Boost Mac security with a VPN without installing any software
A VPN (virtual private network) is a great way to increase the security when using the internet. Normally you have to install VPN software, but did you know that VPN is built into macOS?
Who is spying on your internet activities?
When you use a public Wi-Fi hotspot in a cafe, hotel, shopping mal, stations, airports and other places, they are not always secure. Someone on the network at the same time as you or the hotspot owner can spy on your web activities.
It is not safe to bank, shop, and use any services that require logging in on public Wi-Fi. You never know who might be eavesdropping on your internet traffic.
Recent changes to the laws in some countries also allow your ISP to collect information about your internet activities, or the govenrment to spy on you. See US Senate votes to allow ISPs to sell people's data without their consent. In other words, you have no privacy and your personal browsing habits will be collected and sold!
How can a VPN help?
A VPN secures the internet connection between you and a VPN server. This is a computer on the internet run by a VPN provider. All the internet traffic between your computer and the VPN server is encrypted. This hides your activities and prevents anyone from spying on you or collecting browsing histories. You are mostly hidden on the internet and are very hard to track, should someone want to spy on you.
VPNs are great for security and they are one of the 15 ways to increase the security of your Mac.
macOS supports several VPN technologies and the main reason why VPN companies ask you to download an app to set up the service is convenience. The app configures the macOS settings and connects to the VPN server with a click or two.
I use NordVPN, which is great for speed and security. The software is really easy to use and it keeps your internet activities private and secure. Check out NordVPN. (Affiliate links)
Configure macPS VPN settings
The software is a convenience and it makes it super simple to enable and disable VPN protection, but not an essential requirement. You can manually set up a VPN without any software at all and you just need to know the right settings. Also read: 5 ways to browse the web privately.
To set up a VPN in macOS you need to know the VPN server URL, the username and password. That’s it and macOS has everything you need.
Google ‘free VPNs’ and you will find free VPN servers, but if it is not a reputable company running it, it is best to stay away from them. All your internet traffic goes through the VPN server, so you need someone you can trust.
I use Hide.me VPN for this walkthrough for two reasons:
- You can get a free account. It expires after 30 days, but then you can log in and renew it and get another 30 days, and another and so on.
- Not all VPNs provide the information to allow you to manually set up the VPN, but this one does.
So basically it cost me nothing and it has the information I need. There are others, but this seems fine. You can create a free account at the hide.me website.
The steps used to set up a VPN are the same for all VPNs and only the server URL, username and password are different.
1 Open System Preferences
Go to the Apple menu and select System Preferences. Click the Network icon.
2 Create a new network connection
All the network connections are listed in the left panel and there may be one or more items. Click the plus button at the bottom to add a new network connection.
3 Configure the VPN settings
Select VPN for the interface. There are several options in the VPN Type list and you need to choose the one that the VPN service provider supports. They might support several, as does hide.me, and IKEv2 is recommended.
The Service Name is whatever you want to call this network connection. It makes sense to name it after the name of the VPN service provider.
4 Add the VPN server URL
One of the conveniences that installing VPN software provides is an easy way to switch from one VPN server to another. VPN providers have dozens of servers all over the world and the one you choose makes it appear like you are at that location, such as in the US, Europe or wherever.
There are three free hide.me VPNs and these are free-nl.hide.me (Netherlands), free-ca.hide.me (Canada), and free-sg.hide.me (Singapore). Many more are available to paying subscribers.
Add the server Address and Remote ID.
5 Authentication Settings
Click Authentication Settings and enter your username and password (same ones used to log in to your free hide.me account). Click OK.
6 Connect to the VPN
Click Apply to finish off and you can then click the Connect button (see step 4). It becomes Disconnect when you are connected.
7 Add a menu bar item
Tick the box at the bottom of the window, Show VPN status in the menu bar. You can then connect and disconnect from the menu.
Fee VPNs place limits on the amount of data you transfer, so only use it when you need it. You’ll blow your whole month’s data if you watch a video online. Many VPNs give you unlimited data if you subscribe.
You now have a VPN just using macOS features and it didn’t cost a thing.
Disadvantages of manual VPNs
The main disadvantage of manually setting up a VPN this way is that it limits the number of VPN servers you can connect to. It is fine it you only want to use one or two VPN servers, but many VPN providers have hundreds of servers to choose from. This enables you to choose the fastest, the nearest, or one in a specific country if you want to appear to be located elsewhere.
The guide above will get you a free VPN without installing software, but I really recommend paying for VPN software. It doesn't cost that much and it is so much more convenient. I use NordVPN, so feel free to check out the deals they have. (Affiliate link)
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