The word "proxy" refers to someone or something that acts on behalf of someone or something else. So, basically, a "proxy server" is a computer that accesses the Internet for you, responding to where you want to go and what you want to do. It then sends back what it finds over a secure connection.
The advantage to using a proxy server is that it makes your Internet activity difficult to track. While you're the one going places and doing things on the Internet, all that websites, programs, and people trying to track your activity see is the proxy server doing all the work. In order to tell that your unique computer is the one calling the shots, they would have to break into the secure connection between you and the proxy server.
Many private web browsers and virtual private networks (VPNs) use proxy servers by default, as part of what they do. We suggest checking out our Private Web Browsers and Private Internet Access articles for recommendations on free private web browsers or VPNs to use.
There are also some websites that you can use as proxy servers, without having to download or install any programs. Be sure to research some trusted ones to use (like we have here), and don't just use any one that you come across. Some might be fakes that make your Internet activity easier to track.
Proxy.org -- www.proxy.org
Ninja Cloak -- www.ninjacloak.com
BlewPass -- www.blewpass.com
As a demonstration of how to use a proxy server, we'll show you how to use Ninja Cloak.
The first step is, obviously, to go to the website that hosts the proxy server that you want to use.
There should be a box where you can enter a website address (it will usually include "http://" to give you a clue). Just click in this box and type in the URL of the website that you want to visit. In this example, we'll go to YouTube.
Depending on the proxy server that you're using, you may have additional options. For example, you may be able to block any cookies that you receive, or stop any background programs that might track you or even put a harmful program on your computer.
When you're all set, click Go.
There! Now you're on YouTube, but YouTube doesn't know that it's you accessing it!
Since proxy servers funnel your Internet activity through another computer, your Internet speed may slow down a bit. This is because it takes extra time for Internet traffic to go from your computer to the proxy computer and out to the Internet, and then come back the other way through the proxy server to your computer.
Some proxy websites are known to other websites and can be blocked by them. Some websites may also not work properly if you use a proxy website to access them. In that case, you may want to use a private web browser or virtual private network instead. Again, see our articles on Private Web Browsers and Private Internet Access for more details.
A way to check if the proxy server is working is by going to a website like http://www.whatismyip.com without using a proxy server, and record what your IP address is. Then, access the same website by using a proxy server, and see if your IP address changes. If it does, then you'll know that the proxy server is working.
Well, that's a brief rundown on proxy servers and how to use them!
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