Whether you’re big into the torrenting scene or just getting started, you may have already heard: The popular torrenting site Kickass Torrents has officially been seized by the US government. Their primary website, Kickass.to, is now offline and displaying only a large notification of seizure. As a result, you’ll likely be looking for some alternatives to Kickass.to and Kickass Torrents, or countries where the site is still available.
However, Kickass Torrents’ troubles extend beyond just the US. In Australia, for example, Kickass Torrents is among a large number of torrent websites currently blocked by Australian ISPs. Some other countries (the US, for instance) are still trying to get the site’s Polish owner, Artem Vaulin, extradited to face criminal charges. With the site facing so much heat these days, what’s a good Kickass Torrents alternative for anyone looking to use a high-quality torrent site? And what are some ways to use these torrent sites safely?
There are a number of torrent sites available where one can download various forms of media free and legally. We highly recommend users turn to legal torrenting sites first for downloading and sharing purposes.
Comparitech does not condone or encourage any violation of copyright restrictions. Torrenting is a perfectly legal downloading and sharing process when used properly and utilized through legal and official sites and services. Please consider the law, victims, and risks of piracy before downloading or streaming copyrighted material without permission.
How to safely use torrent sites and alternatives to Kickass.to
Whether you use official or unofficial torrent sites, it’s pretty much unwise to do so through a bare internet connection. When you connect to a torrent site, you share part of the data you’re downloading, becoming one file sharer among many. This also means that your IP address is there for all the world to see — including copyright holders who host files just to catch individuals illegally downloading and seeding their content, and internet service providers (ISPs) that monitor network traffic for torrent site usage.
Importantly, using one torrent tracker over another won’t protect you from this. All torrent sites will connect to the wider BitTorrent network, meaning you could be exposed on any site.
The solution to this is to seed through a proxy service. Some users opt for DNS proxies, although perhaps the best, easiest, and most secure method to torrent is through a virtual private network (VPN). Among the many, many options out there, we put our trust in ExpressVPN.
We’ve tested a large number of VPN services, and we continually re-rate services we’ve already tested alongside new VPN services that emerge. We’ve consistently found that ExpressVPN meets all of our expectations for the type of quality you should expect. This quality includes a strong emphasis on user privacy and a very real effort to maintain excellent server quality. Both of these are important to torrent users, given the need to keep your identity (through your IP address) private, and the need to download and seed quickly and efficiently.
Read our Express VPN review to get a more thorough look into why we gave this service a 9/10.
Deal alert: ExpressVPN has a no quibbles 30-day money back guarantee so you can try it risk-free. If you opt for their annual plan you can get 3 months extra free here.
*As a side note, some of you may be considering the possibility of using BitTorrent over Tor. As a general rule of thumb, this is a bad idea because:
- Tor is not designed to handle this data efficiently
- Tor may leak your IP address
The Tor Project has a thorough (although somewhat dated) explanation of why this is not wise.
Best official alternatives to Kickass.to
Contrary to popular belief, you can torrent legally through a handful of different torrent sites. The following torrent sites and services only offer up legally available content for torrent users.
The Internet Archive is one of the best places on the web for free, legally available content. The site archives tens of millions of different types of media, from games to movies to music. You’ll even find reams of digital books, archived websites, images, and a wide array of various digital sundries.
Users can find torrents by going to the Archive Torrents section of the website. As the site utilizes the BitTorrent network, you can access the Archive’s extremely large library using almost any torrent client. Archive.org recommends Transmission, µTorrent, and Vuze.
Public Domain Torrents
There are nearly 1,000 public domain movies available online. The Public Domain Torrents website has films spanning every category. Sci-fi, Comedy, Action, Drama; it’s all there and readily available to torrent.
Public Domain Torrents works with any BitTorrent client. You can also head to a page showing which films have the most activity based on the number of seeders and leechers. The site is more than a bit dated, however. While it still works, there are some aspects that are not particularly useful anymore, including the section that allows you to purchase versions of the films for iPods and PSPs.
Legit Torrents is what it sounds like. All torrents available on the site are legally available and free to download. Using Legit Torrents, you can find games, movies, music, books, and other forms of software.
While you can search for active content, you’ll find that no new content has been added since 2014.
Although Vuze is primarily a BitTorrent client, the service also provides a section for legal torrent downloads and sharing.
The Vuze Studio HD Network focuses solely on videos and movies. These cover a select few categories, including Comedy, Games and Tech, Motors and Sports, Music Videos, Nature and Science, News, TV and Movies.
- Vodo.net – a website for public domain movies and indie films
- http://bt.etree.org/ – a torrent site for concert and gig recordings
- http://academictorrents.com/ – a torrent site for academic endeavors, with over 22 terabytes of publicly available content to download
Kickass Torrents alternatives to avoid
The following Kickass.to alternatives can be used to find legal content. However, all of these sites prioritize illegal content. We do not recommend users turn to these sites for torrenting purposes.
P2P File Type: Magnet links and torrent files
The Pirate Bay has managed to withstand both the test of time and continuing legal battles. That said, The Pirate Bay (TPB) is usually the main target for ISP blocking. In February 2017, all of The Pirate Bay’s site, including its mirrors, went down for an unknown reason. This can happen to The Pirate Bay at any time, so it’s a good idea to have options other than this one. The Pirate Bay has a vast selection of free software and other content, so it’s a good choice for those who want to torrent for legitimate purposes, but it still dabbles more specifically in illegal torrenting.
P2P File Type: Magnet links and torrent files
This site has been steadily growing in popularity. It doesn’t have the most appealing layout, but then again, that’s not something you likely care too much about. There are several Extratorrent access sites.
Legal downloads can be located here for public domain films, open source software, and free-to-download images and music. However, most of what you’ll find in ExtraTorrent is illegally offered.
P2P File Type: Magnet links and torrent files
Because it’s not the most popular torrent site out there, Rarbg still receives a lot of traffic. Although not as notorious as The Pirate Bay or Kickass Torrents, it’s in the crosshairs because of its slowly increasing popularity, so that’s something to consider before using it. At present, it’s not blocked in most countries and has rarely experienced the take-down issue that the larger, more popular sites often experience. Nevertheless, you can still download files, although you won’t be able to serve as a seeder and upload your files to the site due to registration restrictions.
We do not recommend users turn to this website due to its heavy focus on illegal content sharing. Public domain content, shareware, freeware, open source software, and other types of legal content does exist here. However, the vast majority of Rargb users offer only copyrighted content.
P2P File Type: Magnet links and torrent files
YTS.AG has annoyed (perhaps ironically enough) some in the torrent community for allegedly name hijacking another popular, but now defunct, torrent service, YTS (YIFY). (History lesson: The old YTS site, which was once a very popular torrent tracker, got shut down and was forced to reach a settlement with the MPAA). Still, despite a bit of grumbling, many people are still using YTS, although you may find that other torrent services refuse to work with it. YTS may have one of the better-looking formats, but it is no less controversial than the other options.
YTS is primarily focused on films, so if you’re looking to torrent software, you will need to use one of the other options. However, most of those films break copyrights given they are not delivered with official permission from the copyright holders.
The main site, YTS.AG is up and running at the time of writing.
P2P File Type: Torrent files
Torrentz2 opened after the Torrentz.eu site closed down. Unlike YTS.AG, Torrentz2 made sure the torrent community knew that it wasn’t the original, but a stand-in after the original site closed down. Torrentz2 searches for torrents on over 60 sites and specialized private trackers.
Torrentz2 allows users to find most types of content, which includes legally and freely available content. However, most users turn to Torrentz2 for illegal file share, something we do not condone. Torrentz2 can be useful for legal torrenting, but the site itself is illegal because the majority of the content available through it breaks copyrights.
The dangers of torrenting
Although not all torrenting is bad, torrenting in general usually gets a bad reputation. That’s because a significant amount of torrenting is heavily focused on pirating. Some sites, such as The Pirate Bay, like to emphasize the fact that they’re just there to act as a search service; how users decide to use the service is up to them. Different governments and law enforcement agencies haven’t exactly bought into that, which is why TPB’s main founders were all arrested and fined for copyright infringement.
“But I don’t own the torrent site,” we hear you saying in your head. “I’m just using it!” Unfortunately, there are legal and privacy-related dangers for even regular torrent users that make torrenting no walk in the park even for the casual users.
Because of the way torrents work, if you’re using torrent sites you may be inadvertently downloading copyrighted material. In almost all countries, this is considered illegal. However, most countries don’t seek to prosecute your average torrent user. They usually go after the site owners and the heavy seeders.
More likely than not, if you’re using a torrent site you will be engaging in seeding as well as leeching. Torrents work by sharing the file downloading across networks. As you’re downloading parts of a file, you’re also seeding parts you downloaded to others. Everyone on a network downloading the same file is doing the same thing. This is why torrents are so much faster than straight FTP downloads, and why they’re so popular. They’re fast and efficient. In reality, it’s a great technological wonder.
Nevertheless, when you torrent you also become a filer sharer, which is the classification that lands people into the most trouble. Police organizations don’t usually target people who file share here or there, but those who are sharing dozens of gigs a month may be a target, even if they’re accidentally sharing those files.
Privacy and security issues
The privacy issue related to torrents is the key reason why most people who use torrent sites opt for a VPN service. When you torrent, your IP address is there for everyone on the torrent site to see. There are some important concerns with this.
First, if your IP address is not masked behind a proxy server or a VPN anyone who has it could use it as a backdoor to hack 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.
Twitch streamers know this all too well. “Swatting,” in which someone will make a fake phone call to police, who will then send out the SWAT team, is a common occurrence for Twitch streamers. Some viewers will acquire the streamer’s IP address, connect it to that user’s name and their real address, and then make those fake phone calls. One Runescape Twitch streamer even had cops point guns at his 10-year-old brother.
On the security front, you will have to contend with fake and virulent torrents that get uploaded on some torrent sites. The more reputable sites, like the ones we’ve listed above, have certain safeguards in place to help prevent this. Some, such as Rarbg, will only allow registered users to upload files to the site. Others, such as The Pirate Bay, have no real safeguards in place, trusting instead that most seeders are honest.
Although those safeguards do help protect against malware inserted to look like the movie, software or TV show you’re trying to download, they aren’t 100% secure. With thousands of registered users in many of these sites and a lack of such a system in place at some sites like The Pirate Bay, you will run the risk of getting viruses on your machine. Having a good antivirus program installed while using torrent sites is an absolute necessity.
While using a VPN won’t protect you from fake or virulent torrents, it will help prevent you from giving away personal information or making yourself an easy hacking or swatting target.
What makes a VPN good for torrenting?
A good VPN for torrenting should meet these criteria.
- Look for a VPN that has a clearly-stated no-logging policy. This means the VPN does not keep logs on your activities that are connected to your personal identification. This does not include metadata, which won’t have your identity connected to it.
- Opt for a VPN with fast speeds. Although torrenting in general is typically designed to make downloading faster, it’s still necessary to use the VPN services with the best bandwidth. See our round up of the fastest VPN services for more details.
- Use a service with unlimited bandwidth. Alongside a service that has fast speeds, make sure the service also provides unlimited bandwidth. Some services explicitly state that they do not allow torrenting. Torrenting often requires significant bandwidth due to uploading and downloading requirements.
- Choose a VPN service that has DNS and IP leak protection. Considering your reason for using a VPN while torrenting is primarily to mask your identity, go with a VPN service that will protect you from leaking that information. Some use various methods to do this, including automatic kill switches that shut off certain programs or your internet if a leak is detected. You can check if your VPN has a DNS leak here.
- Use a VPN service based in a friendly country. Some countries are not particularly friendly to VPN services. That means services in those countries may have to give up private user data (and also why they may not have no-logs policies). Friendly locations include the British Virgin Islands or Switzerland.
Usenet: an alternative to torrenting
Usenet is a popular torrenting alternative that doesn’t use a peer-to-peer network to distribute files. Instead, files exist on centralized servers run by Usenet providers. That means there’s no obligation to seed files for others to download. Downloading a file from Usenet is typically much faster than a torrent for this reason and will typically max out your available download bandwidth.
Usenet requires a paid subscription, but downloading copyrighted content is just as illegal as it is when torrenting. Usenet is more private and less popular than BitTorrent, however, so the chances of facing legal repercussions are lower. We still recommend using a VPN whenever downloading from Usenet.
Usenet requires all of the folloowing:
- A subscription to a provider
- A newsreader client
- An indexer/search engine
Some providers wrap all three of these things into one tidy package. If that’s not the case, free newsreaders and indexers are available online. Check out our list of the best Usenet providers along with in-depth reviews.
There’s a bit of a learning curve, but Usenet has many advantages over its more widespread P2P counterpart.