The Four Best Ways to Hide Your IP Address
The two best and most popular ways to hide your IP address are using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) and using a proxy server. Both methods will hide your IP address from the websites you visit, but most proxy servers will not encrypt your traffic.
Using the Tor Browser is another option that’s good for anonymity, but it’s very slow. You can also change your IP by using your mobile network instead of your WiFi network.
1. Hiding Your IP Address with a VPN
|VPN Pros||VPN Cons|
To hide your IP address with a VPN:
- Subscribe to a good VPN service. Read our review of ExpressVPN, our favorite VPN.
- Download and install the VPN software on your device.
- Log in with your account credentials and select a VPN server in a country of your choice.
- Connect to the VPN server and use the internet as usual. Your true IP address is now hidden.
- Run an IP leak test to confirm your real IP address is no longer visible.
Using a VPN is the most popular and reliable way to hide your IP address and change your virtual location on all devices. Virtual Private Network software diverts your internet traffic through a secure VPN server before reaching your destination website or application.
When you connect to a VPN server, your IP address is replaced with the server’s one. VPN servers are located all over the world, depending on which VPN service you choose.
A VPN also secures your internet connection using safe connection protocols, and bank-grade encryption (AES 256-bit).
A good-quality VPN will:
- Spoof your location.
- Encrypt your web traffic.
- Hide your IP and browsing activity.
- Allow for private torrenting & P2P.
- Unblock geo-restricted streaming content.
- Let you bypass censorship in highly-censored countries.
Most high-quality VPNs are paid, however there a handful of good free VPNs that change your IP address effectively. Windscribe is the best free VPN we’ve reviewed.
2. Hiding Your IP Address with a Web Proxy
|Web Proxy Pros||Web Proxy Cons|
To hide your IP address with a free proxy server:
A proxy server acts as a middleman between you and the websites you visit.
When you browse the internet with a web proxy, your traffic is routed to the proxy server first instead of traveling directly to your target website.
The proxy then visits the website on your behalf and forwards you its content. The websites you visit will only see the proxy server’s IP address rather than your own.
Good proxy services offer a range of server locations — so you can choose the precise location you want to browse from.
Using a web proxy will:
- Hide your IP address from specific websites.
- Bypass geographical restrictions on certain pages.
- Overcome IP address blocks.
Using a proxy is a free and easy way to hide your IP address. Web proxies are popular with students trying to unblock websites at school.
But, a proxy is far less secure and reliable than a VPN. There are three main reasons for this:
- Proxy servers do not encrypt your traffic. This means that ISPs, governments, and hackers are able to spy on your online activity when you use a proxy.
- Web proxies can be unreliable. Because they are free, proxy servers tend to get overcrowded. You can unblock some geo-restricted content using a proxy. But access to high-bandwidth sites, like video streaming services, can be unreliable.
- Proxies are application-specific. A web proxy will only redirect the traffic sent from the browser you’re using the proxy with. It won’t protect activity in external applications, like a torrent client.
You can compare the pros and cons of VPNs and web proxies using the table below:
EXPERT ADVICE: In short, use a web proxy to hide your IP address if you’re just trying to quickly unblock a specific web page.
Use a VPN if you’re worried about your online privacy, security, or you need to bypass tougher internet filters.
3. Hiding Your IP Address with the Tor Browser
|Tor Browser Pros||Tor Browser Cons|
To hide your IP address using Tor:
- Navigate to the download page of the Tor Project website.
- Select your operating system of choice and download the appropriate installation software.
- Press connect and Tor will automatically set itself up.
The Tor Network (or The Onion Router) is an open-source, decentralized system run by volunteers around the world.
Tor is a free way for users to hide their IP address and remain anonymous online.
The most common way to use Tor is through the Tor Browser, which is based on Firefox.
Tor applies layered encryption to your web traffic and bounces it through a global network of servers before it reaches the wider internet.
At the final server in the network — known as the ‘exit node’ — the last layer of encryption is removed and your traffic is sent onto your target website.
From the website’s perspective, then, your activity is associated with the IP address of the final server. This lets you conceal your identity, location, and online activity from tracking or surveillance.
Tor is the best tool we have for anonymity online, but it does have some disadvantages:
It is incredibly slow. Multiple servers and encryption layers mean that websites often take far longer to load than they normally would.
Tor is often associated with criminality. The anonymity offered by Tor attracts a community of unsavory characters. The Dark Web, for instance, is only accessible through Tor. As such, using Tor may result in unwanted attention from authorities. here is evidence of US authorities exploiting Tor’s vulnerabilities to de-anonymize Tor users.
Difficulty bypassing geo-restrictions. Though Tor hides your IP address behind the final server in the network, controlling where that server is located is not easy. You may therefore struggle to bypass specific geographic restrictions. Use a VPN or a web proxy if this is your main objective.
Tor is most useful when online anonymity is of the utmost importance — for journalists, activists and whistleblowers, for example.
If privacy is of the utmost importance, users can combine Tor and a VPN together, known as Onion over VPN. Based on our testing with the Tor browser and .onion sites, the best VPN for Tor is NordVPN.
For the majority of people, a proxy server or a VPN is quicker and simpler than Tor to hide your IP address.
The illustration below compares Tor and VPN side by side:
4. Hiding Your IP Address Using Your Mobile Data Network
|Mobile Data Pros||Mobile Data Cons|
To hide your IP address using mobile data:
- Go into your smartphone’s settings app.
- Turn off WiFi and switch on Personal Hotspot.
- On your device(s), connect to your smartphone’s hotspot.
- Your smartphone and connected devices can now browse using mobile data. This will use a different IP address to your home WiFi network.
If you think your home network’s IP address has been compromised or banned, you can route all your internet traffic through your smartphone’s cellular network. This provides you with a new IP address from your mobile carrier.
There are a few things to consider before using this solution:
- Your mobile carrier can monitor all your internet activity.
- Since you’re masking your IP address with another from a very similar physical location, you won’t be able to unblock geographically restricted content.
- This method will use up your smartphone’s monthly data allowance. Unless you have an unlimited data plan, consider whether this is a worthwhile use of your data.