Torrenting without a Virtual Private Network is asking for trouble, but there’s a lot of confusing information on the best VPNs for torrenting.
Many so-called ‘torrent VPNs’ leak the very information they claim to protect, some don’t allow torrenting or P2P, and others still are so slow you’ll want to give up.
P2P sharing presents risks from unknown files from anonymous sources, so using a VPN for an added layer of security is wise.
Torrenters use Virtual Private Networks to stay secure and private online, but not all VPNs are suitable for BitTorrent. In fact, dozens of leading VPNs are best avoided by torrenters. We found multiple issues with VPNs we assessed:
- Many VPNs are too slow for torrent users and will result in slow torrent downloads.
- Some don’t provide sufficient leak protection to ensure identifying information is not exposed to copyright trolls and other third parties. This means your real IP address could be revealed to prying eyes.
- Many VPNs keep logs of user activity despite misleading marketing claims to the contrary. This means information that can be traced back to specific internet users (we’ve assessed the logging policies of 123 different VPNs as part of our research).
- Some popular VPNs have policies that do not allow torrenting.
TIP: If you are looking for a free VPN for torrenting, we explain here why we advise against this and why free VPNs are almost always a poor choice for torrenters.
We’ll cover 10 recommended VPNs in detail but here’s a quick round-up of what we found.
Our testing found that these are the 10 best VPNs for torrenting:
- NordVPN Best VPN for torrenting. Extremely fast, with a no-logs policy, powerful security features, and specific P2P-optimized servers, plus a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Surfshark Best low-cost VPN for torrenting. No connection or bandwidth limits. High speeds, solid security, and a strict zero-logs policy.
- ExpressVPN Fastest speeds for torrenting, keeps no logs, has a kill switch and is easy to use on all devices.
- CyberGhost Best easy to use VPN for torrenting. Good value VPN for torrent users. No logs with great connection speeds.
- IPVanish Best VPN for torrenters who use Kodi. Boasts a network designed for torrenting and popular with Kodi users.
- PrivateVPN Great up-and-coming VPN with no logs and extremely fast connections.
- StrongVPN Best VPN for torrenting in China. Simple design and zero logs. Usually works in China.
- Atlas VPN: P2P-friendly VPN with exceptional speeds and no connection limits.
- Windscribe Best free VPN for torrenting. Decent speeds and a secure all-round performer for BitTorrent users.
- Hotspot Shield Good low-cost option for torrenting. Very fast speeds and no user-identifying logs.
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Best VPNs for Torrenting
We subject VPNs to a variety of tests and analysis as part of our research. In order to figure out the best VPN for torrenting, we discuss our methodology below our reviews.
Without further ado, here are our top picks for the best VPNs for torrenting:
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
Panama-based NordVPN is our top choice. It keeps neither connection nor traffic logs and uses 256-bit AES encryption with perfect forward secrecy by default, along with optional double-hop encryption and Tor over VPN features. Speeds are lightning-fast since Nord introduced its NordLynx technology (based on the WireGuard protocol) in its latest version. As such, streaming or downloading large files should be a breeze. DNS leak protection and an automatic kill switch can both be toggled on in the settings. The traditional all-or-nothing kill switch is one option, or you can specify which programs get cut off from the internet if the VPN connection drops, such as a BitTorrent client.
NordVPN uses shared IP addresses, and bandwidth is unlimited. Torrenting is explicitly permitted. A proxy, encrypted chat, and self-destructing encrypted notes are extra features included in each subscription. It can also unblock a range of geo-locked streaming services including Netflix US, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and Amazon Prime Video. A risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee means you can try the service and receive a full refund if not entirely happy.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Linux, and Android.
NordVPN speed test data
|Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)||460 Mbps|
|Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)||349 Mbps|
|Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)||299 Mbps|
- Up to 6 simultaneous connections
- Keeps no logs
- Fastest VPN we’ve tested
- Specific servers optimized for torrenting
- Process-specific kill switch
- Desktop apps can sometimes take a while to connect
BEST VPN FOR TORRENTING:NordVPN is our first choice for torrenting & P2P. Far faster than most other VPNs, with a strong privacy focus and a six-connection limit. Includes a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can try it risk-free.
Read our full review of NordVPN.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
Surfshark offers decent download speeds and its network spans more than 60 countries. It protects your traffic using 256-bit AES encryption, a kill switch, perfect forward secrecy, and protection against DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC leaks. There’s also split-tunneling functionality, which lets you choose certain apps to bypass the VPN.
This VPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, a country with no mandatory data retention laws. Accordingly, Surfshark doesn’t log any personally identifiable information. P2P traffic is permitted across all servers and with no bandwidth limits, you can torrent as much as you like. Best of all, Surfshark has no connection limit.
Like NordVPN, Surfshark has recently introduced the Wireshark protocol. During our testing we saw a healthy increase in speeds compared to the previous version.
Surfshark is great value for money and our top recommendation for users on a tight budget.
Surfshark has apps for Linux, iOS, Android, Windows, and MacOS. It can be manually installed on supported network routers.
Surfshark speed test data
|Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)||317 Mbps|
|Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)||253 Mbps|
|Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)||400 Mbps|
- Wide range of security features
- Reasonably fast
- No connection limit
- Torrenting encouraged
- Doesn’t have the largest network
- Some servers slower than others
BEST BUDGET VPN:Surfshark puts major emphasis on your security and data privacy, allowing you to torrent as much as you like safely. Better still, it’s very affordable, with no connection limit and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
ExpressVPN offers fast torrent download speeds with 256-bit AES encryption and perfect forward secrecy across 94 different countries. It’s a great plug-and-play option for those who don’t want to fuss with different configurations and just want something that will guarantee data security and anonymity when torrenting.
ExpressVPN doesn’t keep traffic logs and is based in the British Virgin Islands, which has no data retention laws. A kill switch is built in to prevent traffic from leaking onto the unencrypted network should your connection drop. P2P file sharing is supported on all servers.
Other than torrenting, ExpressVPN is also a very capable unblocker of geo-locked streaming services including Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and HBO Go/Now.
ExpressVPN’s latest release includes its own proprietary VPN protocol, Lightspeed, which brings even faster speeds, comparable to competitors such as NordVPN and Surfshark which use the speedy Wireshark protocol.
Users happy to pay a bit more for a very fast VPN with great security credentials will find ExpressVPN to be a good option.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, some wifi routers, and Linux.
ExpressVPN speed test data
|Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)||136 Mbps|
|Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)||134 Mbps|
|Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)||136 Mbps|
- Maximum security with 256-bit encryption
- Totally privacy – keeps no logs of personal data
- Extremely fast download speeds
- Unblocks Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer and other streaming services
- Slightly higher cost than other services
- Doesn’t offer many customizable features
TORRENT WITHOUT LIMITS:ExpressVPN is ideal for torrenting & P2P. It has a vast network of servers that are fine-tuned for high-speed connections. Tough to beat on data privacy and security. Also includes a 30-day money-back guarantee
Read our full review of ExpressVPN.
Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS
Romania-based CyberGhost allows torrenting on any of its P2P-optimized servers. You can easily find these in the torrenting section of the server list in the apps.
CyberGhost adheres to a strict no-logs policy, uses 256-bit AES encryption with perfect forward secrecy, and has a kill switch on its desktop clients. An app-specific kill switch is buried in the settings, dubbed “app protection,” which will only cut off the internet to specific programs, e.g. a torrent client. CyberGhost scored well in our speed tests and can even unblock US Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Linux, and Android.
CyberGhost speed test data
|Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)||853 Mbps|
|Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)||480 Mbps|
|Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)||312 Mbps|
- Torrenting allowed on P2P-optimized servers
- Special profile designed for torrenting privately
- Zero logs
- Great speeds in our tests
- Doesn’t work reliably in China or UAE
- Few advanced features
Read our full CyberGhost review.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
When it comes to the sheer number of servers to choose from, it’s tough to beat IPVanish. One of the most popular VPNs worldwide, IPVanish takes privacy very seriously and has been built with torrenting in mind. It creates no logs, not even the connection logs used for troubleshooting like ExpressVPN. WireGuard, L2TP, and OpenVPN protocols all use 256-bit encryption. IPVanish uses shared IP addresses for added anonymity.
Speeds are good and bandwidth is unlimited. IPVanish specifically designates certain countries as P2P-friendly, such as the Netherlands (more on this below). A kill switch can be enabled in the settings. IPVanish is particularly popular with Kodi users thanks to its lightweight Android app and compatibility with all the Kodi addons we’ve tested.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.
IPVanish speed test data
|Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)||685 Mbps|
|Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)||314 Mbps|
|Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)||466 Mbps|
- Network specifically designed for torrenting
- Has a ‘no-logs’ policy
- Anonymous signup and payment
- Easy to use with Kodi and Amazon Fire Stick/FireTV
- Struggles with services like Netflix and Hulu
- No live customer support
EASY TO USE:IPVanish is great for families. Generally solid for torrenting, P2P users, and folks who need the highest standard of privacy. Will struggle with popular streaming services and doesn’t work in China. 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full review of IPVanish.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
PrivateVPN is a relatively young VPN service provider with a smaller network than the others on this list, but you’ll still get blazing fast download speeds and rock solid security. It uses 256-bit encryption with perfect forward secrecy on the OpenVPN protocol. No web traffic or connection logs are recorded. An optional kill switch is built in.
Besides anonymous torrenting, PrivateVPN is also great for streaming content like US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video. You can connect up to six devices at a time on a single account.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.
PrivateVPN speed test data
|Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)||94 Mbps|
|Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)||57 Mbps|
|Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)||62 Mbps|
- No logs stored and strong encryption
- Extremely fast connection speeds in our tests
- Unblocks streaming services like Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer
- 10 concurrent devices
- Small network of servers
- No 24/7 support
GREAT FOR SPEED:PrivateVPN is consistently reliable. Solid performer for torrenting, P2P and general purpose use. Speeds were surprisingly good at this end of the market. It could do with having more servers and lacks 24/7 support. 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full PrivateVPN review.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
StrongVPN recently underwent a full overhaul and now features much-needed improvements to its apps and server network. The company boasts a zero logs policy for both web traffic contents and connection metadata. A subscription nets you unlimited bandwidth on up to 12 simultaneously connected devices.
All connections are securely encrypted, and you can even opt to obfuscate traffic using a special “Scramble” feature that disguises OpenVPN connections. DNS leak protection and a kill switch are built into the apps. StrongVPN has long been a favorite among users in China, and its recent upgrades make it appeal to a wider audience including torrenters.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android.
StrongVPN speed test data
|Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)||101 Mbps|
|Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)||53 Mbps|
|Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)||59 Mbps|
- Works with Hulu and US Netflix
- No logs policy protects your privacy
- Only covers 30+ countries
- Doesn’t accept Bitcoin
SIMPLE INTERFACE:StrongVPN has ample security. Now caters more for torrenters. Good security and privacy features. Sometimes works in China. Server network is mostly focused on the US. 45-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full StrongVPN review.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
Atlas VPN is a newer service but it’s quickly proving itself with top-tier speeds and exceptional versatility. As well as torrenting, this service can securely access platforms like Netflix, Prime Video, and HBO Max. There’s no connection limit, either, meaning you can browse safely across every device you own.
This provider uses shared IP addresses and follows a no-logs policy. Additionally, its connections boast 256-bit AES encryption with a kill switch and protection against DNS and IPv6 leaks. You can even switch IP address at fixed intervals for dramatically increased anonymity.
- Full P2P support
- Good speeds and streaming potential
- Impressive security and privacy offering
- Cancelling could be much easier
- No Linux or router support
PRIVACY-FOCUSED:Atlas VPN has a great set of security and privacy features built-in, and it can protect any number of devices simultaneously. High speeds, no logs, and a 30-day money-back guarantee make this a must-try service.
Read our full review of Atlas VPN.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
Windscribe is a great all-around VPN that’s perfectly suitable for torrenting. It’s one of the faster VPNs we’ve tested, scoring above average across all locations. In lieu of a kill switch, Windscribe uses a firewall to prevent leaks outside of the encrypted tunnel. The provider doesn’t store any identifying logs.
Windscribe works in China and other countries with strict censorship systems, so you can torrent privately from anywhere. It unblocks US and UK Netflix from abroad, as well as Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer. 256-bit AES encryption is paired with perfect forward secrecy for maximum protection.
- Accepts payments from Bitcoin
- Doesn’t log any personally identifiable information
- Only a 3-day money-back guarantee which is hard to claim
- No live chat
Read our full Windscribe review.
Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS
Editor’s Note: Hotspot Shield is owned by Pango, Comparitech’s parent company.
Hotspot Shield has faced criticism in the past for its logging policy, but it has come a long way. It now only logs encrypted IP addresses during a VPN session but deletes them immediately afterward, so third parties can never view them. This provider offers excellent security features, including strong encryption, leak protection, a desktop kill switch, and automatic wifi protection (in the mobile apps). The best thing about this provider is its superior speeds, making it a great choice for downloading large files.
Hotspot Shield uses shared IP addresses and imposes no bandwidth limit. It can unblock plenty of popular streaming services, including Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video. With a generous 45-day money-back guarantee, you can always test the service out to see if it’s a good fit.
In addition to its paid service, Hotspot Shield has a free VPN. Most users looking to torrent will find free VPNs unsuitable for their needs, however if you really do need a free VPN Hotspot Shield is a good option.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Linux, and Android.
Hotspot Shield speed test data
|No value||Hotspot Shield|
|Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)||48 Mbps|
|Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)||49 Mbps|
|Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)||48 Mbps|
- Large network of global servers
- Strong encryption and other security features
- Had past digital privacy issues
- Doesn’t accept cryptocurrency payments
LOW COST TORRENT VPN:Hotspot Shield offers excellent value for money. It’s fast, secure, and works with lots of streaming services. 45-day money-back guarantee.
Methodology for assessing VPNs for torrenting
We subject VPNs to a variety of tests and analysis as part of our research. In order to figure out the best VPN for torrenting, we need to decide on criteria by which to judge them. Torrenters and P2P file-sharers want extra internet privacy, no data caps, and fast download speeds above all else. Based on that, we’re going to use the following criteria to evaluate each VPN.
- Security – Encryption ensures third parties cannot snoop on the activity of the VPN user or what torrents you download. In particular, encryption helps keep internet service providers off your back. A VPN kill switch and DNS leak protection are must-haves to ensure no identifying data leaves your desktop or mobile device.
- Logging policy – A P2P VPN service must be logless, meaning it does not record and save information about your activity. IP addresses are also not logged. Ideally, the provider collects no information and therefore cannot be hacked or coerced into giving up information about customers. Read more here on each VPN’s logging policy.
- Bandwidth limit – Some VPNs have data caps or bandwidth limits that throttle or halt downloads up to a certain limit. We want to avoid these as torrents often require a lot of data.
- Speed – The torrent VPNs we recommend all score above average in our speed tests.
- Shared IPs – We prefer VPNs that use shared IP addresses for torrenting. This means you share an IP address with dozens, perhaps even hundreds of other people. Shared IPs add a significant layer of anonymity, which makes it more difficult to trace activity back to you.
These VPN tests for torrenting form part of a wider program of VPN testing and analysis our team performs as part of our research process.
Table of free VPNs which allow torrenting
|VPN||BitTorrent allowed?||Traffic or IP logging?||Kill switch (desktop)?|
How does a VPN hide your IP address
One of the main reasons a VPN is used for torrenting is to hide a user’s IP address keep their online habits private. Here’s how a VPN hides your IP address.
Kodi and Popcorn Time
Streaming video from Popcorn Time relies on torrents as a source. While you might not be downloading files you found on ThePirateBay directly to your hard drive, make no mistake that using these tools makes you no less liable in the eyes of the law. When you use Popcorn Time, you simultaneously download and upload content.
Certain Kodi add-ons also source video streams from torrents. Keep an eye out in particular for a newer platform called Acestreams. Acestreams use peer-to-peer BitTorrent connections so concurrent users can share the load of a stream. That means your connection is shared with others, causing potential security and online privacy issues that can usually be averted with a torrent VPN. Acestreams are increasingly popular for both live and on-demand content.
How torrenting works behind a NAT Firewall
Many VPN services come with NAT Firewalls built-in, which block connections from peers on P2P networks, as well as other unsolicited connections. This can prevent torrents, which rely on P2P networks, from functioning properly.
Depending on the VPN software, you may be able to disable the NAT firewall somewhere in the settings. If not, you will need to use port forwarding. This is usually a manual procedure where the VPN provider designates a specific port to be used for P2P traffic. Users must configure their BitTorrent client to use this port. If the port is not listed on the VPN provider’s website, the user will need to contact customer support and ask for it.
The importance of kill switches
A VPN kill switch halts all internet traffic if the VPN unexpectedly drops the connection for any reason. This prevents your real IP address and torrent traffic from leaking onto your ISP’s unencrypted network, which could otherwise expose your activity to your ISP, copyright trolls, and hackers. This is why it’s imperative to either bind your IP (see below) and/or use a kill switch.
All of the best VPNs for torrenting we recommend come equipped with a kill switch on their desktop versions, but they might not be enabled by default. Be sure to enable it in the settings. Mobile VPN apps for Android and iOS are much less likely to incorporate kill switches.
Know that not all kill switches are created equal. A simple dropped connection is fairly easy to plan for, but the kill switch might not be equipped to handle other types of network disruptions, crashes, and configuration changes. You can read more about leaks that occur in these scenarios in our VPN leak testing analysis, which we will extend to more VPNs as time goes on. The two types of leaks most pertinent to torrenters are IP address and IP traffic leaks.
Is it necessary to bind your IP before downloading torrents?
IP binding is a valuable precaution to take if you want to ensure that all torrent downloads take place over the P2P VPN. Binding your torrent client to an IP address limits downloads to a specific IP address. This means you can set the client to only download torrents while connected to a certain P2P VPN server. If the connection to the VPN drops or you disconnect, the downloads stop, adding a kill switch to your VPN without affecting other apps and services. This prevents any torrent traffic from leaking onto your real IP address.
Check your torrent manager software settings to see if it supports IP binding. uTorrent has this capability on Windows, and Azureus Vuze can do it on both Mac and Windows.
How to avoid malware in torrents
Torrent websites and torrents themselves are havens for malware. Because torrents are uploaded by the community, they often go unchecked for viruses and malware. A case in early 2018 saw 400,000 users hit by a malware outbreak caused by a Russian torrenting client. Every time you download a torrent, it’s a good idea to scan it with good, up-to-date antivirus software. If the website you downloaded from has a comments section, other users might have already posted about potential threats. This is especially true for software and video games containing many files, making it easier to hide malicious files.
Check out our reviews to find the antivirus that best suits you.
Do I need to use Port forwarding to download torrents?
Port forwarding is a contentious topic among torrenters. Some say it improves their download speeds by allowing their torrent client to connect to more peers.
Others argue it is unnecessary and, when using a torrenting VPN service, only serves to make torrenting more difficult and can even degrade user privacy. This is because other 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 easier 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 your torrent client’s settings. Port forwarding in a VPN does not require forwarding ports in your router. You may need to disable NAT-PMP and/or uPNP mapping in the torrent client.
Best VPN for Torrenting FAQs
What legal issues exist with torrenting?
Torrents have become synonymous with copyright abuse and piracy, but the underlying technology is not in itself illegal. Perfectly legal file sharing and torrent sites do exist and are used on a regular basis, such as SXSW and media that falls under the public domain.
If you frequent ThePirateBay, uTorrent, RARBG, Putlocker, Zooqle, 1337X or KickassTorrents, however, chances are what you download from these torrenting sites is not legal. Government authorities can fine you for committing a civil offense, while ISPs and copyright holders will threaten and in some cases follow through on legal action. While it's unlikely that a record company will take someone to court, they might seek damages through settlements.
Here's a quick breakdown on torrenting laws in several countries:
Downloading copyrighted material is illegal in the United States. ISPs often have a three-strike rule if they catch users who illegally download torrents. Non-copyrighted material is completely legal to download.
According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) website, making unauthorized copies of music recordings could result in a civil lawsuit. It might even land you in jail for up to five years and you could be hit with a fine of up to $250,000.
Copyright holders often act through copyright trolls, which record IP addresses of torrenters and send settlement letters requesting remuneration. These entities have the right to sue on behalf of the copyright holder, but because an IP address does not legally constitute an identity in the US, the best option for recipients is to ignore them.
The Copyright Modernization Act passed in January 2014 requires ISPs to send notices to copyright violators on their networks. The recipients' identities are stored on ISP servers for six months. Copyright holders cannot sue for damages of more than $5,000 when the copy is used for non-commercial purposes, which in most cases simply isn't worth the time or effort.
The notification system is more educational than legal, but ISPs can still penalize torrenters by choking bandwidth.
Larger ISPs are required by law to notify subscribers when the British Phonographic Industry catches them downloading torrents in the form of a cease and desist order. ISPs reserve the right to throttle bandwidth and disconnect users. ISPs with fewer than 400,000 subscribers are not subject to this law, however.
Copyright holders have the right to sue uploaders and downloaders for damages even if no monetary gain was involved.
Major ISPs block popular torrent trackers such as ThePirateBay in the UK, but these can still be accessed through a VPN service.
Piracy is a crime in Australia, but there's little enforcement. It's not completely unheard of for a copyright holder to successfully sue ISPs for torrenters' identities, whom they can then request remuneration from using a practice called speculative invoicing, but it's rare.
A "three-strikes" rule in which ISPs would notify torrenters on behalf of copyright holders was canned earlier this year due to disputes over implementation costs.
ISPs have blocked some torrent trackers and other sites containing infringing content under a court order, such as The Pirate Bay. In 2016, a federal court in Australia ordered ISPs to block BitTorrent tracker sites including ThePirateBay, Torrentz, TorrentHound, IsoHunt and SolarMovie. These can still be accessed with any of the VPN providers we listed above.
In late 2018, Parliament passed an amendment to the Copyright Act. This amendment lets ISPs censor proxy servers and mirror sites---duplicates of torrent trackers put up after the original site is blocked---without needing to return to court for each injunction. Likewise, Google and other search engines must demote or remove links to infringing sites including their proxies and mirrors.
We're adding a section about the Netherlands because there's a huge misconception that pirating copyrighted materials is legal there. As of 2014, it is not. Doing so is considered a civil offense not a criminal one, so you will not be sought out by law enforcement for doing so, but you can be fined.
However, the law states that fines cannot be artificially high, so damages that copyright holders can exact are capped. Early in 2018, Netherlands’ privacy watchdog, Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens (AP), gave permission to Dutch Filmworks to collect IP addresses of anyone illegally downloading content. The company can hand out fines to users and have decided on a fee of 150 Euros per film.
Downloading copyrighted material without permission is illegal in Germany. Enforcement is usually handled by law firms that act on behalf of copyright holders (see: copyright trolls). Fines typically range up to 1,000 Euros.
Similar to the US, copyright trolls send threatening letters to torrenters after identifying their IP address. While we're not legal experts in German law, the consensus of what to do if you receive a letter is also similar to the US: if it doesn't identify you by name and doesn't come directly from the police, ignore it and just let the statute of limitations period expire.
Note that if someone pirates content on an unsecured wifi network, the owner of the wifi network can be held liable for damages, even if they were not aware of the illegal activity taking place. This fine is usually around 100 Euros.
Related: Best VPNs for Germany
Online piracy laws are a little fuzzy in India. A slew of news reports from 2016 suggested that even viewing certain web pages or torrent files (not the copyrighted content itself) was enough to penalize netizens with heavy fines and jail time. This is not true, however; the rumor arose from a poorly-worded warning from Indian ISPs that appeared when users tried to access blocked sites.
Piracy in India is illegal like anywhere else and could conceivably result in fines or jail time, but the emphasis of enforcement seems to be on redistribution, e.g. bootlegging and selling pirated content, rather than personal consumption.
Related: Best VPN for India
Read more: Is torrenting safe?
Comparitech does not condone or encourage piracy. Please stick to legal torrents.
Are any free VPNs good for torrenting?
Using a free VPN for anonymous torrenting is generally a no-no. Due to the large amount of bandwidth required, many free VPN services prohibit P2P activity. Others aren't secure, and many have data caps. The common adage that comes with free services is that if you don't buy the product, then you are the product. This is especially true because a VPN isn't just a piece of software, it's an ongoing service that requires continuous resources and maintenance.
TunnelBear, Windscribe, and Hide.Me's free tiers are all a bit more reputable, but they have speed or data caps that aren't ideal for torrenting. TunnelBear and VPNGate, a community-run VPN project, explicitly prohibit P2P file sharing.
We passed on several paid VPN providers as well. PureVPN, VyprVPN, HideMyAss, Overplay, and Hotspot Shield all failed to make the cut due to their logging policies. IronSocket and BolehVPN were left out due to performance concerns.
Other so-called free VPNs for torrenting can actually degrade your privacy rather than improve it. Some of them keep logs of your activity, inject tracking cookies into your web browser, insert advertisements on web pages, or even carry malware payloads.
Some unscrupulous free VPN providers could well be scraping users' personal data and selling it to third parties. One such high-profile case was Hola, a free VPN provider based in Israel. Hola was caught selling users' bandwidth, and it was criticized for being opaque about how each Hola user became a node on the network rather than hosting its own dedicated VPN servers.
VPNGate is a fantastic academic initiative out of Japan that aims to uncensor the web for people living under oppressive anti-free speech regimes. It uses a network of volunteer nodes around the world as relays. It discourages P2P file sharing activities that would hog the network, however, and it keeps logs for up to three months to help weed out abuse and criminal wrongdoing.
IronSocket doesn't keep logs, but the majority of its servers expressly prohibit P2P activity. Those non-P2P servers block all P2P connections. Even if it doesn't keep logs, that means it is monitoring your activity at some level.
Read our full review of IronSocket.
How do VPNs protect your privacy when torrenting?
A VPN protects your privacy when torrenting in two key ways.
First, it prevents your ISP and anyone else on your local and ISP network from seeing that you are torrenting. Because all of the files you download and upload via BitTorrent are encrypted when they pass through your ISP's server networks, their contents cannot be identified. It would take a monumental time- and resource-consuming effort for an ISP to even attempt to crack the encryption put in place by your VPN service.
Secondly, a VPN prevents other users from downloading and/or uploading the same files as you from seeing your IP address. BitTorrent is a P2P, or peer-to-peer, protocol. That means everyone who uses the same torrent file is connected in what's known as a "swarm". Each device connected to the swarm can see all of the other IP addresses of all the other devices in the swarm. Many BitTorrent clients even allow you to view a list of other devices you're connected to when leeching or seeding files on the network.
Without a VPN, your real IP address can be used to identify your approximate location and internet service provider. This is how copyright trolls are able to find torrenters and send them threatening settlement letters (read about how to respond to these in our torrenting safety and legal guide).
A VPN masks your IP address so that other devices in the swarm only see the IP address of the P2P VPN server. The best VPNs for torrenting typically use shared IP addresses, meaning dozens and even hundreds of users are assigned the same IP address. This large pool of users makes it next to impossible to trace torrenting activity back to a single person. Furthermore, if you use one of the logless VPNs on this list, the VPN provider won't have any user information to hand over should a third party request it.
Masking your IP address also protects you from hackers that would use it as a backdoor into your system, find out personal information about you, or even harass you at your home. Your IP address is like your home address, but for your computer. Someone who knows it can find out where you are.
Why hide your IP address when torrenting?
Torrenting is often associated with piracy, and piracy is theft. What's more, torrenting exposes you to files from unknown sources so protecting your identity is usually desirable. We strongly recommend you only torrent content you have the legal right to access to avoid landing yourself in hot water. If someone gets caught, it probably won't be the police or the copyright owner who comes knocking.
Copyright holders are often large media companies that outsource piracy litigation to shifty law firms dubbed "copyright trolls". Copyright trolls monitor popular torrents for the unique IP addresses of devices that connect to the swarm to upload or download files. They then match those IP addresses to the internet service providers that assigned them to customers. The copyright troll goes through the ISP to send a settlement letter or a copyright violation notice to each torrenter. Settlement letters demand money and threaten legal action if the users don't pay.
As you can imagine, disguising your IP address is popular with BitTorrent users. All VPNs mask your real IP address with that of the VPN server. Unfortunately, not all of them do a very good job. Most VPNs don't protect against certain types of leaks that can expose your real IP address to third parties. These include DNS leaks, IPv6 leaks, and WebRTC leaks.
- DNS leaks occur when a DNS request is sent outside of the encrypted VPN tunnel, exposing the IPv4 address. All the VPNs we recommend protect against this type of leak.
- IPv6 leaks occur when IPv4 traffic goes through the tunnel, but IPv6 traffic does not. This is common on Windows 10 PCs. Some VPNs protect against it, but it's advisable to simply disable IPv6 if you suffer from this leak.
- WebRTC is a communications protocol for voice and video chat apps that run in your browser, like Skype for Chrome. Even if you have a VPN enabled, a WebRTC request can reveal your real IP address. Very few VPNs protect against WebRTC leaks, but you can alternatively disable WebRTC in your browser.
The best VPN apps protect against all of these leaks in all situations. ExpressVPN and NordVPN are notably leak-proof thanks to a combination of kill switches and leak protection measures. Even if your connection is disrupted somehow, no identifiable traffic escapes the tunnel.
Furthermore, it's essential to choose a VPN that keeps no logs. Many VPNs claim to be logless, but that claim often only applies to traffic logs of your online activities. Many supposedly "no-log" VPNs still record users' IP addresses, which is a no-no for torrenters and anyone else who cares about their privacy. None of the VPNs in our list store traffic logs or IP address logs.
Did you know? After years of decline, BitTorrent use has started to increase.
Do all VPNs allow torrenting?
This table shows which VPNs are suitable for torrenting.
Most VPNs allow torrenting. Hiding P2P file sharing is a popular reason to buy VPNs, after all. At a minimum, the VPN you choose should also have a kill switch and never store your IP address or keep traffic logs. The table below shows which VPNs meet those three criteria.
Note that even if your VPN provider allows torrenting, it may prefer you use specific servers or locations when doing so. Consult your provider's website or customer service to ask which servers are suitable for torrenting.
Can using a VPN increase your torrenting speed?
If your internet service provider is throttling BitTorrent traffic, then a VPN can improve your torrenting speed. The VPN's encryption prevents your ISP from seeing that you're torrenting so it can't discriminate against specific types of internet traffic.
Otherwise, a VPN either won't have any effect on torrenting speeds or will lower speeds, depending on the difference in bandwidth between the VPN and your internet connection.
What is a P2P VPN?
A peer-to-peer (P2P) VPN is any VPN that can hide your torrenting activity. The best P2P VPNs keep no logs, come equipped with kill switches, use strong encryption, and offer fast speeds for quick downloads. All of the VPNs we recommend function well as P2P VPNs.
What is the best VPN for torrenting for beginners?
All of the VPNs we recommend are easy to use and should be no problem for beginners. I would recommend choosing a VPN that has a money-back guarantee and 24/7 live chat support. The support staff can quickly help you sort out any problems you might have setting up and running the VPN. If you don't like it, take advantage of the guarantee and try a different one.
What is the best VPN for torrenting on Android?
All of the VPNs we recommend have Android apps, but not all of them have a kill switch feature on Android. ExpressVPN and NordVPN can both be set up to block all internet traffic when the VPN isn't connected.
Which country VPN is best for torrenting?
Some VPNs will direct torrenters to servers in specific countries. You’ll frequently find torrenting servers in the Netherlands and Canada, among others.
However, it ultimately shouldn’t matter which country you connect to for torrenting. If your VPN is secure and doesn’t store any identifying logs, then you should be able to torrent while connected to a VPN in any country.
What is a Torrent Tracker?
Put simply, a torrent tracker is what helps you find and download torrents from peers on the BitTorrent network. BitTorrent often stores parts of files on various users’ machines. When you want to download a file, the tracker finds all the parts on other users’ machines and assists you in reassembling a complete file.
Many large trackers also function as BitTorrent search engines.
What is the best server location for torrenting?
If your VPN provider really doesn’t keep any logs, then any location should be fine. Your VPN provider will have no information about your identity or what you do while connected to the VPN.
Just to be safe, here are a few other factors to consider when choosing a VPN server location for torrenting:
- Don’t connect to the same country where your VPN is incorporated.
- Don’t connect to the USA.
- Don’t connect to the country you are currently in.
- Connect to a geographically near server to improve speeds.
- Check if your VPN has P2P-optimized servers
You might come across advice instructing you to connect to the Netherlands due to lax copyright restrictions. This is bad advice. Copyright infringement is still illegal there and Holland’s piracy laws are in line with the rest of the EU. The Netherlands might have been a piracy haven a decade ago, but downloading pirated media officially became illegal in 2014. There’s nothing to be gained by connecting to Amsterdam for torrenting in 2021.
Can Comcast still track my torrent downloading even if I use a VPN?
As long as your VPN doesn’t keep logs and offers sufficient security, no. Comcast has no way of tracking anything you do through the VPN thanks to encryption and use of the VPN server as a proxy to the internet.
If your VPN connection unexpectedly drops while downloading, it’s possible for Comcast to track what you’re doing. Make sure your VPN has a kill switch and that it’s toggled on in the app settings. A kill switch will halt your internet connection if the VPN connection is disrupted for any reason, preserving your privacy until the VPN connection is reestablished.
What port is best for torrenting?
You will want to use a port number above 10000 to avoid being blocked or blacklisted. Many experts recommend a port in the ephemeral range of 49152 to 65535. The default port used by many torrent clients is 6881 to 6889.
In reality, your port number doesn’t matter too much, so long as it’s not being used by any other apps or services on your device.
Note that most VPNs don’t offer port forwarding for security reasons. PrivateVPN is one exception that allows you to set up port forwarding in the VPN app.