Nearly 100 million people from all over the world use Netflix to watch TV shows and movies. However, you might have heard that Netflix offers different content in different countries. Even though all users go through the same website, netflix.com, the content which they have access to varies depending on their location. You’ll have noticed this if you have been travelling abroad and tried to watch something on Netflix – you might not be able to load the video you want because it isn’t available in the region you were travelling in. In places likes Germany, Spain, and Hong Kong, Netflix users can’t see the original Netflix programs like House of Cards.
Many Netflix users used to use a VPN to access Netflix content from other countries. If you lived in Germany but wanted to watch a show that was only available in the US, you just had to fire up your VPN software, connect to a US server, then head to netflix.com and you could watch with no problems. But recently this method has stopped working for many users.
Today we’re going to explain how Netflix blocks VPNs and how to bypass this VPN block.
The Problem of Using Netflix with a VPN
You might have heard that last year, Netflix cracked down on the use of VPNs. They decided to block attempts to bypass their region-locked content using VPN services, making it more difficult to access Netflix content from other countries. It is likely that Netflix was pressured into this action by movie copyright holders in particular, as the pricey streaming rights for big movies are sold separately in different countries. When customers use a VPN to watch a movie which is not licensed in their country, the copyright holders do not receive payment for their viewing. So there has been pressure on Netflix to prevent users from getting around region locks.
There is also the factor of Netflix becoming a content creator as well as a content distributor, now that their shows like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black are so successful. A few years ago, Netflix took a more tolerant stance towards privacy and copyright law, but with the rise in importance of its own content, it is becoming stricter around potential piracy issues.
Eventually, Netflix has stated that they want to provide global access to content, so that you can watch all of the content wherever you are in the world. But achieving this will be a long process of negotiations with copyright holders, so we’re unlikely to see Netflix global any time soon. For now, it is highly likely that Netflix content will remain region locked for the near future.
What Is VPN Detection?
When Netflix users have a VPN enabled and visit the Netflix site, they can browse the content as usual, using the VPN location. For example, if you connect to a VPN server in the UK and go to netflix.com, you’ll see the UK version of the site and everything appears to be working. But when you select a video to play, you may get a proxy error saying “Whoops, something went wrong… Stream Error”. Beneath this is a warning that Netflix has detected that you are using an unblocker or a proxy, and you will not be able to play the video. If you see this warning, it means that Netflix has blocked your VPN and you won’t be able to watch your content.
This problem is caused by the sophisticated VPN detection which Netflix uses. At first, the VPN works as the Netflix website sees an IP address in UK, and so it serves the UK version of the site (it reads the country code of the incoming IP address and serves up the relevant version of the site). However, the Netflix server which hosts the actual video content rather than the website uses much stricter detection methods to determine whether a VPN is being used. This prevents you from watching the video, even if you can navigate the site.
The first issue that VPN detection investigates is shared IP addresses. Many VPN providers will use shared IP addresses, so you could be on the same IP address as dozens or even hundreds of other users. This is advantageous for anonymity, but it is easy for Netflix to see which IP addresses are accessing huge amounts of data, suggesting that they are a VPN shared IP, and to block them. One solution to this is to use an individual IP address, which some VPN providers do offer, but this loses the advantage of anonymity offered by a shared IP.
Another problem is that VPN providers will typically buy up IP address in large bulk, so they will have a whole lot of servers under similar IP addresses. Once Netflix has discovered that a particular IP address is used by a VPN, it sometimes bulk blocks a whole range of address. This means that users who aren’t even running VPNs can be affected by this issue, as their IP address happens to fall close to a range of VPN IP addresses.
The rules which Netflix uses to detects VPNs are not fully understood, and their VPN detection continues to evolve over time. This has created a situation where many if not most VPNs will no longer work with Netflix. Even if you are a Netflix customer who only wants to access content from your own country, you still won’t be able to use the service without turning off your VPN and sacrificing your privacy.
The Netflix App Versus Watching Netflix in a Browser
A separate complication with watching Netflix with a VPN is the two different ways in which you access the Netflix service. As well as banning IP addresses, Netflix also detects VPNs by looking at whether the location of your IP address and your DNS server matches. If you use your web browser to watch Netflix and you have a VPN installed, then the VPN provider will be able to route your traffic via a DNS server that they have provided. This way, your traffic and your DNS server match and you do not trigger the proxy error.
When you use Netflix in an app for your Android or iOS device, however, this does not always work. Apps can override the DNS settings on your device and force your device to use the default ISP name server. This means that when your VPN service is turned on, the location of the traffic passing through the server does not match the DNS server, and so the app can detect VPN use. In this case, you’ll trigger the proxy error.
Many VPN providers have not yet been able to resolve this issue to allow users to watch Netflix through an app. However, the VPNs that we have selected below have found a way around this issue to make it work.
An alternative strategy to manage this problem is to install your VPN software directly onto your router rather than on to your individual devices. This way, any traffic which is sent through your router (i.e. any traffic originating from your home network) will be automatically encrypted. Once you have installed your VPN software onto your router, you’ll need to configure your settings to forward DNS queries to the DNS servers provided by your VPN. Now, you can watch Netflix on any device–even through an app–without triggering the proxy error. You can find instructions on how to install VPN software onto your router and how to configure your DNS settings on your VPN provider’s website.
VPNs That Work with Netflix
We’ve done some digging and unearthed options for two VPN providers which will work with Netflix, both in the browser and in an app. Here are our recommendations for VPNs which will successfully let you watch Netflix content from other countries:
As well as having extremely fast servers which are ideal for streaming video, the most reliable VPN provider for accessing Netflix is ExpressVPN. With its huge network of servers in 145 cities in 94 countries, you’ll easily be able to spoof your location to watch Netflix from places like the US, Canada, and Germany.
You might find that not all servers work with Netflix when you use ExpressVPN, as Netflix’s VPN detection evolves over time. If you’ve tried a few servers and not found one which is working, you can contact ExpressVPN’s 24/7 customer service and ask them for a recommendation of which server to connect to. They should be able to point you to the server that you need.
ExpressVPN supports plenty of different platforms, including both new and older versions of Windows (that’s Windows RT, Windows XP, Widows Vista, and Windows 7, 8, and 10), and Mac OS, Linux, and Android. The strong 256-bit AES encryption keeps your data safe and the no-logging policy ensures your privacy.
Another VPN option for Netflix users is NordVPN. This service is perfect for highly privacy-minded users, thanks to its strong encryption and no-logging policy. It specialises in getting around region locks, so it has one of the biggest networks of servers with more than 1070 servers in 60 different countries.
NordVPN in fact has Netflix-optimised servers which don’t require extra configuration to work. These are particular numbered servers which have been set up specifically to be used for watching Netflix. You can see the exact instructions for watching Netflix on the NordVPN website here. According to NordVPN’s information, the servers are currently working with Netflix in the US as well as France, India, Netherlands, Canada, Germany and Australia.
How to Use Netflix with a VPN
Once you’ve chosen a VPN provider and signed up for a plan, then using your VPN with Netflix is simple. Start off by downloading and installing the VPN software from your chosen provider. When you run the software for the first time, you’ll see a list of servers in different countries that you can connect to. Find one that is in the country where you want to watch Netflix from and connect to it.
You can check whether your VPN is working by going to https://whatismyipaddress.com/. This site will tell you your current IP address, and show the location of that address on a map. Make sure that the IP address matches with the location that you wish to access Netflix from.
Now you can open up your browser and go to http://www.netflix.com/. You should see the version of the site that corresponds to the location of your VPN server. So, if you picked a server in the UK, you should see the UK version of Netflix. Log in and you can use the site as usual, but now you get to see all the UK content instead of your home country’s content.
You can use this method to access Netflix from all over the world. Some of the most popular versions of Netflix are those in the US, Canada, and the UK, as these have lots of content which is missing from other countries like Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Hong Kong, and Turkey.
Netflix has set out on a mission to make bypassing their region locks on content more and more difficult over the last year or two, and they’ve succeeding in locking out many VPN users. Whilst it may be understandable that they need to enforce strict rules about region locking from the copyright holders who provide their content, it is highly controversial that they are also blocking access to those customers who want to use a VPN in order to protect their privacy. Eventually Netflix aims to make all of its content available globally, but for now we are stuck with region locking.
If you want to access Netflix content from other countries, however, this is still possible. You can use either of the two VPN providers that we recommended here – ExpressVPN and NordVPN – to bypass Netflix region locks. The Netflix VPN detection will continue to grow more sophisticated, so you might need to ask for guidance to find the specific servers which you can connect to in order to access Netflix, but as things stand these two are the most reliable options for VPNs to access Netflix.
Have you tried to get around the Netflix region locks? Do you use either of the VPNs which we recommended, or is there another which you prefer? Let us know your tips in the comments below!