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Best VPN for Torrenting in 2021

Podium Rankings for Best VPN
Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

Simon is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times, CNet and more. Read full bio

It’s key to use a fast and safe VPN for torrenting. When you torrent files without a VPN, your IP address is visible to anyone.

Peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing without a VPN can also expose you to dangers from hackers and bad actors.

A private VPN hides your torrent IP address and encrypts your P2P traffic, keeping your torrent activity anonymous. However, you can’t use just any VPN since many are not secure enough.

We tested 69 VPNs, ranking each one based on security, logging policy, speed, P2P support, and jurisdiction.

We looked for specific features like high encryption, IP and DNS leak protection, and a VPN kill switch. Our P2P VPN testing criteria is designed to identify the finest VPNs for fast and private file-sharing.

The best VPNs for torrenting and P2P in 2021 are:

  1. ExpressVPN: The best overall VPN for torrenting and P2P traffic.
    Read Summary.
  2. PrivateVPN: A fast and very affordable VPN with P2P support. Read Summary.
  3. NordVPN: A very fast, secure and no-logs VPN with user-friendly apps. Read Summary.
  4. IPVanish: The best VPN for P2P traffic on Fire TV Stick and Kodi. Read Summary.
  5. AirVPN: A highly configurable VPN perfect for advanced torrenters. Read Summary.

The VPNs above don’t record your IP address or internet activity. They also don’t leak your IP or DNS address. This is crucial, as just one leaked data packet is enough to expose your identity, IP address, and location to your ISP. If you’re worried about torrenting leaks, you can test your torrent IP with our free VPN leak test.

Moreover, all five VPNs registered fast upload and download speeds, so you can torrent large files smoothly. They also work well with popular torrent clients like uTorrent, Deluge, Bittorrent, and Vuze.

If you’re looking for a free P2P VPN, we explain further down why free VPNs are almost always a bad choice for torrenting.

Keep reading for more details about the best torrent VPNs. Or, jump to a comparison table of 15 popular VPNs.

Best VPNs for Anonymous Torrenting & P2P

  1. 1. ExpressVPN: Best Overall

    The best VPN for safe torrenting and P2P file-sharing.

    Ranked #1 out of 69 VPNs for Torrenting
    ExpressVPN's new app on mobile devices
    (1,760 user reviews)
    Visit ExpressVPN
    1. No torrenting restrictions
    2. A benchmark for VPN speed
    3. P2P-friendly privacy policy
    4. No IP or DNS address leaks
    5. Instant setup on all devices
    6. Kill switch on most apps
    1. No kill switch on iOS app
    2. No port forwarding

    Based on our P2P test results, the best VPN for torrenting is ExpressVPN. It offers secure applications with consistently fast download speeds and low latency.

    ExpressVPN protects your P2P traffic with absolutely no IP leaks. In our recent torrenting benchmark tests, it recorded an average torrenting bitrate 13.2MiB/s. This is a drop of 21% compared to no VPN.

    Cheapest Price$6.67/mo over 15 Months See all plans
    Average Bitrate13.2Mib/s
    JurisdictionBritish Virgin Islands (Privacy Haven)
    Logging PolicyAnonymous Server Usage Data
    Data LeaksNo
    Data CapNone
    Torrenting FeaturesKill Switch
    IP Addresses3,000+
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. androidAndroid
    5. routerRouter
    6. iosiOS
    7. amazon_firetvFire TV
    8. androidtvAndroid TV
    9. playstationPlayStation
    10. xboxXbox
    11. chromeChrome
    12. firefoxFirefox
    13. edgeEdge

    A large, fast and secure server network

    ExpressVPN uses a large network of VPN servers in over 160 global locations. You’ll have access to a wide selection of privacy-friendly countries to connect to. In addition, P2P traffic is allowed without restrictions on any server.

    Our most recent speed tests show how ExpressVPN is among the fastest VPNs of 2021. Its speed performance is remarkably consistent, whether you connect to a server in your home country or in a distant location.

    These speeds are especially impressive on long-distance connections. ExpressVPN is therefore a great choice if you want to torrent privately using a foreign IP address.

    No-logs and works with the best torrent clients

    A screenshot of ExpressVPN running at the same time as qBittorrent

    ExpressVPN is fully compatible with BitTorrent clients

    We tested ExpressVPN with various torrent clients including uTorrent, qBitTorrent, and Vuze. It worked flawlessly without any additional setup. The torrenting policy is also clearly outlined on the website.

    ExpressVPN has a minimal logging policy that doesn’t keep any activity or connection logs. This means the VPN company couldn’t sell you out to copyright agencies even if it wanted to. It is based in the British Virgin Islands, a privacy-friendly jurisdiction far from the influence of the Fourteen Eyes Alliance. All of this makes ExpressVPN a standout choice if privacy is your priority.

    Advanced security features and leak protection

    ExpressVPN also stands out thanks to the security features it offers. This includes AES-256 encryption, perfect forward secrecy and secure VPN protocols. This guarantees that your file-sharing remains completely secure.

    Built-in IP leak protection, and an effective kill switch called ‘Network Lock,’ also keep you anonymous even if your VPN connection drops. These features are absolutely essential for torrenting and don’t require any manual configuration whatsoever.

    Windwos and Mac users also benefit from advanced features such as IPv6 leak protection and split-tunneling. The latter allows you to choose the apps and services you want to route through the VPN tunnel. For example, you can just have your torrent client use a VPN connection.

    Great usability, but port forwarding is missing

    ExpressVPN works on the vast majority of devices, and there are detailed setup instructions for most of them. You can even set the VPN on your home router.

    This gives you the flexibility to download torrents from different devices. If you encounter any problems, there’s also 24/7 customer support available via live chat or email.

    Sadly, ExpressVPN doesn’t support port forwarding. This means you can’t seed torrents for other users. There is also no kill switch on the iOS app, either. In fairness, torrenting on an iPhone or iPad is fairly unusual, given there are no BitTorrent apps on the iOS App Store.

    While ExpressVPN is more expensive than other VPN services, it’s worth it for the best speeds and security. There is no free trial on Windows or Mac, but you can trial the service by making the most of its 30-day refund guarantee.

    To dig deeper on why ExpressVPN is the best VPN for P2P file-sharing, check out our Torrenting with ExpressVPN guide.

  2. 2. PrivateVPN: Most Affordable

    A fast, no-logs, and cheap VPN with P2P support.

    Image of PrivateVPN's app on mobile
    (1,736 user reviews)
    Visit PrivateVPN
    1. P2P allowed on all servers
    2. Fast upload & download speeds
    3. Strict zero-logs policy
    4. Allows port-forwarding
    5. Very affordable pricing
    1. Smaller server network than top rivals
    2. Live support needs improving
    3. Small server network

    PrivateVPN has an effective kill switch, a reassuring zero-logs policy, and very fast speeds. Its server network, with unlimited P2P support, is designed to get the best torrenting results. Just like with ExpressVPN, you can torrent without restrictions on any PrivateVPN server.

    Cheapest Price$1.98/mo over 24 months See all plans
    Average Bitrate9.7MiB/s
    JurisdictionSweden (14-Eyes Member)
    Logging PolicyNo Logs
    Data LeaksNo
    Data CapUnlimited
    Torrenting FeaturesKill switch, Port forwarding
    IP Addresses7,000+
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. androidAndroid
    5. routerRouter
    6. iosiOS
    7. amazon_firetvFire TV
    8. androidtvAndroid TV
    9. playstationPlayStation
    10. xboxXbox

    Private VPN is cheap, transparent, and trustworthy

    PrivateVPN is also the most affordable P2P VPN available. The service costs just $1.98 per month on a two-year subscription plan, which is great value for money. There’s also a seven-day free trial and a 30-day money-back guarantee, for you to try the VPN first.

    Unlike other VPN services, PrivateVPN is very transparent about its torrenting and logging policy. There’s no DMCA statement and the website clearly states that “[PrivateVPN] doesn’t collect or log any traffic or use of its service”.

    There are no examples of PrivateVPN users being forwarded DMCA requests, either.

    These are good assurances from the VPN company. However, we do want to see more wording around its no-logs commitments. Unlike ExpressVPN, PrivateVPN hasn’t carried out an external audit to confirm its no-logs policy.

    Good speeds, secure apps and private DNS servers

    All of PrivateVPN’s custom apps come with a VPN kill switch and industry-leading AES-256 encryption. This means you don’t need to worry about your true IP address leaking if the VPN disconnects.

    The company also maintains its own DNS servers. There is no third-party responsible for resolving your DNS requests. This is ideal for privacy and anonymity.

    Not only is PrivateVPN highly secure, it also provides excellent speeds and performance. Our most recent torrenting speed tests measured a bitrate of 9.7MiB/s, which is a drop of 42%.

    This isn’t awful for torrenting (where VPNs tend to have a larger than average effect on speeds) but it also isn’t as good as some of the more expensive alternatives.

    Port forwarding is supported on all 150+ servers

    Unlike ExpressVPN and NordVPN, PrivateVPN allows port forwarding. Port forwarding isn’t absolutely necessary to download torrent files, but it is to seed torrents. You can read the benefits of port forwarding further down this article.

    Configuring PrivateVPN with port forwarding, for optimal torrenting results, can be complicated. But, the website offers a useful guide that covers the basics. There’s also an option to set up a SOCKS5 proxy. However, we recommend you use the full VPN to fully encrypt your data and protect your privacy.

    Screenshot of PrivateVPN's beta server list

    You can torrent on any of PrivateVPN’s worldwide servers

    PrivateVPN’s server network consists of just 59 locations. It’s a much smaller network than its main rivals, but it has yet to suffer from server congestion. And, it’s still a larger, and more reliable, network than many small providers like AirVPN, our #5 recommendation.

    Overall, PrivateVPN is a safe and secure VPN service that’s well-optimized for torrenting.

  3. 3. NordVPN: Most Servers

    Flawless security, fast speeds, and thousands of P2P-optimized servers.

    NordVPN Mobile App Screenshot
    (246 user reviews)
    Visit NordVPN
    1. Torrenting permitted on many servers
    2. Fast same-country speeds
    3. Totally zero-logs policy
    4. Tons of security features
    5. User-friendly apps for all devices
    1. Email support can be slow
    2. No port-forwarding

    If you can’t afford ExpressVPN, NordVPN is a good VPN for torrenting. It isn’t as cheap as PrivateVPN though, particularly on shorter subscriptions.

    NordVPN is one of the most widely-used VPNs, and with good reason. It’s easy to use, very secure, with fast speeds across a vast server network. There’s no port forwarding though, meaning you can’t seed torrents with NordVPN.

    Cheapest Price$3.71/mo over 24 Months See all plans
    Average Bitrate10.8Mib/s
    JurisdictionPanama (Privacy Haven)
    Logging PolicyNo Logs
    Data LeaksNo
    Data CapUnlimited
    Torrenting FeaturesKill switch
    IP Addresses5,515
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. androidAndroid
    5. routerRouter
    6. iosiOS
    7. amazon_firetvFire TV
    8. playstationPlayStation
    9. xboxXbox
    10. chromeChrome
    11. firefoxFirefox

    Good speeds on P2P-optimized servers

    We measured an average torrenting bitrate of 10.8 MiB/s in our most recent benchmarking tests, a drop of 35%. NordVPN is in general one of the fastest VPNs we’ve tested, but it isn’t quite as fast for torrenting.

    Most locations in NordVPN’s network offer P2P-optimized servers designed for fast and secure torrenting. Just make sure you’ve selected a P2P server, rather than a normal VPN server. Otherwise, your torrent client won’t work.

    Screenshot of NordVPN speciality servers, including P2P

    NordVPN lets you filter servers by P2P compatibility

    There are P2P servers spread across the world, but we don’t recommend connecting to countries with known copyright trolls. Therefore, avoid torrenting from US, UK or Australian servers. Instead, connect to more torrenting-friendly countries like Switzerland, Spain, or Romania.

    High-end security, kill switch, and double-VPN

    NordVPN is completely zero-logs, and it uses the top AES-256 cipher for strong encryption. It also hashes your web traffic thanks to a 2048-bit DH key, SHA2-384 authentication. The VPN service also implements perfect forward secrecy to encrypt and protect your data transfers.

    There are custom VPN apps for a wide range of devices. All of these apps use OpenVPN and IKEv2, the most secure connection protocols available. NordVPN also comes with NordLynx, its own very fast version of the WireGuard protocol.

    All of the VPN clients are easy to use and come with an automatic kill switch and split tunneling. NordVPN is also one of the services to offer ‘double VPN.’ This features routes your traffic through two separate VPN servers for extra security.

    If you want to automatically get the best P2P servers with NordVPN you’ll need to change your settings: navigate to Recommended Server > Advanced Options, and then select P2P.

    Great value for money, but no port forwarding

    NordVPN is priced very reasonable at $3.71 per month, on a two-year subscription. All of NordVPN’s plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Overall, this is excellent value for money given the quality of NordVPN’s service.

    Be aware that you can’t seed torrents with NordVPN’s VPN apps because they don’t support port forwarding. You can seed with NordVPN’s SOCKS5 proxy, but a proxy isn’t as secure as a full VPN.

    To be fully transparent, NordVPN was subject to a server breach in March 2018 affecting one of its Finnish servers. No user data was compromised, and the company has since doubled down on its commitment to data security. However, we feel it’s still worth you knowing about it.

  4. 4. IPVanish: Best for Kodi

    Top VPN for P2P-based streaming on Firestick and Kodi.

    IPVanish VPN
    (175 user reviews)
    Visit IPVanish
    1. P2P permitted on all servers
    2. Strict zero-logs policy
    3. Fast speeds and low latency
    4. Self-owned VPN server network
    5. Over 40,000 IP addresses
    6. Working VPN kill switch
    1. No port forwarding
    2. Past logging controversy

    IPVanish is an excellent VPN for torrenting. It has all the usability of mainstream VPN providers along with the P2P-specific features of smaller competitors. The VPN offers fast and reliable speeds, and includes a kill switch to prevent your IP address from ever being exposed.

    Cheapest Price$3.75/mo for 12 months See all plans
    Average Bitrate15.6Mib/s
    JurisdictionUS (Five-Eyes Member)
    Logging PolicyNo Logs
    Data LeaksNo
    Data CapUnlimited
    Torrenting FeaturesKill switch
    IP Addresses40,000+
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. androidAndroid
    5. routerRouter
    6. iosiOS

    Super fast, safe, and no user logs whatsoever

    When we tested IPVanish for torrenting we measured an average bitrate of 15.6MiB/s, which is exceptionally good. This works out as a speed loss of less than 7% – one of the best results we’ve seen.

    It’s a true zero-logs VPN service with a ton of security extras including AES-256 encryption, traffic obfuscation, split tunneling, DNS leak protection and the ability to manually configure your DNS settings. Unfortunately IPVanish does not support port forwarding, so you should choose a different provider like PrivateVPN if you’re looking to seed.

    40,000 IP addresses and a great Firestick app

    The VPN also operates over 40,000 individual IP addresses, all of which permit torrenting. This means you should have no performance issues due to congestion and no trouble remaining anonymous once connected.

    IPVanish full server list

    IPVanish has servers in six continents

    You can also use IPVanish on all popular devices, including routers. This gives you lots of options when it comes to torrenting: you can download media from your desktop, phone, tablet or even TV. It’s also our top recommendation for torrenting with Kodi on Fire TV Stick or any other platform for that matter.

    IPVanish’s custom VPN apps may not look as nice as those offered by ExpressVPN or NordVPN, but they aren’t much more difficult to use. If you don’t want to use the full VPN, there’s also a SOCKS5 proxy with handy instructions for getting it set up.

    A fair monthly price & 7-day money-back guarantee

    IPVanish is not the cheapest VPN service, but it is reasonably priced given its strong security and the number of features on offer. The best price comes with the annual subscription plan, which costs only $3.25 per month. There’s no free trial, but all of the subscription plans come with a seven-day money-back guarantee.

    Don't let past scandals put you off

    You may also be interested to know that under previous ownership, there was an incident in which IPVanish handed user logs over to authorities. However, the offenses involved had nothing to do with torrenting and the company’s new ownership has worked hard to distance itself from the incident.

    We believe the company’s new management, strong security and clear zero-logging policy more than makes up for the mistakes of its previous ownership.

    IPVanish is a good VPN for torrenting and a great choice for streaming and overall privacy.

  5. 5. AirVPN: For Advanced Users

    A highly-configurable VPN perfect for advanced torrenters.

    AirVPN mobile screenshots
    No user reviews
    Visit AirVPN
    1. Optimized for P2P traffic
    2. Supports torrenting over IPv4 and IPv6
    3. A trusted name in torrenting
    4. Includes a kill switch
    5. Port forwarding allows seeding
    1. Not as user-friendly as other VPNs
    2. Complicated server list
    3. Seeding requires manual calibration

    AirVPN’s network of servers is perfect for torrenting, but it isn’t very easy to use.

    The VPN includes a kill switch, port forwarding and a strong privacy policy – everything you need for anonymous seeding and torrenting. However, because it can be complicated to use, we only recommend AirVPN if you’re an advanced user who knows what they’re doing.

    Cheapest Price$3.69/mo over 24 Months See all plans
    Average Bitrate12.9Mib/s
    JurisdictionItaly (14-Eyes Member)
    Logging PolicyNo Logs
    Data LeaksNo
    Data CapUnlimited
    Torrenting FeaturesKill switch, Port forwarding
    IP Addresses-1
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. linuxLinux
    4. androidAndroid
    5. routerRouter
    6. iosiOS
    7. amazon_firetvFire TV
    8. playstationPlayStation
    9. xboxXbox

    Totally optimized and unrestricted torrenting

    AirVPN has a data neutrality policy torrenters will be glad to hear:

    “P2P is allowed, as well as any other protocol. Currently P2P is a set of the most efficient protocols to share and access information on the Internet. We do not discriminate against any protocol.”

    This means AirVPN doesn’t restrict P2P activity on any of its servers and users can pick between any of its 22 country locations.

    Screenshot of AirVPN's desktop app showing the percentage load of each VPN server location

    AirVPN’s server select menu isn’t very easy to adapt to

    Very fast torrenting speeds & port forwarding

    Our torrenting speed test results were very strong, too: we recorded a bitrate of 12.9MiB/s – a drop of just 23% compared to no VPN. This puts AirVPN in front of industry leaders like NordVPN for fast torrenting.

    The VPN client includes a kill switch called ‘Network Lock’, which AirVPN claims was the first of its kind. Network Lock goes beyond most kill switches and uses firewall rules to prevent data leaks. It operates while your internet connection is active and will work to protect you even if the software crashes. In short, this means there is no chance your true IP address will be revealed, even momentarily.

    AirVPN also features port forwarding, which allows you to get the best results while seeding and leeching. You don’t need to seed to download a torrent file, but some clients will punish your downloads speeds significantly if you don’t.

    An extremely tricky VPN to use - one for the experts

    AirVPN requires some configuration to set up port forwarding for the best results – you can follow AirVPN’s advice step by step if you use Bittorrent or eMule, but if you use other clients such as Deluge or uTorrent you’ll have to do some of the work yourself.

    AirVPN’s long history also works to its advantage. AirVPN was being used to torrent privately before most other commercial VPNs even existed. It has managed to avoid any controversy around logging, forwarding DMCA requests, or security breaches in all of that time. This means you can be comfortable when trusting the company with your data.

    While secure and trustworthy, AirVPN isn’t the easiest VPN to use – in fact, it is one of the most unintuitive VPNs on the market. If you have the patience to adapt to the software it’s an ideal VPN for torrenting at a very reasonable price, but we don’t recommend it if you’re a beginner or aren’t experienced with VPNs and torrenting in general.

Torrenting VPN Comparison Table

We put 15 popular torrenting VPNs through our bespoke P2P testing process, and this is how they compare:

Torrenting Speed Tests

Surprisingly, lots of generally fast VPNs are slow for torrenting. This is because P2P traffic requires specific network optimization. It means that just because a VPN does well in a speed test, it won’t necessarily be good for torrenting.

We’ve developed a simple benchmarking test to measure average download bitrate and rank each VPN by P2P speed.

We set the test up as follows:

  1. We have a private tracker for a 1GB torrent file
  2. We host a torrent client on a local server with a fixed connection speed to seed that torrent
  3. We configure the torrent client not to use DHT or communicate with other peers in any way
  4. From a test computer, we run a VPN and torrent the file on a fixed 150Mbps connection
  5. We measure the file transfer duration to find the average bitrate

Every VPN included in this round-up has been run through the same standardized process.

Here are our latest results for 20 of the most popular torrenting VPNs:

VPN Bitrate
No VPN 16.8MiB/s
Astrill 16.7MiB/s
AirVPN 12.9MiB/s
Avira Phantom Free 15.5MiB/s
CyberGhost 6.5MiB/s
ExpressVPN 13.2MiB/s
Hotspot Shield 0.7MiB/s
IPVanish 15.6MiB/s
IVPN 13MiB/s
Mullvad 13.5MiB/s
NordVPN 10.8MiB/s
Private Internet Access 1.4MiB/s
PrivateVPN 9.7MiB/s
ProtonVPN 16MiB/s
Surfshark 14.4MiB/s
TunnelBear 4.8MiB/s
VPNArea 13.8MiB/s
VyprVPN 2.8MiB/s
Windscribe 11.9MiB/s
Windscribe Free 4.7MiB/s
Zenmate 10.1MiB/s

What We Look for in a Torrenting VPN

There are key features you should look for in a torrenting VPN. These features will ensure you are safe and private while torrenting. Every VPN we recommend is scored according to this strict criteria.

A good torrenting VPN will:

  • Protect your internet traffic with OpenVPN and AES-256 encryption
  • Hide your IP address and mask your real location
  • Have a strict no-logging policy
  • Support P2P traffic
  • Protect against IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks
  • Include a VPN kill switch
  • Provide fast speeds and unlimited bandwidth
  • Have a large server network including privacy-friendly jurisdictions

Here are some of the key features of a good torrenting VPN in more detail:

  1. Strong Security and VPN Kill Switch

    Strong AES-256 encryption and DNS leak protection are must-haves for any good torrenting VPN. A single data packet that you leak can be enough for your ISP to identify you.

    A kill switch is also an absolutely necessary feature if you plan to torrent with your VPN.

    This blocks your internet connection and protects your IP address from being exposed if your VPN cuts out.

  2. Zero-Logs policy

    Some VPN services keep user activity logs, which can be used to trace downloads back to you. A good P2P VPN service will not record your IP address or internet activity.

    This means that if copyright holders approach the VPN service, it will have no information to hand over about your usage of the VPN.

  3. Fast Speeds

    Most VPNs are slow when torrenting and P2P file sharing. The VPNs we recommend all provide fast upload and download speeds so you can torrent large files smoothly.

    If speeds are your top priority, use our VPN speed test tool to compare upload and download speeds of the most popular VPN services.

  4. P2P Support

    Some popular VPNs ban P2P traffic outright, and others are more vague. We only recommend VPNs that openly allow torrenting on the majority of their servers.

    You should look for a copyright and DMCA policy in your VPN provider’s terms of service. Try to choose a VPN that offers P2P-optimized servers, rather than one that has an unclear torrenting policy.

  5. Large Server Network

    Some countries have aggressive copyright and data retention laws. The best VPNs for torrenting are based in privacy-friendly jurisdictions. They also have servers in countries without legal penalties for P2P activity, like Romania, Spain, and Switzerland. We’ll talk more about the importance of VPN jurisdictions further down.

    A large network of P2P-friendly worldwide servers is ideal to reduce server congestion and improve download speeds.

  6. Unlimited Bandwidth

    Free VPNs often place a limit on the amount of data you can use. A good P2P VPN provides unlimited bandwidth, so you can torrent without worrying about data caps.

  7. Shared IP Addresses

    We recommend VPNs that use shared IP addresses for torrenting. This means when you connect to a server you share an IP address with dozens or even hundreds of other people.

    Shared IPs add a significant layer of anonymity. They make it more difficult to trace activity back to you.

    Some VPNs offer dedicated (single) IP addresses, usually at an extra monthly cost. These can be good to unblock streaming platforms, and showing you fewer Captchas when you’re browsing online. But, it’s a bad idea to have your torrenting activity tied to a single IP address. Even one that’s not truly yours.

Why You Need a VPN for Torrenting

You can torrent files without using a VPN, but we strongly recommend you don’t.

A good VPN will encrypt your P2P traffic, disguise your IP address, and protect your identity while torrenting. This prevents your internet service provider (ISP), government, and any other third party from spying on your activity. It also allows you to access content that’s geo-restricted.
Image of a user torrenting with a VPN, they are safe and anonymous
BitTorrent is a P2P or ‘peer-to-peer’ protocol. This means that every other user downloading the same file is connected in a group called a ‘swarm’. Many BitTorrent clients let you view a list of devices you’re connected to when leeching or seeding files on the network.

Without a VPN, your IP address and identity will be visible to everyone in the torrenting swarm. This includes other users, content owners, and copyright trolls. Your ISP can monitor your traffic and work with authorities to issue legal notices for copyright infringement.
Image of a user torrenting without a VPN, they are exposed to their ISP, other users, criminals and copyright holders
If you’re caught downloading copyrighted material you could face financial penalties or even imprisonment.

Torrenting DMCA

DMCA notices will normally come directly from your ISP

Many countries are ramping up copyright violation laws and enforcement actions, especially in the US, Canada, UK, and Australia. This trend is happening throughout Europe as well, in countries like Germany, Denmark, and Austria.

The US is home to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which can penalize repeat copyright violations with fines of up to $1,000,000. The UK has similar legislation called the Digital Economy Act, which raised the maximum sentence for copyright infringement to up to 10 years.

Large media companies also monitor torrent traffic and collect IP addresses from torrent swarms. Copyright holders often outsource their litigation to law companies called ‘copyright trolls’.

Copyright trolls monitor popular torrents looking for the IP addresses of users uploading or downloading files. They then contact the ISP that assigned those IP addresses, and instruct it to send the user a copyright violation notice. In more serious cases, ISPs can also send requests for settlement.

While we do not condone copyright violations, we do want to make sure that users stay safe.

To summarize, a VPN will protect you against the following threats:

  1. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP)

    ISPs use Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to analyze your internet traffic. If you don’t encrypt your traffic, your ISP will see and record all the files you torrent.

    An ISP can use this information to block or throttle your P2P traffic. It can also prevent you from accessing file-sharing websites. If you’ve broken the law, your ISP could send you a DMCA notice. It can even pass your information to third-parties, like content owners and copyright enforcement agencies.

  2. Other Peers in the Torrent Swarm

    All devices downloading a torrent file are known as peers, while those uploading are called seeders. Together, all of these devices make up the ‘torrent swarm’.

    In every torrent swarm, the IP addresses of all participants are visible. This means everybody can see this personal identifier. It’s possible that someone could link your real IP address to your true identity and use this information for scams or harassment.

  3. Third-Parties Monitoring Downloads

    Copyright enforcement organizations infiltrate and monitor torrent swarms to catch torrenters out. Research by the University of Birmingham discovered extensive monitoring of the most popular content available on torrent sites.

    Copyright trolls have been known to harass even users who haven’t breached copyright laws with DMCA requests. That’s because they profit from damages or litigation. It’s best to mask your IP address in public torrents to avoid these.

    In addition, we’re seeing websites publish records of P2P activity and related IP addresses. These databases of torrenting activity are available for anyone to see. This makes it easier than ever for attorneys and media companies to target users.

    If you’re torrenting without a VPN, and you don’t believe third parties can see what you download, this tool gives you a snapshot of the latest torrents matched to your public IP address.

It’s clear that masking your IP address is vital for bittorrent users. No matter where you’re located, using a safe VPN for torrenting and P2P file-sharing is key.

How to Torrent Safely With a VPN

Using a VPN to torrent files is very easy. However, you need to be 100% sure that your VPN is running before you open your torrent client. If you don’t, you risk exposing your true IP address. This is because torrent clients continue to seed files for other users even after you’ve fully downloaded them.

For this reason, always have your VPN on when torrenting. And make sure you completely stop your torrent client before turning the VPN off. This ensures your IP address does not become public.

You also need to trust the file you’re downloading. A VPN won’t stop you from downloading malicious content. To ensure you receive safe files, only download torrents from trusted sources with many active peers and seeders. It’s also good practice to scan new files with antivirus software like Malwarebytes.

Here’s how to torrent safely with a VPN:

  1. Find a safe VPN that supports torrenting

    Choose a VPN from our list above. Or, find a VPN service that meets the criteria of a P2P-friendly VPN.

    Sign up to your chosen VPN service, and download the software onto the device you’ll be using.

  2. Check the privacy settings

    Once you’ve downloaded the VPN software, launch the application on your device. At this stage, it’s important to check your security settings. Make sure the VPN kill switch is enabled, so your IP address is protected if the VPN connection drops.

    ExpressVPN advanced security settings

    You can control security options from ExpressVPN’s advanced settings menu

    If there are additional security features, such as DNS leak protection, traffic obfuscation, or multi-hop servers, enable them as you see fit.

  3. Select your preferred VPN server location

    Once you’ve checked your settings, choose a server location. For the best torrent speeds, connect to a VPN server as close as possible to your physical location.

    If possible, avoid using VPN servers in countries hostile to user privacy, like the US, UK, Canada, and Australia.

  4. Connect to the VPN server and launch your BitTorrent client

    Finally, connect to the VPN server of your choice. Do this before you launch your BitTorrent client, or you risk exposing your real IP address.

    Our preferred torrent client is qBittorrent, but you can also use other trusted clients. We trust Deluge, uTorrent, Vuze, and BitTorrent.

Is Torrenting Legal?

Torrenting itself is totally legal and doesn’t pose any inherent risk.

However, torrenting copyrighted material is illegal almost everywhere. Your ISP and copyright trolls are constantly monitoring P2P networks, like Bittorrent and uTorrent, to identify who is downloading and sharing copyrighted files.

Every country has different laws when it comes to privacy, torrenting, and copyright infringement. For this reason, the country in which your VPN is based, and the location of the VPN server you’re using, is incredibly important. We call this country the VPN jurisdiction.

Some jurisdictions have aggressive copyright laws and data retention laws. Some just block torrent and file-sharing websites. And others take a much more relaxed approach.

Ideally, choose a VPN based in a country that doesn’t legally require collecting traffic logs. And connect to a server in a country that doesn’t have legal penalties for torrenting.

In the US, UK, Canada, and Australia, downloading or sharing copyrighted content is illegal and often aggressively penalized. In this section, we’ll go through the copyright laws of each of these countries in more detail.

  1. United States

    Downloading and sharing copyrighted material is illegal in the United States. There are two laws that affect torrenting and P2P activity in the US:

    • The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which is aimed at sites hosting illegal torrents and uploaders of copyrighted works.
    • The No Electronic Theft Act (NET Act), which targets users downloading protected content.

    American Internet Service Providers (ISP) monitor and store user download data for months, if not years. For example, Comcast holds it for at least six months while AT&T stores it for at least a year.

    If you’re torrenting illegally, your ISP will send you a warning letter and probably start throttling your connection speeds.

    US ISPs apply a three-warning rule to anyone caught torrenting copyrighted content before content owners start any legal proceedings. After this, anyone found guilty can risk up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $250,000.

    comcast dmca

    A copyright notice sent to a Comcast customer

    Copyright trolls are also prevalent in the United States. These are third-parties (law firms) that set out to catch copyright violators on behalf of content owners. They can lurk in torrent swarms, even seeding files themselves as bait.

  2. United Kingdom

    Torrenting copyrighted material is illegal in the United Kingdom. In 2010, the UK government passed the Digital Economy Act to help the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) curb illegal torrenting. The act was updated in 2017.

    This law forces major UK ISPs to notify customers caught downloading torrents. The notification comes in the form of a cease and desist order. The legislation also gives UK ISPs the right to throttle speeds and even disconnect users from the internet altogether.

    Over 2,000 domains are blocked by UK ISPs including many popular file-sharing sites like RARBG and YTS. You can find a comprehensive list of blocked domains here.

    If you want to avoid downloading copyright-protected works, there are many sites with free and legal content available through the public domain or creative commons license.

  3. Australia

    Downloading and sharing copyrighted material in Australia is illegal. The Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill of 2018 allows ISPs to block torrenting sites classified as ‘pirate’ sites as well as any related mirror and proxy sites.

    Australian DMCA claim

    An example of a DMCA claim sent to an Australian user

    Many popular BitTorrent websites like ThePirateBay, Torrentz, and TorrentHound are therefore blocked. Overall, almost1,000 file-sharing domains are blocked by ISPs like Telstra.

    It’s unclear what the fines for illegal torrenting are, buta case in 2015 highlights the challenge faced by content owners in fining alleged illegal downloaders.

  4. Canada

    Since January 2014, the Copyright Modernization Act has required Canadian ISPs like Bell to send notices to copyright violators using their services. Canadian ISPs are legally entitled to store download and upload data from violating subscribers for at least six months.

    Copyright holders cannot sue copyright violators for more than CAD$5,000 (~$3,500) if copyrighted material is used for non-commercial purposes.

    Canadian law also enables ISPs to throttle file-sharing speeds if a user is found to be torrenting.

VPNs to Avoid for Torrenting & P2P

Not all VPNs are suitable for safe and private torrenting. Some VPNs block P2P traffic, and others don’t fully protect your privacy. We reviewed 69 VPN services and the vast majority didn’t qualify.

Avoid any VPN that doesn’t explicitly say it supports P2P traffic. Look for a clear torrenting policy in the terms of service, and strict no-logging rules in the privacy policy.

ipvanish dmca policy

As an example, here is IPVanish’s copyright policy

It’s very important to read independent VPN reviews to ensure a VPN service has no history of logging web activity, or forwarding DMCA requests to users. These reviews will also inform you how secure a VPN is in terms of encryption and IP leak protection.

In short, you must avoid VPNs that :

  • Don’t allow torrenting or P2P activity of any kind.
  • Aren’t fast enough, resulting in slow downloads.
  • Leak your real IP address or lack a VPN kill switch.
  • Keep user logs, including your torrent history.
  • Have bandwidth and data usage restrictions.

Here are some popular VPNs to avoid:

  • Hola VPN
  • PureVPN
  • Super VPN
  • Thunder VPN
  • Turbo VPN

Torrent VPN FAQs

What Is the Best VPN for Torrenting?

ExpressVPN is the best VPN we’ve tested for torrenting. It’s easy to use, reliable, and very fast on local and international P2P connections.

Even without port forwarding, ExpressVPN has consistently proved itself as the most secure and effective VPN for torrenting.

Most importantly, ExpressVPN has a proven record of strong security and it doesn’t collect any personal activity logs.

There’s also no evidence of mistakes or bad practice in its past. We believe you can 100% trust ExpressVPN.

What Is the Best Free VPN for Torrenting?

We can’t recommend many free VPNs for torrenting. Free VPNs aren’t ideal in normal instances, let alone for P2P activity. We advise not using free VPNs for anonymous file-sharing.

There are lots of free VPNs on the market, but most of them are insecure and dangerous to user privacy. Often, free VPNs throttle speeds, cap data usage, and even collect your data to sell to third parties.

Here are a few of the reasons why free VPNs are a bad choice for torrenting:

  • P2P Support – The majority of free VPNs don’t allow P2P or torrenting traffic at all. Even popular services like Hotspot Shield restrict torrenting to users of its premium plan.
  • Data Caps – To incentivize users to upgrade, most free VPN services come with bandwidth and data caps that limit the number of files you can download.
  • Slow Speeds – Most free VPNs are too slow or unreliable to download large files quickly.
  • Poor Security – It’s much more likely your IP address will leak if you’re using a free service. Our research found that 25% of free Android VPN apps fail to protect user privacy due to DNS and IP leaks. A further 85% featured excessive permissions with the potential for privacy abuses.
  • Tracking & Malware – Free services often include tracking libraries or malware designed to collect your data. One academic study found that almost 40% of Android VPNs included malware. In addition, services like Hola VPN will steal your bandwidth in order to sell it to third parties.
  • Invasive Logging Policies – Running a VPN network is expensive, and free VPNs have to cover this cost without relying on subscription fees. As a result, the vast majority of free services include some form of data logging or advertising, which is dangerous to user privacy.

Essentially, many free VPNs simply aren’t trustworthy. But, there are some trustworthy free VPNs that will work for occasional torrenting.

Read our Windscribe VPN review or our Hide.me review, our preferred free torrent VPNs.

Alternatively, head over to our list of the safest free VPNs for torrenting.

Which Countries Block Torrenting Websites?

A recent study by the Motion Picture Association (MPA) estimates that at least 42 countries block over 4,000 piracy sites (over 8,000 actual domains) altogether.

Of the 42 countries, 31 are members of the European Union (EU) including France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Portugal. It’s estimated over 5,300 file-sharing domains are blocked in the EU.

Outside of the EU, Australia, South Korea, Mexico, and Thailand are some of the countries blocking file-sharing websites.

Some of the most popular pirate sites blocked are:

  • 1337x (blocked in 8 countries)
  • LimeTorrents (blocked in 6 countries)
  • RARBG (blocked in 7 countries)
  • ThePirateBay (blocked in 19 countries)
  • Torrentz2 (blocked in 7 countries)
  • YTS (blocked in 8 countries)

What’s the Safest Location to Torrent in?

We always recommend you VPN into a country that has explicit legal protections for P2P users. Or, choose a country that has a relaxed approach to penalizing copyright infringement.

Sadly, most countries – most notably the US, UK and Australia – are very hostile to digital privacy and to P2P activity. You should avoid using VPN services or VPN servers based in these countries.

However, there are exceptions. Here are some of the safest countries to torrent in:

  1. Switzerland

    Swiss copyright law allows internet users to legally download all music and movies as long as it’s for personal use and not for profit. Monitoring of P2P downloads by third parties like your ISP is illegal, too.

    In the past, Swiss ISPs weren’t even required to block access to pirating sites. This has changed recently, but torrenting of copyrighted material remains legal. For this reason, Switzerland has long been seen as one of the best countries in the world for torrenting.

  2. Spain

    Copyright laws in Spain are slightly vague. Piracy sites are routinely blocked, but Spanish authorities have stated that torrenting files for personal use is legal. As long as the user isn’t making a profit from this activity, they’re not breaking the law.

    Spanish judges have also stated that personal data linked to an IP address can only be disclosed as part of a criminal investigation or for public safety reasons.

    You can see examples of copyright troll cases being thrown out of the Spanish courts within the last few years.

  3. Romania

    Romania is a very safe country for torrenting privately and a good choice to connect to with your VPN.

    Individuals and organisations running piracy sites have faced legal penalties in Romania, but individuals not making a profit are in a much stronger position.

    Romania is the only European country to have successfully rejected the EU’s data retention laws. There is also a precedent in Romanian law that defines sharing copyrighted material as a victimless crime, which means legal action is rarely pursued if the individual is torrenting for personal use, rather than for a profit.

Is Port Forwarding Necessary for Torrenting?

Your router acts as a gateway between all of your devices and the internet. Every router has a NAT firewall built into it, which blocks unwanted traffic and determines which traffic is meant for which specific device.

The NAT firewall usually does this automatically, but port forwarding allows you to configure it manually. This means you can assign ports to certain functions or devices, which allows your router to create a direct connection between the device and the desired website.

Port forwarding as a VPN feature involves setting your VPN connection to flow through a specific port on your router, bypassing the NAT firewall. You will need to use it if you want to seed torrents effectively, because P2P activity is sometimes blocked by the NAT firewall to protect your device from malicious attacks.

You don’t need port forwarding to download a torrent file, but you will need it if you want seed files to help maintain the swarm. Certain torrent clients also use trackers to slow your download rate significantly if you don’t seed.

Being able to seed is important for two reasons:

  • Maintaining the torrent: a torrent swarm needs seeders to survive, and if no one seeds there simply won’t be torrents to download.
  • Getting the best speeds: to maintain the swarm some torrents will penalize peers who do not seed, so being a “leech” can negatively impact your experience.

While not all routers will block or slow P2P connections, it’s generally accepted that port forwarding will improve downloading speeds as the connections bypass the firewall.

Based on our extensive testing, we don’t think port forwarding is an absolute requirement for torrenting files when using a VPN, and some of the VPNs we have recommended in this list don’t offer it as a feature at all.

However, if you want a VPN that includes port forwarding in order to seed files, both PrivateVPN and AirVPN are good options.

What Is a SOCKS5 Proxy?

SOCKS is a connection protocol that sends packets between a web server and a device using a proxy server. The proxy server generates a random IP address before your traffic reaches its final destination. SOCKS5 is the most recent SOCKS protocol.

This type of proxy connection hides your IP address and uses a protocol designed to handle trackers and P2P connections, which makes it ideal for use while torrenting.

Many torrent clients including Bittorrent and uTorrent allow you to integrate your SOCKS5 proxy directly into the client.

While SOCKS5 proxy connections are fast and good for unblocking websites, they’re not ideal for privacy. They do not encrypt your traffic, meaning your ISP can still monitor your browsing and identify your torrenting activity.

In short, SOCKS5 proxies have been a popular choice among torrenters for a long time, but they don’t offer the same protection as a full VPN.

It’s also important to avoid using an HTTP proxy when torrenting, which is the most common type of free proxy. HTTP proxies can only carry insecure HTTP traffic and can’t handle peer-to-peer connections.

Most torrent clients ignore HTTP proxy settings when connecting to peers, which means they will be able to see your true IP address.

Is Torrenting the Same As Kodi?

Many readers ask us what’s the difference between Kodi and torrenting.

On its own, Kodi is just an open-source multi-platform media hub that lets you play all your content in one place. But it is highly modifiable, and there are countless add-ons which enhance the software.

However, many Kodi add-ons work differently to BitTorrent technology. They use live-streams as opposed to downloading files. Streams don’t download or upload files onto your device (unless you actively opt in). Streaming does not hold as many risks as torrenting does as you are not actively sharing content or necessarily displaying your IP address publicly.

But not all Kodi add-ons work this way and without a VPN your ISP will still be able to monitor your activity.

Some Kodi add-ons rely on the BitTorrent protocol behind the scenes. This means they upload and download content to your device simultaneously – exposing your identity to all others in the swarm. You would absolutely need a VPN to use these add-ons anonymously.

If you’re looking to use Kodi streaming software, head over to our best VPNs for Kodi guide.

About the Author

  • Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

    Simon Migliano

    Simon is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times, CNet and more. Read full bio