Downloading files via torrents is a great way to gain access to a countless number of media. It only takes a BitTorrent client and obtaining media becomes very simple. However, file-sharing is not always simple and free from consequences. Without the right precautions, your behavior is easily monitored.
The Internet is becoming increasingly self-aware, with agencies collecting and tracking data from users. These days, maintaining your privacy and security is imperative. Masking your IP address with a VPN while torrenting is one way to ensure you are not vulnerable to snoopers.
That’s why we are going to discuss how a Virtual Private Network can protect you when you download files via P2P. We will also share with you which VPN providers are the most suitable for torrenting anonymously, according to our research and extensive testing.
Risks of Torrenting without a VPN
Before deciding to download media to your computer, it is important to understand the risks you are taking when you are not utilizing a secured and verified VPN. You should be aware that there can be long-term consequences once you are discovered, and pursued by any type of agency.
1. Share Personal Information With Strangers
While torrenting, your information becomes exposed and vulnerable. Anyone who is using a program to download the same file as you can view and save your IP address. When your IP is shared with strangers, you have a much greater risk of being tracked and identified.
2. Allow ISPs to Track You
As your IP becomes public with each file you download, ISPs may begin to monitor your movements online. Once an ISP has flagged an IP address they serve, you may begin to receive cease and desist letters in the mail.
In some cases, ISPs throttle the bandwidth of users who torrent on a regular basis. In recent years, ISPs are beginning to threaten users, cutting off services or sharing legal letters of intent with customers. Many providers have introduced new user agreement policies that prohibit sharing copyrighted material.
When customers ignore these warnings and letters in the mail, they may face additional throttling, the canceling of their service, or legal action, depending on the content they are downloading.
3. Copyright Infringement
While not all files found on torrenting websites are monitored, the most popular pieces of content types are watched by ISPs, legal offices, and corporations that represent creators. In such a scenario, receiving a copyright infringement flag, such as a DMCA notice, is not uncommon.
But it is essential to remember that there are real life consequences of downloading torrents without a reliable VPN to protect your identity. While most consequences include receiving letters to encourage ceasing and desisting, it is possible to face real financial trouble and, in some extreme cases, the risk of jail time.
Users are often required to pay fines and fees to cover the losses that companies experience from downloaded content, even if there are others who have downloaded the same file. In some countries, individuals have been charged with theft and sent to jail for downloading copyright material.
File-Sharing is one of the favorite ways for hackers to infiltrate a computer and steal personal info. As you can see, it’s very easy to identify an IP through a BitTorrent client. That information is available to everyone.
If you are showing your real IP, then it’s simple to follow it and infiltrate the respective computer. But if you have a different one, such as the one provided by a VPN, then it’s a completely different story. VPN servers have their own IP addresses, which are assigned to users, making it more difficult (if not impossible) to track and pursue.
Just because you know someone who has torrented for years without protection does not mean that you are not at risk yourself. Consequences can be entirely random, but you are never completely excluded from the risk involved in the act itself.
Benefits of Torrenting with a VPN
A VPN provides security, protection, and anonymity when getting content. It routes traffic through its servers to create secure connections. There are two main advantages of using this software:
All data transmitted between your computer and the Internet is encrypted through the VPN tunnel, ensuring that your activity is completely anonymous. In other words, whenever you upload or download a file, the VPN software encrypts the data, making it impossible to learn what is being exchanged, its origin and the users involved.
Replace your real IP Address
Another great benefit is the fact that most VPN services operate a network of servers located across the globe. The user can select a server located in a specific country, and have a new IP from that place. Anyone monitoring your traffic only sees the IP address of the VPN. Your location, IP, downloads and Internet activity are masked behind the Virtual Private Network, out of the wrong hands.
Can You Use Every VPN for Torrents?
Unfortunately, not all of them are optimal for torrents. Let’s have a look at the main reasons:
Some VPNs don't allow BitTorrent
File-sharing can be a bit of a grey area. It has many useful uses, but it’s also connected to online piracy. Because of that, some VPN companies decide to stay out of it. If users try to use a BitTorrent client or any other type of torrent manager when connected to one of those VPNs, the download simply won’t start. Depending on the provider, you may even get disconnected.
Some of them don't have the right security tools
Some tools are necessary if the goal is to torrent with safety. A few examples are the encryption level, features such as DNS leak protection and a Kill Switch. Keep reading, we will go through the mandatory features in a few paragraphs.
What about free VPNs?
Getting torrents with a free VPN can be a risky thing. These companies claim to have a free product, but they are spending money developing software, maintaining servers, paying employees, etc. The thing to have in mind is that they must be getting their money back somehow, to pay for all those expenses.
Not so long ago, some of these so-called “free VPNs” were caught logging user activity and selling it to marketing agencies. By knowing the online activity of the users, these marketing agencies would know exactly what ads to show them.
This goes exactly against what a Virtual Private Network should do, which is hiding your activity and identity. Paying for one may cost a couple of dollars per month, but at least you know how they are making their money.
Features That a Good VPN for Torrents Should Have
When testing a Virtual Private Network to download torrents, we consider many factors. A proper VPN should follow some criteria, so it can keep its users anonymous and safe. Here are some of the most important features:
Allows P2P file-sharing
The first thing to consider is the provider’s policy regarding this subject. If they allow BitTorrent traffic, it’s usually stated in their terms and conditions.
One of the main things that separate good VPNs from bad ones is whether they save user logs or not. We believe that keeping logs goes against true anonymity. Excluding the ones that save user activity should be one of your main priorities.
Encryption and protocol
Also, it should have protocols that are proven to be safe. Keep in mind that the amount of protocols available is not the most important thing. You should focus on which protocols, and not how many. In our opinion, OpenVPN is the best one at the moment, offering a good combination of safety and speed.
This one can be a bit tricky. The problem is that some providers like to advertise the fact that they have many thousands of servers. But there are a couple of factors that are more valuable than numbers.
You should prioritize the distribution around the world. A decent Virtual Private Network should have servers spread around the globe, in a way that benefits users from every country. In other words, you will want to make sure that the one you choose has servers in areas that are not far away from you.
Let’s imagine you live in the UK. You wouldn’t want a VPN that only has servers in the United States, for example. That’s because you would have to connect to a server that is very far away. That way, you would be losing quite some download speed because of the huge distance from the location you are connected to.
When we talk about torrenting, download speed is an important factor. And a popular issue with VPNs is that the encryption makes the Internet connection slower. But fortunately, some providers improved their software in a way that it doesn’t have a big impact.
Some features are very valuable, to the point that we see them as mandatory for P2P. A good example is the Kill Switch. A VPN that doesn’t offer a tool like that will always have a risk of exposing your identity. It shouldn’t even be considered.
The Best VPNs for Torrenting
This is our list of the best Virtual Private Networks for torrenting. And keep in mind that, even though these providers are also useful for other purposes, the only criteria used for this ranking is the download of torrent files.
Private Internet Access
Which VPN Should You Choose?
Our advice is that you start by visiting each provider’s website and check if they have servers in countries close to you, preferably on the same continent. The shorter the distance, the higher the connection speed. Usually, every provider has a page on their website with all the available locations.
After that, it will depend on what your preferences are. For example, if you want a good all-rounder that ticks all the boxes, then NordVPN and ExpressVPN are both great options. If the price is your main priority, then Surfshark is the one to go. Each one has its strengths, and it depends on you to choose the one that best suits you.
Tips for an Improved Experience
Choosing a Virtual Private Network to stay on the safe side when getting your torrents is the most important thing. But there are a few extra steps you can take to improve your downloads, making them safer and faster.
After buying and setting up your new VPN software, you should explore it and test it. The following tips are some things to have in mind:
1 - Cross borders
It’s recommended that you choose a server located in a country other than your own. If someone is trying to monitor your activity, they would have to face two different jurisdictions to follow you. That is extremely difficult to do, and even if someone was willing to attempt this, there’s still the encryption of the VPN protecting you. We see this as an extra layer of security.
2 - Not every country is a good choice
Try servers in countries that are more “torrent-friendly”, such as the Netherlands. Avoid the ones located in countries that are known for heavy monitoring, such as the US and UK. Those are the ones constantly looking.
3 - Look for P2P optimized servers
As we discussed earlier, the distance from the server has an impact on your connection speed. The closest you are from it, the faster your connection will be. But there are some exceptions to this rule. Some providers optimize servers for P2P, and those are much faster, even if they are far away from the user. During our extensive testing, we saw this situation a few times. Let’s take a look at a specific example:
IPVanish allows BitTorrent on every server. But still, some of them seem to be optimized for torrenting, and no matter how distant they were, we still got very fast downloads. For instance, some servers based in Canada, which is in a different continent from where we are, were three times faster than others that are closer to us. Some providers tend to have this kind of servers in countries that are more tolerant regarding file-sharing.
4 - How to know if a server is fast?
There’s nothing like testing it yourself! A few softwares, such as ExpressVPN, already have a speed test feature included, which is very cool. Others only have the ping latency. For example, in NordVPN’s software, there is a latency percentage indicator for each server.
There are a few websites where you can perform such a test. We like speedtest.net because it’s quite accurate.
How to read those speed tests:
Many beginners have problems to read these test results. If that’s your case, the following information should be useful to you.
Ping latency is the reaction time of your connection, the time it takes to receive a response after sending a request. It’s not important for P2P, as it affects your web browsing only. It’s measured in milliseconds (ms) and the lower the number, the better.
Download speed is how fast you can receive data. And this is what matters for torrent downloads. It’s measured in megabits per second (Mbps). Please do not confuse Mbps with MB/s (Megabytes per second), which is the speed you see in your BitTorrent client. If you want to calculate how many Megabytes per second you can achieve, here’s the formula:
- Considering that 1 Megabyte has 8 Megabits, you just have to divide your result by 8. As an example, if my test result is 55 Mbps, I divide it by 8 and my result is 6.875 MB/s. And this is the speed you should see in your BitTorrent client (approximately).
Upload speed is also relevant for P2P because it lets you know how fast you can send data to others. It’s also measured in Mbps and the same formula applies here. Divide it by 8 to know how many MB/s you can upload.
Thanks to the high level of anonymity it offers, a VPN is the favorite tool of torrent users. But it’s not as simple as that, not all of them are ideal for downloading content in a fast and safe way. Some of them are slow, others keep logs of your activity, and some don’t offer enough protection.
All the options that we listed above do a great job to protect your torrent activity. But they are different when it comes to extra features, ease of use, servers, and price.
Do your research thoroughly, see which providers match your preferences. And remember that, although the choice of the VPN software is very important, there are more factors you should have in mind. The tips and suggestions we gave you should improve your file-sharing experience considerably.