The Best VPNs for BitTorrent | Tech News
What Is BitTorrent, Anyway?
BitTorrent has an unsavory reputation, one that is both unfair and well deserved. BitTorrent addresses the bottleneck created when too many people try to download the same files from a single source at the same time—be they bootlegged movies, hot music tracks, DRM-free books, or photos of cats. BitTorrent turns a file’s popularity into a benefit, instead of a bottleneck, by having each of the downloaders distribute pieces of the file to every other downloader. Best of all, it’s decentralized, with no main server that might choke under the burden of traffic. Torrenting is a clever solution; but while it can be used for legitimate purposes, its distributed, uncontrolled nature also makes it the ideal way to illegally share copyrighted content online.
BitTorrent’s dubious distinction as the pirate’s tool of choice has led to indiscriminate crackdowns from ISPs on the use of BitTorrent. With a virtual private
Okay Then, What Is a VPN?
When you surf the web, your internet traffic isn’t necessarily secure. Someone could be lurking on the same network as you, monitoring your activities. That’s especially true when you’re using a public Wi-Fi network. Clever attackers can even create bogus Wi-Fi networks that impersonate legit ones, tricking you into connecting and exposing your personal information.
Your ISP also has remarkable insight into what you do online, and has even been given the green light to sell anonymized user metadata. Thanks, Congress! But with a VPN, they won’t be able to see what you’re up to. That will come in handy when we get back to talking about torrenting.
Other actions from Washington, namely the FCC decision to roll back net neutrality rules, have sparked an interest in VPNs. For those who are unaware, net neutrality is the idea that ISPs must treat all web content equally. Without it, ISPs could charge companies or consumers an extra fee to get faster connections. They could potentially create a system where consumers must sign up for specific plans to access web services like Netflix or Twitter. VPNs may restore net neutrality somewhat, but it will depend on how ISPs respond to the latest stint of deregulation.
VPNs work by routing your web traffic through an encrypted tunnel between your computer and a server operated by the VPN company. Anyone snooping on your activities, even if they are the ones running the network, won’t be able to see what you’re up to. Even the ISPs will be blind. Advertisers and others on the web will have a harder time tracking your movements because your true IP address is hidden behind that of the VPN server and your traffic is mixed in with everyone else on that server. It all boils down to this: You need a VPN.
Setting up a VPN used to be a painful process, requiring confidence and a fair amount of arcane networking knowledge. Thankfully, modern VPN companies offer handy apps that do the heavy lifting for you. All you need to do now is install and press the button to connect.
Using a VPN goes a long way to
Everything Is Free Now
I often receive emails asking about the interplay between VPNs and BitTorrent. Some of them have included admissions of
If you are going to use BitTorrent for whatever reason, good luck to you. If you are going to use a VPN, more power to you. But be sure that you take the time to read the VPN’s terms of service before you start. And be aware of the local laws and possible penalties before you start, whatever your willingness to obey them. “I didn’t know the law,” or “I don’t agree with the law,” won’t hold up as defenses in a court, so make sure you can live with any potential punishments should you choose to do something legally dubious.
Will a VPN Hide My Torrenting From My ISP or the Police?
The short answer is that, yes, a VPN can shield your online activities from your ISP. And that’s a good thing, not only if you have legally iffy torrenting habits, but also because it protects your privacy in general. An online survey of 1,000 conducted by PCMag found that 25 percent of respondents named ISPs as the biggest threat to their online privacy. That’s entirely correct.
As we said, however: no security tool is bulletproof. On paper, a VPN should prevent your ISP from seeing your traffic as it flows across the web. It should also make it much, much harder for someone on the outside to identify particular traffic as yours.
That said, there are always exceptions. Time and time again, user error and efforts by law enforcement have undermined the protection offered by services like Tor or VPNs. Timing attacks, for example, can correlate packet traffic at a VPN server with activity on your own network.
In some cases, the problem may be the VPN itself. If the VPN company keeps copious logs about user activity (specifically, the identity of the user, which server they connected to, when) that information could potentially be obtained by law enforcement.
Can I Use BitTorrent on My VPN?
Most VPN services are completely fine with you using BitTorrent or P2P services while using their products. All of our top-rated VPN services do not prohibit file sharing.
Even the services that do allow torrenting often have restrictions. Some, for example, may require that you only use BitTorrent when connected to specific VPN servers. NordVPN labels the servers where torrenting is acceptable. TorGuard VPN, on the other hand, does not make any distinction about user traffic, so you can torrent to your heart’s content. Note that pretty much every VPN service that allows torrenting also explicitly forbids breaking copyright law, or otherwise abusing the service.
Some VPNs have tools that are particularly useful for torrenting. NordVPN is one of several companies that offer static IP addresses for purchase, which can desirable in some circumstances. TorGuard VPN has built its entire reputation around protecting
See How We Test VPNs
What About Speeds?
When you use a VPN, your web traffic is usually traveling through more fiber and more machines. The practical upshot is that your connection speeds are affected by all that extra distance. For large torrents, this can mean a longer wait before you get the completed file.
A quick note about VPN testing: networks are
In my latest round of testing, I compared speed test results with and without a VPN running. I used the Ookla speed test tool, and present the results below. Note that these are in order of score, with the top score in each category marked with italicized red text.
Right now, we consider TorGuard VPN the fastest VPN among those we’ve tested. It doesn’t win every test, but its low impact on downloads is especially important for BitTorrent users. Given its pro-torrenting
One way to avoid putting the squeeze on your downloads is to simply route them outside the VPN’s tunnel. PureVPN is also one of the very few VPNs to offer this feature.
If you’re more concerned about protecting your browser traffic than your downloads, you can install a VPN browser plug-in. This routes just your browser traffic through the
VPNs aren’t just for your Windows PC, either. There are Android VPNs, iPhone VPNs, and even Mac VPNs. Note that you’re less likely to want a VPN to protect your BitTorrent traffic over a mobile device.
VPN Reliability and Accessibility Issues
The extra stops and processes for your data and the distance introduced by VPNs can make a normal browsing experience somewhat
If you plan on using a VPN while torrenting, consider the ramifications of the Kill Switch. This feature, found in most VPN services, prevents apps from sending data via the internet when the VPN is disconnected. The idea is that it prevents any information from being transmitted in the clear. The avid BitTorrent downloader needs to decide if they want total and complete protection, or would rather not have their download interrupted.
Also, not all websites like it when you connect via VPN. Although there are some VPNs that work with Netflix and Hulu, these and similar services outright block most VPN users. I’ve encountered many websites, apps, and services that simply don’t work right when a VPN is in use. This might impact when and how you decide to download via VPN.
Location, Location, Location
While VPN services have servers all over the world, each company’s headquarters do have to be based somewhere on the planet. And that somewhere might have data retention laws that require the VPN company to either collect and maintain user data for a set period of time.
Understanding what kind of information a VPN service collects, and how long it is maintained, can be hard to figure out. To get the answer, you may have to wade through unending FAQ pages and opaque terms of service written in arcane legalese. If the VPN company you’re considering can’t clearly explain what information it gathers and how long it will be kept, it’s probably not a great service.
When we review VPNs, we make a point to ask service representatives about what efforts they take to secure customers’ privacy. You can read through our full reviews to see their answers. So far, the majority of services have shown that they take protecting user privacy very seriously.
Note that national and international law as it relates to data storage and whether that data can be turned over to law enforcement is complicated and constantly changing. A good service today might choose or be compelled to alter its policies tomorrow, so pay attention to any updates to the terms of service.
There are three important numbers to consider when choosing a VPN, aside from price. The first is the number of devices the VPN allows per subscription. On average, VPN services let you use up to five devices at a time. More than that, and you usually have to pay extra. If the VPN you’re looking at offers fewer than five devices (they might be called “simultaneous connections”), the service better offer something pretty nifty to balance out that restriction.
Second is the number of servers. Unless you purchase a VPN server yourself (which you can do!), you’ll have to share that server with other people using the VPN service. For each person added to the server, your slice of the bandwidth pie shrinks a bit. The more servers a company has on hand, the less likely you are to find yourself crowded in with a bunch of other downloaders. If you’re keen to have a VPN server to yourself, you can purchase static IP addresses from TorGuard VPN, or take advantage of KeepSolid VPN Unlimited’s Personal VPN Server offering. Or roll your own VPN with Outline.
The issue of bandwidth sharing is compounded when it comes to
Last is the number of server locations. The more server locations there are, the more likely you are to find one nearby, and the nearer the server, the better your web performance tends to be. Having more server locations also gives you more options to spoof your location, if you’re into that kind of thing. That’s an especially important ability if you’re trying to access Netflix from a region other than the one for which you have subscribed.
A good VPN service offers more than 700 servers across the globe, with diverse server locations. A robust VPN service has more than 1,000 servers. The kings of the heap as far as servers go are NordVPN, Private Internet Access, and TorGuard VPN. These companies offer over 3,000 servers to
Encrypt Your Torrent Traffic
Perhaps you’ll decide that all this effort isn’t worth it just to secure your BitTorrent downloads. But even so, you should keep in mind that a VPN is still the best way to keep your internet traffic private and secure. Whether you decide to spring for a paid
Bottom Line: NordVPN wraps a slick client around a strong collection of features for securing your online activities. Earning a rare 5-star rating, it’s our top pick for VPNs.
Private Internet Access VPN Review
Bottom Line: Private Internet Access offers a robust, full-featured service, at an unbeatable price. Its tremendous value offsets its rudimentary UI, making it an Editors’ Choice for VPNs.
TunnelBear VPN Review
Bottom Line: TunnelBear’s VPN is a rare security product that doesn’t force you to compromise between security and usability. It’s friendly when you need it to be, invisible when you don’t, and it doesn’…
CyberGhost VPN Review
Bottom Line: CyberGhost offers an excellent VPN product with strong, unique features not found elsewhere. It’s a worthy choice.
IPVanish VPN Review
Bottom Line: VPN service IPVanish secures your web traffic from prying eyes. It packs powerful features veteran VPN users will appreciate, though its interface may put off the less experienced.
TorGuard VPN Review
Bottom Line: TorGuard VPN is the best bet for BitTorrent seeders and leechers to secure their web traffic. It’s packed with features sure to appeal to security wonks, and it has the best speed test score…
Golden Frog VyprVPN Review
Hide My Ass VPN Review
Bottom Line: Hide My Ass VPN turns heads with its name, and it has solid security and a robust server network, to boot. The downside is its hefty price tag.
Bottom Line: PureVPN boasts an outstanding network of international VPN servers, but its user experience leaves something to be desired, and some features didn’t work in testing.