How to Read Articles Behind a Paywall: 17 Free Ways


How to Read Articles Behind a Paywall: 17 Free Ways

Nothing is worse than starting to read an article, then the paywall pops up on the screen. Whether it’s a national news headline worth keeping up with or a local story directly impacting you, it’s so frustrating to be blocked from reading something you’d like to know about. Your first instinct is to shell out the money for a monthly or annual subscription to the site. You might not actually need to spend a cent, though. As it happens, there are tons of free ways to read articles behind a paywall.

Ways to Read Articles Behind a Paywall

No matter if you’re facing a hard, metered, or freemium paywall, there’s an easy way to sidestep the blockade paywall and read articles for free completely. For the purpose of this how-to, we’re going to be using a desktop computer. Now, here’s exactly what to do.

Go Incognito

Incognito Mode on web browser.
Most browsers have an Incognito Mode that may allow you past paywalls.

The quickest and easiest method to bypass a paywall? Simply copy the link, open a new incognito or private window in your web browser, and paste the link into the address bar. Incognito Mode doesn’t save your browsing history or cookies, meaning you may have access to the content without triggering any paywalls.

Use Reader Mode

Reader Mode on Safari.
Reader Mode could let you get past some of the toughest paywalls around.

If going incognito doesn’t work, there’s another browser trick you can try: Reader Mode. Go to the article you’re trying to read and look for the Reader Mode feature in your browser’s address bar. (It often shows up as a book icon beside the address.) Click on it to simplify the page, hopefully removing any ads and paywalls in the process.

Check Facebook

Facebook post.
Going through Facebook is another free way to read articles behind a paywall.

Still no access, even with Incognito or Reader Mode? Check social media. It might sound crazy, but if the publication posts the article to their Facebook account, clicking the link through this loophole sometimes lets you slip right past the paywall with ease.

Use a VPN

Active VPN.
Try one of the Internet’s many free VPNs to get around paywalls.

If none of these methods are working for you, it may be your IP address that’s causing the problem. In this case, it may be time to try a VPN. VPNs — or Virtual Private Networks — connect you to a web server in a different location, effectively changing your IP address in the process. Coming at it from this new direction, you may finally have access to the article.

Visit the Internet Archive

Internet Archive's Wayback Machine.
The Internet Archive can skirt paywalls like it’s nothing.

The Internet Archive is another one of the best secret weapons for bypassing paywalls. Go to the Internet Archive’s site and enter the article’s URL in the Wayback Machine. If it’s been online for long enough, there may be archived versions you can see without those pesky paywalls. (This method definitely works better for older posts.)

Download Postlight Reader

Postlight Reader extension.
Postlight Reader works like Reader Mode on Safari.

Exhausted all the options above? Let’s try out some browser extensions. Postlight Reader is a great one, and it’s available for both Chrome and Firefox. It reformats articles for easy reading, sort of like Reader Mode. The best part? It may let you bypass paywalls on certain sites.

Install Spaywall

Spaywall browser extension.
Spaywall is another solid browser extension that’s free to download.

Spaywall is another excellent browser extension that might let you get past those annoying blockades. Like Postlight Reader, you simply have to search for it by name in your Chrome browser’s web store and click the Install button. Better yet, this one is explicitly for getting around paywalls. No need to mess around with Reader Mode or anything like that.

Try Paywall Bypass

Paywall Bypass browser extension.
Paywall Bypass could be your key to reading articles behind a paywall.

Browser extensions might not work for everyone — especially if you’re a mobile user, not a desktop user. In this case, try giving Paywall Bypass a shot. This one comes in website and browser extension form. Simply add it to your browser or visit the site and start hopping over those paywalls with ease.

Clear Your Cookies

Clearing Chrome browser cookies.
When was the last time you tried clearing your cookies?

If all else has failed so far, you may want to try clearing your cookies. As you may know, some websites use cookies to track your visits and enforce paywalls. Go to your browser settings, find the privacy or history section, and clear your cookies. After you’ve cleared, revisit the site and see if you’re allowed through now.

Try a Different Browser

Tor Browser on Mac.
Still locked out from the articles you want to read? Try a new browser.

It may also be your browser that’s causing the issue. No matter if you’re using Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or Edge, you may want to close out of one and go try another to see if it’ll let you past the paywall. You could also try Tor Browser or other similar discreet browser that lets you disguise your IP address.

Check the Library

Resources available from local library.
Your local library may be your ticket past paywalled articles.

We haven’t even come close to exhausting all our options yet. Have a library card? Then you may have a paywall hack. Visit your local library’s website and explore their online databases. Many libraries often provide cardholders free access to top articles and publications — both at home and from the library itself.

Visit 12ft.io

12ft.io home page.
12ft.io can take care of a lot more than just paywalls.

12ft.io has long been considered a top choice for reading articles behind a paywall. It works a lot like some of the other in-browser methods we’ve mentioned above. Simply copy the URL you want to view, go to 12ft.io, and paste it into the box. The site will then attempt to access the site by going around whatever paywall stands in the way.

Download uBlock Origin

uBlock Origin browser extension.
This browser extension has plenty of positive reviews.

uBlock Origin is another web browser extension we’ve yet to mention. It exists to block paywalls, ads, and any other unwanted content that might be blocking you from accessing articles and other blocked sites. Even if you’ve been unable to get past with another extension, consider giving this one a shot.

Try Bardeen

Bardeen's home page.
Bardeen has a new paywall-passing feature.

At first glance, Bardeen doesn’t look like it’d help you read articles behind a paywall. On the surface, it looks like just another AI automation software. However, Bardeen has a new tool that lets you bypass hard paywalls using web archives. This makes it very much worth a shot, even if it might cost you to use after a demo trial.

Visit Archive.ph

Archive.ph home page.
Archive.ph is another tried and true (and free) resource.

Still no luck? Try going to archive.ph and pasting the article URL in the text box. Like some of the other sites we’ve assembled here, this service captures and archives web pages so you can read articles behind a paywall. Interestingly enough, the site lets you create archived pages yourself as well as view other pages users have archived themselves.

Try RemovePaywall

RemovePaywall home page.
RemovePaywall relies on archived websites to get you past the paywall.

Next, try giving the RemovePaywall website a shot. Just head to their website and paste your link, or add “removepaywall.com/” before your URL of choice. Then, when you visit paywalled sites, you should hopefully find yourself able to enter without restriction. No browser extension is required.

Check Unpaywall

Unpaywall home page.
Unpaywall has an enormous collection of articles without any paywalls.

As a last-ditch effort, try visiting Unpaywall. This site works by finding legal, open-access versions of paywalled articles for you to peruse. To date, it’s opened up nearly 50 million articles from over 50,000 sources across the internet. With any luck, the article you’re trying to read will be included in that total.

Frequently Asked Questions

What's the point of a paywall?

Paywalls are more profitable for digital publications than ad revenue, even with a reduced number of readers. What’s more, they allow readers access to ad-free reading experiences.

Is it possible to get around a paywall?

Yes, you can get around paywalls. The trick is to use web archiving services such as archive.ph.

When were paywalls first introduced?

The Financial Times first introduced a paywall in 2001, becoming one of the first online publications to do so in the history of the internet. They’re widely considered the first major publication to introduce a paywall.

Does blocking ads also block paywalls?

While this might have worked in the early days of the internet, ad blockers will rarely work on a paywall today.

Can you get in trouble for going around a paywall?

Web archives have the unique advantage of being an educational and historical tool. It’s ethically and entirely different than simply taking a newspaper off the stands and not paying for it.

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