6 Easy Steps to Setting Up a VPN for Mac

If you are looking for a “how to” on setting up a VPN for Mac computers, then you no doubt already know what a VPN is and that VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. There are various reasons that one may wish to connect their Mac or other computer to a VPN, but for most there are usually just a few main reasons they use it.

First, Why Use a VPN for Mac?

The first reason to use a VPN is for those that wish to connect to their work network. Once you have your VPN connection setup, it is as if you are connected by an ethernet cable from just down the hallway. You are on the same connection, even the same IP address. Which leads to the second main reason to use a virtual private network, which is to stay private or anonymous while surfing the web.

By connecting to a VPN, you are not going to be seen by anyone, they will see your connection as coming from that network that you have connected through. This is also how the third biggest reason comes in, and that is that you do not want to fool a person in thinking that you’re not where or who you say you are, but you want or need to trick a computer into believing you are somewhere else.

Just when would you need to do such a thing? Let’s say you’re living in the UK and you want to use a certain website that you may not be allowed to access unless you are in the US, such as Hulu. In this case you can connect through a VPN that is located in the US and then connect to Hulu, because Hulu will see you as coming from the US and not the UK.

How to Setup a VPN on a Mac in Just 6 Steps

So now that we have the “why” answered, let’s move onto the “how.” It’s actually fairly simple to setup your VPN on your Mac. Your Mac will in fact mostly walk you through the process.

Step 1: To begin setting up the virtual network go to your Mac’s System Preferences. The quickest way to do this is by clicking on it in your Dock, otherwise go to your Finder and to Applications to find it.

Next, click on the Network icon. On the left of this window you will see a list of the networks you are already setup with. In my screenshot you will see that I have setup my Wireless Network, Ethernet Connection and a Bluetooth Connection.

Now let’s add a VPN to the list. To do this click on Network and then put your mouse cursor in the little search box at the top right. Type in the letters VPN. It will show you a dropdown box with some suggestions, click on VPN Options.

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Step 2: Now, click on the Plus sign at the bottom left of the screen that is below your list of networks. This will pop up a box that you will now choose either PPTP or L2TP and select your service name.

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Step 3: Click next on Select Configuration and then on Add Configuration. In the Name box, type in “Server 1” or if you do not plan on setting up any more VPN’s you can just leave it to its default name.

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Step 4: Enter your VPN server’s IP address (or FQDN) and your UserName.

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Step 5: Select Authentication Settings (below the Encryption box). Enter the password. You will also need to enter the shared secret if you selected L2TP as the VPN type.

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Step 6: Last step! Check to see if Show VPN Status in Menu Bar has a checkmark in the box and then click Apply.

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That’s it! 6 steps and you have now setup a VPN on Mac and are ready to use it. You don’t even have to do anything to use it, because by default your ac will only pass the necessary traffic through the VPN. Why? This is due to most VPN connections being slow and so your Mac will keep you on the faster network when possible, but it is possible to override this if you want to run all of your traffic through the VPN.

To do that just go back into System Preferences, go to Network and click on your VPN. Then click on Advanced and set it to all traffic through that VPN. You will then set what order your data will be passed through the VPN in, just make sure that the VPN is the first on the list. You should only need to use this if you were in the instance that we spoke of at the beginning when talking about why one uses a VPN, which was about using it to connect to another network in another country.

Where do you get your VPN settings, such as the IP address, from? If it’s to connect to your work’s network you will have to speak to your IT department to get the information as well as permission. If you want it for personal use though, there are many VPN companies out there that you can get an account with for as little as $7 a month. One company is Strong VPN and they offer accounts or servers in multiple countries throughout the world. You can also create your own server if you have a spare Mac laying around that has Leopard or above on it and then downloading an app like iVPN.

50 Kimberly Carver


Kimberly Carver is a trained Mac Specialist/Expert. Trained both in school and on the job she continues to educate herself about Macs at every opportunity she gets. Kim’s official training and areas of expertise include: Mac specialist, AOL IT Tech, certified paralegal, research specialist, and licensed private investigator.