PIA for Torrenting: Is It Safe for Torrents in 2023?
Private Internet Access is a great torrenting VPN and allows P2P traffic on all their servers (29,000+). Speeds are decent overall, though slower than other VPNs. PIA features customizable encryption (including WireGuard), a kill switch, and full leak protection. It also has a strict no-logs policy and other useful features for torrenting. These include split tunneling, port forwarding (on all servers except the US), and support for SOCKS5 proxy connections.
Is PIA Good for Torrenting?
Overall, PIA is a decent VPN for torrenting thanks to their great P2P support. PIA is one of the only VPNs to support P2P traffic on all their servers. It also has acceptable download speeds, mostly thanks to their WireGuard integration. It’s not the fastest torrenting VPN, though.
PIA protects your data with end-to-end 128 and 256-bit AES encryption and the ChaCha20 cipher. Their servers run on RAM memory only, so every restart wipes all data stored on them. Better yet, this VPN doesn’t monitor what you do while connected to it. PIA has legal court documents proving they don’t store any user data. They also open-sourced all their apps, meaning anyone can audit the code.
The VPN offers excellent leak protection, which is crucial while torrenting. You’re safe from IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC leaks. The apps automatically block WebRTC and IPv6 traffic and route your traffic through PIA’s DNS servers.
PIA also includes a kill switch, which prevents any data from being leaked if your VPN randomly disconnects. You can set the feature to trigger if the connection randomly drops or if you’re not connected to a server. In the latter case, you can only go online while connected to the VPN.
Other Useful PIA Features
While not the fastest VPN out there, PIA supports SOCKS5 proxy, which you can use to get faster download speeds (at the cost of encryption). You can also route your VPN connection through it, although that may cause unnecessary conflict between VPN and proxy.
Increasing VPN speed is also possible with PIA’s split tunneling. Choose which traffic goes through the VPN server, and which traffic goes through your ISP’s network. You can optimize your VPN speeds by only routing torrent client traffic through PIA’s network.
Port forwarding is also integrated into the app, which is useful to open up torrents to more peers. Enable it, and PIA will automatically tell you which port to use when you connect to its server. Keep in mind that port forwarding isn’t available on PIA’s servers in the US.
Another neat feature included in the app is PIA MACE, which can get rid of some ads (not the ones in torrent clients, though). It can also block connections to malware-infected torrent sites. Finally, we like that you don’t need to install additional software, since PIA is compatible with the most popular torrent clients (Vuze, uTorrent, qBittorrent, Deluge, etc.).
Drawbacks of Using PIA for Torrenting
The main issue is that Private Internet Access has slow torrenting (at least compared to other VPNs). The download speeds aren’t very bad, but they are noticeably slower. According to our tests, ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and Surfshark are much faster than PIA.
Some Reddit users have also complained about getting DMCA notices. However, most Redditors who mentioned that eventually admitted they didn’t enable the kill switch or DNS leak protection (to route traffic through PIA DNS servers).
They also used the SOCKS5 proxy with Deluge. Apparently, Deluge might leak non-proxied IPs if you use proxy settings (we can’t say if this still happens at the moment). Also, the SOCKS5 proxy doesn’t have a kill switch, so it’s more likely to leak data (unless you bind the torrent client to the VPN).
They probably experienced traffic, DNS, and/or IPv6 leaks, so it’s not surprising they received DMCA notices.
One thing we should mention is that PIA was acquired by Kape Technologies back in 2019. Many users jumped ship due to the shady history of some of the company’s ownership. That said, we haven’t seen any drastic changes to how PIA operates these past few years. At least not when it comes to the VPN app itself.
We do feel that their live chat support has been more unreliable in recent months, though. For example, you get cases of support reps not understanding fairly simple questions. Or copy-pasting vague or general answers (usually unrelated to what we ask). Your mileage may vary, of course – but it’s something worth mentioning.
How Good Is PIA for Torrenting? Let’s Check Reddit
Reddit is a good place to find (some) unbiased opinions about VPNs. We checked r/VPNTorrents and other subreddits to see what people think of PIA.
In general, Redditors like PIA as a torrenting VPN. They like that it’s easy to use, it has fast speeds (sometimes), and it offers great security.
Some Redditors don’t like that Kape Technologies (the company that owns CyberGhost VPN and Zenmate VPN) bought PIA’s parent company. However, that doesn’t make PIA less secure. They continue operating independently, and are still a 100% no-logs VPN.
PIA Torrenting Speed Tests
|Canada||3-4 MiB/s (qBittorrent)2 MB/s (uTorrent)||15-20 minutes (qBittorrent)2 hours and 30 minutes (uTorrent)|
|Japan||490-550 KiB/s (qBittorrent)1 MB/s (uTorrent)||11-12 hours (qBittorrent)7-8 hours (uTorrent)|
|Spain||2 MiB/s (qBittorrent)3-4 MB/s (uTorrent)||2-3 hours (qBittorrent)2 hours (uTorrent)|
|Romania||3-4 MiB/s (qBittorrent)2-3 MB/s (uTorrent)||1 hour (qBittorrent)2-3 hours (uTorrent)|
We tested PIA on uTorrent and qBittorrent using a 20.00 GB file, the WireGuard protocol, and four servers (Canada, Japan, Spain, and Romania). Our tester is from Romania. His original download speeds and ETAs are as follows: 28-29 MiB/s and 15-20 minute ETA (qBittorrent) and 15 MB/s and 20-minute ETA (uTorrent).
Here are the average download speeds:
- Canada – 3-4 MiB/s and a 15-20 minute ETA (qBittorrent), and 2 MB/s and a 2 hour and 30 minutes ETA (uTorrent).
- Japan – 490-550 KiB/s and an 11-12 hour ETA (qBittorrent), and 1 MB/s and a 7-8 hour ETA (uTorrent).
- Spain – 2 MiB/s and a 2-3 hour ETA (qBittorrent), and 3-4 MB/s and a 2-hour ETA (uTorrent).
- Romania – 3-4 MiB/s and 1-hour ETA (qBittorrent), and 2-3 MB/s and a 2-3 hour ETA (uTorrent).
We also tested the OpenVPN protocol using the Romanian server. The speeds were much better on qBittorrent with it: 8-9 MiB/s and a 30-minute ETA. However, the uTorrent speeds were pretty slow: 350 kB/s and an 18-hour ETA.
Finally, we checked the SOCKS5 proxy speeds. We expected them to be fast since there’s no encryption, but they were similar to the speeds on the Spanish server: around 2 MiB/s and 2-hour ETA (qBittorrent), and 3 MB/s and a 2-hour ETA (uTorrent). We also had trouble using the SOCKS5 proxy – our torrents stalled multiple times. According to PIA’s support reps, that can happen sometimes. To fix it, you just need to keep reconfiguring the proxy (change ports and reconnect) until it works.
Overall, Private Internet Access torrenting speeds aren’t the best on the market, but they get the job done if you’re patient. Experiment with different servers and torrent clients to see which ones offer the best speeds.
Pro Tip: Always download torrents that have a lot of seeders. If there are more leechers, your download speeds will always be slow no matter how fast the VPN is.
How to Use PIA for Torrenting
For the most part, you can just use PIA for torrenting without changing any settings. Here’s a quick rundown on what to do:
- Sign up for PIA.
- Download and install the provider’s app.
- Run the app and connect to a server (try the closest one to you).
- Download whatever you want on your torrent client.
If you want to optimize the VPN for torrenting, we’ve prepared a more detailed guide. Click on the three dots (⋮) icon in the PIA app, then click Settings and follow the steps below.
1. Use the Right Protocol
Under Settings, choose Protocols, then select WireGuard® on the right. WireGuard is a more lightweight protocol than OpenVPN that is usually faster for torrenting.
If you need to use the OpenVPN protocol for whatever reason, select it then make the following changes:
- Data encryption – AES-128 (GCM)
- Transport – UDP
OpenVPN isn’t as fast as WireGuard, but selecting these settings will improve things somewhat.
2. Turn on the Kill Switch
To prevent any data or IP leaks during unforeseen disconnects, you’ll need to enable the kill switch in the PIA app. Go to Privacy and ensure the VPN Kill Switch box is checked.
3. Enable Split Tunneling (if Needed)
Split tunneling lets you filter out other traffic from the VPN tunnel. Essentially you focus all VPN resources on torrenting and let your ISP handle the rest.
Go to Split Tunnel, check the box that says Split Tunnel, then click on +Add Application. Find your torrenting client to add it to your split tunneling rules. Make sure the drop-down menu next to it says “Only VPN” like in the screenshot below.
Should You Use SOCKS5 Proxy When Torrenting with PIA VPN?
SOCKS5 proxy is useful for hiding your true IP address in the swarm. Peers will not see your real IP, thus adding a little privacy to the mix. And since the proxy lacks encryption, torrent speeds will be faster as well.
Of course, the lack of encryption will expose your torrenting traffic to your ISP and copyright trolls. You can use SOCKS5 and the VPN together, but it may cause conflicts as the VPN and proxy compete for who to change your IP. It also results in slower speeds, which defeats the entire purpose of using SOCKS5.
All in all, we don’t recommend using SOCKS5 proxy when torrenting with PIA. Just use the VPN, as it already has decent enough speeds for torrents, and won’t expose your data.
How to Use SOCKS5 Proxy for Torrenting
If you still want to use SOCKS5, we’ve prepared some guides for qBittorent and uTorrent.
PIA qBittorrent SOCKS5 Proxy Guide
- First, log in to your PIA account dashboard
- Go to Downloads
- Click Re-generate in the SOCKS section under VPN Settings.
- Open qBittorrent, and go to Tools > Options > Connection.
- Under Proxy Server, choose SOCKS5 from the Type dropdown menu.
- Use this host proxy-nl.privateinternetaccess.com and this port 1080.
- Make sure the following options are enabled: Use proxy for peer connections and Use proxy only for torrents.
- Check the Authentication box and paste the username and password you got when you clicked Re-generate.
Finally, go to BitTorrent and change Encryption mode to Require encryption.
PIA uTorrent SOCKS5 Proxy Guide
- Follow steps 1-3 from the previous section to generate your username and password.
- When you’re done, open uTorrent
- Go to Options > Preferences > Connection.
- Set Proxy server to Socks5. Use proxy-nl.privateinternetaccess.com as the host and 1080 as the port.
- Paste the PIA-generated username and password in the appropriate fields.
Make sure all these options are enabled:
- Use proxy for hostname lookups
- Use proxy for peer-to-peer connections
- Disable all local DNS lookups
- Disable features that leak identifying information
- Disable connections unsupported by the proxy
To finish up, go to BitTorrent. Under Protocol Encryption, set Outgoing to Forced.
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about using Private Internet Access for torrenting:
What’s the Best PIA Server for Torrenting?
We asked PIA’s support team, and they said you should use the nearest server. The closer a VPN server is to you, the faster download speeds you’ll get because your device will exchange data with the VPN server quicker.
Can You Use PIA’s SOCKS5 Proxy and VPN Simultaneously?
Yes. To do that, you have to go to the Proxy section inside the app and enable the SOCKS5 Proxy option. If it’s greyed out, go to Connection and switch from WireGuard to OpenVPN (this connection method only works over OpenVPN). For the server’s IP, you’ll have to use the ping command with nl-proxy.privateinternetaccess.com to find it. Set the port to 1080, and use the account dashboard to generate your username and password.
Using the SOCKS5 + VPN connection method offers more privacy because your IP is hidden behind two PIA IP addresses. Also, you get encryption while using a proxy. However, we don’t think it’s worth it because it can decrease your download speeds.
Can You Speed Up Private Internet Access’ Slow Torrenting?
PIA doesn’t have the best torrenting speeds, but you can improve them a bit. Just do this:
- Use a server in your own country or a neighboring country.
- Use the WireGuard protocol.
- Torrent over wired connections instead of WiFi.
- Change the encryption from AES-256 to AES-128.
- Use split-tunneling to only route torrenting traffic.
- Enable port forwarding to connect to more peers.
- Disable uTP in your torrent client.
- Uninstall the TAP driver and install an older build (here’s a useful guide).
- Enable the Use Small Packets option.
Will PIA’s SOCKS5 Proxy Encrypt Your Traffic?
No, like any other proxy, it can’t secure your data. It can only hide your IP address. To also get encryption, you’ll have to use the torrent client’s encryption (not ideal since it will lower the number of peers you can connect to). Alternatively, you’ll have to use the VPN + SOCKS5 connection method (also not ideal because it’s slower).
We personally recommend sticking to PIA’s VPN. It’s relatively fast, and it offers excellent security and leak protection.
Should You Bind Your Torrent Client to PIA?
You don’t need to do that because PIA has a reliable kill switch. You can avoid accidental leaks by setting the kill switch to the Always mode. That way, you won’t even be able to go online unless you’re connected to a PIA server.