In January 2016, Netflix announced a crackdown on VPNs, or virtual private networks. This meant that using a VPN to access the Netflix catalog offered in a different country was suddenly against the company’s terms of service. And while many thought that the crackdown on VPNs would ultimately fail, it hasn’t so far.
As of now, if you try to access Netflix through a VPN, it will immediately thwart you from doing so. You’ll see this error message:
The best VPN services we’ll be looking at are:
Why Netflix Is Wrong In Blanket-Banning VPNs
The core logic of the ban makes sense. Movie and TV show producers sell rights to different distributors in different countries. Netflix does deals with each distributor to earn the right to stream those movies in particular countries.
So for example, let’s say Amazon Prime owns the rights to Doctor Strange where you live, but Netflix owns it in some fictional country called Freedonia. If you were to use a VPN to watch Doctor Strange on Netflix Freedonia, then you are breaking the distributor rights owned by Amazon Prime.
In the above scenario, Netflix is right to block VPNs. But the blanket ban also stops legitimate usage of Netflix in a different country.
Let’s say you are an American, who subscribed to Netflix USA. If you had to travel to Thailand, you should still be able to watch the catalog of shows on Netflix USA. After all, you’re paying for it. Instead, as a result of the blanket ban, you will be automatically changed to Netflix Thailand while you’re there. And this isn’t what you signed up for. It’s one of those annoying Netflix problems that needs a good solution.
Right now, the only legitimate answer is to access Netflix USA through a VPN, routing through an American server. Then you can access the entire catalog you are used to seeing.
Free VPNs Don’t Unblock Netflix, Get a Paid One
The VPN crackdown is most prevalent on free VPNs and smartDNS services. If you hoped to get access to Netflix from another country without paying for a VPN, you’re out of luck. I tested every free VPN out there, and none of them are able to bypass Netflix’s block.
Even if you chanced upon such a service, it’ll work for a few days and then stop. That’s what I faced with both Hotspot Shield (our review) and Windscribe. Netflix is extremely vigilant about blocking VPNs, so you’ll need to bite the bullet and get a paid VPN to fight the company’s constant blocks.
There are several advantages of a paid VPN service, the biggest of which are unlimited data transfers and longevity. A free VPN service might not stand the test of time, but a big-brand paid VPN should last and keep working well.
So which services work well with Netflix? Read on to find out…
ExpressVPN: Best for Netflix USA
If you are an American who wants to be able to access your own country’s catalog from anywhere in the world, ExpressVPN is the best. It has worked flawlessly each time I have used it for the past year, and is my go-to recommendation.
- Setup: ExpressVPN is simple to set up and use on any device, including Linux. That’s right, you can even watch Netflix natively on Linux easily with the ExpressVPN app. It also has a remarkably easy setup for routers, so you can tunnel all your data through the VPN.
- Performance: ExpressVPN has several servers across America, and I found the west coast servers to perform the best for Netflix. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I’d start with those.
- Overall, there was nothing to complain about when it comes to how quickly the stream started, or even skipping ahead or back on 1080p video.
- Netflix Countries: ExpressVPN only worked for USA consistently. Some of the other nations, especially Canada, end up working at times, but it’s not a connection you can bank on.
- Price: ExpressVPN is $6.67/month for a whole year, which includes 3 months free. That’s about the same as all its major competitors. Importantly, ExpressVPN offers a 30-day free trial period (after you give your credit card details).
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StrongVPN: For the USA, UK, and Canada
Even in the early months, StrongVPN was one of the few services that kept bypassing Netflix’s blocks again and again. It has earned the loyalty of its fans, especially those in the U.K.
- Setup: StrongVPN has apps for Windows, macOS, and iOS, but apart from that, setup can be a little tricky. Even for Android, you’ll need to dive into settings to configure it. To its credit, it hosts detailed setup guides for popular devices and platforms. But it’s not as easy as ExpressVPN or VyprVPN.
- Performance: StrongVPN has good performance on both UK and U.S. servers. It streamed fine on 1080p video, and handled skipping too. The Canadian server didn’t manage 1080p for me, downgrading to 720p.
- Netflix Countries: StrongVPN’s support for Netflix UK and Canada, apart from America, gives it a slight edge over ExpressVPN. But you have to be willing to go through that setup process.
- Price: One of the cheapest options among all these VPN services, StrongVPN costs $10 for a month or $70 for a whole year. Plus, you get StrongDNS, in case you prefer proxy DNS over VPN for streaming.
PrivateVPN: Most Countries Supported
Note: PrivateVPN provided us with a review account for this test.
If you’re one of the old guard who loved being able to watch everything on Netflix no matter where you live, then try PrivateVPN. In our tests, it worked with the most number of countries.
- Setup: PrivateVPN supports apps for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. For anything else, you’ll need to use the device’s connections settings. You will also need to clear the cache of your browser before you use it to stream Netflix.
- Performance: PrivateVPN works flawlessly, as long as you use the right servers. The company has a list of currently working servers for Netflix, so make sure you pick the right one. Once you do, it works as well as you could have hoped with 1080p video.
- Netflix Countries: PrivateVPN supports the largest number of Netflix countries at the time of writing. This includes USA, Canada, the UK, France, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.
- Again, if one of these doesn’t work, please make sure you clear the browser cache. It’s a tad annoying, but once you clear your cache, it works fine; a lesson I learnt the hard way.
- Price: PrivateVPN costs the same as StrongDNS, but is currently having a sale (as of August 2017). You can get get one month for $7.46, or a whole year for $54.
TorGuard: Longest Lasting, All Countries Supported
If you want the assurance of your VPN always working with Netflix in any country, TorGuard is the safest best. That’s because with it, you will buy a dedicated IP address. This is a bit like getting a static IP address, just that it is still a masked VPN address.
For a company like Netflix, it is easier to figure out shared IP addresses than dedicated ones. Once it knows the common string for many VPN users with the same shared IP, Netflix will block it. But pinpointing a single dedicated IP address, and confirming that it is using a VPN on Netflix, is far harder and time-consuming. Logically speaking, this method will last longer.
- Setup: TorGuard has the most difficult setup of the lot, since you will have to configure a VPN as well as a dedicated IP address. It’s a nightmarish process, but it’s well worth persevering with it.
- Performance: No lagging, fast load times, and no drops in quality make this the best experience I had during testing.
- Netflix Countries: TorGuard worked flawlessly with every country I tried..
- Price: TorGuard’s cost is approximately twice that of any regular VPN listed above. That’s because not only are you buying the VPN package, you are also buying a dedicated streaming IP. So that’s $10-per-month for the VPN, and another $8-per-month for the dedicated IP address, totalling to $18-per-month. But hey, it’s worth it if you want all of Netflix’s catalog with great performance.
Other VPNs That Work With Netflix
Apart from the aforementioned VPN services, these others also worked with Netflix US during testing. They weren’t always perfect, which is why the others got a nod ahead of them. However, if none of the above appeal for whatever reason, these are solid backups.
- VyprVPN and Buffered VPN: If you don’t want ExpressVPN, get VyprVPN or Buffered. These are the second best choices for anyone who wants Netflix US alone. There isn’t much to separate the two, with both costing $13-per-month. The only real differentiator is the annual plans, where VyprVPN is cheaper by $12-per-year.
- NordVPN: Nord was inconsistent in how often it worked for streaming Netflix. When it worked, it was flawless. But often, it wouldn’t work for a day or two, probably till Nord figured out which IP addresses Netflix banned and issued new ones in their stead.
Is Your VPN Still Working With Netflix?
I tested plenty of VPNs that don’t work with Netflix any more, or work far too inconsistently to recommend. This is based on both my own experience, as well as researching other users’ experiences online.
Here are a few of the popular services that we can’t recommend for Netflix:
Have you got another VPN 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 the streaming service’s blocking tactics. The comments are open below!