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The best VPN for Mac in 2024: Expert tested and reviewed

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What is the best Mac VPN in 2024?

ZDNET’s top Mac VPN is NordVPN. NordVPN isn’t the cheapest, true, but you get what you pay for — an intuitive and attractive user interface, an easy-to-use accompanying mobile app, rapid speeds, and a recently expanded server network of 111 locations. That’s not to mention the wealth of additional security features and optional coverage extras. 

I, alongside other ZDNET authors, have been testing VPN software for years. We have kept a finger on the pulse of the Mac VPN market, trying out dozens of VPNs to measure their speed, stability, and server networks. Further, we have researched, compared, and analyzed their security practices, and we take note of any VPN that promotes security at the core of its services. 

Below, you will find our top recommendations for Mac-ready VPNs in 2024.

Read more: The best VPNs of 2024

The best VPN for Mac in 2024

NordVPN

Best VPN for Mac overall

NordVPN is one of the heavy-hitters in the VPN market. In our speed tests, NordVPN has consistently proven itself to be one of the fastest VPNs on the market with the most stable connections. Nord’s user interface is crisp and clean, and the product is quick and easy to install, although some other VPN providers offer more stylish UIs.

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.

Recently, NordVPN has expanded the number of simultaneous connections a user can have under one account from six to 10, and its server network has also grown to 111 locations. NordVPN offers many features beyond the basics, including support for P2P sharing and additional encryption through the Double VPN service. 

Review: NordVPN review

NordVPN supports Apple laptops and desktops running MacOS 10.10 or later. Beyond Apple platforms, NordVPN supports Windows, Android, Linux, and more. There are also browser-specific extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge.

Prices start from $3.09 per month on a Standard two-year plan, $4.59/month for a one-year subscription, or up to $15.99/month on an Ultimate one-month subscription. At the time of writing, you will be given three months of free access on one or two-year plans. For most users, it checks all the boxes, with user feedback suggesting NordVPN provides a reliable, speedy service.

NordVPN specifications: Supports macOS and iOS (iPad, iPhone): Yes, iOS 11 or higher, and macOS 10.10 or higher | Apple App Store rating: 4.7 | Simultaneous connections: 10 | Kill switch: Yes | Logging: Email address and billing information only | Money-back guarantee: 30 days | Countries: 111

Nord VPN Web

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Surfshark VPN

Best value Mac VPN

Surfshark VPN is on our list of best VPNs for good reason. In terms of speeds and connection times, it can be a tad slower than other VPNs, but that’s a small price to pay for a service you can have for an average of $2.19/month.

Surfshark is the best option if you want a cheap Mac VPN that will keep your data secure and that will hide your online activities. As a bonus, this VPN is very easy to use, making it a great solution for those who are new to VPN services.

Surfshark provides 3,200 servers in 100 countries with unlimited connections. The VPN also offers MultiHop, a feature that creates a more secure connection by routing you through two VPN tunnels, ad-blocking, anti-tracking, and in a recent update, Surkshark now supports Apple TV. Surfshark has a toggle kill switch, and you can choose between a number of protocols. Plus, it has a NoBorders option so you can use the VPN even when there are network restrictions.

Surfshark is one of the most affordable VPNs on the market, with two-year plans starting at $2.19/month, plus three months of free access. Yearly plans offer the same number of free months and begin at $2.99 per month. Monthly signups are expensive, ranging from $15.45 to $17.95. Customers say they like the service and its customer support.

Review: Surfshark VPN review

Surfshark VPN supports MacOS 10.12 or later and iOS 10.3.3 or later.

Surfshark VPN specifications: Supports macOS and iOS (iPad, iPhone): Yes, iOS 10.3.3 or later, and macOS 10.12 or later | Apple App Store rating: 4.8 | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited | Kill switch: Yes | Logging: No | Money-back guarantee: 30 days | Countries: 100

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ExpressVPN

Best Mac VPN for streaming

ExpressVPN shines when it comes to its server network, rapid connections, and speed.

One feature I really like is the network 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. It has servers located in 105 countries, which is more than most VPNs, so you’ll have plenty of options to choose from.

ExpressVPN is a breeze to set up and configure, and I’ve used it, together with NordVPN, in many countries. Choosing different servers and locations is easy, and I’ve also found it to be a great option for accessing streaming services.

It’s one of the most popular VPN providers, offering a wide range of platforms, and it’s a well-regarded, trusted service. Platforms include Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux, and Amazon operating systems. The company recently launched ExpressVPN for Apple TV as well.

ExpressVPN is compatible with MacOS 10.11 or later, and iOS 12 or later (manual configuration available for iOS 11 and below). 

Review: ExpressVPN review

Subscriptions begin at $6.67 per month on a 12-month plan. Alternatively, you can pay $9.99 per month for six months or $12.95/month. If you pick the annual plan, you will be given three months of additional access, for free and cloud backup options, courtesy of Backblaze.

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. Customers say that ExpressVPN is a rapid, reliable service with excellent customer support, but some note the high cost.

ExpressVPN specifications: Supports macOS and iOS (iPad, iPhone): Yes, iOS 12 or higher, and macOS 10.11 or higher | Apple App Store rating: 4.7 | Simultaneous connections: 8 | Kill switch: Yes | Logging: No browsing logs, some connection logs | Money-back guarantee: 30 days | Countries: 94

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Proton VPN

Best Mac VPN for security

Proton is a Swiss company dedicated to security and an offering from the same minds behind encrypted email service Proton Mail. 

Proton VPN has a range of security options and utilizes strong protocols for enhanced security. As we’d expect from a security-conscious VPN, Proton VPN provides users with a kill switch, as well as servers in 91 countries, P2P support, Tor over VPN, and obfuscation, among other features.

As a bonus, Proton VPN apps are open source, which allows anyone to examine its code. The company reports that they are independently audited and has a no-logs policy. 

Review: Proton VPN review

The best deal is $4.49 per month on a two-year plan. Alternatively, Proton VPN’s plans include 12 months for $4.99/month, or one month of access will cost you $9.99. 

The company offers a generous free VPN option supported by paying subscribers rather than your data. This option allows one connection at medium speed and without bandwidth limits. However, server options are limited. Customers say they like the security and ease of use of this VPN, but some report billing problems. 

Proton VPN specifications: Supports macOS and iOS (iPad, iPhone): Yes, 10.12 or higher | Apple App Store rating: 4.6 | Simultaneous connections: 10 | Kill switch: Yes | Logging: No-logs policy | Money-back guarantee: 30 days | Countries: 91

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Private Internet Access

Best Mac VPN for unlimited connections

Private Internet Access doesn’t have the most attractive user interface, but it is easy to understand and server selection — of which you can choose from 91 locations — is up there with the top VPN networks available. 

There is a no-logs policy and as a bonus, PIA supports WireGuard and is open source. Overall, PIA is a VPN that just works with no fuss, but if you want to, you can dive into a vast array of configuration options and settings to customize your VPN experience. 

This VPN should be considered if you want a long-term VPN solution. Unusually, PIA offers a three-year contract for a competitive price, coming in at the equivalent of $2.03/month. As a bonus, you will receive three months of free access on sign-up. Alternatively, a yearly plan is priced at $3.33/month. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available. 

Customers say they generally like the service and its connectivity, but some note issues with customer service.

Private Internet Access VPN features: Supports macOS and iOS (iPad, iPhone): Yes, 11 or higher | Apple App Store rating: 4.7 | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited | Kill switch: Yes | Logging: No-logs policy | Money-back guarantee: 30 days | Countries: 91

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Best VPN for Mac

Price

Kill Switch

Apple App store rating

Simultaneous connections

NordVPN

$3.09+/month + 3 free months

Yes

4.7

10

Surfshark VPN

$2.19/month w/2-year plan + 3 free months

Yes

4.8 

Unlimited

ExpressVPN

$6.67/month w/1-year plan + 3 free months

Yes

4.7

8

Proton VPN

$4.49/month w/1-year plan

Yes

4.6

10

Private Internet Access

$2.03/month w/3-year plan + 3 free months

Yes

4.7

Unlimited

Note: The information presented in this table is accurate as of our last publish date, and prices, ratings, and other details may have changed since then.

Our laptops, together with our mobile phones, are now lifelines to day-to-day services, entertainment, communication, and work. 

With the right VPN, you can browse the internet anonymously, access geo-restricted content, and avoid being tracked by advertisers, hackers, and government surveillance. Furthermore, if you are on a remote or hybrid schedule, employers may require you to use a VPN (or set up one based on their own preferred service).

See also: What is a VPN and why do you need one?

A Mac VPN service is a virtual private network service that encrypts your internet traffic, hides your IP address, and provides you with an anonymous and secure connection while you’re online. 

While Apple is well-known for locking down its ecosystem and being less susceptible to malware and cyberthreats than Windows and other operating systems, the OS alone can’t stop you from being monitored online — and so you should consider investing in a service that does.

Enabling split tunneling features allows you to route some traffic through a protected, encrypted VPN tunnel, while also allowing other traffic to bypass a VPN and be directly sent to a destination.

Split tunneling is a common feature of VPNs, but regarding the Apple ecosystem, there is a problem: it seldom works well or is a priority investment for VPN developers. Changes to libraries by Apple can also be a challenge to develop Mac-friendly split tunneling. 

While there are workarounds, it seldom works. However, some VPN provides, such as PIA, are attempting to solve the problem.

How to set up a VPN on Mac

vpn mac
Charlie Osborne/ZDNET

When you’re ready to try out a new VPN on your Mac, first, you will need to download the VPN service you want from Apple’s App Store. 

When you have downloaded your software, run through the installer. For this example, I am installing ExpressVPN on a MacBook Pro. You may need to provide permission for the installation software to finish.

express vpn installer
Charlie Osborne/ZDNET

And that’s it! You will then have to sign in using your VPN account credentials or through a device authorization code. Your VPN will now be active and you can select the country server you want, change any further settings, and more.

expressvpn
Charlie Osborne/ZDNET

Many providers recommended in this list have been subject to in-depth testing and reviews by members of our ZDNET team. We’ve been talking about other VPNs for years, spoken with their management and their users, and developed a generally favorable impression.

ZDNET does test VPN services from multiple locations, but we can’t test from all locations. Every home, every community, every local ISP, and every nation has a different infrastructure. 

We analyzed the best VPNs for Mac below using the following criteria that were most important in helping you make an informed decision:

  • Performance: Our top VPNs must have a minimum level of performance. After all, there’s no point in using a VPN while streaming if your connection continually drops or lags, making it intolerable.
  • Simultaneous connections: Many VPNs limit how many devices you can connect to a service at the same time. If you have a phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, and possibly even a smart TV you want to connect to a VPN, you’d need a service that allows at least five or six simultaneous connections.
  • Security: There’s no point using a VPN unless their security protocols and encryption levels are up to scratch. We also ensured the development team behind each recommended VPN cared about making security improvements over time and patching reported bugs.
  • Kill switch: A kill switch prevents you from having an unprotected connection. It is an important feature for a VPN to have, as it protects by preventing a return to a default Wi-Fi connection should your internet connection unexpectedly drop.
  • Geoblocks and streaming: We know VPNs can be key to accessing local content and services while you’re away from home. We ensured that our top recommendations performed well in these factors and are unlikely to slow down your connection while you are streaming. 
  • Platforms: What systems and devices can you run the VPN on? Our VPN recommendations, naturally, have to offer easy-to-use and intuitive mobile apps. 
  • Countries & servers: In how many different countries does the VPN have servers? This can include physical and virtual servers and whether or not there are enough — at least 50 or so — to provide variety.
  • Trial length & price: Each VPN we recommend has a solid money-back guarantee and many will offer mobile users a seven-day trial. 

For a more extensive breakdown, check out our comprehensive VPN testing methodology page.

Choose this VPN…

If you want…

NordVPN

The best Mac VPN overall. NordVPN provides the best mix of features, value, and performance, with recent upgrades boosting country availability and device connections.

Surfshark VPN

To save money. Surfshark is an extremely affordable VPN service with reasonable speeds, and as a bonus, it is beginner-friendly.

ExpressVPN

The most server locations and options for streaming. ExpressVPN’s network is expansive and I have found it works with many streaming services.

Proton VPN

A security-first VPN. Proton VPN provides a vast array of security features including encryption, strong protocols, Tor over VPN, and obfuscation.

Private Internet Access

Unlimited connections. PIA provides a speedy service with strong connectivity – and you can use as many devices under one account as you wish. 

When you are selecting your new Mac VPN, you need to consider the following factors:

  • Cost: You need to consider the overall cost of your new VPN plan. Try to take advantage of promotions, but ignore countdown timers — they typically are just marketing tools. While top-notch VPNs can cost upwards of $10/month, many are available for only a few dollars. Many VPN providers will also give users a free seven-day iPhone or iPad trial. We generally recommend that free VPNs are avoided — with a few exceptions — as they may sell your data or bombard you with adverts.
  • Simultaneous connections: If you’re paying for a VPN suitable for your Mac, you might still want to use it across multiple devices, such as on an iPhone. We recommend you sign up for a plan with support for at least six devices. Thankfully, many paid VPN plans now offer unlimited connections. 
  • Streaming: If you intend to use your Mac VPN for streaming content, make sure that the VPN is able to accommodate your favorite services. It can be a cat-and-mouse game — especially if you’re away from home — so it is worth researching whether or not your VPN has issues with accessing specific streaming services.
  • Contract length: You also need to decide how long you want a VPN for. If you opt for a two-year term you tend to secure the best prices, but there are other options available. After you’ve made a selection, you typically have a 30-day money-back guarantee. 
  • Apps and extensions: When selecting a VPN, you might want to try out its accompanying mobile apps and extensions to ensure you’re getting the most out of your subscription. Some VPNs, for example, have great desktop software but lack in the mobile app department, which may not be as intuitive or easy to use. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Apple Macs do not have built-in VPNs, but the operating system does support the use of one through the use of various protocols. It does, however, offer users Apple Private Relay.

Functionally, Apple Private Relay does act in a similar fashion to a VPN. As explained by Apple:

“When iCloud Private Relay is on, the traffic leaving your iPhone is encrypted and sent through two separate internet relays. This prevents websites from seeing your IP address and exact location while preventing network providers from collecting your browsing activity in Safari.”

However, Apple Private Relay is limited to the Safari browser only and is not available in all countries or regions. It will mask your IP address, though.

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 including the iPhone and iPad. This is why our best VPNs for iPhone and iPad list is similar to our best Mac VPNs list. At the moment, we consider NordVPN to be the top choice.

If you want a VPN for Apple mobile devices and desktops or laptops, then the services we’ve highlighted here should meet your needs, considering they belong to the same developer’s ecosystems.

There are a number of free VPNs which are compatible with Apple devices, but if you opt for free options there are limits you need to be aware of. 

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 adverts, 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 limited so the service becomes impractical for real-world use on a daily basis. Many of these free VPNs have data and speed restrictions. 

If you find these limits acceptable, we recommend trying out Proton VPN’s free plan, or alternatively, check out Windscribe.

To check if your VPN is safe and working properly, first of all, choose a reputable vendor known to have a strong security background. 

The easiest way to check that your VPN is working properly is to compare your IP address before and after enabling a VPN connection. You can find this easily by visiting whatismyipaddress.com. If they both display the same IP, your VPN may not be working properly. 

You can also visit dnsleaktest.com to see if any DNS leaks have been detected while you are using a VPN, which could be a sign that your information is being leaked. 

Finally, be careful with free VPNs being offered by unknown or shady companies, especially if they are outside of the official App Store. Apple is known for its stringent controls on third-party apps and its ecosystem tends to be more secure than Windows, for example, but executing unknown software could still open your device up to surveillance or malware. 

Mac VPN services are legal in the United States, but the legality of using VPNs varies from country to country. It is important to check the laws of your location before using a VPN. Some countries ban their use outright, such as North Korea, Belarus, and Iraq, whereas other countries frown upon the use of any VPN that is not state-controlled — including Russia and China.

For a list of countries where VPN usage is illegal, check out NordVPN’s guide. 

If you’ve investigated or 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. Our other recommendations are listed below.

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