A common complaint about UK Netflix (and it’s competitor LoveFilm, though I still maintain the selection and interface of Netflix is far superior) is that the updates are so infrequent that the choice of movies quickly gets tiring. On the other hand, the flagship Netflix service in the US is immense and is regularly updated.
Today I’m going to show how you can get access to all the US movies through the use of a VPN. If you already have an existing UK Netflix subscription or you’ve been holding out because of the selection, this is an essential trick to make use of.
We cover VPNs a lot here at MakeUseOf. It’s the safest way to browse anonymously online. You can read all about VPNs here. Basically, it’s a way to tunnel your Internet connection through another country, thereby masking where you actually reside. If you have a VPN that connects you to the Internet via Sweden, any websites you visit will think you’re Swedish, and any site-blocking your own ISP has in place - like the Pirate Bay – won’t work. You’re free to do as you wish.
The best VPNs won’t even keep records, so when the authorities come knocking, they won’t be able to find you. A lot of people use them to get access to US-only services such as Hulu; it turns out the same trick will enable your UK-based Netflix account to access the entirety of the US Netflix content.
There is a small downside though – VPNs are a premium service, typically costing up to around $10 a month. It’s a small price to pay for complete online security and freedom, though.
In today’s tutorial, I’ll be using IP Vanish, but any premium VPN which lets you connect to servers in the US will work. Before you sign up to one, note that not all VPNs are created equal – those I previously mentioned such as BT Guard, used to primarily secure your torrent downloading activities, typically won’t be based in the USA. If you’d rather not use IP Vanish for some reason, I recommend HideMyAss Pro.
I’m going to show you how to get this VPN set up for full Netflix access on four different devices – the iPad, the Xbox 360, and your regular Mac or Windows 7 PC. Each setup is unique, but first we need to get some basic information about the VPN server.
Once you’ve got a login and password for IP Vanish, head on over to the control panel here and check out the Server List. Look for the least used US-based server and note down the URL. In this case, I’ll go ahead with a Chicago server, at chi-a01.ipvanish.com
Head into Settings -> General -> Network -> VPN. Tap Add VPN Configuration.
Change the VPN type at the top of the screen to PPTP. Although IP Vanish does allow you to use L2TP which is far more secure, our goal today is not security but speed, in order to achieve fast enough speeds for movie streaming.
Type a helpful description, then the Server field should be the URL of the US-based server you looked up before. The account field is your username, then obviously also your password. Leave everything else as default. Don’t forget to use your new password if you changed it when you first logged in; the one we initally sent you will no longer work!
Toggle the VPN to ON if it hasn’t automatically done that. Once it’s working, you should see a small VPN icon in the upper left that indicates you’re connected:
Go ahead and launch the Netflix app – and marvel at the incredible new library you just got access to.
From the Network Preferences pane, click the small + icon in the list of interfaces to add a new one. Choose interface VPN, type PPTP, and name it appropriately. If you’d like your password to be remembered each time, do so by clicking Authentication Settings.
Click Advanced and check that Send all traffic over VPN connection is enabled.
It’s also a good idea to check off Show VPN status in the menu bar as it also gives you quick access to connect and disconnect.
Browse to Netflix via your regular browser and you should now have access to the full library.
IP Vanish supplies an application which you can download to make connections on Windows even easier and more efficient. However not all providers supply this so I’ll be showing you to set the VPN up manually. It’s not difficult by any means.
Start by typing VPN into the start menu search bar. There should be an option called Set up a virtual private network (VPN) connection appearing.
Fill in the details, with your account name (username) and server address, then your password on the following screen. Once done, you’ll connect instantly. To connect and disconnect in future, click the networking icon in the taskbar, where you’ll see all of your various connections listed.
This setup is a little more tricky, as the Xbox 360 doesn’t have a native way to connect to a VPN like a PC or the iPad does. Instead, we’re going to need to go via your PC. This means your PC will need to be on whenever you want your Xbox to use the VPN.
In order to use this method, you’ll need two network adapters on your PC. If you connect to the Internet through Wifi normally, then you’ll need to be able to either create another virtual Wifi connection, or use some crossover cable for a wired connection to your Xbox. On the other hand, if you currently connect through a wired Internet connection, then you’ll need either another ethernet port and crossover cable for your Xbox, or a spare wireless connection to create a hotspot for your Xbox.
I found manually setting up an Adhoc Wifi connection to be too troublesome using the built-in Windows 7 wizard. You need to manually assign IP addresses on both the Xbox and PC side. Instead, I recommend you try either Connectify Pro ($29.95) or the free Virtual Router software Steve highlighted back at the beginning of 2011. Either way, you’ll want to set it up to share your VPN connection, with your Wifi.
If you choose to use a piece of crossover cable to create a wired connection, again you’ll need to manually set up IP addresses. We covered the process of making your own home network throughly in this 2010 article. After you’ve completed this and each machine is able to see the other, the final step is simply to share the VPN connection. Do this from Control Panel -> Network and Internet -> Network Connection, then right click on your VPN connection and select Properties -> Sharing -> Allow other computers to connect through this computer’s Internet connection.
You should now get full access to Netflix from your Xbox. However, because we’re going through a few different connections here, you may find performance is not good enough for HD movies. I don’t suggest using this connection all the time as your gaming pings will be terrible, too. Use a wired gigabit connection on all sides for best speeds.
I hope you agree this makes a Netflix subscription in the UK a lot more attractive. Enjoy your newfound access to all those great America-only movies and TV. If you have any questions, feel free to ask away in the comments or on the Answers forum and I’ll do my best to help!
Please, consider sharing this great Netflix trick with your UK friends too. We’d really appreciate it; and if you’re logged in to MakeUseOf, don’t forget you’ll get points everytime you share and comment!