The 5 Best Methods to Hide Your IP Address
Ultimately, the best way to hide your IP address depends on why you’re trying to hide it in the first place. Here’s a comparison of each method’s strengths and weaknesses:
Overall, the easiest way to hide your IP address is to use a VPN service. VPN software will securely encrypt your web traffic and temporarily replace the IP address associated with all of the data leaving your device. The software is easy to install, safe to use, and it’s typically much more effective at hiding your physical location than other options, too.
Proxy servers are quick to set up and use, but they’re often insecure and will only reroute the data leaving your web browser. The Tor Browser is excellent for maximum anonymity, but it runs very slowly so you won’t be able to use it to stream or torrent.
In the section below, we’ll explain each of these methods in detail. Alternatively, you can skip ahead to our analysis of how to hide your IP address on different devices, or how to check whether your IP address is actually hidden.
1. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
|Hides your IP address for all traffic leaving the device
|Good VPNs require a subscription fee
|Reliably unblocks geographically-restricted content
|Requires the download and installation of a VPN application
|Offers different servers for multiple IP address locations
|You are trusting your VPN service with your online privacy and security
|Securely encrypts your web traffic
|Slows down your connection speed, though by a negligible amount
|Often includes dedicated customer support
|Some websites and services block VPN IP addresses
|Can include additional measures to hide your location (e.g. GPS and DNS spoofing)
|Your WiFi administrator can see that you’re connected to a VPN
The safest and most effective way to hide your IP address is to use a virtual private network (VPN). They are easy to use, available on almost any device, and are by far the best option if you’re trying to spoof your location.
A VPN works by diverting your traffic through a remote VPN server on its way to your target website or application. This has the effect of hiding your IP address behind the IP address of the VPN server.
When you use a VPN, the websites you visit and applications you use cannot see your true IP address. They only see the IP address of the VPN server you’re connected to, which is typically being used by many other VPN users at the same time.
This prevents websites and applications from knowing your true physical location and identity. They won’t be able to enforce bans based on your true IP address, either.
However, websites can still ban you or monitor your activity if you’re logged into a personal account. This is primarily how Google and Facebook track their users.
By hiding your physical location, a VPN also lets you bypass geographic restrictions. These are common on streaming websites like Netflix and BBC iPlayer, where TV shows and movies are copyright-restricted to certain countries or geographic regions.
The best VPN services offer hundreds of VPN server locations, which means you can choose exactly where you want your temporary IP address to be located.
EXPERT ADVICE: If you’re using a VPN to hide your location, be sure to choose one with a kill switch and leak protection software. These are security features that prevent your true location leaking if the VPN connection drops momentarily. On smartphone devices like Android, you should also consider a VPN with built-in GPS spoofing.
How to Use a VPN to Hide Your IP Address
- Choose and subscribe to a trustworthy VPN service. We recommend using ExpressVPN, our top-rated VPN.
- Download and install the VPN software onto your device.
- Open the VPN app. You will typically have to log into your account the first time.
- Choose a VPN server location. For the fastest speeds, choose the closest location.
- Click ‘Connect’.
- Browse the internet as usual. Your IP address will now be hidden.
NOTE: When you use a VPN, you’re putting complete trust in your VPN service. It’s technically possible for them to see everything you do online, which is why it’s so important to choose a trustworthy service. We recommend only using a VPN with an independently-verified zero-logs policy if you’re at all concerned about privacy.
2. Use a Web Proxy
|Hides your IP address for traffic within the browser window
|Even the best web proxies only offer a handful of server locations
|Usually free and very easy to use
|Your connection is usually not encrypted, leaving it open to interception
|No software downloads or manual installation necessary
|Any traffic outside of the browser window is not protected
|Bypasses many IP-based website blocks
|Connection speeds are often slowed by server congestion and poor maintenance
|Prevents advertising companies from tracking your activity across the web
|Doesn’t work for video streaming (e.g. Netflix)
|Most web proxies cache web pages to improve download speeds
|Many web proxies inject adverts into your session or keep records of your activity
You can quickly hide your IP address using a web proxy. You simply visit the web proxy in your browser, enter the URL of the website you want to browse, and click “Connect”. The proxy then accesses the website on your behalf, thereby concealing your true IP address as you browse.
Web proxies are excellent for quickly accessing censored information, reading articles on sites with metered paywalls, or bypassing personal site bans. They are free to use, too. Overall, web proxies are typically the best way to hide your IP address without using a VPN.
EXPERT ADVICE: Using a web proxy is our recommended method for unblocking websites at school, where it is often not possible to download a VPN application or use a proxy browser extension.
Similar to a VPN, a web proxy works by routing your traffic requests via a remote proxy server, instead of sending it directly to your destination website or application.
Your IP address is hidden behind the IP address of the proxy server, which means your browsing activity is associated with the location of the proxy server and not your own.
You can therefore use a web proxy to unblock geographically restricted content. However, unlike VPNs, proxies have some common limitations:
- Most free web proxies are heavily congested with thousands of simultaneous users. This often results in slow speeds, and can lead to the proxy’s IP address being blocked by popular websites.
- Web proxies don’t tend to support multimedia content. Even if you find a proxy server that works with a streaming service, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to actually watch anything.
- The majority of free web proxies only have a small selection of server locations to choose from. This means it’s much less likely there will be a proxy server in the location (with the IP address) that you require.
The main difference between a web proxy and a VPN is that most web proxies do not encrypt your web traffic. That means your ISP or network administrator can still monitor your browsing activity and share that information with third parties.
More importantly, the web proxy itself will often be monitoring and recording your activity, too. This is typically how free proxy servers make their money: by selling your browsing information to advertisers, or by inserting pop-up adverts into your session.
CAUTION: You should never disclose any personal or sensitive information while using a web proxy.
You should also remember that a web proxy only hides the IP address associated with the traffic from that specific browser window. Your activity in other tabs and external applications is not routed through the proxy server, and so your IP address is left exposed.
How to Use a Web Proxy to Hide Your IP Address
- Visit a safe web proxy in your browser. We recommend Hide.me, our top-rated free proxy site.
- Enter the URL of your desired website. Some web proxies offer you a choice of server location, too.
- Click “Connect” and your chosen website should appear in the browser window. The website will see the IP address of the proxy server and not your personal IP address.
3. Use a Proxy Browser Extension
|Hides your IP address for all browser-based traffic
|Only uses HTTPS (TLS) encryption, or doesn’t encrypt your data at all
|Often free to download and use
|Not typically available on iOS and Android smartphones
|Can bypass geographic restrictions by masking your true location
|Your WiFi administrator can see that you’re using a proxy server
|Can include HTML5 geolocation spoofing
|Traffic outside of the browser is not protected
|Usually works for video streaming
|Requires the download and installation of a browser extension
|Available on Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge
Using a proxy browser extension is an effective way to hide your IP address for web browser traffic on laptops and PCs. They are often free to download, very simple to use, and are typically much better at spoofing your location than a normal web proxy.
Like a VPN, you need to download and install the proxy browser extension before you can use it to hide your IP address. They are available within most web browsers, including Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge.
EXPERT ADVICE: We don’t recommend this method to Safari users, due to a lack of safe proxy extensions. You should also note that most devices don’t support the installation of browser extensions, including iOS and Android smartphones, Smart TVs, and games consoles.
Most proxy extensions let you choose which server location you want to connect to. Your IP address is then hidden behind the IP address of your chosen server, and you will appear to websites as though you are browsing from that geographic location.
Proxy browser extensions are therefore a good method for unblocking websites and other types of geographically-restricted content.
Unlike web proxies, they usually support video streaming too — that means you can use a proxy extension to change your Netflix region and watch foreign movies and TV shows.
Interestingly, proxy browser extensions are sometimes even better at spoofing your location than a VPN. That’s because some websites use HTML5 geolocation software to detect your location, which can be spoofed by some extensions.
The three main downsides to using a proxy extension to hide your IP address are:
- Limited Coverage: A proxy extension will only protect the requests you send from within your browser. That means you can’t use a proxy browser extension to hide your IP address in torrent clients or email applications.
- Weak Encryption: Unlike a VPN, a proxy browser extension won’t encrypt your web traffic with anything stronger than standard HTTPS (TLS) encryption. This means the websites you visit will still be visible to ISPs and snooping third-parties.
- Unsafe Proxy Owners: Many proxy servers are set up with the explicit purpose of collecting user data to sell on to advertisers and cybercriminals. That’s usually how they make money.
NOTE: One popular proxy extension for Chrome, Hola VPN, was found to be selling the bandwidth of user’s devices. We therefore recommend doing your research to find a safe proxy extension before downloading one.
How to Use a Proxy Extension to Hide Your IP Address
- Open your preferred web browser on your device. We don’t recommend using this method with the Safari browser.
- Navigate to the browser’s web store. On Chrome, this is called the ‘Web Store’. On Firefox, it’s called the ‘Add-On Library’.
- Find the proxy browser extension you want to use and click “Add”. We recommend CyberGhost on Chrome and Windscribe on Firefox.
- Open the extension and select a server location. Choose the nearest one for the fastest connection speeds.
- Connect to the proxy server. You can now browse with your IP address hidden.
4. Use the Tor Browser
|Effectively hides your IP address
|Difficult to precisely spoof your location
|Provides maximum anonymity online
|Extremely slow connection speeds
|Uses strong encryption methods
|Not suitable for streaming or torrenting
|Free to use
|Many attract unwanted attention due to Tor’s reputation
|Not available on iOS
|Using Tor is illegal in some countries
The most anonymous way to hide your IP address is to use the Tor Network. Tor is a free, open-source system, maintained and run by volunteers around the world.
When you use Tor, your connection is wrapped in multiple layers of encryption and bounced through a global network of servers before it is sent on to your target website.
From the website’s perspective, this makes it look as though your traffic requests are coming from the IP address of the final server in the network – thereby concealing your true location and identity.
Tor’s decentralized network is its main strength. It lets you hide your IP address with unparalleled levels of anonymity because, unlike with a VPN or a proxy server, there is no single entity or individual who knows both who you are and what you’re doing.
The servers you’re connected to also refresh every ten minutes, providing an extra source of privacy and security. For this reason, Tor is popular among journalists, activists, and whistleblowers.
The most common way to access Tor is through the Tor Browser, which is based on Firefox. The Tor Browser is free to download on Windows, macOS, Linux and Android devices. There’s also an adapted version for iOS users, called the Onion Browser.
NOTE: Only traffic requests sent from within the Tor Browser will be protected by the Tor Network. Your IP address is still exposed for activity in external applications, such as torrent clients and email applications.
The main downside to using Tor is its incredibly slow speeds. Multiple servers and encryption layers mean that websites often take far longer to load than they do when connected to a VPN or a proxy server.
Though technically possible, unblocking geographically-restricted websites with Tor can also be very difficult. Users have very limited control over where the final server is located, so precise location spoofing is not really an option.
You should also be aware that ISPs, governments, and network administrators at school and work can see that you’re connected to the Tor Network (even though they can’t see what you’re using it for). This is likely to draw attention, given that Tor is often associated with criminality. In some countries it is even illegal to use.
How to Use Tor to Hide Your IP Address
- Navigate to the download page of the Tor Project website. For iOS users, check out the Onion Browser site.
- Select your operating system of choice and download the appropriate installation software. An .exe file should begin the download.
- Open the file once it has downloaded and go through the installation process. You’ll need to click your language from the drop-down menu.
- Double-click the Tor Browser icon on your desktop. Click “configure connection” to choose your preferred settings.
- Press “Connect” and start to browse freely. Your IP address will be hidden by the Tor network.
5. Use a Mobile Hotspot
|Assigns you a completely new IP address instantly
|Consumes your mobile data allowance, which can be costly
|Easily evades personal IP bans
|Won’t let you bypass geographical restrictions
|Avoids ISP surveillance (although swaps it for mobile carrier surveillance)
|Your activity can still be traced back to you
|Doesn’t require any downloads or new software
|All traffic from your device will be protected
A quick and easy way to hide your IP address is to connect your device to a mobile data hotspot.
By switching networks, you can immediately change your IP address from the one assigned to your WiFi network by your ISP, to a new one assigned by your mobile carrier to your smartphone.
NOTE: Connecting to a public WiFi network has the same effect and is a reliable, alternative option. However, be aware that using public WiFi comes with security risks.
Setting up a mobile hotspot on your smartphone is free and very easy to do. You can then connect to it from any nearby device, including laptops, PCs, smart TVs, games consoles, or even from another smartphone.
Once connected, your device uses your smartphone’s IP address for all of its internet activity.
Using a mobile data hotspot is therefore a great option for evading personal IP bans, because these bans typically target your WiFi’s IP address, not your smartphone’s IP address.
We also recommend this method if you think your local network (at home or in public) may have been compromised, or are concerned about ISP throttling.
NOTE: Your mobile carrier can also monitor your activity. Mobile carriers have been known to throttle user connections too, especially if you’ve reached your monthly data limit.
Other downsides to hiding your IP address with a mobile data hotspot include:
- You won’t be able to unblock geographically-restricted content. That’s because the new IP address you receive is associated with the exact same physical location as your original IP address.
- It uses up your smartphone’s monthly data allowance. Depending on your contract, this could end up costing you money.
With that said, switching to a mobile data hotspot is certainly a quick, easy, and free option for getting a new IP address fast.
How to Use a Mobile Hotspot to Hide Your IP Address
- Find your smartphone’s mobile hotspot settings. For iOS users, go to ‘Settings’, ‘Personal Hotspot’. For Android users, go to ‘Settings’ then ‘Network & internet’ then “Hotspot & tethering”.
- Turn the hotspot on and choose an appropriate username and password. Make sure your smartphone isn’t connected to WiFi.
- On your other device, open WiFi settings. This is the device you’re trying to hide your IP address on.
- Find your smartphone’s hotspot and connect to it. The hotspot should be listed in the list of available WiFi networks.
- Browse the internet. Your connection will now be associated with your smartphone’s IP address.