YouTube may be blocked for multiple reasons. Individual videos are sometimes region-blocked in some countries, while the entire YouTube website is blocked in some countries—or on some workplace networks. We’ll go over how to get around all of these blocks.
The Short Answer: Use a VPN or Proxy
For VPNs, take a look at our guide to the best VPNs on the market. To know which one is the best option for you, though, we need to look at the reasons why you can’t access YouTube first.
Why Is YouTube Blocked?
There are a number of reasons why YouTube could be blocked, but they broadly speaking fall into two categories: either the whole site is blocked or just specific videos. A site-wide block is usually either a result of internet censorship by your government or, more likely, a result of your network administrator blocking the site—most likely whoever runs the network you’re on.
YouTube is considered subversive by certain governments, and they have blocked access as a result. To our knowledge, China, Iran, and Russia currently have a ban in place, though there are likely several more countries that have similar restrictions.
Slightly less oppressive, though no less annoying, are blocks set up by your employer, school, or university. These are usually in place to keep you from getting distracted or wasting time—the latter when it’s time your employer pays for. Of course, you could argue that blasting your favorite playlist over headphones makes you more productive, but not all network administrators are open to that argument.
Sometimes, the YouTube website as a whole works fine, but it’s specific videos you can’t watch. When you try to access them, instead of moving pictures, you get a message saying a video has been blocked for a particular reason.
The above example cites copyright reasons, but we’ve also seen ones where a user didn’t want a video available in certain countries, or even one where a government asked YouTube to block access—something YouTube seems happy enough to comply with. Whatever the case may be, you need to somehow get around that block; thankful, tools abound.
Unblocking YouTube: Proxy or VPN?
As we mentioned earlier, there are two sets of tools you can use to get around these blocks: proxies and VPNs. There are others, too, like Shadowsocks, SSH tunnels, and Tor, but these generally require a little more know-how. We’ll leave them out of consideration for now.
When picking between a VPN or a proxy to watch YouTube, the rule of thumb is that if security isn’t that important, a proxy is just fine. There’s no need to pay for a VPN if there are no consequences if you’re caught using the proxy, after all, and most proxies do a fine job of getting you through to YouTube.
However, if you’re dealing with something a little more serious, like the kind of censorship we see in China, a VPN is the way to go. As we explain in our article on how to use the internet from China, the blocks in place are a lot tougher to get around and you could possibly get in trouble for trying to beat them. A VPN should be able to protect you a little better in these cases.
How to Use a Proxy to Unblock YouTube
Of the two, proxies are the simplest to use: all you need to do is go to the proxy’s site—we like HideMyAss and Hide.me, though there are plenty of others—and in the address bar fill in where you want to go and via which country. If a video is blocked for you in the UK, try a server in the Netherlands or Germany, for example.
The proxy will reroute your connection via the country you selected and you should, in most cases, be able to watch the video you want. In most cases, simple blocks like those put up by schools and companies won’t actively scan for proxy connections, so there shouldn’t be any issues.
How to Unblock YouTube With a VPN
However, if you’re behind a more serious block, one put up by a government censor or a particularly zealous network administrator, a proxy won’t do it and you’ll have to use a VPN. A VPN will reroute and encrypt your connection, making it easier to escape detection.
The upside is that, besides YouTube, you’ll be able to unlock all kinds of other streaming sites, too, like Netflix. Other VPN benefits include the ability to torrent files with more privacy and, of course, thumb your nose at any censors trying to keep you from reading the news.
The downside is that VPNs cost money, or at least most of them do (Windscribe is a great free alternative.) If you decide that you want to go this route, we recommend you check out our guide to picking the best VPN for your needs so you know what you’re buying. Whichever service you go with, you’ll be able to watch what you want on YouTube.