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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.

10 Best VPNs for Mac in 2021: Fast and Secure

08 February 2021

10 Best VPN for Mac 2021 [Free & Paid]

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:

  1. Our top picks
  2. How we tested
  3. 10 best VPNs for Mac
  4. FAQs

Our top picks for the best Mac VPN apps


The fastest VPN: NordVPN

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.

The VPN with the most features: MacKeeper

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.

The overall best VPN for Mac: PureVPN

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.

How we tested and scored each VPN

To compile our top 10, we compared the following:

  • Download speed - With each VPN app, we made 3 connections using your average Macbook Pro. From Eastern Europe, we connected to 1. the United States (New York), 2. the UK (London), and 3. Germany (Frankfurt). We then used Speedtest by Ookla to measure the download speed, before calculating the average speed.
  • The number and variety of servers and locations.
  • General impressions of UI/UX - We observed how quickly the app connected and how easy it was to find what we were looking for.
  • Pricing - The cheapest subscription for the shortest period.
  • The number of devices.
  • The number of additional features - Some apps offer anti-malware and ID theft protection in addition to a VPN.

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.

The Best VPN for Mac in 2021

Let’s take a look at 10 of the best VPNs for Mac.

PureVPN

1. PureVPN

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.

But if you need further convincing, look no further than PureVPN’s commitment to transparency. They changed their privacy policy in 2018 to embrace no-data-logging, and have subsequently been audited (twice) by KPMG to confirm this status.

That alone is commendable, but its range of features, speedy connection times, and affordable monthly price have cemented its place as our top pick.

PureVPN at-a-glance:

  • Pros: Fast on Mac and committed to no-data-logging.
  • Cons: Patchy customer support reviews.
  • Additional features: Internet kill switch, split tunneling, DNS leak protection.
  • Price: Starting at $10.95 per month.
  • Number of devices: 10
NordVPN

2. NordVPN

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.

NordVPN at-a-glance:

  • Pros: Responsive live chat support and no-data-logging.
  • Cons: Basic browser extensions.
  • Additional features: Adblocker, split tunneling, dedicated IP address.
  • Price: Starting at $11.95 per month.
  • Number of devices: 6
MacKeeper

3. MacKeeper

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.

MacKeeper at-a-glance:

  • Pros: Fast, on-demand malware scanning.
  • Cons: Expensive premium services.
  • Additional features: Real-time antivirus, malware cleanup, ID theft guard.
  • Price: Starting at $10.95 per month.
  • Number of devices: 1
Surfshark

4. Surfshark

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!

Surfshark at-a-glance:

  • Pros: Easy-to-browse interface, stable servers, unlimited simultaneous connections.
  • Cons: High price point.
  • Additional features: Whitelister, kill switch, ID protection.
  • Price: Starting at $12.95 per month.
  • Number of devices: Unlimited
Private Internet Access

5. Private Internet Access

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:

  • Pros: Robust set of features.
  • Cons: Unclear privacy policy, no free version.
  • Additional features: ID theft protection, IP cloaking, firewall.
  • Price: Starting at $9.95 per month.
  • Number of devices: 10
Cyberghost

6. Cyberghost

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.

All told, it’s a capable VPN with plenty to like about it. It offers split tunneling and multihop features and boasts a strong privacy policy. And with a 45-day money-back guarantee, you’ll have plenty of time to decide if it’s the one for you.

Cyberghost at-a-glance:

  • Pros: Large, distributed number of servers and a strict no-logging policy.
  • Cons: Expensive for top-tier packages.
  • Additional features: Hide your IP, military-grade encryption.
  • Price: Starting at $11.99 per month.
  • Number of devices: 10
TunnelBear

7. TunnelBear

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.

TunnelBear at-a-glance:

  • Pros: Detailed, independent security audits.
  • Cons: Trouble unblocking Netflix, Prime, and BBC iPlayer.
  • Additional features: Strong encryption, GhostBear (sidestep VPN blocking).
  • Price: Starting at $9.99 per month.
  • Number of devices: 5
VyprVPN

8. VyprVPN

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.

VyprVPN at-a-glance:

  • Pros: Low price when purchased yearly, responsive live chat support.
  • Cons: No independent security audit since 2018.
  • Additional features: Public WiFi protection, internet kill switch, DNS protection.
  • Price: Starting at $12.95 per month.
  • Number of devices: 5
ExpressVPN

9. ExpressVPN

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.

ExpressVPN at-a-glance:

  • Pros: Reliable and committed to security.
  • Cons: Small number of simultaneous connections, expensive.
  • Additional features: Split tunneling, encryption, kill switch, speed test.
  • Price: Starting at $12.95 per month.
  • Number of devices: 5
NetShade

10. NetShade

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.

NetShade at-a-glance:

  • Pros: Unlimited bandwidth, dedicated servers, committed to transparency.
  • Cons: Poor customer service reviews.
  • Additional features: Cloud sync, DNS protection.
  • Price: Starting at $6.30 per month.
  • Number of devices: 5

VPN FAQs

Everything you wanted to know about VPNs in one handy list.

What is a VPN?

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

How does a VPN work?

How does a VPN work?

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.

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:

  1. When you’re using public Wi-Fi
  2. When you’re working or studying remotely
  3. When you’re traveling abroad
  4. When you’re living under an oppressive regime
  5. When you value online privacy, even at home
When do you need a VPN?

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

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.

What can or can't a VPN do?

Should I use a VPN or a proxy?

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:

  • VPNs encrypt traffic. Proxy servers do not.
  • VPN connections are often more reliable, while proxies tend to drop.
  • VPNs work on the OS level, rerouting all traffic. 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?

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.

With paid-for VPN software, you’re far less likely to have your data sold to advertisers ― but always scrutinize the privacy policy of the software you choose, paid or not.

How do I know if my VPN is leaking?

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:

  1. First, search “what is my IP address” on Google, and make a note of your public IP.
  2. Next, sign in to your VPN and connect to the server of your choice. Double-check that you’re connected.
  3. 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 free websites, such as IP Leak, which can help you quickly identify if your VPN is leaking your original IP address.

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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