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What Is a SOCKS Proxy?

Vilius Dumcius

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Proxy fundamentals

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A SOCKS proxy is a popular proxy solution for many people online. Versatile and convenient, it provides you with anonymity and accessibility while surfing the net. The two available SOCKS versions, SOCKS4 and SOCKS5, differ in functionality and authentication support.

But whether you should choose one over the other is not the only dilemma when looking for proxy servers. There are also HTTP proxies that come with their own benefits and use cases. As confused as you may feel right now, we’re here to help you.

As you may already know, our ISP, datacenter, sneaker, and residential proxies have SOCKS5 support. In this blog, we’ll dig into SOCKS proxies a bit deeper. We’ll cover their versions, benefits, and differences from HTTP proxies so you can make the right decision.

A SOCKS Proxy – What It Is and How It Works

A SOCKS proxy is a proxy server that supports the SOCKS (Socket Secure) network protocol to establish connections between servers. This protocol is designed to route all traffic from any protocol using a TCP ( Transmission Control Protocol ) or UDP connection without tunnel encryption.

In other words, it can handle any type of traffic created by any protocol (SOCKS, HTTP, HTTPS, TCP, UDP, etc.) or program. Hence the versatility.

When using a SOCKS proxy, your traffic is routed through another server via a TCP or UDP connection on your behalf. Like other proxies, it uses its own IP address and keeps your real one hidden, making it perfect for bypassing geo-restrictions or making you anonymous online.

If you’re interested in a quick overview of the key pros and cons of SOCKS5 proxies, check out this video:

Types of SOCKS Proxies – SOCKS4 vs. SOCKS5

SOCKS4 and SOCKS5 are two versions of SOCKS, a layer 5 protocol , the latter being considered superior or more advanced. Both types of SOCKS proxies work the same, connecting your device to the target web servers using another online identity.

While SOCKS4 proxies support SOCKS and TCP protocols only, SOCKS5 proxies support more protocols, including SOCKS, TCP, DNS, UDP, etc. This is why they are more flexible and secure than SOCKS4 proxy servers.

Also, SOCKS5 proxies use the encrypted tunneling technology known as SSH to establish a secure connection, unlike SOCKS4 proxies. They also support multiple authentication methods, providing higher security than SOCKS4 proxies which don’t support authentication at all.

Here’s a quick comparison:

TCP UDP SSH Authentication
SOCKS4 proxies Yes No No No
SOCKS5 proxies Yes Yes Yes Yes

Key Advantages of Using a SOCKS Proxy

Now that you know the basics of SOCKS proxies, it’s time to learn how and when they can help you. Here are the most important benefits of using a reliable SOCKS proxy:

  • Versatility

SOCKS5 proxies can handle various types of network traffic, including TCP/IP-based applications, UDP-based applications, and other protocols beyond just web browsing. This versatility makes them suitable for various applications such as email clients, FTP, peer-to-peer file sharing, online gaming, and more.

  • Better performance

Unlike HTTP proxies , a SOCKS proxy doesn’t alter data packet headers, so it’s less susceptible to errors. Using SOCKS proxies reduces the chances of data misinterpretation and routing to the wrong location. This is why they provide better performance than other proxies.

  • Anonymity

SOCKS proxies can help enhance privacy and anonymity by hiding your actual IP address and location from the websites or services you connect to. By routing your traffic through a proxy server, your online activities become more difficult to trace back to your actual identity.

  • Faster and more reliable connection

SOCKS5 proxies support multiple protocols, including UDP or User Datagram Protocol. This protocol has low latency, so it ensures faster data transfer. For that reason, they are perfect for time-sensitive apps like gaming, live calling, and streaming. Choosing a SOCKS5 proxy server near your geographical location can further increase your connection speed.

  • Getting around geo-blocks

A SOCKS proxy can help you bypass geo-restrictions and access region-specific content from anywhere. By choosing a proxy from a supported location, the target website or service will see you and treat you as a genuine user from that region, granting you access to the desired content.

SOCKS Proxy vs. HTTP Proxy

The next step to understanding SOCKS proxies is learning how they differ from HTTP proxies. Both work as intermediaries between your device and the target web servers.

However, HTTP proxies are specifically designed for handling HTTP connections, unlike SOCKS5 proxies. SOCKS proxy servers are compatible with any port or protocol, allowing you to use them in multiple applications and all sorts of scenarios. You can even use them on specific apps instead of all your traffic, letting you choose the programs you want to protect.

When it comes to security, none of them encrypts your traffic. However, SOCKS5 proxies employ SSH tunneling and support multiple authentication methods (depending on the provider), making them a safer alternative.

A SOCKS proxy tends to provide better performance because it operates at the transport layer and can handle various types of traffic. Still, this would largely depend on the proxy provider and the quality of SOCKS proxies it offers.

SOCKS proxies HTTP proxies
Authentication Yes (SOCKS5) Yes
Encryption No No
Performance Highest High
Compatibility All traffic (protocol-agnostic) HTTP traffic only
Integration High Highest


Whether you’re an individual looking to bypass geo-restrictions or a business user interested in web scraping, ad verification, or social media management, a good SOCKS proxy can help.

A SOCKS5 proxy is the newest and most advanced version of the SOCKS proxy and is often a better choice than a SOCKS4 or HTTP proxy. The key is to get it from a reliable provider to ensure optimal anonymity, security, and performance.

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Vilius Dumcius

Product Owner

With six years of programming experience, Vilius specializes in full-stack web development with PHP (Laravel), MySQL, Docker, Vue.js, and Typescript. Managing a skilled team at IPRoyal for years, he excels in overseeing diverse web projects and custom solutions. Vilius plays a critical role in managing proxy-related tasks for the company, serving as the lead programmer involved in every aspect of the business. Outside of his professional duties, Vilius channels his passion for personal and professional growth, balancing his tech expertise with a commitment to continuous improvement.

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