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BitTorrent is a complex topic. As a technology, it's perfectly legal. But what you do with it could be illegal.
The problem is that BitTorrent is used to share video files. And most often, BitTorrent is used to share copyrighted videos like popular movies and TV shows, which is illegal in most jurisdictions. And that is how we come back to VPNs because while VPNs can protect your usage and location for legitimate reasons, VPNs can also facilitate illegal activity.
This has not gone unnoticed by movie studios and other victims of digital piracy. There have been legal cases brought against VPN providers by movie studios.
We had an internal debate about the ethics of even writing an article about using VPNs for torrenting. But as I said, it's not the technology itself that's illegal. The illegality is in how some users use it.
And so, we're providing you with a list of four of the more popular VPN services that can be used for torrenting. We explicitly do not endorse the use of torrenting, but because BitTorrent is as valid for sharing legitimate software and video distribution from open source and copyright-free providers, we feel that sharing this is a necessary part of our coverage, especially now that you understand some of the issues involved.
ExpressVPN has an exceptionally large network of servers in 94 countries. Not only that, but it's an exceptionally fast VPN, our sister site CNET found that it only cut speeds by 2%. Because of the encryption and server you route through, a VPN will slow down your internet connection, but 2% is unreasonably low.
Exclusive offer: Get an additional three months free
Regardless of what device you have, it's likely that ExpressVPN supports the platform it runs on. It has native applications for all the major operating systems: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and Linux. But also supports so much more including Chromebook, Chromecast, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Amazon Fire Stick, plus browser extensions for Edge, Chrome, and Firefox.
Further reading: How to set up and use ExpressVPN
Also: How to set up and use NordVPN
NordVPN is a widely used and often well-reviewed VPN service. In our testing, NordVPN consistently had quick connection times, fast download speed, and an overall solid and reliable performance. P2P is not supported on every server, but you can select "P2P" in the app and you'll automatically be connected to the fastest P2P server.
Also: Our NordVPN review
Aside from simply securing your internet connection and supporting P2P sharing, NordVPN has an Onion over VPN feature. When you connect to an Onion over VPN server, it not only provides an additional layer of security but also removes the need for a separate tor browser. You can route your connection through two servers with the Double VPN feature, although you probably won't want to if you're downloading large files because it can significantly impact your download speed.
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We found the connection to NordVPN's servers to be quick and reliable. In our review of the service our download speeds were reduced by around 28% when connected to NordVPN. Overall, it's a good VPN that performs consistently and has all the bells and whistles most users will need.
AtlasVPN is loaded up with a wide array of features, including a tracker blocker, ad blocker, malware blocker, split tunneling, MultiHop+, data breach scanner, and the ultra-fast WireGuard protocol. All of this is available for right around two bucks a month on a year subscription, $2.05/mo with a two-year subscription to be exact.
AtlasVPN also offers one of the only free VPNs that's worth trying out. However, it's an extremely limited version of the paid product, and won't be useful for torrenting. The free VPN is limited to 5 GB a month, and you'll only have access to three servers (in two countries).
With 750+ servers located in 38 countries, it has a smaller server footprint than the more expensive VPN providers. That said, AtlasVPN performs as well as its competitors, even the free version has solid speed and only reduced download speeds by 21% in our testing.
Surfshark VPN specifications
You can pick up Surfshark VPN for an average of $2.21/mo with our exclusive offer for three free months with a two-year plan. That's a great deal for a service that is comparable to the top-tier VPNs and is extremely secure. In our testing, we found no DNS leaks and Surfshark has browser extensions for Firefox, Chrome, and Edge to prevent WebRTC leaks.
Exclusive offer: Get three extra free months
Surfshark performed on par with its sister service, NordVPN, in our speed tests, only reducing download speeds by roughly 28%. Although we found the connection times to be just a touch less reliable than NordVPN. It has a MultiHop feature that allows you to route your connection through two servers. Surfshark doesn't offer a dedicated IP, but you can access a static IP through a small number of servers. Its split tunneling feature is extremely useful and enables you to route traffic from specific apps or websites through or around the VPN connection. One thing to note is, split tunneling is not available for iOS devices.
Further reading: Our Surfshark VPN review
ExpressVPN is our choice for the best VPN for torrenting. It has a good combination of performance and options. With solid download speeds and servers in 94 countries, it's a service that should meet the needs of just about any user.
|Best VPN for torrenting||Price||Kill Switch||Logs||Simultaneous connections|
|ExpressVPN||$6.67/mo w/1-year plan + 3 free months||Yes||No browsing logs, some connection logs||5|
|Surfshark VPN||$2.21/mo w/2-year plan + 3 free months||Yes||No, only billing info||Unlimited|
|NordVPN||$3.69/mo w/2-year plan + 3 free months||Yes||No, only billing info||6|
|AtlasVPN||$2.05/mo w/2-year plan||Yes||No, only billing info||Unlimited|
At the end of the day, finding the right VPN for you will come down to a lot of factors and personal preferences that can't be fully accounted for in our best torrenting VPN list. That's why it's important to test out services for yourself. Each of the VPNs on our list has a 30-day money-back guarantee policy, which gives you more than enough time to try out the service risk-free.
|Choose this VPN for torrenting||If you want...|
|ExpressVPN||A fast VPN with tons of server locations|
|AtlasVPN||To save money|
|Surfshark VPN or AtlasVPN||Unlimited connections|
To narrow down our list of best torrenting VPNs we focused on reputable services with a history of providing top-notch security. We also took into consideration and number of factors for each VPN service, including:
BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing network and protocol. But what does that mean? Well, normally when you download a file, you're pulling all the bits from one server. If that server has limited bandwidth, the number of people downloading might be quite limited.
BitTorrent splits that up. Files on the BitTorrent network are scattered in pieces among "seeders" (computers that host the full file) and downloaders, so when someone downloads a file, they're pulling pieces of that file from many different machines. That's the peer-to-peer component of torrenting. You're not just pulling from one central server; you're pulling from other users (peers) on the torrent network.
Why would you do this? For smaller files, torrenting is not important. But for really big files, torrenting helps distribute the load among users. And what are big files? Video. A two-hour HD movie uses up to about 8GB. A TV series could use upwards of 80GB per season of the show. Other big files are software distributions, like Linux distros, games, large images, and big datasets. BitTorrent makes downloading all these types of files easier.
In most countries, it's not a crime to use the technology or the software. But if you're trafficking in the distribution of illegal content or you're distributing content illegally, it can be a crime.
While there's no universal answer, here's a quick way to think of it. If it's something that is owned or copyrighted by anyone else, it is probably piracy. That means downloading TV shows, movies, games, and most software is illegal. A Linux distribution is probably legal. On the other hand, a movie or video from a known legitimate distributor of content, like the Internet Archive, is likely legal.
As far as safety is concerned, anytime you download something from an unreputable source you are putting yourself at risk of being infected with malware or a virus.
First, keep in mind that law enforcement and major movie studios are devoting a lot more resources to penetrating the VPN veil than you or VPN services can to block penetration. This legal case is an interesting read about how lawyers are not only penetrating secrecy but also blasting away at the marketing hype of jurisdictional safety. Don't use VPNs for something heinous or illegal and you'll be safe. And yes, I know we've talked about using VPNs for legitimate personal protection reasons, but we had an entire discussion about how VPN service providers might not provide enough protection. Read that next.
There are a number of other reputable VPN services that support torrenting. If there isn't a provider in our best torrenting VPNs list that you prefer, then these alternatives might be a better fit for you.