It’s an undeniable, if not an annoying fact of life, that not all websites are accessible to everyone. Sometimes, it’s the government or the people hosting your internet connection who are getting in the way. Other times, it’s the owners of the website doing it for some unfathomable reason. But whichever the case may be, we’ll tell you how to unblock websites – and in more than a single way, too!
#1: The best way to unblock websites: use a VPN
A VPN (virtual private network) works by routing your data via a VPN server as well as encrypting everything that travels between your device and the aforementioned server. This keeps your IP (Internet Protocol) address secret from the website you’re visiting and hides your traffic from your ISP.
A good (read: premium) VPN is the most comprehensive way to overcome blocks no matter what form they take. Be they network firewalls blocking IP and DNS addresses, deep packet inspection routing through your browsing data, or just websites and services looking up your IP and to determine your location, a VPN has you covered. Here’s how it works:
- Sign up for a VPN.
- Install the app.
- Connect to a server (if you’re geo-blocked, connect to a server in a country where you would be allowed access).
The best part is that unlocking websites isn’t the only benefit of a VPN, but that’s beyond the scope of this article, so read about it here.
#2: Use a proxy
A proxy routes your traffic via a server… and that’s it. It’s like a very cut-down version of a VPN, and the only thing it does is give you a different IP. On the other hand, since your traffic will be routed via the proxy, local firewalls shouldn’t block you as they’ll only see you connecting to the server, not the website you’re actually aiming for.
To use a proxy, do this (we’re going to use Chrome browser as an example):
- Search for a “proxy server list.”
- Note the IP and port of the server you want.
- Click the three dots in the upper right corner of the browser and choose Settings.
- Enter “proxy” in the search tab and choose Change proxy settings.
- In the window that opens, choose Manual setup, enter proxy IP and port number and click Save.
To stop using a proxy, just disable the Manual setup toggle, and you’re good.
#3 Change the DNS
A Domain Name System (DNS) translates human-readable website addresses (www.surfshark.com) into IP addresses your device understands (220.127.116.11). Usually, your device uses the DNS closest to your location, which allows websites to block content based on your DNS, and for DNS providers to stop providing website addresses.
How to change your DNS on Chrome :
- Find a new DNS address online.
- Open Chrome Settings by opening the three-dot menu on the upper right.
- Enter “DNS” in the search bar and choose the Security result.
- Navigate down to Use secure DNS and toggle it on.
- Choose one of the provided DNS services or enter the one you found via Custom.
Since a DNS is changed by fiddling with software settings, you don’t need administrator access to install programs or apps. It also works on platforms that don’t support app installs. On the other hand, it doesn’t work against IP-based blocks.
#4 Get a Smart DNS
Smart DNS is like a mix of a DNS and proxy. The service maintains a list of websites. When it detects that you want to reach a website or a service that engages in geo-blocking, it routes your traffic via a proxy to make it accessible. Because you’re not using a proxy all the time, your internet traffic is usually faster.
A good way to get a Smart DNS is to be a Surfshark subscriber and follow this tutorial on how to use Surfshark Smart DNS. One of the bigger benefits is that you don’t need to install it, but unlike a VPN, it doesn’t encrypt your connection or deal with sophisticated blocks.
#5 Embrace the Tor browser
The Tor browser (named after TOR, the acronym for The Onion Router) ensures the anonymity of users’ traffic by routing it through multiple random nodes that only know the IP address of the previous node. The traffic remains anonymous due to this multi-layered (hence the Onion” bit) routing system.
Here’s how you can get on the Tor train:
- Download it from Tor Project’s official website and install it.
- Launch the browser.
- Wait for it to set up the connection.
- That’s it!
The Tor Browser is free to use, and it hides your IP, which is nice. Unfortunately, your ISP can be suspicious of Tor use. Another downside is that Tor sacrifices everything it can on the altar of security, so it’s very slow – definitely not fit for streaming. And considering that you can’t choose the country in which the end node you’ll be, it wouldn’t work for accessing country-specific content.
Other honorable mentions
The above-mentioned methods aren’t only the ones there – they’re just the best/only good ones around. Here’s a short list of other methods you might read about.
- URL shortener: use it to shorten the url of the website you want to visit and then use the shortened link – this will overcome the most basic blocking methods at, say, school.
- Google Translate: slap the URL of the website you want to see in the translation field and click the “translated” link. It may work, but probably only for text-based content.
- Try the IP address instead: if a very basic block is literally blocking just the URL, getting an IP address (google “whois lookup”) and using that instead may work.
- Try Google Cache: it’s a version of a website that Google has saved. Try searching for the site on Google, then click the down arrow next to the result, and choose “cached.”
- HTML to PDF converter: obviously useless for streaming and video, this can nevertheless let you read a web page if you enter its url into an online HTML to PDF converter.
- HTTPS to HTTP: we do not recommend this at all, but you may get around very basic blocks by switching to the less secure HTTP protocol instead of HTTPS. The way to do it is different for every browser.
Why are websites blocked?
I’m going to lay out three main reasons why you’re reading an article on how to unblock websites. Here are the main reasons for them being blocked:
- Preserving bandwidth and banishing distractions: schools and workplaces usually care about these two reasons. By, say, blocking YouTube, can preserve network capacity (as nobody is streaming “3AM REAL demonic Amogis Demon Sussy Possession Giveaway”) and keep you more concentrated on work (as you can’t goof off by watching clickbait videos vaguely related to demons and the hit game Among Us).
- Regional agreements: before the rise of streaming, a lot of broadcasting and licensing agreements were forged around the world. Some of those agreements impede your access to entertainment today as streaming services are obligated to make parts of their libraries unavailable in certain countries. That being said, Surfshark does not encourage using a VPN in any way that would potentially violate the Terms of Service of other service providers.
- Censorship: this is where the country’s government decides that it doesn’t want to give the population access to specific websites and services to promote its agenda.
Whatever the case may be for websites to be blocked, a VPN is the surest way to overcome those blocks.
Is it legal to unblock websites?
The big words here are “it depends:”
- Outside of a handful of countries, using a VPN isn’t illegal, so you’re not breaking the law just by using it. If you still carry out illicit activities while using a VPN – like pirating movies – you could still get in trouble.
- Using unblockers on streaming sites may violate their terms and conditions, and there have been cases of them blocking users.
- When the government censors a website, it can get pretty serious. However, it really depends on the local law, and no hard-and-fast rule applies here.
So you see, in most cases, simply unblocking YouTube will cause you no harm.
Use the best unblocking solution
Now that you know how to unblock a website, you need to choose which method is the best for you. We wholeheartedly recommend using a VPN, as it is the most powerful tool at your disposal. And hey, if it doesn’t work out for you, Surfshark has a 30-day money-back guarantee!