When it comes to downloading torrents, it's fairly obvious that you should be connected to a VPN. This helps keep your connection secure and as private while sharing or downloading via peer-to-peer (P2P). Encryption is also a huge factor when torrenting, and thankfully a VPN sends your traffic through a server that will conceal your actual IP address and keep your connection secure.
P2P torrenting is often used to download music, movies, and video games, much to the chagrin of governments, internet providers and media companies. It goes without saying that TechRadar doesn't condone any kind of copyright breaching or infringement, but with the many risks tied to torrenting, we want to ensure the safety of online users. Thanks to the best torrenting VPN providers below, you can maintain your internet privacy and keep your connections encrypted and secure.
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. NordVPN - secure choice for P2P and torrenting
Nord has become a synonymous name with VPN, and its world-class security credentials fit nicely for torrenting. 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.
3. PIA - extra features aimed directly at torrenters
Private Internet Access certainly sounds like it would be a great option to keep you anonymous while torrenting, and it really delivers. With P2P support across the board and port forwarding for those who want it, you can also get PIA on the cheap if you're happy to commit to a longer subscription.
How to choose the best VPN for torrenting
The virtual private networks we've picked out all support torrents (believe it or not,, not every VPN does!) but – just as important – are all equipped with the right features and tools that you need when torrenting.
A few are obvious, starting with privacy and security. Torrenting by its very nature is 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 even have these independently audited.
Download speeds are crucial as well. 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 solid VPN kill switch (which we test in our reviews). The latter shuts down the internet connection if the VPN stops working, thus preventing your true IP from being exposed even if you're not paying attention.
The best torrenting VPNs in 2023:
Best torrenting VPN 2023 - Get 3 months free with an annual plan
Put simply, ExpressVPN boasts all the features you'd want from a VPN for torrenting — indeed, the provider still also tops our overall best VPN list.
We say "boast", but Express doesn't bother force-feeding 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 most reliable connections, with an average range of 420-560Mbps. While it's not the fastest VPN out there, it's speedy enough 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 it's 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 2023: 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 they sign up. And don't forget about the no-quibble 30-day money-back guarantee, too.
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 an effortless 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 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 certainly 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 staggering 10,000+ servers. 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 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 on just how long you can wait to download that latest blockbuster with peak speeds of 320Mbps, considerably behind a lot of the competition.
Elsewhere, PIA has upped its game of late when it comes to a VPN for streaming (iPlayer, US Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus all good) 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 — or that it tops our list of fastest VPNs. It always features prominently in our cheap VPN guide as well, 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 there 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. Not a disaster in the real world, but any vulnerability immediately gives us pause to consider what other issues might be going on under the hood.
But again, Surfshark is a fantastic, secure service for budget-conscious torrenters who also want a little extra with their VPN.
Hotspot Shield built its reputation on its rapid server speeds. Its brilliantly named Catapult Hydra protocol meant that it could ramp up the connection speeds to a much faster Mbps than the mere OpenVPN can manage.
Honestly, now that other VPNs have begun developing their own proprietary protocols (like Express and Nord above), Hotpot Shield no longer stands out as the market-leader. But luckily, Hotspot Shield has plenty more strings to its bow. It fully supports P2P on every last one of its 1,800+ servers around the world, and there are reliable kill switches on desktop and also Android (just not on the provider's slightly undercooked iOS app, alas).
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 certainly consider a red flag, but it does mean that we prefer the above torrenting VPNs in this list.
Torrenting VPNs FAQ
Do I really need a VPN for torrenting?
We'd highly recommend it - especially if your 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 2023?
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 to find 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, throttle internet speed and, in some cases, won't allow P2P activity whatsoever.
So for torrenting, it pays to grab a premium version like ExpressVPN or NordVPN - both of which are VPNs with free trials.
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. You can learn more about them in our dedicated guide to VPN kill switches.
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.