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. But that’s what we’re left with unless we can skip the paywall, bypassing it in some way to access what’s behind it.
This page block functions as a wall to prevent you from accessing the content, and the only legitimate way to get around it 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 all kinds of sites.
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Note: Paywalls have a legitimate purpose, namely to make money for the publisher. Think twice before following these directions and realize that by removing it for free, you’re cutting off what could be the company’s sole source of income.
Use a Period In the URL
This might seem too easy, but it actually does work. In some cases.
To try this, put a period after the “.com” part of the URL. For example: examplesite.com./article.html.
If this doesn’t work, feel free to move on to these other tips, but I’ve confirmed that it does in fact remove the paywall on some sites, so it’s absolutely worth a try. Plus it’s the easiest method here!
Some paywalls are one of the last things on the page to load. After the images, text, ads, etc., the wall will pop up to block your access. You might notice this if you look closely; the page loads the whole article only to abruptly stop and hide most of it behind the subscription information.
All you have to do is hit the Esc key on your keyboard after the page loads the article but before the block has time to show up. Give it a few tries, but it should work.
Open 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
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 it anyway. Deleting the cookies will hopefully erase any evidence that you’ve been to the 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 it, then the website must be using a different technique to track you. A different unblocking method below might more more helpful.
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 wall.
Delete the Paywall
Depending on the site design, 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 pop-ups 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:
Use Facebook to Edit the Link
This will most likely not work for most paywall sites, but you can try it anyway if you’ve made it this far. It’s easy: just type http://facebook.com/l.php?u= before the URL. This will make the site think it’s being clicked from Facebook, which sometimes will hide the paywall.
You should be redirected to Facebook where you have to choose a “follow link” button to access the real page. This only works if the site considers traffic from Facebook to be reason enough to show you the content for free, which it might if it uses the social media site as a form of advertising.
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 it! 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): Works 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.