Paywalls are pretty annoying for most people. Not many of us want to pay to read just a handful of articles on the NYT, WSJ, and other sites with paywalls. But that’s what we’re left with unless we can skip the paywall, bypass it in some way to access what’s behind it.
A paywall functions as a wall to prevent you from accessing the content, and the only legitimate way to get around the paywall is to…pay. Fortunately, there are websites and other tools you can use to delete a paywall or trick your web browser into thinking it’s not there or that you have permission to access the content it’s protecting.
Getting around a paywall is easy in some situations, and much harder or even impossible in others. Below are your options for getting around paywalls on all kinds of sites.
Note: Paywalls have a legitimate purpose, namely to make money for the publisher. Think twice before following these directions and realize by removing the paywall, you’re cutting off what could be the company’s sole source of income.
Get Around a Paywall With Incognito Mode
Incognito mode, or private browsing mode as it’s called in some browsers, is a way to access a website as a fresh user without any cookies or other internet files. This works to bypass a paywall because some paywalls limit access based on how many times you’ve visited the site in the past. Some let you read just five articles, for example, in which case using Incognito mode tricks the site into thinking you’re on your first visit.
Ctrl+Shift+N is how you open Incognito mode in Chrome. Private Mode in Firefox can be accessed through Ctrl+Shift+P. Those browsers and others usually provide this private mode through their menu if you those keyboard shortcuts don’t work.
Clear the Cookies to Disable the Paywall
Sometimes, you can’t get past the paywall even in Incognito mode because the site can identify that that’s what you’re trying to do, and it will show the paywall anyway. Deleting the cookies will hopefully erase any evidence that you’ve been to the paywalled site, thus letting you visit as a new, first-time user.
Clearing the cookies in most browsers can be done through the Ctrl+Shift+Del shortcut. When the pop-up opens asking what to do delete, make sure the option for cookies is chosen. When you’re done removing cookies, try the page again to see if it worked to bypass the paywall.
Lots of paywalls work this way where they count your visits via cookies stored on your computer. If Incognito mode and clearing the cookies doesn’t work to bypass the paywall, then the website must be using a different technique to track you. A different paywall unblocking method below might more more helpful.
Use Outline.com to Unblock the Paywall
Outline.com works similarly to the methods above, but depending on the paywall you’re trying to bypass, it might be a better solution.
Here’s how it works: type outline.com/ (including that slash) before the URL of the page that has the paywall. For example, outline.com/techy.zone would load this website through Outline.com.
Outline.com is a website that lets you annotate web pages, but since it loads the paywalled site from a different location that your computer, it might be enough to count you as a new user to the site, thus unblocking the paywall.
Delete the Paywall With Your Browser
Depending on the design of the paywall, it might just be a literal pop-up that you can delete. I’ve seen this to be the case many times where the paywall is blocking the page from being seen fully but it’s really just an extra layer that can be removed to reveal the content behind it.
Here’s an example of one of the paywalls you might see on The Washington Post:
You can see the page behind the pop-up but there isn’t an exit button. Instead of subscribing or signing in like they want you to, do this:
- Right-click the paywall and select Inspect Element in Firefox, or Inspect in Chrome. Other browsers might use similar wording but the idea here is to find some sort of inspection tool.
- Select the mouse pointer at the top left of the new screen that shows up. In the image above, it’s right next to the Inspector tab. With that selected, click the pop-up again.
- Go down to the bottom of the screen where you see the code of the page (left side of the image above) and look for the highlighted code. It might even say something like paywall or subscription box on it.
- With that code selected, hit the Delete key on your keyboard.
- Repeat those last two steps as many times as you have to to get rid of the paywall pop-up. If you accidentally delete too much and the whole page disappears, refresh the page and start again from the first step.
If you do it correctly, you can delete the paywall completely and read the page normally, like this:
Skip the Paywall and Look Elsewhere
You might feel foolish for not thinking about this one, but another way to get around a paywall is to literally avoid the website that’s showing the paywall! Look somewhere else on the web for the same article. You’d be surprised how often this works.
Copy the title of the page if you can see it, or look in your browser’s tab area to see what the page’s heading is called. Search the web for the exact same heading to pull up other sites offering the same details. Sometimes, you’ll find that the other website have a near identical copy but for free, without a paywall.
Something else you can try when researching for alternative articles of the same topic is a website archiver. Wayback Machine and Archive.is are a couple good examples. Enter the URL of the paywall page into either of those sites to see if there are any archived copies you can read instead.
Use a Paywall Unblocker Browser Add-on
At this point, a tool that can attempt to remove the paywall for you is your next best option. There are several out there, some with really specific sites in mind and others that work with a broader range of sites.
Here are a couple examples:
- Unpayall (Chrome and Firefox): Get scholarly articles for free by having this paywall unblocker look for copies on free websites.
- paywallr (Chrome): Unlocks paywalls on over 50 newspaper sites.
Subscribe to the Site With a Trial
This is the most “professional” way to bypass a paywall. Short of subscribing fully and paying every month or year to access the site’s contents, try getting a trial. Most services are free for a few days or a week or month to give you an opportunity to try it out.
This is clearly the best method since it guarantees that you can get around every paywall on the site during your trial. The only downfall is that you might forget to unsubscribe at the end of your trial. To avoid getting charged by accident, use a temporary debit card such as Privacy.