Private Internet Access for Torrenting
Private Internet Access has many happy followers who use it to download files in safety. We couldn't ignore that and we tested everything there was to be tested in this service. The results were quite good and we immediately included PIA on our list of best VPNs for torrenting and P2P. Let's take a look at the details...
Safety and Privacy
PIA VPN has a no logging policy, it's very clear in their terms that they don't collect any user information. They were recently contacted by an intelligence agency, who requested information about someone being investigated. PIA VPN had nothing to give them, no logging information at all (you can read more details here). Also, there are no complaints from their torrent users regarding notices and logged activity. This gives their users a peace of mind that is rare in the online world.
The user has the option to choose between the main protocols: OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP. As we always say, we use OpenVPN and it's the only protocol we recommend.
Their security is very interesting, you can actually choose the levels of protection you want. The maximum encryption is AES-256, the data authentication goes up to SHA-256 and the handshake can go up to a maximum of RSA 4096, which is way above the normal protection. We have to say we are impressed, not only with the fact that the encryption is really high, but also because the user can customize it.
The following are the Private Internet Access recommendations regarding which encryption settings to choose:
Naturally, the highest security level comes with a bit of speed loss. But, to make the speed tests of this Private Internet Access review, we always chose the maximum protection levels, and the speeds were still very good. You can check the results in our speed tests chapter.
Like all the VPN providers we recommend, Private Internet Access uses shared IP addresses. That means that the users have the same IPs, and one single IP cannot be traced to a single user.
Connecting to a VPN Server
The main difference from most VPNs is that Private Internet Access is managed from the Notification Area (at the bottom right of your screen), just like this:
The red icon means the VPN is not running. Right click on it to see the options.
The first time you use the VPN, make sure you go to "Settings" and then "Advanced", so you can choose your encryption and the features you want to enable. In our Features chapter, we talked in detail about each one of these options. And in the Security chapter, we talked more about which encryption levels to choose.
This process only has to be done once, and then make sure you press save. From that moment on, every time you connect to the VPN, you only have to choose the server location where you want to connect. Just right click on the icon and choose the country. Each country has many servers available, and the software will connect you to the fastest server in the country you've chosen.
And that's it, a couple of seconds later and you are connected.
Features and Options
One of the things we like is the simplicity of the software. Although it has advanced features, they did a great job organizing them, making the software easy to use. Beginner users will have no problem in managing every option, each one of them has a brief description and also a link for an extended explanation. This way the users know what they are doing. Let's take a look at each feature, with our personal recommendation on what to enable and disable.
Port forwarding is possible to turn on when connecting to the following locations: CA Toronto, CA North York, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, France, Germany, Romania and Israel.
Sometimes, port forwarding may be useful for torrenting, but it reduces privacy. Therefore, we advise to keep it disabled for maximum protection.
PIA MACE is a new addition. It's basically their own ad/tracker/malware blocker. There are several blockers available for browsers: some for ads, some for trackers, some for malware, and some all in one. With the PIA MACE enabled, there is no need for those browser extensions. This update is very convenient and useful. It's a rare thing for a VPN to have a blocker like this. If you don't like to see those painful online ads, then this option might be for you.
The VPN Kill Switch doesn't need an introduction. If you download torrents, then there is a big chance you heard about this option (in case you didn't, check our page about the Kill Switch). It's a must have feature for anonymous file sharing, one of the most important details. We tested it several times, and the PIA VPN Kill Switch worked fine, without any problem. We recommend having this option always enabled.
The DNS leak protection is also an important tool. With this option enabled, all the DNS requests will be routed through the VPN, assuring that there are no leaks. They use their own private DNS servers. We recommend enabling this option to eliminate any risks of leakage.
IPv6 leak protection has the objective of disabling IPv6 traffic when you are connected to the VPN in order to avoid leaks. Disabling IPv6 is a thing that can be done manually, but it's always nice to have an automatic option to make sure there are no leaks.
Use small packets is meant to improve stability in some networks where there are issues, such as disconnections. It's very rare that this option is needed, so we recommend using it only if needed.
Enabling debug mode is destined to save (in a local log file) the performance details of the VPN application. If you experience issues, you can send that file to their support team and they will identify the problem. We never experienced any problems with the PIA software and we don't see the need to enable it. But there is nothing to lose, if you want to play it safe, you can turn it on.
Pia has a total of 3250 servers in 25 countries. Those countries are spread through all continents, which means that every user in the worls will find a good option nearby to connect to. It's also important to mention that they allow torrent traffic on every server.
The software is compatible with the major platforms: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and Linux.
We tried the Android and iOS Apps as well and they are very pleasant, quite similar to the Desktop version. They have the same features, even the Kill Switch, which is great, you don't see that feature in a phone every day. For more details about the Android app, check here. Or check out the iOS app, if that is your case.
The number of simultaneous connections is one of the highest of the market. Vou can have a total of 5 devices connected to PIA VPN at the same time.
DNS Leak Test: All the results were clean in our several tests. The DNS leak Prevention did not allow any leak at all.
IP Test: The results were always as expected, the IP was the one assigned to us by the VPN in every test.
Torrent IP Test: Our real IP was never leaked when downloading a torrent file. The IP was always the same as we got before, the one from PIA VPN.
The speed was recently improved and we were surprised to see how fast they have become. It's also important to mention that we tested this provider with the highest encryption available, 256 bits (as we mentioned before, you can choose your level of encryption). And naturally, the higher the level of protection, the higher impact on speed. But even with such high protection, we were able to get very good results:
Torrent Speed Tests
We were happy to see great speeds on many servers. Even servers located in different continents gave us very good speeds. And of course, having fast servers in torrent friendly locations is a big advantage for Pia VPN.
As it happens with most VPNs, the annual plan has the biggest discount. The annual plan is 3.33 dollars per month, and it's one of the lowest prices in the market. The major payment methods are allowed, such as Credit Card, Bitcoin and Paypal.
Regarding the trial period, there is a money back guarantee of 7 days, which is plenty of time to try the service and make a decision: Continuing using the VPN or asking for the money back.
What we like about Private Internet Access
- Advanced 256 bit encryption
- Ability to select level of encryption
- Doesn't save logs
- Important features, such as a kill switch
- PIA MACE is an original and useful feature
- Impressive number of servers
- 5 simultaneous connections
- Extremely simple and easy to use
- 7 days money back guarantee
What could be improved
Although this VPN provider is very complete, we have a couple of suggestions to make it even better:
- It would be nice to have a few more countries available, especially for African users.
- They are fast replying to emails, but live chat support would be a nice addition.
It is not every day that we see a VPN service with such advanced options, and at the same time so easy to manage. The torrenting performance was very good, providing fast and secure downloads. The price is also one of the best things about this software. It is known that VPN providers make a bigger discount for the annual plans, but this one still surprised us. Considering the quality that PIA VPN offers, their yearly subscription is one of the best VPN deals we saw in the market. It is definitely a very affordable option.
After reviewing Private Internet Access, we were very pleased and we have no doubts in recommending this software to both beginner and advanced users.