Mac users demand an intuitive, user-friendly interface that doesn’t compromise on security. Naturally, this philosophy extends to the best VPN apps for Mac OS, and today we’ll be showing you how to install and set up two top-tier VPN providers on your trusty Apple computer in mere minutes.
If you’re a Mac user, you might think that you have no reason to worry about cyber security threats. After all, you have a Mac, and they’re practically immune to viruses, right? Unfortunately, not. In fact, Mac users do still have to be careful when using their devices. Setting aside the issue of viruses, a major concern for any Mac user should be securing their internet connection. Using an unsecured connection on your home network, or connecting to public network like those you find in coffee shops, can in fact be extremely risky.
Already know how to install a VPN, and just want a recommendation for Mac? Here are our favorites:
- ExpressVPN – Best Mac VPN – ExpressVPN just feels right on Mac, with its uncluttered interface concealing powerful privacy provisions that “just work”.
- IPVanish – An extremely popular VPN, especially for torrenting, unblocking streaming, and anything else that requires a good balance of speed and security.
To protect yourself when using a Mac, you need a VPN. In today’s article we’re going to walk you through the simple process of installing and using a VPN with ExpressVPN and IPVanish as examples. Once we’re done, you’ll know how to set up a VPN on a Mac.
Why Do You Need A VPN?
You might be wondering why exactly you need a VPN. There are many reasons that using a VPN is good security practice, and it is handy for other reasons too:
- Protect your data. Whenever you connect your Mac to a public Wi-Fi network, then other users of the network maybe be able to view your internet activity. If you are unlucky and there is a hacker on the network you’re using, they could be able to capture the data you send over the internet, which could include your passwords or credit card details. Using a VPN negates this risk by encrypting all of the data which leaves your machine, making it impossible for hackers to read.
- Protect your privacy. When you use your internet connection at home, your ISP will be able to see every site that you visit and every file that you download. If you want to keep your internet history private – especially if you’re downloading or streaming something that you shouldn’t be – you should use a VPN which will make it impossible for your ISP to track your activity.
- Get around region locks. When you want to use a streaming site like Netflix, you might notice that some content is only available in particular countries, called “geoblocking“. If you’re unlucky enough to be located in a country with regressive copyright laws, you might only be able to access a fraction of the streaming library. By using a VPN, you can spoof your location to make it appear as if you’re elsewhere in the world to access all of the content you want.
A VPN is both useful and necessary for your security, even on a Mac. So let’s move on to the installation instructions.
1. ExpressVPN for Mac
If it’s speed that you’re after, then the VPN we recommend is ExpressVPN. It has lightning-fast connections which are so quick you’ll barely even notice they’re there. Plus, the security is excellent, offering strong 256-bit AES encryption which is almost impossible to crack and a no-logging policy to keep your internet history private. With this service you’ll get access to a huge network of servers, with over 3,000 servers in 145 different locations in 94 countries which makes it easy to find the connection you’re looking for.
The ExpressVPN package has a dedicated Mac application, plus software for Windows, Android, iOS, and Linux so that you can secure your other devices too. The software even has special features like a speed test to help you find the fastest servers available and a DNS leak test and IP address checker to make sure that you’re as secure as possible.
Read our full ExpressVPN review.
- Unblocks US Netflix, BBC iPlayer and other streaming services
- Super fast servers
- Govt-level AES-256 encryption
- No personal information logs kept
- Great customer service via chat.
- Limited configuration options
- High cost for month-to-month users.
How to Install ExpressVPN for Mac
Let’s get ExpressVPN installed on your Mac! Follow the instructions below:
- Using your web browser, go to https://www.expressvpn.com/
- Go to My Account and then enter your login details, then click Sign In
- This will take you to my My Subscriptions Click the green box that says Set Up ExpressVPN
- Now you’ll be taken to a page where ExpressVPN apps can be downloaded. Select Mac from the menu on the left, then click Download on the right
- You’ll see an activation code appears in a blue box on the left. Copy this code for later
- Now open the installer package that you downloaded
- You’ll see a system warning about running a program. Click on Continue
- Now you’ll see the installer, with on screen instructions for the installation process. Click Continue
- On the next screen, chose a location to install the software and click Continue
- You’ll see information about how much space the installation will use. Click Install
- Now you need to enter your system password, and click Install software
- Wait a moment while the installation takes place
- Once installation is complete, you’ll be asked if you want to opt in to sharing your speed test data anonymously. We recommend unchecking this box and then pressing Continue
- You’ll see a confirmation that the installation was successful, and now you’re ready to use the VPN. Click Close
- Now you’ll be asked for your activation code. Paste the code that you copied earlier and click OK
- Once activation is complete, you can click on Start Using The App
How to Set Up ExpressVPN for Mac
- When you first open the ExpressVPN you’ll see a big round grey button in the middle of the screen. All you have to do is click on the button and the app will begin connecting you to a VPN server
- You’ll see a text that says .. and you have the option to cancel if it takes too long. It usually only takes a second though, then you’ll see text saying VPN is ON and the button will have a green background
- Now you know that your VPN is connected and is keeping you safe. You can leave the ExpressVPN app and open any other app like a web browser, and all of the information that your device sends out will be encrypted
- When you press connect, by default you’ll be connected using the smart location feature which finds a server near you for maximum speeds. But if you want to connect to a server in a particular location–for example, if you want to connect to a server in the US to watch Comedy Central videos–then you should click the smaller round button to the right of the big connect button which says CHOOSE LOCATION (please note that you’ll have to turn the VPN OFF before this option becomes available)
- On the choose location page you’ll see four options. At the top is a search bar, where you can enter the name of a city or country to quickly search for a server in this location. Below are three options for sorting the data: Recommended, All, and Recents.
- Recommended lists the most frequently used and fastest countries you can connect to, with a flag of each country to help you find it quickly
- All has a list of all of the servers available across the entire network, organised by continent
- Recents show you the servers that you have connected to recently
- Once you have picked a server to connect to, tap on it and you will be connected to the new location
- If there’s a location that you use for your servers often, you can add it to your favourites by clicking the star to the right of the country name, which will then turn red. You can see a list of your favourites in the Recents tab
- Now your VPN is connected and your device is protected
- If you want to change server without opening the app, click on the ExpressVPN logo in the menu bar (it’s the icon that looks like a V with lines across it) to bring up options to connect to another server
2. IPVanish for Mac
Another great choice for a fast and reliable VPN is IPVanish. This service has a reputation for exceptionally quick connections as well as excellent security. They use strong 256-bit encryption to keep your data safe and the company has one of the best no-logging policies on the market, so you can be sure that your data will be kept private. You’ll get access to a large server network of 1,300+ servers in 75 locations worldwide, so there are plenty of options for you to choose from.
IPVanish has a dedicated Mac application, plus software support for plenty of other operating systems including Windows, Android, iOS, Linux, Fire TV, Windows Phone, and Chromebook.
Read our full IPVanish review.
How to Install IPVanish for Mac
In order to install IPVanish on your Mac, you can either follow the video tutorials here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fij8QcfdiRM & https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZpHcbJvwkI or read below for written installations:
- Open up your browser and go to https://www.ipvanish.com/
- Click on Apps, then on Mac
- Click the large button which says Download Mac App
- Once the .dmg file has finished downloading, double click to open it
- Finder will open a window prompting you to Drag the IPVanish icon over to the Applications icon to install the app. Do so to complete installation!
How to Set Up IPVanish for Mac
- When you first open the app, you’ll see a warning that the application was downloaded from the internet. Click Open to continue
- Now you’ll see a login screen where you should enter your username and password, then click Login. You may also want to check the Remember Me box so that you don’t have to enter your details again in the future
- IPVanish offers an in-app tutorial, and will prompt you to decide whether you’d like to go through it. You can choose to Begin Tutorial, or simply SKIP ahead to the next steps
- Now you’ll be taken to your IPVanish home screen. On the left side of your screen you’ll see your Quick connect preferences (look for the icon that looks like the letter “Q” shooting out a lightning bolt if you’re not taken here by default)
- You have the options of Country, Best Available City, or Best Available Server to choose which server you will be quick connected to when you log in. Now you can press Connect and you’ll be connected to the VPN
- When you first click connect, you’ll see a popup for the IPVanish Helper Tool. Click on Install, then enter your device’s password and click Install Helper to proceed
- Now you’ll see a graph of your VPN activity and the button at the bottom will turn red and now say Disconnect. This means that your VPN is up and running
- To connect to a server in a different country, simply disconnect from your current server, navigate to the QuickConnect menu as before, then choose as server in the country you want to appear to be from
- Your VPN is now connected and protecting your Mac!
Don’t Be Taken in by Free VPNs
Before we go, we should warn you about the danger of free VPN services. If you browse around, you’ll find plenty of companies which claim to provide free VPNs for use on a Mac, and you might be tempted to use one of these to save some cash. However, we strongly recommend against this! These free VPN services need to make money in some way, and if it’s not through customer subscriptions then it can be something much more dubious.
Plenty of free VPNs have been found to engage in shady practices, from injecting ads into your web browsing to selling their customer data on to third parties to making your computer part of a botnet. Some software that claims to be a free VPN doesn’t even encrypt your data, meaning it does nothing at all in the best case scenario, or even makes you less safe worst case scenario.
To avoid any of these shady companies, we suggest that you use one of our recommended and reputable VPNs to make sure that your Mac is secured. If you absolutely must save a few bucks a month, check out our guide to the most reputable free VPNs.
Even Mac users need a VPN these days, thanks to the potential danger of unsecured public networks and ISP snooping. Either of the VPNs that we’ve recommended above, ExpressVPN and IPVanish, will work to keep your Mac secure and to keep your data private. If you’re having any troubles getting your VPN set up on your Mac then let us know in the comments below and we’ll do our best to help!
If you need a VPN for a short while when traveling for example, you can get our top ranked VPN free of charge. NordVPN includes a 30-day money-back guarantee. You will need to pay for the subscription, that’s a fact, but it allows full access for 30 days and then you cancel for a full refund. Their no-questions-asked cancellation policy lives up to its name.