Most devices on the internet use IPv4 addresses to communicate, and the world is slowly adopting IPv4’s replacement, IPv6. Every device connected to the internet needs a unique IP address in order to connect and communicate with other devices online.
An IPv4 address looks like this:
And an IPv6 address looks like this:
If you’re connected to wifi right now, you probably share a public IP address with everyone else connected to the same wifi network, but each device has its own local IP address. However, if you’re on a smartphone and using a mobile data connection, you might well have your very own public IP address.
When most people talk about changing their IP address, they’re referring to their public IPv4 address. This is the address seen and used by most websites, servers, online games, and other devices on the internet.
This article, however, will cover changing your IP address whether it be IPv4 or IPv6, public or private.
How to change your public IP address
Here are a few ways to change your public IP address(es):
1. Connect to a VPN to change your IP address
Short for Virtual Private Network, a VPN encrypts your internet connection and routes it through a server in a location of your choosing. Websites, online services, and other devices on the web will only see the VPN server’s IP address and not your real IP address.
VPNs are useful for torrenting, unblocking region-locked content like that from Netflix and BBC iPlayer, and bypassing censorship at schools, in offices, and in countries like China.
Most VPNs can easily hide your IPv4 address, but many VPNs can leak your IP address through various security vulnerabilities. Furthermore, not all VPNs hide your IPv6 address. Choose a VPN that either disables IPv6 or can prevent IPv6 leaks by default.
If you’re not sure how to set up a VPN just follow the simple steps below.
Here’s how to change your IP address with a VPN:
- Sign up for a suitable VPN provider (we recommend NordVPN).
- Download the appropriate VPN app for your device.
- Open the VPN app and select a server, within your own country is fine although if you want to access a specific service make sure to choose a server in a country where it’s unblocked.
- That’s it! You should now have a different IP address.
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2. Use a proxy to change your IP address
Proxies work similarly to VPNs but with far less versatility and security. Your internet connection goes through a middleman server so that websites and other online resources see the proxy server’s IP address and not your own. Unlike VPNs, proxies often lack encryption, only affect certain apps, and can leak your IP address through other means.
A few different types of proxies can be used to change your IP address:
- HTTP/S proxies – Usually either browser extensions or special websites that work like a browser within your browser. They only change the IP address on data sent to and from your browser, but do not affect other apps or even DNS traffic. If encryption is included, these are sometimes called SSL proxies.
- SOCKS proxies – General purpose proxy servers that can be configured for specific apps including most web browsers. SOCKS5, the latest version, includes support for encryption.
- SSH proxies – SSH proxies forward internet traffic from apps like your web browser through a Secure Shell (SSH) connection to a server, so your IP address is changed to that of the server. Although encryption is included, SSH is not a particularly fast protocol, and many websites and apps might not function properly when connected.
3. Use Tor to change your IP address for free
Tor, short for The Onion Router, is a volunteer-run anonymity network. The easiest way to get started with Tor is to download and install the Tor Browser, a barebones web browser that routes all web traffic through the Tor network. Tor encrypts your connection several times and then sends data through multiple nodes—servers operated by volunteer Tor supporters. Each node strips away one layer of encryption, and the sequence of nodes used changes every time you access a different website. This makes it nearly impossible to trace Tor traffic back to the source.
Websites will see the IP address of the last node in the chain, called the Exit Node.
Tor is free, but has its drawbacks. It’s relatively slow and only really suited for basic web browsing. Tor’s anonymity means it is often associated with illicit activity and the dark web, so even though it’s not illegal, using it might draw unwanted attention from your ISP and possibly even law enforcement. Those entities can’t see what you do while connected to Tor, but they can see that you are connected to Tor nodes.
4. Change IP addresses by unplugging your modem
You might be able to get a new IP address by unplugging your internet modem, waiting a few minutes, and then plugging it back in again. When this happens, you release your existing IP address so that your ISP can recycle it. When you reconnect, your ISP assigns you a new IP address.
This method isn’t guaranteed to work because your ISP might just give you the same IP address again. The longer you leave your modem unplugged, however, the higher the chance your IP address changes. If unplugging for a few minutes doesn’t get the job done, consider leaving it unplugged overnight.
Your ISP must use dynamic IP addresses in order for this to work. Most do.
5. Ask your ISP to change your IP address
Another option is to ask your ISP for a new IP address. Every ISP has different policies about how they handle such requests, so responses may vary. At minimum, you’ll need your account information and current IP address on hand.
Most ISPs use dynamic IP address systems, meaning IP addresses occasionally change and get recycled as devices connect and disconnect from the internet. With that in mind, note that your new IP address might not stay the same forever.
In some cases, you can request a static IP address from your ISP, though this might require paying an extra fee and/or going through an application process. Once provided with a static IP address, you can enter it into your device’s network settings. Static IP addresses never change unless you manually change them.
6. Change networks to get a different IP address
This might seem obvious, but you can get a different IP address by disconnecting from whatever network you’re currently connected to and connecting to a different one. You can switch to a different wifi network, for example, or switch from wifi to a mobile data connection if you’re on a smartphone.
Remember that public and open wifi hotspots are often prime hunting grounds for hackers. Try to stick with a wifi network that requires a password and is encrypted with WPA2.
How to change your private IP address
If you’re connected to a wifi router, then you probably share a public IP address with all the other devices connected to the same network. Each device, however, has its own private, or local IP address.
Changing your local IP address won’t really affect how your device communicates with other devices and servers over the internet, but there might be instances in which you need a different private IP address. These include troubleshooting a malfunctioning router or configuring how local devices, such as printers and IoT devices, function on your home network.
Renew your local IP address
If you’re connected to wifi or some other type of local network, you can change your private IP address from the router admin panel or from the device itself. I’ll show you how to do it on Windows and MacOS.
Here’s how to renew your IP address on Windows:
- Search for the Command Prompt and right click it to Run as administrator
- Enter ipconfig /release
- Enter ipconfig /renew
You should now see a new local IP address.
Here’s how to renew your IP address on Mac:
- Click the Apple menu and open System Preferences
- Select Network
- Highlight the network that you’re connected to in the left pane
- Click Advanced…
- Select the TCP/IP tab
- Click Renew DHCP Lease
You Mac should now be assigned a new local IP address.
The process for changing local IP addresses on the router varies depending on your router manufacturer and firmware. You can usually access your router’s admin dashboard by opening a web browser and entering 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1 in the address bar.
Your ISP always knows your IP address
No matter what methods you use to change or hide an IP address, public IP addresses are always known by the internet service provider. This is inevitable because in order to connect to the internet at all, your ISP must assign you an IP address, and it must know what that IP address is in order to transmit communication and data from the internet to your device.
So even if you used one of the above methods to mask your IP address from websites, services, and other devices on the internet, your ISP is an exception that can see behind the mask.
Even if your ISP can identify you by your IP address, however, you can hide your online activity through encryption. A VPN or Tor will encrypt all data before it ever leaves your device, so even though your ISP can see that you are communicating, it cannot see the contents of those communications.
If you need an easy way to change your IP address to that of a different ISP, try switching between wifi and your smartphone’s mobile data connection. Chances are, your phone carrier and home internet use different ISPs.