A virtual private network (VPN) for Mac protects your online activity and identity so no one can trace your only activity back to you. If you're a frequent traveler, the best VPN services also unblock the websites and streaming services you use at home, that might otherwise be blocked when you head overseas.
A VPN encrypts your data and routes it through one of its secure servers—making it impossible for nosy cybercriminals to read. VPN servers also replace your original IP address (your digital signature) and use the server IP. As a result, you'll be able to bypass geo-restrictions and access content abroad with total privacy.
The iMore team has over a decade of experience testing on Mac and iPhone, and our experts have pooled their knowledge to curate this list of the best services on the market. Check out our top three Mac VPN recommendations below:
1. ExpressVPN: best VPN service in 2023
For solid security, no-nonsense privacy, and access to servers in 100 countries, ExpressVPN is our top pick. ExpressVPN is also a privacy-focused provider that won't log your online movements and has even undertaken third-party audits of its logging policy.
ExpressVPN includes a year of secure cloud storage and adds 3 months free if you choose its 1-year subscription. Try this VPN for yourself, without risking a cent, with its 30-day money-back guarantee.
2. NordVPN: a full security suite
NordVPN is the total package, combining reliable security tools, lightning-fast speeds, and easy-to-use apps for just about all devices—including Mac and iOS. It's also a fantastic streaming VPN able to unblock Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Amazon Prime.
NordVPN also has its own password manager, ad blocker, and data breach scanner, and you can check them out in your own time with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
3. Surfshark: easy-to-use VPN that's great value Surfshark is a fantastic pick for VPN newbies, thanks to its intuitive apps and simple interface—and most of its key features are switched on by default. It's a speedy service, too, and more than capable of handling any HD streaming, torrenting, or online gaming.
Surfshark is the cheapest VPN in our shortlist, and the best value service, offering unlimited simultaneous connections. A 30-day money-back guarantee gives you plenty of time to take the VPN for a test drive, too.
Our top Mac VPNs for 2023
You can always trust iMore. Our team of Apple experts have years of experience testing all kinds of tech and gadgets, so you can be sure our recommendations and criticisms are accurate and helpful. Find out more about how we test.
We're constantly putting VPNs to the test, and have whittled down the competition to the seven devices we think are the most secure and the best value for money. All of our picks are compatible with Mac devices, and we'll compare their features, performance, and recent test results in our rankings.
The best Mac VPN overall
Our expert review:
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
✔️ You want tried and tested security: ExpressVPN is jam-packed with privacy-enhancing tools, and has undertaken numerous third-party audits to validate its logging claims.
✔️ You need to tap into international servers: with more than 3,200 servers in 94 countries, you'll have no problem unblocking geo-restricted sites and services.
✔️ You want an easily customizable VPN: ExpressVPN lets users tailor the VPN down to the details and will save your configurations for future sessions.
❌ You need super fast speeds: ExpressVPN can handle HD streaming, but falls behind NordVPN when it comes to overall performance.
❌ You're on a budget: it's no secret that ExpressVPN charges a premium price for its premium service, which could be a deal breaker for bargain hunters.
🔒 ExpressVPN is our #1 pick for Mac, thanks to its solid security, broad server network, and sleek apps. Try the service for yourself with a 30-day money-back guarantee, and see why it claimed the top spot in our rankings.
Head over to our ExpressVPN review for more insight into how we evaluated its security, speeds, and privacy claims.
ExpressVPN is the best because of how secure it is, and it's been that secure for years. We've tested VPNs for some time now, and ExpressVPN has always been secure, never allowed leaks of any kind, and it is fast to engage its solid kill switch if the VPN ever drops. We have to really force the connection to drop in our testing to see how everything works. It's more proof of how well ExpressVPN keeps its connections secure and your information private.
You get more security with ExpressVPN's no-log privacy. Nothing you do online is ever recorded, and it doesn't keep personal information on hand, either. To prove its overall security, ExpressVPN allows independent audits and is verified each time.
▶ Try ExpressVPN risk-free with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
With this VPN, you get a network of 3,200 servers in 94 countries. This lets you unblock most tv streaming services, and work around other geo-restricted content. We had some problems consistently accessing our US and UK Netflix accounts, but everything else was easy to get to.
When it comes to speed, ExpressVPN is a bit faster than the industry average. This is fast enough to watch high-definition and 4K television and support more than one device connected at a time. You can use ExpressVPN for torrenting, and it supports important functions like port forwarding and split tunneling that helps boost speeds. But, its top speed of 560 Mbps is still much slower than either Surfshark or NordVPN
The other big drawback of ExpressVPN is its price. It's expensive. For a 1-year subscription, ExpressVPN is 50% more than NordVPN and almost three times more expensive than Surfshark. To be fair, the level of security is impressive with ExpressVPN, but there are also other security options that may be a better overall value.
You do get 30 days to decide if you want to stick with ExpressVPN or try another service. ExpressVPN gives you a money-back guarantee if you cancel within the first 30 days of your subscription period.
|Design||Clean and simple, with no clutter||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Ease of use||Intuitive, easy to learn, features, like auto-connect, make it every easier||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Performance||Speeds are fast enough to support all activities but isn't nearly as fast a NordVPN or Surfshark||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Unblocking||Struggles to unblock some Netflix regions, including US and UK, everything else is easy to tap into||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Customer support||24/7 live chat is available and online support documents are easy to find and understand||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Price||More expensive than most leading competitors||⭐⭐⭐|
Best Mac VPN with antivirus
Our expert review:
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
✔️ You want a full security suite: NordVPN double-encrypts your data, and even has its own antivirus and ad-blocking tools.
✔️Speed is your priority: NordVPN is the quickest provider we've tested, maxing out our line with speeds of over 950 Mbps.
✔️ You need a VPN for streaming: check out content from a variety of Netflix libraries, and a huge list of other streaming platforms, in just a few clicks.
❌ You need a simple UI: NordVPN's map-based interface is a fun feature, but can be tricky to use on devices with smaller screens.
❌ You want more server options: servers in 60 countries is pretty impressive, but Surfshark has an even broader network spanning more countries.
🔒 NordVPN is double secure and includes extra protections with built-in antivirus and ad blockers. It includes Meshnet for creating a secure network for multiple users and unblocks popular tv streaming sites.
Read the in-depth NordVPN review to see how it did in our security tests and the long list of tv streaming services it unblocks.
NordVPN is probably one of the most recognized names in the VPN industry, but it's reached a top spot on our VPN list because of how secure it is. On top of shielding your information from being tracked, it also has a decent no-logs policy. Anything you do online won't fall into the wrong hands, because there isn't any evidence that you've been there.
Nord's security starts with its double encryption feature. This sends your data through two servers to encrypt it twice. This also double-assigns an IP address so it's impossible to trace your online movements back to you. For even more protection, NordVPN has ad blockers to remove ads from the websites you visit. This helps cut down the risk of clicking on an ad that is riddled with malware.
▶ Try NordVPN and take advantage of its 30-day money-back guarantee.
You also get an antivirus when you use NordVPN. This is limited compared to a true antivirus software program, like Bitdefender. It won't stop threats that are already on the computer, or stop threats coming in through your network connection, but it does help block you from visiting malicious websites. This prevents you from accidentally downloading a virus in the first place, so it does add valuable security protections when you use it.
NordVPN has an impressive network of servers with over 5,600 in 60 countries. It has placed several in popular locations so there aren't too many users trying to connect to one or two at the same time. This helps with overall speeds and working around geo-restrictions so you can access more content. When it comes to unblocking Netflix, NordVPN is our top choice. It opens every region, plus it's great for unblocking other streaming services like Amazon Prime, Disney+, and BBC iPlayer.
The interface of this VPN looks nice and colorful. There is an interactive map that you use for choosing the server you want to use. There are other links to settings so you can customize your overall experience. For new users, NordVPN can be a bit busy and daunting to use. We recommend Surfshark or CyberGhost if you're just beginning with VPNs. These apps are a bit easier to figure out.
NordVPN has several subscription plans to choose from. You can pay for a monthly subscription, but it's not covered by the 30-day money-back guarantee like the other options. It's also expensive to do a month-to-month plan. You get better value for your money if you subscribe to the NordVPN yearly plan, but the best value is with its 3-year option.
|Design||Fun and interactive, but also busy||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Ease of use||Everything you need is there, but the busy app is off-putting and harder to navigate||⭐⭐⭐|
|Performance||One of the fastest VPNs on our list||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Unblocking||Unblocks Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer and so much more||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Security and privacy||Just as secure as ExpressVPN, plus includes malware protection||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Customer support||Live chat is always available and agents are helpful||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Price||A great overall value||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
Best cheap Mac VPN
Our expert review:
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
✔️ You need a fast VPN: Surfshark's speeds aren't met by any other VPNs on this list.
✔️ You're new to VPNs: the apps are simple and easy to figure out.
✔️ You're on a budget: Surfshark has made using a VPN affordable with prices and an overall value that are hard for other services to match.
❌ You want a VPN with lots of servers: Surfshark's 3,200 servers are a lot, but NordVPN has nearly twice as many and PIA has over 20,000.
❌You want a VPN with a solid kill switch: we've seen issues with Surfshark's kill switch that we haven't witnessed with other VPNs on our list.
❌You need a VPN for torrenting: PIA is the best torrenting VPN with dedicated servers and lots of customization specifically for torrents. Surfshark doesn't have these.
🔒 Surfshark is impressively fast, unblocks most tv streaming services, and is easy to use. It's also one of the cheapest.
Read this Surfshark review to see why it's both the fastest and cheapest VPN.
Surfshark is one of the most affordable Mac VPNs, but it also is one of the best with fast speeds, a good server network, and lots of functions needed to carry out your online work and activities in private. It's also one of the easiest to use and a good place for new VPN users to start.
To start with, Surfshark has over 3,200 servers worldwide. This isn't as many as NordVPN (5,000+) or Private Internet Access (20,000+) but is still a decent number to work with. These servers are in 100 countries, which is more than most VPNs. This means if you need to connect to a specific country, Surfshark likely has a server there.
▶ Try Surfshark risk-free with a 30-day money-back guarantee
If you need a streaming VPN, Surfshark is one of our top choices. It easily unblocked Netflix in all regions, including Japan and Canada, Amazon Prime, and Dinsey+. When we tested it, Surfshark also unblocked HBO Max, the BBC iPlayer, and both 9Now and 10Play in Australia.
When it comes to speed, it's difficult to find a VPN that's faster than Surfshark. We reached an average speed of 960 Mbps when we used it. This supports tv streaming on all of your devices without the risk of buffering or lag. It also helps with torrenting, which you can do with Surfshark, though it doesn't have the same dedication to tools and functions for this task compared to PIA.
Overall, Surfshark is really secure. We saw while connected to the VPN that data remained hidden and didn't see any issues with leaks. However, we did notice an issue with the kill switch. Sometimes when we forced the VPN to drop, the kill switch would engage without telling us it was on. Most of the time we didn't have this issue, but it happened enough that we took note. Also, it seemed to only happen when using Windows computers. We didn't see the same issue with Mac.
Surfshark is the best cheap VPN, but it's also an all-around good value. You get a lot for the price, and you can try it out risk-free. Surfshark comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, so if you decide it's not the best fit for you, you'll get your money back without question.
|Design||Simple with signs designers paid attention to details||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Ease of use||Very simple and a good VPN for beginners||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Performance||The fastest VPN of all our top picks||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Unblocking||Misses a few services, but most are unblocked without a problem||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Security and privacy||There's a kill switch issue, and some additional security tools, like antivirus, aren't that good||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Customer support||Hard to navigate support documents, especially when you're in a hurry||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Price||The best value and best cheap VPN on the market||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
Best of the rest
4. Proton VPN
Our expert review:
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
✔️ You want a VPN that takes security seriously: Proton VPN has open-source apps to let anyone look at its code and offer fix suggestions. It's also independently audited.
✔️ You need a free VPN: this free app isn't as restricted as other providers. For example, ProtonVPN free lets you connect to 100 different servers.
❌ You need fast speeds: this VPN has below-average speeds. Surfshark and PIA are both substantially faster.
❌ You want to upgrade to a paid VPN subscription: Proton VPN is expensive compared to Surfshark or even NordVPN.
🔒 Proton VPN takes your security seriously, so uses open source with all its apps, plus allows independent audits. It has a good free version, too.
This Proton VPN review gives more details about the rigorous security testing we put it through and more details about its security audits.
This Mac VPN takes security and privacy seriously. It allows deep audits of its services to verify its claims, and these results are available on its website for anyone to read. Proton VPN uses military-grade encryption to ensure your data can't be traced back to you. You can pay for your subscription with cryptocurrency or even cash to keep your identity completely private.
Proton VPN has a smaller server network compared to our top VPN picks. Still, at 2,900 servers worldwide you're able to tap into one in an area you need. However, if there is a specific country you need to access that Proton VPN doesn't cover, check out Surfshark. It has servers in over 30 more countries than Proton VPN.
▶ Try Proton VPN for free
You can try out Proton VPN for free. While other VPNs stick with just a 30-day money-back guarantee (which Proton VPN also offers), this service has a completely free version for you to use all the time. It is a bit limited. For example, you can't use it for streaming tv shows. But you can access up to 100 different servers around the globe. The free subscription also doesn't put any bandwidth caps, which means you can use it all the time without worrying about hitting a monthly usage maximum.
For unblocking tv streaming services, Proton VPN's paid subscription is one of the best. It doesn't have an issue accessing any of the Netflix regions, Hulu, Amazon, or Disney+. It also unlocks YouTube and the BBC iPlayer.
Speed is a bit of an issue with Proton VPN. In past speed tests, we saw it perform decently well. It's still fast, but our latest tests show it hit 510 Mbps with WIreGuard. This is below average for this protocol. However, you can choose to use the OpenVPN protocol and get up to 440 Mbps. This is impressively faster and well above average.
Proton VPN works on more devices than just Mac. It can be used for Linux computers and uses a GUI interface. It has a good mobile app for both iOS and Android and also works on routers. You can simultaneously connect 10 devices, which is more than most VPN services. However, there are a few, like Surfshark, that don't put any connection or device caps, just in case you have more than 10 you'd like to secure.
|Design||Only available in dark mode, the interface is clutter-free||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Ease of use||Easier to use on mobile than on desktop||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Performance||Below-average speeds and a lot of variation between apps||⭐⭐⭐|
|Unblocking||Can only unblock content using a paid||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Security and privacy||Provides open-source code, allows independent audits, and uses the highest encryption level available||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Customer support||Support documents are technical and hard to understand at times, agents aren't always available||⭐⭐⭐|
|Price||The free plan is great, but upgrading will be expensive||⭐⭐⭐⭐|