Simon is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times, CNet and more. Read full bio
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.
Your IP address is like a passport or national security number for your computer. It’s unique, fixed, and lets everyone on the internet know exactly who you are and where you’re located. To protect your privacy and safety online, it’s important to know how to hide your IP address.
By hiding your IP address, you make it appear as if your IP has changed when, in reality, your true IP address remains untouched. It 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.
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.
By 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 and where you’re visiting from.
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 painfully slow. You can also hide your IP using your mobile network.
Before we explore these methods in greater detail, here’s a table summarising their strengths and weaknesses:
Hides Your IP
1Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network)
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.
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 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 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:
Go into your smartphone’s settings app.
Turn on Personal Hotspot.
On your device(s), connect to your smartphone’s hotspot.
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.
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 IP address, type “what is my ip” into Google and press Enter.
Your public IP address will appear at the top of the page:
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 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
1Protect Your Privacy and Security
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.
ISPs can use your IP address to:
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.
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 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.
Does Incognito Mode Hide Your IP Address?
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.