Monday, May 20, 2024

Best VPN for Mac: Reviews and buying advice for Mac users

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Image: IDG

If you are concerned about your privacy and security online using a VPN could give you some reassurance. Apple provides various measures in macOS that make Macs more secure, but if you want to ensure that the connection between your Mac and the internet is protected, rather than the computer itself, you need a VPN.

Using a VPN essentially makes you invisible on the web–your data is encrypted, your IP address is hidden, and you can even make it look like you are surfing from another country. This latter reason is the key motive many people using a VPN have: they want to access services that are locked to a particular region, such as accessing U.S. Netflix from the U.K or BBC iPlayer from the U.S.

While accessing locked content is a bit of a gray area, due to licensing agreements, we don’t blame anyone who is desperate to watch the latest season of their favorite program when it airs in the U.S. rather than waiting for it to come to their country. Paying to watch a streaming service that’s not available in your country has to be less morally wrong than actual piracy! For more information on the legalities and whether it is safe to use a VPN read: Is a VPN safe for Mac?

If you are looking for a VPN to protect your privacy and security online, and to grant you a way to access content as if you are in a different country, we are here to help. There are a lot of VPN providers vying for your business, which can make finding the best one to suit your needs difficult. To help you sort out the right provider for you, we’ve committed to extensive research and testing of VPN services that cater to Mac owners in our guide to the top VPN services for Mac.

Updated: April 2024 to reflect our refreshed reviews of NordVPN and Surfshark.

Our top choice right now is NordVPN, which we feel stands out in many areas, from speed and privacy to unblocking and ease of use.

Get NordVPN here

Do Macs need a VPN?

Before we list our recommendations, there is a big question. Do Mac users even need a VPN? Since Apple introduced iOS 15 and macOS Monterey in 2021 the company has offered a handy private relay service. iCloud Private Relay acts a bit like a VPN because it encrypts your web-browsing traffic and sends it through a relay to hide your location, IP, and any information about what you were browsing. iCloud Private Relay solves part of the problem that Mac users have used VPNs for in the past–it means that companies cannot build a clear picture of you on the web, thereby protecting your privacy.

iCloud Private Relay has some disadvantages: it only works when you are using Safari, you have to be a subscriber to iCloud, and you can’t use it to pretend to be surfing from another country in order to access content that is locked to a particular region. Read more here: iCloud+ Private Relay explained.

If you are a subscriber to iCloud, and only use Safari, then iCloud Private Relay will provide you with some anonymity when you are surfing the web. You may therefore be thinking that this means you don’t need a VPN to hide your location and identity. However, iCloud Private Relay does not allow you to choose an IP address or a region, and you won’t be able to make it look like you’re coming from another location. So you can’t watch geographically locked Netflix content, for example.

Our current favorite service is NordVPN. But below you will find the top VPN services for Mac.

Most features: NordVPN

Best all-rounder: Surfshark

Most servers: Private Internet Access

Best premium: ExpressVPN

Most countries: PureVPN

Most of these will cost less than $5/£5 per month, with some less than $3/£3. However, once your first year is over the price often jumps, so it’s worth setting a reminder to shop around 11 months after you subscribe so you can search for a better deal, alternatively, you could cancel and sign up with another email address.

VPN apps are very easy to install and use but for a step-by-step guide, read how to set up a VPN on a Mac.

All of these VPNs will also work on your iPhone and iPad as well, but you might want to check out our separate guides to the best VPNs for iPhone and best VPNs for iPad.

Best VPNs for Mac: Reviewed & Ranked

1. NordVPN


Easy to use

Impressive WireGuard speeds

Lots of servers


Two separate apps can be confusing

Price When Reviewed:

Basic plan from $3.69 a month for two years + 3 free months. Usually $12.99 a month.

NordVPN is one of the biggest and best-known VPN services. It’s a fully featured VPN option that’s secure, easy to use, and unbelievably fast compared to its competitors. There are cheaper options, with unlimited connections and more in-depth VPN features, but NordVPN is our top choice right now because it stands out in so many areas, from speed and privacy to unblocking and ease of use.

Nord has an up-to-date independent audit. It also has specialty servers for specific purposes.

There are more than 5,300 servers (none of which are virtual) available across 60 countries, which sounds great. You probably only care about the servers where you want to unblock content, but the more servers the better as it means you have a better chance of finding one that’s not overloaded. You won’t have to figure out which one to choose thanks to the handy ‘Quick connect’ feature that picks the server best suited to your needs.

Connections are fast and reliable, and NordVPN unblocks popular streaming services around the world including Netflix and BBC iPlayer. You can connect up to six devices simultaneously including your Apple TV.

Nord has added support for the faster WireGuard protocol in NordLynx, making it one of the fastest VPN services out there. However, it’s only available on the ‘IKE’ version of the app, which only offers a permanently enabled kill switch. To have more control, you’ll need to download the ‘OpenVPN’ version, albeit with slightly slower speeds.

5,300 servers

6 simultaneous connections

24/7 tech support

Kill Switch

Works with Netflix & other streaming services

Nord frequently has deals on offer that save money on the usual monthly price if you take advantage of the two-year plan. NordVPN offers three tiers: Standard, Plus and Ultimate. Monthly plans start at $12.99/£10.39, and you can get Plus features (data breach scanner and password manager) for $13.99/£11.19. Then the $15.99/£13.39 Ultimate tier adds cloud storage and insurance options. The two-year plan brings the basic price to (around) $3.09/£2.49 a month, while the Ultimate plan is (around) $5.99/£5.19. Prices change all the time though, so take a look at the prices and plans at

Read our full

NordVPN for Mac review

2. Surfshark


Fast WireGuard speeds

Unlimited devices and connections

Easy to use


Kill switch can’t be customised

Expensive to renew

Price When Reviewed:

Starter plan from $2.69 a month for two years + 2 free months. Usually $15.45 a month.

Surfshark is a great-value VPN that offers quite a lot features beyond the core VPN service for a low monthly price. SurfShark has more than 3,000 servers spread across 100 countries, making its network one of the widest and most varied of any VPN,

Its apps are easy to use and it reliably unblocks streaming services such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer. It’s missing the specialty servers offered by rivals such as NordVPN, who shares the same parent company, though.

Connection speeds are very impressive, and that’s thanks to the use of the WireGuard protocol. You really won’t notice any slowdown in your internet speed when Surfshark is running, so long as you have WireGuard selected and aren’t using servers the other side of the globe.

The company has upgraded all its servers so they run entirely in RAM, just like NordVPN and ExpressVPN. Running servers on RAM is better for privacy as data isn’t written to a hard drive. It’s also a member of the VPN Trust Initiative, while two-factor authentication (2FA) is a feature few VPN services offer. Being run from the Netherlands also means this is a privacy-friendly option.

The other reason to consider Surfshark is because it undercuts almost all of its rivals on price, yet doesn’t place any limit on the number of devices you can use simultaneously. Unfortunately, it can be pricy to renew once your initial contract runs out.

You can install and use it across many devices including your Mac, PC, Android and iOS devices, as well as browsers. It also supports multiple protocols (although OpenVPN is a little slower than we’d like) and excellent encryption, as well as a privacy-minded no-logs policy that’s regularly audited

There’s a kill switch and a Multi-Hop feature which routes your connection via two VPN servers for an extra layer of protection. However, there’s no GPS spoofing or split tunnelling on the Mac (the latter being very uncommon on Macs anyway). 

3,200+ RAM-based servers (some are virtual)

Multi-Hop connections

Unlimited simultaneous connections

24/7 customer service

Two-factor authentication

SurfShark offers three tiers of features at varying price points. The most basic option, aptly named SurfShark Starter, offers VPN functionality as well as an ad blocker and the option to generate a proxy email address and personal details for sites you don’t feel comfortable about giving your information to. SurfShark One adds email and payment detail breach alerts, as well as personal data security reports, antivirus and other malware protection, while the One+ plan adds data removal from company databases and people search sites. In addition to the VPN there are Alert, Search or Antivirus packages, that are available for an extra cost.

SurfShark offers discounted pricing if you sign up for two years, starting at around $2.39/£1.79 per month (this price changes all the time). Just beware that at the end of the period the price will increase unless you cancel.

Sign up to Surfshark here.

Read our full

Surfshark for Mac review

3. CyberGhost


Impressive WireGuard speeds

Dedicated downloading and streaming servers



No recent audit

Didn’t unblock BBC iPlayer

Price When Reviewed:

From $2.03 a month for two years + 4 free months. Usually $12.99 a month.

CyberGhost is one of the biggest names in the VPN industry. It’s affordable and user-friendly, so is perfect for anyone using a VPN on their Mac for the first time.

Like certain rivals, it is constantly adding new servers and the current tally of over 7,000 in 90 countries means you should always be able to get a fast connection. And in our tests, we’ve always seen great speeds from CyberGhost, especially following the introduction of the WireGuard protocol.

CyberGhost is based in Romania, which is good for privacy. Deloitte has audited CyberGhost’s privacy claims and found no issues.

It was able to unblock every streaming service we tried including Netflix, Disney+, BBC iPlayer and ITV X (another UK-based service). You can use the service on up to seven devices at the same time

It works with phones, tablets, browsers and of course your Mac.

7,000+ servers in 90 countries

7 simultaneous connections

24/7 customer service

Kill switch

There are tempting deals on two- or three-year subscriptions–such as this 3-year deal, which currently gives you three months extra free. It is a capable VPN that represents very good value for money.

Read our full

CyberGhost for Mac review

4. Private Internet Access


Lots of servers

Fast WireGuard speeds

Split tunneling works well

Unblocks BBC iPlayer


Clunky Mac app

Based within 14-eyes

Price When Reviewed:

From $2.03 a month for two years + 4 free months. Usually $11.99 a month.

Private Internet Access (PIA) is a compelling VPN at a relatively affordable price, making it a decent option for the Mac. Since 2019 it’s been owned by the same people as CyberGhost and Express VPN.

It has an incredible 33,665 servers across 73 countries–that’s far higher than almost any consumer VPN service. Many of the servers are in the U.S. but you’ll find all the most popular locations. There are also virtual servers, so for example you can choose a virtual server in India, while an actual server in India would have to log user data.

Earlier in 2023 PIA removed its 10-device limit on subscriptions, meaning that there’s now no limit on the number of devices you can connect. 

Speeds are excellent, thanks to the WireGuard protocol. PIA also benefits from a kill switch, a feature that is sometimes left out of Mac VPN services.

Split tunneling, a feature that allows you to choose which apps are routed outside the VPN tunnel, is available. This is one of the few VPNS that offers this feature for macOS.

It allows you to access international versions of Netflix, as well as BBC iPlayer while outside the U.K. 

The service doesn’t log any of your details or activity, so even though it is based in the U.S., there’s no data to hand over should the authorities order PIA to do so. It now has had a reassuring Deloitte audit, which should make its U.S. location a non-issue.

33,000+ servers (RAM only)

Unlimited connections

24/7 customer service

Kill switch enabled by default

Split Tunneling

PIA for macOS offers a large number of features that are the same as the Windows version, including a kill switch, advanced split tunneling, an ad- and malware blocker, multi-hop, and support for OpenVPN and WireGuard protocols. It’s so often the case that the macOS version of a VPN has fewer features than the Windows version.

However, it’s not perfect. PIA doesn’t support IPv6 connections, which will be frustrating for some, but not a deal-breaker for the great majority of VPN users.

Nonetheless, PIA is a solid VPN service at an affordable price. A  two-year subscription works out at only $2.91/£2.37 per month. You also currently get two months extra for free.

Read our full

Private Internet Access review

5. ExpressVPN


Easy-to-use desktop program

Broad device support

Excellent speeds


ExpressVPN’s team is largely anonymous


Price When Reviewed:

From $6.67 a month for one year + 3 free months. Usually $12.95 a month.

ExpressVPN is one of the most accomplished VPN services you can buy. Everything you’d expect from a modern VPN is here, including an effective kill switch, and impressive device support. There was split tunneling for app-by-app protection, but, as with most VPNs, that hasn’t worked since macOS Big Sur. It is extremely easy to set up, with quick access via the menu bar one of the highlights.

ExpressVPN has often led the way when it comes to security, but other providers are quickly catching up. It’s no longer the only one with RAM-based servers, while solid device and tech support are the norm whichever service you use. The company carried out almost a dozen audits in 2022, covering its apps and privacy policy

The Lightway protocol brings big increases to the speeds ExpressVPN is capable of, but its open-source technology many similar services will be able to make use of it. Many of these are significantly more affordable though, with ExpressVPN being one of the more expensive options here.

5 simultaneous connections

24/7 customer service

Works with Netflix & other streaming services

See ExpressVPN subscription plans here.

Read our full

ExpressVPN review

6. PureVPN


Lots of servers

Impressive security credentials


Kill switch can’t be customised

PureVPN caused many websites to question whether we were “human”

Price When Reviewed:

From $3.74 a month for one year + 4 free months. Usually $12.45 a month. A 5 year deal is available from $1.66 a month.

PureVPN is a service to consider if you need to connect to one or more of the countries which aren’t covered by its rivals.

PureVPN is now registered in the British Virgin Islands, which is much more privacy friendly than Hong Kong, where it operated previously. There are more than 2,000 servers available across 141 countries (the most of all services listed here).

However, some of those are achieved using virtual server locations. Virtual servers are usually rented from a datacentre, which means the VPN company may have less control over them. PureVPN is transparent about which servers are virtual and which are physical – you can see a small ‘v’ next to each virtual server on the PureVPN website. Unfortunately, Mac users do not see this information in the app though, while their PC counterparts to.

Virtual servers will still unblock content as you’d expect. You can also take advantage of the following:

Kill switch in macOS app

140+ countries covered

5 simultaneous connections

24/7 customer service

Works with Netflix & other streaming services

PureVPN used to log session information but these days operates a strict no-logs policy.

Standard monthly pricing isn’t that attractive for any VPN service, but like its rivals PureVPN always offers great deals if you’re happy to sign up for multiple years.

You can find out more in our full PureVPN review, and see PureVPN offers here.

Read our full

PureVPN review

7. ProtonVPN


Easy-to-use software interface

Secure Core helps hide your location

Built-in malware and tracker blocker

One of the fastest we’ve tested on a Mac


More expensive than rivals

Inconsistent speeds

Price When Reviewed:

From $4.49 a month for two years. Usually $9.99 a month.

ProtonVPN is an impressive VPN. It starts with a free tier with very limited features, is easy to understand, offers a collection of interesting features and great speeds.

The free tier has restrictions on the number of servers you can choose, and the speeds on offer though. You just get a choice of three countries (U.S., Netherlands and Japan) and speeds aren’t as good as the paid-for version. The free version may be enough if you just want an extra layer of privacy, for which iCloud Private Relay may be sufficient. If you want more than that, say to unblock Netflix, Disney+, BBC iPlayer and others, you will need to pay for it.

Those who pay for ProtonVPN get access to excellent speeds and can also use ‘Secure Core servers’ which route a connection through multiple servers improving privacy. As well as the standard options for connecting to the fastest server and a random server, you can create your own.

ProtonVPN is based in Switzerland, which has favorable privacy laws. Swiss law doesn’t require the saving of any logs, and won’t force ProtonVPN to spy on any specific users. The results of an independent audit by Securitum have been published online. ProtonVPN uses its own DNS servers to increase privacy. Proton’s also offers anonymous email addresses for signing up privately.

Other extras include NetShield with DNS filtering to offer protection from malware-infested websites, ads and trackers.

1900+ servers in 65+ countries

Use 10 devices at the same time

Includes NetShield malware and tracker blocker

Internet kill switch

One of the fastest VPN we’ve tested on macOS

ProtonVPN is an excellent service with fast speeds, the right privacy promises, a good amount of features including support for streaming services, and fair pricing. It’s well worth a look. Alongside the free tier are Plus (just the VPN) and Unlimited (a bundle that adds email, calendar and 500GB of cloud storage.)

If you aren’t a power user requiring a VPN for privacy and security, there are plenty of VPNs that will do what you need for less though. The high price is a big disadvantage here and the free version is too limited to be useful.

Read our full

ProtonVPN review

8. FastestVPN


Affordable pricing

Good speeds

10 simultaneous connections


Limited compared to the Windows app

Limited VPN protocol options

Price When Reviewed:

Lifetime special deal: $40, usually $600

This easy-to-use, attractive, and uncomplicated app is a great option for VPN newbs. In addition to its straightforward and uncluttered design, FastestVPN also offers good speeds and a sufficiently expansive network. It’s icing on the cake that its privacy policy is easy to understand and makes all the right promises.

In our tests, FastestVPN maintained about 30 percent of the base speed across five locations on multiple test days, although there were some weak spots in Asia and Australia.

Supports 10 simultaneous connections

32 country connections with more than 250 servers

Internet kill switch blocks all online traffic if VPN connection drops

Despite it’s name it’s not the fastest VPN, but FastestVPN does make the right privacy promises in a way that’s easy to understand.

Read our full

FastestVPN review



Fast WireGuard speeds

Dedicated streaming servers

Impressive free tier

Only VPN that offers Split Tunnelling in Big Sur and beyond


Slightly clunky UI

No recent independent audit

Premium plans are expensive

Price When Reviewed:

From $2.69 a month for two years + 2 free months. Usually $9.95 a month. is another VPN service that has improved considerably in recent years.

As well as offering a completely free version (which none of its rivals here do), it has also added WireGuard, which is considerably faster than other encryption protocols.

Other key features include a customizable kill switch and split tunneling. is the only VPN to offer Split Tunnelling in macOS. They state on their website: “ VPN for macOS supports split tunneling. You can configure it in the client’s settings.” also offers Stealth Guard, which stops selected apps from running without the security of a VPN connection.

It can unblock Netflix and allows you to access BBC iPlayer from outside the UK. There’s also solid device support, with up to 10 simultaneous connections permitted.

1900+ servers in 47 countries

Kill switch

Split tunneling

24/7 live chat

10 simultaneous connections

Free version

Malaysia-based, in recent years it has expanded the number of servers and doubled the number of countries it covers. Unfortunately the third-party audit hasn’t been updated since 2015

However, the user interface on Mac is a bit clunky, and we’re still waiting for an update to the 2015 no-logs policy certification.

Read our full VPN review

10. VyprVPN


Fast WireGuard speeds

Very easy to use

Unblocks Netflix and BBC iPlayer

Low starting price


Comparatively few servers

Not clear which servers are virtual

Patchy support experience

Price When Reviewed:

From $3 a month for two years. Usually $10 a month.

VyprVPN offers everything most people are looking for in a VPN, without needing to spend much money.

You get fast WireGuard speeds, alongside separate protocols focused on reliability, anti-censorship and ease of use. It’s also excellent at unblocking geo-restricted content, whether that’s local versions of Netflix or BBC iPlayer & ITV Hub from outside the UK. Premium features such as split tunneling and a kill switch are here too, even if the latter can’t be customised. 

VyprVPN’s no-logs policy has been independently audited, and the service adheres to a strict Privacy Policy from parent company Golden Frog. More than 700 servers in over 70 countries should be plenty for most people, although there’s often only one per country. It’s also not clear which of these are physical and virtual.

Kill switch and split tunneling

WireGuard protocol means fast speeds

30 simultaneous connections

Works with Netflix & other streaming services

Nonetheless, it’s still speedy, reliable and affordable – especially if you don’t mind subscribing for three years. That 36-month plan will set you back just $1.81/ £1.36 per month, representing excellent value for money.

See full VyprVPN pricing here

Read our full

VyprVPN review

11. Malwarebytes Privacy VPN (Mac)


Easy to use and understand

Supports WireGuard protocol

Clear privacy policy


Not a lot of features

Other VPNs have more anonymity features

Price When Reviewed:

$3.33 a month for 1 device ($39.99 a year)

Malwarebytes, probably best known for antivirus software and advice, also offers a standalone VPN service called Malwarebytes Privacy. It’s an easy to use app with the right kind of privacy promises – as you’d expect from a respected name in security based in the U.S.

Offers 32 country locations

More than 245 servers

In our tests Malwarebytes was a mid-tier performer in terms of speeds, but it should be good enough for most casual users.

Malwarebytes Privacy VPN does a good job and, starting at $3.33/£2.50 a month for one device, the price is right.

Read our full

Malwarebytes Privacy VPN (Mac) review

12. Ivacy


Decent speeds

Unblocks iPlayer, ITV Hub and more

Good range of customer support


Only IPSec protocol on Mac

No kill switch on Mac

No independent audit

Price When Reviewed:

From $1.50 a month for 2 years + 6 months. Usually $9.95 a month.

Ivacy doesn’t have as many servers as some of the options here, but it is a well-established VPN service which offers apps for macOS, iOS alongside other devices you may own. Its network isn’t the largest, but still offers servers in all the countries you are likely to want to pretend to be located in.

WireGuard support is apparently coming, but for now the best speeds are via OpenVPN. It is headquartered in Singapore and hasn’t had its privacy policy independently audited.

Over 3,500 servers in over 100 countries

5 simultaneous connections

Unblocks local versions of Netflix and BBC iPlayer

Speeds are decent, and support is responsive via 24/7 live chat. And with amazingly low prices, it’s a solid choice. However, the Mac app is a pale imitation of the Windows version, with only one protocol available on Mac, plus you miss out on split tunneling and a kill switch.

Read our full

Ivacy review


Unblocks Netflix u0026amp; iPlayer

Excellent privacy credentials


Requires VPN support from your device

Not the most user friendly

Only 1 connection at a time

Price When Reviewed:

From $4.99 a month for one year. Usually $5.99 a month.

Hidden24 is designed from the ground up to offer the ultimate in privacy.

There are seven server locations to choose from: U.S., U.K., Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Sweden. Those servers run custom code, unlike most VPN servers which use open source software on top of Linux. Not even Hidden24’s staff can access those servers. Hidden24 also logs nothing. This is all great for privacy, one drawback is that you’re restricted to using just one device at a time. To get around that you could configure a compatible router with Hidden24 and connect all your devices to that router.

In our tests Hidden24 reliably unblocked Netflix, iPlayer and other streaming services which are available in the seven countries it supports.

7 servers in 7 countries

1 simultaneous connection

Unblocked Netflix, iPlayer and more

It’s a good cheap option if your priority is privacy over other features.

Best Free VPNs for Mac

There are also a number of free VPNs available, but beware that some severely restrict which servers (and therefore countries) you can connect to and the amount of data you can download through those servers. You may be able to save money if you take a look at our round-up of VPN deals.

It’s also important to read the terms and conditions before using a free VPN, as in rare cases they sell your data to third parties to offset the cost of you using it without paying. It’s a bigger problem on iPhones and Android where unscrupulous companies try to cash in on the VPN ‘gold rush’ and offer up poorly put together apps. Stick with our recommendations and you’ll be safe from these, though.

How we tested VPNs

For each VPN service we review, we conduct tests at three different times of the day: morning, afternoon, and evening, using Ookla Speedtest. We start by measuring the speed of our unprotected internet connection before testing the upload/download speeds of the VPN service. These tests are conducted to servers located in North America, the UK, Europe, Oceana, and Asia over an ethernet connection with a service provision of 100Mbps.

Ookla Speedtest

Ookla Speedtest

Ookla Speedtest

To test upload and download speeds, we close down all background internet processes on the Mac, using TripMode. The only traffic on the system able to upload or download any data is Ookla. We use this setup to ensure that the numbers that Ookla produced were not stymied by anything else that the computer may have been doing at the time. The speeds Ookla captured were then averaged, providing us with a final numeric score.

We then use those scores to calculate a percentage of difference in speeds, which is what you’ll see in our reviews. Since internet speeds change constantly based on server load, how fast your connection is, and a gazillion other factors, we feel this provides a better picture of what you can expect from a service, on the whole, than merely quoting the exact upload/download speeds we encountered during testing.

Speed isn’t the only quantifiable metric that we look at. The number of countries that a VPN offers servers in, total number of servers worldwide, and how much it’ll cost you to connect to those servers on a monthly or annual basis are also taken into consideration when recommending a VPN service to you.

Additionally, we conduct hours of research into the VPN providers to find out who owns them, where they’re based, what they do with subscriber information, and whether the provider has a track record of questionable business practices.

What’s a VPN?

VPN stands for virtual private network. If you’re not using a VPN, when your computer connects to the internet, it does so through the local gateway provided by your internet service provider (ISP). Doing this allows you to connect to all of the online services you use everyday.

However, connecting this way also allows an ISP to know your physical location based on where you access the internet—be it at home, at work, in a cafe, or at a public Wi-Fi hotspot. This information is often sold to marketers and other parties interested in getting to know more about you and your browsing habits.

Worse still, if you connect to the internet through an access point with weak security, such as at an airport, mall, or local library, hackers connected to the same network could intercept personal information like your social media passwords or banking credentials through what’s called a man-in-the-middle attack. A VPN service can help prevent all of that.

A good VPN should allow for server connections around the globe.

A good VPN should allow for server connections around the globe.

A good VPN should allow for server connections around the globe.

A VPN creates an encrypted digital tunnel between your computer and the server of the VPN service you choose to use. Once this tunnel has been established, your web searches, the sites you access, and the information you submit online will be hidden from prying eyes. This means that your ISP can’t log or sell your information and hackers using the same network as you will find it difficult to initiate an attack on you. Almost no one will have any idea of what information you’re accessing.

What a VPN can’t do

A VPN can’t protect you from viruses, malware, or ransomware attacks if you choose to download an infected file, or a visit site designed to inject your computer with malignant code. It won’t keep spoofed sites from stealing your personal information, if you happen to visit one. So, you’ll want to bone up on online security best practices.

You should know that while using a VPN will allow you to anonymously engage in peer-to-peer file-sharing/torrenting, some service providers may cancel your VPN subscription or turn over your information to the authorities if they catch you trading copyrighted material with others.

Issues with VPNs on Mac

One feature of VPNs is the ability to use Split Tunnelling to choose which apps go via a VPN and which don’t. However recent versions of macOS and the M-series Macs generally do not support this feature. Only (reviewed below) supports Split Tunnelling on new versions of macOS and the M-series Macs.

What to look for in a VPN

A clear privacy policy. A good VPN should offer an easy-to-understand privacy policy that outlines what, if any, information the company collects from its users. It’s important that this policy details what they do with this information. Some VPN providers, especially those that offer their services for free, sell their user information to advertisers and other interested parties, just like an ISP does. Choose a provider that offers a level of privacy that suits you.

Know where the provider is based. Many countries have no laws demanding that VPN providers maintain logs of their users’ activity. This makes maintaining your privacy more assurable than it would be if you use a VPN located in a country that requires that user-activity records be maintained. Some companies, in an effort to make their network of servers look bigger or more varied than it actually is, spoof the locations of their servers.

The more servers, the merrier. Choosing a VPN provider with a ton of servers around the world is important for a couple of reasons. First, having a multitude of servers to choose from means that you won’t be forced to connect to an overpopulated server where the data flows like mud.

Second, having a wealth of servers to choose from both at home and internationally means more opportunities for spoofing your location, allowing you to hide where you are or access region-locked content with ease.

Multiple payment options. It’s a vicious circle. Paying for a VPN with a credit card online before you have access to a VPN could allow your financial information to fall into the wrong hands. Look for providers that offer alternative payment options such as PayPal, Bitcoin, AliPay, or via the Mac App Store.

An easy-to-use interface. It takes a lot of digital wizardry to connect to a VPN. Some people want to see how their VPN operates, behind the scenes. Using an open source VPN client like Tunnelblick is great for this. Most folks, however, just want their VPN to work with minimal frustration. Look for a VPN service that offers a Mac client with an easy-to-use interface.

Protection for all of your devices. A good VPN service will offer licenses for multiple devices to protect your loved ones’ computers as well as your personal smartphone and tablet. To this end, before investing in a VPN subscription, make sure that it provides software clients for all of the devices you own.

Author: Karen Haslam, Editor

Macworld editor since 2008, Karen has worked on both sides of the Apple divide, clocking up a number of years at Apple’s PR agency prior to joining Macworld two decades ago. 

Karen’s career highlights include interviewing Apple’s Steve Wozniak and discussing Steve Jobs’ legacy on the BBC. Her focus is Mac, but she lives and breathes Apple.

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