If you think about it, it’s pretty stunning how different watching TV was just about a decade ago, before Netflix streaming changed the game. Today, you have countless options for great dramas, comedies, documentaries and more, just a click away - and always when and how you want it.
If you’re a Netflix novice, or even a veteran, you can benefit from using a VPN when using Netflix. In this article, we lay out the reasons why using a VPN with Netflix is a must, and list the providers who are best for this purpose. We also explain how to get a VPN up and running in 5 simple steps.
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What is a VPN?
First things first, what exactly is a VPN? A “virtual private network” is a group of computers that work as a network which you can access from your computer or mobile devices in order to keep yourself safe online. A VPN encrypts your IP address and data, keeping you safe from eavesdropping.
Why Use a VPN for Netflix?
Another major benefit of VPNs - and this is where Netflix comes in - is that they allow you to change the location of your computer so you can watch content that might not be available in your country.
Even in countries where Netflix is available, not everybody gets the same selection. The Netflix catalog in the US is by far the largest, and if you’re overseas, you might not have access to many of the same TV shows and movies due to copyright and licensing restrictions.
With the right VPN you can sidestep this restriction and get all the same content as your buddies back stateside - at the exact same time - so you can stop worrying about spoilers.
Better Streaming Quality with VPNs
When you’re streaming movies and TV online, speed is crucial. Some internet service providers (ISPs) monitor your activity and slow streaming traffic, which can affect the user experience. With a VPN, you can sidestep the ISP, disabling their ability to slow you down.
What is the Netflix VPN Ban?
This is where we should probably note that Netflix has thought of this too. The company blocks a number of VPNs, at the request of copyright holders who don't want viewers getting around the restriction. Because the company has to work out distribution, licensing, and copyright agreements for each country, it’s in Netflix’s interests to stop VPN users, and the company has the resources and know-how to bedevil most VPN companies.
Beginning in January 2016, Netflix set up one of the best VPN detection systems anywhere, making it much harder to use a VPN to access Netflix content. Users trying to access geo-blocked content have been hit by proxy errors, and many have resigned themselves to just waiting until their local Netflix provides the content that people in the US and elsewhere take for granted.
This complicated matters for a lot of VPN producers, except for those able to stay one step ahead of Netflix.
The Best VPN Providers for Netflix in 2018
So which VPN providers are winning this cat and mouse game with Netflix? Here’s a look at 5 VPN providers who’ve cracked the code, and what they do best.
Speed is assured with servers in 136 cities and 94 countries
Easy to use, with dedicated apps for all major platforms
30-day money-back guarantee
Only 3 simultaneous connections
Other provides are cheaper
With ExpressVPN you can access US, UK, and Canadian Netflix, and with the ExpressVPN Media Streamer DNS, you can unblock Netflix on smart TVs, Apple TV, and game consoles.
ExpressVPN wins high marks from customers for its customer service and speed - which is helped by the fact that the company has servers in 94 countries across the globe. The company guarantees 99.9% uptime, and provides customer support 24 hours a day. ExpressVPN also won’t log your traffic or browsing data.
On the other hand, you can only use it on 3 simultaneous connections, which is lower than some other providers, and at $12.95 per month (or $8.32 per month with a yearly plan) it’s not the cheapest option on the market.
Up to 6 simultaneous connections
Double encryption and no logging
Automatic kill switch
Other options are cheaper
Users have reported performance issues on the Android and iOS apps
NordVPN is an easy to install, easy to use VPN that puts a real premium on security. With double encryption, no logging, and an automatic kill switch, it will keep you safe online.
The company uses servers in 54 countries, and operates more than 100 in the US alone. This makes it especially effective if the US is your preferred Netflix region. Other Netflix countries that can be accessed with NordVPN include the Netherlands, France, the UK, and India - though this may be subject to change.
Also, with a free 3-day trial and a 30-day money back guarantee, there’s no risk in taking NordVPN for a test drive.
Use it on up to 6 simultaneous connections
Live support 24/7
Less servers in operation, so may have some performance issues
PrivateVPN has been shown to unblock US Netflix, and will allow you to use the VPN on up to 6 simultaneous connections.
The VPN is also known for having excellent mobile apps for iOS and Android, as well as very high-level encryption to keep your data safe.
Also, with a 30-day PrivateVPN is risk free, with a 30-day money back guarantee. The service costs $6.57 per month, or $4.50 per month over a three month plan, or $2.88 per month for a year long plan. You can also collect points when you refer a friend to PrivateVPN, and these points can be used to get discounts.
Mobile apps available
Some of the cheapest plans available ($2.95 per month if you sign up for 2 years)
Log-in, log-out tracking
Other VPNs get better marks for security and privacy
With PureVPN you can access US Netflix anywhere on the globe.
The company provides unlimited bandwidth on all subscription plans, and gets great marks for speed.
PureVPN offers one of the most affordable plans on the market - only $2.95 per month if you sign up for a 2-year plan. That said, if you can only do a month by month plan, you’re going to pay $11, which is more expensive than many other providers.
No logging policy
30-day money-back guarantee
No 24/7 customer support
Must sign up for a 1- or 2-year plan to get a competitively-priced package
With a dedicated Netflix streaming feature, CyberGhost can have you watching US Netflix from anywhere in the world seamlessly, and in no time.
The VPN will not log any of your online activity, allowing you to maintain your privacy online. The VPN is also very easy to install and use, and with a 2-year plan, you can subscribe for as cheap as $3.50 per month. There is also a free plan available, though the paid options provide a much better product.
Is it Legal to Unblock Netflix Using a VPN?
Whether or not the use of a VPN is legal depends on where you live and what you’re using it for. In most countries, using a VPN is legal as long as you aren’t using it for anything illegal, like hacking, fraud, or accessing illegal material online.
Since Netflix began the VPN ban, the company has focused on shutting down access to VPNs and not banning individual users. That said, since it is a violation of the company's terms and conditions they could potentially restrict or suspend your membership.
Are There Free VPNs for Netflix?
For the most part, free VPN plans don’t provide access to Netflix streaming, and don’t have the same speed or customer service options. With some companies, like NordVPN, the “free” option is just a free trial membership.
Free VPN subscriptions typically provide a lower level of encryption than paid accounts, and they may also limit the amount of data you can use. In addition, companies may sell your online browsing logs and other data in order to make up for the fact that you aren’t paying for the VPN service. They may also display ads while you’re browsing.
With a paid account you should receive unlimited bandwidth, a no logging guarantee, and the ability to connect to the VPN with multiple devices at the same time.
When it comes to streaming, a free VPN account is not ideal. They tend to have slower, less stable connections, which can be a problem if you’re in the middle of a Netflix binge.
How to Setup a VPN for Netflix
Setting up a VPN to work with Netflix is simple. Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Read our in-depth reviews and decide which VPN is best for you.
We suggest choosing a VPN from the list in this article, as they have been proven to work well with Netflix.
Step 2: Log on to your preferred VPN provider’s website and buy a subscription.
As a rule of thumb, the price of a monthly subscription will be cheaper the longer the subscription. Some providers offer free trials, which means skipping to step 3 and paying later.
Step 3: Decide where to stream Netflix.
Watching Netflix on a laptop, phone or tablet:
Download the VPN app, install it and log in with your username and password. If you stream Netflix on a TV via an Android box, installing the Android app on the box will work too.
Watching Netflix on a smart TV:
While a VPN cannot be installed directly on a smart TV, the TV can be connected to the VPN in 1 of 2 ways: 1) by sharing the connection from a laptop, phone, or tablet; or 2) by installing the VPN on a router.
In our article about VPN for smart TV, we explain in detail how to tackle both kinds of installation.
Watching Netflix on an Apple TV:
Like smart TVs, Apple TVs don’t currently support VPN apps.
However, an Apple TV can be connected to a VPN the same way as a smart TV. Either install the VPN app on a router or share another device’s connection.
Alternatively, for those who own an additional Apple device with a VPN installed on it, AirPlay can be used to wirelessly mirror Netflix on the TV. Here’s how:
Enable Airplay on the Apple TV by going to Settings > AirPlay > On.
Connect both the TV and Apple device to the same WiFi network.
Swipe up from the bottom of the device’s screen and press AirPlay mirroring.
Select the Apple TV from the drop-down list.
Step 4: Choose a server.
Pick a server located in your preferred Netflix region. Many VPN apps will display the load on each server - that is how busy the server is. For best results, choose a server with a low load.
Step 5: Launch Netflix, choose your favorite show or movie, sit back and chill.
That’s it. Easy, right?
Streaming with VPNs - It’s Not Just Netflix
Netflix isn’t the only great streaming site - far from it.
Hulu is a video on demand service which is only available in the United States, Japan, Canada, and in overseas US territories. This is a shame if you’re overseas anywhere else, because Hulu streams programming from channels including A&E, Comedy Central, Bravo, USA, and tons of sports broadcasts from Fox Sports, the NFL network and more. Hulu members can also pay extra to access HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime.
Speaking of which, there are countries across the world in which HBO is not available, and if you aren’t in the US, you won’t be able to stream Showtime - without a VPN that is.
In addition, many broadcast TV and cable channels in the United States stream their TV shows online on the channel’s website - but only if you’re in the United States.
The same principles that apply to Netflix apply to these channels. With a VPN, not only can you access premium content from HBO and Showtime, but you can also keep up with the TV shows in the States right when they’re broadcast. You can also keep up with sports - which if you’re overseas you know is no small thing.
Ok, I’m Convinced, What Now?
Now that we’ve laid out how a VPN can help you watch Netflix and other great streaming sites from all corners of the globe, it’s time for you to do some market research to find the VPN company that works for you. Look at your budget, but also the security, speed, encryption, and customer service offered by these companies to make your decision. In addition, try to make sure you sign up for a plan that is flexible or doesn’t lock you in for too long - just on the off chance your VPN company doesn’t stay ahead of Netflix forever.
After you’ve got that all figured out comes the real task - finding out what the hell to watch. You’re on your own there.
Still don’t have a VPN? Our in-depth reviews can help you choose the best VPN for Netflix.