There are some important differences between using a BitTorrent proxy vs VPN for torrenting. Learn about them and then choose the best one for you.
If you have arrived at this post, it’s probably because you want to keep your torrent downloading activities safe and private. Well done.
While it’s true that you are safer to torrent with a BitTorrent proxy than nothing, the fact is that a VPN service is much better for torrenting.
While both a BitTorrent proxy and a VPN service will hide your IP address, the similarities end there.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
'BitTorrent Proxy vs VPN for Torrenting' Contents (select to expand)
Brief Introduction to BitTorrent Proxies
A BitTorrent proxy is sometimes referred to as a SOCKS proxy or SOCKS5 proxy. SOCKS is the name of a proxy protocol and derives its name from the fact that it uses sockets to keep track of individual connections. Sockets are a way computer networks communicate and that is all you need to know about them for now.
As with other types of proxies, including web proxies (HTTP), a SOCKS proxy places another Internet server between your computer (or device) and those you connect to.
This means that the torrent peers (fellow file-sharers) you connect to will see transfers to and from your proxy server’s IP address rather than your true IP address.
This adds an important layer of protection against snoops trying to monitor your torrent activities.
Differences between BitTorrent Proxy vs VPN for Torrent Downloading
Years ago it was cheaper to use a BitTorrent proxy vs VPN service, but that’s no longer the case. The cost difference has narrowed and even converged. A proxy or VPN cost about the same.
The only main advantage of using a BitTorrent proxy vs VPN is that a proxy is faster than a VPN service. But a BitTorrent proxy can leave your torrenting exposed and open to discovery by your ISP and snoops because a proxy does not encrypt your data.
In other words, the main advantage a BitTorrent proxy vs VPN offers (better speed) is heavily outweighed by its main disadvantage (not encrypting your data). In contrast, a VPN encrypts your entire Internet connection, including your torrent activities. 🙂
And anyway, many of the best VPNs for torrenting will give you a free proxy with a VPN subscription if you ever prefer to use a pure BitTorrent proxy rather than a VPN service. These are discussed further below.
Lastly, with a BitTorrent proxy you need to set it up for each and every software application you want to use it for. But because a VPN protects your entire connection, any and all software applications you use while your VPN is enabled, will be protected, so a VPN is much easier to set up too. And should you want any apps to not go through the VPN, you can always use VPN split tunneling (this lets you cherry-pick which apps go through your VPN or not).
That’s essentially the bottom line of the whole “BitTorrent proxy vs VPN for torrenting” debate, but here’s a summary table of all the differences of proxy versus VPN. If you want more details, keep reading.
Summary: BitTorrent Proxy vs VPN
+ masks your real IP address
+ masks your real IP address
- weaker encryption than a torrent VPN
+ stronger encryption than a torrent proxy
+ faster than a torrent VPN
- not as fast as a torrent proxy
* protects 1 app or protocol at a time
* protects your entire Internet connection at once
- fewer server locations than a torrent VPN
+ more server locations than a torrent proxy
+ sometimes cheaper than a torrent VPN
- sometimes more expensive than a torrent proxy
Best Torrent Proxy:
Best Torrent VPN:
Best BitTorrent Proxy: TorGuard
TorGuard (select 'Anonymous Proxy' from the site's main menu) offers a very attractively-priced BitTorrent proxy server package.
- read our full TorGuard Review for Torrenting
TorGuard's proxy service is specifically tailored for torrenting and costs less than $4 per month for an annual subscription (that's a massive 33% discount off the regular $5.95 month-to-month price).
Comes with a 7-day full money-back guarantee.
TorGuard is Strictly Non-Logging (Not Any More)
Update: TorGuard now blocks Bittorrent traffic on US servers. This means we can no longer recommend them as a torrenting VPN. Check the alternatives section or Best VPN for Torrenting page for our current picks.
Privacy-conscious torrenters will take careful note that TorGuard has a strict no logging policy. No user session logs or traffic logs, period.
In their words this means it's "impossible to back trace usage".
TorGuard is Stable, Fast and Unlimited
TorGuard's proxy service is also well-known for stable, fast and unlimited speeds. You can double-check on TorGuard's reliability and reputation for yourself at other trusted sources such as Reddit and TorrentFreak.
TorGuard is Easy to Set Up
TorGuard has also made the set up process a breeze, providing a "one-click" solution.
Download and install their small app and it will automatically set up the proxy with your torrent client, whether µtorrent, BitTorrent, Vuze or Deluge.
TorGuard has Lots of Proxy Servers
Once launched, the TorGuard proxy app will suggest the best proxy server location you should use (among the 3,000+ proxy IPs in 50+ countries) for the best anonymous BitTorrent proxy experience possible.
TorGuard Accepts Anonymous Payments
Lastly, ultra-safe torrenters will appreciate that TorGuard accepts over 80 ways to pay including cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin as well as major brand prepaid gift cards for those wanting to make anonymous payments without having to hand-over any personal information to sign-up.
But Wait, Many Torrent VPN Plans Come with a Free BitTorrent Proxy
Why not enjoy the best of both worlds when it comes to proxies and VPNs? No, we don’t mean paying for both a VPN plan and a torrent proxy service!
A number of torrent-friendly VPN providers throw in a free torrent proxy with their plans. And why not? The technology is similar and easy for them to offer. This helps them attract and retain their torrenting customers.
Private Internet Access VPN’s Free Torrent Proxy
The granddaddy of all torrent VPN services, Private Internet Access VPN, offers a free torrent proxy with all of its VPN subscriptions.
What’s even better news is that PIA’s VPN plans are a cheap $2.19 per month for an annual sign-up.
Setting Up PIA's Free BitTorrent Proxy
The first step is to obtain a username and password for the torrent proxy. These will be different from your PIA VPN plan, and so you need to generate them from your customer dashboard on PIA’s website.
To generate the unique username and password for the torrent proxy, follow these instructions.
Once that’s done, you'll need to enter the proxy's settings in your torrent client app:
- Type: Socks5
- Proxy Server Hostname: proxy-nl.privateinternetaccess.com
- Port: 1080
- Username: [your generated torrent proxy Username]
- Password: [ your generated torrent proxy Password]
That’s it! Now you can torrent with PIA’s VPN or free BitTorrent proxy, all for one low price. 🙂
Comes with a 7-day full money-back guarantee.
NordVPN’s Free Torrent Proxy
Our favorite torrent VPN that is based outside the USA, NordVPN, also offers a free SOCKS5 torrent proxy with all of its plans.
They probably also have the best torrent proxy set-up instructions we have seen.
IPVanish’s Free Torrent Proxy
IPVanish VPN also offers a free SOCKS5 proxy with all of its VPN packages.
Setting Up IPVanish BitTorrent Proxy
Whatever torrent client app you use, look for “Proxy Server” under the Settings, Options or Preferences menu item. Then use the following settings:
- Type: Socks5
- Proxy Server Hostname: ams.socks.ipvanish.com
- Port: 1080
For the torrent proxy “Authentication”-type settings, use:
- Username: [your IPVanish torrent proxy Username]
- Password: [your IPVanish torrent proxy Password]
Please note that the username and password for the IPVanish torrent proxy are not the same as for your IPVanish VPN. You’ll need to visit IPVanish’s dashboard and obtain a unique username and password combination for the torrent proxy.
Simply access the IPVanish web portal and look for the “SOCKS5 Proxy” tab in the Dashboard.
If your torrent client app supports enhanced privacy features (µtorrent does), also make these selections:
- 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
Here are the full torrent proxy setup instructions on IPVanish's website, complete with screenshots.
Comes with a full money-back guarantee.
Why Do Some People Still Use a Proxy Rather than a VPN?
Despite all the advantages a VPN offers over a BitTorrent proxy, some people still use SOCKS5 proxies for torrenting.
Other than the advantage of faster speeds, why would anyone use a BitTorrent proxy rather than a VPN?
Well, recall that a VPN effects your entire Internet connection while a proxy has to be set-up on an app-by-app basis.
Some people see this as an advantage because they prefer to manually choose which apps are routed through the protected proxy connection versus those that are not.
For example, you could route µtorrent through the proxy but leave your web browsing routed through your ISP as normal. This would let you access your online accounts such as email or social media while at the same time protecting your torrenting activities.
This can be an important advantage because if you access your online accounts while using a torrent VPN, these sign-ons will be stamped with the same IP address as the one you are using to download and share torrents. This exposes you to traffic analysis and the two activities being matched up (by the same IP address at the same time) and your identity being compromised.
With a proxy, you can log in to your password protected accounts while sharing torrents because the two activities have different IP addresses at the same time. This is only possible with a VPN that allows split tunneling. Not many torrent VPN providers support split tunneling but ExpressVPN and PureVPN do support it.
This is one key thing to remember about torrenting with a VPN: unless you have VPN split tunneling, you should avoid accessing your accounts while torrenting as this could expose you to being identified through traffic analysis.
Some people like to split their connection (whether by using a BitTorrent proxy or VPN split tunneling) for no other reason than to avoid being directed to foreign language versions of websites such as Google and Amazon or news sites as happens when a VPN impacts on your entire Internet connection.
The download speeds of proxy services vary and depend on a number of factors including the technology used, the overall load, and the geographical distance between you, the proxy and your P2P peers.
Of course, any reliance on a third party acting as the middle-man in the process requires a high degree of trust, so choose your BitTorrent proxy carefully. For example, many services claim to offer anonymity by not keeping logs, but who’s to say?
This is why you should only sign up with a reliable and reputable torrent proxy service or one of the trusted VPNs above that include a free torrent proxy – stay away from fly-by-night operations if you want to keep your torrenting safe.