Here’s the problem with Netflix – geo-blocks. As great as the site is, it won’t let you watch what titles you want if you’re not in the “right” country.
To check that claim, let’s use StreamCatcher (a Netflix library checker). With it, we can see that you cans only watch Twin Peaks and Shameless (U.S.) in the US, Die Hard in Germany and South Korea, and Interstellar in 15 countries.
Those are some pretty serious limitations, considering that Netflix is available in well over 190 countries.
If you google this issue, you’ll see that most articles say you need to use a VPN to unblock shows and movies on Netflix. If you don’t know what that is, it’s an online service that secures your data and stops anyone from seeing your IP address.
But do VPNs actually unblock Netflix content? Or are those just empty marketing claims?
We’ll take a look at that question more in-depth in this quick article.
First Things First – How Do Geo-Restrictions Work on Netflix?
The site geo-blocks its content, sure, but what exactly does that mean? You know that specific titles aren’t available in your country, but how does that actually work?
Here’s a quick look at what happens in the background which we hope will make things clearer:
- When you hit enter after typing Netflix in the URL bar, your browser sends connection requests to the website. Among other data, they contain your IP.
- Netflix analyzes your IP address to find out what country you are from.
- Once Netflix knows where you’re from, it takes you to the appropriate regional library. So if you have a Polish IP address, you get access to the Netflix Polish library.
A Quick Explanation of How VPNs Unblock Netflix
Like we said in the intro, VPNs hide your IP and encrypt your traffic. The first part is the most important right now since that’s how they make it possible to avoid geo-restrictions.
But how do you actually use a VPN to do that?
Basically, this is what happens: you download an app from a VPN provider, install and run it, and pick a VPN server to connect to. Then, the server will receive and send your connections to the websites you want to visit. So when you use Netflix, your traffic will take this route:
Your Device à ISP Network à VPN Server à Netflix
Overall, Netflix will think the VPN is the source of your traffic. So, it will only see its IP. That’s how Netflix is “tricked” into thinking your connection matches the VPN’s geographical data.
It seems like a lengthy process, but it won’t take more than a few seconds for you! Just start the app, connect to a server, and start binging Netflix! The only thing you really need to do is pick a server in a country that has the titles you want to watch (a US server for US content).
Do All VPNs Work with Netflix?
Not really. Sure, pretty much any VPN provider will say they can do it in their marketing copy, but there’s usually a catch – they can only unblock one or two Netflix libraries, or they can’t unblock Netflix 24/7, just at irregular intervals.
In reality, only a few select VPNs can successfully unblock Netflix all the time.
Because it’s not enough for a VPN to just hide your IP address. It also has to regularly refresh its own IPs too. If it doesn’t do that often enough, Netflix will detect and block them.
Don’t worry – when that happens, your account won’t get banned. But you will end up on the proxy error page.
For most VPN users, that’s the equivalent of seeing the BSOD (Blue Screen of Death). The only way to get rid of the message is to disconnect from the VPN. Obviously, that means you can’t unblock Netflix content anymore.
Why Don’t All VPNs Regularly Refresh Their IPs?
Because doing that isn’t exactly cheap. It basically means the VPN provider has to lease new IPs from the data center or ISP they’re using. If they don’t have enough financial resources, they can’t do it very often.
Luckily, most of the top providers on the market have no problem keeping up with and avoiding Netflix’s detection methods. We tested multiple VPNs, and found that ExpressVPN, CyberGhost VPN, and NordVPN were able to constantly unblock Netflix without any problems.
Do VPNs Offer Smooth Netflix Streaming?
You might see better speeds your ISP throttles your bandwidth (slows down your speeds). With a VPN, your ISP won’t manage to selectively slow down your speeds anymore because they‘ll have no idea you’re using it. They’ll only see an outbound connection to a VPN IP address.
However, if bandwidth throttling isn’t an issue, your original speeds might take a hit. The slowdown isn’t normally big, luckily. But if you get speeds lower than 25 Mbps, Ultra HD quality will be off the table.
In that situation, here’s how to optimize the speeds you get:
- Only use nearby servers. If you live in Canada and want to watch Netflix US, use servers in the North of the country, not the South.
- Use fast VPN protocols like WireGuard, IKEv2, and L2TP/IPSec.
- If OpenVPN is the only available protocol, configure it to use the UDP protocol. TCP is slower.
- Use Netflix with a VPN over wired connections. VPN speeds tend to be slower over WiFi.
- Force the VPN to only encrypt and decrypt Netflix traffic with split tunneling.
Which VPNs Did You Use to Unblock Netflix?
Please tell us which providers you’ve been using to successfully bypass Netflix’s geo-blocks. Also, if you know which providers aren’t able to unblock content on the site, please mention them in the comments.