VPN Tips

How to Hide Your IP Address: 4 Simple Methods (Updated 2020)

Simon Migliano

Hiding your IP address is a simple and effective way to unblock websites, stream content from overseas, and protect your online privacy. Learn the four best ways to hide your IP address in this comprehensive guide.

A magician and an assistant prepare to make an ip address disappear

Hiding your IP address is an easy way to ensure your internet activity remains private and secure. It also allows you to bypass geographic restrictions and stream content from overseas.

To hide your IP address, you can:

Generally speaking, hiding your IP address is simpler and more effective than permanently changing your IP address.

In hiding your IP address, you make it appear as if your IP has changed when, in reality, your true IP address remains untouched. Hiding your IP is easy and you can switch back to your original IP address at any time.

By contrast, permanently changing your IP address is complicated and often irreversible.

In almost all cases, the best option is to hide your IP address. It is flexible, much simpler, and generally more effective.

This guide explains four simple ways to hide your IP address. We’ll then cover when you might want to change your IP address and describe exactly how this is done.

What Is an IP Address?

two individuals using devices whilst sat in a coffee shop, above each device is its unique public ip address

Your IP (Internet Protocol) address is a unique number given to your internet connection by your ISP (Internet Service Provider). Every device that connects to the internet receives its own unique address.

Your IP is your passport to the Internet. Everything you do online is linked to an IP address.

Your IP address is based on your physical location. It varies depending on where you live and the router you’re connected to, so your home IP address differs from your work IP address.

Using your IP address, your ISP is able to record all of the websites you visit and the desktop or mobile apps you use. Similarly, websites themselves are able to see that you’ve visited them.

You can check your IP address with a few easy steps.

Public vs. Private IP Address

There are two main types of IP address: public and private.

Your internet router is assigned a unique public IP address by your ISP. Every device that connects to your WiFi shares this public IP address for their internet activity. This means that your smartphone and your laptop will look the same to your ISP if they’re connected to the same network.

Your public IP address is open to the internet. It is the number displayed when you search Google for ‘what is my IP address’ and the identifier that websites and governments use to monitor and censor your activity.

Because your public IP address is tied to your physical location, hiding or changing it will help you unblock geo-blocked content. If you assign yourself an IP address from a server in a different country, the websites you visit will assume you’re connecting from that location.

Private IP addresses, on the other hand, are assigned by your router to all of the devices on your network. Private IP addresses are only visible to other users on the internal network and are rarely something you need to worry about.

diagram illustrating the difference between a public ip address and a private ip address

When we refer to an IP address, we’re usually referring to a public IP address, as this is the number that identifies you online.

How to Hide Your IP Address: 4 Simple Methods

The two most popular ways to hide your IP address are using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) and using a proxy server. The Tor Browser provides a third option that is great for anonymity, but is painfully slow. You can also hide your IP using your mobile network.

little images showing the different ways to hide your ip addressBefore we explore these methods in greater detail, here’s a table summarising their strengths and weaknesses:

VPN Proxy Tor Mobile Network
Hides Your IP Yes Yes Yes Yes
Private Yes No No No
Anonymous No No Yes No
Secure Yes No Yes No
Fast Yes Yes No Yes
Avoids Geo-Blocks Yes Yes Yes No

1Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network)

Screenshot of Express VPN on desktop with server locations

Screenshot of ExpressVPN with list of server locations.

Using a VPN service is the most popular and reliable way to hide your IP address.

Using a VPN to hide your IP address will:

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

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

How Does a VPN Hide Your IP Address?

A VPN (or Virtual Private Network) is a piece of software that diverts all of your internet traffic through a private server. It also encrypts your internet connection so that your ISP is unable to monitor or block your activity.

Diagram showing how users connect to the internet using a VPN

How you connect to the internet using a VPN.

Reputable VPN providers offer servers in hundreds of countries around the world, and each server has its own unique IP address.

When you connect to your chosen VPN server, you assume its IP address for your browsing session. Your real IP address gets hidden and is masked by the IP address of the VPN server.

You can use a VPN to avoid government censorship, access restricted Netflix libraries, and bypass other website blocks.

Unfortunately, some VPN services are more reliable than others. You have to make sure to use a VPN service that doesn’t leak, otherwise your real IP address will be exposed.

It’s also worth considering your VPN provider’s logging policy and where it is based before making any purchases.

Our VPN recommendations for 2020 take all of these factors into consideration (and many more) to determine which are the best VPNs available today.

2Use a Web Proxy

screenshot of the HideMyAss web proxy

Screenshot of HideMyAss’ web proxy.

A proxy server acts as a middleman between you and the websites you visit.

Using a web proxy will:

  • Hide your IP address from specific websites.
  • Bypass geographical restrictions on certain pages.
  • Bypass IP address blocks.

With a proxy, your internet traffic gets routed to the proxy server first, instead of travelling directly to your target website. The proxy server then visits the website on your behalf and forwards you its content.

Diagram of how a proxy server works

How you connect to the internet through a proxy server.

When browsing the internet with a proxy, the websites you visit will 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 proxy is a free and easy way to hide your IP address, but it is far less secure and reliable than using a VPN. There are three main reasons for this:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Proxies are application-specific. A web proxy will only redirect the traffic sent from the browser you’re using the proxy with. A VPN encrypts and reroutes all of the web traffic sent from your device.

You can download some popular proxies as a free browser extension. Simply download the extension from your web browser’s store and add it to your browser window.

Alternatively, you can visit a web proxy website like hide.me or HideMyAss. Here, you simply enter the URL of your desired website. The proxy will then visit the website on your behalf and forward you its content, hiding your IP address in the process.

If you want to unblock one specific video or website then a proxy is probably your best option. If you want a higher level of security, privacy, and reliability, then you need to use a VPN.

To learn more, read our dedicated guide on the differences between proxy servers and VPNs.

3Use the Tor Browser

Tor Browser icon

The Tor Network (or The Onion Router) is an open-source, decentralized system run by volunteers around the world. It is a free and popular 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 a 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 final layer of encryption is removed and your traffic is sent onto your target website.

At this point, your activity has assumed the IP address of this final server. This helps conceal your identity, location, and online activity from tracking or surveillance.

Diagram of data passing through the Tor network

How your data passes through the Tor network.

If you use Tor, your IP address is hidden and you’re as close as you can get to being fully anonymous online. That said, Tor does have disadvantages:

  • Tor 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 unsavoury characters. The Dark Web, for instance, is only accessible through Tor. As such, using Tor may result in unwanted attention from authorities.
  • 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 might therefore struggle to bypass specific geographic restrictions.

Tor is most useful when online anonymity is of the utmost importance — for journalists, activists and whistleblowers, for example. For the majority of people, a VPN or proxy server is a much quicker and simpler way to hide your IP address.

If you’d like to learn more, we have created an in-depth guide explaining the differences between Tor and VPN.

4Use Your Mobile Network

If you think your home network’s IP address has been compromised or banned, you can route all of your internet traffic through your smartphone’s mobile network. This will equip you with a new IP address for your browsing session.

To switch to mobile data:

  1. Go into your smartphone’s settings app.
  2. Turn on Personal Hotspot.
  3. On your device(s), connect to your smartphone’s hotspot.
  4. Start browsing using mobile data.

There are a few things you should consider before using this solution:

  • Your mobile carrier will still be able to monitor your activity online.
  • Since you’re masking your IP address with another from a very similar physical location, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to unblock geographically restricted content with this method.
  • This method will use up your smartphone’s monthly data allowance. Since mobile data can cost a lot of money, it is worth considering whether this is a worthwhile use of your data plan.

Does Incognito Mode Hide Your IP Address?

Screenshot of google chrome incognito mode

Incognito mode on Google Chrome does not hide your IP address.

Your location and your online activity are still completely visible when using Incognito mode.

The only advantage of Incognito Mode or Firefox’s Private Browsing Mode is that the websites you visit do not get saved in your browsing history.

ISPs, authorities, and the websites you visit are still completely free to track and record your browsing activity.

For more information on private browsing and incognito mode, you can read our guide to private browsers.

How to Check Your IP Address

Once you’ve used an IP hiding technique, you can test whether it has been effective by checking your IP address.

To check your public IP address, type “what is my ip” into Google and press Enter.

Your public IP address will appear at the top of the page:

screenshot of Google search snippet for 'what is my ip address'

You can check your IP address using Google search.

To see more of the personally-identifying data you reveal when browsing the web you can use a leak testing website like Browser Leaks.

These services will provide you with detailed information about your IP address, browsing location, and the DNS servers you use.

Screenshot of a browserleaks.com leak test.

Screenshot of browserleaks.com when connected to a PrivateVPN US server.

Why Do I Need to Hide My IP Address?

There are many reasons to hide your IP address:

  • To protect your online privacy
  • To bypass website blocks
  • To unlock streaming content
  • To avoid government censorship
  • To bypass IP bans
  • To prevent targeted advertising

In this section, we will explore these reasons in greater detail. Alternatively, you can skip straight to our section on how to change your IP address.

1Protect Your Privacy and Security

Illustration showing a blurred man hidden behind a magnifying glass.

Every website you visit logs your IP address. With this information they can determine your country, city of residence, and ISP.

These details can be combined with information about your browsing habits — such as how much time you spend on a page or what you click on — to build a detailed profile of you and your online activity.

More importantly, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) use your IP address to identify and record your browsing behavior.

Using your IP address, ISPs can:

  • Log your browsing activity.
  • Block you from visiting certain websites.
  • Share your data with third-parties and authorities.
  • Slow down your connection speeds.

In the US, ISPs are legally allowed to sell your web browsing data. In a recent study it was also revealed that AT&T slows down user traffic to websites like Netflix and YouTube by over 70% — a process known as throttling. Hiding your IP address can help evade these practices.

In countries like the UK, ISPs are forced to collect logs of the websites visited by every IP address. These logs are available to authorities on demand and are stored for up to 12 months. If requested, ISPs can connect each IP address and its associated activity to an individual user.

Fortunately, most methods of hiding your IP address will also encrypt your internet traffic. This means you can hide your activity from your ISP and your identity from the websites you visit — preventing them from collecting your browsing data or censoring your activity.

2Unblock Websites

Websites, internet service providers, and applications use your IP address to see where you’re located. They can then use this information to block users in certain locations from seeing some — or all — of their content. This is known as a geographic restriction or geo-block.

Screenshot of an error message on YouTube explaining that the video has been blocked because of geographical restrictions

Screenshot of a YouTube video being geographically blocked.

Geo-blocks are enforced for a number of reasons:

  • For government censorship.
  • Due to copyright and licensing laws.
  • To save on operational costs.

In extreme cases like in China, over 10,000 website domains are blocked including major websites like Google and Wikipedia. In other countries, certain Netflix shows and YouTube videos are inaccessible due to licensing laws.

The only way to unblock these websites is to make it seem as if you’re connecting from a different country. You can do this by hiding your IP address and replacing it with an address from a country of your choice.

ISPs and websites can also blacklist an IP address for any number of reasons. Typically, it’s because a user has broken a website’s rules, but site administrators have the power to ban IPs whenever they want.

To regain access to websites that have banned your IP, you’ll need to hide or change your IP address. For more information on unblocking websites, you can read our dedicated guide: How to Unblock Websites.

3Prevent Targeted Advertising

Websites and advertisers use your location and other personal information to target you with personalized adverts.

While we’re told that it’s for our benefit, it’s often just about maximising their profits.

Your IP address also gets used by airlines and other online retailers to inflate prices based on your location. Depending on where you live, you might be shown prices that are far more expensive than the norm.

Hiding your IP address will help you take back your privacy from advertising companies and take advantage of cheaper prices.

How to Change Your IP Address

a man fixing a truck in the shape of a router, he attaches a new ip address to it

Changing your IP address — as opposed to simply hiding it — involves making a permanent alteration to your device’s true IP.

Generally speaking, changing your IP address is much more difficult than hiding it.

Changing your IP address is also less effective. You can’t bypass censorship or geographical restrictions with an IP change because your new address will be in roughly the same physical location as before.

IP changing will allow you to overcome some common problems, such as personal IP bans and download quotas on P2P networks. That said, these can also be overcome by hiding your IP address, too.

Here’s a table comparing when to change your IP address and when to hide it:

Change IP Address Hide IP Address
Increase Privacy No Yes
Circumvent Geo-Blocks No Yes
Avoid Government Censorship No Yes
Bypass IP Bans Yes Yes
Evade ISP Snooping No Yes
Fix Connection Problems Yes No

Before you consider changing your IP address, it’s important to note that there are two different kinds of IP address assigned by ISPs:

  1. Static IPs. A fixed IP address that is permanently tied to your network or website. Static IPs stay the same for as long as you remain with the service provider.
  2. Dynamic IPs. An IP address that changes over time. Dynamic IPs change when you disconnect from the internet and then reconnect. They are also set to change periodically at time intervals chosen by the ISP.

Dynamic IP addresses are now much more common than Static IPs, as they allow ISPs to reuse and recycle their inactive IPs.

Why Do I Need to Change My IP Address?

Most users look to change their IP address for purely technical reasons, often to do with connection problems. This can include:

  • An invalid IP address. A user may have been assigned a static IP that isn’t in the appropriate numerical range.
  • Wanting a specific IP address. Users that have experienced problems with dynamic IPs or need reliable remote access to their router might want to choose their own static IP.
  • A faulty router. A broken home router might begin to assign the same private IP address to multiple devices on one network.
  • A new router. When installing a new router, the local network may need to be reconfigured to fit with the router’s default range of IP addresses.

How to Change Your Public IP Address

little images illustrating the different ways to change a public ip addressChanging a public IP address is far more difficult than changing a private IP address.

This is because users have very little control over their public IP. ISPs own all public IPs and merely lease them to internet users.

Your public IP is not your property and can therefore be very difficult to change.

There are three main options if you want to change your public IP address:

  • Restart your WiFi router.
  • Call your ISP.
  • Connect to Public WiFi.

Which method to use depends on whether your IP is static or dynamic, and whether you’re after a quick-fix or a long-term solution.

1Restart Your WiFi Router

If your ISP assigns you a dynamic IP, you should be able to change your public IP address by simply restarting your WiFi router.

Fortunately, most home networks are assigned dynamic IPs nowadays.

The main issue with this method is that the DHCP server, which issues dynamic IP addresses, commonly tries to remember the devices under its jurisdiction and assign them the same IP address whenever possible.

To change your public IP, you’ll need to restart your router multiple times. If that doesn’t work, try leaving it switched off overnight (for around 8 hours) and turn it back on in the morning.

2Call Your ISP

If you’ve been assigned a static IP address, you’ll have to contact your ISP in order to change it.

Most ISPs allow you to request a new public IP address over the phone or on their website, but they often charge for the privilege.

This solution isn’t limited to individuals with static IPs, either. If you have a dynamic IP, you can also request a new static one from your ISP.

You may want to do this if you’ve repeatedly experienced issues with your dynamic IP assignment or if you desire a specific, permanent IP address.

It’s worth noting that static IP addresses do come with some security risks. You should consider these before requesting a new one.

3Connect to Public WiFi

The easiest way to change your public IP address is to change your physical location.

Remember, public IP addresses aren’t device specific — your IP at work will be different to your IP at home.

Heading out and connecting to public WiFi, like at a coffee shop, will temporarily change your IP address.

This method is a quick-fix rather than any kind of proper solution, but it will work if you’re only looking to change your IP address temporarily.

That said, using public WiFi can put your personal data at risk. If you have to use an open network, be sure to follow our public WiFi safety tips.

How to Change Your Private IP Address

a man is fiddling around with the wires in a device in order to change its private ip address

Users have much greater control over their private IP address than they do with their public IP. However, changing your private IP can be quite a technical procedure.

Luckily, there is one simple way of changing your private IP that you can try first.

If you have no preference over what your private IP address is — you just want a new one — you can try restarting your WiFi router. Once it boots back up, it should randomly reassign all the devices on your network a brand new private IP address.

However, restarting your router won’t help if you want to fix a faulty router or choose a specific IP address.

If restarting your WiFi router doesn’t work, you can use the following simple instructions to change the private IP address on a device of your choice.

Regardless of the system you’re using, we recommend keeping the numbering convention of your new private IP address similar to the one already being used. Just choose your own number between 0 and 255 for the final three digits.

Different routers designate different ranges, so choose a smaller number to be on the safe side.

To Change Your Private IP Address on Windows 10:

  1. Open the Control Panel. Click the Start button in the bottom-left of the screen. Type in ‘control panel’ and select Control Panel from the results.
  2. Select Network and Internet and then Network and Sharing Centre.
  3. From the left-hand menu, choose Change Adaptor Settings.
  4. screenshot of network and sharing centre on Windows 10

  5. Choose your main internet connection (WiFi or Ethernet) and click on the Properties tab.
  6. Find Internet Protocol Version (TCP/IPv4) on the list. Click it, and then click Properties.
  7. screenshot of internet connection properties on Windows 10

  8. Make sure the Use the following IP address tab is selected and then input the private IP address that you want.

To Change Your Private IP Address on MacOS:

  1. Navigate to System Preferences using the Apple Logo in the top-left corner of the screen and double-click the Network tab.
  2. Select your internet connection (WiFi or Ethernet) from the left-hand menu and then click the advanced tab in the bottom-right corner.
  3. Switch to the TCP/IP tab.
  4. From the drop-down menu next to Configure IPv4, select Using DHCP with manual address.
  5. screenshot of TCP/IP settings on MacOS

  6. Enter your preferred private IP address into the input box that appears next to IPv4 Address and click OK.

To Change Your Private IP Address on iPhone:

  1. Open the Settings app and choose WiFi.
  2. Select the mini (i) next to your chosen network.
  3. screenshot of the wifi settings on iPhone

  4. Tap Configure IP and then the Manual option.
  5. Input your desired private IP address into the IP address box. You may also need to type in the existing Subnet Mask and Router number (which can be found on the previous screen).
  6. screenshot of the configure ipv4 settings on iPhone

To Change Your Private IP Address on Android:

  1. Open Settings, tap Connections and then WiFi.
  2. Press on the network you’re using and select Advanced.
  3. Using the IP settings drop-down menu, tap Static.
  4. screenshot of advanced ip settings on Android

  5. Enter the private IP address you want into the box under IP address.

About the Author

  • Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

    Simon Migliano

    Simon is our Head of Research and has tested hundreds of VPNs since 2016. His research has been covered by the BBC, The New York Times, CNet, Wired, and more. Read full bio