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(Pocket-lint) - A virtual private network, or VPN, can help you disguise your IP address when accessing the internet and can be a useful, legal tool.

A VPN can also give access stop ISP throttling and give users unlimited bandwidth. However, you might find that while protecting your online privacy, you also struggle to do some of the more fun things online, such as streaming TV shows and movies on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video

Whilst we advocate using a VPN for all 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 with a VPN. But if you can use a VPN on a streaming service, such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, you'll get access to content that may have been unavailable in your home country.

Netflix has over 5,000 titles, for example, but no one country offers all 5,000. Luckily, there are some workarounds, as we discuss below.

Why do you need a VPN for Netflix and Amazon Prime Video?

The internet may be global, but contracts often aren’t.

That means you’ll often find a service streaming one lot of movies and TV shows to customers in one country and a different selection in another country. So, what happens if you live in country X but want to access the stuff Netflix streams in country Y? 

The official answer is: You put up with it. If Netflix doesn’t have the rights to stream a particular film or show to you, then that’s just one of those things. But it is impossible to gain access to all the titles Netflix offers but doesn't stream everywhere in the world. 

The unofficial, it’s against the T&Cs, here be monsters proceed at your own risk answer is that you can get around the problem with a VPN.

The Netflix and Amazon Prime Video VPN problem

Netflix has implemented a VPN ban across its servers in a move that looks to appease copyright holders' interests.

Meanwhile, Amazon Prime Video is one of the most adept at blocking VPNs from accessing its content. It's all done in order to prevent users from accessing movies and shows in countries that Netflix and Amazon Prime Video don't have the rights to stream in at the moment.

Whilst some may say that this is a sledgehammer approach to crack a nut, it is a relatively easy fix to implement. What it does is inconvenience those users who are not looking to do anything illegal, but still wish to use a VPN.

What is a VPN and how can it solve my streaming problems?

A VPN is a Virtual Private Network.

It’s essentially a private tunnel between you and the site or service you’re accessing. Where things get interesting is that the tunnel can appear to be somewhere that it isn’t, so, for example, you might be in the UK, but you may appear to be connecting from the US.

That’s good for evading censorship, which is great if you're someone who has to travel regularly to places that might be a little stricter on what content it wants citizens to have access to. A VPN will allow you bypass that and stream your favorite shows while abroad. VPNs are a pretty effective way of getting around geographical restrictions like that, or if you just want to stream a show that's not available in your country.

The reason VPNs allow you to access Netflix and Amazon Prime Video content from other countries is because both services check your IP address when connecting. If your IP address appears to be in the US, then you'll be shown the content they have in the US.

Apart from using a VPN to access both Amazon Prime Video and Netflix abroad, you can use it to unblock these streaming services. Hypothetically, you can even setup a VPN to see any content the two streaming services offer in other countries. 

How Netflix and Amazon ban VPNs

The ban works by banning certain IP addresses from accessing content from each company's servers.

And, as many users of a given VPN service will be allocated the same IP address, it makes it simple for Netflix and Amazon Prime Video to spot IP addresses that are being used for VPN access and block them. So, the same trait that makes VPN great for assuring anonymity online is actually what allows some companies to keep you from accessing content on a VPN.

Once an IP address is associated as coming from a VPN service, it is banned from streaming content. The companies also may utilise network monitoring tools that detect VPN protocols on their network and thus flag these up as coming from VPN providers.

How do I find a VPN that Netflix and Amazon Prime Video won’t block?

Both companies are constantly blocking any VPNs they discover, but you can find one that isn’t being blocked right now, and that doesn’t appear to be in either of the streaming giant's sights. However, if you’re planning to sign up to a service purely to access Netflix, then it might be wise not to sign up for a lifetime contract. Look for plans that don’t tie you in too long or that offer money-back guarantees if your chosen content suddenly becomes blocked.

That being said, PureVPN is among the most popular choices for streaming using a VPN right now. It offers instant access to Amazon Prime Video and Netflix

How to use a VPN with Netflix or Amazon Prime Video

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 streaming services 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. The same goes for Amazon Prime Video

No. Most VPNs have their own dedicated apps that do everything for you, and some offer Chrome and Firefox plugins for effortless switching between VPN and normal browsing. All the good VPN services offer extensive how-to advice and good technical support, too.

PureVPN, for example, promises that users can stream any Netflix and Amazon Prime Video title in just under four minutes from anywhere. It's also claims to be the No.1 rated VPN for streaming Netflix.

Different people will have different criteria. So, for example, some VPN users are really keen on services that don’t record any of their visits while others couldn’t care less. But for most of us, the main issue is going to be speed. Without a good, reliable data speed streaming video - especially when it’s HD or better - quickly becomes swearing video, as the quality takes a nosedive or stutters or stops altogether.

A big name in the VPN world, PureVPN, is aimed at people who want some of the fastest connections around, as well as a wealth of connection options and PureVPN leads the industry with its 2,000+ servers and 300,000+ IPs. It offers ultra fast HD streaming for Netflix and Amazon Prime Video with a three-step process for using each streaming service. It has dedicated servers for each service, as well to ensure high speeds and quality connections.

PureVPN also offers five multi logins for Netflix. The best part is how quickly it can be set up. Users can be streaming Netflix or Amazon Prime Video in a few minutes from the first time they sign up for PureVPN. The service boasts compatible applications for all the leading operating systems, internet-enabled devices, and consoles. Moreover, its smart user-interface along with intuitive functionality provides users a seamless user experience across screens.

PureVPN employs 256-bit AES encryption to secure users’ data against prying eyes. It uses Split Tunneling to give users the ability to work with a local network and the VPN simultaneously. The IKS ensures that the users’ VPN activities remain anonymous in the event of a connection drop.

PureVPN’s dynamic features can be unlocked at a price of $10.95 a month, $4.08/month for a 1-year plan and $1.32/month for a 5-year plan. Apart from a 3-day paid trial account, the service assures users the safety of their money with a 31-day, no-questions-asked refund policy.