Is ProtonVPN a Good Choice for Torrenting?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Switzerland has strong privacy laws, so ProtonVPN is not required to store data on users.
- Switzerland is outside the EU, so it’s not subject to EU data retention laws.
- 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.
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).
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.