What are VPNs and who needs them?
Even if you haven’t used a VPN before, you’ve probably noticed VPN ads that pop up on almost every site imaginable. These ads are an indication of the software’s growing popularity. But before you decide to buy the best VPN for a Mac, you should know what the software actually does.
VPN stands for virtual private network and helps protect your online privacy by hiding your IP address, location, and browsing history. It places your own private network over a public network – tunneling your connection to a remote VPN server. This hides your IP address and location while tricking both your device and the website you accessed into thinking you connected from another country. The country being displayed depends on the server you connected to.
You might think that only people who have something to hide need the best secure VPN for Mac. But VPNs aren’t just used for unblocking content. The software guards your private information that is in constant risk of being stored or sold even if you have completely legit browsing habits.
Privacy: Today, the best VPN service for Mac has a multitude of functions. But its primary purpose is to preserve your privacy online. That’s why we focused extensively on privacy features in our reviews.
The first thing to look at is the provider’s logging policy which determines the amount of user data being stored. Any provider considered to be the best VPN client for Mac keeps no identifying logs. That includes any information about the user, his location, and browsing history. Keep in mind that almost all providers store non-identifying logs, which are generally used for metrics and network improvements.
However, our advice is to avoid providers that keep any user logs. Logged data is at risk of being obtained by government agencies, sold to third parties, or stolen by hackers.
Besides logging, we looked at a number of other safety features that providers on our best VPN for Mac 2020 list have in place. These include the level of encryption, the number of shared IPs, public Wi-Fi protection, and the kill-switch option.
Torrenting: VPNs are also used for entertainment and file-sharing purposes. Torrenting is one type of P2P file-sharing technology that generally falls into a legal gray area. While the P2P sharing method is not illegal per se, the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material is. In countries like the US, the use of torrents is prohibited and can result in legal action against the user. This is why many of the best VPN software for Mac providers used to prohibit P2P sharing. But the market has changed, and the majority of VPNs now allow torrenting, either on all or on specialized servers.
The no-logs policy plays an important role in facilitating P2P sharing. Since VPN providers don’t store any data they are not in a position to inform ISPs or government agencies about which country a user is operating from.
In our reviews, we examined whether the provider allows P2P sharing and the quality of the connection – a crucial aspect for torrenting.
Unblocking Netflix and other streaming services: Netflix is the most popular streaming platform in the world, and the best VPN app for Mac should be able to provide access to geo-blocked Netflix content.
Netflix is not available in a number of countries that have a challenging regulatory environment, including China and North Korea. However, the service can be accessed by VPN users. Therefore, in our best VPN for macOS reviews, we tested whether providers can unblock Netflix and other services such as Hulu and BBC iPlayer. We also tested the quality of the stream and whether it’s stable.
Servers and connection speed: Another important feature to consider when looking at VPNs is the number of available servers around the globe. A large server base allows you to choose the one nearest to you and provides greater connection speeds. In our search for the best paid VPN for Mac, we also looked at the number of countries where the servers are located as well as the number of specialized P2P servers.
Connection speeds are often directly linked to the provider’s server count. VPNs work by tunneling your connection to one of their servers, effectively spoofing your location, and hiding your activity from the ISP. During this process, you often lose a portion of your original download/upload speed. The extent of the decrease in speed depends on the provider’s network infrastructure and server base.
Therefore, the server count and connection quality were an important part of our search for the best VPN for Mac and iOS.
Price: So, how much cash will you have to dish out in exchange for safe browsing and anonymity? Well, prices vary depending on the provider. The average monthly subscription fee ranges between $9 and $12 with discounts if you subscribe for an annual plan.
Although you’ve probably heard a lot about the best free VPN for Mac, we recommend sticking to the best paid VPN instead.
Free VPNs can jeopardize your anonymity and tend to sell user information to advertisers or other third parties. Some of the top-rated providers might have a free plan, but they often come with limited bandwidth, and users can only access a small number of their servers. Free plans that are offered by some of the best VPN services for Mac are useful as a free trial before you decide which paid option suits you best.