No matter where you are its likely that you will have come across some websites that have been blocked. This could be caused by one or more of several reasons so there can be multiple solutions. In fact, if you know how, it can be easy to unblock websites.
Workplaces, schools, content providers, and even Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have been known to block access to certain websites or content types. For example, a government censorship could be a reason why an ISP would carry out blanket bans on certain IP addresses or domains.
Best Ways to Unblock Websites
The most reliable way of unblocking websites is of course with a VPN. However, there are also other methods you can try first and see if they might work for your case.
1. Change Your DNS Server
Most of us sign up for Internet plans at home and simply use the equipment and settings provided to us by the ISP. Unfortunately, ISPs are regulated and must follow instructions handed down by regulatory bodies in the country, which are often controlled by the government.
This means that if your government decides that you shouldn’t be allowed to access certain content online, they will simply issue instructions to ISPs who will then block access to those sites. Unblocking websites in this category can be as simple as changing your DNS settings.
By default, most DNS settings we use are set by our ISPs. It doesn’t mean we have to use them and changing them can help not just overcome blocks but sometimes, even speed up DNS resolution. To change your DNS settings on a Windows PC;
Go to your Network Status in the Control Panel and click on ‘Change Adapter Options’
Next, right click on the adapter you use to connect to the Internet and select ‘Properties’.
Look for ‘Internet Version 4 Protocol’ and click on that, then hit ‘Properties’. On the next window that opens, the bottom half will contain DNS information. This is usually set to automatic. Click on “’Use the following DNS server addresses’ and enter 126.96.36.199. and 188.8.131.52. in the two boxes respectively.
These IPs belong to Google and are for public use. Once you’re done, hit ‘OK’ to save your settings and try to access the website which you think is blocked.
2. Use the Tor Browser
The Onion Router, or Tor, is an open-sourced web browser that is built on Firefox architecture. The difference is that it has been somewhat enhanced and has some additional features in terms of security and networking capabilities.
Using Tor browser might help you unblock websites since it helps obscure your IP somewhat before accessing the site you are trying to get to. First, you need to download and install Tor browser. If you need help using it, you can refer to our Tor browser guide (How to Use Tor).
Although Tor may be able to help you access some sites, I don’t recommend it for regular use since it isn’t exactly the best performer. In fact, many people feel that using Tor does slow down their web browsing experience somewhat.
3. Use a VPN Service
The best and surest way to unblock any website is by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service. VPNs help you create encrypted connections with secure servers before routing your instructions off onto the Internet. This helps you not just access all websites freely, but also helps keep your identity and information more secure.
The method of connection it uses masks your origin IP address and replaces that with the IP of its secure servers. Any sites you browse to will see that information an assume it’s you. In fact, there are many more benefits of using a VPN than simply accessing blocked websites.
Why Unblocking Websites with VPN is Best
Getting blocked from accessing content is simple censorship for the most past. Unfortunately, governments and companies today have increasingly been using our private data to collect information for their own purposes.
Aside from regaining your digital freedom, using a VPN can help you protect your privacy and increase your Internet security. I highly recommend getting a VPN and leaving that connection active to protect everything you do in the digital world.
It is especially important when you're out and about since public networks are notoriously unsafe.
To learn more, read our Complete Guide to VPN.
Other Less Reliable Methods
Because website blocks can be implemented in many ways and at many levels, you may be able to use some less reliable methods to unblock websites from time to time. This is usually achieved by trying to work around crudely implemented blocking systems. Some of the ways which might works include;
Note: These methods are only marginally effective and will only work in situations where the blocks put in place are very rudimentary or carelessly done.
Using a link shortener – Link shorteners like Bitly can help you truncate website URLs and using them to change links might overcome unsophisticated blocking.
Type a direct IP – Instead of typing in a website domain name, try directly entering its IP address in your web browser. To find the IP of the site you want to visit, use a tool such as Find IP Address or simply do a ping at the command line.
To do this, press Win+R and at the command prompt, type ‘ping www.websiteaddress.com’ (replace websiteaddress with the site you want to visit). You’ll see the system return the IP of the site you are trying to access.
Use a Site Caching Tool – There are some websites that carry out archiving on the Internet like the Wayback machine. Although these won’t give you very up to date versions of websites, you may be able to access some ‘snapshots’ of the blocked sites you are trying to access.
Why are Some Websites Blocked?
There are many possible reasons why websites might be blocked. This means that there is no fixed set of websites which are normally universally blocked everywhere. Some of the common types of content which might get blocked include:
Illegal or Immoral – If you live in a country where pornography is illegal, ISPs may attempt to block any access to as many known porn sites as possible. Countries often attempt to block access to content which it deems illegal.
Political – In more oppressive countries, governments may attempt to suppress opposition and dissent by banning access to content it deems to be of a political nature. A good example of this is in Kashmir, where conflict led to severe Internet restrictions a number of times.
Restrictions Due to Copyright and Licensing – Many media streaming services such as Netflix operate in countries around the globe. Unfortunately, this means that the legalities of licensing and copyright observance is a huge tangled mess and needs to be navigated closely. These services often restrict content availability depending on zones or individual countries.
See our list of Best Netflix VPNs that will allow you to unlock more content
In other cases, countries may impose severe Internet restrictions simply for greater control over domestic use of the Internet. China is one of the top examples in this case, being well known for its Great Firewall that restricts content availability to its citizens.
Conclusion: Anyone Can Unblock Websites
As you can see, to remove blocks put on most websites is easy. In some cases, it is as simple as manipulating a few numbers such as the change in DNS servers. Yet the deeper issue that surrounds the topic in increased surveillance and the erosion of our privacy.
Until we are able to live in peace and safety online, it is always prudent to protect ourselves by being circumspect about the information we share. Using a VPN will go a long way towards helping us protect our privacy.
For your safety and peace of mind, consider signing up with one of these three top VPN providers;