How to Unblock Any Website in 5 Minutes

Updated on: 5 August 2020
Updated on:5 August 2020

Unblock any website in five minutes:

  • Click here to visit ExpressVPN and sign up
  • Get the ExpressVPN Chrome or FireFox extension (or install app)
  • Open the app and choose a server from outside your own country
  • Go to any website previously blocked
  • Enjoy full access to all web content
Unblock Websites

Who blocks websites?

There are three places where access to a website can be blocked.

  • Nationally by your Internet Service Provider
  • Locally by your company, school, or home network
  • Individually on the device that you use to access the internet

Countrywide blocks

Internet Service Providers will block access for a variety of reasons, including:

  • If a website contains potentially illegal content,
  • If instructed by the government or regulatory authorities,
  • If notified by the courts
  • On the advice of the Internet Watch Foundation

Typical reasons include complying with a countries censorship laws, protecting copyright, preventing the sale of counterfeit goods, preventing the sale of illegal drugs or weapons, or even if there is a technical fault on the website that can adversely affect visitors.

Local network blocks

Local networks will use firewalls and routers to block access to comply with local policies, such as schools blocking access to social media sites or businesses blocking access to pornographic websites.

Such blocking may be to stop users visiting specific sites, or it may just be to make sure the network bandwidth isn’t overwhelmed and brought to a standstill by everyone watching funny videos.

Local device blocks

Local machine blocks usually are as a result of company policies or parental controls. These controls will stop an individual accessing sites that the person who controls the device’s access doesn’t think the user should visit.

The reason may be a parent shielding a child from harmful content or a company trying to prevent the inadvertent download of malware.

Is the website actually blocked?

Also, it is worth noting that you may experience what looks like blocked access if the website that you are trying to access is temporarily unavailable or has ceased to operate. There are website monitoring facilities available to check, here are some useful sites to try out:

Another way to check is just to use a search engine to ask if there is a block on a particular website in your country. Chances are if it is then someone will have written something on the internet about it.
Always check a website is available before trying to unblock it; otherwise, you may be wasting your time.

Why do websites get blocked?

Government censorship

There are many countries, such as North Korea, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and China, that block their citizens from accessing sites for political, religious, and economic reasons. In such countries, the government intends to limit access to sites that may otherwise encourage practices that they forbid within their jurisdiction. Restrictions can include access to world news and religious content, streaming services, social media sites and more.

The worst this about censorship is [redacted]

However, most other countries, including liberal western nations, also impose controls to prevent access to content that is illegal in their country. For example, some countries where gambling is unlawful will block access to overseas betting sites.

This action leaves millions of people globally without access to some of the sites that others take for granted. Facebook, Netflix, WhatsApp, and many popular media sites are all amongst those which specific governments block. They do this to prevent citizens from being informed or influenced negatively by the government.

Company policies

Companies may restrict access to websites that are not necessary for their work to stop employees from misusing their time and wasting network resources. Companies may also prevent access to websites that pose a security risk, be those sites that deliver malware or social media sites where employees could share sensitive company information.

Often companies will use a standard list of websites to block that can accidentally include websites that an employee may need to visit.

School policies

Teachers don’t want their students distracted by social media and amusing viral videos when they should be studying. This reason is why it’s normal for a school wi-fi network to include a firewall that blocks sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

Parental controls

Parents quite rightly will want to protect their children from harmful or disturbing content. Some parents may also want to stop their children from accessing games, online stores, or social media sites. Sometimes these controls inadvertently block access to safe websites that the child may wish to visit.

Does it matter if a website is blocked?

Most of the time, the blocking of a website is for a good reason. However, for people travelling or emigrating to a new country this may be an annoyance. They may want to access some of the content from their home country, whether this is the lottery, government sites, gambling, banking, or others. Getting access to such websites in their home country when abroad can be very difficult.

For those who reside or travel through countries with strict censorship, this can also mean the government has imposed content access restrictions that are difficult and sometimes very risky to try and bypass.

Employees and students may find their favourite social media, streaming, and gaming sites blocked by the organisations that manage the networks that they use. While understandable, it can prevent the enjoyment of their free time when they can’t access these sites.

How does a website get blocked?

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Internet service provider blocking

ISP’s can employ a range of technical controls to block specific websites or access to any site in a particular country.

  • They can use Domain Name Server (DNS) blocking or filtering to prevent access to a website based on its IP address.
  • They can use IP address blocking to stop access to websites for specific IP addresses, or country-wide IP addresses.
  • They can use Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to examine data passing across a network and block specific access requests to a particular website.

Local network blocking

There are many different ways to block access to websites and online platforms like social media sites. The simplest and hence most common methods are to either add the web address to a firewall blocklist or to disable router access to the IP address of the servers that host the websites.

Firewall blocking

Local networks often use firewalls to manage access controls. They can block individual sites by adding the IP address of that site to its blocklist, or they can block large numbers of sites based on their category.

Every site on the internet is categorised, which is relatively easy for some websites, such as gambling, streaming, and shopping. However, for other websites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, there are so many different categories of content, that the systems do not always categorise everything correctly.

When you want to access a particular site, it is not always easy to understand why it is blocked. On occasion, legitimate websites may be incorrectly blocked for some unknown reason because the firewall is programmed to prevent anyone from accessing the site.

Location-based or geo-blocking

Lots of popular websites will use located-based enablement to make sure they display the right content to the right audience. They introduced this feature to ensure that website text is in the correct language, and they show the right products in the right currency. However, the development of this technology has also meant that sites such as YouTube, Netflix and many more, can distinctly offer different sets of content to different users, based on their location.

Copyright laws can be vastly different around the world. Europe and North America have strong copyright and intellectual property protection laws. Other countries have very weak or no protection at all. We see an excellent example of this with Netflix. They offer a very different content library for their members who are based outside of the US and serve up different content to different countries.

Can I ask for access to blocked websites?

Easy enough, right? Wrong. For schools and smaller businesses, it might be a simple case of calling the IT person or department to get them to lift the ban. For larger companies or those who have their IT managed centrally, this process can take days, weeks, or even months.

However, for ISPs or Hotspot providers, it is a thankless task trying to get them to make changes to their protocols and rules. Using a technology solution to bypass the blocking will probably be the fastest, easiest, and most effective way to unblock websites, wherever your location might be.

With geo-blocking, this is something that is entirely outside of your control but will most likely impact you at one point or another when you are trying to access content on the internet or visit a particular website. This situation is where a technology solution to bypass the blocking is the best option.

So how can I easily access blocked websites?

Unblocking Options

If you need to access a blocked site, then there are several options to bypass the commonly used methods of blocking websites.

  • Accessing the website using your mobile data rather than the local network is the simplest method for local network controls, but only if you’re happy to burn through your monthly data allowance. This option won’t work if the block is applied nationally or to the local device.
  • Using a Proxy Server can disguise the fact you’re accessing a blocked site via your local network, but it will dramatically slow down your internet connection. Also, free Proxy Servers will bombard you with adverts and even monitor your internet browsing. This option won’t work if the local device is blocked.
  • Using a VPN Service can also disguise the fact you’re accessing a blocked site, without any of the disadvantages of a Proxy Server. VPN’s are an easy way to hide your network traffic, they are much simpler to set up than a Proxy Server, much quicker, and they are far more secure. The beauty of VPNs is that they can also bypass national blocks by connecting to the internet via a different country. VPN’s can even bypass local network and local device controls by using encryption to hide which sites you are accessing.

It’s important to note that techniques that do not encrypt network traffic such as SmartDNS will not work as an attempt to access a blocked site.

Which websites can a VPN unblock?

When you use a VPN, you open up the infinite potential to view almost any website of your choosing. As you can imagine, it would be impossible to name or list every website. However, with the reputable VPN providers such as ExpressVPN, you can rest assured that each site you wish to visit or are currently unable to visit at present, you will not find the same issues once you use a VPN.

If you are trying to unblock a specific site, you will find that a VPN will add a lot more value to your online experiences and provide far more significant benefits than you may have first thought possible.
To learn more about how VPNs work, take a look at our beginner’s guide to VPNs.

Location-restricted sites

If location-based rules are blocking your website, you can easily navigate this issue with a VPN. Services provided by companies such as Netflix, YouTube, BBC, HBO, ITV Player, and Pandora are just a few examples of the major websites that use geo-blocking as part of their everyday operations.

If you route your request to access their site via a VPN, this can fool their website into thinking that you are located in another country, giving you easier access to their sites and services.

Website blocked due to censorship

If censorship is a problem in a country you either live, work, travel, or vacation in; then using a VPN can present an ideal solution for bypassing such restrictions. Whether it is media, gaming, social, messaging, or gambling, you will be easily able to unblock government censored websites.

So, whatever sites you need to view, wherever you are, for whatever reason, simply get a VPN to help you unblock any website.

What is the best VPN to use?

ExrpessVPN homepage

We recommend that you use ExpressVPN if you want to unblock and access websites. ExpressVPN has very advanced encryption and excellent privacy features.

ExpressVPN is very quick and straightforward to set-up on your device; just follow these simple instructions.

Troubleshooting problems

If you can’t install ExpressVPN on your device and if you can’t install the app then you will need to install the ExpressVPN Chrome or Firefox extension on your web browser. Even if you don’t have admin access, you can still add extensions to Chrome or Firefox.

  • You can find the Chrome browser extension in the Google Chrome store.
  • You can find the Firefox browser extension on the Mozilla website.

If, after installing ExpressVPN or the browser extension, your network still blocks access to the website you want to visit, then try to connect to different servers until you find one that will work. It is not unusual for some VPN IP addresses to be blocked. You will have to try out different servers until you find one that works.

What does ExpressVPN do?

ExpressVPN is a premium VPN that will mask your real location and make it look like you are from a different country, unblocking the websites that are not available in your country.

ExpressVPN uses advanced encryption to hide which websites you are accessing and so will bypass firewall blacklists.

What is the difference between the app and the browser extensions?

The ExpressVPN app is available for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and Linux. It provides a comprehensive solution that encrypts all your internet traffic. It provides the maximum level of security for your system.

It is intuitive and easy to use, connecting in just a couple of seconds. You can choose to access the internet from over 4900 available servers. There is a Quick connect option which will automatically find the server that best suits you.

The ExpressVPN browser extensions are available for Chrome and Firefox browsers on your computer. The extensions are light and fast and can jump back and forth between different VPN servers. While the extensions don’t offer the selection of a specific server, they do provide automatic access to any one of the 4900 available servers.

While the ExpressVPN app provides more options than the browser extensions, the browser extensions are simple to add-in and use, and ideal if you can’t install the app.

Is it anonymous and safe?

ExpressVPN is a premium VPN that does not keep any user logs of any kind. It’s 100% anonymous and safe.

Why should I not use a free VPN?

While free VPNs may seem an attractive option, they are very slow compared to premium VPNs which makes them impractical for streaming video and gaming content. Also, nothing is free; these free VPN providers make money by monitoring which sites you visit and then selling this information to advertisers and other corporations.

If you are using a VPN to bypass government censorship controls, then you need to use a VPN provider that you can trust not to pass your details to your government.

What if access to the VPN is blocked?

Some network administrators are smart, so they may also block access to VPNs to stop users from accessing websites that they shouldn’t. However, there are techniques available to bypass such blocks. The best option is to disguise your VPN traffic using a Stealth VPN that hides the fact it’s a VPN and so won’t be blocked. Stealth VPN’s work by using VPN Obfuscation to mask VPN traffic, and hence bypass VPN blocks.

You may have read about using a Tor network to route your VPN traffic through multiple encrypted proxy layers. While this provides maximum privacy and unblocking power, it is tricky to set up. Only a few VPN providers offer VPN-over-Tor support. It will also make the internet so slow that you won’t be able to watch movies or those funny YouTube videos.

Will I be spotted if I use a VPN on my device?

If you use a VPN, any automated systems on the network will not spot you. Watch out for someone looking over your shoulder though.

VPNs such as ExpressVPN have advanced encryption and most importantly store encryption keys locally on your device. This feature means that without physical access to the device, it will not be possible for someone to detect what websites you visit without very advanced technology that is only available to the government.

This encryption is also why a VPN can bypass your network’s firewall. It hides the actual content of the data you send and receive over the internet so doesn’t trigger any filters.

Firewalls use Deep Packet Inspection software which examines all the data and website address information passing over the network. If this information is encrypted, the firewall software can’t check it.

It’s also not possible for any human, such as your IT administrators, to manually detect which websites you are visiting.

Written by: Stephen Mash

Connect with him:

Software and Systems Assurance Specialist Based in West Sussex, England, Stephen has worked as an information security and safety assurance consultant since 1997, specialising in risk management for high integrity systems. Prior to that, he developed safety-critical software-based systems for the aerospace industry. He transitioned from consultancy into the role of technical copywriter and editor in 2019, writing and reviewing materials on behalf of a broad spectrum of clients.

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