VPN access to streaming is a big deal
VPNs are a great tool to confound would-be harvesters of your private data, like corporations, criminals, and government spying. But across the world many people use them to confound something less spooky; Netflix and other streaming services. Asking “does NordVPN work with Netflix” however does not present a simple yes-or-no answer, unfortunately.
Streaming, Geo-Blocking, and Copyrights
While streaming is a big business, many content providers like Sony, Disney, and other giants of media block their content, or have it blocked against their will in other countries. This can be for a variety of reasons, ranging from the social norms of that particular country not allowing for that media to simple conflicts of copyrights.
The fact is however that all of this region-centered incompatibility with Netflix is called geo-blocking, and it can be incredibly frustrating for people outside the US and for United States’ travelers abroad. This is where a person would employ a VPN to act as a screen, connecting virtually from another country to avoid geoblocks.
One of these VPNs is NordVPN, and NordVPN has a tremendous track record of being Netflix-compatible. For years one of the main reasons people chose NordVPN over other VPN providers was it’s Netflix accessibility. It has plenty of other fantastic points, but this is a big one.
Unfortunately, starting in 2019 Netflix began cracking down on VPN access and NordVPN was one of those providers that was experiencing difficulties. You have to understand how a company like Netflix blocks a VPN to understand what to expect from NordVPN’s interaction with the service. In addition, it will help to learn some workarounds, including what other providers might be better for this specific activity through a VPN.
How Does Netflix Block a VPN?
When you connect to anything on the web, there is a “handshake” between your device and their server, whether it’s your phone, television, or laptop. This handshake identifies your IP to the server and then in the case of potentially blocked content like Netflix, allows you access or denies that access.
So if you’re in a geoblocked area, you want a VPN to route your connection through a server in another, non-blocked country. This makes it appear to the servers at Netflix that you’re connecting from an area where it’s perfectly fine to stream content. This alternate connection takes your information and scrambles it up, assigning a different IP to make your activity anonymous and give you access.
Think of it like your device is wearing a disguise to get into a party when it goes through a VPN. Sadly, a lot of other people are showing up to the party wearing the exact same disguise, and this makes Netflix’s servers suspicious, to the point where they ban anyone wearing your disguise from the party.
Content is blocked for a reason, again be it government-sanctioned blocking or simply a licensing disagreement, but Netflix isn’t trying to break any rules so they don’t like VPN activity. When you have thousands of computers routing through a VPN IP – the sameIP – Netflix sees this as suspicious and shuts it down. This is why NordVPN and other VPN providers get blocked.
The other reason why Netflix might block a VPN is speed of access. If your VPN connects fine but drops your speed down beyond Netflix’s lowest streaming threshold – 3mbps – it will disconnect you. There’s almost always going to be some slowdown of your internet service when routing through a VPN but if it’s substantial it’s not worth it and you should look elsewhere for internet privacy protection.
Why Does NordVPN in Particular Have Problems with Netflix?
NordVPN has tremendous access in dozens of countries with thousands of servers, so you would think that they would be able to fool Netflix pretty well. This was the case up until the first quarter of 2019, when Netflix in general reallystarted to crack down on VPN access. In the past when NordVPN was blocked in an area from Netflix, they’d open up more servers, generate more IPs and it would be an effective workaround for a long time.
This approach doesn’t work very well anymore, as Netflix is essentially seeing many users using the same IP. This occurs when many people are connecting to the same VPN server, which generates a single IP for all of them to share, and this activity is what potentially blocks your access. NorVPN’s old approach simply isn’t as effective anymore now that Netflix has cracked down.
So it’s not so much that NordVPN in particular is having problems but rather all VPNs are going to have that much more difficultyconnecting to Netflix in general. NordVPN was one of the best but now even they are feeling the squeeze, too.
NordVPN is an excellent service for protecting yourself online and it’s highly unlikely that the onlybenefit you’ll gain from it is simply streaming Netflix. That’s why if you’re already paying for NordVPN you should try some workaround strategies before simply cancelling and going with another VPN provider.
Thankfully there are a number of potential solutions to being locked out of Netflix with NordVPN:
Try Different Regions
The first thing is that you’ll need to understand that you won’t be able to always access every single regional Netflix server with ANY VPN. There are the big 6 – US, Canada, UK, Netherlands, Japan, and Australia, but other more niche regions will be very hard to access. Keep that in mind as you move forward.
Because of this, your best bet is to access Netflix through whatever the closest corresponding region would be. This means if you’re in Japan, access the Japanese Netflix servers. If that doesn’t work, try a different region – this is the easiest workaround.
In some circumstances, simply allowing for a different region’s Netflix library can be a workaround, assuming they have what you want to watch. So rather than accessing US Netflix through a proxy US server, just access Canada’s Netflix servers. The media will be similar and NordVPN’s Canadian servers seem to be more effective as getting past Netflix’s blocks.
Utilize Customer Service
If you’re still having difficulty, NordVPN has tremendous customer service, including a 24/7 live chat, solid turnaround time on their ticketed support, and a searchable library of common problems and their solutions.
Clear out Your Browser Cache
Clearing your cache by accessing Settings Options > Advanced > Clear Browsing Data. Make sure you’ve marked the clear your cache option as well. This can help sometimes with connecting. Click “clear data” and your situation might improve.
Change Your Dns Server Through NordVPN
DNS leaks are one of the most common reasons why you might be having trouble connecting to Netflix. NordVPN has a kill switch program for when your information leaks so you should be using it; that will tell you right away if there’s a problem you should fix.
NordVPN’s various applications on your devices will automatically connect you to a DNS server but sometimes this can fail or simply not be optimal for your desired outcome. Luckily they have workarounds on their site to help you connect manually to a server that would work better. You can access this from their knowledge base or again, use that amazing chat help to direct you through the process.
Switching from NordVPN to Another VPN
If none of the previous workarounds fix your situation, your last best hope might simply be to switch VPN providers. If you’re already a NordVPN customer, it’s definitely worth comparing what you might lose or gain beyond Netflix before you jump ship. NordVPN is still a high ranking competitor in the VPN market and offers more than just streaming access.
There are plenty of VPNs out there that are optimized for things like streaming or gaming, but for our purposes, we’re only going to look at comparable services to NordVPN that also offer near-unrestricted streaming access, particularly to Netflix. Being comparable to NordVPN means:
A high priority on customer service – live chat, ticketed support queue, and a working knowledge base
Extreme dedication to your privacy and protection – at least some combination of AES-256-GCM encryption, double VPN, or obfuscated servers
Extreme dedication to your privacy – non-logging policies to keep your browsing, downloads, and general activity private. This is an area where NordVPN can be difficult to beat because of their location in Panama, outside of UK or US jurisdiction
Robust amount of extra, added features – built-in malware protection, configurable kill switches, etc
Speed – if a VPN isn’t at least measurably close to your naked ISP’s internet speed, it’s not worth having. NordVPN tends to not have much slowdown, both in the US and abroad, though it does suffer compared to other companies in some parts of Europe
Server access – NordVPN has over 5,000 servers across the world and though roughly 2,000 are located in the US, there are still plenty of access points internationally
PrivateVPN provides all of the necessary criteria listed above to make it competitive with NordVPN. In addition, right now it’s optimized to avoid Netflix blocking, giving it a critical edge. Finally, it’s actually got a very affordable pricing structure, which rivals even NordVPN’s famously low prices.
PrivateVPN doesn’t offer the 2 and 3 year contracts that NordVPN does, however, meaning it’s prices will not match the long-term commitment pricing that NordVPN offers. Private also doesn’t have as much country or server access as NordVPN, but the difference is negligible. If you’re primarily concerned with Netflix and NordVPN isn’t working for you, then give PrivateVPN a try.
A direct competitor on all fronts with NordVPN, and potentially one of the best VPN services out there, Express offers a variety of comparable-or-better features than NordVPN. They have better coverage, with servers in over 160 locations in 94 countries, and their speed is typically higher than NordVPN’s, both in the US and internationally.
Like NordVPN, Express is built to function on a huge list of devices, from your desktop and laptop to your router and even Firestick and other smart TV devices. ExpressVPN has made itself the top streaming VPN by virtue of their practice of quickly implementing workarounds when Netflix presents a block.
Express offers everything NordVPN does, with a few exceptions. NordVPN has many different ways to create redundant layers of protection, referring again to double VPNs and obfuscated servers. This combined with their kill switches makes it incredibly unlikely that any of your identifiable data will leak or be observed. Express has strong protection but NordVPN still wins in that category.
Finally Express is marginally more expensive than NordVPN at $12.95/month or $99.95/annually, but it really is well worth the cost, particularly if you’re an avid streamer.
With less robust features than NordVPN but optimized compatibility with region-locked gaming, sports, and streaming, Cyber Ghost is the more economically friendly version of Express as another option to NordVPN. The biggest deal in particular is that it appears Cyber Ghost might be one of the only VPNs worth using that actually has lower pricing than NordVPN.
Cyber Ghost doesn’t have the server coverage that NordVPN does but they do have presence in over 60 countries with plenty of servers. Their extremely reactive IP changing tactics keep them ahead of geoblocking of virtually all content and they’re also highly optimized for p2p sharing.
Finally, if you snag a deal, Cyber Ghost is around $2.75/year if you sign up for 3 years at a time which makes it just marginally cheaper than NordVPN. Still, all things considered that might be a relevant factor if you’re primarily concerned with streaming over anything else.
Does NordVPN Work with Netflix?
So considering all of the information we’ve gathered, it’s safe to say yes, it does but it’s hard to say how long that will remain true. Unless NordVPN steps up its tactics to get ahead of blocking activity by Netflix, it will remain behind some of these other services which are optimizing their behavior to keep you connected to the shows you love.
Is Using a VPN to Access Netflix Illegal?
Strictly speaking, no, unless your country makes using a VPN in general illegal. While people can and do use VPNs for illegal activity, the actual use of them itself isn’t illegal. This is because there are plenty of reasons why you don’t want someone spying on your online activity, even if it’s not expressly illegal.
When you access the internet through your naked ISP, there are plenty of entities that can access, take, and sell your data. Even the government shouldn’t just have carte blanche to spy on its citizens, so using a VPN is thankfully for the most part completely legal.
I Just Want to Stream Netflix; Is a VPN Difficult to Set Up?
In the past, yes they were a little arcane, but not anymore. Most – NordVPN, for instance – will download and just get straight to work, just as if you’d downloaded Microsoft Office or a video game.
If you have special considerations, you can go in and fiddle with the advanced settings, but any VPN worth the money will have their defaults set to optimize your protection.