At 650+ million users, Hotspot Shield is probably the most popular VPN service in the world among computer users. Let’s see what’s important to know about the Hotspot Shield Mac VPN app.
Why use a VPN for Mac
Before we continue, it probably makes sense to quickly recap why you should use a VPN for Mac in the first place.
It’s great if you want to:
- Fake your location/IP address
- Access geo-blocked web content
- Stream Netflix US or other regions from your location
- Protect your privacy in general
- Secure free public wifi hotspots
- Play geo-restricted online games
Hotspot Shield basics
This VPN has about half the server locations of market leaders. Hotspot Shield offers 29 country locations with over 2,500 servers (500 servers out of these may be virtual ones). Hotspot Shield is one of the fastest VPNs on the market, which has a lot to do with its proprietary and default tunneling protocol: Catapult Hydra.
While Hotspot Shield isn’t the best choice for sensitive activities (due to its jurisdiction and security features), it supports all the popular platforms, including macOS, iOS, Windows, Android, and isn’t a bad shout for entertainment purposes, such as watching Netflix.
Hotspot Shield has a free plan, a 7-day premium free trial, and a Premium version with 4 pricing plans.
How to download and install it
To download and install the Hotspot Shield Mac client, visit the App Store. In the search field, type Hotspot Shield, and select the only app offered under this name. Now, click the Get button, and once it’s downloaded, click the Install button.
If you want to use your new Hotspot Shield Mac app, press Open. You can also find this app in the Launch Pad. If you want it to start up automatically with your system, change the app settings.
How to use Hotspot Shield on Mac
Using Hotspot Shield on Mac is quite easy. After opening or launching your app, you need to log in.
Once in, you’ll see the cleanest and simplest home screen possible. This may not be a positive thing though.
If you haven’t set your Hotspot Shield Mac app to automatically connect, now is the time to hit that Power button, or choose a location.
Now, click the Globe icon in the upper right corner and select a country out of the 29 locations.
When you’re not using your Hotspot Mac client for the first time, clicking the Power button without choosing a location would connect to your last location by default.
Once connected, you can disconnect by clicking the Stop button at the top, or change your location by clicking the location name drop-down box.
If you disconnect or log out, you may see pop-ups asking you to rate your satisfaction level. This can be somewhat annoying. We also experienced several other system pop-ups, which were a bit distracting and one also raised our eyebrows:
Hotspot Shield Mac settings
The Hotspot Shield Mac client doesn’t leave a lot of room for customization. To find the Settings, click the Screw nut or Menu icon.
When you select Settings, this is what you’ll see:
For more serious privacy “fighters,” this just won’t cut it.
The Hotspot Shield Mac version has built-in support or help, which you can open if you click the Help icon in the upper right corner of the app. This is quite a useful and informative knowledge base if you happen to have any difficulties. However, you can always contact the live chat support if you need urgent technical assistance.
Hotspot Shield Mac vs Windows client
You may think that VPN clients for different platforms should be more or less the same. However, the truth is, VPN providers usually equip their Windows version the best as it’s the second most popular operating system after Android. Therefore, Mac versions are often not as well-equipped and packed with features and settings.
The interface is similar. However, the macOS client looks more like the mobile versions. You’ll find the main differences between the two desktop apps in the Settings menu.
Clearly, Hotspot Shield for Mac is one of the clients that allows less customization than the Windows version. Take a look at the Hotspot Shield VPN app for Windows to see for yourself:
This undoubtedly looks “richer” than what the Hotspot Shield Mac app has to offer:
- Unsafe wifi notifications
- Enable auto-start
Basically, the macOS VPN app only notifies you whenever your device is trying to connect to an unsafe wifi. And, the auto-start feature alone doesn’t bring much to the table of privacy either.
The Windows app has three vital settings that make it way more secure and anonymous:
- Prevent IP leak (can be argued this isn’t necessary for Mac)
- Kill Switch
- Automatically turn on Hotspot Shield…
Although Mac computers are generally believed to be more secure than Windows, without a kill switch, and proper unsafe wifi protection, you might leak sensitive information. It’s enough for your VPN connection to drop for a second or two, and your Mac may automatically connect you to the internet with your real ISP-given IP.
Kill switch alternative
Those worried about not having a kill switch can use the Mac OpenVPN app, Tunnelblick, which they can configure to use with multiple VPNs.
If you set it up to auto-start with your system and switch on its kill switch, you’ll be protected against dropped connection leaks. Of course, this requires some manual configuration and thus may not be convenient for novice users.
Hotspot Shield Mac – hot or cold?
Let’s just say, somewhere in the middle. There are undoubtedly attractive things about Hotspot Shield for Mac, such as blazing-fast speeds and streaming capabilities. However, we’d only recommend this VPN for beginners, streamers, or users with other basic needs. This could, of course, include IP spoofing, unblocking geo-restricted sites, online gaming, securing public wifi hotspots, and so on. But you may not want to use it for anything else that requires airtight privacy.
If you’re still interested in this VPN, read more about it on our in-depth Hotspot Shield Review.