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How to Set Up a VPN on Mac in 2024

Written by Novak Bozovic
Last updated May 11, 2024

If you're worried that getting started with VPNs on macOS is hard, rest assured that you're in for an easy procedure. In this article, we'll do our best to provide up-to-date guides, giving you a clear idea of how to set up a VPN on a Mac and safeguard your privacy in the best way possible.

More precisely, we'll explain 3 options. You can use an official macOS VPN app, configure a VPN manually, or rely on third-party apps for specific protocols. Each of those methods has its benefits and downsides, so we'll make sure to explain all there is to know.

With that said, let's jump right in, shall we?

How to Set Up a VPN on Mac

Without further ado, here are the 3 best and easiest methods to install any VPN on your Mac:

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 native app. In other words, you'll need to turn to your VPN's website, where you'll find native software for your platform. You will need to do the following:

1. Pick a VPN that offers a native macOS app. We highly recommend ExpressVPN. (You can try it risk-free for 30 days.)

2. Once you subscribe, go back to ExpressVPN's site. Select 'My Account.'

Signing In to ExpressVPN Website

3. Provide your credentials, and you'll access your ExpressVPN account dashboard.

4. You should see a banner at the top. Click 'Download for Mac.'

Download for Mac Button on ExpressVPN Website

5. Double-click on the installation file you just downloaded. Install ExpressVPN.

Installing ExpressVPN on macOS

6. Open the ExpressVPN app and pick 'Sign In.'

7. Log in to your account. You can use your ExpressVPN activation code for that purpose.

Logging in to ExpressVPN

8. You'll be asked to add a VPN configuration to macOS. Click 'Allow.'

Installing ExpressVPN Profile on macOS

9. Decide if you want to allow ExpressVPN on launch on system startup.

ExpressVPN System Startup Prompt

10. Decide if you want to send anonymous data to ExpressVPN.

ExpressVPN Usage Collection Prompt

11. At this moment, you should be looking at ExpressVPN's home screen.

12. Use the ON/OFF button to connect to the nearest VPN server.

Connecting to ExpressVPN Server

13. Use the button below the ON/OFF switch to pick another server manually.

Choosing Different ExpressVPN Server

14. Lastly, use the ON/OFF switch to disconnect at any moment. That's it!

ExpressVPN ON/OFF switch

Method #2: Set up a VPN on Mac Manually

You can configure a VPN manually if you don't want to install another app on your Mac. Keep in mind that your VPN needs to supply you with certain information, like its server addresses, so you'll need a VPN that supports that kind of configuration.

1. Get a VPN that supports manual configuration on macOS, such as ExpressVPN.

2. Return to ExpressVPN's site and click 'My Account.' Access your online dashboard.

3. Click 'Set Up Other Devices' at the top. Then, pick 'Manual Configuration.'

4. Pick the 'L2TP/IPSec' tab on the right-hand side.

ExpressVPN L2TP Credentials

5. You'll now find your L2TP username and password. So, leave that page open.

6. Just below, find a server and note its server address.

7. Now, go to System Preferences > Network and click on the '+' sign in the bottom-left corner.

MacOS VPN Connection Manual Creation

8. Pick 'VPN' for the interface type and 'L2TP over IPSec' for the VPN type.

9. Give a name to your VPN connection, but make sure to keep it easy to memorize.

10. Return to the ExpressVPN page you're keeping open in the background.

11. Input any server address and your account name (your L2TP username).

MacOS VPN Config

12. Select 'Authentication Settings' to proceed.

13. In the 'Password' field, you need to enter your L2TP password.

Advanced Settings VPN MacOS

14. And also, enter '12345678' in the 'Shared Secret' field.

15. Click on 'OK' to dismiss the screen you're seeing at the moment.

16. Then, click on 'Advanced' - found in the bottom-right corner.

Advanced VPN Preferences macOS

17. Make sure to check the box for 'Send all traffic over VPN connection' to avoid any leaks.

18. Also, check the box next to 'Show VPN status in menu bar.'

Realtime VPN Stats macOS

That's it! You're now free to use 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.

Method #3: Set Up a VPN on Mac Using Tunnelblick

If you need the OpenVPN protocol only and don't wish to use a dedicated VPN app, you can use a third-party app for this purpose. Here's how to set up a VPN on your Mac using connections that rely on OpenVPN only.

1. Subscribe to a VPN that lists its OVPN files. Our recommendation is to pick ExpressVPN.

2. Return to ExpressVPN's home page and select 'My Account.'

3. Provide your credentials to access your ExpressVPN online dashboard.

4. Navigate to 'Set Up Other Devices.' Then, pick 'Manual Configuration.'

5. Pick the 'OpenVPN' tab on the right-hand side.

ExpressVPN OpenVPN Files

6. Make a note of your OpenVPN username and password. You'll need those soon enough.

7. Just below, pick a VPN server and download its OVPN file to your Mac.

8. You'll need an OVPN client for your Mac. We recommend using Tunnelblick.

Tunnelblick Installation Wizard

9. Launch Tunnelblick and pick 'I Have Configuration Files.'

Tunnelblick Startup Screen

10. Drag and drop your OVPN file on the left side of Tunnelblick's interface.

11. The application will now ask for your OpenVPN username and password.

Adding VPN Profile to Tunnelblick

12. Finally, you can use this same interface to connect to your newly added server.

VPN Log Tunnelblick Active Connection

Repeat the procedure explained above to add multiple servers. That means you'll need to return to ExpressVPN's site, pick another OVPN file, and then add it to Tunnelblick. Feel free to rename your connections based on your chosen servers' location, making it easy to discern them.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are multiple ways to set up a VPN on a Mac. If you want the easiest route, pick a VPN with native macOS software. That way, you can start using a VPN in under a minute while getting access to all its protocols and security features.

Also, know that our strong recommendation is to pick ExpressVPN. Based on our extensive tests, that's the best VPN for macOS you'll find today. You can even try ExpressVPN risk-free for 30 days, which means it comes as a risk-free purchase.

Lastly, remember to protect your other devices as well. With that said, you'll want to check our central guide on how to set up a VPN (covering 60+ platforms and devices).


Does Mac Have a Built-In VPN?

Your Mac comes with a VPN client that lets you set up new VPN connections. However, it doesn't let you connect to VPN servers on its own.

That means you need to pick a VPN service. We recommend going for a trustworthy VPN, like ExpressVPN. Once you subscribe, you can decide between installing its native app or configuring the VPN manually.

Is macOS' Built-In VPN Good?

Yes, your Mac's built-in VPN client (Apple > System Preferences > Network) is good enough as it allows you to set up IPSec, IKEv2, and L2TP connections.

All those are secure protocols. However, if you truly want the best, we recommend going for OpenVPN (using third-party VPN apps such as Tunnelblick).

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

The best (and easiest) way to install a VPN on a Mac is to use native software. In other words, pick a VPN that brings a fully featured app for macOS.

However, if you're a more advanced user in need of a better overview of your connections, 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. However, VPNs available on the Mac App Store might come with limited features. So, it's always better to install VPN apps the traditional way.

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

To share a VPN connection from your Mac, you first need to configure your VPN connection manually using 'System Preferences,' as explained just above.

Once you do that, you can decide if you wish to share your VPN connection via Wi-Fi or Ethernet. Use the provided link to learn more about the steps you need to take.

Do Apple Devices Need a VPN?

Yes, your Apple device needs a VPN - if your goal is to protect and preserve your digital privacy while ensuring that online trackers don't follow you around.

Even though Apple has implemented a range of privacy-protection technologies into macOS, nothing beats using a dedicated VPN that provides high-end data encryption.

Does Apple Offer a Free VPN?

Apple doesn't offer a free VPN. However, it offers 'Private Relay,' which is similar to a VPN, as part of its 'iCloud+' subscription (so, it's a premium feature).

'Private Relay' protects you against trackers. However, it doesn't allow you to pick a server. It also doesn't have the same level of encryption as commercial VPN services.

That means even if you decide to use 'Private Relay,' make sure to pair it with a powerful VPN. That's the only way to ensure the safety and privacy of your personal information.

What VPN Does Apple Recommend?

Apple doesn't really recommend any VPN in specific. However, if you check articles found online dealing with macOS VPNs, you'll find ExpressVPN recommended quite often.

The fact is that ExpressVPN is the best VPN available today. It works on practically any Apple device, using the latest technologies to hide your online activity. That's why it's our #1 recommendation.

You've reached the end of our guide on how to set up a VPN on a Mac. If you have any questions, let us know via the comments section below. Thank you for reading!

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