Torrenting can be seen as a bit of a grey area in terms of ethics. However, whatever you think about torrents (and, as you've found yourself here, we reckon we have a pretty good idea of where you stands on them), they've become a pretty popular way of sharing files online, albeit not altogether the safest one. Using a VPN for torrenting therefore seems like a good idea.
A torrenting VPN is able to to offer your online anonymity - among their many uses - when downloading torrents, ensuring any data shared or received by you is end-to-end encrypted. That's the basic premise for why you would want to make use of a VPN for torrenting, though you can find further insight below with our FAQ.
Downloading music, films, and video games via P2P torrenting is incredibly popular, regardless of how hard governments and internet providers have tried to prevent it from happening. It goes without saying that TechRadar doesn't condone any kind of copyright breaching, but we do want to ensure your safety when streaming content online. That's why we're here to recommend the best torrenting VPN providers available that will ensure your personal information remains private.
How to choose the best VPN for torrenting
The virtual private networks we've picked out all support torrents (not every VPN does) but - equally as important - are all equipped with the right features and tools that you require when torrenting.
A few are obvious, starting with privacy and security. Torrenting by its very nature is pretty risky and, while peer-to-peer sharing of big files is undeniably useful, you can leave yourself exposed to threats from bad actors. So you want a VPN with strong encryption protocols and plenty of security smarts. A clear no-logs policy is also crucial - the biggest VPN providers have even started to have these independently audited.
Download speeds are crucial, too - there's no point in choosing a VPN that throttles your speeds so much that downloads crawl along at a snail's pace. We also recommend only opting for torrenting VPNs that are watertight from DNS leaks and have a kill switch. The latter shuts down the internet connection if the VPN stops working, thus preventing your true IP from being exposed.
Today's top 3 best torrenting VPNs:
1. ExpressVPN - #1 torrenting VPN in the world
ExpressVPN ticks all the boxes when it comes to your torrenting VPN needs - tons of servers spread wide across the globe, fast connection speeds to ensure the speediest downloads, effective kill switches across a range of devices, and it's so easy to use. Plus, you can try it for 30-days risk-free.
2. Hotspot Shield - lag-free torrenting downloads
Having one of the fastest VPNs out there is really something worth bragging about, and they don't come quicker than Hotspot Shield. It's also a really easy-to-use service that you can get for a really reasonable price. And thanks to our exclusive pricing, you can get it for as little as $2.49 per month!
3. NordVPN - a secure choice for P2P and torrenting
Nord has become a synonymous name with VPN, and its world class security credentials fit nicely for torrenters. Double VPN, 'Onion over' privacy and a no-logging policy audited yearly by PricewaterhouseCoopers should give you the peace of mind you require when downloading anonymously.
The best torrenting VPNs in 2021:
Best torrenting VPN 2021 - Get 3 months free with an annual plan
We say "boast", but Express doesn't bother pasting its claims all over its homepage. Instead, it just gets on with the business of establishing P2P support across every one of its servers, and all with unlimited bandwidth.
It's certainly fast. We tested its connection speed to multiple servers around the world and witnessed some of the best, most reliable connections of the 200+ VPNs we've reviewed. That’s obviously a major advantage for anyone who downloads large files. And payment by Bitcoin is supported, too.
The software’s split tunneling feature for both Mac and Windows users is definitely worth mentioning as it allows users to choose to protect their torrent client only. That leaves all other online activities, such as web browsing or online gaming, unaffected by the VPN.
And should you encounter any problems with the VPN, 24/7 customer support is provided via live chat or email. ExpressVPN’s offshore jurisdiction in the BVI is also a key advantage for protecting your anonymity. So too its independently audited no-logging policy.
Price-wise, ExpressVPN costs more than other providers - although its now packing in the value with a whole year of Backblaze cloud backup thrown in with all annual subs. Ultimately, it's certainly worth it for those who want the very best experience when torrenting via VPN.
Best torrenting VPN 2021: 49% off and 3 months FREE
You can tell that we really rate ExpressVPN - it's the VPN we use around the office ourselves! And the good news is that you TechRadar readers can get a little perk, too. ExpressVPN has agreed to give readers three months extra free when you sign up. And don't forget about the no quibble 30-day money back guarantee, too.
In recent times particularly, Hotspot Shield has built its reputation on its market-leading speeds. Its brilliantly named Catapult Hydra protocol means that it can ramp up the connection speeds to a much faster Mbps than the mere OpenVPN can manage. So you know that having Hotspot running in the background won't reduce your torrents down to a sluggish download speed.
But honestly, barely any of the torrenting VPNs on this list will either. Luckily, Hotspot Shield has plenty more strings to its bow. It fully supports P2P on every last one of its 1,500+ servers around the world, and there are reliable kill switches on desktop and also Android (but not on the provider's slightly undercooked iOS app, alas).
We reckon that if you're a big torrenter, then you probably like the idea of streaming safely - and more expansively - as well. Hotspot Shield is the ideal streaming VPN, being able to pretty much get around all geo-restricted content that we threw its way.
We found the ready availability of online support guides on how to safely torrent with Hotspot Shield somewhat lacking. But at least there's an effective 24/7 live chat support service in case you're in need of immediate assistance.
To climb higher in this countdown, we'd really like the service to begin auditing the no-logging policy to give us a bit more confidence in its privacy credentials. Indeed, Hotspot actually admits that there is some logging of sessions. Nothing potentially harmful to you - we're talking about session duration, devices and IP addresses. Again, nothing that we'd really consider a red flag, but it does mean that we prefer the above torrenting VPNs in this list.
When talking about VPN security, NordVPN is one of the first names that springs to mind.
That's unsurprising when you consider the ultra-secure connections you get with IKEv2/IPsec and OpenVPN protocols both supported, alongside the provider's very own high-speed NordLynx version of WireGuard. In fact, there are a certain number of ‘Double VPN’ servers which actually pass your data through two separate VPN servers for additional security. Furthermore, Onion over VPN is supported for extra privacy.
Like most top-notch VPNs, there’s a clear no log policy, too. But Nord has gone the extra step by inviting external auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers to verify the security of its apps. And a bug bounty program gives an incentive for anyone to uncover and report security problems with the service.
P2P is not supported on all servers, but Nord won't leave you trying to find a needle in a haystack. It implements a really easy one-click 'P2P' option from its main interface, to ensure that you're directed straight to an appropriate server when you're preparing to torrent. It also offers ample server coverage, an automatic kill switch for Windows, Mac and iOS (with an easy-to-activate equivalent on Android), DNS leak blocking, a good client and great performance levels with above-average download speeds.
Crypto is supported (including Bitcoin), and you have the option to try and cancel with its 30-day money-back guarantee. The multi-year plan is clearly the best choice in terms of pure value for money.
Private Internet Access (or PIA) certainly takes the prize for the product name that best suits the needs of torrenters wanting a VPN. It sure sounds comforting on the surface, but does PIA have what it takes to match your needs?
Well, let's face it... it wouldn't be on this list if it didn't! For starters, there's P2P support on every one of its many servers (how many servers is a little unclear right now - up until recently its site claimed an enormous 35,000, but that has recently disappeared from the site). And you'll have learned enough from this guide by now to know that its clean sweep of kill switches on desktop (Windows and Mac) and mobile VPN apps (Android and iOS), is enough to get in our good books.
But the PIA engineers have gone the extra mile by making 'port forwarding' available, too. Now, the jury is out on just how useful this is - see the bottom of this article for the thoughts of other torrenting VPN providers - but toggle the setting on to enable redirecting of incoming connections to bypass a NAT firewall and so help improve P2P download speeds.
Again, it's up to you whether or not you use this. But the fact PIA lags behind the direct competition a little when it comes to pure download speeds might help make your decision for you - we suppose it depends just how long you can wait to download that latest blockbuster...
Elsewhere, PIA has upped its game of late when it comes to streaming (US Netflix good, BBC iPlayer bad) and its apps are a real delight to use, with plenty of features to explore. What's more, the multi-year plan that Private Internet Access offers is among the most reasonably priced around.
If Surfshark is already on your VPN shortlist, it's most likely to be because of its price. It always features prominently in our cheap VPN guide, thanks to the rock-bottom cost of its multi-year plan. An absolute bargain, frankly.
Especially when you consider that Surfshark really has the goods to back up that status. For torrent fiends there's P2P support on most servers (although it would be nice if they made it more obvious which ones have it), zero-knowledge DNS servers, Bitcoin support, split tunneling, and even URL and ad blocking. On the off chance you're struggling to get Surfshark working with your torrent client, there's also really handy 24/7 support via email and live chat.
Going back to value for money, a single subscription covers unlimited devices. So you can get the VPN working on your PC, Mac, mobiles, TV streaming devices, games consoles, router, and everything else that's compatible - and maybe a few of your friends and family members, too!
It includes a kill switch on Windows, Macs, Android and iPhones. That's great, but the were some minor issues with it on Windows during our testing where we didn't feel like we were given a clear enough warning when the connection drops.
But again, Surfshark is a fantastic VPN option for torrenters that are also budget-conscious.
Torrenting VPNs FAQ
Do I really need a VPN for torrenting?
We'd highly recommend it - especially if you're main reason for doing so is to downloaded pirated videos and games. Because torrenting VPNs effectively make your movements online anonymous, nobody can tie your activity back to your IP address. So you don't need to worry about aggressive letters through the door telling you to cease and desist.
What is the best torrenting VPN in 2021?
We've put ExpressVPN to the top of our torrenting VPN list - it just ticks all the boxes. It's a given that it's fast, secure and easy to use. But it also benefits from really effective kill switches on its desktop clients and Android app and we really like that its thorough no-logging policy is independently audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers. It's an excellent choice for torrenters.
Is torrenting safe with a VPN?
As well as giving all the data you exchange online end-to-end encryption, torrenting with a VPN turned on also helps to keep your identity completely anonymous. That means there's no chance for your ISP or anybody else finding out who you are or what you're downloading online.
Is a free download good enough for torrenting?
In a word...no. There are some genuinely excellent free VPN downloads out there that function perfectly well for letting you check emails on public Wi-Fi and basic IP spoofing. But they tend to limit the data you use and throttle internet speed. So for torrenting, it pays to grab a premium version like ExpressVPN or NordVPN.
What does a kill switch do?
VPNs are fantastic for online privacy, but if your VPN connection drops for any reason you'll immediately be at risk from having your IP details leaked - a real problem if you're downloading something dodgy. A kill switch shuts off your entire internet connection the moment its own connection drops, and thus keeps your IP address hidden.
What are DNS leaks?
A DNS leak is a type of security flaw that effectively allows your IP address to be seen by other people, for example cybercriminals or the government. Any VPN worth its salt will have strong encryption measures and protocols in place that make sure DNS leaks aren't possible and therefore keep you anonymous online.
Port forwarding - what is it and what do VPN companies say?
We approached some of the biggest VPN companies in the world to get their thoughts on torrenting and port forwarding and this is what three of them had to say.
"We don't support port forwarding, almost no VPNs do. In order for true port forwarding to work, the customer would need a dedicated IP. We use shared IP's for enhanced privacy. A little explanation: It's impossible to do port forwarding when everyone shares the same IP address on the VPN server. Because you'd run into port collisions. However, torrenting still works fine on the VPN. Why? Because of NAT. A torrent client makes an outbound connection to a seeder with an ephemeral port, then the server associates that connection to your private/internal IP address via connection tracking (conntrack) / NAT. Inbound connections then work through that. It's more or less the same how NAT would work in your home environment on your router. You might be wondering: What's the difference between port forwarding & NAT? Port forwarding dedicates a specific port to a specific client. Say for instance you wanted to start a Minecraft server on port 25565. You'd setup your router to tell it All connections for port 25565 should be directed to 192.168.1.10 (which is your PC for example) then the router knows that 25565 should ALWAYS be forwarded to that specific IP on your network. This works well for your home, but it doesn't work well for VPN's where multiple users would want to open the same port for the same reasons. NAT, on the other hand, opens ports based on association, and it assigns the ports at random so it avoids space exhaustion and collision."
"We do not support port forwarding as it might lead to service abuse. Meanwhile, P2P traffic is allowed on the portion of designated servers."
"We have opted to not to allow port forwarding due to potential abuse and security risks that exposes. It is the same policy as a number of other VPN providers on the market. Many customers believe our speeds for torrenting are fast nevertheless, and in our internal testing port forwarding often has little impact on speeds when downloading popular legal torrent files. There are a number of VPNs that do offer port forwarding if that is something you are looking for, but unfortunately we do not offer that.