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Changing your internet protocol (IP) address can be a great way to stay one step ahead of advertisers and other online trackers that may compromise your online privacy, and it’s much simpler than you may think. You don’t have to be an internet expert to take advantage of this privacy boost.
I’ll explain why you may want a different IP address and walk you through the easiest ways to temporarily or permanently change yours.
Your computer actually has two IP addresses: a public IP and a private IP. Your public IP address is visible to any websites or services you connect to. When people talk about IP addresses, they typically mean public IPs. Your private IP address is seen only by your router and other computers on your network.
Changing your IP address isn’t too tough, but we should answer an obvious question before we show you how to do it: Why would you want to change your IP address anyway?
Advertisers and online trackers use your public IP address to follow you around cyberspace. These trackers rely on the long-term nature of IP addresses, so changing yours — temporarily or permanently — is an excellent way to make it much harder for them to spy on your online activity.
Your public IP address contains information about your real-world location and the identity of your internet service provider. There may be times when you want to mask this information temporarily by using a different IP address, making it appear that you are in a different location than you actually are. Some streaming services have unique libraries in each country, and search engines such as Google adjust search results based on users’ locations. Changing your public IP address may give you different results.
Your private IP address isn’t seen by the outside world, so you won’t need to change it for privacy or security reasons. The primary reason to change your private IP address is to fix a buggy Wi-Fi connection. Routers are good at what they do, but every piece of technology sometimes makes mistakes. If you can’t get a device to connect to your network, changing its private IP address may fix the problem.
There are several ways to change your public IP address. Some methods temporarily replace your IP address, while others change it permanently.
To verify that your IP address has actually changed, find your current IP using an online tool such as this one from NordVPN before trying any of these methods. If the process worked, the tool will show a different IP address after you are done.
Permanently changing your public IP address is the best way to confuse online trackers. They’ll keep looking for your old IP and may never find your new one. It’s the equivalent of moving across the country to get away from a real-world stalker, but it’s much easier and often more effective.
After changing your IP address using either of the methods below, your new IP may be very similar to your old one. Often, the change will be in only the last few digits. IP addresses are assigned hierarchically, so the first few numbers are probably the same for everyone using your internet provider in your area.
Internet providers often reassign IP addresses that aren’t actively in use. Every moment your modem is off, there’s a chance the provider will give your IP address to someone else and assign you a different one when you go back online.
The biggest problem with this method is that you may not know how long the process will take. Each internet provider has its own timeline for recycling IPs, and they’re often recycled more slowly when fewer users are online. It may take a few attempts to get this method to work.
If you can’t get your public IP to change, your internet provider likely can. Try calling them to request a new IP. They may also be able to tell you how long your modem needs to be unplugged to recycle the IP again.
A temporary IP change can be a great way to bypass geo-restrictions, such as those used by many streaming services. It can also provide a short-term reprieve from online trackers being able to associate your current activity with your home IP and location.
Your IP address is associated with your home network, so it will change if you log in to a different network. On a mobile device, just turning off Wi-Fi and using mobile data is enough to change your IP. For your computer, you’ll need to find an alternative Wi-Fi network. This method won’t be particularly helpful with geo-restrictions — unless you actually travel to another country.
One of the best things about VPNs is that they offer a way to change your IP address and your computer’s apparent location without leaving the comfort of your couch. Most good VPNs offer several servers to choose from in a range of countries. When you use a VPN, every website or service you interact with will see the VPN server’s location and IP address instead of yours. Once you turn off the VPN, you’ll be back on your home IP address.
Most devices are set to dynamic private IPs by default, meaning your device’s private IP will be assigned by your router. Just as public IPs get reassigned by internet providers, private IPs eventually will get reassigned by your router.
For a typical router on default settings, dynamic IPs are reassigned after about 24 hours. This means your device would have to be disconnected from the network for 24 hours to get a new private IP address.
If you don’t want to wait that long, you can set your device to use a static private IP instead of a dynamic one. Whereas dynamic IPs are automatically assigned by the router, static IPs have to be set manually. The process depends on what type of device you are using, so I’ll go through the steps for some common devices.
Before trying to set a static IP, log in to your router and look at the list of devices, which is typically found under Status > Devices. You’ll see several IP addresses on the list, most of which should have the same first three groups of numbers and a different fourth group (e.g., 192.168.1.1 and 192.168.1.242).
Your static IP address should follow these rules:
Changing your public IP address can help you maintain your online privacy. As a cord-cutter, using a VPN to mask your IP address is also the key to enjoying all kinds of geo-restricted streaming content from Netflix, Disney Plus, and other providers.
IP addresses are not the only tool online trackers use to follow your internet activity. Now that you’ve changed your IP address, consider taking your privacy a step further by learning how to remain anonymous online.
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