How Does Netflix Know I’m Using a VPN?

STREAMING Updated on: 21 November 2018

You only have to do a quick search about Netflix and VPNs, and you’ll find countless articles and user complaints about how the popular streaming website bans VPNs. And not just some of them, but all of them.

Is there any truth to this claim?

The short answer would be no. But there are some things to be taken into consideration.

In order to get to the bottom of this problem, we have to talk about how Netflix really knows when you’re using a VPN, and how it can prevent you from gaining further access to their services.

1. Netflix’s war against VPNs

Keeping it simple, it’s actually impossible for Netflix to “ban a VPN”. They can only restrict access to each individual IP address that comes their way. That’s really the only thing they can do.

And this process is much more complicated and time-consuming than it sounds. The way this it goes is like this:

  • A Netflix employee signs up to a VPN
  • He proceeds to connect to every single server
  • Through Google, he finds out the individual IP address of each server, and add it to a list
  • After either he has gone through all the servers or the list has gotten big enough, he sends it to someone in charge of security who then manually bans all those IP addresses

Thinking about it, this is actually a titanic work that takes a long time and considering that some premium VPNs out there have thousands of servers, you can imagine that the workload is astronomical.

NordVPN, for example, has over 4000 individual servers. So just for this online security provider, one of Netflix’s employees will have to go through all of those servers, find the IP addresses, and ban them.

Now, let’s talk about the two things that make it next to impossible for Netflix to completely ban NordVPN’s IP addresses:

1. A server has multiple IP addresses

You only have to connect to all 4000 servers in order to get all 4000 IP addresses, and the ban them. Simple, right? Well, not if it’s NordVPN we’re talking about. The gigantic online security provider attributes multiple IPs to a single server.

And you can’t know which of those IP addresses you’ll be allocated. This means that you will have to connect more than one time to a single server, to make sure you have all the possible IP addresses.

What’s more, you can never be sure you got them all. As I’ve said, it’s a totally randomized process, so the same IP address could be allocated 10 times in a row, and so on.

Taking into consideration all the possible combinations, NordVPN has over 20.000 individual IP addresses active at the same time. If Netflix really wants to issue a permanent ban, it will have to ban all those IPs simultaneously.

To do that, a team of people will have to work for weeks or even months on end, trying to compile a complete list of all the IPs.

That’s an enormous workload which is very time-consuming, and unless Netflix really has a bone to pick with VPNs, it wouldn’t direct so much manpower and time into this.

Now, for the second and best reason why banning NordVPN is nothing than a far-fetched illusion…

2. All IP addresses are replaced from time to time

For a VPN, it’s simplicity itself to get new IP addresses from an ISP. They are literally doing that at certain intervals, changing all of the IPs. For NordVPN, that means changing all 20.000 of them.

This allows them to replace the banned IPs in no more than a couple of minutes. So even if Netflix bans 1000 IP addresses per day, NordVPN would replace them immediately with no problems whatsoever.

Now, imagine that it took a full day for one of Netflix’s team to find those IP addresses and ban them, an action that NordVPN undid in literally minutes.

You tell me, is it worth it for Netflix to keep doing this? Let alone the fact that this makes it impossible for NordVPN to ever be banned.

Even if, through some stroke of incredible luck and hard work, all of the IP addresses are banned at the same time, any VPN can replace them in a few simple steps. It would be utterly insane and counter-intuitive for Netflix to keep on trying to achieve the impossible.

2. Why, then, are so many VPNs unable to access Netflix?

In spite of all this, the vast majority of VPNs out there actually can’t access Netflix, having been banned from using the service. Why can’t they do the same as NordVPN?

Some VPNs can overcome the bans while some of them can’t. We’ll see what the differences between the multiple types of online security providers are.

For starters, some VPNs out there are simply not focusing on streaming services. There are those that are specifically made for certain types of customers, providing specific services like increased protection, SmartDNS features, and so on.

However, they don’t give you access to streaming websites. They just don’t.

VPNs that do, however, have great expenses because streaming requires high-speeds, and the latest servers to be able to run HD content without any freezing or buffering issues.

Moreover, they also have to hire personnel to deal with the acquisition of new IP addresses and replacement of banned ones. These are costs that they have to shoulder constantly.

Some VPNs just don’t want to focus on this kind of thing, that’s all. They will market themselves for other types of customers that are looking for different services. It’s rare to see a multipurpose VPN that provides privacy, anonymity, as well as the high-speeds and updated servers to access streaming websites.

As such, it’s obvious why they wouldn’t bother replacing the IPs that Netflix bans. They target different kinds of customers.

Secondly, the VPNs that aren’t working with Netflix are probably free of charge, the ones that you find on the internet praising their services just like they could even cure cancer.

You just download a client, install it, connect to one of the few servers available, and that’s it. It if weren’t for the fact that the services they offered were complete rubbish, the security protocols utter crap, and the speeds below the limits of decency, they would actually be good.

In order to maintain a VPN that targets streamers, you need a lot of money for maintenance and the adequate technical tools. How can free VPN shoulder those costs?

Sure it could, actually, by stealing your confidential data and selling it to the highest bidder. But not even that would be enough.

The required resources to provide access to Netflix are greater than what a free VPN can afford, and this has been the case for the past few years now.

If you’ve tried a VPN with Netflix and it didn’t work, it was probably a free one. You could assume that no VPN whatsoever can work with Netflix, but that would be false.

Premium ones do.

Thirdly, I should also mention that fact that some VPNs are just bad, so bad that you could easily dismiss them and be safer than when you actually employed their services.

Many existing VPNs today are white-labels. This means that, while they do have an official website advertising their services, the servers they use actually belong to other, bigger VPNs.

They don’t have an official company per se. These VPNs are only supplied with servers from other companies that, coincidentally, supplies other VPN companies as well.

This means that these servers will be overcrowded most of the time.

All in all, if you stumbled upon a VPN that doesn’t work with Netflix, one of three things should apply or all three of them:

  • It’s a free VPN
  • It focuses on everything else other than streaming services
  • It’s a sack of crap that ruins the name of good VPNs

3. What VPNs can actually access Netflix?

Now you know that a VPN cannot be specifically banned, not by Netflix, and not by anyone else. You can only individually ban its IP addresses, but as we’ve seen, if it’s premium VPNs we’re talking about, that’s pretty much a no-go as well.

The moment some IP addresses get banned from Netflix, the four-eyed geek sitting behind a computer screen in the VPN’s office will right away replace them with brand new ones.

Just like that. In a matter of seconds, he undid what it took a whole day for a whole team of people to build up, namely a list with IPs to ban.

Here they are, the VPNs that work with Netflix:

1. NordVPN

Before 2018, NordVPN and Netflix were like water and fire. You couldn’t use the streaming service at all. Now, those times are over because NordVPN was completely rehauled.

New servers, brand new services, an innovative new interface, plenty of resources, and new staff members to work on the servers. Speaking of the servers, they received an upgrade as well.

At the moment, the online security provider that shocked the world with its military-grade encryption protocols has gone up a level and is now one of the very few VPNs that work with Netflix.

It has more than 4000 servers and over 20.000 IP addresses, super-luminal speeds, no buffering. Basically, everything you need to enjoy Game of Thrones’ new upcoming season.

More importantly, many of their IP addresses are constantly being banned by Netflix, and few are those users that actually get the Netflix proxy error. What does this mean? That NordVPN replaces their banned IP addresses in due time without anyone ever noticing that something’s wrong.

ExpressVPN

Before NordVPN became good at what it does, ExpressVPN was the go-to place you went to if you wanted to watch some Netflix shows without paying. It was there before the dawn of most other online security providers.

At the moment, it’s among the very few VPNs that still manages to connect to Netflix. It has thousands of servers, and thousands of IPs that it replaces just as quickly should they be banned.

Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN work at their best most of the time, and there aren’t any big differences between them. They basically do the same things, with the only distinction that ExpressVPN’s prices are a notch higher than NordVPN’s.

With all of this being said, you should choose the cheaper VPN since both are pretty much the same when it comes to streaming. Both have crazy-fast speeds, good servers, top-notch encryption protocols, and both are very focused on maintaining your privacy.

4. Conclusion

Finally, I think it’s safe to say that a misconception has just been cleared. Netflix does know if and when you’re using a VPN, and it will try to ban the IP addresses that the VPN is currently employing.

However, to say that no VPN works with Netflix is definitely not true. Either it’s a free VPN, one that doesn’t specifically focus on offering streaming services or plain garbage.

Premium VPNs like NordVPN and ExpressVPN will never encounter problems when it comes to IP bans because they will replace them immediately. It’s just like Sisyphus rolling the same boulder up the hill, only to have it fall down into the valley, all over again time and time again.

The best VPNs on the market are multipurpose and multifaceted. Accessing Netflix is just a cinch.