Using a VPN when you’re torrenting can be a smart move. Use a VPN for torrenting sessions, and you’ll be able to ensure that your online activities aren’t able to be spied on by anyone, and that your IP address isn’t exposed.
Now, let’s address the elephant in the room first – torrenting can be used to share files illegally. So there’s an understandable appeal to hiding your tracks with a VPN that anonymizes your traffic. We don’t condone any illegal file-sharing carried out with or without a VPN.
But, there are plenty of perfectly legitimate reasons why you’d want to protect your privacy online, and why you’d want to use a Torrent client. The best VPNs are paid-for apps, starting from as little as a few bucks a month. While there are free apps out there too, for diehard torrenters, they’re pretty much worthless.
Remember above all, though – while torrenting isn’t illegal in itself, and VPNs certainly aren’t illegal, using these tools to download copyrighted material most definitely is.
In this guide:
- What's the best VPN for torrenting?
- Is it legal to use a VPN to torrent?
- What is the best free VPN for torrenting?
- Best free VPNs for speed when torrenting
- PureVPN – The best VPN we’ve ever tested. Easy to use and effective.
- IPVanish – A great VPN choice for expert users, with plenty of options
- NordVPN – A fast VPN more aimed at expert users
- Torguard – Watertight data protection, and unlocks Netflix, too
- Private Internet Access – A solid VPN that offers good value for money
- Windscribe – Not for beginners, but affordable, fast and effective
- Proton VPN – Pricey? Yes, but a great package with plenty of options
Here's a graph that contrasts the top ten VPN services against each other, covering servers, features, prices, and discounts. If you want an at-a-glance look at the best VPN brands around, there's no better table than this one.
Scroll horizontally to view full table on mobile devices
|PureVPN||NordVPN||IPVanish VPN||TorGuard||Private Internet Access||Windscribe||Proton VPN||Hide Me VPN||AirVPN||Express VPN|
|No. of devices||5||6||5||5||5||Unlimited||10||5||5||5|
|No. of servers||2000+||3605||1000||3000||3035||480||112||150||60||1500|
|Ease of use||★★★★★||★★★★★||★★★★★||★★★★☆||★★★★☆||★★★★★||★★★★★||★★★★☆||★★★☆☆||★★★★★|
|Help & Support||★★★★☆||★★★★☆||★★★★★||★★★☆☆||★★★★☆||★★★☆☆||★★★★☆||★★★☆☆||★★★☆☆||★★★★☆|
|Value for Money||★★★★★||★★★★☆||★★★★☆||★★★★★||★★★★☆||★★★★☆||★★★★☆||★★★★★||★★★★☆||★★★☆☆|
|Price per month||$2.95 (1-year plan)||$2.99 (3-year plan)||$3.25 (1-year plan)||$4.16 (2-year plan)||$3.33 (1-year plan)||$4.08 (1-year plan)||$4 (1-year plan)||$5.41 (1-year plan)||$2.78 (3-year plan)||$6.67 (1-year plan)|
|Discounts||See offers||See offers||See offers||See offers||See offers||See offers||See offers||See offers||See offers||See offers|
Is It Legal to Use a VPN to Torrent?
However, if you’re downloading the latest Marvel movie or Kanye album, then you’re breaking the law. Plus, this isn’t about a couple of millionaire artists who won’t even notice the difference – you’re hurting industries that employ tens of thousands of people worldwide. If you’re doing this using a VPN, your online activities are lot less likely to be traced back to you, but it’s no excuse.
Copyright owners tend to go after the individuals sharing pirated material rather than those downloading it. But, when it comes to torrenting, you can’t do one without the other. As you download a torrented file piece by piece, you also make it available to others who can download it from your own account.
So, is it legal to torrent anything? Of course. You can share something as mundane as a Word document via a torrent client. There’s nothing illegal about sharing files in this fashion – unless those files are copyrighted and being shared without the owner’s permission.
Learn more in our guide – Are VPNs Legal?
What is the Best Free VPN for Torrenting?
There are plenty of free VPNs out there, but they offer a raw deal for torrenters, and we really don’t recommend them.
Browser Extensions Won’t Work
Many are nothing more than browser extensions – that’s not ideal when you’re looking to torrent. A free VPN browser extension (such as Hola, or using the Opera browser) will not disguise your torrenting activity one bit – only your activity within that browser.
For torrenting, you want a VPN client on the computer itself to ensure that you can disguise all data passing through, not just web traffic. You’ll find that pretty much all paid-for VPNs offer a dedicated client, as well as a browser extension.
Poor Speeds from Free VPNs
Then there’s speed issue. If you’re downloading torrents, you’re likely grabbing large files. As a customer of a free VPN, you’re not a priority, and your traffic is going to be sidelined on favour of those who pay. This means that you won’t get access to the fastest servers, and that large file you’re trying to download will crawl along, regardless of how fast your own connection is.
Watch out for Data Limits
Next up, data limits. A lot of free VPNs have harsh data limits in place. Take TunnelBear for example. This is a popular free VPN – and a good one at that – but it only allows its users 500GB of data a month, which just won’t cut it for the torrenting community, although it’s fine for light web browsing.
Lastly, privacy. If you torrent a lot, you might be anxious about others seeing your online activity. Free VPNs rarely offer the same level of encryption as paid-for ones, and some of those we’ve tested have actually revealed not only our ISP, but also our IP address. Others will even make your bandwidth available to other customers, slowing your connection down and potentially allowing strangers to piggyback off your bandwidth to carry out illegal activity
For these reasons, we cannot recommend a free VPN if you’re a heavy torrenter. Pay a few dollars for one each month and get downloading without any concerns or technical hitches.
Best VPNs for Speed when Torrenting
- Hotspot Shield VPN – The fastest VPN we’ve ever tested, and it’s also easy to set up and use.
- NordVPN – The second fastest VPN on test, and a great all rounder. Can be had for less then $3 a month.
- IPVanish – One of the best VPNs we’ve tested, and a fast one to boot. A great choice to pick up.
The speed of your VPN software is vitally important, as you’re dependent on the servers the company uses. While your own connection speed will still have a part to play, if your VPN is running via slow servers, you’ll get correspondingly slow download speeds.
The server location too, will have an impact on how fast your speeds are. As a general rule of thumb, the closer the better. If you’re based in Seattle and connecting to a VPN server in Toronto, you can expect a fast connection. However, connect to one in Sydney, Australia, and you’ll soon notice the difference. Any half decent VPN will let you pick your server, from a list of hundreds.
Encryption, too, will have a secondary effect on your downloads. If you’re looking at a high-end level of security, with a 256-bit level of encryption, then it will be slower than if you picked a 128-bit setting, for example. Again, a decent VPN will allow you to toggle these settings.
Tech.co is reader-supported. If you make a purchase through the links on our site, we may earn a commission from the retailers of the products we have reviewed. This helps Tech.co to provide free advice and reviews for our readers. It has no additional cost to you, and never affects the editorial independence of our reviews.