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Is It Safe to Use Private Internet Access (PIA) for Torrenting?

Callum Tennent oversees how we test and review VPN services. He's a member of the IAPP, and his VPN advice has featured in Forbes and the Internet Society.

Our Verdict

Private Internet Access (PIA) is a superb VPN for torrenting, recording much faster P2P speeds than most other VPNs we tested. PIA successfully hides your torrenting IP using AES-256 encryption, a zero-logs policy, and leak protection. The VPN has an excellent record for protecting user privacy and it supports P2P traffic universally.

Using Private Internet Access for torrenting

Without a Virtual Private Network (VPN), anyone connected to your torrent swarm can see your public IP address and trace it to your location. Your identity and torrenting activity will be exposed to copyright trolls, copyright holders, and your Internet Service Provider (ISP).

In short, VPNs are a vital tool for torrenting safely. However, they can vary wildly when it comes to security, support, and performance. Some VPN services log your traffic or leak your data, while others are simply too slow to torrent large files effectively.

Private Internet Access is a popular VPN with a positive reputation as a transparent, P2P-friendly service. However, some users have expressed concerns about its ownership and compatibility with popular torrent clients such as uTorrent and Deluge.

We’ve tested over 65 VPN services in detail and can confidently recommend Private Internet Access (PIA) for downloading torrents safely.

In this guide, we’ll explain exactly why PIA is a good VPN for torrenting. You’ll find out which features and functions make it a great choice, and how to use PIA safely with popular torrent clients including uTorrent and qBittorrent.

EXPERT TIP: You can torrent safely with Private Internet Access for as little as $2.03 per month on its longest subscription plan.

Why Trust Us?

We’re fully independent and have been reviewing VPNs since 2016. Our advice is based on our own testing results and is unaffected by financial incentives. Learn who we are and how we test VPNs.

How to Torrent Securely with Private Internet Access

EXPERT ADVICE: It’s incredibly important to set up and activate your VPN before you start torrenting. This ensures your public IP address is hidden effectively so you can torrent safely.

Torrenting safely with PIA is relatively simple, as long as you remember to activate the optional security features. Here’s a video demonstrating how to torrent securely with PIA:

Here are more detailed instructions:

1. Choose a PIA Subscription Plan

Choose your preferred PIA subscription plan. The three-year plan offers the best value at $2.03 per month, including three months for free. All subscriptions come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

2. Download and Install the PIA App

PIA offers native applications for all operating systems and mobile devices that support torrenting, including Windows, macOS, Linux, and Android. Download and install the app for your device, then enter your activation key.

3. Turn On the Optional Security Features

Open the Settings menu by clicking on the three vertical dots in the top-right corner of the app. In the Protocols section, make sure the Protocol toggle is set to OpenVPN, the Transport is set to UDP, and choose AES-256 under Data Encryption.

In the Privacy menu, ensure the VPN Kill Switch is set to Always. Activating the kill switch will temporarily block all internet traffic if the connection to the VPN server drops.

4. (Optional) Turn on Port Forwarding

PIA is one of the few VPNs to support port forwarding, which can dramatically improve performance, especially when uploading or ‘seeding’ torrents.

To activate port forwarding go to Settings > Network and check the box labeled Request Port Forwarding. It doesn’t work with the VPN’s US-based servers either, so you’ll need to connect to a server in another country if you have port forwarding enabled.

5. Install A Safe Torrenting Client

Once PIA has connected to a VPN server, it will be safe to download, install, and activate your preferred torrent client. Our tests show qBittorrent is the safest torrenting client, as uTorrent presents some safety risks.

Is PIA a Good VPN for Torrenting?

SUMMARY: Private Internet Access (PIA) is a safe and trustworthy VPN that allows unrestricted torrenting and file-sharing on all its servers.

The Private Internet Access VPN app for macOS

Pros Cons
Supports torrenting on all 18,651 servers Non privacy-friendly jurisdiction
Verified zero-logs privacy policy Port forwarding unavailable on US servers
Fast torrent speeds
Industry-standard AES-256 encryption
Automatic kill switch in all applications
Supports port forwarding
SOCKS5 proxy available

Our latest test results show that Private Internet Access is the best premium VPN for torrenting.

PIA easily passed all of our torrenting security and performance tests. It has a zero-logs policy, AES-256 encryption, leak prevention, and a kill switch.

PIA torrenting on macOS

We tested PIA on the torrent client, qBittorrent

The VPN service is also one of the few VPNs to allow port forwarding, which can greatly improve your torrenting speeds.

PIA supports SOCKS5 and all popular bittorrent clients. It offers native compatibility with third-party proxy services too, though we recommend you avoid these where possible.

P2P traffic is supported across an enormous network of 18,651 VPN servers in 91 countries.

The sheer size of PIA’s server network means you should never be too far from a VPN server. The closer you are to your nearest PIA server, the faster your speeds will be.

In the following section, we’ll explain PIA’s torrenting strengths and weaknesses in detail.

Is PIA Private Enough for Safe Torrenting?

PIA is based in the United States, a key member of the Five Eyes international intelligence-sharing agreement. The US PATRIOT Act, effective since October 26, 2001, gives federal agencies sweeping powers to force businesses to disclose user data.

Torrenting copyrighted material is illegal in the US, and it is also one of the worst possible jurisdictions for a VPN. For torrenters, it means state authorities have the right to ask PIA to disclose user activity information if compelled to do so by copyright owners or copyright trolls.

However, PIA’s excellent zero-logs privacy policy means any requests are highly unlikely to reveal any personally identifiable information. Even if a state authority demanded PIA disclose user information, PIA would have nothing to hand over.

PIA's no-logs claim taken from its website

PIA does not collect or store any data about your usage of the VPN.

A zero-logs policy is an important requirement for a VPN for P2P networking. Even some highly-secure VPNs are not recommended for torrenting due to the provider’s invasive logging policy.

There have been several real-world cases which demonstrate PIA is a trustworthy VPN:

  • In 2016, the FBI subpoenaed PIA to provide data belonging to a user suspected of making terrorist threats. However, since the company does not collect any user logs, it had no data to provide.
  • The same year, Russian authorities seized PIA’s servers but could not find any user activity data or personally identifiable information. PIA responded by removing all its servers located in Russia.

PIA has an excellent real-world track record when it comes to user privacy and security. PIA is a VPN provider you can trust, especially for torrenting.

PIA’s Ownership: Kape Technologies

In November 2019, Private Internet Access was acquired by Kape Technologies – a move which garnered some controversy. The bulk of this controversy surrounds the company’s past activities when it was known as Crossrider.

Crossrider was the target of serious backlash after it was found bundling a PUP (potentially unwanted program) with other software. Once installed, this PUP would serve unwanted advertisements via user’s web browsers.

Crossider shut its ad platforms in 2016, and re-branded to Kape Technologies in 2018. Since then, it has focused solely on promoting privacy and security software globally. The company now operates four trustworthy VPN services, including ExpressVPN and PIA.

PIA still upholds its industry-leading standards of privacy and security, including its no-log policy and open-source software. Put simply, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest its ownership poses any threat to user privacy.

An Excellent Suite of Security Features

Security is what PIA does best. Every application includes support for the unbroken AES-256 encryption standard and the OpenVPN protocol. This means anyone trying to intercept your torrenting traffic will be unable to read it – including your ISP.

This is important as your real IP address can be exposed in a torrent swarm, even when using one of the best torrenting sites.

We tested PIA’s built-in IP, DNS, and WebRTC leak protection and found no leaks on desktop or mobile. We detected WebRTC leaks when using the Firefox extension, but this will not affect your torrenting.

PIA's setting menu on macOS

You can customize your encryption settings directly in the PIA app.

The kill switch (formerly referred to in-app as the Network Lock) effectively blocks all internet traffic if your connection to the VPN server unexpectedly drops. This is particularly important for protecting your torrenting activity if there is a service outage or a connection failure.

PIA’s Torrenting Speeds Are Fast

Torrenting bitrate is determined by many factors – the most important being the number of peers you are connected to and the upload speeds of those peers. However, the VPN service you choose can also have an impact on performance.

PIA supports P2P traffic on all its servers, and our tests have found it to be one of the fastest VPNs for torrenting.

In our latest torrent VPN tests, our download bitrate dropped from 10.0MiB/s to 9.6MiB/s when using PIA. We were able to download the file almost as quickly as without any VPN connection.

Port Forwarding Specifically for P2P

Port forwarding increases the number of peers you can connect to in a torrent swarm. This potentially improves your torrenting bitrate when both downloading and uploading data.

The port forwarding checkbox inside the PIA VPN macOS app

Port forwarding on PIA is as simple as checking a toggle inside the app.

PIA is one of the few VPN services to offer port forwarding. The feature is available on PIA for Windows, macOS, Linux, and Android.

Port forwarding is especially important if you want to upload or ‘seed’ torrents as quickly as possible. Seeding without properly forwarded ports is a lot slower.

However, port forwarding on PIA is not available when you’re connected to servers in the US. If you live in the US then you’ll need to make a choice between port forwarding and connecting to a nearby server, as both will affect your upload speeds.

How Does PIA Compare to Other Torrenting VPNs?

PIA compares well to NordVPN and other top VPNs for P2P file-sharing. We rate it as the best torrenting VPN on the market.

It’s a trustworthy VPN for privacy-conscious internet users: it’s fast, and it has a good attitude towards P2P traffic.

Here’s how PIA’s torrenting performance compares to other leading VPNs:

If you want a VPN for reasons other than torrenting alone, you’ll find PIA works with US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and public WiFi.

The VPN also features a built-in ad blocker called MACE. You can use VPN split tunneling to choose which apps and services are encrypted, and the multi-hop feature can provide an extra level of anonymity by relaying your traffic through an extra VPN server.

PIA is also highly-competitive when it comes to pricing. If you sign up to its longest subscription plan, the cost is the equivalent to a mere $2.03 per month.

For more details on PIA’s general performance, read our full Private Internet Access review.

If PIA isn’t right for you, here are some alternative VPNs we recommend for torrenting:

1. ExpressVPN

Using ExpressVPN with the qBittorrent torrent client

ExpressVPN works flawlessly with every torrenting client we tested.

ExpressVPN is an excellent torrenting VPN. It allows unlimited P2P traffic across its entire server network spanning 106 countries, and it has one of the fastest torrenting bitrates of all the VPNs we’ve tested.

Unlike PIA, ExpressVPN is headquartered in a privacy-friendly jurisdiction. Based in the British Virgin Islands, ExpressVPN has an independently verified logging policy, AES-256 encryption, and an equally spotless record for obfuscating internet traffic and protecting user privacy.

The only drawback to using ExpressVPN for torrenting is that it does not support port forwarding. That means that seeding is slower, and download speeds aren’t as fast as they could be. If port forwarding is an important feature to you, then we recommend choosing PIA over ExpressVPN.

Visit ExpressVPN or read our ExpressVPN review to find out more.

2. Astrill VPN

Astrill VPN being used with qBittorrent

We found Astrill to be the fastest VPN for torrenting in our testing, and it also has lots of useful advanced features.

According to our testing, Astrill VPN is the third best choice for torrenting. It’s the absolute fastest VPN for P2P download speeds: we found it had absolutely zero speed loss compared to torrenting without a VPN.

Astrill supports torrenting over IPv4 and IPv6. Combined with its immaculate service history and reputation, this means that your anonymity is fully protected. It has port forwarding (ExpressVPN’s biggest missing feature), plus the all-important kill switch.

Should You Use a SOCKS5 Proxy When Torrenting with PIA VPN?

If you’re a PIA subscriber then you have access to the service’s very own SOCKS5 proxy server. SOCKS5 is often recommended as a great way to get fast speeds while torrenting.

PIA VPN's macOS SOCKS5 menu

SOCKS5 can be easily enabled in the desktop app, as shown here – but we don’t recommend it.

We don’t recommend you use SOCKS5 for torrenting with PIA. Using it without the VPN will leave your traffic totally unencrypted, while using it in combination with the VPN caused our download speeds to drop dramatically.

SOCKS5 is just like any other proxy. If you use it without the protection of a VPN, it will hide your IP address but leave all of your torrenting traffic entirely unencrypted. This means your ISP will be able to detect and monitor the torrenting files you’re downloading.

We tested using SOCKS5 in combination with a Private Internet Access VPN connection and found that this setup reduced our torrenting speeds by almost 90%.

Put simply, using SOCKS5 in combination with PIA is simply not worth it. Private Internet Access is a very good VPN – you don’t need to use a proxy on top of it to stay protected.