To ensure the Mac VPNs that we recommend are the best available, we follow a strict and scientific review process.
We test each and every VPN on our iMac, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini — allowing us to verify a service’s quality across a range of macOS devices.
For Mac VPNs, we test specifically for:
- A generous monthly data allowance.
- Easy to download and install the app for macOS.
- Retains no personally identifiable logs.
- Fast speeds when connected to nearby and far-away servers.
- Ability to stream some geo-restricted streaming libraries.
- No limits on torrenting and P2P activity.
Here’s a more in-depth look at all the factors we test for when ranking the best VPNs for Mac:
1. Mac App: 30%
Minimum Requirement: A native app for Mac with some customization options.
We Recommend: An easy-to-use and feature-packed Mac app that can be downloaded through the App Store.
Every Mac VPN app should be as intuitive to use as Apple’s built-in applications. Each VPN should also include a baseline of standard features, regardless of whether it’s a premium service or not.
We make sure that there is a native app for macOS that can be easily downloaded either via a web page or through the App Store. We then check to see how simple it is to connect to a VPN server and change IP location.
We then look to see if the Mac VPN app has a kill switch, a split tunneling feature, or any more advanced functionality.
Due to the sandboxing and system requirements of macOS, many VPN providers don’t make the effort to implement all their features. The best will, though, making the application as fully-featured as its Windows counterpart.
2. Logging Policy: 20%
Minimum Requirement: Anonymized connection logs.
We Recommend: No logs.
A private logging policy limits the chance you’ll get identified from your online activity. Intrusive logging is more common in free VPNs, but we’ve also reviewed many premium Mac VPNs that collect too much user data.
Any paid-for VPNs that collect anything more than aggregated server data have been automatically excluded from this list.
As free VPNs have to make money somehow, many of them resort to intrusive data collection on users that can then be sold to advertisers. This makes using one of these VPNs as a tool for privacy and security essentially pointless.
In many of the free Mac VPNs we tested, we found serious privacy flaws. Our independent free VPN research has found that 80% share or log users’ real IP addresses.
All the free services on this page are freemium VPNs, which means paying subscribers subsidize free users, so no data collection is necessary. We will never recommend any VPNs that log any personally identifiable user data.
3. Data Allowance: 20%
Minimum Requirement: 5GB each month for free VPNs, and unlimited for premium VPNs.
We Recommend: Unlimited data with no bandwidth restrictions.
A data cap will limit the amount of bandwidth you can use each month. It’s the most popular way that safe free VPNs restrict their service.
This will inhibit the number of times you can stream, torrent files, or browse the web using your VPN —making it the most noticeable limitation you’ll face day-to-day. For this reason, every free Mac VPN must allow you to use a relatively large amount of data each month.
As well as checking every VPN’s data allowance policy, we download each service and check if there are any methods to obtain extra data each month. We’ve found that some VPNs increase your data allowance by up to 500% if you provide a username and password.
Overall, we tend to only recommend VPNs that offer at least 10GB of data each month. We strongly discourage using a VPN service below this amount.
4. Speed: 10%
Minimum Requirement: Average download speeds above 60Mbps.
We Recommend: Average download speeds above 80Mbps.
We found that many of the VPNs we tested oversold their server space, meaning too many users are connected to one server at any given time. This results in slow speeds, connection dropouts, and an overall frustrating experience.
To measure every Mac VPN’s average speeds, we perform a number of manual speed tests. We test each VPN while connected to servers around the world.
We perform 12 monthly speed tests per location on our MacBook Pro. Depending on its results, each VPN is then given a rating out of 10.
As you’d expect, the free services are always slower than the premium options. The best free VPNs will use clever techniques, like load balancing, to reroute traffic to a larger pool of servers. This makes these VPNs fast enough for HD streaming and quick torrent downloads.
5. Streaming: 10%
Minimum Requirement: Works with some less popular streaming services.
We Recommend: Works with US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu.
Most VPNs, especially free ones, often have many users connected at once. This makes it easier for streaming services to detect and block the server’s IP address.
To see which free Mac VPNs work with streaming sites, we test all of them weekly on our MacBook Pro and iMac. We track how each VPN performs over time, with results going back multiple years.
We don’t state a VPN unblocks any streaming service until it’s worked for four consecutive weeks. This removes the risk of any anomalous results and means we know for certain that it’ll work for you, not just that it worked once.
The best Mac VPNs will unblock multiple Netflix libraries, BBC iPlayer, and Amazon Prime Video. The worst will block streaming altogether.
6. Torrenting: 10%
We’ve developed an in-house test to calculate a torrenting rating for every VPN. This test is standardized and applies the same to each service we test.
Here’s how we test every VPN’s torrenting ability:
- We calculate a VPN’s P2P speed rating by downloading a torrent file on a 150Mbps connection. We measure the file transfer duration to find the average bitrate.
- We examine each service’s torrenting and logging policy, as many don’t allow free users to torrent. We’ll also verify that the VPN has never handed over any user data to law enforcement in the past.
- We check the VPN’s P2P servers and assign them a unique rating. Only a VPN that allows torrenting on all of its servers gets the maximum rating.
- We survey the VPN’s advanced torrenting features. We look for strong encryption and extra networking features.
Overall, the best Mac VPNs will have an average torrenting bitrate of at least 5.0MiB/s, will keep no logs, allow P2P file-sharing on its entire server network, and support port forwarding.
Additional Testing Criteria
As well as our six main testing categories above, we also look for other characteristics to find the best Mac VPNs.
For instance, we categorically disallow any VPN app that includes ads or pop-ups. Some free VPNs include advertisements within the app to support their business. While this is an annoyance and worsens user experience, these ads also pose a threat to your privacy. For example, Betternet is a free VPN that does not outright collect user data, but the free version includes Google Ads.
In addition, we also expect a strong level of encryption and security. All the VPNs we endorse come with strong encryption techniques to securely tunnel traffic, with Perfect Forward Secrecy and an AES 256-bit cipher. The VPNs also come with a kill switch, IP, DNS, and WebRTC leak protection, and privately-owned DNS servers. These features prevent your identity from being revealed at any point.
Finally, we also consider how easy the VPN is to register and start using. We prefer services that don’t require you to input lots of personal information when signing up. If it’s a free service, we appreciate VPNs that don’t consistently try and push you to upgrade to paid subscriptions.
Additional research by Luke Williams