Luckily for you, it’s quite easy to use a VPN (virtual private network) to hide your IP address. With a VPN, you can choose to appear from some other physical location, which lets you access blocked websites. But VPNs are just one of the many handy tricks we’ve got up our sleeves.
Streaming services, such as Netflix, Disney+, and Spotify, have licensing agreements for the content they provide. Those agreements specify the content they can deliver in each region they serve. For example, if you use Netflix in the US, you’ll see a different collection of content than you would if you were in another country. That’s why many people traveling abroad use VPNs to access content that's available in their home country.
School and work restrictions
Your school or workplace might not want you to access certain content. If they’re blocking “adult” content, we gotta admit they have a point. But if they’re preventing you from streaming music or getting your daily dose of cat videos, we can’t get down with that. Don’t worry — we’ll get into the dirty details of how to get around school blocks soon.
Generally, your school or work is worried about productivity and bandwidth. Those cat vids may take up valuable resources that people could be using to actually, ya know, work.
Some countries censor what can be viewed within their borders. China, with their Great Firewall, is probably the most notorious perpetrator, blocking lots of fun sites like Facebook and Twitter. When countries are this focused on censoring the open web, they’re basically asking you to use crafty means to unblock censored websites.
Is it legal to unblock websites?
Well… it depends on where you’re located. Using a VPN is allowed in many countries, even China, to some degree. But for particular countries you should check for more details. And if you’re torrenting copyrighted media, that’s always illegal, whether you’re using a VPN or not.
No matter your reason for needing to unblock websites, here are several methods that will help you get the job done.
1. Unblock websites using a VPN
Using a VPN is the easiest and most reliable way to outsmart content blocks and get to the URL you want. A VPN routes your traffic through a remote server, allowing you to choose your virtual location. Then, when you connect to a website, you appear to be coming from the VPN server, which masks your true location and unblocks the content you want. A VPN also encrypts your connection, making you as hidden as Harry Potter in his invisibility cloak.
Shockingly, our favorite VPN is AVG Secure VPN. But no matter which provider you use, the process to set up and use a VPN is fairly similar. Here’s how to unblock websites with a VPN on both desktop and mobile:
Download your preferred VPN. You can grab a free trial of ours right here.
Connect your device to the internet.
Switch on the VPN and select a server location to browse from. If the content you want to access is location-specific, make sure to select a location from which it’s available. If you just want to secure your traffic and hide your IP address, you can select Optimal location for the fastest speeds.
Now you’re browsing anonymously and securely from a hidden location. Hooray!
A VPN also gives you online privacy and keeps you safe on public Wi-Fi networks.
A VPN is the easiest, most comprehensive tool to bypass content blocks time and time again. However, if you’re using a public computer at school or at a library, it may not be the best option. Also note that some content providers have started blocking known VPN IP addresses, so your VPN might not work 100% of the time with every site or service you want to use. However, when VPN providers realize that one of their IPs has been blocked, they can open new addresses to provide more options.
2. Unblock websites using Tor
Another option for sneaking around content blocks is Tor, which will help you bypass restrictions like a basilisk slithering around in the Chamber of Secrets. Tor, or The Onion Router, routes your online traffic through many layers of encryption, hence its name. That allows you to access the web anonymously and get around most content restrictions.
While Tor offers strong online privacy, its downside is slow speeds. That’s because the Tor network and browser are an open-source project maintained mostly by volunteers. You also may not be allowed to install the Tor browser on a school, work, or public computer, but you can give it a try.
Here’s how to unblock websites using Tor:
Go to the Tor website.
Choose your platform (Windows, Mac, Android, or iOS) and follow the directions to install the Tor browser.
Launch Tor and configure it (if necessary). Then you can connect.
You’re now in the onion! Enjoy anonymous access to whatever sites you need.
3. Unblock websites using a web proxy
Are you on a school or work computer that won’t let you download a VPN or Tor? A web proxy generally works well for quickly unblocking content on public computers. You’ll connect to a proxy server first, and then on to your desired destination — masking your original location as a result.
The downside? Before connecting to the site you want, you’ll need to navigate to the web proxy first — every time, in every tab. So it can be a little annoying and generally isn’t great for streaming.
4. Unblock websites using a proxy extension
A proxy extension is like a web proxy, only more convenient, and it’ll get you around content blocks faster than Harry and Ron sneaking into the restricted section of the Hogwarts library. A proxy extension sits right in your browser, so you won’t waste time constantly navigating to the proxy — it’s ready and waiting anytime you want to access blocked content.
There are many good proxy extensions out there, such as the one offered by HMA for Chrome and Firefox. Here’s how to use HMA’s web browser extension for Chrome:
Download the browser extension for free from the Chrome store.
Confirm that you want to Add extension, and it will install.
Select the donkey hat icon in the top-right corner and the proxy will open.
Click Turn On to activate the proxy. The Disguised as button will let you choose your virtual location.
Boom! You now appear to be from your selected location, and you can anonymously view the content you want.
Other quick ways to access blocked websites
If you’re unable to download a VPN or Tor and/or just need to unblock something quickly, there are some quick methods that might work. They’re not as reliable as the options outlined above but can help in a pinch, like a hastily-made polyjuice potion.
Use a URL shortener
If your school or work network is using a very basic blocking method, using a URL shortener might help. Services like is.gd, TinyURL, and Bitly shorten a website’s URL, which will help you unblock websites without a proxy, VPN, or Tor. For example, if your school blocks Facebook.com, you can create a different (shortened) URL to access it. Here’s how it works:
Go to one of the URL shorteners, such as is.gd.
Enter the website you want to unblock into the URL field and click Shorten!
Copy your new, shorter URL.
Paste the new URL into your browser. If you’re lucky, you’ll successfully bypass the restriction and get to the site you want.
Try switching protocols
If your school or work network is using a very basic blocking method that filters out a simple list of URLs, you might be able to get around it by switching from HTTPS to HTTP (or vice versa). For example, if https://www.youtube.com is blocked, http://www.youtube.com might still work.
However, HTTP is an insecure protocol and should be avoided. You should never enter any personal information or passwords into a site using HTTP, because of potential security vulnerabilities.
Use the Google cache
Caching is when a service like Google or your browser keeps a local copy of a commonly visited site so that it loads faster when you visit it again. That means you might be able to access the cached version of a site if its live version is blocked.
To get to a cached version of a site, follow these steps:
Go to Google.com and search for the site you want to access.
Google will display the site with an arrow to the right. Click the arrow.
Select Cached, and you might just bypass the restriction.
Commonly asked questions
Still scratching your head about the best way to access restricted websites in a given context? Not sure if a VPN or proxy is best? Let us go over some best practices.
Will any of these methods allow me to access blocked websites at school?
At school, you may not be able to download a VPN or Tor. That means a proxy or one of the quick methods outlined above will probably be your best bet to unblock sites.
How about at work?
If you have a fixed workstation or are able to download any software you want on a laptop, a VPN will be your best option to unblock websites at work. If that’s not the case — if, say, you have a hot-desking setup or your employer restricts what you can download on your laptop — then neither a VPN nor Tor will cut it. That means a web proxy or browser proxy will be the simplest option for you.
Can I unblock websites on my phone, too?
Yes, absolutely! Most of the methods we’ve described will work on mobile as well. The only problem is speed. Fiddling around with a web proxy or Tor might not work well due to their decreased speeds. A VPN is the fastest and simplest option to unblock sites on mobile. VPNs are easy to set up, easy to use, and protect you on unsecured Wi-Fi networks such as those in coffee shops.
Whether you use Android or iOS, AVG has you covered with our top-of-the-line mobile VPN app.Give it a spin today with our free trial.
How can I unblock a website on Chrome?
Wondering how to unblock a website on Chrome, specifically? Most of the methods we listed above will disarm content blocks on Chrome faster than Expelliarmus. Tor is a separate browser, but it also has an extension you can add to Chrome. Both VPNs and web proxies work well on Chrome, as does the HMA proxy extension designed specifically for Chrome.
The easiest way to access blocked sites on any device
A VPN is the most reliable way to unblock content and stay anonymous online. VPNs offer online privacy to keep your browsing activity hidden from hackers, your Internet Service Provider, and even the government.
AVG Secure VPN offers over 50 virtual locations to choose from, with dedicated streaming services optimized to help you view your favorite content on the go. AVG Secure VPN also protects your internet traffic with military-grade 256-bit AES encryption, the same standard used by banks. So you’ll be fully hidden and free to bypass content blocks on your way to whatever sites you need to access.