How to Use and Set Up a VPN on Mac


While Apple’s Mac OS is considered more secure than many of the other operating systems out there, it’s still vulnerable to attack. Which is why a VPN comes highly recommended by many cybersecurity experts.

What is a VPN and why is it essential for computer security? A virtual private network (VPN) is a more secure internet connection that sends data through a proxy server. VPN protects the data going through it by creating a sort of “barrier” tunnel through which the data travels and by encrypting the data. This makes it nearly impossible (or just extremely tough) for malicious hackers and nosy advertisers to get access to the network’s internet traffic.

All that technical talk means, in basic terms, that a VPN protects all outgoing and incoming data on a Mac from being accessed by any outside parties. Because of this, VPN services are also widely popular among companies that have remote workers. It’s also a must-have for anyone who works in coffee shops, at events or hotels. Because the public WiFi network at a restaurant or hotel is generally not secure. Hackers know this and have taken advantage of this fact many times. Even if security isn’t a significant concern, a VPN can be useful in other ways, like offering users access to region-locked websites or online services. It never hurts to have extra options!

Still not convinced? Read on below to see why a VPN can be such a useful tool in any Mac user’s life.

Why setting up a VPN on Mac is useful

A VPN can offer both security and versatility to any Mac user. There is also a variety of VPN options out there, each with its own benefits and disadvantages, depending on every user’s needs. So it’s important to find out more about each type of VPN protocol before making a decision. Here are the three main benefits that every VPN service offers:

All browsing activities are safe

A VPN connection is always secure, meaning all data that goes through it is encrypted. People manage big parts of their lives via the internet nowadays, which includes revealing sensitive data like banking passwords. But no one wants that sensitive data to fall into the wrong hands. Unfortunately, internet service providers haven’t been doing all they can to make sure their users’ connections are secure. And while Mac OS security is deemed relatively high, it isn’t infallible. There are many Mac users worldwide, and any hacker with a motive will put in the time and effort to get through those defenses, no matter how well-maintained they are.

Remote work won’t jeopardize the worker or the company

People who work from home or take their work on the road are much more at risk than those that merely work from the office. This doesn’t mean that remote work is bad, it just means that more precautionary steps are necessary. Connecting to a public WiFi is a big risk on a good day, but it’s downright careless when someone has to manage sensitive company information. That’s why many companies make use of a private network and require remote workers to securely connect to that network through a VPN.

Be able to connect to other servers across the globe

Some countries, like China, have strict geographical restrictions on certain internet websites and content. Whatever their reason for blocking the content, sometimes users want to or need access to that locked content. Another case of regional locking comes from the websites themselves. Streaming services like Hulu, for instance, are only available in the US. But that can all be circumvented through a VPN. A VPN hides the users’ true IP address and lets them connect to their choice of a server in different locations worldwide.

So, for anyone who’s convinced, or already knew they wanted to get a VPN for their Mac device, here is a detailed guide on how to achieve that. The guide below lists everything a Mac user needs to know about how to connect to a VPN on Mac. There are three main methods people can use to turn on a VPN on Mac computers, and all three methods are explained in full below.

How to use a VPN Settings File

In some cases, people will have access to a VPN settings file. This file is usually sent by an employer who wants the person to connect to the company network on a secure line. There are also some VPN service providers who do provide VPN settings files of their own so users can easily set up after subscribing to the service. Either way, anyone who wants to know how to set up a VPN on a Mac using a settings file can follow the instructions below. The steps are the same regardless of who provided the settings file.

10 Steps to set up a VPN on Mac using the settings file method:

  1. Download the settings file or save it to the computer if it has been provided with a USB stick.
  2. Double click the settings file. One of two options will now open up – either the Network preferences panel will appear or it won’t. If the Network preferences panel did appear, then skip to step 8. If not, then go to the next step.
  3. Click on the Apple menu icon.
  4. Select “System Preferences.”
  5. Click on the “Network” icon.
  6. Look at the white panel on the left and find the gear icon at the bottom. Click on it, then click on the “Import Configurations” option.
  7. A new panel will open up. Go to the place where the VPN settings file is stored and select it. Then click on “Open” or “Import.” A new panel will open up.
  8. Make sure the “Show VPN status in menu bar” option in the new panel has a checkmark.
  9. Find the menu bar at the top right corner of the screen and click on the VPN status icon. It looks like a dark rectangle with lighter lines inside.
  10. The VPN settings file will provide the necessary information, so there’s no need to fill in the information boxes. Just click on the “Connect” button to launch the VPN.

How to set up a VPN on Mac manually

Manually setting up a VPN on Mac takes a bit more work but is worth the effort for anyone who wants to make sure they have a secure connection. Three things are needed to be able to complete this process: a subscription to a VPN service, the IP address/domain name as well as login username and password provided by the VPN service, and knowledge of the connection type (i.e., L2TP). Just note that current Mac operating systems do not support the PPTP connection type and it’s not considered a secure connection anyway.

Follow these steps to setup VPN on Mac manually:

  1. Click on the Apple home button, open “System Preferences” and click on the “Network” icon.
  2. Find the white panel on the left and click on the + icon at the bottom.
  3. Click on the arrows next to the interface option. Then choose “VPN” from the drop-down menu.
  4. Click on the arrows next to the VPN type option and select a VPN type. The type of VPN someone chooses will depend on the options their VPN service provides and their personal preferences.
  5. Type a name for the VPN into the “Service Name” box. Any name will suffice as this is for personal reference.
  6. Click on the “Create” button.
  7. Type in the IP address or domain name given by the VPN service provider in the “Server Address” box of the new panel.
  8. Enter the VPN account name and password issued by the VPN service provider in the next two boxes. If the service provider issued a different authentication method, then click on “Authentication Settings.” Select a different authentication method and click the “OK” button.
  9. Make sure to checkmark the “Show VPN status in menu bar” option.
  10. Click on the “Advanced” button in the lower right corner of the panel.
  11. Make sure there’s a checkmark next to the “Send all traffic over VPN connection” option.
  12. Click “OK,” then click “Apply.”
  13. Find the menu bar at the top right corner of the screen and click on the VPN status icon. It looks like a dark rectangle with lighter lines inside. Click on the “Connect” button to launch the VPN.

How to use VPN on Mac with an app

Using a VPN app is the easiest way to connect to a VPN on Mac, besides the VPN settings file method. Each VPN service provider that supports this method will have their own downloadable client on the App Store to install on the computer. Each service provider will also provide a detailed list of instructions along with the app. So simply sign-in using Apple ID after clicking on “Install App” and follow the instructions from there.

Any Apple Mac user who wants to live a more secure, worry-free digital life should look into getting a VPN for their computer. The guide outlined above makes the process quick and easy so anyone can start investing in their cybersecurity (or hassle-free streaming) needs.