A virtual private network, or VPN, can help you disguise your IP address when accessing the internet and can be a useful, legal tool. However, you might find that while protecting your online privacy, you also struggle to do some of the more fun things online. Watching TV shows and movies on Netflix for one.
Whilst we advocate using a VPN for all of your online activity, it's worth noting that there are limitations imposed by some service providers. And that means you might not be able to access some services, such as Netflix, with a VPN switched on.
Luckily, there are some work arounds, as we discuss below.
The Netflix VPN problem
Netflix has implemented a VPN ban across it's servers in a move that looks to appease copyright holders' interests. It is clamping down on users from different regions accessing content that is not licensed in that territory.
Whilst some may say that this is a sledgehammer approach to crack a nut, it is a relatively easy fix for Netflix to implement. What it does do is inconvenience those users who are not looking to do anything illegal, but still wish to use a VPN.
How the Netflix ban works
The ban works by banning certain IP addresses from accessing content from Netflix servers. And as many users of a given VPN service will be allocated the same IP address, which is great for anonymity, it also makes it simple for Netflix to spot which IP addresses that are being used for VPN access and block them.
Once an IP address is associated as coming from a VPN service, it is banned from streaming content. Netflix also may utilise network monitoring tools that detect VPN protocols on their network and thus flag these up as coming from VPN providers.
How to use a VPN with Netflix
Some VPN providers may have a relatively low number of users, allowing them to appear under Netflix's radar. They may also use alternative methods to cloak the fact that they are providing VPN services.
The battle between Netflix and the VPN providers is an ongoing one, and thus it is difficult to provide a list of VPN providers that are guaranteed to give unfettered access to your favourite shows via their VPN services. Some VPN services currently work when accessing Netflix via a web browser, but do not work through the Netflix app.
Which VPNs work with Netflix (at the moment)
At the time of writing, we found that the following VPN providers did allow us to stream content via US Netflix.
NordVPN – Currently states that it works with both the app and a web browser. However, in practice, we found that some servers were blocked. Updated details on servers that work are posted on their help page here.
PrivateVPN – A smaller provider, but we found it to work with both the app and browser. Actively maintains a list of working servers.
ExpressVPN – One of the larger players in the VPN market, we found that we could access content via both the app and web browser.
VyprVPN – Despite our efforts to get the app working, we were consistently blocked. However, in most cases, access to US Netflix via the web browser worked using VyprVPN.
SaferVPN – One of the few VPN providers that offer a specific "US streaming" server as an option. This gave us access via a web browser, but not via the Netflix app.
As new IP addresses that the VPN companies use are discovered and blocked by Netflix, new ones are popping up, so it's a movable field when it comes to your access.
Our recommendation would be to try one of the free Lite services that VPN companies offer and only if it's working consider subscribing to the full service.