The evolution of the internet has been the single most significant technological development of recent decades, completely changing our way of life and having a major importance on how countless people work, learn, communicate, and interact.
From chatting with friends and sharing photos on social media to finding our way around a new town, keeping up with the latest news stories, streaming our favorite songs and shows, or expanding our knowledge, the internet has an endless array of uses.
But as well as being an extraordinarily useful tool, the internet also comes with some risks and challenges that need to be carefully countered and navigated if you want to stay safe online and make the most of your online activities.
This is where a VPN comes into play. From bolstering your online security to providing you with total privacy and even letting you bypass geo-restrictions on certain sites and services, VPNs have many uses.
One of their most important uses in hiding or changing your IP address, and this guide will show you how a VPN can hide your IP address, why you might want to hide or change your IP address, and how to find the best VPN for hiding IP addresses.
What Exactly Is an IP Address?
In order to understand how VPNs can change your IP address and why you might want to hide your IP address, you have to first understand what an IP address is. In the same way that your house has its own street address, your computer (or other internet-connected devices like a smartphone or tablet) has an IP address.
It’s a set of numbers that are used to basically tell servers where to send the information or data your device is trying to access. On the face of it, IP addresses are therefore perfectly innocent and an integral part of the way the internet works. Unfortunately, like most things in life, people have found ways to exploit IP addresses and use them against us.
How Can My IP Address Be Used Against Me?
There are quite a few ways your IP address can be used in ways you don’t necessarily want it to. Here are just a few examples:
- By Hackers – Sadly, one of the biggest risks associated with IP addresses concerns hackers. To most of us, an IP address is nothing more than a string of numbers. For a hacker, an IP address is a valuable piece of information that they can exploit in numerous ways in order to spy on your system or even get direct access to your data, stealing your passwords or even taking over your entire identity.
- By Internet Service Providers – Internet service providers can also use your IP address to monitor everything you do online. They can see what sites you visit, what files you’re downloading, and even how much time you spend on certain webpages. They can also see when you’re doing data-heavy tasks like downloading big files, playing games online, or streaming HD content and then throttle your connection to slow down your speeds.
- By Advertising Companies – Ever noticed how some ads seem to be tailor-made to match your interests or how they weirdly seem to line up with sites you’ve been visiting lately or products you’ve been looking at? It’s not just a coincidence. Companies can track your IP address, see what sites you visit, and then use that information to build up a profile that advertisers then use to try and market-specific products to you.
- By Geo-Restricted Sites and Services – Your IP address also shows what part of the world you’re located in. This might not seem like a problem at first, but if you want to access sites that are blocked off in certain countries or content with access that is exclusively restricted to certain parts of the world, it becomes a problem. If you visit China on vacation, for example, your IP address will show that you’re in China and prevent you from accessing certain Western sites like Google, Facebook, and Wikipedia.
How Does a VPN Help with All of This?
Clearly, showing off your IP address to the whole online world isn’t the best idea, but it’s not like you can just flick a switch on the side of your computer or tap a button on your phone to make it disappear, right? Well, that’s where a VPN comes into play.
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) basically lets you hide your IP address or change it entirely to a location of your choosing. It sounds complicated, but it’s really simple in practice: with a VPN, your internet connection gets rerouted to a separate server, which can be located anywhere on Earth, and your IP address then gets replaced with the IP address of that server.
So, once you’ve connected to a website via a VPN, it will only see the IP address of some random server, rather than your actual computer or device. This means that everyone, from hackers to your ISP, will no longer be able to see what you’re doing online, log your browsing history, or interfere with your online activity.
How Does a VPN Differ from a Proxy?
When you look at how a VPN works to hide your IP, it might seem quite similar to a proxy. On a very basic level, it is. Both VPNs and proxies have the same goal of hiding/masking your IP address and letting you browse and use the internet anonymously.
So why would you want a VPN over a proxy? Because VPNs do way more! As well as hiding your IP, they also encrypt your connection, giving you a huge additional layer of security against hacking, cyberattacks, and other threats.
VPNs won’t log your activity, they often have way more server locations to choose from than any proxy network you can find too, and they come with a range of additional features and services like kill switches and customer support.
What Are the Benefits of Using a VPN to Hide my IP?
Here are just a few advantages of using to hide or cloak your IP address:
- Peace of Mind – One of the most obvious advantages of using a VPN to hide your IP address is the simple peace of mind you can enjoy once the VPN is all set up. Knowing that companies, hackers, and ISPs can see your online activity at any time is quite concerning for a lot of people, but with a VPN installed, you can feel free to visit sites, download content, and whatever else you want with confidence and privacy.
- No More Tracking – With a VPN installed on your device, you’ll no longer have to worry about anyone being able to track your online activity and monitor your IP address. Thanks to this, you won’t have to worry about any ISPs sending you cease and desist letters for torrenting or slowing you down if you download big files, nor will you have to worry about anyone being able to see your location and track you down based on your IP.
- Access More Content – Another great advantage of using a VPN to change your IP address is that many VPNs have servers all over the world, allowing you to appear to be in totally different countries, without even leaving your home. This opens up a whole world of content, from exclusive shows and films on region-specific streaming services to sites that may be censored or blocked in your area when you go on vacation.
Which Devices Does This Work on?
It all depends on the VPN provider you choose. Some of them are a little limited in terms of compatibility and may only work on computers and laptops, but others go much further and work equally well on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Some can even be configured with your router, protecting all connected devices throughout the home such as gaming consoles and smart TVs.
Are All VPNs Equally Effective at Hiding IP Addresses?
No, and this is an important point to bear in mind. Even though all VPNs are able to hide and change your IP address, they don’t all have the same levels of security and reliability. A VPN with security issues or weak performance ratings can suffer connections drops, which may reveal your IP address temporarily without you even knowing. This is why it’s wise to read through reviews and always choose the best VPN for the job.
How Do I Find the Best VPN for IP Hiding?
When looking for a VPN for hiding or changing your IP address, we recommend focusing on security and servers as the two most important factors. Security features like kill switches and leak protection will help to ensure that your IP stays hidden at all times, and VPNs with big server networks will be able to offer you more options in terms of changing your IP address to different locations around the world.