Virtual private networks (VPN) and torrenting are more intertwined than ever before, with the former best used as a method to provide enhanced privacy and anonymity when downloading the latter. After all, why would anyone turn down the opportunity to download free files, be it videos, music, ebooks, games, software, or any other form of digital media?
Even if you aren’t concerned about the privacy aspect of a VPN, there are other benefits to using a VPN for torrenting like avoiding ISP speed throttling or blocking malware from downloads. Providers like CyberGhost and NordVPN are excellent solutions for any of the above.
We’ve put together a guide detailing everything you could possibly need to know about using a VPN for torrenting. It includes legality, safety, and BitTorrent setup.
What is a Torrent?
Torrenting is a popular form of file sharing that uses a program to split a file into small downloadable chunks. It has frequently garnered media attention after a number of high-profile cases that have seen hefty fines handed out in the past.
For example, back in the day, LimeWire was the go-to source for free peer-to-peer file sharing (P2P). However, it closed down in 2010 after a four-year legal battle with the U.S. music industry.
A torrent file refers to any file sharing through a decentralized P2P network such as Limewire. It works by using a program or app to join a network of other systems that either have the file stored on them or are currently downloading it at the same time. Check out the top 10 torrenting sites used today.
Is Torrenting Legal?
For the most part, yes, torrenting is legal. This is true for the U.S., the UK, the EU, and vast swathes of the world. As long as the file isn’t copyrighted, P2P sharing via torrent sites is completely fine. (This is why the U.S. music industry went after Limewire so aggressively.)
At worst, you’re likely to receive a letter from your ISP asking you to stop, or they may begin to throttle your speeds if you’re constantly downloading large files.
A legal torrent is any file that is freely available to download online with no issues relating to copyright.
There are many sources for legal torrents, with a large list that can be found here. The Vuze Wiki page notes that “Creative Commons” is an effective search term for legal torrents.
A torrent is a great way to push out large files to users, such as game updates, or anything wanted by lots of people in a short space of time.
Legal torrents are all well and good, but there’s also an endless stream of copyrighted material that is available online. We would advise against downloading illegal torrents, especially considering the fines previously meted under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
The Pirate Bay used to be seen as a good source for illegal torrents, but co-founder and former administrator Peter Sunde was eventually charged. Sunde was told to pay $428,000 in damages, but later won on appeal so long as he never breaches copyright laws again or “faces a $1,222,000 penalty.”
Then there’s Joel Tenenbaum, who was fined “$675,000 – or $22,500 for each of the 30 songs he was found liable of infringing” in 2009. He was forced to file for bankruptcy to settle six years later. It’s unlikely you’ll be fined to this extreme (or even at all), but it’s still a considerable risk.
Is Torrenting Safe?
It’s a common question for anyone who wants to start using torrents to download files. Is it safe to do so?
There are risks when downloading any file from the internet, especially if it could potentially be copyrighted material. Some ISPs are also quick to share information with copyright holders if they find out. As long as you’re downloading legal torrents, we’d pay more attention to the issues discussed below.
Malware and viruses
The most common risks are malware and viruses packaged with the torrent. They come in many shapes and forms including fake files that have the same name or malware attached to the file that you actually want.
Be wary when downloading any file from the internet. We would suggest scanning any and all torrent files with antivirus software before you open them to be safe. Or, another good form of due diligence involves checking the size of the torrent file, as well as any corresponding comments to determine its legitimacy.
Speed throttling is when your internet service provider deliberately slows down a user’s internet connection either to save money or regulate network congestion. When a user downloads large torrent files, it often requires more bandwidth than regular online activities – or may contain illegally copyrighted material. In either case, an ISP is incentivized to stop this traffic.
This is another reason why the use of a VPN is ideal. Your ISP can’t monitor your online activity if your IP address is hidden. Meanwhile, peers who are also downloading the torrent won’t be able to track you either, as they won’t be able to see your physical location or where your internet traffic is going. If you do accidentally download copyrighted material, you’ll also be protected from companies that scour the internet looking for people to sue.
Below we’ll teach you how to use a VPN for torrenting safely. But before you read on, we recommend securing your own VPN service first.
How to Use a VPN for BitTorrent
We’re going to use BitTorrent for this guide, as it’s one of the best-known torrent sites available.
They also have a browser version called BitTorrent web, which could be worth checking out as it allows for streaming while downloading a file. If you don’t like the look of the BitTorrent client, µTorrent, Vuze, and BitComet are other viable alternatives.
BitTorrent boasts over 2 billion users and has been around since 2001. The company currently develops products across two brands, BitTorrent and µTorrent, which offer download clients for Windows, Mac, and Android.
Before we get started, here are common terms found within a torrent client:
- Seeders – A seeder is a computer on the network that has the complete file. You can download either the whole file or a piece from a seeder
- Leechers – Leechers represent devices with the file partially downloaded
- Peers – The number of people who have the file and are currently downloading the contents
- Trackers – Trackers help to keep tabs on the seeders and leechers, sorting the necessary connections to share the file between users
- Swarm – A swarm is a blanket term for the network of seeders, peers, and trackers
Now that that’s out of the way, you should be ready to begin.
For the purposes of this guide, we’re going to assume that you already have the specific torrent ready to download on your device. Make sure you remember where you’ve saved it, too.
You’ll also need the torrent program (BitTorrent for this example), as well as the VPN downloaded.
- To begin, sign in to your VPN client. (If in doubt about which VPN to pick, we’d recommend a service like NordVPN specifically for torrenting.)
- Make sure the kill switch is on.
- Select a server to connect to. (Some providers will have torrent-friendly servers.)
- Open the BT client app or the browser version if you would prefer.
- From the main page, select the Torrents tab on the left.
- You can either search for a torrent directly or “Add a torrent file from your computer.” We’ve opted for the latter.
- (I grabbed a legal torrent from here for testing purposes.) You can either find the file manually or drag and drop it to begin.
- Check the file size, and the name, and select where you want the file to download to. Finally, click the purple “Add” button at the bottom.
- Your file will now begin to download. You can keep tabs on the speed, seeders, and other information on the next page.
- Once the file is downloaded, you can access it via BitTorrent or in the location you previously selected.
It’s a simple process, which is another reason why it has proved to be popular with so many users.
While VPNs started out as a privacy tool, premium providers offer a host of additional features to help obfuscate firewalls and secure your data. User needs can vary quite a bit, but there are still a few pain points most seek to avoid. Here are three key benefits a torrenting VPN can help with:
- Access torrent websites – Whether legal or not, ISPs block many torrent sites directly, meaning you won’t be able to find any files when you look online.
- Bypass speed throttling – You won’t be limited in terms of download speeds as long as you pick a fast VPN because your IP address will be hidden from your internet service provider.
- Anonymity and privacy – Make sure to keep the kill switch turned on at all times while downloading torrents to be safe. VPN providers like IPVanish and Private Internet Access are a few that offer this advanced security feature.
Best VPN for Torrenting
Determining the best of anything is generally subjective. However, there are a number of features we’d look out for when selecting a top-rated VPN for torrenting. We recommend looking for a service that has airtight security measures and a verified no-logs policy. This is imperative if you’re wanting to remain anonymous while sharing files.
Connection speeds are also key, as you’ll want to avoid any lag or slower downloads while the VPN is active. In that respect, we’d recommend the likes of CyberGhost and NordVPN as we’ve already mentioned above. Privacy and security are also important, especially as you’ll want to stay free of anyone aiming to find out what you’re currently downloading.
Take a look at our top torrenting VPNs to find out which provider is best for you.
Torrent anonymously on P2P-friendly servers with CyberGhost VPN.
1. What does a VPN do?
A VPN allows you to connect to the internet and use websites privately. VPN services encrypt the data that travels to and from your device to a remote VPN server. The VPN service also hides your IP address and masks it with the IP address of a VPN server.
VPNs can be used across desktop computers, laptops, iPhones, iPad, and Android, depending on the provider.
2. Is torrenting the same as Kodi?
At its core, Kodi is simply a free, open-source multi-media hub for streaming content. You can customize your Kodi dashboards with add-ons to enhance their functionality. These add-ons typically use live streams on the platform as opposed to downloading or uploading files to your device like BitTorrent. This poses less risk than torrenting since you aren’t publicly displaying your IP address for all to see.
However, some Kodi add-ons run off the BitTorrent protocol, which downloads and uploads content to your device. When you share files this way, your IP address is exposed for your ISP and others to track. If you wish to torrent files anonymously, you’ll definitely need a VPN.
3. Can I use a free VPN for torrenting?
Most free VPNs don’t support torrenting and often block P2P traffic. They also tend to lack many of the security features needed to sufficiently protect your data and hide your IP address. For these reasons, we recommend using a premium VPN with advanced features suited for torrent files.
4. How do you check if a VPN is working?
To check if a VPN is working, simply navigate to your VPN app or network settings and verify if your VPN is turned “on” or is “active.” If this is not the case, you’ll want to select a server within your provider’s network and toggle the VPN to “on.” We recommend always verifying that your VPN connection is secure before downloading or uploading any torrent files.
Torrents are perfectly legal for most users, and the same goes for programs like BitTorrent. Copyright holders tend to be the ones to watch out for, which is why we’d advise sticking with legal torrents. It’s not completely safe, and you will have to do your own due diligence with each and every file you decide to download. Antivirus software will be helpful, along with good old common sense.
A VPN will be useful if your internet service provider blocks torrent sites. This can happen even if your files are legal, depending on the restrictions the ISP has in place. We’ve tested dozens of free and cheap VPN providers to help you find a solution.
Overall, connection speeds and security are the most important features to look for when picking the best VPN for torrenting. Torrenting is a great way to download large legal files quickly, and there’s no better way to do so than with the use of a capable VPN.