How to Set Up a VPN on a Mac in 2021 – Get a Native App, a Third-Party VPN App, or Configure Manually!

If you’re worried about whether getting started with VPNs on macOS is hard, rest assured that anyone can do this. In this article, we’ll do our best to provide up-to-date guides, giving you a clear idea of how to install a VPN on a Mac in 2021.

More precisely, we’ll explain three options. You can use an official macOS VPN app, configure a VPN manually, or rely on third-party apps for certain protocols. Each of those methods has its benefits and downsides, so we’ll make sure to explain all there is to know.

Before we get started, we have an important note for you. To give you a concrete example of how to install a VPN on a Mac, we chose to go with ExpressVPN. This VPN uses the best possible protection for your private data, unblocks websites, supports media streaming, and plenty more.

As such, we believe it’s one of the best VPNs overall. Of course, you have other options as well, so you’ll want to check out the best VPNs for Mac.

Don’t forget that VPNs offer simultaneous connections. Therefore, you can (and should) protect your privacy on all your Web-connected devices. To get started, check out the following VPN installation guides.

Here’s How to Install a VPN on a Mac in 2021 – Step-by-Step Guides to 3 Different Methods!

So, here are the 3 best (and easiest) methods to install a VPN on a Mac in 2020:

Method #1: Set Up a VPN on Mac Using a Native App

The easiest way to install a VPN on your Mac is by using your VPN’s official app. In other words, you’ll need to turn to your VPN’s website, where you’ll find native software for your platform.

Here’s how ExpressVPN simplifies this procedure, as it gives you an intuitive user dashboard for all your VPN-related needs.

  • First, visit ExpressVPN’s website, where you can log-in to your account. To do this, click on “My Account,” fill out the required information, and you’ll access your user account dashboard.
ExpressVPN User Account Dashboard Website
  • ExpressVPN will recognize your operating system. So, click on the “Download for Mac” button. After a few seconds, ExpressVPN’s installation file will download to your computer. A new Web page will also open in your Web browser, so make sure to keep it handy (we’ll need it soon enough).
ExpressVPN macOS Setup Wizard
  • Now, go through the installation procedure by double-clicking on the file you’ve downloaded just now. You’ll need to provide your macOS user account password, and ExpressVPN will finalize the process on its own.
ExpressVPN Login Screen
  • Open the VPN app and log in to your account. For this purpose, you can copy ExpressVPN’s activation code you’ll see on the Web page that ExpressVPN opened once you started to download its installation file. You’ll be asked to choose if you want the VPN to launch on startup, and you can opt-in/out of anonymous data logging.
ExpressVPN Interface macOS
  • That’s it! You’re now free to start using the VPN. By default, you’ll see the fastest server presented by ExpressVPN. However, you can always click on the “three dots” button to review all of the available servers and pick one manually.

Tip

Some VPNs have also listed their apps on the Mac App Store. They come with a faster download method – but they’re also generally less secure since they’re bound by Apple’s strict App Store guidelines. One example of this is NordVPN, where you can choose to download its App Store app or the official macOS app from its website.

Method #2: Set up a VPN on Mac Manually

If you don’t want to install another app on your Mac, you can always configure your VPN manually. Keep in mind that your VPN needs to supply you with certain information, like its server addresses.

Once again, ExpressVPN is the best choice here as it provides everything you’ll need on its user account dashboard. So, here’s how to configure this VPN on macOS manually.

  • First, you’ll have to prepare some information related to your VPN. You’ll need your username and password (these are not your VPN’s regular credentials, keep in mind), a server address, and more. In terms of ExpressVPN, you’ll find this information by logging into your account on its official website.
Manual Configuration ExpressVPN User Dashboard
  • Once you get to your account dashboard, click on “Set Up Other Devices” and then choose “Manual Configuration.” On the right side, click on “PPTP & L2TP/IPSec,” and you’ll see all of the required information below. Make sure to keep this page open, as we’ll need it soon enough.
MacOS VPN Connection Manual Creation
  • Now, go to System Preferences > Network and click on the “+” sign in the bottom-left corner. Pick “VPN” for the interface and “L2TP over IPSec” for the VPN type. Give a name to this VPN connection, but make sure to keep it easy to memorize. You’ll want to create a connection to a specific server, so it’s a good idea to say what server that is.
MacOS VPN Config
  • Then, check out the ExpressVPN Web page you’ve previously opened, as we now need the information found there. You’ll need to fill out two fields here (server address and account name), so check out this information back on ExpressVPN’s website. By the way, your account name is your username, usually a string of numbers and letters.
Advanced Settings VPN MacOS
  • Select “Authentication Settings” to proceed. In the “Password” field, you need to enter your custom password (once again, this is visible on ExpressVPN’s website). And also, enter “12345678” in the “Shared Secret” field. Click on “OK” to apply and input all of this information.
Advanced VPN Preferences macOS
  • Then, click on “Advanced” – found in the bottom-right corner. Make sure to check the box for “Send all traffic over VPN connection” to avoid any leaks. Confirm your decision, also check the box for “Show VPN status in menu bar.”
Realtime VPN Stats macOS

That’s it! You’re now free to connect to your newly created VPN connection. This can be done by going to System Preferences > Network or clicking on the newly created menu bar icon. Repeat the same procedure to disconnect once you no longer need your VPN.

Tip

As you can see, macOS allows you to add three types of VPN connections. These are L2TP/IPsec, Cisco IPSec, and IKEv2. All of these are secure, but you should go with OpenVPN if you need the best protection for your data. You can get OpenVPN by following the methods explained above and below this segment.

Method #3: Set Up a VPN on Mac Using a Third-Party VPN App (Tunnelblick)

If you only need the OpenVPN protocol and don’t want to use a dedicated VPN app, you can use a third-party app for this purpose.

Of course, you’ll also need a VPN that supports this protocol, and once again, we believe that ExpressVPN is your best bet. So, here are the steps you need to take.

  • First, download corresponding OVPN files from your VPN service (and gather other information along the way). If you’re an ExpressVPN user, log-in to your account on the VPN’s website, then click on “Set Up Other Devices” and select “Manual Configuration.”
  • Now, check out the right side of that page. This is where you’ll see your OpenVPN username and password, along with OVPN files. So, download OVPN files of those servers that you plan on using.
Tunnelblick Installation Wizard
  • To create an OpenVPN connection on macOS, it’s recommended to use Tunnelblick. Click on the provided link to visit its official website and then download the app to your Mac. Then, double-click on the installation file and follow the steps you’ll see on your screen. Launch the application once it is installed (if it doesn’t launch on its own).
  • Right now, Tunnelblick should show you two options – to supply a configuration file or to set up a new connection manually. Since you have the required OVPN file ready, you need to click on “I have a configuration file,” which should open another window – where you can add your OpenVPN configuration.
Tunnelblick Startup Screen
  • Drag-and-drop the recently downloaded OVPN file on the left side of Tunnelblick’s interface, where it says “Configurations.” The application will now ask for your username and password, so you can return to ExpressVPN’s website to get your OpenVPN credentials. Input the required information (you can also save them in your Keychain) and confirm your input.
Adding VPN Profile to Tunnelblick
  • Finally, you can use this same interface to connect to your newly added server. Repeat the procedure to add multiple servers. And lastly, you can connect and disconnect from various servers by clicking on Tunnelblick’s menu bar icon (in the top-right corner of your screen).
VPN Log Tunnelblick Active Connection

FAQ

Does macOS Have a Built-In VPN?

Yes, macOS comes with a built-in VPN. More precisely, it comes with all the tools you need to set up a new VPN connection. However, Macs don’t have fully-featured VPNs built-in (they provide only a shell, so to say). In other words, you need to subscribe to a VPN (such as ExpressVPN) in order to be able to connect to servers.

Is macOS’ Built-In VPN Good?

Mac’s built-in VPN tools (Apple > System Preferences > Network) allow you to set up IPSec, IKEv2, and L2TP connections. All of those are secure protocols. However, if you truly want the best, we recommend going for OpenVPN (by using third-party VPN apps such as Tunnelblick).

What’s the Best Way to Install a VPN on Mac?

It’s recommended to go with your VPN’s native application for macOS. That’s the easiest way to install a VPN on a Mac. However, if you’re a more advanced user and want a better overview of your VPN connection, using third-party software (Tunnelblick) is the way to go.

How to Download a VPN on Mac?

You can download VPN apps from their official websites. Therefore, make sure to log in to your account (on your chosen VPN’s website) after you subscribe. Alternatively, many VPNs offer apps via the Mac App Store, so you can download them from there as well.

How to Share a VPN Over Wi-Fi on Mac?

If you configure your VPN manually on a Mac, you’ll get to share it via Wi-Fi. That’s how you can protect other devices as well, without having to install VPNs on each of those. To learn how this is done, here’s our article on how to share your VPN connection.

You’ve reached the end of our guide on how to install a VPN on a Mac. We hope that you’ll manage to go through this procedure without any problems. However, if you face any roadblocks, don’t hesitate to let us know via the comments section below.

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