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How to use a VPN to torrent safely

How to use a VPN to torrent safely
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

It’s no secret that using a VPN while torrenting is essential, and there’s a reason why it’s one of the top VPN uses today. However, many people still neglect to protect themselves while sharing peer-to-peer (P2P), and that puts them in genuine danger – and not only because they could unwittingly be downloading illegal or pirated content.

We’ll start off by saying that we do not condone the illegal use of torrenting applications or VPNs, but there are many reasons why you’d want to engage in P2P sharing that are perfectly legal. For example, many games update through torrents, businesses use them to share large files or sprawling folders throughout the company, and if you’re a Linux user, that’s where you’re likely to be getting your ISOs from.

Why are torrents dangerous?

Torrenting is a form of P2P sharing. This means when you begin to download a torrent you join a network of other computers that either have the file you want stored on them, or are downloading the same file as you.

While this removes the need for any central server – and any danger of that server crashing or becoming overloaded – it does mean that you’re directly connected with everyone else using the same torrent. This opens you up to hack attacks, and there’s a possibility that malicious users of the same torrent could access your IP address, track your activity and collect information about you.

How to use a VPN to torrent safely

A VPN directs your connection through its own servers, changing your IP address and encrypting your traffic at the same time. If you use a great torrenting VPN like ExpressVPN, your information will be made entirely anonymous and anyone who does manage to intercept it won’t be able to track that activity back to you. If you want check out our recommended service, head over to the ExpressVPN site now.

It really is that simple – all you need to do is switch on your VPN before you start downloading from the torrent and you’ll be protected from anyone who’s after your data. And, if you do unintentionally end up downloading a torrent that contains copyright-infringing material, you’ll avoid incrimination because the illegal download can’t be tracked back to you.

Hacker at a desk

(Image credit: Clint Patterson)

Get access to more torrent sites

Many ISPs block torrent sites, meaning that you won’t be able to browse which torrents to download, even if they’re legal. A VPN can help you out here, too. By anonymizing your traffic it hides what you’re viewing from your ISP, and subsequently allows you to access sites that were previously blocked.

This goes for more than torrent sites, though. A VPN can help you avoid ISP restrictions no matter what the content – that could be adult sites, online gaming, or news sources that are blocked in your country.

Avoid ISP throttling

Finally, although pretty much every VPN will very slightly slow down your base connection, many ISPs will throttle your connection speed if they detect torrenting activity.

Because a VPN anonymizes all of your traffic, your ISP can’t detect that you’re engaging in P2P, and subsequently can’t make the decision to throttle your connection. 

Again, we do not suggest our readers download copyright-infringing content from torrent sites, but we also believe that everyone should take any and all necessary precautions when using the internet. In the case of P2P, it’s a simple fact that anyone who torrents will benefit from using a VPN – and that’s all we’ve got to say on the matter.

What makes a good VPN for torrenting?

A good VPN for torrenting needs a combination of performance and rock-solid security. To start off with, a good range of P2P-compatible servers – all of which should deliver usable speeds – is essential. If you haven't got torrenting-friendly servers that can support high speeds you won't be able to get off the starting blocks.

Then, you should aim to get a service that offers extra features like a kill switch and split tunneling. A kill switch will automatically cut your internet in the unlikely event that your encrypted connection fails. That makes sure you're not unwittingly torrenting on your unprotected line should your VPN drop out.

Split tunneling allows you to separate traffic from different apps, meaning you could choose to send your torrent client's signal through the VPN while keeping your browser traffic unprotected. Split tunneling is also useful if you find that any of your other apps or programs don't work well when routed through the VPN – unlikely, but it can happen.

Finally, try to get a service with a rock-solid no-logging policy. If, for any reason, the authorities want to investigate you, if your VPN doesn't keep activity logs then it won't have anything to hand over in the first place. 

Ticking all these boxes is ExpressVPN – see below for a Tom's Guide deal and more on what makes it great.

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Its 24/7 live-chat support is an indispensable feature that helps solve any issues that may arise, and a fully audited privacy policy means that Express won’t record any identifying information about you.

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