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Eye on Demand | April 25, 2017

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How-to: Access Foreign Netflix via Smart DNS from Abroad

How-to: Access Foreign Netflix via Smart DNS from Abroad

You may have heard that it is now harder to access foreign versions of Netflix when outside of their respective countries. While it isn’t yet impossible, it’s not quite as easy as it used to be. Not everyone is having problems, but if you are, check out our guide as it may offer a potential solution.

Netflix never used to have any problems with customers switching regional libraries via VPNs or Smart DNS services in order to access alternate content. In fact, they profited so much by it, they not only turned a blind eye, but vocally expressed no major concerns either.

One of the main reasons was that as a Netflix customer, the region-swappers were still paying full price for the service, whose money also filtered down to the official organisations and people in the movie and television industry.

But since Netflix went completely global earlier this year, their stance has changed, and to be honest I can’t find fault in either their motives or actions. It was one thing for people to easily switch between the few countries that had Netflix, but once Netflix became available in every country, allowing completely unfettered access to every Netflix library would be too great a disadvantage to any other competing streaming service around the world, not to mention complications in content licensing either.

As a result, Netflix has been making this difficult recently, and a lot of Smart DNS providers who traditionally have offered excellent unblocking services such as UnoTelly have since seemed to have almost shut shop. However, other Smart DNS providers like Getflix and Smart DNS Proxy have taken a different stance, and decided to concentrate on unblocking a selection of core regions including the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia, Germany, France, Japan and the Netherlands.

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Note: This guide shows how to configure a home router so that you can access the above mentioned Netflix libraries abroad. It doesn’t in any way suggest how to circumvent Netflix’s pay wall. Not only would that be morally wrong, it would also be illegal. In order to access foreign Netflix libraries from abroad, you will still need a functioning legitimate Netflix subscription. This does not have to be a foreign subscription however, as a subscription from your own country will be fine.

Important: At the time of publication, this method did not resolve issues accessing US Netflix from the Xbox One.

 


  • Do you need to do this?

    To be honest, the chances are that you don’t yet have to go to all the trouble mentioned in the How-To tab. Not everyone has been experiencing problems accessing Netflix’s alternate regions via Smart DNS or VPN providers, and if you are one of these people, simply continue as you currently are. Just don’t be surprised if all of a sudden, accessing content from a different Netflix region other than your own stops working.

    How do you know if your account is being affected? Essentially, you will come across an error message much like this:
    Error

    If your error message is different, it will usually be an unrelated issue that has nothing to do with geographic restrictions.

    When you find you can stream only some Netflix regions (e.g. US, UK, CA, AU, DE) but not others, then Netflix is just blocking access via known VPN/Smart DNS IP addresses. Users experiencing this scenario don’t need to do anything at this stage and can continue to use the working regions.

    On the other hand, if you can only stream your local Netflix region and nothing else, despite Smart DNS or VPNs correctly configured, Netflix has placed an additional detection block on your account. In these cases, either switch off Netflix at your Smart DNS‘s control panel to access the local version (As shown in the Getflix example below)…

    Switch Off

    …or flip to one of the working foreign Netflix switches as shown on the following Getflix example. These may change from time to time.

    Switch U0

    In the example above, we are looking at the various US servers. At the time of publication, Getflix support USA, Canada, the UK, Australia, Germany, France, Japan and the Netherlands for accounts that are the most severely blocked, and more countries for people who have not yet experienced additional blocks from Netflix.

    For most people, you won’t have to do anything else to access foreign Netflix via Smart DNS on the majority of platforms but turn the Netflix switch on your Smart DNS. They may have multiple options for some countries like the US, so if one doesn’t work, try a different US switch.

    If this doesn’t work, then there is another option to try, and that is to set up static routes directly on your router, to route any traffic queries happening on these IP addresses to your gateway IP using your Smart DNS settings.

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  • Will my own Router work?

    It is very possible your existing router will work fine for static route and manual DNS configurations. Unfortunately, the easiest way to find out is to do one of the most boring things known to mankind – check your manual.

    Advantages of using Smart DNS on your Router:

    Most people set up Smart DNS directly on the device they are using, such as an Apple TV, Smart TV, Android or Apple Smart Phone or tablet. But many others prefer to set up Smart DNS directly on their router instead, as it has the following advantages:

    • All devices in your home network that connects through this router will have the power of Smart DNS, including devices such as the Roku/Now TV Box, Sony Android TVs and Chromecast which doesn’t normally allow manual DNS configurations.
    • You don’t have to set Smart DNS up on individual devices, so you can in many cases access global content on any device in your home network.
    • You can set up static routes on many routers as well, which allows devices like Chromecast to also work with Smart DNS.

    But it is not always perfect, as there are some gotchas.

    • Not everyone knows how to configure their routers, and it is a little more complicated than doing so on many devices like the Apple TV, Android, Fire TV etc.
    • Not all routers allow manual configurations, especially those provided by ISPs. ISPs like to lock everything down to force their customers through them, so they remove options like manual configurations.
    • Some routers may allow manual DNS servers to be configured, but don’t allow static routing.
    • Some people feel that for security reasons, they would not like to have Smart DNS working on their entire network. If this is the case for you, we recommend using a cheap, secondary router specifically for this purpose as described here:

    The chances are though, if you bought your router separately from your ISP (and it is not made by Apple), then you can configure static routes and Smart DNS directly on it.

    If not, we recommend something like the router we are using in this example. Although keep in mind that there is no guarantee that this method will work to unblock foreign Netflix regions in the future.

    While there are a lot of different routers out there in the world, if you have to buy one for this task, we’re going to recommend a TP Link WR 841N, and this is not only because it is cheap.

    That said, it’s certainly not going to be for its looks either!

    TPLinkWR841n

    While the TP-Link TL-WR841N won’t win any awards for design, it does have quite a few attractive features which are not necessarily available on routers that cost many times the price.

    • Great value for money. The TP-Link TL-WR841N can be bought brand new for around US$20, €20 or £18, which in most cases, won’t break the bank.
    • The router has an easy to use configuration menu that can be accessed via a web-browser.
    • It is easy to set up manual DNS servers. (Many ISP’s routers block this)
    • It is also easy to set up static routes – which comes in handy for Chromecast or Android devices. (again, many other routers don’t allow this either).
    • Even VPNs can be configured to work through this router, which is something not available on many other routers that are considerably more expensive.
    • The router has four Ethernet ports as well as Wi-Fi to connect to a wide range of devices in your home.
    • Wireless N speeds of 300Mbps should be sufficient for most streaming needs.

    Another thing to keep in mind, is that we can’t create guides for every possible router out there in the marketplace, so this particular guide was created specifically for the TP-Link WR841N router.

    American residents can order the router here.

    British residents can order the router from here

    German residents can order the router from here

    (The above links are directed to the localised Amazon store. You can always visit independently or find one in a brick and mortar store in your area, but using these links costs nothing more and helps support Eye on-Demand).

    That said, there are some drawbacks to this great little cheap box.

    • If you plan to use this as your primary router, it may not be compatible with your Internet connection. This is not an issue when using as a secondary router as shown in the diagram at the top.
    • Ethernet ports are only 10/100 speed. In most cases, this should be sufficient for video streaming in your home.
    • While it can be used for VPNs as well out of the box, many VPN providers require this router to be flashed for DD-WRT – although it is important to point out that is not required for this guide.

    TPLink WR841n Ports

    Unblocking geographic restrictions on this device is supported by the following Smart DNS providers:

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  • How-To Guide

    As every router is different, we can’t include guides for all makes and models, so I’ll use the TP Link WR 841N as an example. If you have an alternative router, check the manual on how to connect to it, and look for settings on changing the DNS servers, and static routes.

    Disclaimer: Configuring a router is generally speaking a standard procedure and it is very unlikely anything here could damage your router. But there is a small chance something could go wrong and it blocks the Internet. The problem is, with the Internet down, it’s not so easy to google for help. So we recommend backing up the router before making any changes. Many routers provide this feature and if so, it should be explained in the manual, but if yours doesn’t offer a backup feature, I highly recommend writing down or taking screenshots of each setting before you make any changes. This way if something does go wrong you can roll things back to how they were.

    Step 1: Add your Smart DNS servers.

    In order for the static routes to work, you’ll need your Smart DNS servers configured in the router. The DNS fields are usually quite easy to find in most routers. In the case of the TP Link WR 841N, drill down to Network >> WAN and look for the empty DNS fields.

    The DNS servers you enter here should be issued by your Smart DNS provider, and may differ to the servers you see here. Once entered, click save.

    Step 1

     

    Step 2: Find the static routing table

    Your next step is to find where static routes can be created. All this really does is re-route any traffic going to the IP addresses you add, back to the DNS servers from step 1. This means the traffic should be forced to route back to your Smart DNS provider.

    On the TP Link WR 841N router, this is found at Advanced Routing >> Static Route List. As you can see below, my table already had some static routes set (these are used to allow smart DNS to unblock regional restrictions from Chromecast services). It is likely your router will not have a list created yet. In any case, click Add New.

    Step 2

     

    Step 3: Add your static routes.

    Take each static route shown below, and manually add them one at a time. In most cases, your Gateway will be 192.168.0.1, but this may vary. If your router asks for a metric, set this as 2.

    Step 3a

     

    IP : 23.246.0.0
    Subnet : 255.255.0.0

    IP : 45.57.0.0
    Subnet : 255.255.0.0

    IP : 37.77.184.0
    Subnet : 255.255.248.0

    IP : 108.175.32.0
    Subnet : 255.255.240.0

    IP : 185.2.220.0
    Subnet : 255.255.252.0

    IP : 198.38.96.0
    Subnet : 255.255.224.0

    IP : 198.45.48.0
    Subnet : 255.255.240.0

    IP : 8.8.8.8
    Subnet : 255.255.255.255

    IP : 8.8.4.4
    Subnet : 255.255.255.255.

    Once done, your static route table may look something like this:

    Step 3b

     

    Step 4: Reboot:

    Now reboot your router. If you don’t find a menu option to reboot, you can recycle power manually by either using the power switch or pulling the power cable, but we generally recommend using the menu if possible.

    Step 4

     

    Testing your static routes.

    There are a couple of different ways you can test your new static routes. The most logical method is simply to try accessing the US library of Netflix when outside of the US. After your router reboots, wait around 10 minutes and then try to access the US library by switching to one of your smart DNS provider’s recommended US test regions.

    Note: We have only tested this on the following smart DNS providers, and can’t promise it will work on others.

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    If you are still having problems, first try switching to a different Netflix region in your Smart DNS‘s region selector and try again.

    Test1

    In the event that you’re still having problems, contact your smart DNS provider who can offer additional support.