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How to Download: Top 10 Alternatives and How to be Safe

There are Many Alternatives to “Normal” Downloading for Getting the Content you Want

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There are many online ways how to download the content you want. In this post, we discuss 10 alternative ways other than “normal” downloading from the web with a particular emphasis on how to be safe when downloading using these other methods.

The alternative download methods listed below start with free, web-based methods and then explore more sophisticated options. Each method is also marked “anonymous” or “private” as a way how to download so you know how safe it is.

Top Tip – You’ll see below that using a VPN (a privacy tool with 10+ uses) is a great way to achieve anonymous downloading activities. We recommend PrivateInternetAccess VPN.

Why Download in Private in the First Place?

There are many reasons for wanting to be private while downloading.

  • protecting your personal information from online tracking & profiling
  • increasing your safety from hackers, doxers & identity thieves
  • avoiding social stigmas (erotica is but one example)
  • maintaining anonymity while living in or visiting countries with oppressive censorship
  • wanting to communicate confidentiality or securely
  • enhancing your privacy because you are in the public eye, a high profile target or otherwise vulnerable to online stalking or trolling
  • having concerns about unreasonable Ed Snowden-like government monitoring and surveillance
  • an overall wish of simply wanting to live your digital life more privately

Free Methods

#1. Tor browser (free & anonymous)

The not-for-profit Onion Router project (or Tor for short) is the most respected open source way how to download from and browse the web in complete privacy using its 100% free Tor browser.

  • fine for browsing and downloading from the web
  • decent selection of content is available on the web, but not necessarily the latest releases
  • not great for larger files (slow) or streaming (lag)

#2. Proxy (free & private)

A proxy is a go-between server that acts as an intermediary in the connection from your computer (or device) to the websites you visit.

  • fine for downloading from the web and sometimes for streaming
  • useful with apps such as Internet Download Manager to grab embedded videos from websites or “mass download” items
  • requires plenty of trust because some proxies are unsafe (select to see excellent article in Wired magazine), so ensure you use a trusted & reliable free proxy
  • plus you can't always count on a free proxy to keep your identity safe as they don't really have an incentive to do so
  • while it's an option, it is far from the best way how to download –> see ‘Why it’s Not a Good Idea to Use a Free Proxy or VPN

#3. Torrent File-sharing (free & private)

Torrent file-sharing uses a completely different “protocol” (way to communicate on the Internet) from web browsing to enable you to download and share file with others (fellow torrenters).

  • tons of content is available, including the very latest releases, which are easy to find using torrent indexes (basically specialist search engines)
  • free, fast download speeds and you do not need to register or provide any personal details to download torrents so in this way it is also a private or “quasi-anonymous” how to download content (but see #8 below)
  • you could end up paying with your privacy because your downloading activities can be detected and monitored from your IP address
  • Top Tip – for ultimate privacy and safety, consider the ‘plus VPN’ option at #8 below for the cost of a coffee per month

#4. Cloud Torrenting (free/premium & anonymous)

Cloud torrenting was pioneered by services such as, zBigz and Seedr which essentially let you download torrents directly to an online storage locker from which you can later stream or download the files.

  • all the same great content as available with traditional torrent file-sharing
  • because all parts of the process are protected behind encryption and your IP address is never shared, your downloading is anonymous and secure
  • you can get started for free, but premium accounts with faster speeds and more storage are available

#5. Trial Usenet Account with a non-logging provider (free & anonymous)

Usenet is a technology that goes back 30 years but it is enjoying renewed popularity because it is such a safe and secure way how to download anonymously.

  • tons of content is available on Usenet including the very latest releases, especially once you get the hang of using NZB search engines
  • free Usenet trials give you full uncensored access to newsgroups but are limited in time (14 days) or the amount of data you can download (30 GB)
  • very private if you make sure to choose your free trial with a provider that does not log user activities, such as Newshosting

#6. XDCC (free & private)

Not well-known (and a bit ugly to look at), XDCC involves high-speed downloading over the Internet’s original chat network, IRC.

  • XDCC is nowhere near as mainstream as torrents or even Usenet, but there is plenty of content available, which you can find using XDCC search engines
  • XDCC establishes a direct connection between you and another user (a private connection that is unshared with anyone else)
  • XDCC is a relatively safe way how to download because it is off the beaten track (not in the cross-hairs of monitoring firms) and because you share your IP address only with the XDCC user you connect directly to although in theory you could be at risk from a rogue user or hacked XDCC server

Premium Methods

7. Usenet Newsgroups (~$8 per month & anonymous)

  • tons of great content including the very latest releases, thanks to NZB search indexes
  • there is a learning curve if you are new to Usenet, but it's no harder than using torrents
  • highly anonymous and safe as you download directly from your Usenet provider's server and don't share your IP addresses with anyone else
  • as long as you choose a provider like Newshosting that doesn't log customer activities, Usenet is as safe as it gets

8. Torrent File-sharing plus VPN (~$3 per month & anonymous)

  • this has all the benefits of free torrent file-sharing above but with the added protection & safety of your IP address being masked and your Internet traffic being encrypted
  • torrenting + the right VPN ensures your activities are protected from detection, logging and monitoring
  • use a trusted & reliable (& cheap) VPN for torrenting such as Private Internet Access and you can rest easy while enjoying all the content you want

9. XDCC plus VPN (~$3 per month & anonymous)

  • enjoy all the benefits of XDCC outlined at #6 above as a way how to download with the full peace of mind that your activities are being protected by a VPN

10. Usenet plus VPN (~&$18 per month & anonymous)

  • combining the safety of Usenet and a VPN – a private connection encased inside an encrypted tunnel of Internet traffic – makes your downloading activities as bulletproof as possible

Top Tips How to Download even More Privately

Use an Internet Connection Other than Yours – You can make any of the options above safer and more private by conducting your downloading activities over a free Wi-Fi hotspot that does not require any registration. Of course, some of the download methods outlined above may be blocked on free, open networks, but you may have such access at school or work or near to where you live.

Pay Anonymously – You can make any of the premium (non-free) options above even more private and safe by paying for them anonymously when signing up, either with easy-to-use major brand gift cards or Bitcoin. PrivateInternetAccess VPN accepts privacy-enhanced payment methods.

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As you can see above, there are many different alternate ways how to download online other than with your plain ol' web browser. Happy downloading!

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