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Is uTorrent Safe?

JP Jones - CTO @ Top10VPN

JP is our CTO. He has over 25 years of software engineering and networking experience, and oversees all technical aspects of our VPN testing process. Read full bio

Our Verdict

It is possible to use uTorrent safely, but it is not as secure as other torrenting clients such as qBittorrent. uTorrent is not a virus itself, but the application includes bloatware and invasive adverts. It has also distributed malware and cryptomining software to users in the past.

Is uTorrent Safe

A torrenting client is used for P2P file sharing. It communicates with other torrenting users to download and share chunks of data from your computer, which means it can come with some serious safety risks.

uTorrent is a popular torrenting client developed by Ludvig Strigeus. Unlike qBittorrent, it is closed-source software with multiple paid subscription tiers. First released in 2005, it is the most popular torrenting client outside of China, with more than ten times the market share of BitTorrent. It has more than one million daily active users for its web application, and more than 2 billion total installations.

Despite its large user base, there have been many safety and privacy concerns surrounding uTorrent over the years. That’s why we put the uTorrent application through a series of in-depth security tests to find out whether it really is safe to use.

Our research found that the uTorrent application isn’t inherently dangerous, but it does come with several risks to your privacy and security. The installation files contain unwanted software, the free version includes invasive adverts, and the company has a history of accidentally distributing malware to user devices.

Though it is possible to download and use uTorrent safely, we recommend using a safer torrenting client such as qBittorrent, which is open-source.

Is the uTorrent App Safe to Use? (Full Tests & Results)

Torrenting always presents some risks to your safety, whichever client you use. However, these risks can be offset with caution.

uTorrent is hugely popular, and it is not technically unsafe. The application does not currently contain malware, and it does work to effectively download and distribute torrent files. However, it is not the safest torrenting client on the market.

There are two versions of uTorrent for your computer:

  • uTorrent Classic: This is the desktop client, available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It’s designed for bulk downloads, with a feature to turn off the app or your PC when it’s finished downloading, and a scheduler for downloads. It supports simultaneous torrent downloads.
  • uTorrent Web: This enables you to download torrents and play films in your browser while they’re still downloading. It includes a safe torrent scanner to help you find safe torrents when searching the web. If you’re using macOS with Catalina 10.5 or later, you have to use uTorrent Web. There’s no desktop application.

We’ve put both versions through a series of safety tests. We found that both versions of uTorrent are safe to download. However, compared to qBittorrent, uTorrent presents a higher risk to your privacy and security. Our tests found unwanted software bundled in the application along with invasive adverts. The application is not open-source either, which means it cannot be independently inspected for security.

Here’s a summary of uTorrent’s strengths and weaknesses:

  • The premium subscription includes malware blocking, antivirus, and CyberGhost VPN
  • Supports IP binding to stop your public IP address from leaking
  • Integrated support for SOCKS5 proxy
  • Installation includes unwanted software
  • Free version includes adverts
  • Advert was used to distribute malware in 2018
  • Not open-source
  • Users must pay for the safest software version

Now, here’s a more detailed overview of what makes uTorrent potentially unsafe to use:

uTorrent installs unwanted software (bloatware)

Several different applications have been bundled with uTorrent since 2009. In 2010, uTorrent bundled the Conduit Engine adware. Users reported that it was installed without permission and was hard to remove. In 2015, uTorrent came bundled with software called “SearchProtect” which was similarly hard to remove or opt out.

While the bundled software has changed over the years, the policy hasn’t. When you install uTorrent, you must be careful to avoid unwanted bloatware.

Our tests found that the application still includes a lot of unnecessary software. During the installation process, we were offered McAfee WebAdvisor and Adaware Web Companion. If you do accept these applications, they will change your homepage, default search engine, and new tabs to Bing.

uTorrent makes it deliberately difficult to opt out of these additional downloads:

uTorrent Bloatware

uTorrent makes it difficult to opt out of additional downloads.

Consent forms are disguised to look like part of the uTorrent installation process, which is deliberately misleading.

These web security applications are legitimate in their own right, but they’re unnecessarily included in the uTorrent installation process, and some security applications flag them as potentially unwanted programs (PUPs).

There is also bloatware you can’t avoid. uTorrent silently installs the DLive and TronTV streaming features.

Additional programs will have their own privacy policies and mechanisms, which means they can potentially monitor and record your downloads and behaviour within the application.

Includes adverts and shares your personal data

uTorrent includes ads in the free versions of its classic software. You can buy a subscription to remove them from the desktop client, or manually turn them off in the settings. If you’re using uTorrent Web you cannot disable ads at all.

Ads are risky because they can be used to distribute malware. In 2017, an advert in uTorrent was compromised and used to distribute malware called Meadgive, which attempted to use a vulnerability in Flash to install ransomware.

Including ads in the software also raises questions about who is tracking your behavior. uTorrent’s privacy policy says that BitTorrent, Inc shares your personal data with its advertising partners for personalized advertising. The ads also make the client slower than it used to be.

If you buy a subscription, you can remove the adverts in uTorrent Classic, but not in uTorrent Web. Here’s an overview of the four subscription levels and their advertising policies:

Subscription Tier Price per Year (USD) uTorrent Classic uTorrent Web
Free $0
  • Includes Adverts
  • Includes Adverts
Ad-Free $4.95
  • No Adverts
  • Includes Adverts
  • Uses Less Bandwidth
Pro $19.95
  • No Adverts
  • Includes Adverts
Pro + VPN $69.95
  • No Adverts
  • Includes CyberGhost VPN
  • Includes Antivirus Software
  • Includes File Conversion
  • Includes Adverts
  • Includes CyberGhost VPN
  • Includes Antivirus Software

There is also a uTorrent Android app that supports bulk downloads, music and video playback, and a WiFi-only mode to save your mobile data. You can use it to remotely add torrents to uTorrent Classic on Windows. The app is free, but you can pay $2.99 to remove ads and access power-saving features.

Previous security vulnerabilities

In 2018, Google security researcher Tavis Ormandy found a vulnerability in uTorrent that enabled a hacker to plant malware on a user’s computer. uTorrent created a fix, but it didn’t fully address the security vulnerability. Instead of fixing the hole, they blocked Ormandy’s exploit.

Vulnerabilities and patches are a fact of life in software development. Software is complex, and errors slip in. uTorrent didn’t handle this vulnerability well or quickly, which raises doubts about their commitment to user security.

Is uTorrent a virus or malware?

uTorrent itself is not a virus, but it is often flagged by third-party security software. This is most likely due to complaints that uTorrent tricks users into installing unwanted software.

For this reason, Windows Defender and enterprise firewalls may block all torrenting clients to prevent torrenting on corporate networks.

We ran the uTorrent application through dozens of antivirus packages, and 28 out of 66 flagged uTorrent as malicious. The installer for the web client was also flagged as malicious by 11 out of 58 virus scanners.

EXPERT TIP: Although uTorrent is not a virus, there may be copies of the software that have had a virus or malware added to them. To be safe, always download from the official uTorrent website.

Does uTorrent include a cryptominer?

A cryptominer is an application that uses your computer’s processors to mine cryptocurrency.

In 2015, uTorrent bundled the Epic Scale cryptominer in version 3.4.2. It mined Litecoin and sent the currency to an unknown owner, although there were claims it would be donated to charity. Cryptominers use your computer’s resources, which means they can slow your device down significantly.

Some users claimed this software was installed silently, without asking them. Others have stated there was a prompt during the installation process. From the number of user complaints, it’s clear that the process was not transparent enough.

Following user feedback, uTorrent cancelled its deal with Epic Scale. uTorrent no longer has a bundled cryptominer, and Epic Scale is no longer trading.

uTorrent is not open-source

uTorrent is proprietary software, and the source code is not available for inspection. This means that third-party security researchers cannot scrutinize the code quality or be sure about how the application uses your personal data.

The closed nature of uTorrent was one of the motivations for the qBittorrent project, which provides an open-source alternative.

Is uTorrent Legal?

uTorrent is legal to download and use in most countries, including the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and most European countries. However, using uTorrent to download copyrighted movies, music, and software is illegal.

When you download torrents (leeching), your torrent client also shares (seeds) content for others to download. You may be threatened with legal action or a fine if you are caught distributing copyrighted material.

How to Use uTorrent Safely

Whichever torrenting client you use, torrenting itself is risky. In addition to the uTorrent vulnerabilities we’ve highlighted above, you may also be at risk of:

  • Exposing your IP address: Copyright trolls can see that you’re torrenting and threaten you with legal action through your ISP.
  • Downloading malware: The easiest way to distribute malware is to disguise it and get users to voluntarily install it through torrenting.
  • Speed throttling: ISPs may throttle or ban users that torrent on their network, depending on their policies.

If you’re concerned about your anonymity and security while torrenting, here’s an overview of how to use uTorrent safely and securely:

1. Download uTorrent from the official website

Unofficial copies of uTorrent circulating online may include malware, viruses, or other unwanted software. If you want to download uTorrent safely, make sure to download the application from the official uTorrent website.

2. Disable the adverts in uTorrent

You can buy a subscription to disable uTorrent ads in the desktop and Android clients. Prices start at $4.95 per year on the desktop and $2.99 on Android. You cannot disable ads on uTorrent Web.

If you want a version of uTorrent that does not include adverts at all, you can also download version 2.2.1. This was the last version not to include ads, and it remains popular in the torrenting community.

There are three risks in doing this:

  • The old version is not available from the uTorrent website, so you need to make sure you download from a trustworthy source like oldversion.com.
  • Version 2.2.1 was released in 2011, so it’s likely to have security vulnerabilities that have since been patched. There may also be incompatibilities with recent operating system updates.
  • The old version of the software is unsupported by uTorrent itself.

Although uTorrent version 2.2.1 does not contain ads, it is 10 years old and therefore could be vulnerable to old exploits that have since been patched. The safest version of uTorrent is usually the latest iteration with the ads removed by subscribing.

You can use the settings to turn off the adverts in the free version of uTorrent Classic.

To turn off the ads in uTorrent:

  1. Select ‘Options’ in the menu bar and select ‘Preferences’.
  2. Select ‘Advanced’ in the window on the left.
  3. Using the filter box, search for the following options, select them, and then select ‘False’ at the bottom to turn them off. If an option is already false, leave it set as false.
    • gui.show_plus_upsell
    • offers.sponsored_torrent_offer_enabled
    • offers.left_rail_offer_enabled
    • offers.sponsored_torrent_offer_enabled
    • gui.show_notorrents_node
    • offers.content_offer_autoexec
    • Bt.enable_pulse
  4. Select ‘Apply’.
  5. Restart uTorrent.

This will remove the ads from the free version of uTorrent Classic. However, it will not remove the links to DLive and Tron TV.

EXPERT TIP: Some VPNs such as Surfshark include an ad blocker, but these are unlikely to be effective against the ads in uTorrent. They can help to block connections to malicious sites, though.

3. Use a VPN with uTorrent

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) will hide your public IP address so copyright trolls and other users in the torrenting swarm can’t identify you. It will also encrypt your connection so your ISP can’t monitor your downloads. Using a VPN is essential for anonymous torrenting with every torrenting client, including uTorrent.

Here’s how to use a VPN with uTorrent:

  1. Subscribe to a safe VPN and download the application. We recommend ExpressVPN.
  2. Choose a VPN server in a nearby location for optimal speeds.
  3. Enable the VPN kill switch and any manual leak protection settings.
  4. Test for data leaks using a VPN leak test tool.
  5. Activate uTorrent.
  6. Download your torrent files.
  7. Keep your VPN on until your torrenting client is turned off completely. The client may share files after you have finished downloading.

Some VPN services only allow torrenting on selected servers. If your VPN isn’t working with uTorrent, exit the torrenting client and try connecting to a different VPN server. If this doesn’t work, you’ll need to find a VPN that is compatible with P2P activity.

EXPERT TIP: To test your IP address in uTorrent, press F5 to show ‘Detailed Info’ and then select ‘Peers’. You’ll see your IP address with the IP addresses of other users in your swarm, and they can see yours too. If you’re using a safe VPN, you’ll see the IP address of your chosen VPN server.

uTorrent’s top subscription tier includes CyberGhost VPN. While CyberGhost is a secure VPN overall, it’s not one of the best VPNs for torrenting according to our most recent tests.

Our testing found that CyberGhost is a safe but slow choice for P2P activity. It has a kill switch, AES-256 encryption, and a privacy-friendly logging policy. However, we measured a meagre average bitrate of 3.9MiB/s, which is significantly slower than ExpressVPN, which delivered 9.4MiB/s. You can read more about its overall performance in our full CyberGhost review.

If you choose uTorrent’s most expensive pricing tier, you’ll effectively pay $50 a year for CyberGhost. That compares well with the price of a 12-month CyberGhost subscription, which costs $71.88. If you can afford to pay up front, though, you can get CyberGhost for $99 for three years.

EXPERT TIP: We recommend subscribing to a VPN separately to uTorrent. This will allow you to use a VPN with all versions of uTorrent, and means you can choose a safer VPN that works well for streaming too.

4. Change your torrenting behaviour

Torrenting can be dangerous regardless of which client you’re using. Whether you’re using uTorrent, qBittorrent, or something else, read our instructions for how to torrent safely and pay attention to the following safety practices:

  • Check the comments, seed count, and uploader before you download a torrent file. This will help you avoid accidentally downloading a file that is infected with malware. Torrents with many seeders are likely to be more trustworthy.
  • Check that torrent files are in the format you expect, such as MP3 or FLAC for audio, or MP4 or MOV for movies. Downloading .exe or .bat files is extremely risky. Even ZIP, PDF, and Microsoft Office files can exploit vulnerabilities on your computer.
  • Check file sizes, too. HD video is about 105MB per minute and Ultra HD or 4K video is 320MB per minute. If you download a movie and the file size is small, that’s suspicious.
  • If you do download something that looks wrong, delete it without opening it.

5. Use antivirus software

When you torrent files, there is a safety risk that those files may be infected with viruses or malware. That’s why uTorrent has added malware and virus blocking features, but only in its premium products.

You can use antivirus software to reduce the risk of accidentally downloading malware. Even if you use a version of uTorrent with antivirus built in, it’s advisable to check your downloads with another antivirus package too.

Here’s a table including recommended free antivirus packages for safe torrenting:

Platform/OS Free Antivirus Software
Windows Microsoft Defender, Avira Free Antivirus, or Malwarebytes
MacOS Malwarebytes
Android Malwarebytes or Sophos Intercept X

Antivirus software is an important safety measure, but it won’t always catch everything. New vulnerabilities may be exploited by malware before antivirus signatures are updated.

How to Configure uTorrent’s Security Features

uTorrent has some built-in security features that can help to protect your privacy and security, including encryption, SOCKS5 proxy support, and IP binding.

In this section, we’ll explain the safest uTorrent settings and how to configure them so you can use uTorrent securely.

How to Encrypt Traffic in uTorrent

uTorrent does include basic encryption, but it is less secure than VPN encryption. It is intended to disguise torrent traffic as normal browsing activity rather than hiding the files being torrented. Bram Cohen, the inventor of the BitTorrent protocol used by uTorrent, has said:

“The so-called ‘encryption’ of BitTorrent traffic isn’t really encryption, it’s obfuscation. It provides no anonymity whatsoever, and only temporarily evades traffic shaping.”

uTorrent’s encryption can help to avoid ISP throttling, but it will not make you anonymous. The protocol is not particularly secure, and ISPs will still be able to identify your torrenting activity through patterns in the data. If you are using a VPN, you do not need to encrypt your traffic using uTorrent as well.

To turn on uTorrent’s encryption, follow these steps:

  1. Use the shortcut CTRL+P to go straight to the ‘Preferences’ menu.
  2. Select ‘BitTorrent’ in the window on the left.
  3. Under ‘Protocol Encryption’, select ‘Enabled’ for outgoing connections.
  4. Check the box labelled ‘allow incoming legacy connections’.
  5. Press ‘OK’.
  6. Restart uTorrent.
uTorrent Encryption Settings

You can enable encryption in uTorrent’s preferences menu.

How to Set Up a SOCKS5 Proxy in uTorrent

SOCKS5 proxies route your torrenting traffic through a proxy server that hides your IP address. This protects your privacy, but it will not encrypt your traffic or secure your connection. A VPN will hide your IP address and encrypt your P2P traffic simultaneously.

The uTorrent application has native support for SOCKS5. To use it, you’ll need credentials for a SOCKS5 proxy service, which often comes included in premium VPN subscriptions.

To set up SOCKS5 in uTorrent, follow these steps:

  1. Use the shortcut CTRL+P to go to the ‘Preferences’ menu.
  2. Select ‘Connection’ in the window on the left.
  3. Under ‘Proxy Server’, select ‘Socks5’ in the dropdown menu.
  4. In the ‘Proxy’ field, enter the address of your proxy server.
  5. Enter the Username and Password for your proxy server.
  6. Check the boxes to enable authentication, hostname lookups, and peer-to-peer connections.
  7. Check the boxes to disable local DNS lookups, features that leak personal information, and connections that SOCKS5 does not support.
  8. Press ‘OK’.
  9. Restart uTorrent.
uTorrent Enable Socks

uTorrent has native support for SOCKS5 proxies.

How to Bind Your IP in uTorrent

uTorrent supports IP binding, which will restrict your torrents to one specific IP address. You can use this feature to bind your connection to your VPN or proxy IP address, which prevents your true IP address from leaking if either fails. IP binding is essentially an extra safety measure in case your VPN kill switch fails.

IP binding is available in the Windows Classic uTorrent client, but is not available for Mac or Android.

To set up IP binding in uTorrent, follow these steps:

  1. Connect to your VPN or proxy service.
  2. Once connected, check your IP address and note it down.
  3. Open uTorrent and use the shortcut CTRL+P to go to the ‘Preferences’ menu.
  4. Select ‘Advanced’ in the window on the left.
  5. In the ‘Filter’ field, search for net.bind_ip.
  6. Enter your IP address into the ‘Value’ field.
  7. Press ‘Set’.
  8. In the ‘Filter’ field, search for net.outgoing_ip.
  9. Enter your IP address into the ‘Value’ field again.
  10. Press ‘Set’.
  11. Select ‘OK’.
  12. Restart uTorrent.

Safe Alternatives to uTorrent

uTorrent can be used safely, but there are several safer alternatives:

1. qBittorrent

Based on our security tests, we recommend qBittorrent as the safest torrenting client. It does not include malware or ads, it’s open source, and it’s also completely free.

Just like uTorrent, qBittorrent has IP binding and SOCKS5 proxy support. It is available for Windows, Linux, and Mac, including recent 64-bit versions of macOS.

2. Transmission

Transmission is a popular torrenting client which is being developed for macOS. An early preview version is also available for Linux and Windows. Transmission is lightweight with a small memory footprint, despite having a graphical user interface.

It supports encryption, though only at the same security level as uTorrent. However, because Transmission is open source, it’s possible for developers and security researchers to scrutinize the code.

Unlike uTorrent, Transmission has no support for proxy servers. It is also completely free and does not offer any paid subscription options.

3. BitTorrent

BitTorrent and uTorrent are both owned by the same company, so it’s unsurprising that they’re extremely similar. In terms of risk, uTorrent and BitTorrent are just as safe as each other.

The pricing structure for BitTorrent and uTorrent is the same, including the features at each tier. Just like uTorrent, BitTorrent also features ads. However, Bittorrent manages its ads better, so some users report faster download speeds.

BitTorrent is not tarnished with uTorrent’s shady history with malware, which is its main benefit. The Classic version is available for Windows, while BitTorrent Web is available for Windows and Mac. There is also a BitTorrent Android client.

About the Author

  • JP Jones - CTO @ Top10VPN

    JP Jones

    JP is our CTO. He has over 25 years of software engineering and networking experience, and oversees all technical aspects of our VPN testing process. Read full bio