How To: Set up A Free VPN (or How To Watch Hulu Outside the US)

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See also: most recent Hotspot Shield articles, video tutorial by Tinkernut.

UPDATE 11/12/09: Canadians Abroad: Free (ad-supported) Canadian VPN solution found here. FreeVPN has US and UK servers as well.

Update 7/28/09: Newest solution found for using Hulu: combining Hotspot Shield and Ultrasurf. More details on Ultrasurf and other free vpn alternatives here.

UPDATE 5/7/09: Hulu has begun detecting and blocking proxy/vpn access to their video streams. Read my newest post for a solution.

Note: Hotspot Shield is not compatible with Vista 64-bit. If Hotspot Shield is not compatible with your system or ultimately will not work, consider it's alternatives.

Problem: Lately, there's been a lot of talk on the internets about high quality video streaming. And, thus, probably at the top of the list are Hulu and Fancast. While both sites provide their viewers with top-notch, full episode, streams of popular tv shows (i.e., House, Grey's Anatomy, The Office, Heroes, etc.) and other movies; unfortunately, their target audience is exclusively American (all those with IP addresses in the United States).

So, sadly, if you live outside the US, this means you don't get any service...

...unless you use Hotspot Shield (in which case the above embedded video will work, reload this page after installation to test).

Solution: In this case the work-around resides in a nifty, cross-platform, and freely-downloadable program called Hotspot Shield (by Anchor Free, logo pictured above). This program allows you to watch videos on Hulu by providing you with a new, secure IP address in the United States--a "cloak", if you will. The Virtual Private Network (VPN), thus allows you to watch Fancast and Hulu sites as if you were in the United States. For those not already itching to watch US TV online, Hotspot Shield also serves to bypass ISP throttling (Streamyx, anyone?)

After a quick installation, Hotspot Shield opens a new tab in firefox.
And, after clicking on the jade-green button, firefox re-directs to a new page, showing the target "cloak" IP address. Finally, once the indicator above your VPN IP Address turns green (N.B., here the IP is white-ed out), you're ready for Hulu and all the high quality video-streaming-goodness.



Test: Once you've installed Hotspot Shield and started up the application, reload this same webpage. The embedded Hulu video widget (above) should be able to play and you will not see the error message. If that works, hit up Hulu, Fancast, and use your favourite torrent applications to see for yourself the immense difference Hotspot Shield makes in overall internet use.

Please Note:

-Some users have noted rare connection problems with HSS. I've blogged about the 3 most common problems with HSS and how to correct them.

-Here are two articles about how to get setup with popular streaming video network programs on ABC and NBC. Both networks require a little more than a vpn solution to starting viewing content.

-The new version of HSS involves some sneaky ad-covering algorithms. I've posted an article on how to block those ads with a firefox extension, adblock.

Update 4 (11/30/08): Consider looking at alternatives to Hotspot Shield. The popular free vpn solution isn't the only one in the business, there are plenty others (both free, and subscription-based) vying for a spot on your desktop. Read the article to see my top two picks in addition to five others.

Have a question about HSS setup? Let me know if (and how) Hotspot Shield is working for you in the comments.