Between your Netflix and Hulu subscriptions, your Amazon Prime membership, and the HBO Go login you borrowed off a mate, you thought you had all your bases covered.
Streaming television is easier now than ever, but even with so many options on your plate, shows occasionally slip through the cracks. That’s when you’ll be tempted to don whatever the modern-day, digital equivalent of an eye patch and a parrot is, and become a pirate.
First, the obvious warning: pirating television shows isn’t just unfair to their creators, it’s illegal. Almost no sites hosting free streaming content are doing so lawfully. There’s always a chance – however slight – that you could be caught and prosecuted.
But you’re a big boy, and though we don’t endorse illegal streaming, you’re going to make your own choices. Think of this as a techno version of the preteen sex talk: you probably shouldn’t be doing it, but if you do, here’s how to do it safely.
What To Consider
Start by making an informed choice about where you consume media. ‘Watch Series’ and other popular aggregators of streaming content are careful not to host the files themselves, and respond rapidly when requests to delete copyrighted material are made. That makes them less liable than the actual hosts, but it’s still plenty sketchy.
The hosts are definitely breaking the law, and by watching the copyrighted content, you may be too. Streaming sites are also minefields of pop-ups and malware, so you visit them at your own risk.
If that’s a road you’re willing to go down, then keep reading to learn how to use Watch Series and other streaming sites safely.
Before You Begin
There are steps to take before you ever set foot (or cursor) on a streaming site.
First, make sure your computer is equipped with some kind of antivirus software. You can never be 100% protected, but it’s better than being 0% protected (funnily enough, that was also part of your preteen sex talk).
Second, install an ad blocker. Using an ad blocker has multiple benefits, including protecting yourself from viruses, saving bandwidth, and faster page loading times. Streaming sites are chock-full of deceptive ads fishing for clicks. At best the cluttered pages are irritating; at worst, a misplaced click will end in a device infected with malware.
For further protection, you can use a proxy or VPN (virtual private network) to hide your IP address. It’s probably overkill for a light television piracy session, but if you’re concerned about anyone tracking your activities on the Web, it will help you breathe easier.
Navigate With Caution
If you’ve never seen a streaming media site before, you’re in for a jolt of overwhelm. The sheer volume of available content is staggering, and it isn’t always arranged in a user-friendly way.
The basic idea is simple: enter the show you’re looking for in the search bar or inspect the home page for something that catches your eye. The site may offer features like playlists and ratings to help you choose. Watch Series, for example, displays the most popular shows, the latest popular episodes, and the newest episodes added.
When you’ve settled on an episode, procede with caution. Clicking on the episode page will display a list of links from various domains. Some are more reputable than others, some may be fake, and the ranking is always changing. Your safest bet is to search online to see which domains users currently recommend.
Select the domain of your choice. If you’re given the option to “watch” or “download”, always select “watch”. Saving the files to your computer – if it’s even the right file in the first place – can download malware. More likely, in the Wild West of the Web, it’s not the episode of The Bachelor you were secretly hoping to watch. It’s a virus (one you may kind of deserve for your disappointing taste in reality television).
After clicking the link, you’ll be transferred to the host site where you’ll find the file ready to be streamed. If that doesn’t happen, or there’s anything else wrong with the link, you may find a “report link” option on the original site. Click it to notify the site of any issues.
Additional Safety Measures
A few more tips for navigating the aforementioned Wild West like the John Wayne of streaming:
- Do not enter your credit card details anywhere. You should never need that information to view a link or register an account with a site.
- Beware of ads disguised as play buttons or download buttons. They most likely link to malware or are the start of a phishing scam.
- Be wary if you’re asked to download a plugin, player, or update. There’s a chance it’s real, but there’s a greater chance it’s not. Don’t take the risk. Choose another host.
There’s always the option of taking no risk at all. Piracy was never as romantic as the movies make it sound, and things are looking mighty good over on Netflix right now.