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The best Mac VPN 2021

best mac vpn
(Image credit: Future)

When comparing Mac with Windows, one of the ways Apple devices seem to trump the latter is their seemingly more secure infrastructure. That said, there's still ample reason you'll want to get yourself a VPN installed on your Mac computer. From encrypting your data when on a public network, to streaming otherwise geo-restricted content, we've got the best Mac VPN recommendations for your MacBook or iMac.

A Mac VPNs geo-spoofing qualities can seriously alter your online experience. As well as adding that extra layer of security, one can be used to avoid your Internet Service Provider (ISP) throttling your bandwidth. Whether you're abroad or facing website blocks from your school, office, or government, a Mac VPN is also the perfect workaround for unblocking content, too, meaning you don't have to miss out on your favorite shows while abroad.

And - because we know user experience and aesthetic is important to Apple users - each of the VPN from our curated list of top Mac VPN recommendations offers a sleek and intuitive interface that works smoothly on any Mac computer.

With five of the very best Mac VPN below, keep reading to find the one for you.

How to choose your Mac VPN

Any VPN for Mac worth its salt (which includes all those listed below) will already be designed to function perfectly on Apple's macOS. But you'll want to make sure that your provider of choice benefits from powerful security tools and a clear no-logging policy to ensure your online anonymity.

Good performance levels obviously don’t hurt, either, especially if your priority is to use your Mac VPN for streaming and torrenting. And if it is all about watching content, then make sure your chosen provider has a strong reputation for unblocking the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and other popular streaming services.

If you're Apple through and through, check that you're also choosing a Mac VPN that also has a brilliant iPhone app. And if you have a lot of devices to cover with your new software, consider opting for a service that allows plenty of simultaneous connections from a single subscription - that way you can hand them out to family members, too.

Today's top 3 Mac VPNs:

1. ExpressVPN - best Mac VPN in the world

1. ExpressVPN - best Mac VPN in the world
Much like on Windows, Android, iOS and more, ExpressVPN tops our Mac VPN list. The interface is second-to-none - it's really easy to connect to your chosen server on MacBooks. Try it risk-free for 30 days and get 3 months free and unlimited secure cloud backup - for TechRadar readers!

2. NordVPN - straightforward and secure

2. NordVPN - straightforward and secure
It's no surprise that one of the biggest names in the world of Mac VPNs is also among our favorites. It scores especially high for security, with 'Double VPN' encryption and a thorough no logging policy audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

3. Surfshark

3. Surfshark - a Mac VPN at a great price
Surfshark might not quite match Nord and Express on sheer quality, but it boasts a way better price tag. You can get it for an effective monthly cost of under $2.50 USD and, like the two above, is great at unblocking overseas Netflix catalogs and other streaming services.

The five best Mac VPN for 2021

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

1. ExpressVPN

Best all-round VPN for Mac

Dedicated Mac client: Yes | iOS app rating: 4.6 | Also available for: Windows, Android, Linux | Maximum connections: 5 | 24/7 support: Yes | Free trial?: 30-day money back guarantee

Easy to use Mac app
Super fast speeds
Fantastic Mac-dedicated 24/7 support
Free year of cloud backup
Not the cheapest provider

Get 3 months free with an annual plan on Techradar's #1 rated Mac VPN

ExpressVPN is our top choice for the best all-round VPN on Mac (and iPhone VPN). The firm's dedicated app is intuitive and very user-friendly, featuring a one-click option for connecting, as well as some advanced options.

TechRadar Editor's Choice badge

There’s also a very good iOS app and Safari browser extension, so you get a complete Mac VPN experience. That goes equally for US-based users and those around the world, with the ExpressVPN Mac app supporting multiple languages including German, Spanish, Russian, Japanese and many more.

Express's advanced features (and its in-depth tutorials) are great for Apple users. For instance, if your Mac connects to the internet by a wired connection, you can set it up as a wireless hotspot for your local devices, allowing them to connect via the VPN without having to be set up for ExpressVPN themselves.

In fact, Express rules the roost on our best overall VPN chart as well, and there are plenty of good reasons why. It benefits from fast, stable VPN server connections across 94 countries and unlimited bandwidth. That makes for a solid choice for anyone using the VPN for P2P traffic or unblocking content on streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, BBC iPlayer and more.

And in terms of security, the Mac client comes with a kill switch and split tunnelling functionality, while the company has also now fully rolled out its proprietary Lightway protocol that increases speeds even further.

There's a 30-day money-back guarantee for reassurance. And although the provider is a tad pricier than most other VPNs,  it is a fabulous fit for those who want the best experience for Mac. And now that it throws in a whole year of unlimited secure cloud backup from Backblaze (worth around $60), the value just got much, much better.

Get the best Mac VPN 2021: get 3 months extra free

Get the best Mac VPN 2021: get 3 months extra free
We've already waxed lyrical about the quality of ExpressVPN. If you're convinced it's the Mac VPN for you, then you'll get 3 months extra free with an annual plan. TechRadar readers get an extra little perk when you sign up, too - a whole year of unlimited Backblaze secure cloud backup.

(Image credit: NordVPN)

2. NordVPN

Straightforward and secure Mac VPN

Dedicated Mac client: Yes | iOS app rating: 4.6 | Also available for: Windows, Android, Linux | Maximum connections: 6 | 24/7 support: Yes | Free trial?: 30-day money back guarantee

Double data encryption
Good performance
Loads of servers
iPhone app could be easier to use

When it comes to security, NordVPN does it like no other. Its own ‘Double VPN’ technology encrypts data twice – in other words, it passes your data through two separate VPN servers to make things even more secure – while there are additional security extras such as encrypted chat, web proxy extensions and so on. So if online security is top of your wish list when it comes to your Mac VPN, then Nord is equal to the challenge.

If the main VPN use you have planned is streaming, then NordVPN is a terrific companion for that, too. Like many it has struggled to snapback against Netflix's crackdown on VPN, you'll be able to access UK Netflix, as well as BBC iPlayer, Disney+ and YouTube restrictions.

This provider is P2P-friendly and has a strict ‘zero logs’ policy that's actually audited annually by PricewaterhouseCoopers, (good to know if you're after a VPN for torrenting). And performance was way above average in our testing, especially when using the provider's own NordLynx protocol.

On the topic of protocols, NordVPN gives Mac users more choice than the average provider, with IVEv2 and OpenVPN both available to choose from. And that's not all - you can also manually set up to use OpenVPN without installing either of the clients.

There's a free 30-day money back guarantee, and otherwise NordVPN is one of the most affordable VPNs for Mac.


Surfshark Mac VPN

(Image credit: Surfshark)

3. Surfshark

One of the most affordable Mac VPNs

Dedicated Mac client: Yes | iOS app rating: 4.4 | Also available for: Windows, Android, Linux | Maximum connections: Unlimited | 24/7 support: Yes | Free trial?: 30-day money back guarantee

Such good prices
Covers as many Macs (and more) as you like
Easy to set up and use
May be too basic for power users

The list of reasons to download Surfshark are numerous. With recent upgrades to meet Apple M1 compatibility, Surfshark also servers Mac users with its specific Mac free trial, fast connections the world over, beautifully straightforward-to-use interface, Netflix and iPlayer unblocking, and all that in a product that tops our list of the best cheap VPNs.

If the main reason for grabbing a Mac VPN is for the extra layer of security, then Surfshark offers OpenVPN and a number of other protocols for you to choose from - including the super speedy WireGuard. AES-256 encryption is in place to ensure that nobody will be able to discover what sites you've been using, and a ready and waiting kill switch in case your connection drops while using public Wi-Fi on your Macbook. You can even pay for your Surfshark subscription using Bitcoin if you were so inclined.

If your priority is more about getting a VPN for streaming however, then you'll be interested in its power to let you watch your Netflix or iPlayer catalogues from wherever on Earth you happen to be. While Surfshark has been excellent in the past, in Netflix's recent tirade against VPN users, we've only been able to access US Netflix with middling success streaming Canadian and Australian Netflix libraries.

But let's face it, the main reason most Mac users will have their head turned by Surfshark is that pricing. And making it even better value, it's great to know that a single subscription covers unlimited devices. So that's Mac, Windows, Android, iOS, Linux, Amazon Fire Stick and many more.


Private Internet Access on a Mac

(Image credit: Private Internet Access)

4. Private Internet Access

A strong all-round VPN with a ridiculous number of servers

Dedicated Mac client: Yes | iOS app rating: 4.7 | Also available for: Windows, Android, Linux | Maximum connections: 10 | 24/7 support: Yes | Free trial?: 30-day money back guarantee

Brilliant across clients
Nice pricing
Excellent App Store score for iOS
Some inconsistent server speeds
Would like to see an audit

Private Internet Access (or PIA for short) is another excellent choice if you're looking for a Mac VPN that combines high quality with rock-bottom pricing.

But why would you choose PIA over some of the other contenders in this best Mac VPN list? It has more servers, for starters. Loads more. While it no longer discloses its number of servers, it's no less than 10,000 and could be as many as 30,000+, which is an astonishing number when compared to the 5,000+ of NordVPN and 3,000+ of ExpressVPN.

One thing that sticks out is how well-liked it seems to be with its users, too. For example, its iOS app has a better rating than any of the services above on the App Store. And it's not greatly surprising - it's clear that the PIA engineers have worked hard to create a fantastic desktop client, and then replicate that across mobiles apps, too.

If you want to do more with your Mac VPN than the usual, Private Internet Access runs deep with features, such as built-in ad blocking, a reliable kill switch, port forwarding that comes in handy for torrenters and freedom to choose from different encryption types. And in addition to some super cheap multi-year pricing, it's also known to throw in extra months free as well as a bonus subscription to BoxCryptor security for cloud sharing platforms like OneDrive, Dropbox and Google Drive.

If there's one thing we'd like to see improve when we next test the PIA VPN on Mac, it's some more consistent server speeds. We found that they could drop quite low, especially where WireGuard was concerned - rather defeating the object of the supposedly faster protocol.


(Image credit: Future)

5. CyberGhost

A good looking, fast Mac VPN

Dedicated Mac client: Yes | iOS app rating: 4.2 | Also available for: Windows, Android, Linux | Maximum connections: 7 | 24/7 support: Yes | Free trial?: 45-day money back guarantee

Loads of features
Fast performance
Intuitive, clean interface
No security audit
Support website could  be better

If you're after a Mac VPN that offers a clean and intuitive interface that beautifully assimilates onto macOS, CyberGhost may just be it. Better still, behind the scenes it offers excellent functionality, too. 

Offering a wealth of great features, CyberGhost is also a speedy service with some performance results that rival those appearing at the top of our lists. With figures hitting 760-860Mbps, that's not far off the likes of NordVPN at 760-880Mbps and IPVanish taking the top spot at 750-900Mbps. Considering Mac users will be used to the seamless and rapid performance of Apple's laptops and desktop computers, this is welcome in any kind of software installed on the device.

What's more, it's a great indicator for those looking to carry out any heavy duty tasks online, from streaming to gaming and the like. Registering speeds like this leaves little doubt in our minds you'll avoid any delay while connected to one of CyberGhost's 7,000+ servers. 

Ideal as it remains to be a good choice if you're looking to unblock any of the key streaming platforms. With CyberGhost you'll be able to bypass any geo-restrictions and watch US Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, and BBC iPlayer.

It's important to note its areas for improvement, including a better support site and ensuring it carries out a full security audit for better peace of mind. For anyone after Netflix libraries outside of US, CyberGhost doesn't manage it, but that isn't uncommon for most VPN services since Netflix's big crackdown on the use of VPN.


Mac VPN: FAQ

What is the best Mac VPN in 2021?

At the top of our best Mac VPN list comes ExpressVPN, TechRadar's only 5-star VPN you can sign up for.

It scores so highly thanks to its amazing simplicity to use (whether that be on Mac, Windows, iPhone or, basically, any other platform), strong security smarts, speedy and reliable server connections, and prowess when it comes to unlocking streaming services. Its genuinely useful 24/7 customer support is a massive boon, too.

And if you love a freebie, ExpressVPN has one of those, too! Sign up for an annual plan and it will throw in a whole year of secure cloud storage from the well-regarded Backblaze.

Do you need a VPN for Mac?

We all know the old adage by now...Macs are much safer than Windows computers, right? And while that remains true, it still pays to have that extra layer of security and anonymity that VPNs give you above and beyond Mac antivirus.

And of course, if you're more interested in the other functions of virtual private networks, such as streaming foreign TV streaming service catalogues and unblocking restricted sites in your office or other countries (you might be surprised just how useful a VPN for China is), then you will indeed need a VPN - or virtual private network - for your Mac to do that.

Macbook computers, note book, pencil, magic mouse, iPhone, dry flowers and cactus vase on wooden table

(Image credit: Krisda / Shutterstock.)

How does a Mac VPN work?

That's a big question with a fairly complex answer - and we go in to it in some depth in our dedicated article on how VPNs work. But, put simply, when your VPN is turned on, all of the information you send and receive from and to your computer or mobile is channelled through an encrypted tunnel. That means even if any prying managed to hack you, they still wouldn't be able to turn the data into comprehensive information.

Do Macs have built in VPN?

Kind of. Macs do indeed have the L2TP/IPSec and IKEv2 VPN protocols built-in that you can turn on any time for extra protection on your Mac. To turn it on, you need to head to your Network settings and choose to add a VPN using one of those protocols.

Of course, that won't help with the other VPN uses we've outlined on this page (geo-spoofing, streaming content from other countries, etc), but is handy to know if you're particularly conscious of your Mac's privacy.

What's the best free option when it comes to Mac VPNs?

If you've decided that you like the look at what VPNs can do for your Macbook but just can't bear to part with your cash, then we'd recommend going for ProtonVPN. Unlike most of its cost-free competitors, Proton doesn't slap on any data use restrictions, and it still offers servers in the US, Netherlands and Japan. It's the #1 choice in our free VPN countdown.

But we would suggest exercising just a little bit of caution when it comes to downloading a free Mac VPN. Most other providers out there limit how much you can use them each day. That's fine if you're just looking for some extra security when you log on to public Wi-Fi at the cafe or airport, but certainly won't be sufficient if you're looking for a VPN for Fire TV Stick, torrenting, streaming or simply having on all the time running in the background.

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Adam is the Editor-in-Chief of Subscriptions and Services at Future, meaning that he oversees many of the articles TechRadar produces about antivirus software, VPNs, TV streaming, broadband and mobile phone contracts - from buying guides and deals news, to industry interest pieces and reviews.