Netflix blocked your VPN? Smart DNS could be the answer

Published by on October 18, 2016 in VPN & Privacy

Unblock Netflix

Netflix has recently started blocking almost all VPN connections in order stop customers from watching shows that aren’t available in their home countries (UPDATE, October 18, 2016: ExpressVPN is still working with Netflix and offers a 30 day money back guarantee so you can try it risk free, they have also got in touch to offer Comparitech readers’ 3 months extra free on their 12 month plan – full details here).  We’ve had reports of Netflix blocking: Unblock-US, Unlocator, Unotelly, Tunlr, ZenMate, Private Internet Access (PIA), Overplay, StrongVPN, GetFlix, CyberGhost, Blockless, NordVPN, Tunnelbear, IPVanish, TorGuard, Hola, Astrill, HideMyAss (HMA), Hotspot Shield and PureVPN with varying levels of success. If your VPN is blocked you will see this message from Netflix: you seem to be using an unblocker or proxy. VPNs were a popular means for people living outside the US and UK to gain access to the larger archive of shows available to Americans and Brits. But in order for Netflix to honor geographic content licensing restrictions, the workaround has come to an end.

Thankfully, there’s an alternative. Meet Smart DNS, a type of proxy service that obscures the IP address–and thereby the location–of the user, making it possible to bypass geographic restrictions. Netflix brought the hammer down hard on VPNs, but it seems to still be turning a blind eye to Smart DNS. Smart DNS is also known as a DNS proxy.

We have confirmed that Smart DNS works during our testing of IronSocket, a paid VPN provider that also includes a Smart DNS service specifically for accessing streaming video websites in its subscription plan. A range of free and paid Smart DNS services are available on the web and we haven’t had time to test the whole lot, but I was personally able to watch Attack on Titan and Parks and Recreation, two shows not available from my home in Bogota, Colombia. UPDATE, JULY 6, 2016: we’ve had a few comments about inconsistent connections with IronSocket and our own testing confirms IronSocket is not working for Netflix with all devices so are now recommending ExpressVPN as the safest option (this link gives you 3 months free with the 12 month plan).

Some users have reported Netflix’s Android app does not work with Smart DNS services, as it forces the user onto Google DNS instead. UnoTelly, Unblock-Us and most recently Uflix have reported Netflix has blocked them, so Netflix seems to be in the process of cracking down. Smart DNS still seems to be working on other platforms, however, and we’ll update this post if that changes.

Keep in mind that a Smart DNS service is not a full replacement for a VPN. It does not encrypt internet traffic and therefore lacks many of the security features of a VPN. But because it lacks encryption, Smart DNS is usually faster than a VPN, which means higher quality streams and less buffering.

Setting up Smart DNS

How to set up Smart DNS can vary depending on which provider you choose. First, you’ll need to authorize your computer’s IP address so the provider can verify that you’re a customer. This is done on the provider’s website. Here’s a quick tutorial using IronSocket’s service with Windows 10 after authorizing your IP.

First, right click the wifi or ethernet icon in your system tray and click “Open Network and Sharing Center.”

smart dns tut 1

Click the link that says “Wifi” or “Ethernet” next to Connections.

smart dns tut 2

Click Properties.

smart dns tut 3

Uncheck Internet Protocol Version 6 (TCP/IPv6). Click on Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) so that it’s highlighted, then click Properties.

smart dns tut 4

On the lower half of the next window, check “Use the following DNS server addresses:”. Input the preferred and alternate DNS servers (servers should be in the United States), which should be given to you by your Smart DNS provider.

smart dns tut 5

Press OK and restart your computer. Now you should be able to use Netflix as if you were in the US.

64 thoughts on “Netflix blocked your VPN? Smart DNS could be the answer

  • I stopped my Netflix subscription. They have asked me several times to come back but I refuse to do so until they stop blocking my use of their service through a VPN. If they won’t then I will simply stay away from them permanently.

    They only people they are hurting in the long run with these idiotic policies are themselves.

  • The way to get around this once and for all is to use a VPS instead of a VPN. VPS stands for “Virtual Private Server”. Instead of paying for someone to route traffic between your PC in your living room and Netflix (VPN), you rent yourself a server that’s located in the US. Then you can connect to Netflix without any proxying or anything else. You just need to log into your US-based computer with a remote desktop client, such as the Remote Desktop Client that’s built into every version of windows.
    Again, instead of hiding that you’re a foreigner through a VPN, become an American by renting a server here. You’ll have to decide whether you can handle a linux-based one or it has to have windows (rarer and more expensive). Good luck.

  • HOW desperate you people are to pay for a damn’ online tv ?? are you all so institutionalized ?

    DON’T ALLOW RESTRICTIONS! ( you contribue tu restrictions by paying!)

    WAKE UP and dump them, spend more time with your family, friends, go outside ->> they will BEG you come back! And this are pure history lessons.

  • Thanks, Paul. Contacted ExpressVPN live chat and they provided alternate servers to connect to Netflix. Worked just fine.

  • . But in order for Netflix to honor geographic content licensing restrictions, the workaround has come to an end

    This is a big lie.
    First Netflix told me that I had been caught using “hacker like tools” and it now they were going to start blocking me. That’s a direct quote.
    Then Netflix told me personally as did Hulu and his Amazon oh, that the reason was to Geo block. I asked them to explain why they would block a U.S. IP address from Arizona.
    They could not answer.

    They are a bunch of liars.
    I might be willing to pay for your content with my money but I will not pay for your content with my privacy.

  • Great posts Paul. I tried SSH tunneling a firefox browser to 3 different VPS providers in the US and Netflix rejected all of them as “proxy”. If I install OpenVPN would I expect any different outcome from the same VPS server IPS?

    • Netflix blocks IP addresses, and OpenVPN wouldn’t change your VPS’ IP address. However, your current proxy might not including your DNS requests, so that could also be the problem. You can direct your DNS requests through OpenVPN by including the “redirect-gateway” option in the server config.

  • Hi
    I have an Express VPN subscription and pay for Netflix in the UK ,but now I am in China it doesn’t work. I emailed Netflix in the US to ask why, and they weren’t helpful, just said “oh yes, sorry it doesn’t work in China, we don’t recommend a VPN”. Is there a server on Express VPN which hasn’t been blocked by them?

  • Does ExpressVPN still works with Netflix today? I’ve just tried it and it didn’t work could you please or anyone else check if it still works for them?

    • Hi John,
      I tested a few out for you but none seem to be able to unblock Netflix France. It seems they are more focused on keeping their US servers working with Netflix rather than the French ones. I tested all of the VPNs on this list.

        • I haven’t tested them but from my tests in other countries it seems VPN providers are mostly concerned with unblocking US Netflix as it’s in the highest demand. I couldn’t find any VPNs that would unblock Netflix France, for example.

      • Yup, im trying to unblock Netflix France too, looks like I am gonna have to pop over the other side of the lake to get a French IP

  • Hi
    I just got a subscription for ExpressVPN and Netflix.
    Hooked up to a New York based server.
    Got blocked right off the bat.
    “You seem to be using an unblocker or proxy.”

    Can anyone confirm wether ExpressVPN has been blocked or not?

      • My bad.
        I just assumed all servers worked equally.
        And if I had read the comments a little closer I would have noticed that you’d already answered the same question back in June *facepalm*
        Tried a few other servers and its working just fine now.
        Thank You very much!

    • No, there are no penalties for using (or attempting to use) a VPN with Netflix. HBO Go is the only streaming service I know of that will terminate accounts of VPN users.

    • From my experience, months back when my vpn stopped working. They just block your ability to watch shows outside your region. In one instance i was able to browse the US catalogue but got the message when i tried to load a show. In the other instance i was unable to load the catalogue.

      At no time was my actual account suspended or did it stop working in anyway. When Netflix was loaded on a different device it worked normally. Normal billing continued as scheduled.

  • Thanks, very useful. Went for the VPN service you recommended in the article and Netflix works a treat with it! Better speeds than I expected too.

  • If it is illegal to violate a copyright restriction (U.S. felony), and it is a crime to teach anyone how to commit a felony, are you committing a crime by teaching your readers how to violate a copyright restriction?

    • As a non-US citizen, living outside of US, no it is not illegal for me to do any of this. You’ve kind of missed the point here. These techniques are irrelevant inside the US, they are only relevant to people living outside of the US. And US laws do not apply to non-US citizens. At best it is a breach of the terms of my individual contract with Netflix. And even then, many local jurisdictions specifically forbid individual contracts from enforcing requirements that are in breach of local laws. Netflix attempting to prevent the fair and legal use of a VPN is almost certainly a breach of local laws in some parts of the world and therefore that aspect of the contract may well be null and void.
      The point is that what is going on here occurs across national boundaries and within multiple legal jurisdictions and the complexities far outweigh the simplistic claim that it’s a felony in the US.

      • As a prime example, this is from the Prime Minister of Australia:
        Q: Many Australians use a VPN to access Netflix in the US. Is it illegal for me to use a VPN to access Netflix?
        • The [Australian] Copyright Act does not make it illegal to use a VPN to access overseas content.
        • While content providers often have in place international commercial arrangements to protect copyright in different countries or regions, which can result in ‘geoblocking’, circumventing this is not illegal under the [Australian] Copyright Act.

    • you will need a USA based Apple account. I have tried to change the region to USA but it recognises my Apple ID as not being a US account and wont let the region change.

    • I haven’t personally tested it but yes it should work. You can change the DNS settings for Apple TV in the settings menu.

  • I used:
    1. UnoTelly
    2. SmartDNS Proxy

    Both worked for a while but both were eventually blocked.

    WARNING: representatives from both companies refused technical support (when Netflix cracked down their DNS), omitted replies (up to 8 days), resorted to plain rude answers. Smart DNS Proxy representatives Emerson and Carmelo even terminated the support chat when asked to offer support that they were unable to give.

    BE CAREFUL: Smart DNS finds excuses to NOT refund

  • I tried something which worked for me to play US netflix
    i am using purevpn and came across this article and leaned that by using smart dns with combination with VPN i could use netflix so i tried to use google DNS and
    and it seems to work no problems so far

    • Hi Aaaaa,
      I don’t have an iPhone handy, so this is copy/pasted from the top Google search result:
      From the iPhone’s home screen, tap Settings.
      Tap Wi-Fi. …
      Find your wireless network in the list, and then click the arrow. …
      Tap the DNS field.
      Delete the current DNS servers, and enter the new DNS servers. …
      Test your new DNS servers to make sure they’re working.

  • From a technical/detection point of view, there is no distinction at all between “smart dns” and “vpn”. Both result in the requests of many customers coming from the same IP address. The reason for use of smart dns has nothing to do with being undetectable, but rather because of how much simpler it is for a non technical home user to enable it.

    Bad news is that so-called “smart” dns is actually not very smart. In fact, it is very very stupid, since it is trivial for netflix to detect it. All they need to do is feed an IP address back in one of the http/SSL requests to the client software (and it makes no difference if it is an android application, or a javascript run in your web browser) that can be used to feed your real IP address back to netflix for validation.

    And they are doing it. BUT, rolling it out slowly.
    Which means that the days of stupid-DNS hacks are numbered, and everyone will have to either route EVERYTHING through some kind of a tunnel (VPN), or be intelligent about it and route a special set of IP addresses that are associated with Netflix through it.

  • To the person with the android TV, I had the same problem with my android TV, the solution is to plug in another router between your modem and the TV, set the router up on the wan with a static IP and use your DNS servers from the smart dns on lines 1 and 2. Then under dhcp for lan set the DNS servers again in lines one and 2. That fixed it for me.

  • Thank you for the article
    I have one question : how to use this smart DNS from smart TV like Sony android TV ?

    • Hi Smogling,

      Android devices have trouble with smart DNS because, unlike a browser, an app can force you to use a specific DNS server. As far as we know, this only works for certain from a Mac or PC browser.


  • The issue here is that it is very easy to detect proxies. Just think about it, why end-users should be connected from a data-center IP, they should be connected from residential blocks. That’s the rationale.

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