Best VPN for Mac (2020 Review)
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You’ve finally got your new Mac. Taken the time to brag about it to your friends, told them how much better it is than their computers, then basked in your superiority for a bit. With all that done, it’s time to get a VPN to secure your new wonder machine.
Easy, right? Well, not quite.
Problem is -despite it clearly being the better OS- a lot of VPN companies have been sluggish or outright neglectful of porting to Mac.
A lot of the big names started on Windows and decided to stay there, meaning you’d need third party software for them to work on Mac. Such software has a, let’s say, questionable reputation, and so if you can avoid that route you really should.
But rather than you having to go through the heart-wrenching process of finding out just how VPN-unloved your new Mac is, we’ve done the emotional labour for you. We’ve trawled through the unforgiving Mac VPN market and found the companies that will treat your OS right.
Mac may be a secure OS but its privacy commitments leave quite a lot to be desired.
That’s why a VPN is so vital for Mac owners, this article covers the best VPN services you can find, Surfshark, NordVPN, and ExpressVPN.
We gave Surfshark the nod for the number one spot because of its phenomenal price and value it provides.
Surfshark delivers on every aspect required of a quality VPN. With a reasonable cost and well optimised for Mac, there isn’t anything to dislike.
1. Surfshark – Best Overall Choice
What is Surfshark?
Surfshark doesn’t leave Mac systems as an afterthought, putting it on par with its other OS types it caters too. As a relative newcomer to the VPN game, Surfshark was careful not to dismiss the Mac OS, the VPN app it offers is a well-tailored tool, rather than a poorly ported copy.
With a quality privacy service based out of the British Virgin Islands, and wide-ranging Netflix compatibility, the low price of Surfshark is almost too good to be true; but it stands up to rigorous testing in every category.
Let’s look at some of its defining features:
- Competitively priced plans: Just $1.99 a month for a full 2-year subscription, and $5.99 a month for a single year, it’s one of the cheapest functional VPNs on the market
- Mac User-friendly: with features such as the ‘Quick Connect’ button for instant connection selection, Surfshark is a straightforward and simple to use
- Flying colours: in a variety of performance, security, DNS-leak and speed tests, Surfshark always comes out with a good score, the only blip is occasional inconsistencies with the speed, but these are being improved with every patch
- The perfect VPN Location: the British Virgin Islands is free from what is ominously known as the 14 eyes, a notorious government data collection zone. This isn’t a danger you need to worry about with Surfshark. Essentially, there are no laws that could compel Surfshark to legally give up your data.
- Silent Canaries: A warrant canary is a way to inform users if a government has issued a secret subpoena on them, Surfshark uses this as a matter of data transparency, and informs all users if one is issued. Luckily though, this VPN can freely boast that it has not had a single Subpoena sent to them, possibly as a result of their pre-emptive use of the warrant canaries.
- No logging data: aside from the obligatory email address, billing info and diagnostics reports, Surfshark keeps none of its users data logged, meaning there is no danger of this VPN passing your usage data on, because they never had it in the first place!
- Quick data: though inconsistent across servers, the data speed is generally high, and you shouldn’t be left with any annoying lag.
- Kill switch: the Mac version has a built-in Kill switch, meaning that it’s easy to quickly sever any dubious connections or malicious attacks.
Do I Recommend Surfshark for Mac?
Surfshark is a rare gem that brings over all the features that make it so impressive on other OS’s to Mac, and all for such a good deal, this is definitely one we’d recommend.
For a slight price increase compared to Surfshark, you can get everything that made the former great, with a few extras that might swing NordVPN for you.
2. NordVPN – CIA Security
What is NordVPN?
NordVPN was for a long while only Windows-based but has now integrated its software for a smooth Mac experience as well. In fact, it is so well integrated that you can use the same VPN package for two devices with different OS’s.
Whilst more expensive, the long track record and staggering 5300+ servers across 59 countries means it’s still a VPN worth looking into if you’re serious about protection and privacy for your Mac.
Let’s look at some of its defining features:
- Biggest server selection available: There’s such a large server selection you might struggle to decide! Luckily, NordVPN has an automated selection system should the sheer volume of choice overwhelms you!
- Wide Netflix compatibility: whilst its servers can’t boast a 100% Netflix compatible rate, at 95%, a compatible server is never more than a click away.
- User-friendly: the UI is intuitive and very easy to navigate, the drag-and-drop map, for example, is one of the really stand out user-oriented features
- Military Grade encryption: Nordvpn’s security encryption is of the same grade used by the US military, so a leak is extremely unlikely.
- No logging: a vital requirement for any VPN. In its long track record, NordVPN has never been exposed as logging any data, so there’s no reason to assume they would break their promise now
- Panama based: with no mandatory data retention laws in Panama, Nordvpn is legally free to direct your traffic without making a single record, keeping your data legally as well as digitally protected.
- Double servers: if the already military-grade protection Nordvpn offers isn’t good enough, then double it! They offer a service that runs your internet traffic through two separate VPNs before it reaches its destination. It’s extremely difficult to track through a single VPN, but two simultaneous server encryptions are nigh-impossible to break.
Do I Recommend NordVPN for Mac?
It’s one of the largest VPNs for a reason, and a big part of that is they haven’t neglected their Mac clients. Even if a proven record doesn’t convince you just yet, the Free trial and money-back guarantee mean it’s worth looking at.
Don’t forget to check out their fantastic Christmas offer, a 3-year contract for only $3.49 a month!
At No.3, ExpressVPN is still a quality product, providing serious protection and anonymity in a package well optimised for a Mac OS. The extra cost and streaming incompatibility are its main issues.
3. ExpressVPN – Security and Reliability
What is ExpressVPN?
ExpressVPN is dedicated to your protection and anonymity. It’s the product of choice if you are regularly dealing with valuable data.
Whilst coming at a greater cost and poor-streaming compatibility puts it at no3 on this list, it’s still a quality VPN. More importantly, it suffers no issues with its Mac compatibility. Keeping the speed, fortitude and user-friendliness of the original platform in the new Mac app.
Here’s what makes it worth that extra cost:
- Fastest VPN on the web: ExpressVPN is extremely fast, use any test, such as SpeedTest.net or Fast.com and you’ll be blown away.
- Huge server range: with 3,000 servers in 160 locations and 94 countries, it might not beat Nordvpn in sheer volume, but in terms of range and variety it is certainly at the top of the league.
- Intuitive kill switch: there’s no risk of accidental leaks, and if you even for a second lose connection with the VPN (even if you don’t notice) the intuitive kill switch will quickly sever the connection
- Customer first: ExpressVPN has a long track record of looking after its customers. With a quick and responsive support system, any issues you have will be quickly resolved.
- A security to match their ethics: With a military-grade encryption protocol and passing every Leak test we put it through, this is undoubtedly a secure system. ExpressVPN matches this with a commitment to never log any of your sensitive info; and with a base in the British Virgin Islands, this is a legally binding commitment.
- Premium pricing: if you’re looking for a cheap basic VPN, then ExpressVPN may not be for you. But if you’re looking for one of the most airtight VPN security systems available, then the pricing at $9.99/mo for 6-months or $8.32/mo for 12-months is a reasonable deal.
Do I Recommend ExpressVPN for Mac?
If you regularly deal with sensitive data or are simply serious about your privacy, you need ExpressVPN. Ironclad security, legal protection and smart-safety systems mean this is the VPN of choice when you need anonymity that goes above and beyond.
What’s a VPN?
Virtual Private networks create a tunnel that allows web surfers safe passage from their device to the internet by shielding their activity from prying eyes. That means that while you’re working on the road, you can access files on your home or business networks with fewer concerns about someone hacking into your smartphone or accessing your private data. It also means that your employees can work on sensitive data from anywhere without jeopardizing the integrity of customer data.
The best VPNs will make it appear that your internet activity is taking place on another network, from another location. This allows you to view movies and TV shows on Netflix in Canada while vacationing in the Bahamas or make it seem like your smartphone in Australia is on a network in New York. It means that people living in or visiting countries where censorship and oppression are rampant can still taste a little freedom in the virtual world.
In short, any reason that you would need safe, secure access to information while surfing the internet or using your cloud-based account is reason enough to use a VPN.
Best VPNs for Mac
As I said, it’s a sad fact that a lot of VPN companies simply neglect Mac computers. Even of the 300 or so dedicated Mac VPNs, there are considerable issues. A good chunk of them were made to fill a market vacuum with an inferior product; broken apps, data leaks and a catalogue of other issues plague these VPNs.
Luckily, some of the most respected (but initially windows based) VPNs successfully migrated over to Mac and can provide you with protection as well as they do on any other devices. Some systems, such as NordVPN, are so well migrated that you can sync a single VPN to a Mac and Windows simultaneously.
In general, you have to be extra-vigilant when searching for a Mac-compatible VPN. There are all the normal concerns for privacy and security such as logging policies, provider location etc; plus, a slew of more specific issues.
The general thrust of these specific issues is the proliferation of poor VPN providers. Even larger companies such as ProtonVPN, IPVanish, and TunnelBear have proven to be poorly matched for Mac. They suffer from dodgy connections, unreliable security, and a generally poor UI. The Mac OS itself is relatively solid for privacy if configured correctly, so the biggest problem is with the VPN providers available, rather than the software.
That’s why we’d suggest one of those on our list, it’s simply not worth sifting through all the pitfalls of Mac VPNs when the hard work has already been done for you! Surfshark, NordVPN, and ExpressVPN represent some of the few examples of fully Mac compatible VPN providers.
Are Free VPNs Any Good?
It’s tempting to just find a free app on Google Play or the Apple Store. There are probably hundreds of them out there.
However, free VPN apps may come with a hidden cost.
Few developers create an app out of the goodness of their hearts. Most want to make money or they need to market another service or app, and they do so at the expense of your data and online privacy. You’ll get slower speed and restricted access unless you switch to their “premium” service, and they make sure to let you know frequently with popup solicitations. Or, they’ll sell your information to third-party advertisers. Many keep logs of your activity, and your IP may be still visible to others.
If the company uses their own domain names servers, your data can leak. In other words, your free, private network may not be so secret or free. Commercial VPNs offer a good ROI. For a small fee, you’ll have access to military-grade encryption without speed or privacy being sacrificed. Paying for service also means that you’ll also be able to circumvent online trackers, cookies, and annoying ads.
Mac is fraught with dodgy providers and poor products, so go for a cheap, quality product like Surfshark that won’t let you down. It’ll provide everything you need for a Mac without losing out in the core VPN qualities of security, privacy, and anonymity.