How to Hide Your IP Address: 4 Safe & Private Methods
The two best and 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 very slow. You can also hide your IP using your mobile network.
1. Virtual Private Network (VPN)
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.
Using a VPN is the most popular and reliable way to hide your IP address.
A VPN will:
- Spoof your location.
- Encrypt your web traffic.
- Hide your IP and 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, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates.
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.
Our VPN recommendations for 2021 take all of these factors into consideration (and many more) to determine which are the best VPNs available today.
To hide your IP address with a VPN:
- Subscribe to your chosen VPN service.
- 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 browse as usual. Your IP address will now be hidden.
VPN: Pros & Cons
|VPN Pros||VPN Cons|
2. Web Proxy
A proxy server acts as a middleman between you and the websites you visit. When browsing the internet with a proxy, your traffic gets routed to the proxy server first instead of traveling directly to your target website. The proxy server then visits the website on your behalf and forwards you its content.
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 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, but it is far less secure and reliable than using 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. A VPN encrypts and reroutes all of the web traffic sent from your device.
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.
Read our dedicated guide on the differences between proxy servers and VPNs to learn more.
To hide your IP address with a proxy server:
Web Proxy: Pros & Cons
|Web Proxy Pros||Web Proxy Cons|
3. The Tor Browser
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 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.
Tor does have 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 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.
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 Browser: Pros & Cons
|Tor Browser Pros||Tor Browser Cons|
4. Use Your Mobile Data 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.
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.
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.
Mobile Data: Pros & Cons
|Mobile Data Pros||Mobile Data Cons|