devices running on other OS as well. It’s perfect for streaming, torrenting, sites unblocking and other things I’ve covered in this part.

Visit CyberGhost

Or read the full review of CyberGhost.

4. Private Internet Access: hi-tech VPN ($3.33-$6.95 per month)

Private Internet Access (PIA) is one of the most technically advanced VPN services. It provides not only the more popular extra features such as a kill switch and the UDP/TCP choice but also has settings of encryption (that allow even turning it off completely) and authentication, handshake, port forwarding, and some others.

Thanks to its unprecedented number of settings in apps for all platforms, high speed and a huge choice of locations (3300+ in 32 countries), PIA is considered to be a professional-grade VPN.

PIA settings for Mac

Drawbacks of PIA are:

  • under certain circumstances, its Android app works unstably. I have to mention it because PIA allows using up to 10 devices simultaneously. You can read more about it in our NordVPN and PIA comparison;
  • the US jurisdiction (the 5 Eyes alliance).

Private Internet Access does everything that is necessary on macOS:

  • hides IP addresses;
  • encrypts any requests to websites;
  • reliably protects data;
  • secures the user in public Wi-Fi hotspots;
  • unblocks websites;
  • lets you watch Netflix, Hulu, etc. (PIA copes with it but you have to search for a working server);
  • allows torrenting;
  • manages other cases where VPN technology is applicable.

PIA’s extra functions available on Mac:

  • VPN tunnel precise settings;
  • Kill Switch;
  • Port forwarding.

I have noticed no discernible peculiarities of using PIA on MacBook. Its developers made the app just as functional as its PC version which is the fullest one for most VPNs.

Prices of PIA:

  • $3.33 per month ($39.95 for 1 year)
  • $5.99 per month ($35.95 for 6 months)
  • $6.95 per month when subscribing for 1 month

You can also make use of this link and get a 25% discount for any tariff plan.

PIA offers no free trial but guarantees a 7-day money-back period.

Visit Private Internet Access

Or you may read the full review of PIA

5. ExpressVPN: premium VPN for Mac ($8.32-$12.95 per month)

ExpressVPN is a top-tier VPN service that is a great fit for Mac. It offers all the most recent features that are needed to reliably protect the user with almost any purpose in mind.

ExpressVPN is only unable to bypass VPN protocols blocking. It also doesn’t have the Dedicated IP, Double VPN, and special server lists for streaming and torrenting.

On Mac, ExpressVPN can:

  • hide IP addresses;
  • encrypt any requests to websites;
  • reliably protect data;
  • secure the user in public Wi-Fi hotspots;
  • unblock websites;
  • let you watch Netflix, Hulu, etc.;
  • do torrenting;
  • manage other cases where VPN technology is applicable.

ExpressVPN’s extra features available on Mac:

  • Setting the VPN up for certain apps only;
  • Kill Switch.

I’d like to mention that ExpressVPN also has browser extensions. They allow not only protecting the browser traffic but also controlling the ExpressVPN app which affects the entire macOS system.

Its confirmed no-logs policy is also very important. ExpressVPN is guaranteed not to log its users’ activity.

Prices of ExpressVPN:

  • $8.32 per month ($99.95 for 1 year)
  • $9.99 per month ($59.95 for 6 months)
  • $12.95 per month when subscribing for 1 month.

ExpressVPN has a 7-day free trial but only on Android. On all other platforms, there’s a 30-day refund.

Visit ExpressVPN

Or you may want to read the full review of ExpressVPN

Price comparison table

For your convenience, I put every tariff plan and lowest price into a single table:

Mac VPNs: Prices comparison

VPN service Lowest price
(per month)
1-year price
(1-year subscription)
1-month price
NordVPN $3.49 (€3.17)
(3-year plan)
$83.88
($6.99 per month)
$11.95 (€10.87)
Surfshark $1.99 (€1.79)
(2-year plan)
$71.88
($5.99 per month)
$11.95 (€9.89)
CyberGhost $2.75 (€2.44)
(3-year plan)
$63.38
($5.29 per month)
$12.95 (€11.99)
PIA $3.33
(1-year plan)
$39.95
($3.33 per month)
$6.95
ExpressVPN $8.32
(1-year plan)
$99.95
($8.32 per month)
$12.95

Top 5 free VPNs for MAC

Before I start telling you about specific providers, I have to warn you: free VPNs that I know of all have substantial drawbacks.

Here’s the list of possible drawbacks of a free VPN:

  • Very slow speed
  • Traffic limit (to 1-10 Gb per month)
  • Number of locations is limited to as few as 1-3
  • No streaming support
  • Keeps logs
  • Huge amounts of ads
  • Giving personal data away to third parties
  • Various combinations of the above faults.

You have to choose either the high functionality of a VPN or a larger amount of traffic.

I’ll elaborate.

Free VPN services (which are more correctly called free plans of paid VPNs) restrict those parameters that may cause a maintenance cost increase.

For example, all VPNs that don’t limit traffic either limit speed to 20-80 Kbps (when the standard is 20-80 Mbps) or simply forbid torrenting and don’t support video streaming (Netflix, Hulu, etc.).

And vice versa, if all of the above is allowed, then traffic is going to be limited. It makes using a VPN for traffic-heavy purposes unviable.

It concerns every platform, including macOS.

I have tested dozens of such providers and chosen the least restricting ones in terms of both functionality and traffic.

Having tried dozens of such providers, I’ve selected the least limited of them.

1. Free ProtonVPN: Best free VPN for Mac

Are you familiar with Swiss quality? ProtonVPN is an example of it. This Swiss VPN was commercialized in 2017 and had good IT security groundwork with its ProtonMail service. As of this day, it is the most professional free VPN with the best attributes available.

The PC app provides the service of the highest quality but the Mac app outdoes other free VPNs as well.

A full-fledged free trial period of the best premium plan lasts for 7 days. It provides an opportunity to try out the power of VPN technology.

But that’s not it! After it runs out, you don’t have to buy a subscription. Instead, you can keep on using it for free but with a few restrictions:

  1. Only the slower free servers are available in 3 countries:
    United States (US)
    Netherlands (NL)
    Japan (JP)
  2. No torrenting allowed
  3. Doesn’t work with Netflix

Besides, there are several important points I’ll list as pros and cons.

ProtonVPN for Mac: Pros

+ no traffic limit

+ relatively good speed

+ interactive location selection map

+ server load is displayed

ProtonVPN for Mac: Cons

- unavailable on the App Store (can be installed with a .dmg file)

- only 3 countries available

- no VPN settings in the Mac app (paid version included)

- no kill switch (paid version included)

- no torrenting allowed

- doesn’t work with Netflix

- the country list is impossible to scroll without a mouse

Despite its significant drawbacks, I placed ProtonVPN first for its good combo of the unlimited bandwidth and acceptable speed.

Visit ProtonVPN

Or you can read the full review of ProtonVPN.

2. Free Windscribe for Mac: 10 Gb/m, low speed

Windscribe is an attractive Canadian free VPN. The number of its features available on Mac exceeds even that of the best paid services. However…

Its abysmally slow speed (0.04-0.5 Mbps) outweighs all of its advantages. I will enumerate them nevertheless because perhaps you might need them.

Windscribe for Mac: Pros

+ 10 Gb of free traffic per month (the maximum volume I’ve encountered among VPNs with restricted bandwidth)

+ 11 countries available for free:

  • Romania (RO)
  • Netherlands (NL
  • Switzerland (CH)
  • Germany (DE)
  • United Kingdom (UK)
  • France (FR)
  • Hong Kong (HK)
  • Canada (CA)
  • Norway (NO)
  • United States (US)

+ Wide choice of VPN protocols. It includes 2 protocols invisible to VPN blockers:

  • IPSec IKEv2
  • OpenVPN UDP
  • OpenVPN TCP
  • Stealth
  • WStunnel

+ Choice of the DNS service provider:

  • default ones,
  • OpenDNS,
  • Cloudflare,
  • Google

+ Kill Switch

Windscribe for Mac: Cons

- unavailable on the App Store (installed from a .dmg file)

- Low speed. Really low:

Really low speed of Windscribe

I put Windscribe at the second place exclusively because of its powerful features. It is quite difficult to use on a permanent basis. But as I’ve already said, everything depends on how frequently you’re going to need a VPN and for what purposes. Windscribe, for example, is a good fit for unblocking websites with mainly text content.

Visit Winscribe

Alternatively, you may read the full review of Windscribe.

3. Free Hide.me for Mac: 2 Gb per month, good speed

Hide.me is a Malaysian service best suited for one-off tasks. It’s server speeds are good enough for a free VPN but it has too little free traffic. This makes its permanent use impossible.

The only useful setting present on macOS is the kill switch.

Hide.me for Mac: Pros

+ Relatively fast servers (2-9 Mbps)

+ Kill Switch

Hide.me for Mac: Cons

- 2 Gb of traffic per month

- 4 available countries:

Canada (CA)

Netherlands (NL)

Singapore (SG)

USA (US)

Hide.me is a simple VPN with a small location choice but it fits well for the rare usage or one-off downloads of 1.5-2 Gb files.

Visit Hide.me

4. Free TunnelBear: 0.5 Gb per month, good app

TunnelBear’s traffic limit is even more severe: 500 Mb per month. It can be used only to solve some one-time small tasks because it’s too little for regular web-surfing.

TunnelBear has arguably the most well-designed app for Mac. Every action of the user is accompanied by an amazing animation. A cute bear digs tunnels and looks out of the spot of the virtual VPN connection on the map.

The free TunnelBear version offers locations in 22 countries, which is more than the same parameter of most other free VPNs.

It also has a kill switch and GhostBear (obfuscation to bypass state-imposed blocks). However, GhostBear doesn’t help to bypass censorship in China as TunnelBear’s servers are blocked there.

The provider offers the opportunity to increase the traffic limit up to 1 Gb. To do that, you need to twit about TunnelBear:

Increasing the traffic limit of TunnelBear

Pros of free TunnelBear:

+ Good speed (2-9 Mbps)

+ Has a kill switch

+ 22 countries

Cons of free TunnelBear:

- 0.5-1 GB of monthly traffic

To start using the free version of TunnelBear, you have to choose the Free plan on TunnelBear’s website, sign up by entering your email,  and download and install the app.

Visit TunnelBear

Or you may read the full review of TunnelBear.

5. VPN Gate for Mac: 100% free

The only good 100% free VPN service suitable for Mac is VPN Gate.

Something that all fully free VPNs have in common is the absence of apps. To use them, you have to install third-party programs. VPN Gate also doesn’t have apps for Mac. But if you want to and have a bit of time, you can install Tunnelblick (a free OpenVPN client for Mac) and set it up to work with VPN Gate.

What are the good things about VPN Gate?

+ The SoftEther VPN protocol. This protocol is safe to use. It was developed at the University of Tsukuba, Japan.

+ A huge location choice. PCs of other VPN Gate users (volunteers) are used instead of servers. Don’t worry: it’s only the case if you install special software.

+ Pretty good speeds. Connection speeds can vary greatly: from single-digit Kbps to dozens of Mbps.

Drawbacks of VPN Gate for Mac:

- No apps. As I said, fully free VPNs don’t provide apps. VPN Gate doesn’t either. It offers a Windows client but no software for Mac.

- Hard to install. To make VPN Gate work on macOS, you have to install a VPN client and configure it. You can find a guide on how to do that on the VPN Gate website.

- Manual server searching. Sometimes, you have to go through 5 to 10 servers (by downloading and importing their settings into a VPN client) before you find one that works with a decent speed.

- Servers are mostly in Asia. It’s really difficult to find a working US or EU server. About 80% of the locations are servers in Japan, Korea, and Hong Kong.

- Can switch off at any time. As VPN servers belong to volunteers, they can be turned off or on at any moment.

- Torrenting isn’t allowed.

You can download the OpenVPN client for Mac that supports the VPN Gate configuration by following this link.

Visit VPN Gate

Detailed review of VPN Gate


Peculiarities of using  a VPN on MacBook

Mac users are aware that their operating system is considered one of the most protected and secure ones. It poses certain restrictions on the technology accessible by software developers. It concerns VPN apps as well.

The main difference from the PC is the system support of only three protocols. Only one of them is safe enough to use.

VPN protocols available on MacBook

VPN protocols available on MacBook

This is why, the IKEv2 IPsec protocol is mostly used. It is possible to use OpenVPN and other VPN types but on Mac, there are additional difficulties in doing so. Since there’s no open source for macOS, companies have to develop and debug software with extreme caution to prevent glitches that are unacceptable when privacy and security are concerned.

It doesn’t mean that IKEv2 is a bad protocol. It’s not. It’s as secure as OpenVPN. This situation simply limits the users’ choice and makes it harder for VPN developers to modify their protocols to bypass the Great Firewall of China or other instances of VPN spotting and blocking.

The limited protocol choice is the only technical macOS limitation.

Other differences mainly concern the functionality of VPN apps. In my experience, those differences are caused just by the developers’ unwillingness to make VPN software for Mac too complicated. The reason for that is the stereotype that MacBook users employ expanded features not as often as PC users. It may also be caused by higher costs of software development and testing for macOS than for other platforms.

VPN apps are used in the same way as on other platforms. Just like they do on PC, they intercept all the traffic and transfer it through a VPN channel. The only difference is that I haven’t seen the Split Tunneling feature that allows users to choose apps or URLs and route their traffic outside the VPN tunnel without hiding the real IP of the user.

Write a review

click to select