One of the best things about the internet is its ability to spread information. From streaming entertainment to reading news from around the world, this immediate access to information is unprecedented, and it’s something we often take for granted.
Before we start waxing too poetic on the information revolution, though, we want to talk about one way data is shared on the internet — peer-to-peer file sharing. If you’re reading this from your smartphone while picking your children up from school, you can probably remember the heyday of Napster and Kazaa. Ah, it seems like ages ago.
While those services eventually died out due to copyright complaints, a new, more technologically advanced form of file sharing took its place. Torrenting. And before we get into which VPNs are the best for torrenting, let’s take a quick look at how it works.
FYI: Torrenting is sometimes associated with piracy because it is often used to download copyrighted material like albums, movies, and software. Piracy is illegal and we do not condone it in any form or fashion.
If you’re reading this, you may already know this information, in which case just skip to the next section. But if you’re new to torrenting, here’s how it works in a nutshell.
Torrenting works on the principle of peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing. Instead of downloading a file from a central server, when you torrent, you’re downloading files directly from other users on the network. We’ll get more into the technical ins and outs of this later, but essentially files are broken up and distributed across the network. The “torrent file” you download is actually a map of where to find the pieces of the file and instructions on how to reassemble it. This significantly lightens server loads and can result in dramatically increased download speeds.
FYI: While torrent sites have become popular with pirates and other ne’er-do-wells, there are plenty of legitimate uses for the torrent protocol. It can be used to move huge files quickly and may be integrated into software to deploy updates.
Got it? Great! So without further ado — here are our favorite VPNs for torrenting.
ExpressVPN is our top-ranked provider for a reason. It’s the perfect marriage of security and simplicity. It’s great for streaming Netflix, great for torrenting, and it offers some of the tightest security practices in the industry today.
When we think back to our ExpressVPN review, two thoughts come to mind: Simplicity and security. Why are these two items important when it comes to torrenting? Good question.
As you likely know, torrenting can get a little technical — especially when you get down into the weeds. When you add a VPN that doesn’t specifically have torrenting in mind, that can add a layer of frustration to the process. The good news is that they’re true to their tag line, “the VPN that just works”; ExpressVPN is headache-free when it comes to torrenting.
They also offer advanced privacy and security features — again, really important if you’re going to be torrenting. For example, their entire network consists of RAM-only servers, which means that it’s quite literally impossible for ExpressVPN to record and track their user’s activity. Even if they wanted to violate their no-log policy, there’s simply no way to.
And speaking of networks, ExpressVPN’s is extremely fast. While they weren’t the absolute fastest we’ve ever tested, the slowdowns in speed were so negligible that it was a non-issue. Additionally, any server on their network can be used for torrenting — there are no restrictions, and users will enjoy unlimited bandwidth. No matter how large the torrent file, ExpressVPN isn’t going to get in the way.
Now that isn’t to say they aren’t without their drawbacks. They are a little pricey, as you can see from our guide to ExpressVPNs costs. They also don’t offer specific servers optimized for torrenting. There’s some argument as to how big of a deal this actually is since you can torrent across their entire network, but we think it’s at least worth pointing out.
Overall, though, ExpressVPN checks all the boxes for us. It’s easy to use, fast, and secure. You really can’t ask for much more than that.
As mentioned, NordVPN offers lightning-fast speeds, a huge server network, and high-tech security features. They also openly support file sharing and have portions of their massive network of servers dedicated to torrenting.
NordVPN is one of the most popular VPNs on the market today and one of our favorites as well. When we reviewed NordVPN, we thought it offered a great balance of form and functionality, and their long list of elevated security features will keep you protected even in the most extreme conditions.
They’re also very torrent-friendly. The company is vocally pro-file sharing, and, as such, they offer dedicated servers specifically tuned to optimize performance while torrenting. They’re going to keep snooping ISPs out, and most importantly, they’re going to protect your data at all costs.
And they’re going to be quick about it, too. In our tests, NordVPN outperformed nearly every other VPN we’ve looked at, and since they never cap data or bandwidth, you’ll never have to worry about your downloads being interrupted on their side of the house.
Should your VPN service become disrupted, though, NordVPN’s kill switch will instantly terminate your internet connection, ensuring that your data is never exposed. We consider this a must-have functionally for any VPN service, but it’s particularly critical if you’re going to be on the BitTorrent network.
With that said, similar to ExpressVPN above, you’re going to have to pay a little more for all this. Check out our guide to NordVPN’s pricing for more information; however, in our opinion, the service is well worth the money.
A personal favorite, ProtonVPN offers a full suite of elevated security features, a huge global network of servers, and advanced functionality to keep you protected no matter where you are or what you’re up to. Their dedicated list of torrent servers is robust, and their speeds are consistently fast.
We’re not going to lie: We felt a little like James Bond when we tested and reviewed ProtonVPN. They offer one of the best user experiences on the market today, and similar to Mr. Bond, they aren’t simply style without substance. They pack a powerful punch with high-tech gadgetry and solid core protections.
Spy metaphors aside, ProtonVPN is also great for torrenting. They’re located in privacy-friendly Switzerland, which means they aren’t beholden to any international data-sharing laws among law enforcement agencies. Their network is robust, their speeds are solid, and their connections are reliable.
And similar to NordVPN, they dedicate a portion of their network to P2P file sharing. Their no-log policy will protect you from interlopers, and their hardcore encryption will ensure no onlookers will be able to get their hands on your data.
Overall, ProtonVPN is a great choice for anyone that takes their privacy seriously, which includes torrenters. The subscription structure is a little unique, so be sure to read our guide to ProtonVPN pricing for more information.
FYI: Want to see how our No. 2 and No. 3 picks stack up against each other? Check out our NordVPN vs. ProtonVPN comparison.
The world of torrenting can be a little confusing, so let’s define some of its more esoteric terms.
Torrenting is a form of person-to-person file sharing, meaning that instead of downloading a file directly from a central server, you’re downloading it from someone else’s computer through the torrent network. You’ll need a torrent client to access this network — BitTorrent and uTorrent are two of the most popular.
Pro Tip: Want a crash course on VPNs? Head over to our Virtual Private Network resource page. There you’re going to find a wealth of information on the ins and outs of VPNs.
The folks you’re downloading from are referred to as your peers, and peers are collectively referred to as a swarm. Folks who participate in the upload of information to the network are called seeders and folks downloading from the network are called leechers.
Remember, the .torrent file you download actually contains no information; it simply provides instructions on where to download information, how to exchange the data, and how to piece everything back together on your end.
The short answer is yes. There is nothing illegal about torrenting. At the end of the day, it’s simply a method by which to share digital information. You won’t end up in jail if you’re not committing a crime. Where you run into trouble, though, is the content you’re sharing. If you do not have the rights to the content, or if you are downloading copyrighted materials like music, movies, games, or software — yes — that is illegal and there can be serious consequences.
Pro Tip: Want to see how our two favorite VPNs on this list stack up? Check out our NordVPN vs ExpressVPN comparison. While they’re both great services, there are some pretty major differences you’ll want to know about.
What are those consequences? It depends on the severity of the infraction of course, but copyright infringement in most U.S. jurisdictions is punishable by up to a $150,000 fine per item, or up to five years imprisonment. Are these severe consequences typical? No, but we certainly wouldn’t want to run the risk of finding out.
Strictly speaking, no, you don’t need a VPN to share files on the torrent network. It’s a good idea, though. While BitTorrent and uTorrent have really increased their legitimacy over the years, there are plenty of bad actors out there looking to take advantage.
By the nature of how this all works, when you connect to a peer over the torrent network without using a VPN, you’re sharing your IP address with them. If that individual is so inclined, they can use that IP address to find out a wealth of information about you and use it for some pretty untoward purposes.
All things considered, the risk of torrenting without a VPN is simply too high in our opinion. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Simply put, if you’re going to Torrent, you need to be using a VPN. And with so many great options on the market today, it’s hard to make the case for going without one.
That said, all VPNs are not created equal. You need to select one that offers the protections you’ll need to stay safe, the speeds necessary to do so effectively, and the privacy features necessary to keep you anonymous while doing so.
If you’re not convinced the three we’ve listed above are right for you, a great next step would be checking out our top 10 list of the best VPN services of 2021. There you’ll find some more options that might be better suited to your needs or budget.
This means the VPN provider won’t be keeping records of any identifiable information about your connection or your traffic. Make sure this is a verified policy, though. Some VPNs say they’re no-log, only to be proven otherwise later.
Some VPN providers understand completely that their clients want to use their service to torrent, and, as such, have optimized specific servers on their network for exactly that. If you want ease of use, look for this feature in particular.
If you’re using a VPN that is headquartered in the U.S. or U.K., they might be obligated to share information with international law enforcement agencies, which would be detrimental to your privacy, to say the least. Instead, look for a service based in Panama or the British Virgin Islands.
This is critical functionality for any torrenter. If your VPN service is interrupted for whatever reason, the kill switch flips, terminating your internet connection. This means your true IP address will never be exposed, and your privacy will remain intact.
A great torrenting experience is all about speed, but the fact of the matter is that using a VPN can slow you down. To remedy this, make sure you look for a VPN with a large international server network that rates well on speed.
Be sure to steer clear of VPNs that have data or bandwidth caps. Torrenting is resource-hungry, and if you’re using a VPN that’ll cut you off after a certain amount of data is consumed, you’re likely going to end up frustrated.