Here’s How You Can Use a VPN to Change Your IP Address and Why Everyone Should
What Is An IP Address?
An IP address is a number assigned to your computer or device that allows you to connect and use the Internet. The IP address can be accessed by opening up Command Prompt, typing “ipconfig” without quotes, and pressing enter. On a Windows machine it will show connected devices (Ethernet Adaptor), DHCP clients (Wi-Fi).
However it’s important to remember that this is merely your ‘local IP address’ and has very little bearing on your online experience. In fact this address is normally only used to connect on your local network, to talk to the router or WiFi access point. When you get online then no-one can see this address and it has no real impact on what you can do or see online.
Types of IP Addresses
Local Address – The IP address of the device you’re using to connect
Public Address – This is the address other people will see and interact with. It’s public because it can be seen by anyone on any network that your computer or mobile phone is connected to, which means you may have a different one every time you switch networks . It can be traced to your physical location and it can be used to block, filter or restrict what you can access online. This is the IP address you need to hide or change to maintain your privacy.
Where To Find Your IP Address
Where to Find Your IP Address on Mac
The easiest way to find your IP address on a Mac is by using the terminal.
Where to Find Your IP Address on Windows
To find out your public IP address in Windows, type “ipconfig” into the search bar near the bottom left of your screen and click enter. This will show you all information about what network connection you
Where to Find Your IP Address on Android
Phones have IP addresses too! To find your IP address on an android device you need to visit the settings page.
Where to Find Your IP Address on iOS
IP addresses are global, so no matter what type of phone you have your address will be listed under General > About in Settings.
These are all local addresses though – to see your public address assigned to you then there’s an easier method, just ask Google. Seriously enter ‘whats my ip address’ in the search bar and Google will tell you your public IP address.
How to change your public IP address
This is where it gets slightly more tricky, the public IP address is normally assigned to your connection by whoever is enabling your internet access. If you’re from home or the office it’s probably an ISP (Internet Service Provider). When you connect the address is assigned to your connection automatically. The address is unique and linked to your physical location which is why it’s such a big problem if you value your anonymity or privacy online.
Unfortunately there’s no simple way to change this address unless of course you happen to own the ISP company you’re using. This address is linked to how you connect to the internet and you have no direct control over it at all. However if you read on you can discover the method that millions of us use to ‘hide’ this address behind a different one.
Connect to a VPN to change your IP address
A VPN (virtual private network) is a software or service that encrypts your connection from your computer to the internet by adding another layer of security. It’s often used for people who work remotely and need to access their company files securely, but it can also be used as an add-on tool when you’re browsing online at home too.
It also has another huge advantage with regards your privacy. When you connect to a VPN, your real public IP address is hidden. All your communication online flows through the VPN server that you’re connected to. As such no-one sees your real IP address only that of the VPN server.
It’s very like having a separate mailbox (called Postal Box in UK) where you pick up and receive mail without revealing your real address. Everyone sees the IP address of the VPN server not your real one.
The other benefit is that if you use a decent VPN provider like NordVPN you can switch your address whenever you need. Just by connecting to a VPN in a different country you can not only make your browsing private but you can access sites which may be blocked in your actual location.
Use a Proxy to Change your IP Address
A proxy works in pretty much the same way, you connect to an intermediary server to hide your real location. The main difference between a proxy and VPN is that a proxy connection is not generally encrypted. It really depends on your priorities – if it’s security and privacy then you should look first at the VPN because it encrypts your connection. This means it’s not visible to anyone who is able to intercept it, vital for using secure sites like email, Paypal and banking when travelling.
Proxies don’t normally encrypt the entire connection but offer more flexibility in who they are used. You can switch proxy connections more often and establish with a wider range of IP addresses. Lots of people run multiple business, social media accounts and use proxies to make money like this.
Both are great for accessing blocked resources though – BBC iPlayer outside UK, Hulu from Europe etc.
Using a VPN is not illegal
It is not illegal to use a VPN as many people think. It can be used for legal reasons such as protecting your privacy or accessing content that you’re legally allowed to access but cannot because of geographic restrictions set by the website owner.
Just about every major company will install a VPN on their laptops as a standard security measure. It allows remote workers to connect back to their company’s network without the risk of leaking confidential information. The only places where VPNs might be considered illegal are places like China and even there many people use them everyday. There’s certainly absolutely no issue using them in democratic countries.
Literally millions of people use a VPN to access geo-locked sites all over the world. Many use it everyday to watch their favorite TV channels when travelling or away from home. The only time a VPN is potentially illegal would be if someone was using their IP address to do something criminal !
Should You Hide Your IP Address?
Some people are concerned about revealing their IP address because of the risk that someone could use it to do something illegal. The truth is, you’re already exposed if your internet service provider knows who you are and has access to all your browsing history on any website.
However hiding your address and encrypting your data certainly makes it safer. There are many instances where passwords and usernames can be stolen when using insecure connections at places like bars, hotels and airports. Encryption does protect this from happening.
Hiding your IP address is more about privacy and not allowing people to know where you are. For many people this is important for a variety of reasons. For example many people in Africa and Asia use a European or US IP address simply because it allows them access to more sites. Also you do sometimes get more credibility especially in business circles using a US or UK IP address rather than a Nigerian or Indian address.
It’s not exactly fair but that’s how it is online to a certain extent!
Different Day – Different IP Address
There’s no doubt that if you hate being tracked, monitored, logged or snooped on then hiding your real IP address is probably worth doing. Even if it’s just to avoid the endless marketing and targeting. When you use a VPN no website will know exactly who you are, where you are from or what device you’re connecting from. Some might argue that there’s no real risk from this but that largely depends on what the web site does with your information.
For many situations hiding your IP address is much more important though! Posting something critical online in certain countries can threaten your well being and liberty. If you don’t hide your IP address then you’re easy to track down, even if you’re using an internet cafe or mobile device.
This obviously depends on your location, hopefully in most Western democracies you’ve little to fear?
People use VPNs for all sorts of reasons from watching TV channels to running online businesses. Whether you need to hide your digital identity, or operate multiple identities having the ability to switch or change your IP address online is hugely beneficial to many of us.
Need a Reliable VPN Service?
Most of the large commercial VPN companies offer a pretty good service. Certainly levels of encryption are high, connections to large secured VPN networks work well. Speed can be an issue with some of the cheaper offerings, but generally a decent VPN shouldn’t have much impact on your speed.
If you’re looking for high end security you should certainly check their policies about logs and disclosure. Most of the VPN companies deliberately don’t keep logs to keep their clients information confidential and to avoid legal issues from agencies demanding access to this data.
If you’re using a VPN to bypass geo-blocks on specific sites then you have to be a little more careful. Most of the major streaming sites for example try to block access from VPNs and proxies. Check with your provider is you want to access a particular site. For example millions of ex-pats use VPNs to access UK Television when abroad – however the BBC blocks many VPN services from working.
Some like NordVPN work fine but many are blocked automatically.