Torrenting makes it possible for everyone to enjoy entertainment, software, and books they can’t afford. Unfortunately, governments, movie studios, music producers, and ISPs don’t see torrenting that way. So torrenting can be risky depending on what your country’s laws say. And it can also be dangerous if you use the wrong torrents.
In this article, we’ll do our best to show you how to torrent safely. We’ll talk about useful security tools, offer some actionable tips, and answer many FAQs about downloading torrents safely.
What Are the Dangers of Torrenting?
Here’s what can go wrong when you download torrents:
- Copyright trolls – they collect IPs from users in the torrent swarm. They then forward the IPs to copyright agencies and lawyers. Alternatively, they use the IPs to track down users’ ISPs and send them threatening emails. Some copyright trolls might even try to scam you. They claim they’ll sue you for $100,000+ but they’ll settle for less – $2,000-$3,000.
- DDoS attacks – if someone sees your IP in the torrent swarm, they could use it to locate your network and flood it with unwanted traffic. If they do that, you’ll be left without Internet access for a few hours.
- Port scanning – hackers could use your IP to scan your network’s open ports. They might do that to find security vulnerabilities they can exploit to take over your network and/or device.
- Malware – cybercriminals can upload malicious torrents on public trackers. If you download and use the files, the malware will infect your device – either with spyware, adware, crypto miners, or ransomware.
- Bandwidth throttling – while not inherently dangerous, it can be very annoying. Basically, your ISP can see you’re using torrent sites and they can spot torrent traffic. If they throttle your torrenting, you’ll get very slow speeds. If torrenting is against their TOS, they might even terminate your account.
How to Safely Download Torrents (5 Tools You Can Use)
We’ll go over the best security tools you can use to torrent safely (and we’ll include pros and cons for each one):
1. Use a VPN
VPNs make torrenting safe by encrypting your traffic and hiding your IP address. Your ISP won’t know you’re downloading torrents, and hackers and copyright trolls won’t be able to find your IP address in the swarm. The VPN’s encryption can also stop ISPs from throttling your torrenting traffic. And some VPNs have ad blockers that block connections to malicious sites. So, you can avoid fake torrent trackers with a VPN.
And downloading torrents safely with a VPN is extremely simple. You just subscribe to a VPN, download and install a VPN app, and use it to connect to a VPN server. After that, you can start downloading as many torrents as you want.
Not all VPNs are good for torrenting, though. To download P2P files safely, you need a VPN that allows torrenting on its servers. Also, the VPN should:
- Use powerful encryption
- Prevent IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC leaks
- Have a kill switch to protect you from traffic leaks.
- Have a no-logs policy.
- Work with all torrent clients.
- Have split-tunneling to let you optimize download speeds.
Whenever we torrent, we always use NordVPN. We like that it’s very fast because it uses NordLynx, a protocol built around WireGuard technology. There are also 4,600+ P2P servers, so it’s really easy to find a nearby server that’s not overcrowded.
Also, NordVPN offers high-end security. It has bank-grade encryption, two-times audited no-logs policy, full leak protection, and a reliable kill switch. It also uses RAM-only servers, meaning every reset wipes all server data. Finally, we like that NordVPN has split-tunneling. We can route only torrent traffic through NordVPN to get even faster download speeds.
|VPNs encrypt your traffic. Nobody can see that you’re torrenting.||VPNs can slow down your downloads.|
|VPNs prevent DDoS attacks and port scanning because hackers can’t see your IP address.||Not all VPNs allow P2P traffic.|
|Copyright trolls can’t log your IP address in the torrent swarm because VPNs hide it.|
|VPNs have ad blockers that protect you from malware-infected sites.|
|VPNs make your traffic unreadable, so ISPs can’t throttle it.|
2. Use a Seedbox
A seedbox is a server you use to download and upload torrents. It works as an intermediary between you and torrent trackers. You download torrents to the seedbox and then download the files to your device.
Seedboxes can help you torrent safely by hiding your IP and encrypting your traffic – just like VPNs. Your ISP won’t know you’re using torrent trackers. They’ll only see that you’re connecting to the seedbox’s IP. Also, everyone in the torrent swarm will only see the seedbox’s IP. What’s more, seedboxes use HTTPS encryption to secure your traffic when you download the files to your device.
But unlike VPNs, seedboxes generally offer significantly faster download speeds. Even if you use a far-away server, the distance shouldn’t affect your speeds.
But if you’re a regular torrent user, it’s better to stick to VPNs. Seedboxes are only suitable for hardcore torrent users. We’re talking about people who download huge quantities of content daily and who need to upload tons of torrents and seed a lot.
If you want to use a seedbox, check out Seedbox.io. It has excellent speeds, unlimited data, cheap prices, and a 99.9% uptime guarantee. If any unscheduled issues arise, Seedbox.io will compensate you.
|Seedboxes have very fast download speeds||Using a seedbox can be difficult if you’re new to this.|
|Seedboxes hide your IP address from hackers and copyright trolls.||Seedboxes aren’t suitable for normal torrent users.|
|Seedboxes encrypt your downloads, so your ISP can’t see them.|
3. Use a Proxy
A proxy is an online tool that hides your IP address. It works just like a VPN – it’s a server that sits between you and the torrent trackers and peers. The main difference between proxies and VPNs is that proxies don’t use strong encryption. Sometimes, they don’t use any encryption at all.
Some torrent users like using proxies because they’re faster than VPNs. And while they can help you torrent safely, they won’t secure your traffic or prevent bandwidth throttling. Your ISP can still see that you’re using torrent trackers and torrenting.
Even if you want to use a proxy, you’re better off getting a VPN. Most providers offer SOCKS5 proxies which you can use while torrenting. For example, NordVPN has ten SOCKS5 proxy locations you can use.
|They hide your IP, so they protect you from copyright trolls and DDoS attacks.||Proxies can’t encrypt your traffic as VPNs do. Your ISP could throttle your bandwidth.|
|ISPs won’t know you’re accessing torrent trackers.||Many VPNs offer SOCKS5 proxies for torrenting. There’s no point in paying for a standalone proxy.|
|Proxies offer fast download speeds.|
4. Use Antivirus Software
Antivirus software protects you from malware. When it detects an infected file, it automatically quarantines it to prevent it from damaging your device. Antivirus programs can also block malicious torrent trackers.
But these security tools can’t encrypt your traffic or hide your IP address. To really torrent movies and games safely, you need to use antivirus software together with a VPN. After you use a VPN to download a torrent, use the antivirus to scan it to make sure it’s safe to use.
|Antivirus software can detect malicious torrents and stop them from infecting your device.||Antivirus programs can interfere with your torrenting. They could detect false positives and remove files that are actually safe to use.|
|Antivirus software can block connections to unsafe torrent trackers.||Antivirus software can’t hide your IP and encrypt your torrenting traffic.|
5. Try Usenet
Usenet is an alternative way to download files privately. Instead of relying on a P2P network, Usenet uses centralized servers. You download the files you need from those servers – apps, movies, video games, etc.
Unlike torrents, you have to pay for Usenet services. It’s anywhere between $10 and $20 per month. On the plus side, you get very fast speeds, SSL-encrypted connections, and don’t need to seed. Because you don’t seed, you’re technically in less legal danger because you’re not supplying anyone with copyrighted content.
|Usenet providers offer very fast download speeds.||Usenet providers charge for their services. It’s cheaper to get a VPN to download torrents anonymously.|
|You don’t need to seed.||We can’t guarantee you’ll always find the movies, video games, and TV shows you want.|
|Usenet services have SSL-encrypted connections.|
|Usenet files are normally available for at least 1,200 days after being posted. Torrent files don’t stay up if nobody seeds them.|
Tips for Downloading Torrents Safely
Besides using security tools, here’s what else you can do to torrent safely:
Use Safe Torrent Sites
If you use random HTTP torrent sites nobody ever heard of, you’ll very likely deal with fake and malicious torrents. Not to mention many fake torrent sites use crypto miners when you visit them. Spend too much time on those sites, and your CPU might overheat to the point where it gets damaged.
If you’re new to torrenting and don’t know any good torrent sites, we recommend using The Pirate Bay, RARGB, or Torlock. We also have multiple articles about safe torrent sites for specific content:
Use Legal Torrents
Legal torrent sites contain content that’s not copyrighted – like podcasts, abandonware, indie movies, books, free apps, and more.
Obviously, if you use legal torrents you don’t need to worry about receiving angry letters from copyright agencies. But your ISP might still throttle your traffic or send you warnings. They probably just see you’re using torrent sites and have no idea they’re legal.
Here are some of the best legal torrent sites:
- Public Domain Torrents
- Legit Torrents
- Internet Archive
Use Private Trackers
Private trackers are private torrent communities. Unlike sites like The Pirate Bay, you can’t use them without having an account. And to sign up, you often have to be invited by an existing member.
It sounds like a hassle, but private trackers are worth it. You don’t need to worry about fake torrents because all uploaded files are checked to make sure they’re safe. Also, seeding is mandatory on private trackers. So, you’ll always have good download speeds.
There are tons of good private trackers like PassThePopcorn, BraodcastTheNet, and GazelleGames. But those trackers are already full and they’re likely not accepting new members. You should google private trackers in your country because you’ll have better odds of being accepted.
Check Torrent Comments, Size, File, and Uploader Rating
How to know if a torrent is safe?
It’s pretty simple. If there are any comments, always read them. Some users might flag potential issues – like malware, fake files, or corrupted video and audio. Also, some trackers have an uploader rating system. For example, The Pirate Bay has colored skull icons that represent how trustworthy an uploader is. If you see a pink skull, the uploader has a Trusted status. If the skull is green, the uploader has VIP status.
Besides that, you should pay attention to the file size. It needs to match what you’re downloading. If you’re downloading a newly released AAA video game or a 4K movie, the file shouldn’t be 1-2 MB.
Also, keep an eye on the file type. Movies don’t have .exe files, and they shouldn’t be split into different .rar or .zip files. We also recommend not downloading .wmv or .wma files. They’re outdated formats. Modern torrents only use .avi, .mkv, or .mp4.
Postpone Downloading Blockbusters
We know it’s hard to wait. But it really is safer to not download blockbuster movies and overhyped AAA video games right when they launch. That’s when copyright agencies monitor torrents that contain that kind of content the most.
What’s more, cybercriminals might try to take advantage of people rushing to download popular movies and games. If you’re not careful, you might accidentally download a malicious file.
If possible, wait at least a few weeks or a month before downloading blockbusters. Or download them from a private tracker (if you can).
(Optional) Use a Virtual Machine
A virtual machine is a virtual operating system you install on top of your existing OS. For example, you have a Windows 10 PC, and you use a VM to install Windows XP on it.
Using a VM is optional because you really don’t need to use it for every torrent you download. However, if you’re unsure if a file is safe or not, and you don’t want to risk running it on your main OS, a VPN helps. If the file is infected with malware, only the VM will be compromised. Your main OS will be safe.
To set up a VM, you need to use software like VMWare Workstation Pro, Azure VM, or VirtualBox. To torrent safely with a VM, just install a torrent client, VPN, and antivirus on the VM. Then, download torrents to the VM and run them.
Can You Torrent Anonymously?
In a way, yes, you can. You can anonymize your torrent traffic from your ISP, torrent trackers, and members of the torrent swarm if you use a VPN. Here’s how:
- The VPN encrypts your traffic, meaning nobody can monitor it. If your ISP tries to spy on it, they’ll only see gibberish like HgGgfjs43UHFN. Nobody can crack that encryption if you use a secure VPN, so your traffic is essentially anonymous.
- The VPN hides your IP. Torrent trackers and members of the swarm can’t see it. They’ll only see the VPN’s IP. That further anonymizes your traffic because nobody can use your IP to locate your network or find your location.
If you also use a virtual machine, you anonymize your torrenting even more because torrent trackers can’t collect data about your device.
To torrent anonymously with a VPN, you need to use a service that doesn’t keep logs. It also needs powerful AES-256 bit encryption, a kill switch, and complete leak protection. NordVPN meets all those requirements, and it offers even more security features to help you torrent anonymously.
But remember: torrent anonymously ≠ being anonymous on the Internet. There’s really no way to be completely anonymous on the web because all your traffic has to go through your ISP’s network. And they’re the ones who assign you your IP address. They can always see it.
Is Torrenting Through Tor Safe?
No, you shouldn’t use Tor for torrenting. The Tor devs actually asked people to not use the Tor network for this
You actually can’t torrent games or movies safely with Tor because it might leak your IP address. Apparently, torrent clients can bypass Tor when connecting to peers. Also, Tor doesn’t support UDP connections. That’s a problem because the BitTorrent protocol uses DHT for magnet links, and DHT relies on UDP. If you use UDP traffic with Tor, the torrent client will just ignore Tor, resulting in an IP leak.
Even if you don’t care about that, there’s another good reason to not use Tor for torrenting: the speeds are extremely slow. The Tor network doesn’t have enough servers for all its users, so slowdowns are normal. On average, we experience 97-98% slowdowns. Compared to that, VPNs only slow down our speeds by around 30-40%, making them the superior option.
Can You Torrent Safely With PeerBlock?
Some people like to use PeerBlock while torrenting because they think it’s safer. PeerBlock is an open-source firewall that blocks malicious IPs. It also blocks IPs from copyright agencies. If you use PeerBlock, you should torrent safely because malicious actors won’t have access to your IP. That’s the idea, at least.
We personally don’t like using PeerBlock. It actually tanks our download speeds because it blocks too many peers. PeerBlock claims to block around 25% of the total IPv4 IPs worldwide. That means it blocks almost one billion IPs. And, obviously, not all the peers it blocks are actually malicious.
Plus, PeerBlock can’t efficiently block copyright agency IPs. Even if it does, those agencies can just change their IPs to circumvent the block.
Another issue is that PeerBlock only works on Windows, so it’s pretty limited. And, finally, PeerBlock can’t hide your torrent traffic.
Overall, you’re much better off just using a VPN. It hides your IP from malicious peers and copyright trolls. Also, it encrypts your traffic, so your ISP won’t know you’re downloading torrents.
We did our best to answer the most frequently asked questions about torrenting and how to torrent anonymously. If you have more questions, just drop us a line in the comments.
Is Torrenting Legal?
It depends where you live. In countries like Switzerland and Spain, you can legally torrent copyrighted content as long as you don’t try to make money off of it. And places like Mexico and Romania have anti-torrenting laws but nobody enforces them. On the other hand, in the US, Germany, and Canada, you might get a fine if you torrent movies or video games.
As a general rule, torrenting is legal if it doesn’t involve copyrighted content. If it does, it becomes illegal in most countries.
Can You Torrent Without a VPN?
You can, but we don’t recommend it. Without a VPN, your ISP can see that you’re downloading torrents. If they don’t like it, they’ll throttle your speeds.
Also, copyright trolls can collect your IP from the torrent swarm. They can then forward it to copyright agencies or use it to track down your ISP. And malicious actors can use your IP to DDoS your or try to exploit system vulnerabilities by scanning for open ports.
How Dangerous Is Torrenting Without a VPN?
It’s only risky if you live in a country that severely punishes torrenting – either with huge fines or jail time. It’s also risky if your ISP actively monitors traffic for signs of torrenting, and terminates accounts that download torrents.
Keep in mind that VPNs also protect you from DDoS attacks and port scanning. It’s pretty unlikely that some wannabe hacker will target you with those cyber attacks, however.
Can You Be Caught Torrenting With a VPN?
Yes, that’s possible. While VPNs make torrenting private, you can get caught if you don’t use a good service. Here’s what can go wrong:
- The VPN might keep usage logs. They’ll know what sites you browse and what files you download. If they receive DMCA notices, they might forward your information to copyright agencies.
- The VPN has a faulty kill switch or doesn’t have a kill switch. If the connection drops, your torrenting traffic will be exposed. That means your ISP will see what you’re doing.
- You suffer DNS, WebRTC, or IPv6 leaks that expose your IP address and online browsing.
- The VPN doesn’t allow torrenting copyrighted content, and their TOS say they will report you if you do that.
Is torrenting safe with a VPN, then?
Yes – as long as you use a good torrenting VPN. It needs to have a no-logs policy, a kill switch, full leak protection, and good P2P support. NordVPN is a solid choice in our opinion. Their no-logs policy was audited twice, so it’s really safe to use.
Should You Enable Torrent Encryption?
Is torrenting safer if you enable torrent encryption?
It is, but you don’t need to do this. If you enable torrent encryption, you’ll limit the number of peers you can connect to. So, you’ll get slower speeds. You’ll only be able to connect to encrypted peers, after all, and not many people enable this option.
It’s much better to just use a VPN. It encrypts your traffic and uses even more powerful encryption than what torrent clients have. Plus, a VPN also hides your IP address.
Is IP Binding Necessary for Downloading Torrents Safely?
IP binding means you’re telling your torrent client to not work unless you’re connected to a specific IP – like a VPN server’s IP. It’s a handy way to avoid unwanted leaks in case you forget to connect to the VPN before you start torrenting.
We can’t really offer a guide for setting up IP binding because all torrent apps have different setups. You’ll need to google how to do it for your torrent client.
But keep in mind you don’t need to do this if your VPN has a good kill switch. For example, if you enable NordVPN’s kill switch, you can’t use the Internet to torrent unless you’re connected to a VPN server. You can even enable the app on startup and configure it to automatically connect to the fastest P2P server when it launches.