Updated on November 17, 2016.
Some Netflix subscribers have been a bit disgruntled lately. The video streaming service’s attempts to block Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are succeeding to a large extent, as many popular VPNs no longer let you watch videos on Netflix.
In the long term, the Netflix crackdown on VPNs is doomed to fail. But right now, several users are stuck with just their own region’s catalogue of movies and TV shows. So what can YOU do to remedy this situation? Thankfully, there are a few options that still work…
Wait, What’s Happening?
A few months ago, Netflix announced it is getting serious in its crackdown against location pirates. In simple terms, it is blacklisting the most popular way to circumvent geographical restrictions on what content you can watch.
You see, Netflix has region-based contracts with producers to air their shows or movies. So, for example, Breaking Bad might be licensed on Netflix USA but not on Netflix UK. If a Netflix UK subscriber wants to watch the show, they would need to use a VPN or a SmartDNS to fool Netflix into thinking they are currently in the U.S.
Basically, using VPNs and SmartDNS, you can watch everything on Netflix no matter where you live. But now Netflix is blocking many of these VPNs.
Several of the best VPN services are no longer letting users bypass region restrictions on Netflix, including Hola Unblocker, BetterNet, Tunnelbear, and TorGuard. But Netflix hasn’t gotten around to blocking every VPN yet. We tried and tested a large bunch of VPNs and found two great free services that are still working, as well as a few paid services for those who don’t mind spending a little cash.
Works on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Apple TV, Smart TVs, PS4, and can even be installed on routers.
Special offer: Extra 3 months on a 12-month ExpressVPN plan
The top working paid VPN service that you can use is ExpressVPN, which styles itself as the fastest VPN solution currently on the market. If you’re planning to watch Netflix in HD (or higher), a fast solution is certainly in your best interests.
ExpressVPN has a flat-rate subscription, and is packed with features, regardless of which platform you use. It’s also ridiculously simple and straightforward to use, whether on a desktop or a mobile device. Setting it up on a compatible router may be more challenging, but this depends on your experience.
With ExpressVPN, you get what you pay for: a premium VPN capable of streaming in HD, and reliable access to Netflix all the time – those are things free or cheaper VPN providers won’t be able to deliver.
Read our full review of ExpressVPN to find out more.
Hotspot Shield (Free)
Works on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Google Chrome
Without a doubt, Hotspot Shield is the best free VPN service to still work with Netflix. Why? First, it works across several platforms. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it’s super easy to set up. And third, it gives you a wide variety of locations so you can choose Netflix catalogs from different countries. Currently, Hotspot Shield supports the USA, France, Canada, the UK, Australia, Germany, India, Denmark, Sweden, and more.
Just head to Hotspot Shield’s download page and grab the app for desktop or mobile. Start it up and you’ll be asked to connect, and then choose a country. On desktop, you can just open a browser and go to Netflix to start watching it. On mobile, you’ll need to add the Netflix app to Hotspot Shield and run it through Hotspot.
There you go, you’re ready to browse the Netflix catalog and start watching. In case you don’t want to browse, there are other ways to search across regions to find a movie or TV show.
Hotspot Shield also has a Google Chrome extension, in case you don’t want to download the actual client. But you’ll probably want to get the desktop versions so that you can watch Netflix in 1080p HD on Internet Explorer or Safari, since Chrome and Firefox limit it to 720p HD.
Works on: Google Chrome
Yes, Chrome annoyingly restricts Netflix videos to 720p HD, but there are also some great Chrome add-ons to make a better Netflix experience. If you want to continue using Chrome for unrestricted access, then try KeeNow.
Technically, KeeNow is a SmartDNS, which is arguably better than a VPN to access region-blocked video. The one major advantage of a SmartDNS service is that it doesn’t route your data through another server like a VPN does. The end result is that you’re pretty much using your existing bandwidth and the video streaming won’t slow down by going through an intermediate server somewhere.
On the down side, KeeNow is a little more difficult to set up than HotSpot Shield. You’ll need to dig through your network settings to find the DNS server, and add the two DNS IP addresses KeeNow gives you. There are step-by-step instructions and it’s not rocket science, but that said, not everyone will be comfortable taking this step.
While installing KeeNow, you’ll also be prompted to install the MediaTab.TV extension. You need to do this step to complete the setup, but once you’re done, feel free to uninstall MediaTab.TV since it isn’t required to unblock Netflix.
KeeNow was only able to unblock the US catalog for us, not all other countries. And it’s ad-supported, which might annoy some users. You can pay $5-per-month to get rid of those ads though.
Download: KeeNow extension for Google Chrome (Free)
Works on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS
Smartflix is a dedicated Netflix-related service, but it won’t give you VPN access at large for other things like protecting your privacy and security. If you want a paid VPN service to use for other apps while still getting Netflix, go for NordVPN. It’s one of the best VPN providers out there. Plus, the company has taken a very public stance against Netflix and keeps updating its servers to work with the video streaming giant.
Checking forums on the Internet indicates that Nord’s servers get blocked sometimes for a couple of days, but the engineers are able to come up with a workaround for Netflix each and every time. Just keep that in mind before you buy access to it for $8-per-month or $48-per-year.
Is Your VPN Working with Netflix?
Given Netflix’s dedicated fight against VPNs, we can’t promise these will work forever. However, at the time of writing this (May 2016), the ones noted above were letting you access Netflix in different countries.
For this article, I tried a wide range of VPNs and only found the ones detailed above to be working without a problem. If you’re using Netflix with a VPN and it’s still working, tell the other people reading this which VPN you use! Here’s the list of VPNs I tested and found to be not working:
- SurfEasy (Paid) — Not working
- Hola Unblocker (Free) — Not working
- TunnelBear (Free+Paid) — Not working
- BetterNet (Free) — Not working
- TorGuard (Paid) — Not working
- HideMyAss (Paid) — Not working
- CyberGhost (Free+Paid) — Not working
- OkayFreedom (Free) — Not working
- Unlocator (Paid) — Not working (But reported to be working by several US users)
- Smartflix (Paid) — Not working
Have you got another name to add to this list? If so, please let us know in the comments below. Together we can keep track of which VPNs are managing to stay one step ahead of Netflix, and which have succumbed to their clever blocking tactics.