Netflix has taken the world by storm. For just a few bucks a month, you have access to a wealth of high-quality content. But folks in the USA get a much better deal than everyone else. Netflix removes much of its content in other countries due to licensing restrictions. For example, there are 1,326 movies available on Netflix US, versus just 542 in the United Kingdom. Given that customers pay roughly the same subscription fee regardless of where they live, this is a pretty bum deal for non-US customers.
People can use VPNs to unlock the complete library of Netflix content. By connecting to a server in the United States, it is possible to spoof your location and trick Netflix into unblocking the additional content. It doesn’t matter where you took your subscription out; as long as you have a valid account, you can boost the amount of content available.
Over the years, Netflix has grown wise to this little trick and made it much more difficult to access all of this content. Most VPNs are not capable of unblocking Netflix these days and the ones that are, sometimes require a bit of tweaking before they will work.
In this Ultimate Netflix VPN Guide, we’ll run through everything you could possibly need to know about using VPNs to access the US Netflix library as well as other regional content. If you've got a question about using a VPN to access Netflix, we've got an answer.
How does a VPN work with Netflix?
A VPN is a service that encrypts and routes your traffic to a VPN server before reaching the wider internet. Your IP address is replaced by one belonging to the VPN provider in the location you have connected to.
This not only protects your privacy by concealing what you do online from your ISP and hackers, but it also allows you to pretend to be in a different country. This is why, in theory, a VPN should unblock other Netflix libraries. But it's not always that simple...
Why does Netflix block VPNs?
Netflix has two different categories of content; movies and tv shows that are produced in-house (called Netflix Originals) and everything else. While Netflix has total control over the distribution rights of its own content, the movie studios have control over how and where their content is available. It’s more financially lucrative to license content out to the highest bidder in each region rather than giving Netflix the global rights to every single show and movie. Every time someone uses a VPN to watch content not available in their country, the movie studio effectively loses out.
Of course, Netflix is in the money-making business and the last thing it wants to do is start banning VPN users because that would affect the company’s bottom line. If Netflix had its way, it would make all the content available in all the countries, but until that day comes, Netflix is obligated to do everything it can to honor the agreements it has in place. So rather than go to war with paying subscribers, Netflix has gone to war with VPN technology.
How does Netflix spot and block VPNs?
You can use virtually any VPN to connect to a regional Netflix library and browse the content. But when you select a video, you could well get the dreaded proxy error: “Whoops, something went wrong… Stream Error”.
This is because there are two phases to Netflix’s sophisticated VPN detection.
When you log in to Netflix, the service checks the country code of the IP address and serves up the appropriate library of content. No real questions are asked at this stage... Just a quick "Hello, whereabouts are you?" So far, so good. However, the problems start when the Netflix server attempts to serve up the actual video content. This server uses much stricter detection methods to look for possible VPN use.
The first thing that the Netflix detection system looks for is the use of shared IP addresses. The vast majority of VPNs use shared IP addresses, and this is actually seen as a good thing in most situations. It provides you with a level of anonymity if you are using the same IP address as hundreds of other users. But it makes it incredibly easy for Netflix to spot which IPs belong to VPN providers. Most VPN providers tend to buy large pools of IP addresses. Once Netflix has built up a picture of these IP ranges, it will block the lot.
This broad-stroke approach is very effective in preventing VPN providers from bypassing the ban, but can even affect non-VPN users who might have an IP address within the range of blocked IPs.
Netflix is very hush-hush about its methodology for detecting and blocking VPNs. This aggressive crackdown means that the majority of VPN providers have all but given up on unblocking Netflix. There remain a select few who have dedicated significant time and resources to ensure they can beat the Netflix VPN ban.
Which Netflix Libraries can I unblock with a VPN?
As mentioned above, content is usually blocked due to broadcasting restrictions. But Netflix also provides a wide variety of regional content that is not available in other countries. For example, Netflix Japan has a lot of manga content that isn’t available elsewhere.
The vast majority of VPN Netflix users want access to Netflix USA simply because it contains the largest library of content, but some VPNs also allow you to access content specific to other regions too. Our Best 5 VPNs for Netflix list on Page 1 provides a breakdown of which regional libraries are available with each of the providers.
Check out the table below to see how your regional library stacks up against the Netflix USA:
Netflix Libraries: By the numbers
|Library||# of Titles||Diff with Netflix US||Price|
Movie database search
Wondering if a movie is available on Netflix US? Perhaps you want to test if your VPN is unblocking the US library? Using our database below, you can simply search for any movie in the Netflix database to see if it's available.
How to install a VPN for Netflix
Installing a VPN is pretty much the same as installing any other app on your computer or phone. Select a VPN from the table below (these are trusted services that have proven time and time again that they can unblock Netflix).
After subscribing to your chosen Netflix VPN, you will be able to download the VPN software.
Install the VPN app onto your desktop, laptop, mobile or tablet (or all of them!). It will ask you to log in using your credentials.
The general advice is to connect to a server as close to your physical location as possible. For example, if you live in Germany, you will get better performance by connecting to a server on the east coast of the US (like New York) than a server on the west coast (LA).
Different providers have slightly different procedures for accessing Netflix US. We’ve provided quick walk-throughs for a few of the better-known providers on our list below.
ExpressVPN allows you to connect to any of its US servers in order to access Netflix. All you need to do is click on ‘Choose Location’ and pick a server in the United States.
You will find that some servers perform much better than others. So how do you choose?
If you want to get the very best out of ExpressVPN, you can use the built-in speed test tool to evaluate the performance of each server. All you need to do is select Speed Test from the menu and hit run test. ExpressVPN provides a handy Speed Index score which is a combination of download and latency measurements. A higher number means better performance and less buffering. As we can see here, New Jersey 2 is the best US server for us to connect to right now.
NordVPN does things a little different. You can connect to almost any server in the world and still be able to unlock Netflix US. This is an awesome trick because it means you can connect to a server much closer to your physical location and as we all know, the closer the server, the better the performance.
There are some exceptions. You CANNOT connect to servers in the following locations: Canada, Japan, the UK or the Netherlands. That’s because NordVPN also unlocks these regional libraries, so if you connect to a server in the UK, for example, you will have access to Netflix UK, not Netflix US.
Here is a simple rule of thumb:
- If you live in Canada, Japan, the UK or the Netherlands and want to access Netflix US, connect to a server in any country (as close as possible to your physical location)
- If you live in any other country and want to access Netflix US, connect to a server in your home country
- If you want to access Netflix UK, Netflix Japan, Netflix Canada or Netflix Netherlands, connect to a server is the corresponding country
The NordVPN app provides a useful map showing their server locations. As we are based in the UK, we can’t connect to a UK server so the next closest location would be France. We simply click on the map and the app connects us to the best possible server in France. It’s as simple as that!
CyberGhost VPN takes a lot of the guesswork out of connecting to Netflix by listing the servers that work with Netflix!
All you need to do is select ‘Streaming’ from the main window and then connect to the server that works with the service you are trying to access, in this case, Netflix in the United States.
Is it illegal to use a VPN to unblock Netflix?
No, it isn’t illegal to stream Netflix from overseas. You are a paying customer, and Netflix wants to keep it that way.
VPNs that can’t unblock Netflix
Many people want a free VPN for Netflix, sadly this is not possible. Even VPNs that have a free trial - or a restricted bandwidth service - don’t let people unblock Netflix for free. This is because they know they can get people to move onto the paid premium service with the promise of Netflix.
Even most paid services don’t actually unblock Netflix! This is because Netflix is very good at blocking VPNs, and not all VPNs have the technical know-how to consistently keep unblocking Netflix.
Here is a list of some VPNs that are known not to unblock Netflix:
|Buffered||Stopped working 09/17|
|Blockless||Stopped working 07/16|
|CactusVPN||Stopped working 07/16|
|GetFlix||Only worked for a few months|
|HideIPVPN||Stopped working 07/16|
|Hola||An untrustworthy service|
|IronSocket||Stopped working 07/16|
|IPVanish||Stopped working 01/17|
|Overplay||Stopped working 07/16|
|Tunnelbear||Never been able to unblock Netflix|
|Unotelly||Stopped working 07/16|
What speeds can I expect with a Netflix VPN?
Every VPN on the market will affect your broadband speed to some degree. All of your traffic is being encrypted and piped through to a server in a different country. This process takes time, reducing download speeds and increasing latency. So if you plan on watching Netflix, it’s important that you have adequate internet speeds before you introduce a VPN into the mix.
The VPNs we recommend are known to provide a minimal hit on broadband performance so as long as you have reasonable speeds to start with, you should be fine with any provider listed on Page 1 of this guide. Below are Netflix’s minimum requirements for streaming (with 30% added to take account of the overheads introduced by a VPN).
|Connection speed||Average quality|
|650 Kbps||Lowest streaming quality|
|1.95 Mbps||Average quality (up to 480p)|
|3.9 Mbps||SD quality (480p or better)|
|6.5 Mbps||HD quality (720p or better)|
|32.5 Mbps||Ultra HD quality (1080p or better)|
*The estimates above are based on average overheads we’ve recorded from users in Europe connecting to an optimal server on the east coast of the United States. For customers in Asia and Australia, you may require significantly higher speeds
Use the Netflix speed checker to see what your download speeds are. If you can achieve the speeds above without being connected to a VPN, you shouldn’t have any issues watching Netflix US with one of the recommended providers.