Is ProtonVPN Safe for Torrenting?

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

Our Verdict

ProtonVPN is a safe and reliable choice for torrenting. While it isn’t the fastest VPN we’ve tested, ProtonVPN offers a number of P2P-optimized servers and has a strict no-logging policy. It uses a VPN kill switch and the company is impressively transparent. Overall, ProtonVPN is a good VPN for torrenting.

illustration of man using ProtonVPN to torrent securely

ProtonVPN is a secure VPN that protects your privacy and keeps you safe when torrenting. It encrypts your P2P traffic so nobody else can read it and it provides you with an IP address that cannot be traced back to you.

Torrenting without a VPN can be dangerous. Other torrenters are able to see your IP address, which puts your identity at risk and could lead to you being targeted for malicious purposes.

Your internet service provider (ISP) is also able to monitor your online activity when you don’t use a VPN. It can see what you’re downloading and may keep a record of your torrenting activities.

ISPs can use this information to take action against torrent users by throttling your connection speeds or working with copyright owners if files have been copied illegally. In some countries, the sharing of politically sensitive files can put users at incredible risk if government agencies are spying on their web traffic.

This is why it is important to always use a VPN when torrenting: your ISP won’t know what you are doing, your government won’t be able to monitor your activity, and other torrenters won’t see your true IP address.

Not all VPNs are good enough for torrenting, though. We tested 70 VPN services, both free and paid, and found many of them don’t support peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic. Of those that do, most have other issues – such as unsafe logging practices, data leaks, dangerous jurisdictions, and poor connection speeds – that make them unsuitable for torrenting.

ProtonVPN is safe for torrenting when you use the paid subscription.

Our extensive testing found that ProtonVPN is a safe VPN for torrenting. It is a reliable service with a minimal logging policy and a strong commitment to transparency.

We also tested ProtonVPN Free but found that it does not support P2P traffic. If you want to torrent with ProtonVPN, you’ll have to pay.

This guide tells you everything you need to know about ProtonVPN and torrenting. We answer questions such as:

  • Does ProtonVPN support torrenting?
  • What logs does ProtonVPN collect?
  • How fast is ProtonVPN for torrenting?
  • What security features does ProtonVPN have?
  • And, of course, how can I torrent with ProtonVPN?

Looking for the best torrenting VPNs? Check out our 2020 recommendations

Is ProtonVPN a Good Choice for Torrenting?

screenshot of ProtonVPN claiming to be good for "Safe file sharing"

ProtonVPN is a good choice for privacy-conscious torrenting. It offers dedicated P2P-optimized servers, has a minimal logging policy, and comes with a collection of impressive security features.

Competing VPNs such as PrivateVPN and ExpressVPN are slightly better when it comes to connection speed and server network size, but ProtonVPN will definitely keep you safe when torrenting.

Established in 2017, ProtonVPN is a relatively young VPN service. You may recognize the Proton brand name from the encrypted email service ProtonMail, created by the same team, so its security credentials are strong. ProtonVPN was “born out of a need to better protect the activists and journalists that use ProtonMail,” ProtonVPN says.

Here are the features that make ProtonVPN a good choice for P2P file sharing:

Support for P2P traffic

ProtonVPN supports torrenting in its three paid subscription levels: Basic, Plus, and Visionary. The free version of ProtonVPN does not support torrenting.

screenshot of ProtonVPN's different pricing plans

If you want a risk-free way to try ProtonVPN for file sharing, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee on the paid plans.

P2P-Optimized servers

ProtonVPN offers high-performance servers specially configured for torrenting and other P2P activities, which torrenters are encouraged to use. You can find them by looking for the two-arrow icon in the server list.

Unfortunately, these optimized servers are only available in five locations: Switzerland, the Netherlands, Iceland, Singapore, and Sweden. If you’re not based somewhere close to these countries, you’ll likely experience some connection slowdowns when connecting to these servers.

Proton VPN blocking free P2P traffic

Trying to torrent on a non-P2P optimized server may lead to an error message or a P2P VPN redirect. This is because a number of the data centers ProtonVPN rents its servers from do not allow P2P traffic. As a solution, the provider uses a ‘Stateful Firewall’ that identifies P2P traffic and re-routes it to another VPN server that does permit torrenting.

Importantly, ProtonVPN assures us that this firewall works without logging any identifiable information or seeing any of the files you’re downloading.

While it is impressive that ProtonVPN offers P2P-optimized servers, it is a shame that they are available in so few locations and that you may be blocked from torrenting on ProtonVPN’s other servers.

Jurisdiction

If you’re looking for a safe place to host a VPN service, ProtonVPN’s home country of Switzerland is a fantastic location for three main reasons:

  1. Switzerland has strong privacy laws, so ProtonVPN is not required to store data on users.
  2. Switzerland is outside the EU, so it’s not subject to EU data retention laws.
  3. Switzerland is not in the 14 Eyes alliance of countries that engage in mass surveillance of internet users.

You can torrent with ProtonVPN comforted by the fact that Switzerland is a safe jurisdiction that is unlikely to force a VPN company to record and store customer data.

Logging Policy

Some VPN providers keep logs of user behavior. This completely defeats the point of using a VPN for torrenting because it means your activity is still being recorded.

Thankfully, ProtonVPN operates a minimal logging policy. The only thing it stores is a timestamp of when you last logged in, which it uses to protect your account against unauthorized use. There’s no record of where you signed in from, how long you were logged in, or what you accessed. What’s more, your previous timestamp is overwritten every time you log in for a new session.

This is about as minimal as logging can be.

If a court ever ordered ProtonVPN to disclose user information, it simply wouldn’t be able to. There isn’t any recorded data to reveal.

This happened in January 2019, when a Swiss court approved a request from a foreign country asking for user data. “As we do not have any customer IP information, we could not provide the requested information and this was explained to the requesting party,” wrote ProtonVPN.

You can also obtain a ProtonVPN account anonymously, without providing any personal identifying information, by paying with Bitcoin (instead of credit/debit card or PayPal).

Speed

ProtonVPN promises “blazing fast speeds,” and we did experience extraordinarily fast performance connecting to a local server. We saw just a 3% drop in download speed on a UK-to-UK connection.

Unfortunately, ProtonVPN does not perform anywhere near as well on international connections. It’s easily outperformed by other torrent-friendly VPNs like NordVPN and Surfshark.

VPN Speed Performance Comparison Chart

This is particularly disappointing given ProtonVPN’s limited range of P2P-friendly server locations. If they’re not near your physical location, your connection speed might suffer.

We also ran a standardized torrenting speed test by downloading a copyright-free video file over our 100Mbps broadband connection. We timed how long it took to download, and divided the file size by the time taken, so that we could calculate the bitrate.

The Verdict: ProtonVPN has an average bitrate of 3.7MiB/s (or 31Mbps). Several of our top picks, such as ExpressVPN and NordVPN, achieved over 9MiB/s (or 75.5Mbps). ProtonVPN is fast enough for us to recommend it, but if you’re impatient, faster options are available.

It’s important to note that we tested the ProtonVPN Plus plan to get these speeds. The connection speed will likely be slower on ProtonVPN Basic and ProtonVPN Free. This is because these plans offer fewer servers, and the more congested a VPN server is, the slower it will run.

ProtonVPN explains this in detail on the company website:

screenshot of ProtonVPN explaining that each of their subscriptions plans has different speeds

Security Features

ProtonVPN has a modern, comprehensive set of security features to protect your data and your privacy, which make it ideal for torrenting. These include:

  • Secure protocols: OpenVPN is the most secure VPN protocol and it’s used in all of the service’s apps. The Android and MacOS apps also support IKEv2 as an alternative option. ProtonVPN says it doesn’t use PPTP or L2TP/IPSec anywhere, even though they’re cheaper. That’s good news, because both of those protocols offer weaker security than OpenVPN.

  • Strong encryption: ProtonVPN traffic is encrypted using the AES-256 encryption cipher, the pinnacle of data encryption.

  • Perfect Forward Secrecy: Each VPN session uses a different encryption key. If the encryption key is cracked, only the current session is vulnerable. Previous sessions that may have been stored by bad actors and any future sessions yet to come cannot be decrypted with the same key. It sounds confusing at first, but it’s not too complicated – you can learn all about Perfect Forward Secrecy here.

  • Transparency: ProtonVPN is leading the way in transparency. It was one of the first VPN providers to publish the source code for its software, which means that anyone can see how ProtonVPN works and check it for security vulnerabilities. The company has also submitted its apps to be audited by an independent third-party.

  • Kill switch: If your connection to the VPN drops, there is a risk that your real IP address could be exposed to your ISP or other torrenters in the swarm. To avoid this, ProtonVPN includes a built-in kill switch for Windows and MacOS, which blocks all network traffic if the VPN fails. There’s also an ‘Always-on’ feature for iOS and Android which automatically re-establishes a connection to the VPN server.

Fully Featured

You’ll probably want to use your VPN for everything you do, so it’s good to know that ProtonVPN also works well with Netflix and BBC iPlayer, has Tor integration for increased anonymity, and includes DNS leak protection to shield your web browsing. Read our full ProtonVPN review for a complete overview.

SUMMARY

ProtonVPN is a great VPN for torrenting if privacy is your main concern. Its speeds and server network could be improved, but the company is extremely trustworthy and the VPN comes with a host of impressive security features.

How to Torrent With ProtonVPN

To get started with torrenting with ProtonVPN, follow these steps:

  1. Sign up for a ProtonVPN paid plan. You can torrent using the Basic, Plus or Visionary plan. The Plus plan offers higher speed than the Basic plan and many more torrenting-optimized servers. It also unlocks geo-blocked streaming content. The Visionary plan includes ProtonMail and allows 10 simultaneous connections to the VPN.

  2. Create your account using your email address. If you already have a ProtonMail account, you can link your new ProtonVPN account to that.

  3. Pay using a credit/debit card, PayPal, or Bitcoin.

  4. Download and install the ProtonVPN app on your device. Find installation instructions for Windows, macOS, Linux, and mobile devices here.

  5. When you have ProtonVPN running, log in using the account information you provided when setting up the account.

  6. The VPN interface shows you all the servers available and how busy they are. ProtonVPN provides almost 900 servers in 51 countries. Most of these servers are not optimized for torrenting, though, and some may block it. To find a server optimized for torrenting, look for the two-arrow icon beside it. These can be found in Singapore, Iceland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Sweden. Click Connect to connect to it.

  7. Go into your settings to turn on the kill switch. This will cut the connection if your VPN goes down, protecting your IP address from being exposed. You can find it in the application settings > General tab on Windows, and in the settings > Connection tab on macOS. There is no kill switch on Android or iOS, but the Always-on-VPN feature will instead automatically reconnect to the VPN if the connection breaks. Android users need to enable the Always-on feature. On iOS, the Always-on feature is permanently activated.

  8. Run your torrenting client. We recommend qBittorrent, but other trusted clients include Deluge, uTorrent, Vuze, and BitTorrent.

Why Should You Use a VPN for Torrenting?

A VPN is essential to protect your privacy while torrenting. It will shield your traffic and hide your identity from a number of potential onlookers, including:

  • Other torrenters
  • Your ISP
  • Government agencies
  • Copyright holders
  • Anyone else looking to spy on your internet activity

When you use a VPN, your real IP address cannot be seen by the sites or services you connect to, and the files you download are encrypted so anyone snooping on the connection cannot tell what they are.

Your ISP will monitor and record your torrenting activity if you don’t encrypt your internet traffic. You may find that your connection is throttled or file-sharing websites are blocked. If you have been torrenting copyright-protected material, your ISP might take action. It could send you a warning, or share its evidence with content owners and copyright enforcement agencies.

ISPs are not the only ones recording torrenting traffic, either. There are third parties creating huge databases of torrenting activity and IP addresses. You have to assume that everything you do in a torrenting client will be traced to you, unless you take evasive action to protect your identity.

Other torrenters you are sharing files with will see your IP address if you don’t use a VPN to hide it. It’s possible that this could be linked to your real-life identity, exposing you to the risk of targeted harassment, malware, and scams.

Copyright holders and their legal representatives sometimes participate in file-sharing communities so they can find users who may be infringing their copyright. They can then ask ISPs to send legal correspondence to the users they have identified.

Penalties for copyright infringement are strong. In the US, for example, you could face a million-dollar fine, and in the UK the maximum sentence for copyright infringement is ten years in prison.

Even if you’re not torrenting files illegally, it makes sense to protect your privacy. Copyright trolls are companies that hunt for copyright violations so they can make money from settlements or litigation. They have a strong financial motive to pursue action against suspected copyright infringers. They’ve been known to harass users who do not breach copyright laws, so you’re better off protecting your privacy to avoid the risk of having to deal with them.

Not every VPN is safe for torrenting though. Some VPNs keep logs of your activities, defeating the point of having a VPN to protect your privacy. Some countries are engaged in mass surveillance of citizens, making them a poor choice for locating a VPN server. You need a VPN with essential security features such as strong encryption and a kill switch to stop your IP address being leaked if the VPN drops.

SUMMARY

A good VPN will keep you safe when torrenting by masking your true IP address and encrypting your data so that ISPs cannot monitor your activity.

Is ProtonVPN the Best VPN for Torrenting?

ProtonVPN is not the best VPN for torrenting, but it is a safe and reliable service that will protect your privacy with fast speeds and zero data leaks.

Here’s a summary of ProtonVPN’s strengths and weaknesses.

PROS

  • P2P traffic support
  • More than 60 P2P-optimized servers
  • Privacy-friendly jurisdiction
  • Minimal logging
  • Kill switch to protect against connection outages
  • Strong encryption

CONS

  • Slower speeds than leading torrenting VPNs
  • Very limited choice of locations for P2P-optimized servers
  • Not all P2P-optimized servers available on Basic plan
  • Free plan does not support torrenting

ProtonVPN is technically robust with the strong encryption you would hope for in a VPN, servers optimized for torrenting, and a kill switch to protect your IP address if the VPN goes down. In short: ProtonVPN is a safe VPN that will protect you while torrenting.

We’d love to see more servers optimized for torrenting, including on the Basic plan which has a particularly restricted selection available. We’d also welcome an overall speed improvement in order for ProtonVPN to close the gap with the market-leading VPNs.

Here is a table comparing the torrenting performance of each ProtonVPN subscription plan:

Free Basic Plus Visionary
Supports P2P? No Yes Yes Yes
# of P2P Locations 0 5 5 5
# of P2P Servers 0 20+ 70+ 70+
Simultaneous Devices 1 2 5 10
Monthly Price (2-year plan) Free $3.29 $6.63 $24

Remember that connection speeds relate to the size of the server network, so the Plus and Visionary plans are likely to be faster than the Basic and Free options.

The free plan doesn’t support torrenting at all, so if you can’t afford to pay for a VPN, check out our guide to the best free VPNs for torrenting.

SUMMARY

We recommend ProtonVPN as a safe and reliable VPN for torrenting, but there are better options available.

Alternatives to ProtonVPN

When it comes to using a VPN for torrenting, here are our top three recommendations:

1ExpressVPN


ExpressVPN is the best VPN for torrenting as of September 2020. P2P traffic is permitted on each of its 3,000+ servers in 160 locations, compared to ProtonVPN’s 70+ servers in three locations. Because there are so many torrenting-friendly servers, it means there’s less congestion and downloads are faster.
ExpressVPN also uses the strongest encryption standards and a reliable kill switch called Network Block. The company is headquartered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), putting it safely outside the 14 Eyes alliance.

ExpressVPN costs a little bit more than ProtonVPN, but we consider it to be worth it for the quality of service. Read our review of ExpressVPN.

2PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN

In our extensive torrenting tests, PrivateVPN came out as the second best torrenting VPN. It is a slower service than ExpressVPN but faster than ProtonVPN. It operates a strict no logs policy, uses secure AES-256 encryption, and has a number of other security features including a kill switch.

All of PrivateVPN’s servers can be used for torrenting, but the network is smaller than ExpressVPN at just 150 servers.

Be aware that PrivateVPN is headquartered in Sweden, a 14 Eyes member country. In theory, this is a privacy concern, however since the company claims not to collect any data about user activities, it shouldn’t be an issue.

PrivateVPN is significantly cheaper than both ExpressVPN and ProtonVPN so it’s a good choice for someone looking for a budget-friendly yet fully-featured VPN. Read our review of PrivateVPN.

3NordVPN

NordVPN

NordVPN is faster than ExpressVPN, PrivateVPN, and ProtonVPN when it comes to torrenting. Not all of its servers support torrenting, but there are over 1,300 P2P-optimized servers to choose from, spread across 45 of the 59 countries NordVPN operates in.

NordVPN is headquartered in Panama, a privacy haven. It offers a no-logs policy, a kill switch, and strong encryption. It’s also good for Netflix streaming and works well with BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime Video.

The monthly price is similar to ExpressVPN, but if you’re willing to sign up to a three year plan it is one of the best value VPNs around. Read our review of NordVPN.

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