Is Torrenting Safe With a VPN? Silent Runnings in 2020

Fergus O'Sullivan
By Fergus O'Sullivan (Editor-at-Large)
— Last Updated: 2020-07-27T14:14:50+00:00


If you know anything at all about torrenting, you know that you need to use a virtual private network unless you like to get hit with copyright notices. However, you still may find yourself wondering if torrenting really is safe with a VPN. In this article, we’ll go over some of the main points why it is, indeed, perfectly safe, provided you use the right VPN service. This is regardless of torrent client, too.

If you stumbled on this article while looking for the best VPN for torrenting, you may want to check out NordVPN. All the safety measures we’ll discuss in the piece apply to this VPN, and it’s pretty affordable, to boot.

Safety Concerns When Torrenting

The big issue when downloading torrents is due to tracking by organizations like the Recording Industry Association of America in the U.S. or its equivalent in other countries. (You can check out our censorship map to see which countries have banned torrenting and which haven’t.) 

In short, when you download a file from a torrent site, you are likely being tracked, especially if it’s a popular movie or game.

These trackers will figure out where you’re downloading torrents from, then set the process in motion that ends up with you receiving either a fine or the threat of a lawsuit, depending on where you live and how many warnings you’ve already received. These things can rack up quick, too, costing your thousands of dollars.

The only good way to avoid this scenario is to use a VPN, and only one of the best VPNs, at that. A bad VPN will just broadcast your location as much as going unprotected would, so we definitely recommend you check out either NordVPN or ExpressVPN, the latter of which is our second favorite VPN pick.

How Does a VPN Make Torrenting Safe?

In short, a VPN makes any browsing safe by routing your internet connection through a server independent of your internet service provider and encrypting it at the same time. It’s slightly more involved than that, so if you want the details check out our article on VPN security. However, what makes torrenting safe is a VPN’s ability to hide your IP address

Spoofing your location this way also allows you to unblock torrent sites, so it’s a double whammy: you can go places you couldn’t before, while remaining anonymous. 

Of course, you don’t need a degree in cybersecurity to see the problem here: if there’s an issue with the spoofing mechanism or the tunnel’s security, you could still be tracked. That’s why when it comes to something like torrenting, you should only use a vetted VPN service with a trusted track record.

Which VPNs to Trust

Generally speaking, you should be careful in picking a VPN service in any circumstance, simply because it’s so very easy for a disreputable VPN service to compromise you. However, when it comes to torrenting, you should be doubly careful as there are real world consequences to being found out — for example, connecting to the internet from lovely places like Iran or China.

To keep DMCA notices from landing on your doormat, a VPN needs to have a few key characteristics. For one, a VPN needs good encryption. The tunnel needs to be impregnable or you’re just wasting your money. 

On the other side of that coin, the tunnel also needs to be stable and have good DNS leak protection, or you may as well fly a flag for copyright hounds to come sniff you out.

Another vital VPN feature is a kill switch, which will “kill” the connection if there’s an issue with the VPN’s server. This means you can’t be found out just because somebody in a data center was having a bad day.

Besides these three core VPN features, there are a few others that help torrenters, like the VPN having high-capacity servers and the like. However, it may be a bit tricky for most people to determine what works and what doesn’t, which is why we’ve selected three VPN services for you. All come with a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can check them out at your leisure.

Our top pick, as we mentioned earlier, is NordVPN, simply because the VPN has the speed and server locations needed for smooth torrenting, while also offering more bells and whistles than any of its competitors. Check out our NordVPN review for more details, or get straight to it by reading our NordVPN torrenting guide.

Our other VPN picks are ExpressVPN and CyberGhost. These VPNs are fine choices in and of themselves, but when it comes to P2P file sharing, they don’t quite have the oomph of NordVPN. However, depending on whatever else you’ll be using them for, these VPNs may be a better choice. Check out our ExpressVPN review and CyberGhost review to see for yourself.

Is Torrenting Safe With a Free VPN?

Cybercrime Economy

Of course, not everybody has the means to pay for a VPN, which is why we’re often asked whether torrenting with a free VPN is a good idea. Our answer is — as it often is — “it depends.” If you pick a service from our list of the best free VPNs, you’ll be alright, especially if you go with ProtonVPN or Windscribe

However, you want to avoid the crap that clogs up the Google Play store like the plague. Most of the “VPNs” there are nothing more than glorified proxies that will broadcast your location like a Christmas tree in the night.

Another thing to keep in mind is that almost all reputable free VPNs will have a monthly bandwidth cap, so you can’t torrent more than a few gigabytes before being shut off. Considering most films are one gig or so, that should still be plenty of free viewing pleasure.

Final Thoughts

Torrenting with a VPN is safe as long as you’re using the right VPN. We’ve recommended several in this piece, as well as in the linked articles, so please make sure to use one of those VPNs before getting into your pirate ship.

Do you have anything to add to the advice we’ve given in this piece, or even a recommendation for a VPN we may have missed? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thank you for reading.