We’ve all been tempted to download a torrent file at some point in our lives. Today, however, the laws and enforcement surrounding torrents are significantly stricter than in the past and may lead to a legal penalty of $150,000 and even jail for the convicted infringer.
As a result, users are quite concerned with finding a way to stay below the radar of authorities keeping an eye out for anyone who might be guilty of downloading torrents.
These concerns are the reason behind the increasing frequency of queries such as these:
Although there is no question about a VPN’s ability to enable users to keep their identity hidden and thus stay safe from legal notices, not all VPNs are secure or suitable for the purpose of torrenting.
We have reviewed over 123 VPNs over the years, but only a few fall into the criteria to be considered in the best VPN for torrenting.
These criteria, in order of importance, are:
- Torrenting policy – Whether torrenting is allowed by a VPN provider on their servers
- Jurisdiction – The importance of a VPN with jurisdiction outside the 5, 9, or 14 Eyes is paramount for safe torrenting
- Logging Policy – What types of data are logged by the VPN?
- IP leaks – Does it leak a user’s real IP address?
- Speed – How fast the connection speed is
In this article, I will go into the depth of 5 VPN providers that meet all the criteria outlined above.
But first, let’s see exactly what makes VPNs for torrenting so essential in the modern day and age.
Why torrenting without a VPN is NOT safe
In literally every part of the world, there are laws protecting copyrights of the individual who owns a product or intellectual property (IP).
But on the Internet, it gets really tricky to protect copyrights because of how easy it is to download, share, and exchange files without obtaining the permission of the file’s owner.
To protect the right to ownership of content creators, the US enacted the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) in 1998.
Under this law, if you’re the owner of an IP that is being distributed on the web through torrents or any other filesharing method, then you can send a DMCA notice to the concerned parties and ask for a cessation of the activity and removal of the content.
The increasing pressure from IP owners from various industries (primarily music, film, and gaming) has led to an increase in such infringement notices.
Here’s a user who got a notice from their ISP for torrenting the movie Justice League:
This user’s tenant got a similar notice for downloading certain files via torrents:
In almost all such cases, there is one thing in common: the user downloaded and seeded the torrent without turning on a VPN.
Do you really need a VPN for Torrenting?
A VPN routes all your traffic to a remote VPN server owned by the provider who is ideally under the jurisdiction of a country with laws that protect the online privacy of users.
Some of these countries even have more relaxed legislation for online piracy compared to countries like the US and UK.
Since a VPN transmits your data packets to a VPN server before it reaches your ISP, your online activities are effectively cloaked from the view of the ISP.
This action also leads to your IP address is changed to that of the server you are connected to (which may be from anywhere in the world).
So if third-party tries to hack or track your activities, they won’t be able to pinpoint your exact location or your real identity.
But getting caught downloading torrents red-handed can have repercussions far worse than simply receiving legal notices.
In fact, many individuals have been penalized with hefty fines in the USA as well as other countries for downloading torrents without the use of a VPN.
Note: We strictly discourage any activity involving copyright infringement and urge readers to ONLY download legal torrents.
Copyright Infringement Penalties for Downloading Torrents around the World
The legal penalties for copyright infringement via torrents or any other digital means vary for each country.
Let’s see some recent legal cases relating to torrenting and the laws that apply to some of the countries that are the worst places to be download torrents in without a VPN.
In the United States, copyright infringement is penalized by law. Anyone found guilty of downloading copyrighted material without the permission of the authors can be jailed for up to five years and/or fined a maximum sum of $150,000 per file [Source].
Last year, more than 1,000 lawsuits were filed against people in the United States against users suspected of downloading copyrighted material via torrents.
Copyright enforcement in the US is considered the strictest in the world for this reason.
The United Kingdom enacted the Digital Economy Act which increased the maximum prison sentence for copyright infringement from two years to 10 years.
Although it is unlikely that you, the average user, downloading movies or songs through torrents will face such a harsh penalty, even a day in prison isn’t a risk worth taking.
All popular torrent websites are blocked in the UK, so you can’t even access these without a VPN.
But a VPN that grants you access to torrent sites isn’t necessarily secure enough to hide your identity and prevent receiving dreaded legal notices.
The Copyright Modernization Act (aka “Bill C-11”) passed in 2012 requires ISPs and even VPN providers in the Canadian jurisdiction to forward legal notices to their subscribers downloading torrents.
The providers will face a fine of up to $10,000 for failure to comply with this requirement.
What’s worse, the law demands VPNs to retain logs of subscribers for a minimum of six months, which is another reason why it is a bad idea to use a VPN service that is within the jurisdiction of Canada.
For copyright infringement for non-commercial purposes (which is the case for most people downloading torrents), a copyright owner can press for charges between $100 to $5,000s.
The maker of the Hollywood film Dallas Buyers Club reported identifying 4,726 IP addresses who illegally downloaded the film, many of whom were Australians.
The case was dropped by the filmmakers, but if they had pursued, a lot of Australians would have been in trouble for it and would have had to pay some fine.
Online piracy is prohibited in Germany, with first-time offenders legally required to pay $200 in fines, with the maximum penalty being $1,300 for an individual, non-commercially motivated pirates.
However, the country is much harsher for operators of online piracy and torrenting sites, as when it sentenced the owner of torrent.to to 3 years and 10 months in prison.
All these instances show that piracy is taken very seriously in most leading nations of the world and the repercussions of getting caught can be severe.
This is the ultimate case for why it is important to use a VPN service for torrenting.
5 Best VPN Services for Torrenting
The 5 VPNs described below are evaluated on the level of privacy, security, and speed that they offer.
Let’s see which VPNs have the capabilities necessary (on the basis of the criteria outlined at the start) to ensure a safe torrenting experience.
Note: These VPNs are tested much more rigorously on a wider range of parameters in our dedicated guide on best VPN services for 2019.
1. ExpressVPN for Torrenting
ExpressVPN has satisfied millions of users with its smooth service around the world. It covers all the bases that you should expect from a top-rated premium VPN in the line of protecting your torrenting activities.
Torrenting policy: The provider supports torrenting on all its servers and is compatible with all popular P2P (peer-to-peer) clients.
Jurisdiction: ExpressVPN lies in the offshore jurisdiction of the British Virgin Islands (BVI), which is a state favored by privacy advocates for their lack of mandatory data retention laws.
These states didn’t even shy away from putting John Lennon under surveillance, to speak nothing of what they could do to the average user (read the blog of FVEY and its impact on privacy for more information on this).
But that is only one factor of importance when it comes to maintaining strong privacy for torrenting, which brings us to the next important point…
Logging Policy: ExpressVPN has an excellent logging policy since it doesn’t keep any information about you that could trace back to your real identity or physical location.
Even if law enforcement authorities wanted to investigate you, they won’t be able to find anything if the VPN provider truly keeps no logs.
This is in fact what happened in 2017 when Turkish authorities scoured ExpressVPN’s servers for information about a suspect but ended up with nothing.
To be exact, the provider keeps no records whatsoever of the highlighted data below:
Not sure what these terms mean? Go through this extensive guide on VPN logging to educate yourself on these terms.
Coming back to ExpressVPN, the logging policy is extremely reassuring. You’d have to be extremely unlucky if you get any legal notices while torrenting with a VPN as committed to your privacy as ExpressVPN is.
IP Leak Test: A leaking IP can jeopardize all your effort to stay hidden and protected on the web while torrenting. ExpressVPN is equipped with the security features that ensure your IP doesn’t leak through the VPN tunnel, allowing you to securely torrent files.
In addition, the Network Lock (which is basically ExpressVPN’s built-in kill switch) disconnects you from the web immediately in case your VPN connection suffers a hiccup or is momentarily unavailable.
This event can easily expose your real IP address. With Network Lock, this VPN guard against such eventualities, reducing the legal risks associated with P2P filesharing.
Speed: ExpressVPN has a robust server network that delivers fast speeds with a high degree of consistency. On a 30 Mbps connection, it delivers speeds upwards of 25 Mbps.
Summary: ExpressVPN has everything it takes to be a sophisticated online privacy tool. The excellent combination of a privacy-friendly jurisdiction, great logging policy, IP leak protection, and fast speeds establishes this VPN as the best there is for the purpose of torrenting.
Read our ExpressVPN review to inform yourself further about the capabilities of this VPN.
- Outstanding server speeds
- Network Lock (kill switch) and IP leak protection
- Based in the British Virgin Islands (no data retention laws)
- Does not keep connection or usage logs
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Expensive packages (but it is up for 49% discount on the 15-month deal)
2. Surfshark for Torrenting
Surfshark made its entry into the competitive industry of VPNs last year but has rapidly climbed to the top. Let’s see what makes it a good choice for secure and private torrenting:
Torrenting policy: Most Surfshark VPN servers support P2P sharing/torrenting.
Although the provider doesn’t prohibit the use of its servers for torrenting, does it actually have the mechanisms to cement your security and rule out the possibility of your identity leaking into the hands of law enforcement?
The next points will clarify this.
Jurisdiction: Like its counterpart ExpressVPN, Surfshark is headquartered in the BVI and is thus the recipient of the same jurisdictional benefits, allowing it to be free from any requirements for keeping user data logs.
This, of course, means that the provider can actually deliver on its promise of staying away from any sort of logging activities, enabling you to download torrents
Logging policy: The logging information that Surfshark keeps a record of is limited to your email address and registration-related information. The VPN does not collect logs of any data that can be used to compromise you on the web.
For any privacy-oriented user that wants to download torrents (let’s say, to try out a new video game to see whether you like it enough to then purchase it the legal way), Surfshark’s no-logging stance ensures that your safety is in good hands.
IP leak test: The strengths of Surfshark do not end with its jurisdiction and logging policy, it is also quite capable of consolidating your privacy further by preventing IP leaks.
The Windows, Mac, and iOS apps of Surfshark have a kill switch that you can enable to keep your web security from falling through the digital cracks, elevating your overall security considerably.
As such, if someone asks you what is the best VPN service for torrenting, then Surfshark has you covered on every front. Find out more in our detailed analysis of the VPN in Surfshark review.
Speed: The servers of Surfshark lack the consistent speeds that you might expect from say, ExpressVPN, but they’re still good enough to allow torrent downloading at decent speeds.
Summary: Surfshark is an excellent all-around VPN service that has all the important security, privacy, and speed factors that a VPN should possess to enable users to get around all P2P obstacles safely.
Additionally, it has a great range of extra features such as the ad-blocker (CleanWeb), split-tunneling (WhiteLister), and VPN chaining (MultiHop).
What’s more, it is currently available at the cheapest industry rate of $1.99/month
- P2P optimized servers
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- Supports multi-hop for added security
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Slightly inconsistent speeds
3. NordVPN for Torrenting
NordVPN is a popular name in the VPN industry. I’ll now show you why exactly it is held in such high esteem and whether it can serve the needs of the common P2P user.
Torrenting policy: NordVPN has dedicated servers reserved for P2P networking. The provider offers a server recommendation page which you can use to find out the best server for torrenting in the location of your choice.
It is important that you only perform P2P on these recommended servers, as any other server won’t have the security and speed optimization that torrent-specific servers guarantee.
Jurisdiction: This VPN provider enjoys the great advantage of being under the jurisdiction of Panama, which is a that actually respect the online privacy of users.
With no obligation to retain user data, the company can truly follow a zero-logging policy without any pressure from government authorities.
Logging policy: There are no personally identifiable logs that NordVPN keeps that can be used to compromise your real identity. With no traffic, browsing, timestamp, or IP logs, there’s no way that anyone can investigate your activities on the web.
The combination of a safe jurisdiction and the commitment of NordVPN to protecting user privacy with no logs is what makes this VPN an ideal choice for safe torrenting.
IP leak test: It is harder for a VPN to ensure no IP leaks when the server network is as vast as NordVPN’s. However, it is a testament to the quality of this VPN since it keeps your IP from leaking effectively as evidenced below:
NordVPN’s kill switch technology for Windows and Mac has to be configured by the user by specifying which applications should automatically be shut down in case the VPN connection is interrupted.
Currently, it doesn’t have the capability to terminate Internet connection on a system level on Windows and Mac, which is a more efficient and convenient technique than individually terminating applications.
This feature, however, is much smoother on iOS and Android versions of NordVPN apps, which disable the Internet on a system level in the event of an interruption in the VPN connection.
Learn more about this VPN’s strengths and weaknesses in our NordVPN review.
Speed: The reputation of NordVPN as a high-speed VPN service is not without basis in reality. Most servers deliver fast speeds with a good degree of consistency.
Summary: NordVPN offers a lot of valuable features in addition to its outstanding core capabilities. Some of these extra features include Double VPN, which is basically the name given to the technique of VPN chaining – the process of moving user traffic through 2 distinct VPN servers – for added privacy and encryption.
It also has some servers primed for obfuscation that enable access to heavily restricted websites or services.
When you sum all these benefits together along with the fact that the 3-year plan is selling for $2.99/month, it is hard to find a better deal for users seeking a strong privacy solution for their torrenting needs.
- Dedicated servers for torrent filesharing
- No data or connection logs
- Jurisdiction in Panama
- Refund window of 30 days
- Technical errors with apps
4. PureVPN for Torrenting
The service has made enough improvements over the years to make into this list of best VPN for torrenting.
Torrenting policy: PureVPN supports P2P filesharing on a wide range of servers as highlighted by the provider.
As long as you are connected to these servers, you’ll face no obstacles when downloading torrents and also boost your privacy.
Jurisdiction: Hong Kong is a country with minimal censorship and pro-privacy digital laws. The headquarters of PureVPN is in Hong Kong, which exempts it from any obligations to retain user information of any kind.
IP leak test: As with other top-rated VPN services, PureVPN does not suffer from the problem of leaking IP address, making it fit as a torrent VPN.
The Windows app of PureVPN contains an Internet Kill Switch to automatically kill your VPN connection if it encounters temporary disconnection, keeping your real IP address from leaking to the regular web.
Unfortunately, this feature isn’t available on Mac, smartphones, and other platforms.
Speed: The high server speeds supported by PureVPN is one of the primary reasons that this service is so well-suited for the purposes of downloading torrents.
Summary: PureVPN doesn’t leave much to complain about, especially for Windows platforms where all its features are enabled including a kill switch and built-in ad-blocking.
You can avail this VPN to protect yourself while torrenting at only $2.95/month for a whole year. That is way cheaper than most alternatives.
More well-rounded coverage of this VPN is available on our PureVPN review.
- Hundreds of P2P-enabled servers
- Cheap pricing
- 31-day money return guarantee
- Reasonably good logging policy
- Occasional connectivity issues
5. CyberGhost for Torrenting
CyberGhost has been around for almost a decade and is a reputed service, especially among people who frequently perform P2P activities.
Torrenting policy: CyberGhost has special servers dedicated to P2P. In the Windows and Mac versions of the app, these dedicated servers can be searched
Jurisdiction: CyberGhost is under Romanian jurisdiction which is another country that is free from the clutches of any data retention law.
Moreover, Romania is one of the countries in the Special 301 Watch List due to lax online piracy laws and poor enforcement against online copyright infringement through P2P.
This is one of the main reasons why CyberGhost enjoys high popularity among online pirates.
Logging policy: The provider has a clear logging policy which mentions all the data that they do or do not keep logs of as shown below:
With no obligation to store logs under Romanian law, it is easy for CyberGhost to truly avoid any type of logging that could harm the online privacy of users.
IP Leak test: CyberGhost has strong IPv4, IPv6, and DNS leak protection built into its apps. This enables the VPN to keep the real IP address of the user hidden, so users can stop worrying about getting exposed while they go about downloading torrents.
In addition, CyberGhost has an automatic killswitch that is enabled by default (with no apparent way of disabling it) for all major platforms including Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android.
This feature further consolidates the ability of this VPN to keep you secure and protected while torrenting.
Speed: The speeds usually delivered by CyberGhost are noticeably slower than its competitors, but they’re not TOO slow. In fact, the speeds are sufficient for performing tasks like streaming and torrenting.
Summary: CyberGhost is a capable VPN service that has earned a slot in the top 5 VPNs for torrenting courtesy of its ideal jurisdiction for this purpose, no logs policy, and protective features that guard against IP leaks.
Go in the depth of this VPN in our CyberGhost review.
- P2P supported servers
- Up to 7 simultaneous connections
- Always enabled killswitch
- Blanket LeakProtection for IPv6 and DNS
- Average speeds (but reasonable enough considering the $2.75/month price tag)
VPNs that Support Torrenting
There are a lot of VPN services that support torrenting. But care should be taken by the user when choosing a VPN that they must have jurisdiction outside the 5 Eyes, keep no IP or traffic logs, and contain a kill switch and other mechanisms for IP leak protection.
Use the chart below to judge the suitability of a VPN service for torrenting on the basis of privacy, logs, speed, and kill switch:
The Best Free VPN for Torrenting?
Free VPN services are always a dangerous business. It is inconceivable that any company could bear the cost of servers, customer support, and the bandwidth to serve a large number of customers without charging any money.
So, what many VPNs with a “free” tag do is that they sell your private information which they gather through the VPN app along with advertisements.
This could be especially dangerous if your primary purpose for getting a VPN is to indulge in a legally ambiguous activity like torrenting.
Nonetheless, there are some reputable services that work transparently on the “freemium” business model which is legitimate and this inspires trust.
We have covered such providers in our free VPN for torrenting guide.
What affects the speeds of any best VPN service for torrenting?
Slow downloading speeds when torrenting can occur because of many different factors, however, before delving down into the reasons it is important that you first check your promised bandwidth to make sure you are getting what you paid for.
Online tools like speedtest.net should help you conduct a thorough evaluation.
Now that we have gotten that out of the way, it is time to discuss the reasons.
Limitations of a Wi-Fi connection
Plugin LAN connections are always going to be faster than Wi-Fi connections even though they might be using the same network connection. This is because direct connections do not require any sort of routing, which can substantially enhance the performance of your internet connection.
Another reason why your internet speeds suffer over the Wi-Fi connection is due to many physical obstructions for example distance from the router will also cause speeds to fluctuate drastically. Besides that, physical hindrances like walls and other furniture can also impose a negative impact not to mention interference from radio waves emitted by so many electronic devices in your vicinity.
Poor seed ratio
Torrent speeds heavily rely on the number of seeds, the higher the number of seeds a torrent file has the faster it is going to download. Since seeding refers to the number of people sharing the file for other torrenters. If a torrent file has a low ratio of seeders then your downloading speed is definitely going to suffer regardless of how fast your internet connection is.
Have you ever encountered bandwidth fluctuations of more than half of your allocated speeds? Surprise surprise welcomes to the world of bandwidth throttling. ISPs around the world have ridden their hands in this nasty business all in the name of providing good service.
Bandwidth throttling occurs when ISPs detect you of consuming too much of your allocated bandwidth. Torrenting, streaming or downloading large files can set off red flags for ISPs.
Whether you like it or not bandwidth, throttling is a reality and unfortunately, torrenting has to suffer because of it.
Fortunately, however, a simple anonymity tool like a VPN can result in a major lifesaver as it encrypts your entire network connection making it impossible for ISPs to throttle your bandwidth.
Unadjusted upload speed
Downloading torrents involve peers since it is different from traditional file downloading. Whenever you are downloading a torrent file through the BitTorrent protocol you are also uploading (seeding) the same amount for other peers.
When you leave your upload speed unadjusted, you are essentially negatively affecting your downloading speeds. This issue can be easily negated by first identifying your allocated upload speed and then adjusting the upload speed of your torrenting client. Generally, you should limit your upload speed to about 80% of your actual bandwidth.
Finally, it also helps to understand how a VPN basically works because the very action of VPN tunneling and encryption leads to an unavoidable loss in speed.
But a good VPN will usually be fast enough to work comfortably for your torrenting needs.
The penalties and enforcement against online piracy have gradually gotten stricter over the past two decades.
Although every copyrights owner has the right to sue an individual who accesses their material for free without their permission, the aggressiveness of certain countries towards anyone who downloads torrents can often spill over to those cases where the downloaded file may actually NOT be illegal.
With the best VPN for torrenting, you enable yourself to keep such eventualities at bay and download legal torrents with the assurance that you are beyond the vigilant eyes of authorities.
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