How to Fix macOS VPN Not Working

Tips • Updated on April 21, 2024

vpn error mac

Even with all of the upgrades and new features that it brings, users have reported VPN not working issues on macOS, including the latest macOS Sonoma. We take a closer look at this particular issue and give you a detailed guide on how to resolve it.

Related: 10 Top VPNs for Mac and Safari | Fast VPN Service for Netflix

Does Mac have a built-in VPN?

Unlike Android and Windows, macOS lacks a built-in VPN. However, iCloud Private Relay offers a layer of security by encrypting your DNS records, keeping your browsing history private. While not as feature-rich as a traditional VPN, it can be a good starting point.

Why your Mac VPN isn’t working

There are several reasons why your VPN might not be connecting on macOS. Here are the most common culprits:

  • Internet Connection Issues: Make sure your internet is working before troubleshooting the VPN.
  • VPN Server Issues: The server you’re trying to connect to might be temporarily down due to high traffic or maintenance.
  • Incorrect Login Credentials: Double-check your username and password.
  • Outdated VPN Software: An old version of your VPN application could be causing compatibility problems.
  • Conflicting Settings: Features like iCloud Private Relay or security software might interfere with the VPN.
  • Incorrect Connection Settings: The “Send all traffic over VPN connection” option might be disabled.

Troubleshooting steps

1. Test the Network Connection First

You’d be surprised by how often users scratch their head with the VPN app not working, only to find that the network connection itself is not responding. Start things off by doing a routine check by launching the Safari app and opening a couple of webpages to check if your Mac is connected to the internet. Here’s what you can to do quickly reset the internet connection for safe measure:

  • Disconnect from the wireless network on your macOS.
  • Unplug the power and ethernet cable from the wireless router for 30 seconds.
  • Turn on the wireless router and make sure the ethernet cable is firmly plugged in.

If your internet connection seems to be working just fine, but you still can’t get the VPN to work, move on the next step.

2. Update VPN App to the Latest Version

Every round of major software update that is rolled out for macOS, also signals a slew of updates for the third-party apps that run on macOS. With the release of macOS, there is also an update in the security protocols and software optimizations.

Hence, VPN app developers also needed to finetune their services for the users to be able to use them. While most VPN apps will automatically notify you about an impending update, but in case you’re using an outdated version, it could directly be the reason behind macOS VPN not working.

  • Launch the VPNclient on your macOS system.
  • Head to the Settings and look for the Update
  • Download the latest version of the VPN app and install it.

Restart the system and now launch the app to see if helped you finally connect to a remote server using a VPN.

3. iCloud Private Relay Could be the Culprit

Apple has always been tight when it comes to security, thanks to the closed-loop system we love and hate at the same time. Bottling the only doorway to malicious spyware and adware on Macs – the internet – iCloud now includes the Private Relay feature.


iCloud Private Relay acts like a tiny VPN in itself, automatically encrypting the outgoing traffic on your macOS and iOS devices. However, this built-in “VPN” can directly conflict with the third-party VPN you’re trying to run on the system, so you will need to turn it off.

  • On the macOS dock, press the System Preferences
  • Choose the Apple ID icon and select iCloud from the side menu.
  • Press the Options button to the right of iCloud Private Relay
  • Select the Turn Off button from the pop-up box to disable the feature.

Perform a quick reboot on the Mac system and then try turning on the VPN to see if it works now.

4. Enable “Send all traffic over VPN connection”

macOS offers you a way to send all outgoing traffic across the internet from your system through the VPN channel. However, the option is tucked into the VPN settings, and if left disabled, could be the reason why the VPN app doesn’t work as it should on your macOS.


  • Head to the System Preferenceson your Mac and then access the Network
  • Find the VPN connection you’re using and select Advancedfrom the bottom tab.
  • Check the box that says “Send all traffic over VPN connection”  and press the OK

Confirm your action by pressing Apply, and then restart the system to check if the newly made changes have done the job.

5. Switch to TCP Connection Protocol

Without getting too much into the technical mumbo-jumbo, TCP connection protocol is recommended since it avoids data congestion on the server, reduces the chances of connection errors. Depending on the VPN service provider you’ve subscribed to, the process of switching to TCP might be different, but here’s how it is generally done:


  • Launch the VPN app and head to the Settings
  • Find the VPN Protocoloption under Connections or the General
  • Select OpenVPN or TCP protocol and save the changes.

Additionally, you can change the DNS server and set it to CloudFlare DNS by entering and and save the changes.

Hints from TheSweetBits editors: Not all VPN protocols are created equal for Macs. To avoid compatibility headaches, choose a VPN that supports popular options like OpenVPN, IKEv2, or WireGuard. These protocols work seamlessly with macOS, ensuring a smooth VPN experience.

6. Disable Parental Control or Security Apps

If you’ve set up Parental Control on the Mac system for the underage users who share the computer with you, or installed an antivirus software on your computer, it could directly interfere with the VPN client and its ability to connect you to a remote server.


  • Go to System Preferences and scroll down to find the Users & Groups
  • Press the Lock icon at the bottom-left corner and enter your username and password to continue.
  • Disable parental controls for your user profile, if you had them enabled before and save the changes made.

Even if you haven’t enabled parental controls, your ISP may have this built right into the wireless router, which could alter your user experience with a VPN service.

  • Log into your wireless router with the IP address provided at the back of the router.
  • Enter the username and password to find the Security section in the menu.
  • Look for any parental controls or special security features and disable them.

7. Set the Network Connection Service Order

The problem with macOS VPN not working might just have nothing to do with the VPN, but the network connection. To ensure security, macOS prioritizes a virtual private network connection over an open connection by default. However, if this isn’t being exercised automatically, you can change the order of the network ports manually too.


  • Head to the System Preferences from the Apple menu.
  • Click on Network and then select Set Service Order from the Action pop-up menu.
  • Drag the VPN service to the top of the list to prioritize it.
  • Confirm your action by clicking on Apply and saving the new settings.

Bonus tips:

  • Consult your VPN provider: Most providers offer specific troubleshooting guides for various macOS versions.
  • Be patient with latest macOS version: As a relatively new release, be patient with your VPN provider. They might be working on updates to optimize their software for this latest version. Check their website or contact their support for updates on compatibility.

Remember: Disabling security software might pose security risks. Only do this temporarily when troubleshooting your VPN connection. Re-enable them afterward to maintain online security.

Fixing slow speeds when connected to VPN

If your internet feels sluggish after connecting to the VPN, here are some tips for regaining your speed:

  • Use a Faster VPN Protocol: Lighter protocols like OpenVPN and WireGuard offer a good balance of speed and security.
  • Change Servers: Sometimes, overloaded servers can cause slow speeds. Try connecting to a different server location.
  • Switch Between UDP and TCP: UDP prioritizes speed, whereas TCP prioritizes reliability. Experiment with both to see which works best for you.

Read more: How to Fix Slow Mac After macOS Sonoma Update

Final words

By following these tips, you should be able to diagnose and fix your Mac VPN issues, regardless of the macOS version you’re using. Remember, a secure and private connection awaits!

You may also try the most popular VPN services like ClearVPN or NordVPN which tend to provide expedited customer support as well, especially when it comes to resolving something as serious as not being able to connect to the VPN. If none of the ways to fix macOS VPN not working have worked for you, it might be time to reach out to the VPN service provider and ask for assistance.