10 Simple Ways to Unblock Websites at School
In this section, we’ll explain our ten favorite methods for unblocking websites in order of preference.
1. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A virtual private network (VPN) is usually the most effective, safe, and reliable way to unblock a website.
The best VPN software encrypts your internet connection and tunnels your internet traffic through a remote secure VPN server.
This has the effect of hiding your IP address from the websites you visit, and stopping your internet service provider (ISP) or network administrator from monitoring your internet activity.
VPNs are great at bypassing website blocks for two main reasons:
- A VPN spoofs your geo-location. By connecting to a VPN server location, you can trick websites into thinking you’re based in that location. This lets you bypass geographic copyright restrictions on websites and apps like Netflix, YouTube or Twitter.
- VPNs hide your web traffic from ISPs, governments, and network administrators. With a VPN turned on, your connection travels via a VPN server before reaching a website, bypassing website blocks on work and school WiFi networks. Some VPNs can even beat advanced censorship systems, like the Great Firewall of China.
How to Unblock Websites with a VPN
Using a VPN varies depending on which service provider you choose. That said, most VPNs follow the same general steps:
- Choose a recommended VPN service, like ExpressVPN (our top choice).
- Select your preferred payment plan. The longer the plan, the cheaper the monthly fee. There are also a few safe free VPNs you can try.
- Install the VPN. Use our VPN setup guides to learn how to do this on your specific device.
- Open the VPN application. You may have to verify your account the first time you open it up.
- Choose a server location. Find a VPN server in a location that will unblock the website you’re after.
- Hit connect. You’re connection will now be routed through that VPN server and you’ll be able to unblock websites and browse privately.
Use a VPN if you are:
- Worried about your online privacy.
- Unblocking websites on a long-term basis, like when traveling.
- Accessing personal information from abroad.
- Trying to bypass geographical restrictions.
Don’t use a VPN if you are:
VPN: Pros & Cons
|VPN Advantages||VPN Disadvantages|
2. Use a Web Proxy
A web proxy is the best way to unblock websites without using a VPN. It is quick, easy, and often free.
In many ways, VPNs and proxies are similar. A proxy also acts like a middleman between you and your destination website.
When using a proxy, your internet traffic gets routed via an intermediary server rather than going directly to the website. The server then visits the site on your behalf and forwards you its content.
From the website’s perspective, your traffic is coming from the location of the proxy server. Your true IP address isn’t visible, and you appear as a visitor from the server’s country.
You can therefore use a proxy site to unblock a website that is blocked in your location. Just make sure to pick a proxy server based in a country where your desired website is unblocked.
A web proxy will also allow you to unblock websites at school or at work. These blocks tend to focus on the restricted website’s IP address or URL. This means you can use a proxy site to unblock YouTube or gaming websites.
When you browse with a proxy, you never actually visit the website yourself. The proxy visits the site on your behalf and forwards you its content. You can’t get blocked because you never actually connect to the banned IP or URL. It’s that simple.
Web proxies do come with certain risks. Most importantly, they are not encrypted, meaning your ISP, government, school, workplace and hackers can all monitor your online activity.
For this reason, we strongly advise against using a proxy for anything involving personal or sensitive information.
Web proxies aren’t always the most reliable or safe way to unblock websites either:
- Proxy servers get overcrowded, causing slow connection speeds and even crashing.
- Web proxies work at the browser-level, meaning only traffic sent from the specific browser window you are using will be routed through the proxy server.
- Web proxies have been known to inject adverts into your browsing session. More worryingly, some have also been found to insert malware.
For more information about the different types of proxy server and their potential dangers, you can read our Proxy vs VPN guide.
How to Unblock Websites With a Web Proxy
To unblock a website using a web proxy:
- Visit a web proxy site. In this example, we’ve used hide.me.
- Type in the URL you want to unblock. Remember, you’ll be able to bypass the website block, but your school or work WiFi administrator will still be able to see what you’re doing.
- Select a proxy location. Pick a country where the website you’re trying to access is unrestricted).
- Click ‘visit anonymously’. The website should appear unblocked on your screen.
You should use a web proxy if you are:
- Looking for a quick and easy way to unblock a geographically-restricted webpage or bypass filters at school and work.
- Doing something where speed is important.
Don’t use a web proxy if you are:
- Sharing sensitive or personal information.
- At all concerned about your WiFi administrator seeing what you’re doing online.
- Worried about privacy and security online
Web Proxy: Pros & Cons
|Web Proxy Advantages||Web Proxy Disadvantages|
3. Use the Tor Browser
Tor (or The Onion Router) is a browser designed to ensure maximum anonymity online. If staying anonymous is your primary concern when unblocking websites, Tor is the solution.
Initially created for the US military, the Tor browser is a popular free technology run by volunteers around the world.
When using Tor, your internet traffic gets routed through at least three randomly-selected servers on its way to the website you’re visiting. It also gets wrapped in multiple layers of encryption.
At the final server — or ‘exit node’ — the last layer of encryption is decrypted and the traffic is sent onto the target website.
Tor differs from proxy servers and VPNs because it is decentralized. There is not a single, remote server through which all traffic is channeled.
Instead, the task of keeping your online identity hidden is shared across multiple servers which get randomly reassigned every ten minutes. When configured correctly, Tor conceals your true location from the sites you visit.
Instead of seeing your IP address, websites see the IP address of the exit node.
Tor also hides your online activity from your government, ISP, and anyone else on your network. The layers of encryption applied to your data ensure that anyone trying to spy on your browsing habits will face a series of illegible letters and numbers.
It’s possible to bypass geographical website blocks using Tor
However, Tor is far from simple or reliable. Although possible, it is difficult to choose exactly which server locations you’d like your data to pass through.
What’s more, Tor’s layers of encryption and multiple nodes mean it is extremely slow. This makes Tor far from ideal for high bandwidth activities, like video streaming and file sharing.
It’s worth noting that your ISP, school, or workplace can still see that you are using Tor even if they don’t know what you’re doing on it. For this reason, Tor isn’t a sensible option for unblocking websites at work or school.
How to Unblock Websites With Tor
To use Tor:
- Go to the Tor Project’s download page. You can download into onto any Windows, Linux or macOS computer. There’s also an Android smartphone app.
- Select your operating system and download the corresponding .exe file.
- Open the file and select your language using the drop-down menu.
- If you’re happy with the recommended settings, press connect. Tor will set-up and you’ll be able to unblock websites and browse anonymously.
It’s important to remember that using Tor comes with risks. If you don’t configure your browser properly and modify your behavior, it’s incredibly simple to reveal your identity.
For more detailed information on how to install the Tor Browser and stay safe while using Tor, you can read our Tor vs. VPN guide.
You should use Tor if:
- Anonymity is your primary objective
Do not use Tor if:
- You are trying to access geo-restricted content.
- Your browsing requires high connection speeds, like for Netflix or YouTube.
- You are unblocking websites at school or work.
Tor: Pros & Cons
|Tor Advantages||Tor Disadvantages|
4. Use an IP Address Rather than a URL
Sometimes it’s possible to unblock a website by ignoring its URL and accessing it through its IP address instead.
Everyone knows that web pages have an associated IP address. If you input this IP address into the address bar of your browser, you will be taken straight to the website you’re looking for.
For example, Google’s homepage has the IP address 22.214.171.124. Typing this into your browser has the same effect as typing https://google.com.
Under certain conditions, this trick can be used to unblock a blocked website.
Occasionally, schools and workplaces may block a website based on its URL rather than its IP address. In these cases, all you have to do to circumvent the block is to source the website’s IP address and then input it into your browser’s address bar.
This method works for blocks that are URL-based. However, it should be noted that some websites prohibit direct IP access.
In other cases, a website might be built on an IP which directs you somewhere other than their website. YouTube, for example, has the IP 126.96.36.199. But if you input that into your address bar, it will take you to the Google homepage. Using an IP address would therefore not enable you to unblock these websites.
You should use the IP address if you suspect that the website block is solely URL-based. This is most likely to occur with local networks, such as at school or work.
Using the IP address won’t help you unblock websites that are geographically restricted. This means that you won’t be able to access Netflix or BBC iPlayer from overseas using this method.
How to Use an IP Address to Unblock Websites
The hardest part is finding the blocked website’s IP address. Fortunately, even this is pretty straightforward:
- Find an online tool like Geotek’s IP Checker.
- Enter in the domain of the blocked website. Click ‘Check’.
- The site’s IP address will appear in the box below.
- Copy and paste the IP address into your browser. If the block is URL-based, the website should load unblocked.
Using an IP Address: Pros & Cons
|Advantages of using an IP Address||Disadvantages of using an IP Address|
5. Use Google Cache
Search engines store back-up copies of web pages in order to improve loading speeds. This means that sites like Google and Bing retain older versions of websites which can be used to bypass certain restrictions.
If the website you’re seeking to unblock is simple, mostly text-based, and doesn’t require any login credentials, then using Google’s cache might be the answer.
If the page is regularly updated or performs real-time data processing, a cached version might not be very useful.
Caches also only store text — so if images or video are crucial to the website content, you will have to use a different method.
How to Use Google Cache to Unblock Websites
To access a cached version of a blocked web page, follow these simple instructions:
- Find the blocked web page on Google search results.
- Select the drop-down icon next to the site’s URL.
- Click the ‘Cached’ option. You should be taken to a stored version of the site, even if you’re blocked from viewing its current iteration.
EXPERT TIP: You can also try just typing the command
cache:example.com into your browser.
Google Cache: Pros & Cons
|Google Cache Advantages||Google Cache Disadvantages|
6. Use the Wayback Machine
Similar to Google Cache, the Wayback Machine is a service that stores old versions of almost every website in the world. Users can then choose between a range of previous iterations to access.
The service — provided by archive.org — is another way of accessing restricted websites by viewing old copies.
The Wayback Machine won’t help you unblock websites that require login details and it is unlikely to house the website’s latest version. However, it does support image, video and audio — something Google Cache does not do.
How to Use the Wayback Machine to Unblock Websites
To unblock a website with the Wayback Machine, follow these simple steps:
- Go to web.archive.org.
- Enter the blocked website’s URL into the search box. Hit your enter key.
- You will be shown a calendar with all versions of the website that are stored on the Wayback Machine.
- Select the most recent version by hovering over the date and clicking on the snapshot time-stamp.
- The restricted content should appear on your screen.
Wayback Machine: Pros & Cons
|Wayback Machine Advantages||Wayback Machine Disadvantages|
Alternative Ways to Unblock a Website
Below are alternative methods for unblocking websites. While they may still work, they are much less reliable.
7. Switch to Mobile Data
Mobile data is what your smartphone uses to connect to the internet when you’re away from WiFi.
You can switch to using mobile data in two ways:
- If you’re on a smartphone, turn off WiFi and browse with 3G or 4G instead.
- If you’re on another device, use the settings on your smartphone to turn it into a personal hotspot. You can then connect your device to your smartphone and browse using the smartphone’s mobile data.
This will allow you to bypass firewalls in WiFi networks – the sort of block often in place at school or work – because you are no longer using the WiFi to connect to the Internet.
You will also be using a different IP address when you switch from WiFi to mobile data. This means that website restrictions targeted at your WiFi router’s specific IP address can be avoided.
That said, the new IP address will still identify you as being in roughly the same physical location. You therefore won’t be able to access geo-blocked content with this method.
It’s also worth noting that mobile data costs money. Depending on your phone contract, you might only have a set amount to use a month. Switching to mobile data to unblock websites will quickly eat into your data allowance.
How to Switch to Mobile Data
To switch to mobile data when using your smartphone:
- Open Settings.
- Select WiFi.
- Toggle the tab to switch WiFi off.
- A 3G or 4G symbol should appear at the top of your screen, signaling mobile data use.
To switch to mobile data when using a desktop or other device:
- Open settings on your smartphone.
- On iPhone, select Mobile Data and then Personal Hotspot. On Android, select Network & Internet and then Hotspot and Tethering.
- Turn on Personal Hotspot and, if asked, change the password to whatever you want.
- On your desktop (or other device), search for available WiFi networks.
- Your smartphone should appear as one of the options.
- Once you connect to it, you’ll start using mobile data for your internet session.
8. Use the Website’s RSS Feed
RSS feeds are an old-school way of keeping up-to-date with new updates to a website.
Via an RSS reader, users receive simplified versions of any new content that is added to a website. This comes straight to the user’s phone or desktop computer automatically.
RSS feeds allow you to view snippets of information on a website without actually visiting the website. They can technically be used to view restricted content from blocked websites, because the updates come to you rather than the other way round.
RSS feeds have become much less common as the internet has evolved. It won’t always be the case that your blocked website has an RSS feed you can access.
However, if the website has no feed, it is possible to create one for yourself using certain online tools.
How to Use an RSS Feed
- If you haven’t already, get yourself an RSS reader. Feedly is a popular option.
- Find the URL of the RSS feed for the blocked website. If you can’t access the website directly (and are unable to find the RSS URL elsewhere), try adding /feed/ to the end of the website’s URL – e.g. www.top10vpn.com/feed/. This works if the site is powered by WordPress.
- Once you’ve found the correct URL, paste it into your RSS reader’s search box.
- Click follow and fill in the subsequent details. You will then automatically be sent updates whenever the website is updated.
If you need more help setting up an RSS Feed, check out Lifewire’s detailed guide.
9. Change the Network Proxy
Some institutions — especially libraries and colleges — use transparent proxies inside their network. These proxies inform the target website that they are a proxy, and pass them the user’s true IP address.
Transparent proxies are used to channel the traffic from every device on a network (e.g. all of the computers in a library) through a single server. This helps the administrator carry out content filtering or activity monitoring. Public WiFi networks often use transparent proxies to stop users accessing high-bandwidth content.
Often these networks will make use of more than one transparent proxy. As such, a website block might exist on one of the proxies and not the other(s).
It is therefore possible to unblock a website by just switching between the network proxies — a process known as proxy surfing.
The problem with proxy surfing is you need to know the IP address and Port Number of the alternative proxy server in order to switch to it.
Proxy surfing also won’t allow you to bypass geographic restrictions because your IP address remains in the same physical location.
How to Change the Network Proxy
You can change your Network Proxy through your browser.
The below steps apply to Google Chrome on macOS specifically, but can easily be adapted for users of other web browsers.
- Select Preferences (sometimes labeled Settings) from the Chrome drop-down menu.
- Click Advanced on the left-hand panel of the page.
- Go into the System tab and then open your computer’s proxy settings.
- Check the Web Proxy box and input the alternative proxy server’s IP address into the box on the right. Type the port number into the box after the colon.
- All of your traffic will now be routed through that proxy instead.
10. Use Google Translate
Surprisingly, Google Translate can sometimes help you access a blocked website.
You can use the service to translate a URL into your preferred language. Google then provides you with a link to a ‘translated’ version of the web page.
The translation works as a makeshift proxy server and on occasion will allow you to unblock a website.
Using Google Translate is a novel but unreliable way to access a blocked website.
How to Use Google Translate
Follow these simple steps to unblock a website with Google Translate:
- Go to Google Translate.
- Copy and paste the domain name of the blocked website into the left-hand box.
- Change the source language (left box) to anything other than English (or your desired language).
- Change the destination language (right box) to your desired language.
- Follow the link provided in the translation. The page should load unrestricted.