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How to connect to a VPN on your Mac

iMac
iMac (Image credit: iMore)

You've gone ahead and decided to get a VPN (Virtual Private Network) service for your MacBook Pro or other Mac and have chosen one of the best VPN providers that suits your needs. Now what? You connect to it, that's what! And here's how you do it on your Mac or any of the best Macs on the market.

There are two main ways of connecting to your VPN service provider. Either by using the macOS built-in networking framework or the VPN provider's connection application.

How to Connect to the VPN when no third party app is provided

  1. Click on the Apple icon in the upper left corner of your Mac's screen.
  2. Click on System Preferences.
  3. Click Network.

To connect to a VPN on your Mac, click on the Apple icon at the top left, then choose System Preferences from the pull-down menu. Then select Network.

To connect to a VPN on your Mac, click on the Apple icon at the top left, then choose System Preferences from the pull-down menu. Then select Network. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Click on the lock icon at the bottom left, then login, if applicable.
  2. Click "+" at the bottom left.
  3. Select VPN from the drop-down list.

To connect to a VPN on your Mac, click on the lock icon at the bottom left and log into your computer, if applicable. Then click the + at the bottom left, then choose VPN from the drop-down list. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Select the VPN Type provided by your VPN service provider. In our example, we are using L2TP over IPSec.
  2. Type in a Service Name that is easy to recognize when you want to connect.
  3. Click Create.

To connect to a VPN on your Mac, select your VPN Type, then the Service Name. Click Create. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Type in the Server Address that the VPN service provides you. It may be in the form of an IP address or a Hostname.
  2. Type in your Account Name (also provided by your VPN).
  3. Click Authentication Settings. The type of VPN encryption being used by your VPN provider will determine what sort of authentication settings you will need to enter.
  4. Select the User Authentication method you have been given by your VPN provider and enter the pertinent details. In our example, we will be using Password.
  5. Select the Machine Authentication required by your VPN provider and enter the pertinent details. In our example, we are using a Shared Secret.
  6. Click OK.

To connect to a VPN on your Mac, type in the Service Address, then your Account Name, which is provided by your VPN. Click Authentication Settings, then User Authentication. Choose Machine Authenticat (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Optionally, you can check Show VPN status in the menu bar if you want to enable and disable your VPN connection from the desktop quickly.
  2. Click Advanced.
  3. Check Send all traffic over VPN connection to encrypt all of your internet access through the VPN provider. You can check out the pros and cons here.

To connect to a VPN on your Mac, you can also check Show VPN status in the menu bar, if applicable. Click Advanced, then check Send all traffic over VPN connection. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Click OK.
  2. Click Apply.
  3. Click Connect to start your VPN Connection.

To connect to a VPN on your Mac, click OK, then click Apply, then click Connect again to start your VPN. (Image credit: iMore)

How to connect to the VPN with your VPN provider's App

Many VPN service providers like NordVPN (opens in new tab), IPVanish (opens in new tab), TunnelBear (opens in new tab), ExpressVPN (opens in new tab), and more, offer applications you can install, which will automatically set up your VPN settings and give you easy access to start/stop your VPN connection. In most instances, you'll simply be required to install the application and enter your account credentials, and then you're up and running. In our screenshots below, we're showing the efficacy in selecting a VPN server in various parts of the world using the PIA service app.

Other resources

If you'd like to get more information on VPNs, VPN service providers, or want to get into more detail on how VPNs function, our pals at Android Central have a VPN hub with lots of great resources available. Additionally, be sure to check out Android Central's current VPN deals. You'll be happy you did!

We test and review VPN services in the context of legal recreational uses. For example:

1. Accessing a service from another country (subject to the terms and conditions of that service).

2. Protecting your online security and strengthening your online privacy when abroad.

We do not support or condone the illegal or malicious use of VPN services. Consuming pirated content that is paid-for is neither endorsed nor approved by Future Publishing.

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.