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Hulu is one of our favorite streaming services, and with good reason: it offers an unbeatable combo of on-demand and live TV content. But, like all live TV streaming services, the Hulu + Live TV bundle comes with some restrictions. Hulu uses your “home location” to determine what you can watch — and what you can’t. Is there a way around Hulu’s home location? How can you change your Hulu location? We'll explain everything below.

What Is Hulu's “Home Location,” and How Does It Work?

First things first: What is a “home location,” anyway?

Hulu's home location is a way of making sure streamers aren't breaking the rules. Hulu has the right to distribute channels to certain viewers, but it can't just sell every channel to any person anywhere in the world. For example, CBS 2 is New York City's local news station. Hulu offers that station to streamers in New York City, but it doesn't offer it to viewers in California — and, if it did, CBS would get upset. The same thing goes for other local networks, as well as regional networks like SNY, NESN, or Fox Sports LA.

You'll get popular national networks like ESPN and AMC no matter where in the country you are. But other channels — like your local news networks and regional sports networks — will only be available in certain areas. To get local content, you'll have to tell Hulu where you live. Once your “home location” is set, you'll be locked into those local channels until you move your home location. Plus, Hulu may stop you from streaming on mobile devices if the service doesn't think you're really where you say you are.

Hulu needs your location to play live TV.

To keep the peace with its corporate partners, Hulu has a system for keeping streamers (mostly) honest. When you set up Hulu + Live TV, you'll be assigned a “home location.” This will probably happen without you even noticing, but you can find your home location in Hulu + Live TV's settings.

Hulu + Live TV home location settings
If you're a live TV subscriber, Hulu's settings will include the option to set or change your home location.

Your home location determines which channels you'll get with Hulu + Live TV. It applies to all of your devices, even when you're away from home. For example, if you travel from New York City to Los Angeles, you won't suddenly get LA's local channels. You'll still get your “home location” channels while you're on the go — for a little while, anyway.

Hulu doesn't want streamers to just set their home locations to faraway places, though, so it tries to keep streamers in line with other rules. You have to connect from your home location periodically to keep seeing your local channels. So if you stay somewhere else for 30 days and then try to stream Hulu on your phone, you're likely to see an error. The solution is to use your phone on your home network so that Hulu will recognize your IP address and see that your phone really “lives” there with you. Otherwise, it would be easy for Hulu users to give their login information to friends and family all across the country, and Hulu doesn't want that.

Hulu uses IP addresses to determine your location whenever you use the service. When setting your home location on certain devices, however, you’ll actually be sharing two things with Hulu: your IP address and your GPS location. This makes faking a home location way tougher than it would be if Hulu used IP addresses alone.

Hulu Home Location Rules

We just talked about a couple of the home location rules, but there are a few more to keep in mind. Here are the key details:

  • Your Hulu home location determines which local and regional channels you can watch.
  • Your Hulu home location is set automatically when you log into Hulu + Live TV for the first time on a “living room device” like a Roku or Fire TV. You can also set it on Hulu’s website. Hulu will use your IP address to determine the location.
  • When you use your mobile device to stream, you’ll still see your home location’s channels (even if you’re not home — as long as you’re still in the United States).
  • You must “check in” mobile devices every 30 days by connecting them to a network in your home location. Hulu will block streaming on your mobile device if you fail to check it in.
  • You can change your home location up to four times within any 12-month period.

This list has some pretty reasonable rules, but it's also easy to see why some people have home location problems. Home location errors are easy to encounter even if you're using Hulu + Live TV in totally reasonable ways. Long vacations, disabled Wi-Fi connections, a cross-country move, and other problems could trigger home location errors for users who are trying their best to follow the rules.

Trying to change Hulu + Live TV home location
If you're already home when you try to change your home location, Hulu will tell you so. If not, you can change your home location — as long as you haven't done so too many times already this year.

In some cases, fixing these errors is as simple as letting Hulu know that you’ve moved. In other cases, though, you might be stuck within Hulu until you can get home and “check in” your mobile device. Is there any other option? There’s one intriguing possibility to consider: using a VPN. Can you use a VPN to change your Hulu home location?

Getting Around Hulu Home Location Rules

Hulu allows you to reset your home location multiple times in a year. It also lets you fix home location issues by connecting to an IP address in your home location area. These are things that you can use to fix the problems you're having with Hulu's home location, and they're particularly valuable options when you have a VPN — though there are some important limitations to remember, and we’ll discuss those in a moment.

A VPN, or virtual private network, is a tool that helps you connect to the internet securely and anonymously while appearing to log onto the internet from somewhere else in the world. Having a VPN can be a very useful thing for streamers.

Using a VPN to change your location is easy.

Using a VPN can help you access certain streaming titles that are “region-locked.” It could also help you put a mobile device on an IP that would match your registered home location.

However, resetting your home location while using a VPN is a different story — at least on some devices. We tested the process out ourselves, and we found that it takes more than just a VPN to free up your Hulu home location. Our tests show that, whenever possible, Hulu uses both IP addresses and GPS locations to verify home locations. You can’t set your home location unless you grant Hulu permission to check your location with your device’s “location services” or equivalent feature. And if you do that, your GPS will spill the beans by delivering your real location information, which may or may not match the VPN server you’ve chosen. If Hulu determines that the two don’t match, then it won’t let you change your home location.

In other words, while we’d like to be able to tell you that a VPN makes it easy to get around Hulu’s home location, that just isn’t the case. On many devices, you’ll need to use more than just a VPN to convince Hulu. And devices without GPS options, like Roku, are typically tougher to use with VPNs.

This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get around Hulu’s home location, but it does mean that it’s a tough job best reserved for the tech-savvy.

Using a VPN With Hulu Home Location: Tips and Tricks

Changing your Hulu home location while using a VPN isn’t easy. Even the best options for this task are pretty involved, and many of your options have risks that could expose your device and data — or land you in hot water with Hulu. While most streaming services are pretty passive about VPNs, live TV streaming options like Hulu + Live TV clearly take it more seriously.

We also have not tested every one of these options ourselves, and therefore don’t recommend them.

If you use a device with location services to change your Hulu home location, then you’ll need to address both your IP (which your VPN will change) and your GPS location (which your VPN will not change). Your options for changing your GPS coordinates will vary by device and platform. Using developer tools to mess with your coordinates in the Chrome browser — combined with proper VPN use — might give you a shot at success on some devices. On mobile devices, you’ll most likely have to do something more serious; iPhone users, for example, will have to “jailbreak” their iPhones in order to mess with the Location Services feature. Jailbreaking an iPhone is a pretty serious thing to do, and it will void your warranty and come with unpredictable security risks. It’s by no means an unheard-of thing, but it’s not something we recommend to our readers.

Since your home location is first set by the use of a “living room device,” you could try to set it to a specific location from the start by running your streaming device through a VPN. Many streaming devices lack GPS services. Hulu would presumably have to rely on IP addresses alone when dealing with a GPS-less device like a Roku Express. But such devices also tend to be tough to use with VPNs; your best bet in most cases would be to use a router-level application to put your whole home network on a VPN.

If you do get a setup like this working, it would be a good idea to set a static IP address with your VPN so that you can have a consistent home location IP for your router and all of the devices on it. If your VPN makes it look like you’re moving all over the place, it’s going to cause home location issues instead of solving them!

Using a VPN With Hulu

We’ll wrap things up with a repeated word of warning: this sort of thing can violate the Hulu terms of service. Even if you're using a VPN while on vacation to fix a problem with your home location — “faking” your real-life home location that Hulu approves of — you could still run afoul of Hulu's terms. The good news is that Hulu and other streaming services tend not to try to punish VPN users, so you’re unlikely to suffer serious consequences for giving this a shot. The bad news is that services like this do tend to try to limit VPN use by simply not serving VPN users. If you use a VPN that Hulu recognizes, you probably won't get in trouble, but you may not be able to stream or change your home location. And, again, a VPN alone is often not enough to change your access to Hulu’s live TV portion.

To be able to use a VPN with Hulu at all, you'll have to use a VPN Hulu can't spot. And this is quite difficult because Hulu is unusually good at figuring out when users are using VPNs.

Simple VPN blockers just blacklist (ban) certain IP addresses that are known to be used by VPNs. Bypassing these blockers is as simple as trying different VPN servers until you find one that hasn’t been detected and blocked. But advanced VPN blockers can use other techniques to figure out that you’re using a VPN even if your IP address looks clean, and Hulu’s blocks appear to be on that level.

If your VPN of choice has a setting that makes it harder to detect (often called “obfuscation”), you may want to enable that setting. Messing with the DNS settings can help hide your VPN use, too — but we don’t recommend tweaking advanced settings like those unless you’re a serious VPN wizard.

So which VPNs work best with Hulu? We have a few we recommend, but only one holds the top spot as the best VPN for Hulu. Check our best VPN page for our latest picks, or drop your own recommendation in the comment section.

11 thoughts on “How to Get Around Hulu Home Location

  1. Roger Shuford says:

    I live between DC and Baltimore; and receive both cities’ local channels via Verizon FIOS… My wife & I both work in DC and follow DC news more than we follow Baltimore news, but my HULU account only gives me Baltimore channels… How do I change my local channels to DC channels?

  2. Kara says:

    So I set up my mom with my Hulu and she lives in another town but in the same state as me. Everything was fine and I had no issues setting up her profile separately on her network. Then a few days ago she had to disconnect her TV completely from everything and move it into a different room for various reasons. Today she hooked her TV back up to her Internet and had no problems until I turned my TV on later that day. We both got an error message saying that we were in a different location and so I changed my location back to me and my ZIP Code. My TV resumed working. Tonight she turned her TV back on and received the same message, so I logged in for her into my Hulu account end it asked her if she wanted to change her location. The only problem is I’ve already used my four. So right now she has no access to Hulu because I’ve run out of location changes and she is a different ZIP Code. I did not encounter this problem when I originally set this up six months ago. What can I do? I’m paying for it myself because she can’t afford to do it, the reason why I am sharing my account with her.How do I fix this?

    1. Tracy says:

      Following…..I’m doing the same for my Mother.

    2. Stacy says:

      Same thing happened to me

    3. Anonymous says:

      Kara –

      I had similar issues and spoke with a Hulu rep. Does your mother have a smart phone or computer? See if she can download the app on her phone OR log in on her computer. Not ideal but it’s something. She should be able to log into your live account.

      I also asked Hulu about doing the following: I tried buying a Google Chromecast dongle so I could cast from my phone to the TV (when I’m not at my home location; to avoid getting “charged” a change). I had trouble with the Google Home app (that has to be downloaded on your phone to set up the Chromecast) in that it would only allow me to connect to Sling TV. I gave up after 2 hours and returned the C’cast. You can control the volume on the TV with your phone; couldn’t figure out how to get to the Live guide!

      I hope this helps!

      I, too, am looking into YouTube Live TV and Sling TV.

    4. Remigio Ayala says:

      I ran into this issue when I upgraded to Hulu live tv from the basic Hulu. What I did was download the Hulu app on my mothers phone so she can cast it to her smart tv from her phone. Since I have unlimited screens this should circumvent the zip code issue. If her tv isn’t smart then add a Roku (works with apple airplay well).

  3. MaryinCary says:

    The only thing to do is switch to YouTube tv. I have two hulu accounts for my two houses and it defeats the purpose of cutting the cable cord.

  4. Scott says:

    Q1 – I want to use Hulu + Live TV in my home location, and My elderly Mom (different location) only cares about basic Hulu. Can she use basic Hulu on my account or will it even lock that eventually?

    Q2 – If she happens to stream and it eventually locks, does it only lock her device, or will my home devices be locked as well? And will the basic Hulu be locked as well?

    1. Stephen Lovely says:

      I think you should be okay on the first issue. The live TV will lock, but I believe the on-demand stuff will remain available. On the second issue, it should only lock on her devices — your own devices will be accessing the content from the correct home location, so according to Hulu’s rules you shouldn’t be affected. Hope this helps!

  5. D.C. says:

    So, how about setting up a VPN on the router in my daughters home in North Carolina and connecting to it from my location in WV? Or will the GPS thing still stop me from using her Hulu account?

    1. Stephen Lovely says:

      The GPS will most likely still catch you, unfortunately. We do a lot of testing on different devices and found that Hulu was using “location services” features with GPS data, not just IP, on most devices. So a VPN on its own will not be enough, in our experience.

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