How to Get Past a Paywall to Read an Article for Free

How to Get Past a Paywall to Read an Article for Free
Photo: NDAB Creativity, Shutterstock

Most of us have done it before. Over the past several years, countless websites have added paywalls: If you want to read their articles, you have to sign up and pay a monthly fee. Some sites have a “metered” paywall — meaning you can read a certain number of articles for free before they ask for money — and others have a hard paywall, where you’ll have to pay to read even one article.

It’s mostly news websites that have paywalls, largely because relying on advertising income alone just isn’t viable anymore, and news companies are pursuing more direct revenue sources like monthly subscriptions. And, of course, we’re not against paywalls — and you probably aren’t either. If you can afford to pay to read articles, you absolutely should. But whether you lost your password, are in a rush, or are just strapped for cash and promise yourself that you’ll subscribe later, there are several ways to bypass paywalls on the internet.

You may be able to use some of these methods successfully today, but that could change in the future as websites clamp down on bypass methods. I hope that you support the websites that you read by signing up for memberships, but if you’re can’t right now, here are some of the best ways to bypass paywalls online.

Paste the headline in Google

The simplest ways are often the best. There are plenty of paywalled websites that have an arrangement which lets people arriving from Google search access their articles for free. Your first port of call should be to copy the headline and paste it in the search bar on Google. The article should appear as the first result, so just click that to read it for free.

Try a Facebook redirect

Some paywalled websites let readers arriving from Facebook read articles for free, and the method works even if you don’t have a Facebook account. To do it, open the article you want to read and go to the address bar of your web browser. Now paste https://facebook.com/l.php?u= before the URL of the paywalled article and open the page. This’ll show you a Facebook redirect page and you can click Follow Link to open the website. The paywalled article should now be free to read.

Open the link in an incognito window

Another quick way is to open the paywalled articles in an incognito window in your web browser, just note that this method works with metered paywalls only. If you’ve used up your free article quota for the month on any website, opening its articles in an incognito window could let you keep reading without paying yet.

Disable JavaScript in your browser

Some websites use JavaScript to hide content behind paywalls, and you can circumvent those blocks by disabling JavaScript in your browser. Note that disabling JavaScript can (and will) break most websites — some may not let you view comments, while others may not load at all. But it’s worth trying if you just need to read the content of the post.

Ideally, you’d use a separate browser for this so that you don’t have to keep enabling and disabling JavaScript. Once you’ve chosen your secondary browser, check out our guide to disabling JavaScript in various ones.

Edit a couple of elements on the webpage

If you understand a bit of HTML and CSS, you can edit elements using your browser to go past some paywalls. Essentially, you’re editing the page to remove the banners that lock content behind a subscription. It’s a lot like opening the curtains to reveal the nice view outside your window.

It works with some websites, but others have added a hard block that reveals the article only if you’ve signed in with a paid account. Still, it’s worth trying once to see if it works:

On any website, right-click the banner just below the last visible sentence of the article and select Inspect Element. This will open up a console where you can search for the offending elements and hide or change them. The exact element varies from site to site, but it’s often labelled display, paywall, or subscribe. Here’s a neat GIF on Reddit that shows you how to get it done.

Use an annotation service

Annotation services allow you to clear the clutter from websites and add some notes or highlights, just as you would in a printed book or magazine. Some of these services can be used to bypass some paywalls. Outline is one such service.

You can go to the Outline website and paste the link of the paywalled article. Click Create Outline to let the site work its magic. You’ll be taken to a new page that loads the entire article, which is your way to get past the paywalls. Outline creates a fresh URL for each article you try to load using its website, so keep bookmarking these to read later.

Some sites have blocked Outline from accessing their websites, and in case the service is unable to show you the article, you can try using a URL shortener like is.gd as a workaround. Just paste the shortened URL on Outline to circumvent the block.

Try browser add-ons

There are lots of browser extensions that allow you to bypass paywalls on most websites. You can check out Bypass Paywalls (works on Chrome, Edge, and Firefox), or Bypass Paywalls Clean (Firefox). For academic articles, Unpaywall (Firefox, Chrome) is a good choice.

Check out paywall bypass shortcuts on iPhone

The last method on our list works only on iPhones: Apple’s free Shortcuts app lets you run automation routines on your iPhone, and its tools have been used to bypass paywalls on various websites. There are plenty of these shortcuts and they may not work with all websites. You can try AntiPaywall, Bypass Paywall, Paywall and Cookie Bypass, or Unpaywall.

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