Torrenting is a popular peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing process that allows users to share and download files from others on a network.
Torrenting is faster than protocols like hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP) and file transfer protocol (FTP) because you can download files simultaneously instead of one at a time.
But torrenting gets a bad reputation. People often torrent to download copyrighted material, like movies, TV shows, and music. This puts torrenting in a gray area legally.
So, is torrenting safe?
While there are legitimate uses for torrenting, there are also some risks that you should be aware of.
In this article, we’ll look at ways that you can torrent safely and go over some of the most common concerns associated with it. We’ll also look at how you can protect yourself with a virtual private network (VPN) and share our top picks.
Is torrenting safe?
Torrenting is generally safe as long as you know and trust the P2P network you’re using. However, there are some risks you should be aware of.
Here are some of the dangers of torrenting:
Malware: Torrent files can contain malware, which uses known software vulnerabilities to infect your device. Even if you use a reputable torrenting website, malware can still slip through.
Copyright issues: If your internet service provider (ISP) catches you torrenting copyrighted material, they can issue a copyright infringement notice. You could face heavy fines or even jail time for breaching copyright laws.
ISP throttling: Torrenting uses up a lot of bandwidth. Your ISP may throttle or slow down your connection in response to your increased use.
That said, torrenting has legitimate uses. Companies like Blizzard and even Facebook have turned to P2P to distribute large updates and save on bandwidth costs.
The following are free torrent clients that you can use:
BitTorrent: BitTorrent is the most popular torrent client with over two billion users. The software is easy to use and features a visually appealing interface.
uTorrent: uTorrent is a lightweight torrent client that BitTorrent owns and operates. The software is free, but there are ads displayed within the interface.
qBittorent: qBittorent is an open-source torrent client that features a built-in search engine and media player. It’s also compatible with all major devices.
These torrent clients themselves are safe, but the risks associated with torrenting come from the files you download.
Is torrenting legal?
Torrenting is legal, but whether or not it stays that way all depends on what you torrent. If you’re torrenting copyrighted materials, then you could face legal action.
When you torrent a file, you (and other peers on the network) can view any IP addresses you’re connected to.
Copyright trolls, individuals, or companies that enforce copyrights can “spy” on these logs and report your IP address to your ISP. If that happens, you may receive a copyright infringement notice in the mail.
It’s best to stick with legal materials to avoid any issues. Examples include open-source software and content in the public domain.
Here’s a shortlist of sites where you can download torrent files:
However, even if you’re torrenting legal files, it’s still a good idea to protect your connection. This can protect you from malicious actors like hackers and keep your ISP from throttling your connection if you’re using up a lot of bandwidth.
Torrenting exposes your IP address, as we’ve seen above. Hackers often exploit that knowledge to track your location and even gain access to your device.
This is where a VPN comes in. A VPN is software that allows you to securely and anonymously browse the web.
Why use a VPN for torrenting?
Downloading torrents without a VPN is incredibly risky. Others on the network can view your IP address and even report your activities to the ISP.
Here’s how a VPN protects your online activities when you torrent (and even when you don’t).
Encrypts your internet traffic
A VPN creates a secure tunnel between your computer and the internet. This encrypts your traffic, making it virtually impossible for hackers and your ISP to track your activities.
Premium VPN providers like ExpressVPN and NordVPN use strong encryption standards to keep your data hidden from prying eyes.
Hides your IP address
Torrenting exposes your IP address, which anyone can follow to trace your torrenting activities.
When you connect to a VPN, your traffic routes through a private server. This hides your actual IP address and replaces it with an IP address associated with the VPN server you’re connecting to.
This also hides your location, as connecting to a server in another country makes it seem as though you’re accessing the internet from that country.
Unblocks torrenting sites
Many ISPs block torrenting sites (even legal ones). A VPN can help you bypass those restrictions as you can route your connection through a server in a country where those sites are accessible.
VPNs aren’t strictly limited to accessing blocked torrent sites. A VPN also allows you to stream content that may not be available in your country due to licensing issues. It’s also handy if you’re traveling abroad and want to access your home country’s Netflix library.
Helps you avoid bandwidth throttling
When you torrent files without a VPN, your ISP can see what you’re doing and throttle your connection by reducing your download speeds.
A VPN encrypts your internet traffic. Your ISP can still see how much bandwidth you’re using, but they can’t tie those activities to torrenting and throttle your connection as a result.
Choosing a VPN for torrenting
To hide and protect your torrenting activities, it’s important that you choose a VPN with the following features.
Not all VPNs allow you to torrent.
The first thing to look for is a VPN that supports torrenting and file sharing. ExpressVPN is a good choice here as its entire network supports P2P connections.
A VPN with fast servers and unlimited bandwidth is a must if you plan to torrent a lot.
Connecting to a VPN always impacts your connection speed because of the encryption process and the distance the data has to travel. But this degree of latency is largely mitigated when you choose a fast VPN.
Split tunneling allows you to route some of your traffic through a VPN and others through your regular connection.
This can be useful if you’re torrenting files at work and you need to access internal resources on the office network.
A kill switch automatically disconnects your internet connection if the connection to your VPN drops. This prevents your IP address from “leaking” and ensures your privacy.
No-logs means that a VPN doesn’t collect any information about your online activities that could be traced back to you (e.g., IP address, time stamps, etc.).
ExpressVPN is also a good choice here, as it maintains a strict no-logs policy. PwC has even audited its servers and technology to verify these claims.
Best VPNs for torrenting
There’s no shortage of VPN providers. Choosing the right one can be overwhelming, even to those who have used them before.
To help you make an informed decision, we put together a list of the best VPNs. The providers below support P2P file sharing and offer a host of other features.
1. ExpressVPN: Best VPN for torrenting and P2P downloads
ExpressVPN has everything you’d want from a VPN for torrenting.
This service offers an extensive network of private servers (over 3,000) that support P2P file sharing and strong encryption protocols that keep your online activities secure.
ExpressVPN offers IP/DNS leak production as well as a kill switch that prevents your real IP address from leaking if your VPN connection drops. The company also keeps no user or activity logs that could identify you.
Check out our ExpressVPN review for a detailed analysis of its features and performance.
Surfshark offers fast servers that are optimized for P2P file sharing and compatible with all major P2P clients, including uTorrent, BitTorrent, and more.
Like ExpressVPN and NordVPN, Surfshark features a kill switch that prevents your IP address from leaking and maintains a strict no-logs policy. In addition, there are no data caps or bandwidth restrictions, so you can torrent as much as you want.
$12.95 per month for one month
$6.49 per month for six months
Private DNS protection
$2.49 per month for two years
Double VPN with MultiHOp
24/7 live chat
See a full breakdown of how Surfshark performs in our in-depth Surfshark review.
Torrenting itself is safe, as long as you’re not downloading copyrighted materials. But even if you’re torrenting open-source software or content in the public domain, it’s best to err on the side of caution.
Follow these steps to protect yourself when downloading torrents.
1. Choose a VPN
The first step is to choose a VPN.
To quickly recap, a VPN funnels your connection through a private server that hides your IP address and encrypts your internet traffic. But it’s important to choose a trustworthy VPN as not all VPNs offer the same security features.
We recommend a premium VPN like ExpressVPN — it offers strong encryption, supports P2P file sharing on all servers, and maintains a strict no-logs policy.
With a torrenting VPN like ExpressVPN, you can be sure that your online activities are secure and anonymous. You can even unblock websites when traveling and stream content from popular services like Netflix and Disney+.
2. Connect to a VPN server
The next step is to download and install a VPN onto your device. If you plan to torrent, make sure to connect to a server that supports P2P file sharing.
With ExpressVPN, every server supports torrenting and P2P connections. Simply connect to a server or let the Smart Location feature choose the most optimal server based on your location.
3. Start torrenting
Before you start torrenting, it’s a good idea to double-check that your VPN connection is working and protecting your privacy. ExpressVPN offers a handy online privacy tool that lets you check to see if your online activities are private.
Here’s what the tool displays when your IP address is hidden: