How-To: Private Internet Access for mac

During our episode on VPNs, I promised to provide instructions on setting up/using Private Internet Access on a number of platforms. Today I am going to show you how to setup PIA on a Macbook.

Step 1: Subscribe to Private Internet Access

Before you begin setting up your VPN you will need to subscribe to the service. Visit Private Internet Access’ website. There are several subscription options. You can sign up for a month, one year, or two years. A two year subscription is the most worry-free option and offers the biggest monetary discount.

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If you would like to pay for your VPN service anonymously, you can scroll a little further down. Here you have the option to pay for VPN service with gift cards from a number of major retailers. I have paid for VPN service with gift cards from Amazon, REI, and Starbucks gift cards.

The option to pay anonymously with major brand gift cards.

The option to pay anonymously with major brand gift cards.

Your Private Internet Access Subscription covers up to five devices. You will enjoy unlimited bandwidth and can use your account on your Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android devices.

Step 2: Install the PIA Application

After you have subscribed to Private Internet Access you should expect to receive three emails. One of these will contain your user credentials. Be sure to save this email; you will need these credentials to access the service. Next, navigate to the downloads page and download the Private Internet Access installer for macOS. Install the application.

Next, enter your username and password in the appropriate fields. These will be provided to you in one of the emails you received upon signing up for Private Internet Access service.

At this point you can click “Save” if you wish to leave PIA at its default settings. If not, stay with me and I will guide you through some of the more advanced PIA settings. Once you click “Save” the menu will disappear. To connect to the VPN go to your Mac’s toolbar at the top of the screen. Locate the Private Internet Access icon (the little robot) and right-click on it. From here you can connect to the various VPN servers

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Step 3: Customize Private Internet Access

First, click on the “Advanced Settings” button. This will expand the menu of available options. I will explain most of these options.

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Start Application at Launch: This ensures the application is started when your computer boots up. I recommend enabling this option.

Auto-Connect at Launch: This ensures the app will begin establishing your encrypted connection as soon as the application launches. I recommend enabling this option.

Show Desktop Notifications: Enabling this option will show you notifications when your VPN connects, disconnects, and is in the process of connecting. I recommend enabling this option.

Region: This is the region to which the VPN will automatically connect when it launches. If you leave this option at “Auto” it will automatically connect you to the server that is geographically closest to you, ensuring the best possible performance.

Connection: By default the connection type is UDP. This is the most common connection type for VPNs and the best for performance. However, some networks attempting to block VPNs will block UDP packets. If you are on a network that blocks VPN traffic, you can chance the Connection Type to TPC and the Remote Port to 443. Otherwise there is not reason to change this setting.

PIA MACE: This setting allows PIA to block trackers and ads that are in your internet traffic. I do not enable this setting but I also don’t feel it does anything harmful, so I leave it to your discretion.

VPN Kill Switch: I recommend this setting for serious users. This setting will ensure that if your VPN connection drops, all internet traffic on your computer will be disabled. This ensures that your traffic is not allowed to be routed outside of the VPN.

IPV6: You should enable this setting. Some IPV6 requests may be routed outside of the VPN if this setting is not enabled.

Use Small Packets: This setting is generally unnecessary. This breaks your internet traffic down into smaller packets, which can help to improve performance on slow networks. I have never found it necessary to enable this setting.

Enable Debug Mode: I recommend turning this setting OFF. Debug mode collects some information about your usage locally. This is not transmitted to PIA by default, but the fact that it is stored means it could potentially be leaked or stolen.

Data Encryption, Data Authentication, Handshake: These are the actual security protocols you can manipulate in the app. By default these are at a level that balances security and performance well. If you would like stronger security (as I do) you may wish to set these to AES-256, SHA-256, and RSA-4096, respectively.

Affiliate Disclosure: Across The Peak uses Amazon Associates to earn a small commission when you click Amazon links on our site. We are also affiliates with Private Internet Access, and receive a small commission when you subscribe. This helps to support the blog and the show.

Justin Carroll