Apple products have given users a reprieve from Windows for decades, and are often thought of as being a superior, high-quality alternative. Even so, Mac systems are not without their flaws.
By default, Mac OS X comes with software that allows users to connect to VPN servers. However, unless you run your own server, or are connecting to resources at your place of employment, you won’t be able to secure data with a VPN tunnel. For help securing your data with encryption, you’ll need to subscribe to a service that will provide you with a VPN server endpoint.
Mac systems are more secure than Windows systems. However, it’s not really a wise choice to forgo the use of a VPN tunnel, for reasons we’ll discuss later. First, let’s take a look at the best VPNs for Mac OS X.
List of Best VPNs for Mac in 2017
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ExpressVPN is our top pick for Mac users. Its website has a knowledgebase loaded with useful information for OS X users. Not only does that knowledgebase include step-by-step guides for the latest version of OS X, it also provides guides for legacy versions. ExpressVPN really outdid itself, and each guide comes with high quality images that are highlighted for your convenience.
In addition, ExpressVPN has a larger network than the average VPN service. To date, they operate servers in 94 countries around the world in 145 locations, so you’ll have loads of global connection options. I also like how they updated their policy to allow up to three concurrent VPN tunnels per account, so you can easily secure your phone, tablet, and computer at the same time.
This service isn’t perfect, though – I don’t like that there’s no free trial. To be fair, it does come with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Perhaps the largest drawback, however, is that ExpressVPN costs more than the average provider. An annual subscription costs $8.32 per month. But you get what you pay for, because ExpressVPN is known for fast and reliable servers.
Lastly, since ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, it can safely permit P2P and BitTorrent traffic over its network. So it’s a good fit for people who download a lot of files.
- Three simultaneous connections
- Based in the British Virgin Islands
- Fast and reliable servers
- Servers in 94+ countries
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- A little bit on the pricey side
I was equally impressed with IPVanish‘s guides for Mac users. IPVanish supports the latest version of OS X, and legacy versions, with clean and concise guides with pictures, which show you how to perform various operations in bite-sized steps. The Mac guides will help you in the following areas:
- Establishing connections
- Configuring the software to use different protocols
- Account management
- Accessing support
- Troubleshooting and various other configuration changes
IPVanish is significantly cheaper than ExpressVPN. With an annual subscription, IPVanish costs $6.49 per month, which is almost $2.00 cheaper per month than ExpressVPN. Be aware, however, that the money back guarantee with IPVanish only lasts for seven days. And even though IPVanish has a smaller network than ExpressVPN, it still has a network larger than the average provider.
Right now, IPVanish has more than 40,000 IP addresses hosted on servers in over 60 countries. It seems to be in a state of constant expansion! IPVanish allows P2P traffic and BitTorrent downloads through its network. However, there’s one thing I don’t like: it’s based in the United States. Still, the software does come with DNS leak protection and a kill switch for extra security. Last but not least, IPVanish allows up to five simultaneous connections per account.
- Moderate pricing
- Servers in 60+ countries
- P2P allowed
- No logs (except mild metadata)
- Based in the US
NordVPN also provides great guides for Mac users. These include how to download and configure Tunnelblick to control OpenVPN connections. I thought the guides were pretty good, though it might be more helpful if the images had been highlighted. That said, there are two main advantages to NordVPN over the two previous best VPNs for Mac: price and simultaneous connections.
I don’t think anyone could argue that NordVPN is unfairly priced: it only costs $5.75 per month with an annual subscription. It also allows up to six connections at a time. Oh, and guess what? It still provides support for P2P and BitTorrent traffic, and even has a 30-day money-back guarantee. There’s a lot I love about this VPN provider, but it’s not without its drawbacks.
Unfortunately, it isn’t one of the fastest providers. The size of NordVPN’s network is also a little smaller. Right now it operates servers in 57 countries, but all of the major popular geographic regions are covered.
- Based out of Panama
- Supports P2P
- Six simultaneous connections
- Servers in 57+ countries
- Not known for extremely fast speeds
VyprVPN ovides quality guides to show Mac users how to set up PPTP, L2TP, OpenVPN, and manual configurations. I also thought their iOS guides were concise and easy to follow. However, the iOS guides don’t include any screenshots for some reason. Nevertheless, the OS X guides contain high quality images, though they aren’t highlighted.
Despite that small irritation, VyprVPN is a great option for Mac users. It’s owned by a parent company called Golden Frog, which is based out of Switzerland. VyprVPN goes above and beyond the usual security standards with a technology called Chameleon. Essentially, it’s a proprietary fork of OpenVPN encryption, which hides metadata in the packets’ headers. This helps prevent firewalls from successfully performing deep packet inspection, thereby providing an extra layer of security.
The premium version allows up to five simultaneous connections, and all versions come with NAT firewall security features. I wish it had a money-back guarantee, but instead VyprVPN provides a free trial. Right now, its network has servers in 64 countries around the world, which provides a decent array of connection options. To top things off, VyprVPN isn’t too expensive, costing just $6.67 a month when billed annually for a one-year subscription. I wouldn’t recommend monthly billing, however, since it costs a lot more.
- Affordable pricing
- Free trial
- Enhanced security, with Chameleon technology
- Based out of Switzerland
- No money-back guarantee
VPNArea is our fifth best VPN for Mac. This provider is based out of Bulgaria and performs hosting in Switzerland, so it’s safer than a domestic US firm. It has a very favorable no logs policy, and doesn’t log any user activities. I liked how the service provides dedicated IP addresses and private servers as an add-on feature. There are a lot of great features with this service, such as the allowance of six simultaneous connections.
In addition, it comes with a speed test and server load monitor, so you always know if you’re using the best connection. It comes with some security features that are fairly typical, such as anti-DNS leak protection, anti-WebRTC, and anti-IPv6 leak protection. It does allow P2P traffic, so the software was designed with a kill switch. This prevents downloads from continuing in the event of a VPN disconnect.
Right now, the service has servers in 60 countries, but I expect this number to grow, since VPNArea has only been in business for about four years. Last but not least, I really like that VPNArea is low cost. You can get it as cheaply as $4.92 per month, and it has a seven-day money back guarantee.
- Servers in 60 countries
- Seven-day money-back guarantee
- Great security features
- Five simultaneous connections
- Logs metadata (but so do most other providers)
Do I Really Need a VPN on My Mac?
There seems to be a long standing and deep rooted belief that Mac systems are perfectly secure, as opposed to Windows alternatives that are riddled with security flaws. Part of this stigma comes from the recent past, when Macs didn’t get nearly as many viruses as Windows machines. In fact, one of the selling points of Mac systems is proprietary software with superior security features.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that Mac OS X devices aren’t impervious to threats and attacks. Don’t believe me? Just look at the number of antivirus service providers that have started adding support for Apple products. In the recent past, getting a virus on OS X was almost unheard of. There were only sparse handfuls of viruses that infected Mac machines, as opposed to the hordes of viruses that plagued Windows.
Unfortunately, Mac users need to beef up their security in 2017. Also, consider that the operating system itself does nothing to protect data once it has been sent over the public internet in plain text. Once data leaves your Mac, it’s easy pickings for governmental agencies, hackers, internet service providers, and eavesdroppers who want to sift and snoop through your information.
Furthermore, Mac users need to be concerned with public WiFi network vulnerabilities, such as those found at your local coffee shop. Other users on the same WiFi network can capture, analyze, and read data that isn’t encrypted, using techniques like ARP Spoofing and MitM (Man in the Middle) attacks. The best antidote to these types of threats is to encrypt data before it ever leaves your Mac with a VPN tunnel. That way, even if a third party intercepts your data, there’s nothing they can do to read it.
The Best VPNs for Macs: Conclusion
The days of running Macs without additional security software are long gone, at least for those who don’t want hackers or anyone else stealing their data. These days, I would highly recommend using antivirus software in addition to a VPN tunnel on your Mac.
We really can’t afford to let big corporations like Microsoft or Apple handle our security anymore. Though Apple tries to make its operating systems as secure as possible, your data is a sitting duck once it leaves your computer. Any number of online entities could track your IP address, and perform targeted advertising via tracking techniques.
The golden days of Apple systems flying under the radar of hackers, eavesdroppers, viruses, and thieves are long gone. If you want to stay safe online and hide your IP address from digital spies, I highly recommend getting a VPN tunnel from one of the best VPNs for Macs recommended above.