µTorrent, more commonly spelled uTorrent, is the world’s most popular BitTorrent client made outside of China. It’s the official client created by the people who invented the BitTorrent P2P protocol.
Both uTorrent and BitTorrent are still being maintained today under a legal company. The underlying technology and network that creates the BitTorrent ecosystem is not illegal. It is, however, a medium over which many illegal activities take place. Chief among them: copyright violations via the unsanctioned distribution of media–movies, TV shows, video games, software, music, and more.
Torrenting has become so closely associated with illegal downloads that many ISPs penalize P2P filesharers in broad strokes, whether the content they download is legal or not. Such actions could include throttling bandwidth to torrenters or even handing over your IP address to copyright trolls, who will send settlement letters to extort cash from victims.
Torrenting can risk your privacy as well. Because it is a network built for both uploading and downloading files, the protocol requires an IP address from each user. These IP addresses are visible to peers on the network who are seeding or leeching (uploading or downloading, respectively) the same files. Your exposed IP address could be used to target you with anything from advertisements to malware to settlement letters.
For these reasons, it is highly recommended that all torrenters, legal or not, invest in a VPN. A VPN absolves the aforementioned threats in two key ways. First, it encrypts internet traffic travelling to and from your computer, which prevents your ISP and other entities from snooping on your online activity. Secondly, it routes all that traffic through a server in a location of your choosing. This both prevents your ISP from knowing the final destination of your internet traffic, and gives you a new IP address from which you can connect to the BitTorrent network
So which VPN is best for uTorrent users? We’ve narrowed down the following list based on a handful of important criteria:
- Strong encryption on the OpenVPN protocol
- No activity logs stored
- Servers in the Netherlands, where torrenting is largely still legal
- Good download speed and unlimited bandwidth
- Windows, Mac, and Android apps
- Built-in VPN kill switch to prevent IP leaks
ExpressVPN’s default OpenVPN protocol is 256-bit encrypted–the strongest you’ll find on any consumer VPN. No user activity is recorded, although the company does keep some metadata logs. It has several server locations in the Netherlands alone. Bandwidth is unlimited and speeds are among the most consistent we’ve ever recorded. Windows, Mac, and Android apps are all available, along with iOS and Linux. The company recently added a network lock to its software, which prevents any traffic from leaking over your default IP address if the connection drops. ExpressVPN currently offer new customers a 30 day money back guarantee here.
Check out our full ExpressVPN review here.
IPVanish is known for its huge selection of servers, a few in the Netherlands among them. Traffic is encrypted with 256-bit AES, and no activity logs are stored. While not all the servers are as reliable as ExpressVPN, you’re sure to find a quick one with a bit of trial and error. Apps are available for Windows, Mac, and Android, among others. The OSX and Windows clients have kill switches, but not the Android version.
Read our full IPVanish review here.
NordVPN is one of the most powerful VPNs available when it comes to security. Among its huge list of servers are nearly two dozen in the Netherlands. These include two “double-hop” VPNs, which tunnels one VPN through another VPN. This will slow down downloads but make you next to impossible to track down. Servers aren’t the most reliable, but they are fast and you’ve plenty to choose from. A kill switch can be enabled in the settings. Apps are available for Windows, Mac, and Android among others.
Read our full NordVPN here.
LiquidVPN boasts three server locations in the Netherlands alone, though selection is pretty limited outside of the US and Europe. The speed and stability of this relatively young VPN is to be commended, as are its security features. Several different types of IP addresses, including one that changes every few minutes, are available to choose from. Windows, Mac, and Android apps are all available. LiquidVPN’s Liquid Lock feature acts as both a customizable firewall and an internet kill switch. Update, October 14, 2016: LiquidVPN is offering 20% of all plans here, just add “COMP20” at checkout and the discount will be applied at that point.
Read our full LiquidVPN review here.
Private Internet Access
Private Internet Access operates 300 servers in one location in the Netherlands, second only to the US. The app isn’t a looker, but it’s highly customizable, allowing you to tweak settings like the level of encryption, VPN protocol, kill switch, and more. Speeds are fast but not always the most consistent. PIA’s logging policy is airtight. Apps are available for PC, Mac, Android, and even Linux.
Read our full review of Private Internet Access here.
VPNs to avoid when using uTorrent
HideMyAss has insufficient logging policies that have led to the arrest of users in the past.
LiquidVPN is a solid service, but some users who torrented while using VyprVPN reported their accounts were terminated and/or they received cease and desist orders from the company.
While we like Buffered overall, it didn’t make the cut because of the lack of a built-in kill switch and no mobile apps.
How to bind your VPN IP to uTorrent
The uTorrent Windows client includes a built-in function to limit downloads to a specific IP address. This means you can set uTorrent to only download torrents while connected to a certain VPN server. If the connection to the VPN drops or you disconnect, the downloads stop. This prevents any torrent traffic from traveling over your default IP address, linking your device to your downloads.
Follow these steps to IP bind uTorrent to a VPN server:
- Connect to your preferred VPN server for torrenting, probably one in the Netherlands.
- Go to Google and type the question, “What’s my IP?” Copy the numbers and decimals that appear in the info graph to your clipboard.
- In uTorrent, go to Options > Preferences > Advanced
- In the Filter field, type “ip”
- Click net.bind_ip in the results. In the Value field, paste your IP address and click Set.
- Do the same for net.outgoing_ip
- Press OK and restart the uTorrent client
Unfortunately, the IP bind feature is not yet built into the Mac and Android versions of uTorrent. Some users have reported success on Macs using a workaround with either Tunnelblick or Viscosity, which replace the VPN provider’s app. Azureus Vuze, an alternative to uTorrent, supports this function for Mac.
If you don’t want to use a different app or BitTorrent client, make sure to turn on the VPN kill switch (sometimes called a “network lock”) included in your provider’s app.
Port forwarding is a contentious topic among uTorrent users. Some say it improves their download speeds by allowing their torrent client to connect to more peers outside the normal range of the VPN. Others argue it is unnecessary and, when using a VPN, only serves to make torrenting more difficult and can even degrade user privacy.
This is because all users sharing the same VPN IP address will all be limited to the same ports except for the one who chooses to port forward. That can make P2P activity more easy to trace back to a single user.
Most commercial VPN clients don’t support port forwarding and work fine without it. For those that do, enter the forwarded port into the uTorrent settings by doing the following:
- In uTorrent, go to Options > Preferences > Connections
- Enter the port number set in your VPN client
- Uncheck Randomize port each time uTorrent[Bittorrent] starts
- Uncheck Enable UPnP port mapping
- Uncheck Enable NAT-PMP port mapping
Port forwarding in a VPN does not require forwarding ports in your router. You may need to disable disable NAT-PMP and/or uPNP mapping in the torrent client.
Comparitech does not condone or encourage any violation of copyright restrictions. Please consider the law, victims, and risks of piracy before downloading copyrighted material without permission.