Best Mac VPN for 2023

If you're a MacOS user, your virtual private network should be as smart as your machine. Here are the VPNs we recommend based on our latest testing.

Updated Dec. 4, 2023 1:00 p.m. PT

Written by  Attila Tomaschek Rae Hodge
Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement
Attila Tomaschek
Attila is a Staff Writer for CNET, covering software, apps and services with a focus on virtual private networks. He is an advocate for digital privacy and has been quoted in online publications like Computer Weekly, The Guardian, BBC News, HuffPost, Wired and TechRepublic. When not tapping away on his laptop, Attila enjoys spending time with his family, reading and collecting guitars.
Expertise Attila has nearly a decade's worth of experience with VPNs and has been covering them for CNET since 2021. As CNET's VPN expert, Attila rigorously tests VPNs and offers readers advice on how they can use the technology to protect their privacy online and
Rae Hodge Former senior editor
Rae Hodge was a senior editor at CNET. She led CNET's coverage of privacy and cybersecurity tools from July 2019 to January 2023. As a data-driven investigative journalist on the software and services team, she reviewed VPNs, password managers, antivirus software, anti-surveillance methods and ethics in tech. Prior to joining CNET in 2019, Rae spent nearly a decade covering politics and protests for the AP, NPR, the BBC and other local and international outlets.
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Editors' choice 2023
See Price at ExpressVPN

Best Overall VPN


Privacy protection and fast speed

Savings 49% off with 12-mo plan (+3 free months)
  • Unmatched transparency
  • Top-notch security with no leaks detected
  • Excellent for streaming
  • Expensive
  • Only five simultaneous connections
  • Owned by Kape Technologies
Price $13 a month, $60 for six months or $100 for a year
Latest tests No leaks detected, 18% speed loss in 2023 tests
Network 3,000-plus servers in 160 locations across 94 countries
Jurisdiction British Virgin Islands

ExpressVPN remains our Editors' Choice for best overall VPN in 2023. One of the largest VPN providers globally, the industry titan has been in business since 2009 and is consistently raising the bar for service transparency year after year. In 2022, the company underwent a total of 12 independent security audits.

ExpressVPN is one of the fastest VPN services we've tested. While most VPNs will cause you to lose half or more of your normal internet speeds, ExpressVPN caused our speeds to dip just 18% in our March and April 2023 speed tests. It also unblocks Netflix and other streaming services more reliably than most other VPNs, and seamlessly surpasses geo-blocking for access to international gaming servers and torrenting sites. A single button on its landing screen allows you to connect quickly, with the only accompanying options being two server location selector buttons to connect to a Smart Location or a Recent Location. ExpressVPN's other options are all kept neatly tucked away under a garden-variety three-bar icon in the corner of the app's main screen.

While you can get a better month-to-dollar bargain with ExpressVPN's two-year subscription, we don't recommend anyone purchase any two-year VPN subscriptions at this time due to overall market volatility. ExpressVPN's best plan offers five simultaneous connections for $100 a year (which includes three extra months, for a limited-time deal totaling 15 months of service). You can also opt for a $13 monthly plan, or pay $60 for six months.

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See Price at Surfshark

Best Cheap VPN


Extensive features at a great price

Savings $2.69/mo with 24-mo plan (+4 free months)
  • Lots of unique security features
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • RAM-only server network
  • Inconsistent speed performance
  • 14 Eyes jurisdiction (Netherlands)
  • No transparency reports
Price $14 per month, $48 for the first year (then $60 annually)
Latest tests No leaks detected, 17% speed loss in 2023 tests
Network 3,200-plus servers in 100 countries
Jurisdiction Netherlands

Surfshark boasts an impressive suite of privacy and security features, unlimited simultaneous connections, an easy-to-use interface and an expansive global network. And it's still significantly cheaper than most of its competitors. That's what has helped Surfshark earn CNET's Editors' Choice for Best Value VPN in 2022. Along with standard VPN features like a kill switch and DNS leak protection, some of the more notable Surfshark features include camouflage mode (which hides the fact you're using a VPN), split-tunneling, NoBorders mode (which lets you use Surfshark in regions where VPNs are restricted) and multihop VPN connections. You'll also get access to Surfshark's CleanWeb technology, which blocks ads and malware and helps you avoid phishing attacks. With its Dynamic MultiHop, IP Randomizer and IP Rotator functions, Surfshark's Nexus network can give you a few extra layers of protection while you use the VPN -- which can be particularly beneficial to people with critical privacy needs. 

In our tests, Surfshark had no problems unblocking Netflix and Amazon Prime Video content, but we did run into a fair bit of trouble accessing Disney Plus. After testing various servers in the US and other countries where Disney Plus is available, we were finally able to access the content when we connected to a server in Boston. You may need to test a few servers yourself before gaining access to Disney Plus content with Surfshark.

Surfshark offers cheaper introductory prices that jump after the first billing cycle. Even so, Surfshark manages to keep its prices lower than most other VPNs -- helping it earn CNET's Editors' Choice for Best Value. The yearly plan starts out at $48 for the first year, then jumps to $60 for any additional years of service. If you opt for the two-year plan, you'll pay $60 up front for the initial two years combined, then $60 a year for any additional years. Surfshark's monthly plan stays constant at $13 a month. If you're not satisfied with the service for any reason, Surfshark offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.

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See Price at NordVPN

Best Connectivity


Reliable VPN with multi-device use

  • Among the fastest VPNs
  • Tons of features
  • Diskless RAM-only server infrastructure
  • No transparency reports
  • Ambiguous corporate structure
  • Only six simultaneous connections allowed
Price $79 for the first two years or $60 for the first year (then $100 per year afterwards) or $12 a month
Latest tests No leaks detected, 10% speed loss in 2023 tests
Network 5,600-plus servers in 84 locations across 59 countries
Jurisdiction Panama

NordVPN is one of the most recognized brands in the VPN field. It offers six simultaneous connections in addition to the ability to VPN into TOR and a dedicated IP option for those looking for a different level of VPN connection. More than half of Nord's 5,000-plus server fleet is optimized for peer-to-peer sharing, though Nord has blocked torrenting in 14 countries.

In our latest test rounds, we noticed a few hiccups in Nord's killswitch when using its iOS app, which could be a concern for torrenters. However, Nord has a sideloaded iOS available on its website that it recommends to its users. In our most recent speed tests, NordVPN claimed the top spot as the fastest VPN we tested in 2023, dropping our speeds by only 10%. 

NordVPN doesn't accept PayPal payments, but you can purchase a subscription with any major credit or debit card, AmazonPay, Google Pay or ACH transfer. If you'd rather pay anonymously, you can pay with a variety of cryptocurrencies including bitcoin, ethereum, tether and dogecoin. NordVPN has also partnered with a handful of retail stores like Staples, Best Buy and Walmart -- where you can even purchase your VPN with cash.

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The best Mac VPN in 2023

Throughout its tenure as a tech brand, Apple has racked up a strong reputation of keeping its devices secure -- which, in turn, has kept its users' online privacy intact. This specifically applies to Apple's slate of Mac computers. For users of Apple's iconic computer hardware, the notion of using a VPN (or virtual private network) to add an additional layer of security to their laptop or desktop computers has mostly been seen as futile. It's not. Using a VPN on your Mac can make your online experience safer in a multitude of ways. Having a VPN installed can keep apps and websites from discovering your personal information like, say, your physical location thanks to its ability to mask your IP address. Apple's operating system is unable to stop invasive threats such as this. Without a VPN, your ISP will be able to track your internet behavior on both MacOS and iOS. That said, the best Mac VPNs are here to help thwart potential problems such as these. If you're interested in keeping your digital information private and secure, choosing a highlighted VPN featured in our list of recommended services is a smart choice.

ExpressVPN has been named the best VPN for Mac computers by CNET and is our top-ranking VPN provider currently. This prestigious title was given to ExpressVPN for its dedication to transparency, privacy, the product's quick connection speeds and high-quality Mac app. Our CNET experts thoroughly tested almost a dozen popular consumer VPN platforms, putting them to work on MacOS devices to determine overall performance quality. Aside from ExpressVPN, we've highlighted a number of quality VPN options for Mac users. Each provider comes with its own set of features and characteristics, giving you the ability to select the one that would work best for your particular needs and preferences.

Other VPNs we tested

Of the numerous other VPNs we've tested, the three providers outlined below are the most notable alternative choices. Though none are the best of the best, each is a capable option for anyone looking for something other than what the top three Mac VPNs offer.    

Proton VPN

Proton VPN is a Swiss-based open-source VPN provider that offers excellent privacy features for Mac users. While Proton VPN's primary focus is on privacy and transparency, its Mac app is easy to use and it does a decent job unblocking content on various streaming platforms. And if you're looking for a free VPN, Proton VPN's free tier is the only one that CNET recommends. 

While Proton VPN's free tier doesn't include access to all of its servers, its ad-blocker tool or advanced privacy features (which include its Secure Core servers or Tor Over VPN function) there are no usage limits and the encryption, obfuscation and leak protection is all the same for free users as they are for paid users. Premium plans are priced at $10 a month or $72 a year, with a 30-day money-back guarantee included.   

Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access is one of the most budget-friendly VPNs in the business if you opt for the annual plan at $40 a year. And like Proton VPN and Mullvad VPN, its apps are all open-source. It's a US-based VPN, which may be a deal-breaker if you have heightened or critical online privacy needs. That said, PIA issues semi-annual transparency reports, has been independently audited and is one of the only VPNs that has had its no-logs claims tested in the wild. PIA's Mac app is highly customizable, so it's great for anyone who likes to tinker with their VPN connection or have a dashboard with a lot of information at hand. PIA has decent speeds, but has issues unblocking streaming services. In addition to the $40 annual plan, PIA offers a $12 monthly subscription and a three-year plan at $79 every three years.   


IPVanish is another US-based VPN provider that's a good option for VPN newbies or casual users. Its Mac app is simple and user-friendly and offers a multitude of options to connect to a VPN server. IPVanish's Quick Connect feature is the quickest and easiest way to connect to a server, but the feature typically didn't connect us to the most optimal server when we used it to connect. For optimal performance via IPVanish's Mac app, we recommend connecting manually to a server displaying a light server load. Speeds are decent (when you connect manually), and you can use IPVanish to access geo-blocked content, but its kill switch feature on Mac is limited to the OpenVPN protocol -- which means you could be sacrificing your connection speeds if you want to enable IPVanish's kill switch on your Mac.

How we test Mac VPNs

When we determine the best Mac VPN for our readers, we address a number of factors that are fundamental to being a Mac user: First, if you're a MacOS user, you're used to a clean, intuitive user interface with a minimal learning curve and a well-organized set of digital tools. That's why we thoroughly test each VPN's features and overall usability. In addition, though not all Apple products are faster than a Windows or PC device, we test each VPN's connection speeds to see how it complements MacOS machines' reputation for being fast. 

We also know that for a lot of Mac users, a broad resistance to app-borne viruses and malware is a big reason for choosing that ecosystem over Windows. To that end, we assess a VPN's antitracker capacity and its general compatibility with Apple's increasingly bolstered privacy policies. We test for leaks and we test each service's kill switch functionality to ensure it's working as it should. We test each VPN's ability to circumvent geographical restrictions, and we evaluate each provider's pricing to determine the service's overall value. 

Factors to consider in a Mac VPN

Most VPN providers offer an app for Mac computers, but it can be difficult to choose the right provider with so many options available. Based on our extensive research and hands-on testing of VPNs over the years, these are the most important factors to consider when choosing a VPN: 


The primary consideration for any VPN -- including a Mac VPN -- should be privacy. If your Mac VPN is unable to sufficiently protect your online privacy, then your VPN is useless. At a minimum, your VPN should employ industry standard AES 256-bit encryption along with offering basic privacy protections like a kill switch, DNS leak protection and a no-logs policy. For critical privacy needs, you'll also want a VPN provider that's based in a privacy-friendly jurisdiction, offers obfuscation and has a RAM-only server architecture. Additional privacy features to look out for include Tor over VPN capabilities, ad and tracker blockers and multihop connections. Also, look for a VPN that undergoes regular third-party security audits, as audits can help bolster trust in the VPN's ability to protect its users' privacy. 


Mac computers are generally known to be pretty fast, so you'll probably want a fast VPN that can deliver excellent speeds. The speed of your VPN can have a major effect on activities like streaming, downloading, video conferencing, gaming and general web browsing. To keep things running as smoothly as possible, you'll want to look for a VPN that will have as minimal an impact on your regular internet speeds as possible.  


MacOS is designed to be clean and intuitive, so if you're used to the feel of the operating system, you'd probably want a similar experience with the VPN software you use. A good Mac VPN should run smoothly and have a decluttered user interface that's easy to use regardless of your technical expertise. It should have a large network of servers around the world so you can connect easily and reliably from wherever you are, and it should be able to help you access geo-restricted content from various regions.     


VPN pricing varies greatly from provider to provider, so if you're on a budget, you may want to consider the cost and overall value of your MacOS VPN. Typically, you can expect to spend about $5 to $13 a month for a monthly VPN subscription plan. If you want to save money, you can opt for an annual subscription, where prices can range from roughly $30 to $100 a year. Be careful with free VPNs, though, because you may end up putting your privacy at risk instead of protecting it if you go with a free option. Proton VPN is currently the only free VPN that CNET recommends. However, most VPNs offer a money-back guarantee that can be anywhere from a week to 45 days. You can also get a seven-day free trial with many VPNs if you sign up through Apple's App Store. So you'll most likely have options to try various Mac VPNs risk-free before you decide whether to fully invest in one. 


What's the best Mac VPN right now?

ExpressVPN is the current CNET Editors' Choice for best overall VPN. We evaluate VPNs based on their overall performance in three main categories: speed, security features and price. Express isn't the cheapest, but it's among the fastest, and so far, is the most secure. At lower costs, Surfshark is a close second among our picks, thanks to its impressive performance and unlimited device support. NordVPN, our third choice, is a die-hard heavy-hitter. It costs more than Surfshark but less than Express, has an enormous network that's constantly getting faster and more secure, and is easily the most reliable service we've tested. 

What is a mobile VPN?

Use a mobile-friendly VPN to avoid slower speeds and ensure greater data privacy for your whole device. Mobile VPNs generally have a smaller memory footprint, and require less processing power than desktop VPNs, so they run faster and save more battery. Our top three VPNs listed above all have excellent, easy-to-use mobile VPN app options for their services. Some VPNs will only work with one type of platform -- like Apple or Android -- and some are universally compatible. To find the right mobile VPN for you, check out our mobile-specific VPN guides below. We routinely update them with our retesting information so check back often. 

What's the best free VPN service?

Proton VPN's free tier is the only free VPN we've come across so far that's worth using. It costs a lot of money to operate a VPN, and free VPN services usually make up for the lack of subscription revenue by selling user data. And in addition to being limited in usability and light on security, many free VPNs are fronts for malware distribution, which is why it's generally best to avoid them. However, Proton VPN's unlimited free tier is fast, secure and can be used for most online activities, including streaming Netflix. But if you're on a budget and want access to a premium VPN solution, you can also take a look at our picks for the best cheap VPNs.

What's the most secure VPN for Mac?

Each of the three VPNs we highlight on this page offer the same level of AES 256-bit encryption. You'll be able to secure your connection via the same encryption standards whether you're using ExpressVPN, Surfshark or NordVPN. Each has also been independently audited for security, and each one operates a RAM-only server infrastructure, which helps reduce the possibility of data being stored on a VPN server. Our DNS leak tests of all three providers revealed no leaks of any sort, and each one's kill switch worked flawlessly. 

Can you get in trouble for using a VPN?

You can potentially get in legal trouble for using a VPN if you're in a country like China or Iran that bans or outlaws VPN use altogether. Otherwise, in the vast majority of regions around the world, you don't have to worry about getting into any legal trouble just for using a VPN. Just remember that if you're doing something illegal online, it's still illegal whether you're using a VPN or not. And if you're in a country where VPN use is illegal or restricted in any way, it's imperative that you connect to an obfuscated server so your VPN traffic is disguised as ordinary HTTPS traffic. This hides the fact that you're using a VPN in the first place. 

What does my ISP see when I'm connected to my VPN?

Your ISP will see that you're connected to a VPN and it will see the IP address of the VPN server you're connected to, along with the amount of data you're transmitting. It will also see timestamps of when you connected to the VPN. Other than that, it won't see your browsing history or the websites you visit since your internet traffic is encrypted and rendered unreadable when you connect to a VPN.