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The Best VPNs for HBO Max & How to Fix Your VPN Not Working

Headshot of Top10VPN.com Site Editor Callum Tennent

Callum Tennent oversees how we test and review VPN services. He's a member of the IAPP, and his VPN advice has featured in Forbes and the Internet Society.

Our Verdict

The best way to unblock HBO Max is to use a streaming-optimized VPN. In this guide we'll show you how to use the best VPN for HBO Max, and how to fix your HBO Max VPN if it isn’t working.

How to Watch HBO Max with a VPN

HBO Max is the updated version of HBO Now and HBO Go. The platform is currently only available in the USA, Latin America, the Caribbean, and select European countries.

Streaming-optimized VPNs assign you a US IP address to bypass HBO’s geo-blocks and unblock HBO-exclusive movies and TV shows from any country, including Australia, Canada, and the UK.

We put 56 VPN services through our streaming tests to find the most reliable and effective at unblocking HBO Max from anywhere in the world.

Based on our latest streaming tests, the best VPNs for HBO Max in 2022 are:

  1. ExpressVPN – Overall Best VPN for HBO Max
  2. NordVPN – Best Alternative VPN for HBO Max
  3. Surfshark – Best Cheap VPN for HBO Max
  4. Windscribe – Best Free VPN for HBO Max
  5. PrivadoVPN – Fastest Free VPN for HBO Max

In this guide, we’ll review each HBO Max VPN in detail, and we’ll explain what to do if your HBO Max VPN isn’t working.

We’ll also show you how to use a VPN to watch HBO Max Originals, as well as Warner Bros, CNN, TBS, Cartoon Network, and TNT content, from anywhere in the world.

Comparison of the Best VPNs for HBO Max

Use the table below to compare the best HBO Max VPNs for access to HBO Max from overseas, international speeds, and cheapest monthly price.

Why Trust Top10VPN.com?

Unlike many review websites, we’re completely independent and focused on VPN software. We’ve spent thousands of hours testing and reviewing VPNs for HBO Max using our HBO Max VPN testing methodology to recommend the best ones.

Here’s an overview of our key HBO Max VPN testing statistics:

  • VPN Services Reviewed: 56
  • VPNs That Work with HBO Max: 34
  • Test Platforms/Devices: Windows, Mac, Fire TV, iPhone, Android, Apple TV & PS5
  • HBO Max Unblocking Tests: 10,000+
  • Weekly Speed Tests: 3,000+
  • Longest Streaming Distance Tested: 10,553 miles

Top HBO Max VPNs: Summary Test Ratings

The table below summarizes how the best HBO Max VPNs performed in our key testing categories:

The Best VPNs for HBO Max Analyzed

Since 2016, we’ve run over 10,000 streaming tests with 56 VPNs to find the most effective at unblocking HBO Max.

From 34 VPN services that currently work with HBO Max, only five VPNs (three premium, two free) truly stood out in our tests.

1. ExpressVPN: The Best VPN for HBO Max

PROS CONS
  • Streams HBO Max on all US servers
  • Fast and reliable long-distance connection speeds
  • Effective servers in 16 US cities
  • One of the best Fire TV Stick apps
  • Smart DNS available for Apple TV and games consoles
  • User-friendly apps for all platforms
  • Short-term plans are expensive

ExpressVPN Test Ratings

Overall HBO Max Rating: 9.6/109.6

Unblocks HBO Max: 9.9/109.9

Long-distance Speeds: 9.5/109.5

No. of US Servers: 9.6/109.6

Fire TV Stick: 8.9/108.9

Smart DNS: 9.6/109.6

ExpressVPN is the outright best VPN for HBO Max. It consistently unlocked HBO on all its US servers in our latest tests.

Not only is ExpressVPN very fast, it’s also compatible with an extensive range of streaming devices.

You can use ExpressVPN with Apple TV and it also offers a user-friendly Firestick App to stream HBO Max on your Amazon Fire TV Stick.

In fact, ExpressVPN is our top recommendation for most streaming services, and is currently the best Netflix VPN too.

HBO Max home screen using ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN can access HBO Max.

There’s also an easy-to-use Smart DNS feature called MediaStreamer. This lets you stream HBO Max on devices that don’t support native VPN apps such as Apple TV, Roku, and games consoles.

As international streaming speeds go, ExpressVPN delivers outstanding speed performances. We recorded a download speed loss of just 17% connecting from the UK to the East Coast.

These fast international connections mean we’ve never had buffering issues streaming HBO Max content using ExpressVPN.

Moreover, ExpressVPN has exceptional customer support and the apps are some of the best when it comes to usability and design.

While ExpressVPN is the most expensive VPN we recommend for HBO Max, it’s also the most reliable. NordVPN is cheaper on the initial two-year plan, however it renews at a similar price to ExpressVPN.

2. NordVPN: Fastest VPN for HBO Max

PROS CONS
  • Consistent access to HBO Max
  • The fastest international streaming speeds
  • 16 US cities available
  • More affordable than ExpressVPN
  • Effective Fire TV Stick app
  • Smart DNS feature
  • Doesn’t accept PayPal
  • PC & Mac applications can’t be resized
  • Less reliable for Netflix on Fire TV devices
  • Renews at a much higher annual subscription price

NordVPN Test Ratings

Overall HBO Max Rating: 9.5/109.5

Unblocks HBO Max: 9.8/109.8

Long-distance Speeds: 9.6/109.6

No. of US Servers: 9.4/109.4

Fire TV Stick: 8.5/108.5

Smart DNS: 9.2/109.2

NordVPN falls behind ExpressVPN in several of our key HBO Max testing categories, but only very slightly.

Despite the marginally weaker performance, we happily recommend NordVPN if ExpressVPN is too expensive for you.

NordVPN unblocks HBO Max on almost all its 16 US server locations. However, the easiest way is to use its automatic US server selection.

NordVPN unblocking HBO Max

NordVPN bypassed HBO Max geo-blocks in our tests.

Also, the service’s simple Fire TV Stick app and Smart DNS tool have rarely failed to unblock HBO Max in our testing. ExpressVPN has never failed, though.

NordVPN is faster than ExpressVPN on long-distance speeds, and it matches ExpressVPN in terms of US server locations.

Overall, NordVPN is a very good alternative to ExpressVPN, especially because of its cheaper monthly price.

Compared to ExpressVPN’s $6.67 per month, NordVPN only costs $3.29 – more than 50% cheaper. However, NordVPN will renew at a much higher subscription price.

3. Surfshark VPN: Best Cheap VPN for HBO Max

PROS CONS
  • Cheapest VPN for HBO Max
  • Highest number of US city servers
  • Fast international speeds
  • Best Fire TV Stick app for streaming HBO
  • Quality Smart DNS feature
  • Excellent customer service and nice apps
  • Not all US servers unblock HBO Max
  • HBO Max servers are not labeled
  • Slower than ExpressVPN and NordVPN
  • Kill switch not enabled by default

Surfshark Test Ratings

Overall HBO Max Rating: 9.3/109.4

Unblocks HBO Max: 9.4/109.4

Long-distance Speeds: 9.4/109.4

No. of US Servers: 9.8/109.8

Fire TV Stick: 8.8/108.8

Smart DNS: 8.5/108.5

Surfshark works with HBO Max on many of its 25 US server locations, but not all of them. For this reason it’s not as good as ExpressVPN and NordVPN.

Finding a Surfshark VPN server that works is somewhat of a guessing game. Thankfully, the default US connection currently works.

Surfshark alongside the HBO Max app

Surfshark requires a little more patience, but it still unblocks HBO Max.

To specifically watch HBO Max on Fire TV Stick, Surfshark proved to be the best option during our testing.

Its Fire TV stick app has advanced features like a kill switch and a split tunneling tool. The Smart DNS is easy to set up too.

Surfshark isn’t as fast or reliable as ExpressVPN or NordVPN, but it is cheaper. It’s also the best VPN for Disney+.

The VPN service only costs $1.99 per month, with little compromise on quality.

The Best Free VPNs for HBO Max

The best free VPNs for HBO Max are Windscribe and PrivadoVPN. Both have a free version that beats HBO’s VPN blocks with fast speeds.

Windscribe VPN is more reliable than PrivadoVPN, but the latter delivered much faster streaming speeds in our tests.

The problem with both free VPNs is that they only offer 10GB of free data each month. This limits how much you can realistically stream.

You’ll have to upgrade to the premium version, or choose a different VPN, if you want to unblock HBO Max.

We don’t recommend any other free VPNs for HBO Max. The vast majority don’t work, and some are even dangerous to use.

Other HBO Max VPNs We Considered

Testing 56 VPN services with HBO Max revealed that many aren’t worth recommending.

While 34 VPNs did unblock HBO Max, many delivered slow streaming speeds, or aren’t compatible with popular streaming devices.

Below is a list of popular VPN services that fell short of making our top HBO Max recommendations:

Private Internet Access (PIA)

What we don’t like: While PIA VPN’s apps work with HBO Max, its Smart DNS tool doesn’t. As a result, using PIA VPN with your Apple TV or games console isn’t as smooth.

IPVanish

What we don’t like: IPVanish has a great Fire TV Stick app, but unfortunately the service doesn’t unblock HBO Max on any of its US servers.

CyberGhost

What we don’t like: CyberGhost is a very good streaming VPN in general, however it’s currently unable to access HBO Max.

The table below contains selection of the 56 VPNs we tested with HBO Max:

HBO Max VPN Not Working? Here’s How to Fix It

Not all VPNs work with HBO Max. HBO tries to detect VPN connections and block access outside permissible regions.

You’ll know your VPN isn’t working if you see the error message “Not in Service Area or VPN Detected” or “Sorry, HBO Max isn’t available in your region yet.”

HBO Max Geo-Detection Error Notice

HBO Max has geo-detection methods.

1. Change Your HBO Max Account Password

After using a VPN with HBO Max for a while, you might experience the service blocking you from logging in, stating that your username and password is incorrect even if you haven’t changed it.

We suspect HBO Max does this when it detects many different IP addresses logging into your account. You can easily fix this by resetting your password via HBO Max account settings.

2. Connect to a Different US VPN Server

HBO Max’s detection methods aren’t as sophisticated as BBC iPlayer, Netflix, or DAZN. Connecting to a different US server often to work to unblock HBO Max.

ExpressVPN US Server Locations

ExpressVPN has multiple US server locations.

3. Clear Your Browser Cache and Cookies

If changing server doesn’t work, delete your web browser cookies and cache to remove traces of your geo-location.

Clearing Browsing Data on MacOS Chrome

Clear Browsing Data option as seen on MacOS Chrome.

Similarly, you can also try accessing HBO Max in a Google Incognito or Firefox Private Browsing window.

4. Change VPN Protocol

If the current VPN protocol your VPN app is using isn’t working with HBO Max, try using a different protocol. You can change this in the VPN’s settings.

ExpressVPN's protocol settings

Lightway protocol encryption settings.

In our streaming tests, we found that ExpressVPN’s Lightway protocol and NordVPN’s NordLynx are the best for bypassing HBO’s VPN blocks.

5. Check for IP or DNS Address Leaks

If your VPN leaks your real IP address, HBO Max will detect it and block you from streaming its video content.

Use our VPN leak test tool to check that your VPN is secure and doesn’t leak your IP and DNS credentials.

6. Contact Your VPN’s Customer Support

You can always contact your VPN’s support team, asking them for recommended servers for unblocking HBO Max.

The best VPN service’s offer 24/7 live chat support, so you can get a prompt answer on which servers work best for streaming.

7. Use Smart DNS

If you’re still encountering problems with your HBO VPN, use the service’s Smart DNS tool, if available.

The tool changes your default DNS servers and replaces them with US servers. It’s an easy to way to unblock HBO Max on Apple TV and games consoles.

The Smart DNS settings page in our Surfshark account

The Smart DNS settings page in our Surfshark account.

8. Use a Residential IP Address

Residential IP addresses belong to household internet service providers like AT&T and Verizon.

In other words, residential IP addresses appear the same as regular IP addresses for US-based internet users.

In order to get a residential IP address, you’ll have to buy one separately from a VPN service. Windscribe is the best VPN to offer residential IPs.

While Windscribe is the best free HBO VPN, residential IP addresses are only available to paid subscribers, and cost extra.

The residential IP section of the Windscribe app

Windscribe’s residential IP addresses worked with HBO.

If none of the troubleshooting steps above work, it most likely means your VPN isn’t equipped to beat HBO Max’s geo-restrictions.

Even good VPNs like CyberGhost and IPVanish don’t work with HBO Max. If you want to avoid VPN detections, stick to our recommended VPNs for HBO Max.

Trying a better VPN is the best course of action for other streaming services too, for example to bypass Hulu VPN blocks.

Fix HBO Max Error Codes 905, 100, 321

If you get an HBO Max error code, first use downdetector.com to see whether the problem lies with the HBO Max service, or your own connection.

HBO Max errors can sometimes occur due to heavy traffic to the website/application, or a faulty server.

If the problem lies with your internet connection, check for updates to the HBO Max app. Out of date software often leads to error codes. It’s also worth restarting your HBO app and device.

If your VPN connection is running, turn it off and see if HBO Max returns to normal. If it does, reconnect with a different VPN server.

If the problem persists, delete your device cookies, clear your cache, and then restart the console again. That should make it work again.

The error code 03-37-215 occurs for people watching HBO Max on PlayStation. To fix this, simply restart your games console.

If you continue experiencing problems, you’ll have to contact HBO support.

How to Use a VPN to Watch HBO Max

The video below shows you how to use a VPN with HBO Max. We’re using ExpressVPN here, but the process is identical for other VPNs:

If you want to stream HBO Max but you’re outside the US, you’ll need two things: a good VPN, and access to a US payment method.

Sadly, you can’t get HBO Max for free and there’s no free trial.

If you don’t have a US payment method, we’ll walk you through other ways to get HBO Max.

Here’s how you stream HBO Max from anywhere in the world:

  1. Sign up for and download a VPN. We strongly recommend you subscribe to one of the VPNs the work best with HBO Max.
  2. Open the VPN app and connect to a US server, or a dedicated HBO Max server if there is one.
  3. Head to the HBO Max American website and create an account.
  4. You can pay directly if you already have a US payment method. If you don’t have a US payment method, see how to get one here.
  5. Once your account is created, keep your VPN on and log in as normal to stream HBO Max. You’ll have to use your VPN every time you want to use the service. If the US server you selected isn’t working, try a different one.

EXPERT ADVICE: If your HBO Max VPN still isn’t working or your VPN is detected, try these HBO Max VPN troubleshooting tips.

How to Pay for HBO Max Outside the US

Even if you don’t have an American payment method, you can still sign up for an HBO Max account from the UK, Canada, Australia, or any other country.

 

HBO Max payment page

You need a US payment method to subscribe to HBO Max.

Method 1: Use an HBO Gift Card

The easiest way to subscribe to HBO Max from outside the US is to purchase a HBO gift card. You can buy one from any country.

Follow these steps to get a HBO Max gift card:

  1. Buy an HBO gift card from MyGiftCardSupply. You’ll then receive a redemption code.
  2. Use a VPN to connect to a US server.
  3. Redeem your HBO gift card on the HBO Now website by submitting your redemption code.
  4. Go to the HBO Max website and sign in using your HBO login details.

That’s it. It’s an incredibly simple way to get HBO Max from anywhere.

To learn more about redeeming HBO Now gift cards, read this helpful article.

Method 2: Use a Third-Party Card Service

Another easy way to sign up for HBO Max is to use US card payment services like StatesCard or USUnlocked, which have guides for HBO Max specifically.

For a small fee these payment card services provide US payment details and US zip codes that can be used to register for HBO Max.

Method 3: Create a US Apple ID

Getting a US Apple ID and paying for HBO Max isn’t as easy as just changing your region in App Store settings.

You need to start from the bottom up and pay with a US gift card. You also need an Apple computer, like an iMac or MacBook.

Follow these steps to do it:

  1. Connect to a US server with your VPN.
  2. Open iTunes and sign out of your account if you already have one.
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the iTunes window and select the option Country or Region in the bottom right corner.
  4. Now create a completely new Apple ID account. Select the United States as your Region/Country if it hasn’t automatically changed already.

    Apple ID creation screen

    Choose the United States as your country when creating a new Apple ID.

  5. It’s essential that you do not include any payment information as part of your new account. Select None when asked to include payment information and insert a random US address.

    Apple ID payment detail screen

    Make sure to select ‘None’ as a payment method.

  6. With your new US Apple ID registered, purchase a US gift card for iTunes – enough to cover the cost of HBO Max. We recommend that you use Best Buy or My Gift Card Supply.
  7. Once purchased, open the Apple App Store, head to the bottom of the window, and select the Redeem option. Sign in with your new US account if you haven’t already. In the screen that follows, enter the code of the gift card you purchased.
  8. With credit now tied to your account, you can use your VPN to connect to a US server and sign up for HBO Max, paying with your iTunes gift card.

Method 4: Create a US Google Account

If you don’t use Apple devices, you can also get HBO Max on Android devices by setting up a US Google account.
Follow these steps:

  1. Connect to a US IP address through a VPN installed on your Android device.
  2. Now you need to create a new US Google account. To do this, go to your Android Settings.
  3. Select Google and tap the arrow beside your current account.
  4. Tap Add Another Account and fill out the details. Do not add any information that could reveal your real whereabouts.
  5. Once completed, you need to go and purchase a US Google Play gift card. These can be bought at Amazon.com.
  6. The gift card code will be sent to the email of your new account. Copy the code and paste it into the Google Store to redeem it. The Redeem gift code option is found under Payments and subscriptions. If asked to, enter a random US ZIP code.
  7. Now that you have a US Play Store account and a gift card cashed in, you can search for and install the HBO Max app.
  8. Download the app and register for a HBO Max subscription using your gift card balance.
  9. Now you can stream HBO Max from wherever you like just as long as you are connected to a US server. You can use the same login for any device you want to stream HBO Max on.

How to Use a VPN with HBO Max On Your TV

The best way to watch the latest HBO Max blockbuster like Mortal Kombat or The Suicide Squad is via your home cinema setup.

You can do this by installing HBO Max onto your Smart TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, or Roku device. If you’re in the US, you can do this as you would normally.

If you’re outside the US, you’ll need a VPN that has a Fire TV Stick app or Smart DNS feature. The VPNs we recommend all come with good Fire TV Stick apps and Smart DNS tools.

At the least, your VPN should be compatible with routers. But this process is more complicated than installing a bespoke app.

Use Smart DNS for HBO Max

Smart DNS works by spoofing your online location so that you can fool HBO Max into thinking you’re in the US.

Unlike a VPN, it doesn’t encrypt your traffic or change your IP address. Instead, it changes the DNS server that your traffic is routed through, enabling you to access geo-blocked websites on devices that lack VPN applications, like Smart TVs, Apple TV, and games consoles.

Smart DNS is a useful tool for streaming movies on larger-screen devices, as it accesses HBO Max content reliably and with fast speeds.

You’ll need a VPN that has a Smart DNS feature if you want the big-screen experience. You can activate your Smart DNS via your VPN provider’s website.

We list the VPNs that have Smart DNS in our HBO Max VPN comparison table.

The installation process is different for every VPN service, but they all follow the same principles. In this example, we did it with Surfshark.

Here’s how to set up Smart DNS for HBO Max:

  1. Login to your VPN provider’s members area via its website and head to its Smart DNS tool. Some providers give its Smart DNS feature bespoke names. ExpressVPN calls it MediaStreamer, for example.

    Surfshark Smart DNS

    Surfshark Smart DNS tool.

  2. Click the Get started button. Surfshark will then automatically detect your IP address. You can see below that our London office IP address is detected.

    Surfshark's Smart DNS IP detection

    Surfshark’s Smart DNS automatically detects your IP address.

  3. Click the Activate Smart DNS button. This automatically takes you to a page that generates alternative DNS addresses. You can only activate Smart DNS on one IP address.

    Surfshark generates alternative DNS addresses.

    Surfshark’s Smart DNS generates alternative DNS addresses (redacted as this is a premium feature).

  4. With Smart DNS now activated, you can now set it up on your various devices. Surfshark has tutorials for multiple devices. Generally speaking, as part of your network settings your device allows you to manually configure your DNS server.
  5. Simply insert the DNS server address provided by Surfshark when your device prompts you.
  6. Restart your device after you’ve manually changed your DNS server. You’ll now be able to stream HBO Max from the US on your TV.

How to Get HBO Max on Amazon Fire TV Stick

To install HBO Max on your Firestick from outside the US, it’s not as simple as changing your IP address with a VPN. You’ll need to register a US Amazon account.

Even with your VPN on, if your Fire TV Stick is linked to an Amazon account registered in the UK, for example, HBO Max won’t appear in your Amazon App Store searches.

To fix this, create an Amazon profile with a US address.

You can do this by following these simple steps:

  1. In your browser, head to your Amazon account.
  2. Select Accounts & Lists > Manage Your Account and Content.
  3. Change the region to the US.
  4. Go to your Amazon Firestick and select Settings > My Account.
  5. Unregister and then sign back in with your now-US Amazon account.

Once this is done and linked to your Fire TV Stick, you can find HBO Max in the app store search bar.

However, this means you will lose access to region-specific apps, like BBC iPlayer.

Switching between US and UK Amazon accounts on your Fire TV Stick isn’t an instant process, either. You’ll have to repeat the process in reverse each time.

HBO Max VPN Testing Methodology

We tested 56 VPNs to determine which services meet our HBO-specific testing criteria.

The best VPNs for HBO Max access the geo-restricted streaming service quickly, consistently and without issues.

Top HBO Max VPNs deliver fast long-distance network speeds to ensure smooth, buffer-free streaming from abroad thanks to a large pool of streaming-optimized US servers.

A good Fire TV Stick app and Smart TV compatibility is important, too, to watch HBO titles on larger screens.

An effective Smart DNS feature is equally ideal to stream content on devices that don’t support VPN applications. These include Apple TV, Roku, Xbox, PlayStation, and more.

Moreover, a VPN should be easy to use and come with helpful customer support with knowledge of HBO Max.

Our overall HBO Max VPN rating is calculated based on the weighted value we assign to each testing category:

  • Reliable access to HBO Max: 40%
  • Long-distance speeds (based on London to New York connections): 20%
  • Number of available US Servers: 20%
  • Quality of Fire TV Stick app: 10%
  • Smart DNS effectiveness: 10%

 

Additional research by David Hughes