How to Get Around Future TikTok Ban: Tips, Tricks, and Advice

Installing TikTok and actually using the app are two different things. A new bill threatens to make both of them tough.

TikTok is hurtling towards a full ban across the United States. Most recently, the TikTok ban bill passed the House in a 352-65 vote.

The bill still has hurdles to clear before actually becoming a reality, including passing the Senate and getting signed in by President Biden. But if it makes it, the clock would start ticking for TikTok owner ByteDance: The company would have six months left to divest from TikTok, selling it to a US-based company. If they don’t, everyone in the United States would be banned from the short form video app.

But if TikTok is actually banned, you might still be able to get it.

How to Download TikTok If It Is Banned in the US

The first step to circumventing a ban? Downloading the app at all.

If you’re already among the more than 150 million people currently using TikTok in the US, you likely already have the app downloaded to your phone. Congrats! It will still exist on your phone even after a ban keeps anyone from getting it in the App store or on Google Play. You can scroll down to our section on using a VPN in order to actually get online through your app.

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However, you might have lost your phone, or maybe you never downloaded the app before it vanished from all official channels. Even in a best-case scenario, you’ll have to upgrade your phone eventually, and the app won’t be migrated along with your other apps. If that’s the case, the best way to install the app is to side-load it.

Side-loading the TikTok app

The term “side-loading” refers to the practice of downloading and installing a bootleg version of the TikTok app from one of a variety of online sources. The practice gained popularity after India banned TikTok in 2020.

It’s up to you to actually find the right file, however, with websites that host it frequently succumbing to an endless game of TikTok lawyer whack-a-mole.

Side-loading comes with a huge downside worth noting: Since you’re not downloading the app from an approved source, it might be a malware disguised as the app. If you’re tricked into installing the wrong file, your device might be bricked or your identity could be stolen.

One other speedbump: You’ll need to jailbreak your apple device in order to side-load anything.

You can find more details about how to side-load with a quick Google. Multiple subreddits can help you out, and — somewhat ironically — the #sideloading tag on TikTok itself has a collective 21.7 million views.

Change your Play store location

You can also try downloading TikTok from the App store or on Google Play, after first changing your location so that you appear to be downloading from outside the US. If you can pull this off, TikTok will reappear in the app store of your choice.

Here’s how to change your location on Android:

  1. Open the Google Play Store app.
  2. Tap the profile icon on the top right.
  3. Go to: Settings > General Account > Account and device preferences > Country and profiles.
  4. Tap the name of the country you want to switch to.

There’s a big downside to this, however: Android forces you to go a full year between location changes. You won’t be able to change back for a long time.

Change your App store location

If you have an Apple device, you can make a similar move. Here’s how:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap your name, then tap Media & Purchases.
  3. Tap View Account, and sign in, if required.
  4. Tap Country/Region.
  5. Selection the country or region that you want to switch to.
  6. Agree to the terms, and add a form of payment that’s valid within your new location.

You can also change your account’s location online at appleid.apple.com.

Why do we say side-loading is the best way to avoid a ban when installing the TikTok app, if changing your location on your phone is so simple? Because of the consequences of changing your location: Any of the other apps on your phone may stop working or require changes as a result. You won’t know exactly what you’ll run into until you give it a shot. And, if you’re on Android, you’ll be stuck that way for a whole year.

The more committed TikTok fans out there might want to get a whole new phone in order to safely silo all their TikTok activity away from the rest of their apps.

How to Access Your TikTok App After a US Ban

If TikTok is banned in the US, simply having the app on your phone won’t mean much: You won’t be able to get online. For that, there’s just one trusted solution, and it’s spelled with a V, a P, and an N.

VPNs operate by routing your traffic through their own servers, bypassing your internet service provider in the process. Any paid VPN worth its salt will let you pick which servers to use, and will offer a huge range of countries. Whichever country that VPN server is in will determine what country your internet activity appears to be coming from, whether it’s on a desktop or a mobile device.

To try it out, you’ll just have to follow these easy instructions:

  1. Head to the website of your favorite VPN
  2. Create an account using your email address and payment details
  3. Install the VPN app on all devices you plan to use
  4. Log into the VPN app
  5. Select a region for your server location (not India!)
  6. Start watching all your favorite TikTokers once more

Some websites and apps can be harder to access through a VPN than others. Netflix, for instance, is notoriously finnicky.

When it comes to TikTok, though, you should find the process fairly easy: The app hasn’t tried very hard to make itself impossible to access with the right VPN. Granted, that could change in the future, should the app actually be banned within the US.

What’s the Best VPN for Me?

The right VPN for watching short-form video will have to be one that can handle a lot of streaming data at fairly fast speeds, all while staying as secure as possible.

Our researchers found that NordVPN rose to the top in our testing, as it excelled at all these key research categories, and it’s available for just $3-5 per month as well. If it sounds like the best option for your needs, you can get started with a 30-day free trial today.

You can check out other options, too: We highly recommend Surfshark, which starts at $2.39 per month, and IPVanish, which costs as little as $2.99 per month. Here’s a quick look at our research:

0 out of 0
Test Score
Our scoring is based on independent tests and assessments of features, privacy settings, ease of use and value.
Price From
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Verdict
Free Trial
Try
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4.1
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3.8
4.5
4.0
4.1
3.8
4.3
3.9
4.3
3.5

$2.99/month
Up to 67% off!

$2.99/month

$1.63/month

$9.99/month

$3.00/month min. ($1 per location)

~$4.87 per month

$2.19/month

$8.32/month

~$2.20 (3-day plan)

Super fast and easy to use, NordVPN is among the best we’ve tested. Advanced features like Onion-Over-VPN make it stand out from the crowd.

An excellent price for a powerful VPN tool with an adblocker, malware detector and no limit on the number of devices you can use it on.

A fast VPN that performed well on our speed tests, and also owns a lot of its own server infrastructure.

Affordably priced ultra-secure VPN that has great privacy features but is a little slow.

A reliable, widely-used VPN that has decent privacy controls, but it performed very poorly on our speed tests.

A safe, simple, outstanding VPN, with thousands of servers dotted across almost 70 different countries.

A decently-priced VPN that does all the basics well, but has an incredibly small server network compared to PureVPN and Co.

A decent option for seasoned torrenters, but a little pricier than PureVPN and Private Internet Access.

A user-friendly VPN based in Romania with servers optimized for streaming, but no obfuscation technology.

A highly reliable VPN with servers in more than 100 countries – but it comes with one of the heftiest price tags on the market.

A powerful tool for expert users

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Is It Legal to Use a VPN?

In most cases, it remains fully legally to use a VPN to get around a region-block. For example, as much as Netflix dislikes people streaming video outside their country or region, you aren’t committing an illegal act by using a VPN to do just that. However, you are violating Netflix’s terms of service, giving them the right to cancel your account if they notice.

Using a VPN to get around a TikTok ban, however, isn’t just evading a TOS stipulation. Currently, there aren’t any laws banning you from access TikTok with or without a VPN. However, if Congress passes the bill that’s now heading for a Senate vote, that will change, and pretending to be outside the US could get you in legal trouble.

Will TikTok Actually Be Banned in the US in 2024?

There are plenty of reasons that make it reasonable to assume that a total ban of TikTok won’t actually happen any time soon.

First, the bill still needs to pass the Senate. But that’s far from a sure thing, despite the huge wave of bipartisan support that the House threw behind the bill, as well as Biden’s spoken support (“If they pass it, I’ll sign it”).

Plus, the bill itself might constitute a First Amendment violation, according to some legal experts, so legal pushback might overturn it. And even if it is passed, Bytedance might divest itself, which would keep TikTok in operation.

We won’t know for sure until the dust has settled on the bill itself. But until then, you can trial a VPN that will keep TikTok scrolling on your phone for a long time to come.

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Written by:
Adam is a writer at Tech.co and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for more than a decade. He was a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry, for which he was named a Digital Book World 2018 award finalist. His work has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect, and his art history book on 1970s sci-fi, 'Worlds Beyond Time,' is out from Abrams Books in July 2023. In the meantime, he's hunting down the latest news on VPNs, POS systems, and the future of tech.
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