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Marta Turnbull

Marta Turnbull

Head of Community at MacUpdate

Marta Turnbull is a MacUpdate OG and has written about technology, marketing and brand creativity for over 10 years. She splits her time between Michigan and Ukraine.

8 Best VPN for Mac 2020: Free & Paid VPN Software for macOS

26 November 2019

8 Best VPN for Mac 2020: Free & Paid VPN Software for macOS

The VPN marketplace has never been so packed with options, and that makes choosing the best VPN for Mac more difficult than ever before.

Thankfully, we have the answer! The MacUpdate users have voted in their droves, and we’ve compiled a list of the winning software to save you from searching.

Read on to discover:

The 8 Best VPNs as chosen by MacUpdate users

Let’s take a look at 8 of the best VPNs for Mac.

Best VPN Software for Mac NetShade

1. NetShade

4.2 stars based on 176 user reviews.

Coming out on top is NetShade from Rayner Software. Independently owned and operated, and with servers in 18 countries and counting, NetShade has a solid reputation and a long track record (it was first launched back in 2003).

Its latest version, NetShade 8, is a ground-up rewrite of the app with valuable features including a Kill Switch.

If your VPN drops suddenly, NetShade deactivates your Internet to prevent your data from traveling unencrypted.


2. TunnelBear

4.2 stars based on 17 real user reviews.

It might not have a long list of features or the large networks of its competitors, but TunnelBear stands apart as one of the most user-friendly VPNs around.

With its transparent privacy and no-logging policy, you know exactly where you stand when it comes to your data. They even have their software independently audited!.

It won’t satisfy the demands of experts, but for casual VPN users, it ticks all the boxes.


3. VyprVPN

3.8 stars based on 5 real user reviews.

There are a few bones to pick with VyprVPN, namely with its below-average speeds and the fact that its support articles are light on details.

If you can overlook that, you’ll have a VPN that’s simple to use, value for money (a 12-month subscription works out at less than $4 per month), and has a ton of features.

It also prides itself on its ability to unblock geo-restricted content with ease.


4. Hide.Me

3.8 stars based on 5 real user reviews.

With no fewer than 1,400 servers spread across 55 countries, the user-friendly Hide.Me is set up for speed.

Its free version limits you to 2GB of data per month and access to only 5 locations, but when you upgrade to the premium version you’ll have a powerful VPN at your fingertips.

However, there are a few downsides. Although Hide.Me claims to have a strict no-logging policy, the company is yet to commit to an independent audit, unlike some of its competitors. According to TechRadar, its ability to unblock geo-restricted content is a bit hit or miss.

VPN Unlimited

5. VPN Unlimited

3.7 stars based on 10 real user reviews.

VPN Unlimited leaps out as a solid “gateway” VPN for novice users. It’s easy to use, affordable, typically reliable and goes about its business of unblocking the likes of Netflix and iPlayer with ease.

However, it does have its issues (particularly with device management), and with fewer servers than many of its competitors, it might not satisfy the needs of more seasoned users.


6. NordVPN

3.4 stars based on 14 real user reviews.

Until recently, NordVPN was a very popular and widely used VPN software; but it’s still dealing with the reputational damage that comes with a major security breach.

As for the software itself, it’s still one of the best around (and the slightly higher prices reflect this) which unblocks Netflix with relative ease, blocks malware, and boasts a clean and simple iOS app.

Yet it’s disappointingly not as configurable as some of the others on this list.

Private Internet Access

7. Private Internet Access

3.0 stars based on 11 real user reviews.

Speedy, packed with features, and with a good-sized network, Private Internet Access (PIA) is a very worthy addition to this list - and one that’s terrific value for money.

Over 3,000 servers spread across 32 countries gives it a solid presence, and the fact that you can connect up to 10 devices at a time is a welcome surprise.

Unfortunately it's dragged down by its lack of live chat support and its inability to unblock some geo-restricted content, not to mention the fact that there’s no trial and only a 7-day money-back guarantee.


8. CyberGhost

2.8 stars based on 3 real user reviews.

If you’re using CyberGhost on Windows, you’ll be thrilled with its speed and power. But this is a list of the best VPN for Mac, and it doesn’t quite hit those heights when it makes the jump to macOS.

Still, it’s a very capable VPN with plenty to like about it. With a 45-day money-back guarantee, you’ll have plenty of time to decide if it’s the one for you.

What is a VPN and how does it work?

Put simply, a virtual private network (VPN) is a secure connection between your computer and a server.

How VPN Works

Typically, when connecting to the internet, you first connect to your internet service provider (ISP) - for example Comcast or Verizon in the US, or BT or Virgin in the UK. Your ISP then connects you to the website you want to visit.

However, when you use a VPN, you instead connect to the VPN’s server, which directs your traffic.

Think of the VPN as a middleman between you and the internet. It means you can browse anonymously, stopping your ISP from tracking the site you’re visiting.

It also makes it look like you’re accessing the internet from the VPN server’s IP address instead of your own. Websites monitoring your activity won’t actually know where you’re browsing from.

When do you need a VPN?

There are plenty of situations where using a VPN could be the difference between browsing the web safely and falling foul of hackers (or the authorities). Here are five:

When Do You Need a VPN

1. When you're out and about and using public Wi-Fi

There are many dangers associated with using public Wi-Fi including putting you at risk of malware, ransomware, and data harvesting, among other threats.

Even if the network is password-protected, it’s still a prime hunting ground for hackers. Whether you’re working remotely from a cafe, an airport lounge, or the window seat of a commuter train, you need to take steps to protect yourself.

A VPN adds that much-needed extra layer of security, allowing you to bypass the public Wi-Fi provider’s ISP. It also encrypts your data and communication, keeping you safe from prying eyes.

2. When you're working or studying remotely

Many employers and educational institutions are acutely aware of the risks posed by public Wi-Fi mentioned above. To counter this, more and more are requesting that remote workers and students use a VPN to prevent sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands.

A VPN set up to connect to an organization’s own server can give you secure access to internal networks, folders, and resources.

3. When you're traveling abroad

When you touch down in a foreign land, your first instinct might be to “check-in” on social media, but what if the likes of Facebook are blocked (like in China and Iran)? The good news is that a VPN can come to the rescue, giving you access to websites and services that are not ordinarily available in that country.

A VPN’s usefulness doesn’t end there. If, after a long day of traveling, you want to kick back in your hotel room and binge your favorite Netflix show, only to discover that it’s not available in your current location, simply switch on your VPN and sidestep those restrictions.

You can also use a VPN to bargain hunt for your next flight or hotel room, as prices can fluctuate depending on the location the website thinks you’re browsing from.

Note: VPNs are still technically legal in China, but the authorities are continually cracking down. Obviously, you shouldn’t access anything illegal or post anything incendiary on social media while traveling around China.

4. When you're railing against the government

Unlike many Western countries, there are parts of the world where citizens don’t enjoy the freedom of speech, expression, or press.

If you’re living under an oppressive regime and decide to lead the charge against them online, it goes without saying that you need to make sure you’re difficult to track.

Political dissidents and activists have been using VPNs for quite some time to circumvent censorship and spread important information.

Note: We do not recommend or endorse any illegal activity or activities that may endanger those engaging in them.

5. When you value your online privacy, even at home

Browsing the web from the comfort of your own home might feel safe, but it’s not always the case. Your ISP is almost certainly keeping tabs on your movement and activity as you click from site to site. If that doesn’t sit right with you, a VPN could be just the ticket.

Just be sure to choose a VPN that’s reputable, reliable, and secure.

What can a VPN do? What can't a VPN do?

It’s important to understand what a VPN can and cannot do.

VPN Does Not Provide Full Anonymity

For example, while it provides increased privacy and security while browsing, it does not guarantee you complete anonymity.

Think of using a VPN like you’re drawing the shades in your house. That’ll stop someone from peering through your window and watching what you’re doing, but it won’t stop your address from being publicly available.

While it’s true that using a VPN means your ISP won’t have access to your browsing data, it does mean that the VPN will instead.

All VPNs will log some form of data to make sure they’re offering the best possible service, but that data can still be tracked. If you were caught carrying out illegal activity while using a VPN, a subpoena would simply pass from your ISP to the VPN provider (although law enforcement may face a trickier task of getting their hands on your data if the VPN is located outside of your country).

Once again, a VPN does not provide full anonymity.

Should I use a VPN or a proxy?

In many ways, VPNs and proxies are similar because they both reroute traffic through a remote server while hiding your original IP in the process. However, there are some key differences:

  • VPNs encrypt traffic. Proxy servers do not. This means a VPN can maintain your online privacy and enhance security in the face of ISP tracking, government surveillance, and the malicious intent of hackers. With this in mind, proxy servers should never be used to share sensitive data.
  • VPN connections are typically more reliable, while proxy server connections have a tendency to drop.
  • VPNs work on the OS level, rerouting all traffic. Meanwhile, proxies work on the application level and only reroute the traffic of a specific browser or app.

Is a free VPN enough or do I need to pay?

There’s a saying that if something is free, then you are the product.

That is to say, if you’re not asked to pay for a product or service online, chances are your information is being logged and sold to third parties. This is especially true of free VPNs.

After all, these companies have overhead and infrastructure to pay for; they’re not giving away software out of the goodness of their hearts. With paid-for VPN software, you’re less likely to have your data sold to advertisers.

However, it always makes sense to scrutinize the privacy policy of the software you choose, paid or not.

How do I know if my VPN is leaking?

First, what do we mean by “leaking”?

Well, let’s say you want to access geo-restricted content (content that’s not available in your home country). You would simply switch on your VPN and select a server in a different country. The VPN will then make it appear as if you’re browsing from that country.

If you’re still faced with geo-restrictions, even after using a VPN, that means the website or app you’re trying to use is tracking your original IP address instead of the IP from the VPN server. In other words, the VPN has leaked your IP address.

There are 4 simple steps to test for leaks:

  1. Check your original IP address. Make sure that your VPN is not connected, search “what is my IP address” on Google and take a note of your public IP.
  2. Log in to your VPN. Next, sign in to your VPN client and connect to the server of your choice. Double-check that you’re definitely connected.
  3. Search your IP again. Return to Google and search “what is my IP address” to check your new IP. You should now see a new address. If you don’t...
  4. Do an IP Leak test - There are several free websites, such as IP Leak and Browser Privacy Test by Tenta, which can help you quickly identify if your VPN is leaking your original IP address.

Does Apple offer its own VPN?

No. At the time this article was written, Apple does not offer its own VPN service.

However, almost every reputable VPN software works with iOS and OS X devices.

VPNs: What’s the bottom line?

If you’re worried about your privacy, security, or even your well-being online, using a VPN is a no brainer.

That being said, you should always read the small print no matter which VPN provider you choose to make sure their terms of service match your expectations.

Marta Turnbull

Marta Turnbull

Head of Community at MacUpdate

Marta Turnbull is a MacUpdate OG and has written about technology, marketing and brand creativity for over 10 years. She splits her time between Michigan and Ukraine.

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