08 February 2021
The VPN marketplace has never been so crowded, and that makes choosing the best VPN for Mac more challenging than ever before.
Thankfully, we have the answer! The MacUpdate team has tested and scored the best, fastest, most feature-laden VPNs to deliver a definitive top 10 for 2021.
Read on to discover:
Clocking in with an average download speed of 59.4 Mbps during our tests, NordVPN left the others on our list in its dust. If you value speed and performance, you can’t go wrong with Nord — especially as its Quick Connect feature gets you online fast.
It accounts for your location and finds and connects you to the closest server with the quickest available speeds.
MacKeeper is so much more than simply a VPN. Its features list is comprehensive and useful, covering everything from real-time malware detection and removal to ID theft protection, ad blocking, anti-tracking, and Mac performance optimization. Come for the integrated VPN with no usage limits, stay for the long list of features as standard.
Although not as fast as NordVPN, nor as feature-heavy as MacKeeper, PureVPN came out on top in our comparison scorecard (see how we tested and scored below).
Thanks to its strong speeds, handy browser extensions, affordable monthly fee, 6,500 servers in 140+ countries, eye-catching interface, and pleasant user experience, PureVPN took the crown as the best VPN for Mac with room to spare.
To compile our top 10, we compared the following:
Following this, we ranked each software from 1 to 10 for each category. The best performer in each category received 10 points, the next best, 9 points, and so on, down to 1 point. We then totaled the category points to reach our final result.
Let’s take a look at 10 of the best VPNs for Mac.
Founded in 2006 and headquartered in Hong Kong, PureVPN is one of the older VPNs on the market. This longevity in what can be a fast-moving and murky world comes as a huge plus point and should give you confidence that you’re dealing with a reputable company.
That alone is commendable, but its range of features, speedy connection times, and affordable monthly price have cemented its place as our top pick.
You may remember that NordVPN was hit by a major data breach back in 2018. Rather than let that define them, the company has admirably bounced back, implementing several security measures and undergoing several audits to restore confidence.
As for the software itself, it’s still one of the best around (and the slightly higher prices reflect this). As mentioned, it’s superfast, it unblocks Netflix with relative ease, blocks malware, and boasts a clean and simple iOS app.
MacKeeper is a little different from the other VPN apps on our list. It’s not a dedicated VPN per se, but an all-in-one privacy, security, and performance toolkit with an integrated VPN tacked on for good measure. Handy if you want to both protect and enhance your Mac browsing experience.
Where the VPN is concerned (because we are reviewing VPNs here, after all), there’s a lot to like. MacKeeper offers 296 server locations in 50 countries, including multiple locations in South America and one in Africa.
It’s easy to use and connects relatively quickly, although its download speeds during our tests were decidedly average. And despite its impressive range of additional features, you won’t find VPN-specific extras, such as split tunneling or a kill switch.
Founded in 2018 and with 2.4m users worldwide, Surfshark has come a long way in a short space of time. With its rich list of features, healthy download speeds, and a huge variety of servers and locations (3,200 in 65 countries), this is a VPN for Mac that does what it says on the tin.
Easy to use, simple to navigate, and quick to connect, it’s ideal for first-time users. And that’s not at all surprising when you dig into the company’s mission: to humanize privacy protection and online security, making it accessible for everyday users. Mission complete!
Feature-packed and with a good-sized network, Private Internet Access (PIA) is a worthy addition to this list — and one that’s terrific value for money.
Almost 30,000 servers spread across 77 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 interface, slow download speeds, and its inability to unblock some geo-restricted content. Plus there’s no free trial and only a 7-day money-back guarantee.
Private Internet Access at-a-glance:
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, our download tests uncovered a slightly above-average performance.
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 beginner-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.
There are a few bones to pick with VyprVPN, namely with its below-average download speeds (confirmed by our tests) 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 yearly 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, although it can have problems accessing US Amazon Prime content.
Connecting you with a single click, ExpressVPN is a great-looking, easy-to-use VPN with a standard feature set and a solid spread of servers (160 locations in 94 countries). You can use it across a variety of devices and its interface is clean and simple to navigate.
On the other hand, we found its download speeds to be the slowest of the ten reviewed and it is one of the pricier options out there. That being said, ExpressVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so if you want to take it for a spin, you can’t lose.
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. It also fully supports macOS Mojave’s dark mode, which is a nice touch.
However, it does have its negatives, coming second-last in our in-house speed tests and last in our user interface review.
Everything you wanted to know about VPNs in one handy list.
Put simply, a virtual private network (VPN) is a secure connection between your computer and a server.
When you use a VPN, you connect to the VPN’s server, which directs your traffic. The VPN acts as a middleman between you and the Internet. This stops your internet service provider (ISP) from tracking the site you’re visiting. Also, websites monitoring your activity won’t know where you’re browsing from. The VPN makes it appear as though you’re accessing the web from the VPN server’s IP address instead of your own.
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:
A VPN provides increased privacy and security when browsing online. However, it doesn’t guarantee complete anonymity.
While it’s true that using a VPN means your ISP won’t have access to your 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 and, in the case of illegal activity, subpoenaed by law enforcement.
VPNs and proxies are similar because they both reroute traffic through a remote server while hiding your original IP. However, there are some key differences:
When you use a free VPN, there’s a high chance your info is being logged and sold to third parties. Remember, these companies have overheads and infrastructure to pay for; they’re not giving away software to be nice.
If you’re 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.
How to test for leaks:
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.
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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