VPN Tips

How to Change (Hide) Your IP Address

Simon Migliano
Simon MiglianoUpdated

Your IP address tells your ISP everything you do online so you have every reason to change and hide your IP. In this guide, you'll learn why you should hide your IP and four easy ways to do it.

Illustration of a hand pointing to a search bar containing the words 'IP address'

What is an IP Address?

Before we look at how to hide your IP address, lets first explain what it is.

Your public IP (Internet Protocol) address is a unique number (or identifier) given to your internet connection by your ISP (Internet Service Provider).

IP addresses are used by the interconnected networks that make up the Internet to communicate between each other.

Basically, your IP is your passport to the Internet and everything you do online is linked to an IP address.

Your ISP is therefore able to see ALL the websites you visit and the desktop/mobile apps you use.

Remember, IP addresses aren’t device-specific and are based on where you’re connecting to the internet – for example, your home IP address is different from your work one – so every device connected to the same router will have the same IP address.

Four Ways to Hide Your IP Address

Illustration of someone unlocking a mobile phone with an anonymous face on the lockscreen

There are four different ways to change and hide your IP address so that you can’t be tracked anymore.

Some are easier than others, offering varying degrees of privacy.

The method you choose will most likely depend on the reason why you need to mask your true location.

1Use a VPN (Free and Paid)

Using a VPN service is probably the most common method change your IP address, and our favorite.

A VPN is an IP changer that will:

  • Spoof your location
  • Encrypt all of your web traffic
  • Hide your Web browsing activity
  • Allow for private torrenting & P2P
  • Unblock geo-restricted online content

But a VPN won’t:

  • Make you 100% anonymous (unlike Tor – see below)

Some VPNs will also provide unrestricted internet access in high-censorship countries like China and the UAE.

So yes, a VPN really does

When you connect to a VPN server, you’re assigned the (virtual) IP address of that server and, your real IP will be hidden as long as you’re connected to the VPN.

You have to make sure you use a VPN service that doesn’t leak, otherwise your real IP location will be exposed.

If you want to use a VPN to hide your IP address, our best VPNs of 2019 or our best free VPN recommendations are good starting points.

2Use a Proxy (Free)

A proxy is another type of IP hider but it’s less secure than a VPN.

Connecting to a proxy server is an often free way of hiding your IP address.

Proxies mainly come in the form of free browser extensions, so all you have to do is download one from your web browser’s store, add it and make sure you’re proxy extension is on before you start browsing.

These are the main problems with proxies:

  • Less secure than VPNs
  • Don’t hide all your internet traffic
  • Won’t often unblock streaming services
  • Generally won’t beat aggressive web censors

If all you want to do is mask your true location, a proxy will probably do the job but if you want a higher level of security, then you need to use a VPN.

Read more about the difference between VPNs and proxies if you want to learn more about this.

3Use the Tor Browser (Free)

Tor logo on a smartphone screenTor, and its Tor Browser, is a much slower, but more private, alternative to a VPN.

It’s an open-source software client that connects you to a worldwide network of servers, known as TOR (The Onion Router).

When you connect to the Tor network, you’re assigned a new IP address and your Web traffic is moved across servers in the network. Because your traffic moves through many servers before reaching a website, it can’t be traced back to you.

If you use Tor, you’re as close as you can get to being anonymous online. At a cost, though.

Tor is incredibly slow and websites can take ten times longer to load than they usually would.

The main problems of using Tor as an IP changer are:

  • Very slow speeds
  • Not all websites are available
  • Not easy to select a specific country

We’ve created a guide to explain the differences between VPN and Tor.

4Use Your Mobile Network (not recommended for privacy)

Sometimes the quickest solution is the most obvious, although it’s not always the best solution.

If you think that your IP address has been compromised, you can route all your Internet traffic through your smartphone’s mobile network.

All you need to do is turn your smartphone into a hotspot and connect your devices to it.

This method is only good if you’re not worried about your mobile carrier seeing what you’re doing online.

A Quick Summary of these Four Methods

VPN Proxy TOR Mobile Network
Does it Change IP? Yes Yes Yes Yes
Speed Fast Fast Slow Fast
Private Yes Yes Yes (Most Private) No
Secure Yes No Yes No

Why Should You Hide Your IP Address?

These are the main reasons for hiding your real IP address, but these are the main ones:

1Protect Your Privacy

Many people want to hide their IP address to protect their online privacy and security while connected to the internet.

An IP address reveals a lot of geo-based information about you and your household:

  • Country
  • Region
  • City
  • ZIP code
  • Longitude and latitude

If you want to keep that type of information private, and far from the reach of cyber criminals, then you need to hide your IP.

2Get Round Geo-restrictions

There are many websites and apps that can see where you’re located from your IP address, and they can choose whether to block you from seeing certain, or even, all content based on that.

In extreme cases, like in China, over 10,000 domains are blocked including major websites like Google and Wikipedia.

So, how do you get round these geo-blocks?

The only way to unblock these websites is to appear to be connecting from a different country. You can then use the internet as if you’re located in that country, bypassing all Web blocks in place in your real location.

3Bypass IP Bans

ISPs and websites can blacklist an IP address (and entire IP ranges) for a variety of reasons, and as they wish.

If your IP address has been banned from accessing certain websites then you’ll need to change it in order to regain access.

4Avoid ISP Snooping

ISPs can see all your Internet activity and can:

  • Block you from visiting certain websites
  • Hand-over or sell your data to third-parties
  • Slow down you speeds if you use too much bandwidth

In the US for example, ISPs are legally allowed to sell your Web browsing data and in a recent study it was revealed that AT&T slows down traffic to Netflix and YouTube by over 70%!

What's the Best VPN to Hide Your IP?

As VPN experts, it probably won’t come as a surprise that we recommend using a VPN to hide your IP address.

But with so many VPN providers available, which one should you use?

We’ve put together a handy list of paid VPNs that hide your IP without fail so follow the link and see which one of our recommendations works best for you.

You can also use a free VPN to hide your IP, but be very careful as many free VPN apps are unsafe and not to be trusted.

Our highest-rated free VPN is Windscribe but be aware that:

  • Speeds will be slower (than major paid VPNs)
  • There is a 10gb data cap in place
  • You won’t be able to unblock streaming services

Incognito & Private Browsing Mode

Our readers often ask us whether Incognito mode (on Google Chrome) and Private Browsing mode (on Mozilla Firefox) hide your IP address.

The answer is an emphatic, no!

Neither Web browsing modes hide your IP address, which means that your location and your online activity is visible at all times.

The only advantage of Incognito and Private Browsing is that the websites that you visit are not saved in your browsers Web History (which you can clear anyway in your browser’s settings).

About the Author

  • Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

    Simon Migliano

    Simon leads our investigations into VPN safety and internet freedom research. His work has been featured on the BBC, CNet, Wired and The Financial Times. Read full bio