3 Simple Ways to Change Your IP Address
Your IP address can be likened to your Internet passport. It is needed to identify your device when surfing the web, and is a prerequisite for being able to access the Internet provided by your ISP. However, in contrast to a passport, which only needs to be renewed every ten years, your IP address has a much shorter lifespan. Luckily, it can be changed relatively easily. We'll show you how.
But first, why should you change your IP address at all?
- To circumvent limits or restrictions
The first reason is fairly practical. Certain websites restrict the download bandwidth of users based on their IP addresses. As soon as your IP address is changed, you'll start from 0 and be able to download again.
- To bypass geo-blocking
Other limits relate to your location. Since geographic data is included in your IP address, it is also the culprit when you encounter difficulties in accessing content restricted to certain areas or jurisdictions. One of the most common examples pertains to streaming content, such as on Netflix or Amazon Prime, but also sites such as Facebook or Google in countries with restrictive Internet controls like China. Changing your IP address allows you to go on a digital world tour, easily waltzing past these blockages.
Last, but not least, changing your IP address boosts your privacy. Although your IP address does not identify you as a person, it can be coupled with other online data or information to make a good (or even great) guess at who you are. Changing your IP address helps immensely in preserving your anonymity online.
Since we've explained why it's important to change your IP address, we can start to explain how to do it. Below, we'll show 3 methods you can use to change your IP address, and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Restart Your Router
"Have you tried turning it on and off again?" The standard support question made popular on shows like "The IT Crowd" actually helps. The easiest method to change your IP address is a simple restart, albeit, of your router. By disconnecting your router, or manually turning it off and on again, you will usually receive a new IP address from your ISP.
Using this method, you can re-up your download or other IP-based limits, but for geo-blocking, you'll still be at square one. You don't really gain much in terms of anonymity either, since your new IP address will continue to transmit data about you, your physical location, your browser version, and your surfing behavior, which after a bit of time, any digital snoop will be able to link to your earlier IP address.
For a more elegant solution to the IP address problem, we recommend using a VPN.
Using a VPN Provider
A virtual private network (VPN) is a sort of tunnel created between your device and the Internet entry point provided by your ISP which conceals your data, masks your IP address, and hides your physical location. In contrast to resetting your router, a VPN offers its users with a multitude of advantages and much more control.
Since you can choose the physical (or virtual) location of the server you'd like to connect to, you're able to not only defeat geo-blocking, but even use it to your own benefit, viewing any content that is restricted on a geographic basis. Since your 'real' IP address is hidden, you're also much more anonymous when surfing online. Adding to this, VPN connections take a matter of seconds to establish, whereas a router reset can take 2-3 minutes, if not longer. You can also begin a VPN connection at any time, eliminating the risk of interrupting a download while it's in process.
The exact degree of security and anonymity offered by a VPN depends almost entirely on the provider you've selected. Many promise in their advertising and privacy policies not to save logs which could identify users, however, only some allow for this to be confirmed by independent, third-party data security audits.
In contrast to the router-reset method, quality VPNs are not free. There are freemium providers, however, these offer only limited functions (such as access to only a handful of server locations), and almost as a rule, have either daily or monthly data caps.
Taken in total, however, VPNs offer one of the most convenient methods for changing your IP address, requiring little more than a mouse click to do so. They are secure, easy-to-use, and go far in circumventing IP- and geo-blocking.
Since they first came on the market, a host of VPN providers offering different features, server networks, and security standards have appeared. You can read detailed reviews of 17 of the most-popular VPN providers in our comprehensive EXPERTE.com review.
We unconditionally recommend the following programs:
A VPN is the perfect blend of simplicity and anonymity. For those in search of even-greater anonymity, at the cost of simplicity, we recommend "The Onion Router", aka TOR. This software makes Internet communication anonymous using so-called 'TOR-relays.'
While most VPNs only use a single proxy server (whereby the multi-hop function is growing in popularity), TOR routes data traffic through a network of nodes, encrypting data, including your IP address, at every step of the way. This principle, is known as "onion routing" since each security layer envelops the one which preceded it, like an onion.
When people talk about TOR, they often mean the pre-configured TOR browser, which uses the TOR network.
As such, TOR offers somewhat more security than a VPN (for those who want to be even more secure, they can use a VPN in conjunction with TOR), albeit at the cost of user-friendliness, and owing to its layers, speed.
In this manner, the TOR browser is particularly useful for sensitive communication which should not in any way be compromised, such as those between journalists and their sources, or whistle-blowers. Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor, called for TOR to be used for precisely these purposes and reasons. Another plus is that TOR is completely free-of-charge. For those engaged in less spectacular activities, however, VPNs offer more than ample security.
The method you should use to change your IP address depends largely on what it is that you want to accomplish.
Should you simply want to bypass IP-based download limits, a router reset will be more than enough to set you on your way.
If you want to be anonymous online, and circumvent geo-blocking, allowing you to access Netflix content from abroad, or use the Facebook app in China, VPNs provide an excellent all-round solution.
When security and anonymity are of the utmost importance, then TOR and its integrated browser are your ticket.
For your convenience, we've summarized the differences between TOR and VPN here.