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Understanding how IP addresses and geolocation work

by | Jan 12, 2024


IP addressesEver wonder how the internet knows where you are? Well, your exact location is identified through IP addresses and geolocation. Here we’ll go into more detail about the function of each of these and how they work together to identify where a device is connecting to the internet. You’ll also learn why and how you might want to change your internet location.

What is an IP address?

An IP (Internet Protocol) address is a unique number given to every device connected to the internet. IP addresses allow devices and servers to communicate over the internet, and they also provide information about the location of each device.

There are two protocols used today: version 4 (IPv4) and version 6 (IPv6). IPv4 addresses use a 32-bit value, while IPv6 uses 128 bits. The number of bits equates to the number of characters or digits in the address. It consists of four numbers separated by dots, such as There are about 4.3 billion possible combinations of IPv4 addresses and 2 to the power of 128 combinations of IPv6 addresses.

What is geolocation?

Geolocation is the process of pinpointing the physical location of a device or a user based on the IP address or other data sources. Geolocation can indicate the country, region, city, Zip Code, latitude, longitude, and/or time zone of the device. Geolocation can be used to personalize web content, deliver targeted ads, enforce digital rights, prevent fraud, and provide location-based services.

How are IP addresses and geolocation related?

IP addresses and geolocation are related in that every device has an IP address sourced primarily by a Regional Internet Registry (RIR). The RIR distributes IP addresses in its specific region, and each block of IP addresses in a region point to its geolocation. However, IP addresses and geolocation are not always accurate, because IP addresses can be masked, spoofed, or shared by multiple devices. For example, a user can use a virtual private network (VPN) or a proxy server to hide or change their IP address. Users can also share the same IP address with other users on a public WiFi network. Therefore, IP addresses and geolocation should not be used as the sole source of location information, and should be verified with other methods, such as GPS, WiFi, or cellular data.

There are a few cases when you might want to change your IP address or geolocation. Situations like accessing restricted or censored content, enhancing online privacy, and testing web applications could all be reasons to modify your location. There are different ways to set or customize IP address or geolocation, depending on the device, the browser, and the level of control required. Here are two of the most common methods:

Hide or change your IP address with VPN (Virtual Private Network)

A VPN can hide or change your IP address and geolocation by routing your internet traffic securely through a remote server, which can be located in a totally different country or region. A VPN can also protect your online activity from being monitored or intercepted by third parties, such as ISPs, governments, or hackers. You can use a VPN on any device that supports VPN protocols, such as a computer, smartphone, tablet, or router. Keep in mind that connecting through a VPN may also slow down the internet speed or affect the performance of some websites or apps. There are a number of VPN providers and subscription options available today.

Proxy server

A proxy server is a server that acts as an intermediary between your device and the internet. A proxy server can hide or change your IP address and geolocation by forwarding your internet requests to the destination website or app, while masking your original IP address and location. A proxy server can also help you access geo-restricted content, bypass network filters, or improve web caching. A proxy server can be used on any device that supports manual proxy settings. However, a proxy server will not encrypt your connection, meaning it’s a less secure way to change your IP location. You can purchase a proxy server as hardware or software.

IP addresses and geolocation are closely related, with IP addresses providing a unique identifier for devices connected to the internet and geolocation determining the physical location of the device. While IP addresses and geolocation can provide useful information, it’s important to know that they aren’t 100% reliable. There are various methods to change or customize your IP address location, such as using a VPN or a proxy server, which you may want to do to access geo-restricted content, enhance online privacy, or bypass censorship.




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<a href="https://discover.centurylink.com/author/maliaruchti" target="_self">Malia Ruchti</a>

Malia Ruchti


Malia Ruchti has been known to use the internet once in a while. She has found herself writing on, about, and for the internet for at least 10 years. She's written web content for nonprofits and small businesses. She has also written grants and business plans. Writing content for CenturyLink has given her great insight to the workings of the internet. Malia lives in Colorado with her family, most of whom are too young to explore the internet. Instead, they spend a lot of time outside with plants, dogs, and bikes.