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How to Change and Hide Your IP Address

Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

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

Changing and hiding your IP address improves your online privacy and security, and lets you bypass internet geo-blocks. Out of four simple methods to mask your IP address, the best way is to use a virtual private network (VPN).

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

Your IP (Internet Protocol) address is a unique number given to your internet connection by your ISP (Internet Service Provider).

This unique number is fixed, and lets websites, applications, web services, and even snoopers, know your approximate location.

For instance, by using your IP address, your ISP is able to record all the websites you visit, and the desktop or mobile apps you use.

Similarly, websites look up IP addresses to see where you’re visiting from. Streaming platforms block IP addresses from locations not allowed to access their service.

Therefore you need to know how to change and hide your IP address, to protect your internet privacy and security, and to unblock geo-restricted web services.

Summary Comparison of the Best Ways to Hide Your IP Address

Below are the four best ways to change and hide your IP address on computers and smartphones:

Method Hides Your IP? Spoofs Location? Speed Cost Our Verdict
Virtual Private Network (VPN) Fast Free & Paid The safest and most reliable way to hide your IP address, but typically comes at a cost.
Web Proxy Fast Free Quick, easy, and free, but not always secure or private. Don’t use if you’re sharing personal information.
Tor Browser Slow Free As close to complete online anonymity as you can get, but delivers very slow speeds.
Mobile Data Fast Free The simplest way to change your IP address, but it won’t let you spoof your location.

In this guide, we’ll walk through in detail how to use each of the above methods to hide your IP address.

The Four Best Ways to Hide Your IP Address

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 mask your IP using your cellular/mobile network, instead of your WiFi network.

1. Hiding Your IP Address with a VPN

ExpressVPN's desktop application

ExpressVPN’s desktop application.

VPN Pros VPN Cons
  • Hides your IP address.
  • Unblocks geographically restricted content.
  • Choose between multiple VPN server locations.
  • Encrypts and secures your connection.
  • Protects your privacy.
  • Most VPN services offer customer support.
  • Your VPN provider is fully responsible for your browsing data.
  • Can slow connection speeds, though this is usually negligible.
  • Most premium VPNs require a subscription cost.

To hide your IP address with a VPN:

  1. Subscribe to a good VPN service. Read our review of ExpressVPN, our favorite VPN.
  2. Download and install the VPN software on your device.
  3. Log in with your account credentials and select a VPN server in a country of your choice.
  4. Connect to the VPN server and use the internet as usual. Your true IP address is now hidden.
  5. Run an IP leak test to confirm your real IP address is no longer visible.

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

Virtual private network software diverts your internet traffic through a secure VPN server before reaching your destination website or application.

When you connect to a VPN server, your IP address is replaced with the server’s one. VPN servers are located all over the world, depending on which VPN service you choose.

A VPN also secures your internet connection using safe connection protocols, and bank-grade encryption (AES 256-bit).

A good-quality VPN will:

  • Spoof your location.
  • Encrypt your web traffic.
  • Hide your IP and browsing activity.
  • Allow for private torrenting & P2P.
  • Unblock geo-restricted streaming content.
  • Let you bypass censorship in highly-censored countries.

Most high-quality VPNs are paid, however there a handful of good free VPNs that change your IP address effectively. The best free VPN we’ve reviewed is Windscribe.

2. Hiding Your IP Address with a Web Proxy

The HideMyAss web proxy

HideMyAss’ web proxy.

Web Proxy Pros Web Proxy Cons
  • Hides your IP address from specific websites.
  • Quickly bypasses geo-blocks and restricted content.
  • Usually free and easy to use.
  • Traffic is not secure or encrypted. ISPs, schools, and workplaces can see your activity.
  • Only redirects traffic from your browser window.
  • Can be unreliable and slow due to overcrowded servers.

To hide your IP address with a free proxy server:

  1. Download a proxy browser extension or visit a safe web proxy. We recommend HideMyAss or hide.me.
  2. Enter the URL of your desired website.
  3. You will be taken to your chosen website in the same browser window. The website will only see the IP address of the proxy server.

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

When you browse the internet with a web proxy, your traffic is routed to the proxy server first instead of traveling directly to your target website.

The proxy then visits the website on your behalf and forwards you its content. The websites you visit will only 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. Web proxies are popular with students trying to unblock websites at school.

But, a proxy is far less secure and reliable than 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. It won’t protect activity in external applications, like a torrent client.

You can compare the pros and cons of VPNs and web proxies using the table below:

VPN vs. Proxy comparison table

Proxy vs. VPN comparison table.

EXPERT ADVICE: In short, use a web proxy to hide your IP address if you’re just trying to quickly unblock a specific web page.

Use a VPN if you’re worried about your online privacy, security, or you need to bypass tougher internet filters.

3. Hiding Your IP Address with the Tor Browser

Data passing through the Tor network

How your data passes through the Tor network.

Tor Browser Pros Tor Browser Cons
  • Hides your IP address.
  • Encrypts your data.
  • Decentralized server network provides maximum anonymity.
  • Completely free to use.
  • Unreliable for bypassing geo-blocks.
  • Only secures traffic from your browser.
  • Extremely slow speeds.
  • Not available on iOS and other mobile devices.
  • Associated with criminality – may mark you for surveillance.

To hide your IP address using Tor:

  1. Navigate to the download page of the Tor Project website.
  2. Select your operating system of choice and download the appropriate installation software.
  3. Press connect and Tor will automatically set itself up.

The Tor Network (or The Onion Router) is an open-source, decentralized system run by volunteers around the world.

Tor is a free 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 last layer of encryption is removed and your traffic is sent onto your target website.

From the website’s perspective, then, your activity is associated with the IP address of the final server. This lets you conceal your identity, location, and online activity from tracking or surveillance.

Tor is the best tool we have for anonymity online, but it does have some 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 unsavory characters. The Dark Web, for instance, is only accessible through Tor. As such, using Tor may result in unwanted attention from authorities. here is evidence of US authorities exploiting Tor’s vulnerabilities to de-anonymize Tor users.

  • 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 may therefore struggle to bypass specific geographic restrictions. Use a VPN or a web proxy if this is your main objective.

Tor is most useful when online anonymity is of the utmost importance — for journalists, activists and whistleblowers, for example.

If privacy is of the utmost importance, users can combine Tor and a VPN together, known as Onion over VPN.

For the majority of people, a proxy server or a VPN is quicker and simpler than Tor to hide your IP address.

The illustration below compares Tor and VPN side by side:

Comparison of VPN and Tor

Tor vs. VPN comparison table.

4. Hiding Your IP Address Using Your Mobile Data Network

Mobile Data Pros Mobile Data Cons
  • Uses a different IP address to your home WiFi network.
  • Can bypass firewalls in school or workplace WiFi networks.
  • The new IP address is still associated with your identity and physical location.
  • Does not encrypt traffic or bypass geo-blocks.
  • Uses your mobile data allowance, which can be expensive.

To hide your IP address using mobile data:

  1. Go into your smartphone’s settings app.
  2. Turn off WiFi and switch on Personal Hotspot.
  3. On your device(s), connect to your smartphone’s hotspot.
  4. Your smartphone and connected devices can now browse using mobile data. This will use a different IP address to your home WiFi network.

If you think your home network’s IP address has been compromised or banned, you can route all your internet traffic through your smartphone’s cellular network. This provides you with a new IP address from your mobile carrier.

There are a few things to consider before using this solution:

  • Your mobile carrier can monitor all your internet activity.
  • Since you’re masking your IP address with another from a very similar physical location, you won’t be able to unblock geographically restricted content.
  • This method will use up your smartphone’s monthly data allowance. Unless you have an unlimited data plan, consider whether this is a worthwhile use of your data.

Video: Hiding Your IP Address with a VPN

A VPN is the best IP hiding software we’ve tested. Changing and masking your real IP address using a VPN is very simple to do.

In the video below we show you just how easy it is, using Private Internet Access VPN as an example:

Is It Illegal to Hide Your IP Address?

Changing and hiding your IP address is not illegal per se.

However, while using a VPN is completely legal in most countries, it’s illegal or restricted in a handful of countries.

Countries where VPNs are illegal or restricted

Countries where VPNs are illegal or restricted.

VPNs are illegal in Belarus, Iraq, North Korea, and Turkmenistan. They’re restricted in China, Iran, Oman, Russia, Turkey, and the UAE.

Does Incognito Mode Hide Your IP Address?

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 aren’t 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 about private browsers.

About the Author

  • Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

    Simon Migliano

    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