How to bypass a paywall in 2024 (simple with 18 solutions)

Last Updated on 
May 22, 2024
  by:
Renat Gabitov
Renat Gabitov
Product & Marketing
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Did you just get paywalled out of your flow doing research or browsing through articles? I’ve been there, figured out the solutions, and I’m about to share all possible ways you can bypass a paywall.

I’m sure that paywall popped up out of nowhere, making it impossible to read the article. BAAM! 💥 But if we take a second to think about it, paywalls make sense and are to be expected. Let me explain.

It may be a random publication you’ve never heard of, The New York Times, or The Wall Street Journal. Some publishers have a metered paywall, others won’t let you read any article for free. As long as it’s good journalism we truly enjoy, we should try to support it.

But don’t blame yourself if you don’t subscribe right away - maybe you’re in a rush or just low on cash. So how can you bypass the paywall this one time?

It depends. Is it a soft or hard paywall? Is it a client-side paywall, or server-side?

You’ll have to either remove the paywall with a quick trick or use browser extensions and devtools.

While all the solutions below work today, some tomorrow might not. Websites constantly improve protection against even the best ways to bypass paywalls online.

What is a paywall?

A paywall is a way to restrict free access to an entire website or parts of it unless you make a purchase or subscription. Most commonly used by publications, it can kick in immediately, or after you read a certain number of free articles.

Let’s take a moment to define each variation:

  • Soft paywalls allow users to access some content by limiting them to several articles per month. Example: Medium.com
  • Hard paywalls will restrict content to be accessible only to the subscribed users. Example: Trends.co

Paywalls are there to maximize income potential and are sometimes the main revenue driver for media and news sites. So let’s not judge and support great journalists whenever possible.

But if you need to bypass a paywall, right now, choose the solution that best fits your needs from below. It’s easier when dealing with a soft paywall, but hard paywalls are equally manageable with the right tools.

Either type can be set up as either client-side or server-side paywalls. The difference between server and client-side paywalls is the order in which your browser loads content.

How to bypass a server-side paywall?

Let’s first address the elephant in the room: server-side paywalls. It’s safe to say that if you have the tools to bypass a server-side paywall, there’s no paywal you can’t remove.

So how is it done, for both hard and soft paywalls?

Bypassing a paywall with browser extensions

The primary option we have is to try to trick websites into thinking we’re a search engine bot, which is most commonly authorized to view content. 

Websites such as The Wall Street Journal may load partial or no content into the browser. Those websites check if you have permission to view it first.

The good news is that those sites also rely heavily on SEO to attract visitors and want their articles to be properly indexed and ranked by the search engines.

We can trick them into thinking that we are a search engine bot to get the content revealed.

With so many popular browsers out there, it’s only natural for each to have solutions and dedicated Chrome extensions to bypass paywalls. So let’s quickly pin the ones to install.

1. Bypass paywalls with Bardeen’s extension

Bardeen is an AI productivity app that allows you to run automations right from the browser. 

Bardeen is not designed for paywall removal, but rather for powerful workflow automations such as syncing data between your apps like Google Sheets, Notion, and ClickUp.

Additionally, Bardeen empowers you to incorporate AI into your workflow without coding through integrations like OpenAI.

After you install the extension and create a free account, you can access content hidden behind a paywall by running one of the following pre-built automations (or playbooks, as we call them). 

Remove a hard paywall with web archives

This playbook can bypass any type of paywall on most websites by using web archives. You can run this automation with a single click on any website.

And here is how it works.

Organic traffic is the bread and butter of digital media companies. And thus, they optimize their platforms for search engines. 

This means that media websites treat web crawlers and regular visitors differently.
A regular user will land on a page with a hard paywall (either client-side, or server-side), whereas crawlers will get full access to the article so that it can be indexed.

Automatically hard bypass a paywall with Hover

Hover is a Chrome extension that spoofs websites into think that we are a search engine bot. Chrome has recently removed the extension from the store, but it is available on Github. You have to manually unpack it to Chrome. 

2. Bypass paywalls with Firefox extensions

With Firefox, it’s not as straightforward - the most efficient browser available was removed by Mozilla due to copyright issues, but it’s still available thanks to being open source.

To set up it, just follow the instructions and you’ll have the Bypass paywalls clean extension ready in no-time.

3. Bypass paywalls with Edge extensions

Funny enough, the best paywall removal browser extension for Microsoft Edge (also usable on Chrome) is also only available outside of the traditional stores. But don’t worry, it’s extremely easy to set up.

All you have to do is is access the Bypass paywalls GitHub.

4. Bypass paywalls using Wayback Machine

This is one of the oldest and (usually) most reliable solutions to go beyond those pesky paywalls. It involves an extra step or two when compared to extensions, since you need to move into another browser tab and paste the article URL you’re trying to read in there.

Just start from https://web.archive.org/ and with a bit of luck, you’ll be reading the article in a few minutes. The great thing about the Wayback Machine is that if it works, it doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with a server-side, client-side, soft, or hard paywall.

5. Bypass the paywall with web archives

There’s more archives available beyond the well-known Wayback Machine, and some are definitely worth trying out if nothing seems to get that paywall removed.

One of the most popular archives worth mentioning is at https://archive.ph/

6. Bypass the paywall with 12ft Ladder

This solution use the search engine crawler trick, but doesn’t return results as reliably. It’s still worth giving a try, especially since it’s easier to use the prepended URLs.

Read more about it in the official documentation at https://12ft.io/

7. Try other websites and tools

If all else fails, there’s always another way to go about bypassing that paywall. There’s websites that actively include free versions or copies of content otherwise paywalled, such as Sci-Hub or Zendy.

New ways to bypass paywalls are constantly appearing, so I’ll update this over time. One tool worth taking a look at is https://www.spaywall.com/

8. Check your local library

This might be obvious, but unfortunately, it’s often overseen. Libraries come with an incredible amount of benefits and perks, and might even include subscriptions to certain news websites you love to read or archived versions of the content you are trying to read.

9. Google search for the headline

This is as easy as it sounds - try copying the title of the article in Google to see if it’s available for free somewhere else.

10. Ask for a gift article

Okay, nothing else words, and that server-side paywall is still between you and that awesome piece of content. Maybe you have a friend who’s also a reader?

Try to ask them for a free article and see how it goes.

11. Manually bypassing a hard paywall

The strategy is to resemble a search engine bot. We may want to appear as if we came from social media or a search engine. Then we need to pretend to look like a bot. Lastly, we need to disable cookies so that websites don’t see our history and suspect us. 

This what one of the extensions mentioned above would do automatically. 

Step 1: Open console 

Open the console by right-clicking on an article and selecting “Inspect.”

Step 2: Navigate to “Network Conditions” under more tools

Step 3: Select a User Agent

Step 4: Hard refresh the web page

Note that many publishers are cracking down on this technique, so it doesn’t work on all websites. 

How to bypass a client-side paywall?

Client-side paywall will first load the content into your browser and then check if the user has the appropriate permissions to view the content. If the user doesn’t have access, the website will use an overlay element to hide it.

Since you’re manipulating already loaded content, there are multiple ways to get access. 

12. Bypass client-side paywalls with extensions

The easiest way to bypass a client-side paywall is to use reading extensions such as Reader Mode (available for the most popular browsers).

Reader Mode will take the body of an article and convert it into a pretty and distraction-free format. Most importantly, it will remove the overlay elements that made it impossible to read the restricted article.

You can set a keyboard shortcut to bypass a paywall in seconds. You can customize the shortcut by navigating to chrome://extensions/shortcuts.

Alternatively, you can also bypass a paywall with the Pocket. Pocket is a Chrome extension that saves articles to be read in the future and formats them nicely. To bypass a paywall with Pocket:

Save To Pocket → Open My List → Click on the article 

Finally, Bardeen is also a great solution whenever you’re dealing with such a paywall. Our most used playbook will turn an article into an audio file that you can listen to right away. It extracts the article body from the code (if it's loaded) and turns it into an audio.

Our other automation that can help will extract the body of the page as text similar to Reader Mode or Pocket.

You can read the article from the extension window. The nice thing is that you can send the extracted text to Slack, Email, or Notion in a few clicks without switching tabs and copying and pasting information. 

If you're interested in automatically extracting text from pages, Bardeen's library of web scrapers can probably help.

13. Bypass paywalls by hiding your IP address

There’s a lot of options when it comes to spoofing IP addresses, and the most popular ones are VPNs and proxies.

Alternatively, you can use another browser, such as Tor, which can hide your IP address. This works great for websites that rely on cookies.

14. Bypass paywalls with incognito mode

Speaking of cookies, there’s another solution. While incognito is not exactly what you think it is, it’s still quite powerful in avoiding certain paywalls. So why not give it a try right now?

15. Delete cookies

If cookies are still interfering with your research process, why not get rid of them altogether? Just go head and follow the traditional “delete cookies” route and you might just read the paywalled article right now.

16. Disable JavaScript in your browser

This is not for the typical user, but if you have a bit of a technical side to you, it will seem extremely easy. Sure, this might brake most websites, but with some luck it will also solve your paywall problem.

17. Edit some webpage elements

Again, more technical, but if i does the trick and you can do it yourself, why not? Just go ahead and play abit with the layout of the page, you never know how easy it might be to make that overlay disappear.

18. Pretend you’re coming from social media

This used to work great, but it’s now cracked down by most websites. It’s still worth giving a try to the old “coming from Facebook” trick. All you have to do is append this to the article URL you’re trying to read:

https://facebook.com/l.php?u= 

Share content behind a paywall or logins

Now, let's imagine that you’ve gotten access to the article previously hidden behind a paywall or logins. The article is phenomenal, and you want to share it with someone.

To get access, however, others will need to either reproduce everything you’ve just done or get your login and password to view content. Both options are suboptimal. 

You can share content in under 5 seconds with the following Bardeen playbooks:

Endnotes

At this point, you’ve become a pro at bypassing paywalls. The techniques described here are meant to make your life a little easier and help you stay in the flow. We highly encourage you to support good journalism and creators who write high qualify content by contributing when you read them regularly.

Check out our guide dedicated to Chrome extensions that bypass a paywall.

If you want to explore more ways to streamline your day-to-day workflows and become more productive, see our pre-built playbooks.

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