Best free VPNs for Mac | Stay private online for free
With so many VPN services on the market, there’s never been a better time for online privacy – but censorship, government surveillance, and cybercriminals have also grown with the times. In order to stay secure online and gain watertight privacy, we recommend you use a VPN for Mac.
VPN services can often be expensive, which can put some people off. We believe everyone should have the right to protect their privacy, so we have listed the best free VPNs for Mac users. Free VPN services have some limitations compared to paid services, which we will also explain in this article.
What is the best free VPN for Mac?
We have listed the best free VPNs for Mac below. If you want to know more about why we’ve chosen each provider, please keep scrolling to see our in-depth analysis.
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These free services will provide users with strong encryption and will keep you safe and secure online, however, they aren’t great for streaming. Unfortunately, these services have the following limitations:
- Fewer server locations to connect to.
- Usage limits/download limitations.
- Bandwidth restrictions (slow connection speeds).
- Inability to unblock Netflix and access other such services – check out our Netflix VPN guide for a list of services that work with Netflix.
Best free VPNs for Mac – In-depth analysis
We take a closer look at our recommended free VPNs for Mac below. For more information on any of the listed providers, be sure to click through and check out our in-depth VPN reviews.
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What’s the catch with using a free VPN for Mac?
There are hundreds of free services on the market, and the vast majority of them log your data to sell to third-party crooks and provide little, if any, encryption. This is the polar opposite of what a VPN is supposed to do, and if you value privacy, it is important to stay away from these services. The providers behind these use the services to catch people out and steal user data.
Luckily, there are some free VPNs for Mac that you can trust. While it is extremely generous of some of the best VPN services to let consumers use their service for free, there are some caveats.
A free service is likely to cap your data. You’ll have a daily or monthly allowance, and if you run over it, you’ll no longer be able to use the VPN. This means your normal internet connection will resume, and both restricted and geo-blocked sites will become inaccessible once more.
Free services usually offer limited bandwidth, too. This isn’t ideal for streaming as it can cause buffering and can slow down your connection.
A free VPN for Mac is likely to:
- Have monthly data caps.
- Use bandwidth limitations.
- Limit the number of servers you can choose from.
- Be unable to unblock anything.
Anything claiming to have unlimited internet for free is risky and you should steer clear. If you pay for a VPN, you’ll have your pick of all of its servers. This isn’t the case with most free services. They will usually have a reduced number of servers available for free users, and sometimes they simply won’t be in the locations that you need them to be for unblocking content.
At the end of the day, there is no real way to get a full premium VPN experience for free. So if you require a VPN on a daily basis, it is probably worth investing to get a full unrestricted experience. There are plenty of cheap VPN services out there that are fantastic for streaming and have excellent privacy and security features, this could be an option.
Don’t despair, however. A free VPN for Mac users can still be a powerful privacy tool, provided you don’t need to stream.
Why use a free VPN for Mac?
Using a VPN will make your Mac more secure. Macs are just as susceptible to viruses and malware as a Windows machine. They’re also being targeted by hackers more often now, thanks to a rise in popularity. Luckily, a VPN is the perfect tool to safeguard against malware and tracking – and even a free VPN for Mac can do more than you might expect.
A VPN conceals your IP address, thereby preventing your online activity from being logged by the sites you visit or your ISP. You can also access geo-blocked content with a VPN. This includes streaming sites, news outlets, and social media pages that might otherwise be restricted (either by your workplace or government). Additionally, by installing a VPN on your device, you’ll be able to use it safely when in public, seeing as public WiFi connections are notoriously dangerous.
It can be tricky to find VPN software compatible with Macs, and that goes double if you want a free service. This is due to OpenVPN not being built into the macOS. Luckily, other secure protocols exist, and below, we’ve run through 6 of the best VPNs for Apple Mac users.
What to look for in a free VPN for Mac
Whilst there isn’t an overabundance of free VPNs for Macs out there, you can still afford to be picky – don’t get sucked in by the promise of a “free” service without checking the small print. All the providers we’ve listed above should be more than enough to protect your average browsing session, but there are things to look out for when shopping around:
- Strong encryption – you’ll want your details and history to remain private, so tried-and-true encryption is a must.
- DNS leak protection – even with a VPN, you’re not guaranteed to be protected from critical DNS leaks and the threat they represent, so make sure your VPN offers this functionality.
- Kill switch – a handy tool that’ll keep you protected in the event that your VPN connection drops… or if you forget to switch it on.
- A zero-log policy – you have a right to online privacy, and no reputable VPN provider stores its users’ activity logs.
- Customer service – even a free service shouldn’t skimp on customer service!
- Ease of use – the last thing anybody wants is to waste time in complicated menus and UI settings; look for clean menus and quick installation.
How to install a free VPN for Mac?
Luckily, there’s nothing to it. All you need to do is pick a provider – we’ve highlighted five of the best – and follow these three steps. You’ll have your shiny new free VPN for your Mac up and running in no time!
- Navigate to your VPN provider’s homepage and download the Mac OS X files.
- Follow the installation wizard when it begins, and log in using your credentials.
- Pick a server (this might be affected by which locations are available or the content you’re trying to access) and hit connect – Voila! You’re all ready to go.
How we picked the best free VPNs for Mac – testing methodology
Finding a reliable and secure VPN is not easy, especially among the free VPNs. This category of VPNs is particularly risky because many of them use unscrupulous methods to earn money – seeing as they’re not charging for their services. That’s why we rarely recommend free VPNs, and if we do, those are usually the VPNs that also offer paid plans. To them, free plans serve as a promotional strategy, and premium ones are how they pay their bills. So at least you know where their money comes from and there’s less chance they are involved in any sort of data trade or similar fishy activities.
Of course, there’s much more to it when choosing a good free VPN. ProPrivacy has a team of experts who compare and review market-leading providers daily, and who are always up to date with the latest news and innovations from the world of VPNs and cybersecurity in general. With each guide or comparison, we apply our thorough review and testing methodology, composed and perfected over the course of almost 10 years.
Our testing consists of many important steps, and we never skimp on details. For a start, we check whether a VPN has strong encryption to keep your browsing and other online activities safe. Multiple encryption protocols are a big plus as well. We make sure there are no DNS leaks, so you get the VPN privacy you need. Naturally, the VPNs we recommend must be fast enough and have stable connections to be useful.
Here you can see the other important factors we took into consideration when picking the best free VPNs for macOS:
- Custom apps for macOS that are fully functional and easy to use
- Servers in key locations to support your activities and bypass censorship
- Advanced privacy features, such as a kill-switch and DNS leak protection
- The ability to access popular streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and BBC iPlayer
- A free subscription plan that will allow you to use or test the service for free
- A money-back guarantee, so you can upgrade to a premium plan risk-free anytime you wish to do so
Is a free VPN for Mac fast enough for streaming?
Unfortunately, free VPNs have fewer servers than their premium counterparts. This causes servers to become congested, which makes them too slow for data-intensive tasks such as streaming, gaming, torrenting, and video conferencing.
In addition to having slow servers, free VPNs are often non-optimized for streaming platforms. This means that those servers will not work to watch Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and other popular services. VPNs keep this kind of access exclusively for their paid users, to make people want to upgrade to a paid plan.
Ultimately, you can try a free VPN to stream if you want to – and it may work with YouTube and some other streaming platforms. However, due to their slow speeds, you are likely to experience high levels of buffering, low-quality video playback, and lag.
In addition, you should not expect a free VPN to work with popular streaming services such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and HBO Max. This is because free VPNs have already been blocked by these streaming services.
Can I use a free VPN to protect me on public wifi?
Yes. As long as the free VPN you have selected provides strong encryption for your data, then it will work to protect your privacy on public wifi. This means that you have to be careful about which free VPN you use; they are not all created equally.
The important thing to remember is that studies have revealed that many free VPNs lack encryption, suffer from leaks, and even have app and server vulnerabilities. These VPNs will not prevent ISPs or wifi networks from detecting what you are doing online. They will fail to protect you against hackers.
This means that you must choose a free VPN provider extremely carefully. Only a few trustworthy VPN providers have a free plan that offers the same level of protection as a premium service, and the vast majority of the free VPNs you will find on app stores or Google searches are likely to be insecure.
We’d recommend any of the free VPNs for Mac users, but note that they are limited services. This doesn’t mean that they’re useless, however. A free service can still provide much-needed security for day-to-day browsing, and journalists and reporters can use them to quickly and freely access sites that would otherwise be restricted.
Depending on what you’re doing online, a free VPN for Mac could be all you need or a great way to decide whether you want to take the plunge and commit to a premium plan.
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[[post-object type=”accordion” question=”Is using a free VPN for Mac safe?” answer=”It depends on which VPN you’re using. Some free VPNs can collect and sell your information to malicious third parties. These VPNs are also likely to offer very flimsy encryption – if it exists at all. If you stick to our list of recommended <a href=’/vpn/comparison/free-vpn-services’>free VPNs</a>, you can rest assured that you’re using a safe service that prioritizes your security, not your data.” /]]
[[post-object type=”accordion” question=”Will using a free VPN for Mac slow me down?” answer=”It’s inevitable, unfortunately. You should only ever experience a slight drop in speed when you connect to a VPN, however. This is because your traffic now has to travel farther than if it was using your regular internet connection and encrypting this traffic takes time. You might also experience a loss of speed when using a congested server. In this case, we’d recommend connecting to a server elsewhere if possible.” /]]
[[post-object type=”accordion” question=”Is using a free VPN on Mac against the law?” answer=”No. It’s a common misconception that <a href=’/guides/are-vpns-legal’>VPNs are illegal</a>. In actuality, plenty of people and businesses use VPNs every day. Your actions whilst using a VPN can still be illegal, however. This includes downloading copyrighted content, for example. So take care!” /]]