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What are the benefits of a SOCKS5 proxy?

Routing your traffic through a proxy improves your privacy but doesn’t guarantee security. Unlike a VPN, a proxy doesn’t encrypt your internet traffic. Find out what the SOCKS5 proxy is, what benefits it offers, and how you can use it with a VPN for improved privacy and security.

What are the benefits of a SOCKS5 proxy?

What is a SOCKS5 proxy?

A SOCKS proxy is an additional feature that some VPN providers offer, allowing users to change their virtual location (also known as location spoofing). A SOCKS5 proxy lets you hide your IP address from online services.

The SOCKS5 network protocol has enhanced security and offers three types of authentication methods:

  • Null authentication – No authentication required to connect to a proxy.
  • Username/password authentication – You need to provide login details to connect to a proxy.
  • GSS-API authentication – Both you and the server use authentication methods at the operating system level to verify your identity.

SOCKS operates on Layer 5 of the OSI model. Layer 5, also known as the session layer, acts as the intermediary layer between the presentation layer and the transport layer. Unlike SOCKS4, SOCKS5 supports UDP and TCP protocols, in addition to the SOCKS protocol.

How does a SOCKS5 proxy work?

A SOCKS5 proxy works by routing network packets between a client and a server via the proxy server, in order to bypass internet restrictions and access blocked websites or services.

Technically speaking, SOCKS5 (the latest version) uses proxy servers to form User Datagram Protocol (UDP) or Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) connections through arbitrary IP addresses.

How Socks5 works

If your IP is and your traffic is routed through a SOCKS Proxy with the IP, the destination server (the website) will think that the request came from the latter. The website cannot see your original IP address. This helps you hide your location, but it doesn’t mean that your traffic is secure.

Unlike virtual private networks (VPNs), proxies do not encrypt your traffic – it’s still out in the open and anyone can snoop on what you are doing.

Although SOCKS proxies are part of anonymous proxies there is no such thing as an 100% anonymous SOCKS proxy server, because it’s impossible to be truly anonymous online. No single proxy provider, encrypted messaging app, or VPN will make you anonymous. Still, there are steps you can take to improve your online privacy.

Check our brief video about SOCKS5 below.

SOCKS5 proxy servers benefits

Using a SOCKS5 proxy provides several benefits, including (but not limited to):

  • Bypassing online blocks.
  • Improved privacy and IP protection.
  • Improved performance.
  • Compatibility with many applications and devices.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these benefits.

1. Gets you around online blocks

Since proxy servers act as relays between your device and the internet, they can easily help you bypass internet blocks.

For example, if your actual IP address was blocklisted by a certain website (or you use a VPN and its servers’ IP addresses were blocklisted) you can route your traffic through a SOCKS5 proxy and so bypass this block. However, it won’t help you to circumvent national firewalls in the way that a VPN will, as most of them use deep packet inspection (DPI). This means that your traffic is blocked by your ISP and before it reaches the website.

2. Faster and more reliable connection

Unlike its predecessors, which only used TCP protocol, SOCKS5 proxy servers can use UDP protocol, ensuring a reliable connection and efficient performance.

With UDP, a SOCKS5 proxy can move data quickly and offer a reliable connection. A SOCKS5 proxy server is also capable of caching data, speeding up the overall internet experience. You can also speed up your proxy connection by choosing a SOCKS5 proxy server closer to your location.

3. Fewer errors and improved overall performance

Many other proxies rewrite the headers on data packets. Because of this, there’s a high chance of misrouting or mislabeling that data.

SOCKS5 proxy servers do not rewrite data packet headers, so there is a lower chance for errors. Since there are far fewer errors, the performance automatically improves. However, this comes at a cost of your privacy and security as packet headers contain your personal information and can be easily identified.

4. Better performance on P2P platforms

SOCKS5 is faster than other proxies because it transfers smaller data packets. Therefore, it offers faster download speeds, which is why some people use it to connect to peer-to-peer sharing websites and platforms.

Setting up a SOCKS5 proxy

You can set up a SOCKS5 proxy using the steps listed below. This guide covers Windows 10 and 11 as well as macOS.

How to set up a SOCKS5 proxy manually on Windows OS

  1. Go to “Settings” > “Network & internet” > “Proxy.”
  2. Under “Manual proxy setup,” toggle the “On” button.
  3. Fill in details about your proxy server.
  4. Click “Save.”

How to set up a SOCKS5 proxy manually on macOS

  1. Go to “System preferences” > “Network” > “Advanced” > “Proxies.”
  2. Select the “SOCKS proxy” protocol in the menu.
  3. Type your proxy server address.
  4. Click “OK.”

Can you get a SOCKS5 for free?

Yes, you can get SOCKS5 for free, but using a free proxy can put your security and privacy at risk. Because of their low overhead, proxy services aren’t expensive to run, but they still come with costs. Therefore, free proxies, like free VPNs, should be avoided. Here’s why:

  • Poor performance. Free options will have less support personnel and may have less configuration options or slower infrastructure. All of this can make them slower and less secure. A free proxy might also reduce their speeds or turn off features in an effort to make you a paying customer.
  • Privacy issues. If you’re not paying for the service, you aren’t the customer. Free services can monitor user traffic and sell that data to third parties or serve ads. This means replacing ads on websites you love (thereby cutting into their revenue) or introducing new ads that weren’t there before.

Your best bet is a premium proxy service, which will offer the best speeds, support, and security. Fortunately, when you buy NordVPN, you can also use some of our servers as SOCKS5 proxies. With all of our other features, you can easily come up with the most optimum configuration.

Is a SOCKS5 proxy better than a VPN?

No, SOCKS5 is not as secure or as fast as a VPN. It’s easy to confuse a SOCKS5 proxy with a VPN, but there are crucial differences. The main difference between proxies and VPNs is that VPNs encrypt your traffic and proxies don’t. SOCKS5 also offers lower internet speed and stability.

PRO TIP: Remember that SOCKS is quite detectable, so it most likely won’t get you around national firewalls. Enhance your security with a VPN to help with this.

A good VPN will encrypt web browsing traffic as it travels from your device to the VPN server, ensuring that nobody can view it at any point on its journey.

Upgrade your privacy with high-quality VPN encryption.

Should you use SOCKS5 with a VPN?

While SOCKS5 proxies do provide a few of the same benefits as VPNs, you shouldn’t use them together and SOCKS5 proxies are not a VPN replacement. You should choose one of these tools for different situations. Fortunately, NordVPN’s servers also support SOCKS5 connections. Get in touch via Live Chat to learn how to use NordVPN SOCKS5 proxy or read our guidelines for P2P servers.

SOCKS5 vs HTTP proxy

Unlike HTTP proxies, which can only interpret and work with HTTP and HTTPS webpages, SOCKS5 proxies can work with any traffic.

HTTP proxies are high-level proxies usually designed for a specific protocol. While this means you get better connection speeds, they’re not nearly as flexible and secure as SOCKS servers. SOCKS proxies are low-level proxies that can handle any program or protocol and any traffic without limitations.

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