VPN for Mac: Best & Free Services Full Guide (3+3)

Last updated: October 2 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 it relate to VPNs?

Quite directly. Virtual Private Network (VPN) is among such technologies. It protects the data transfer channels reliably and serves to bypass most blocks and restrictions as well as allows their users to be absolutely anonymous online. VPNs on macOS and other operating systems make the Internet free.

How can one choose the right VPN?

In this relevant manual, you will definitely find a good VPN for your MacBook. I’ve gone to considerable lengths and chosen 3 superb paid VPNs for macOS of any version and 3 comparatively good free ones.

On top of that, you will learn:

  • when a free solution is enough and when you need a paid one;
  • which VPNs are the most compatible with MacBook;
  • what hidden threats VPN software may hold for macOS;
  • which VPNs Redditors use on Mac;
  • usage peculiarities;
  • my expert recommendations.

You can use this menu for quick access:


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.

After that, we’ll go through all cases where a free VPN isn’t going to cut it. Then it will be obvious whether you need a free solution or a paid subscription.

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.

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).

In all other cases, I recommend that you use a fast and full-fledged paid VPN. Let’s start with those.


1. Best VPN for Mac based on a thorough selection (Top 3)

Following are the 3 VPNs that I’ve selected from more than 30 most notable services that are a perfect match for Mac.

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

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

NordVPN is registered in Panama. This and the fact that it 100 percent doesn’t keep user activity logs make it a great choice 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 for MacBook as an exe file and on the App Store. The setup doesn’t require any extra savviness while the initial settings are chosen automatically for optimal privacy and speed.

The use of the app isn’t difficult; on the contrary, an interactive map allows for an easier location choice than other VPN providers.

The idiosyncrasies of macOS technology make it impossible to use the most widespread OpenVPN protocol. This protocol can be obfuscated from VPN tracking and blocking algorithms that are employed in some countries with Internet censorship. NordVPN for macOS uses (like most other VPNs) the IPsec IKEv2 protocol which is just as protected as OpenVPN but doesn’t support obfuscation.

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

  • Concealing 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).
  • Dedicated Onion Over VPN servers (3 in 2 countries).
  • You can use up to 6 devices simultaneously.
  • A 30-day money-back guarantee.

All these features, as well as high stability and speed of the VPN servers, make Web browsing safer and more comfortable with NordVPN than without any VPN at all.

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:

Small functionality differences from the full PC version are caused most of all by macOS’s peculiarities. Here’s the list of the differences that I’ve found during the tests:

  • The NordVPN app can be downloaded from App Store or the official website as a pkg installer. It doesn’t matter which way you choose.
  • No traffic obfuscation.
  • No protocol choice.
  • No Custom DNS.
  • No CyberSec function that protects users against malware, phishing, etc. (not relevant for Mac).
  • The kill switch can’t be turned off but that’s a good thing.
  • Can’t set up the kill switch for chosen apps.

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.

I recommend NordVPN for any tasks. My advice is to use it on mobile devices as well.

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.

800 servers in 50 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 concealment 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.

A more serious flaw is the slow speed observed on many servers.

Surfshark’s functionality allows using it for many purposes:

  • Concealing 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.
  • No server selection inside a specific location.

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.

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 since proved to be an exceptionally reliable VPN.

It has more than 3700 servers in 60 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:

  • Concealing 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.

Or read the full review of CyberGhost.


Top 3 free VPNs for MacBook

In this section, I will enumerate free VPNs for Mac that I think are the best. VPNs that do not offer apps are not on this list even though there are acceptable options among them that advanced users might find interesting. If you like, you may take a look at them in the section dedicated to Free VPNs on our website.

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.

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

1. 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.

Or you can read the full review of ProtonVPN.

2. 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.

Alternatively, you may read the full review of Windscribe.

3. 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.

Or you may read the full review of hide.me


Peculiarities of using VPNs 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.

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