If you’re looking for the best way to torrent, you may be wondering whether a VPN or proxy is the better option. Both of these can be powerful anonymity tools. Their effectiveness varies depending on how they are used and the service’s underlying protocols.
Throughout this article, we’ll compare VPNs and proxies, and establish which is the best option for anonymous torrenting.
How Does a Proxy Work?
A proxy server does what the name suggests. It takes requests from a user, then performs them on the user’s behalf. The results are then returned to the user. However, the IP address logged as making the request will be the one from the proxy. There are a few different proxy servers, but the most common two are HTTP and SOCKS.
The most popular type of proxy is HTTP. People often use these to bypass local restrictions blocking them from getting to specific web pages. However, it will only work to access websites without hiding your traffic by default. Therefore, these are not the ones we will be discussing.
A SOCKS5 proxy is much more versatile than an HTTP one as it can be used to access any type of internet traffic, not just web pages. It does this by routing your traffic through the proxy server, making it appear as if the traffic is coming from the server’s IP address rather than your own.
If you want a torrent proxy, then a SOCKS5 is what you’re looking for. It’s safer and also the only one supported by BitTorrent clients.
You should look for the most recent iteration, “SOCKS 5” or “SOCK5”. Some services offer SOCKS 4, but this has known vulnerabilities and is useless in protecting your identity online.
How Does a VPN Work?
Most VPN providers are “full-tunnel”, meaning they encrypt all of the traffic from your device to the server of the VPN service. This is done using an encryption protocol, which scrambles your data in transit so that only the VPN server can unscramble it. The server then sends your request to the internet as usual.
Your ISP will see that you’re connected to the VPN server, but won’t be able to know what you’re doing online.
Third parties trying to monitor your activity will only see an IP address belonging to the VPN server, not your real one. This makes it impossible to track you back to your device.
VPN Vs. Proxy
Now that you know what they are and how they work, it’s time to compare VPNs and proxies and establish which one is the best option for downloading torrents anonymously. We will analyze the main areas that should be considered when talking about P2P file-sharing.
Besides hiding your real IP, the VPN provides robust encryption to the entire Internet connection, usually a 256-AES cipher. Users are protected, whether they are browsing a torrent site or downloading a file.
The proxy, on the other hand, won’t encrypt your traffic at all. This makes it less secure than a VPN.
Changing the IP address
As I mentioned before, these two tools have one thing in common: they change your IP address. And that’s their primary job. But they do it differently; the most significant difference is that a VPN will replace your IP no matter what you do online or which apps you use.
But with the proxy, only traffic routed through SOCK5 is protected. In other words, only the BitTorrent client will be using the IP of the proxy. Everything else will use your real IP.
Because there is no encryption, a proxy can achieve higher speeds than a VPN. If you are looking for the fastest possible connection, then a proxy is your best bet.
The encryption of a VPN consumes resources, which impacts the download speed.
A VPN has extra features that take security to another level, like the kill switch and DNS leak prevention.
The Socks5 proxy doesn’t have any additional tools, making its protection very basic.
In the first place, I want to make it clear that I am excluding “free VPNs”. When I talk about prices, I don’t include these because they are usually suspicious and not very reliable.
On average, it’s much less expensive to run and maintain a SOCKS5 proxy service than a VPN. A VPN company has costs with developing and maintaining servers and software. There are much more expenses than what a proxy requires. That’s why proxy providers can afford to offer lower prices.
Ease of Use
Regarding ease of use, there are two main things to consider: installation and day-to-day use.
The VPN has the advantage when setting it up because it’s installed like any other program. You download it, install it on your computer, insert the login details, and you’re ready to go. A proxy does not need installation but requires manual configuration in the BitTorrent client.
They are both straightforward in everyday use, and you just want to download torrent files. But the VPN has the upper hand because all you have to do is connect to a server in the country you want: and that takes only one click.
The proxy has the advantage of not needing any action because the BitTorrent software is already configured to use the proxy. The downside is that whenever you want to change your IP’s country, you must reconfigure the proxy settings in the torrent client.
Can You Use a VPN and a Proxy simultaneously?
You can try to increase security by combining a BitTorrent proxy with your VPN. Actually, some VPN providers offer a free proxy. That’s because a VPN already has the technical infrastructure required to run proxy servers.
Unfortunately, using both tools simultaneously will impact your upload and download speeds. I think it’s not worth wasting Internet speed by adding a proxy to your VPN connection. In terms of safety, it doesn’t make a significant difference.
Overall, a VPN is more secure than a Proxy. The proxy may be cheaper and faster, but those are not the main factors to consider if you’re looking for safety while downloading torrents.
A VPN will encrypt all your traffic, not just the traffic going to the BitTorrent client. On top of that, the extra security features are an additional layer of protection that can make the difference between being safe and exposed. Therefore, in almost every case, VPNs are superior for torrenting safely and anonymously.
Should you change to a VPN if you are already using a Proxy?
Even if you are already a SOCKS5 proxy user, it’s worth upgrading to a VPN. The security improvements are too significant to overlook. Not to mention that, as I explained before, some VPNs come with a SOCKS5 proxy. So you will always have the proxy option, although I don’t think you will use it after experiencing the increased security and simplicity of a VPN.
If you plan to make such a move, check our beginner VPN tips for torrenting, so you get the most from your new VPN.