Is Popcorn Time Safe?

How to use Popcorn Time safely (with a VPN), what it is and some PT alternatives too. 

is Popcorn Time Safe? image

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Fans of online streaming often ask, “Is Popcorn Time safe?” The answer is, no, but it can be.

Popcorn Time is so convenient to use it's easy to forget that it's really nothing more than a slick front-end for peer-to-peer (p2p) BitTorrent file-sharing. The difference being that Popcorn Time streams content for your viewing pleasure as you download it.

With traditional BitTorrent file-sharing, once the video files are completely downloaded, then you open and watch them. Popcorn Time simultaneously streams and downloads content which allows you to watch videos as they are being downloaded “on-the-fly”.

Read below to find out why Popcorn Time is not safe and how you can make it safe. If you are in a hurry, the bottom line is to use a reliable VPN for Popcorn Time such as ExpressVPN. We also go over what Popcorn Time is and some safer alternatives to it too.

Why Popcorn Time Is Not Safe

Of crucial importance is to understand that because Popcorn Time uses the p2p BitTorrent file-sharing protocol, this means two things:

1) Your IP address is easily detected while using Popcorn Time

There is no doubt that BitTorrent and thus Popcorn Time is not anonymous.

As suggested by its popular synonyms, “p2p” (peer-to-peer) and “file-sharing”, the BitTorrent protocol is a decentralized method of distributing files by sharing pieces of them among many participants.

When you are streaming a video using Popcorn Time you are actually sharing a torrent file. This means that you are also simultaneously uploading it to everyone else who is streaming or sharing the same video.

By definition, everyone you are sharing the file with has the ability to easily see your IP address!

2) Your ISP and Snoops can easily see what you are streaming with Popcorn Time

Whether to your ISP or outside snoops, streaming content via Popcorn Time looks identical to BitTorrent downloading.

In other words, your ISP and outside observers snooping or monitoring BitTorrent streaming activities can easily see what you are streaming from Popcorn Time.

If your ISP detects you are using Popcorn Time they might slow down your connection, send you nasty warnings or terminate your account.

Snoops also can and do monitor BitTorrent activities, record IP addresses, and trace activities back to streamers. They can trace the IP addresses of Popcorn Time streamers to individual account holders by complaining to ISPs which almost always cooperate with such requests and hand over their log files of a customer’s activities.

This can result in you receiving warnings from your ISP or outside firms or receiving threats from trolls, sometimes in a scheme to monetize the activity of Popcorn Time streamers and torrent downloaders.

Okay, I’ve heard enough! Take me down the page to the recommended best Popcorn Time VPN!

What Makes Popcorn Time Safe? A VPN Does.

However, don't despair because Popcorn Time can be safe. The best way to make sure Popcorn Time is safe is to use a reliable VPN. But not any old VPN will do! So choose your Popcorn Time VPN carefully.

This means choosing a VPN that fully supports Popcorn Time’s behind-the-scenes technology, the p2p BitTorrent file-sharing protocol we mentioned earlier.

You may be tempted to use a free VPN, but we recommend that you never use a free VPN for Popcorn Time streaming or any other kind of BitTorrent file-sharing.

You may also be tempted to use the VPN service touted on the Popcorn Time website itself, but we recommend you choose more carefully.

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How Does a VPN Make Popcorn Time Safe?

Choosing and using the right Popcorn Time VPN will make your online streaming safe because:

  1. The Popcorn Time VPN hides your real IP address. Other Popcorn Time users (or anyone snooping on your Popcorn Time activities) will only be able to see your VPN provider’s IP address. Your true IP remains hidden, fully masked and protected by the VPN.

    Any VPN service that expressly allows the p2p BitTorrent file-sharing protocol is committed to protecting its users’ identities (please note that not all VPN services allow p2p!). In order to ensure that they have their customers’ backs, good VPN services use tactics such as keeping no logs of users’ activity, using shared IP addresses and locating VPN servers in countries that allow p2p (taken together this makes it all but impossible to single out individual users).
  2. The Popcorn Time VPN encrypts your connection, so your ISP cannot even see (let alone log or record) what you are doing. Because the VPN protects all of your Internet traffic inside a data tunnel of military grade encryption, your ISP can only “see” that you are connected to the VPN server but they cannot see any of the traffic being sent back and forth in the encrypted tunnel.

    In other words, your ISP will have no idea you are using Popcorn Time and your IPS’s logs will only reflect that you were connected to a VPN at the time. Your Popcorn Time activities were all handled by the VPN. And if your VPN provider doesn't keep logs, there is no trace you even used Popcorn Time. Good luck snoops!

Avoid Popcorn Time’s Recommended VPN and do Your own Research

Most Popcorn Time apps and streaming sites try to push a certain VPN service with scary warning messages (security recommendations), sometimes with annoying pop-up windows.

You can safely assume the site is getting a cut of these VPN sign-ups. That’s fine as the Popcorn Time developers provide a good service and need to make money somehow, but it’s not always clear exactly who the VPN provider is and what features they support (is it logless, does it have DNS leak protection etc.?).

That’s why we recommend you ignore these recommendations and instead carefully research and select a Popcorn Time VPN yourself.

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What's the best VPN for Popcorn Time?

Our Pick for Best Popcorn Time VPN

In our opinion, the best VPN for Popcorn Time is ExpressVPN.

Popcorn Time works great with ExpressVPN, hiding your true IP address and encrypting your Internet connection, including your Popcorn Time activities.

It's also fast, easy to use, offers a full 30-day money-back guarantee and has the best customer privacy policies in the business with no logging. ExpressVPN has been catering to the p2p BitTorrent file-sharing community since 2009 so you are in good hands.

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ExpressVPN is the top #1 best VPN service

ExpressVPN's mobile VPN apps are also worth mentioning if you are interested in using Popcorn Time on mobile devices and not just your desktop or laptop computers. Too many VPNs have decent desktop VPN apps only to have lousy mobile apps, but ExpressVPN's desktop and mobile apps are equally excellent.

You won't have to worry about NSA-style surveillance when it comes to your Popcorn Time activities, as ExpressVPN has its headquarters outside the USA. ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, keeps no logs and supports p2p BitTorrent file-sharing for safe Popcorn Time streaming.

For Extra Safety, Confirm your True IP Address is Hidden (Optional)

To be extra safe when using Popcorn Time, you can also confirm your IP address is truly being hidden before you start streaming Popcorn Time videos.

Never take for granted that your IP address is being hidden. After enabling your chosen VPN for Popcorn Time, always check that it is masking your true IP address and protecting you from detection and monitoring.

Perform the check before starting any Popcorn Time downloads (before selecting ‘Watch Now') in case there is a problem.

Top Tip – There are at least 3 free ways to confirm that your IP address is being masked by your anonymizing VPN service, all outlined in our detailed ‘Torrent-Specific IP Checks' section of the Is My VPN Working?


What is Popcorn Time?

Popcorn Time is arguably the most exciting new development in the world of torrenting for a long while. Dubbed “Netflix for pirates,” Popcorn Time combines the ability to live-stream regular torrent files with a beautiful and simple-to-use interface that emulates the look and feel of Netflix and puts many commercial alternatives to shame.

Of particular note is just how well Popcorn Time works – it can stream HD content (720p or 1080p) smoothly and without buffering issues over even fairly modest Internet connections (including mobile connections). And, of course, because Popcorn Time streams movies and TV shows from regular torrent sites, you get access to the latest content and new releases as they become available.

Popcorn Time is an open source project, and reputable versions of it are free. At present there exist two major (and competing) “forks” of the software, somewhat clunkily named Popcorn Time.sh (formerly Popcorn Time.io) and Popcorn Time.to (formerly Popcorn Time.se and before that Time4Popcorn). In addition to these, PopcornTime.ch (PTCH) is a reputable fork developed by the Popcorn Time community, but which has a much more limited catalog than either P T.sh or P T.to.

Use Popcorn Time.sh safely image

Figure: Popcorn Time.sh movie selection (image intentionally blurred)

Thanks to the existence of a number of Popcorn Time scams, we strongly recommend only downloading the software from the above websites. As for which version to choose, Popcorn Time.sh claims (with some justification) to be the most “official” fork (whatever that means for open source software!), while Poporn Time.to has always been at the forefront in developing new cutting-edge features for the software. For the end user, there is little difference to choose between them.

Top Tip – A wholly copyright-friendly open source and open content video streaming app exists in Butter

Popcorn Time.to Safely image

Figure: Finding and watching movies and TV shows has never been so easy! (image intentionally blurred)

All the above versions of Popcorn Time are available for Windows, Mac OSX, Linux, and Android, and also support “casting” to your big screen TV via Chromecast, Airplay, or DLNA. Popcorn Time.to also offers an iOS app. Impressively, it can even be installed on non-jailbroken devices!

Please note that we have never successfully managed to cast from the desktop Popcorn Time app to our Chromecast while using a VPN service (but can do so using the Android app).

What is Torrents Time?

Torrents Time is a web browser plugin developed by the Popcorn Time.to team. It leverages the Popcorn Time engine to stream torrents from any website that supports the technology (for example its own website, or its sister-site Popcorn Time Online).

Is Torrents Time Safe? image

Figure: The Torrents Time plugin delivers the full Popcorn Time.to experience directly inside your browser (image intentionally blurred)

Safer Alternatives to Popcorn Time

Maybe you are spooked by the risks discussed above. Or maybe you were bummed out when Popcorn Time went down. Last time that happened, millions of loyal Popcorn Time fans went berserk. Near identical replacements have since taken its place (examples #1 & #2), but there’s no telling how long these versions will be around.

Top Tip – When the original Popcorn Time went dark, a number of “fixes” appeared online. These fixes essentially let you implement workarounds that brought Popcorn Time back to life. If that happens again, you have to be careful implementing fixes because a number of them were dodgy, spreading spam or even containing malware. Make sure you consult reputable sources of information before installing any future fixes. Probably the best source of information the last time around was the related subreddit.

Try these Popcorn Time Alternatives

Whether you want to avoid the risks or prepare for the next blackout or you are just curious, here are the best Popcorn Time alternatives today.

1. Download Torrents the Old Fashioned Way

Free software apps like qBittorrent, µTorrent and Vuze will let you download torrents – small files which help you find and download anything from HD movies to music and documents – for enjoying later once they are fully downloaded.

Some torrent index sites (websites you use to search for torrents) even look a lot like Popcorn Time – for example, check out TorrentButler. Find the content you are looking for, click ‘download torrent' and the torrent will load in your torrent app and start downloading the files.

You can also use your torrent app in combination with sites such as ShowRSS to automatically download your favorite content as soon as it becomes available. ShowRSS is great as you don't even need to provide an e-mail address to set up your free account.

New to torrents? – If you are new to torrent file-sharing, don't worry, we have all the guides and advice you need in our Torrent section.

Just as with Popcorn Time, when using traditional torrents, we strongly recommended that you invest a little per month in one of the best VPN services to fully protect your activities.

2. Cloud Torrenting

With cloud torrenting, you search, find, download and stream torrents, but all these activities are performed in the cloud by the service rather than on your own computer or device.

Top Tip - Bitport is currently the leading cloud torrenting service, offering basic free trial accounts! You can also check out our comparison of the best cloud torrent services.

The files you find and download are saved on an encrypted online cloud-based storage locker where you can keep them, stream them or even download them to your computer or devices (although there’s no need to do this).

Because the torrenting activities happen in the cloud and the downloading never “touches” your IP address or your computer or other devices, it is a very safe way of torrenting.

This also means that a VPN is not necessary, strictly speaking, though you may still want one if you choose to download files from the online storage locker to your computer and devices and don’t want your ISP snooping on you.

3. Live Stream Torrents

You can use some of the torrent software apps and cloud torrent services mentioned above to stream torrents as they download. Using this method, your app downloads the pieces of a torrent in the order from “start to finish” so that you can watch it as it downloads. In fact, this is the exact same way Popcorn Time works, but you probably just aren’t aware of it.

For example, to stream torrents as they download using µTorrent, you can try µTorrent's streaming feature for free: look for the Playback icon. After the free trial, you’ll have to upgrade for $20 to µTorrent Pro.

Just as when using Popcorn Time or alternative #1 above, you should use a VPN to stay safe when live streaming torrents. 

4. Go “Legit” – Buy Amazon Prime, Hulu or Netflix

Online streaming services such as Amazon Prime (UK version), Netflix and Hulu are getting cheaper, better and more widespread all the time. These services are still more expensive than investing in a VPN or Usenet provider but not much, so why not go “legit”?

The selection of content available with these services might not be quite as good as those on offer using the other Popcorn Time alternatives listed above but it is getting better all the time. Plus, you won’t have any lingering doubts about your activities or be looking over your shoulder all the time.

Most offer a free trial period, so why not give them a try.

In any case, you can always enhance your experience and overcome any selection issues (perhaps because of where you live) by getting a Smart DNS service, such as OverPlay. Smart DNS technology allows you to “spoof” your IP address and appear to be in another location which lets you access content as if you lived in that location.

For example, if Netflix' selection is lousy in the country where you live or you want to access Netflix content that is available only in other places (example, Japan), use OverPlay Smart DNS to sign up for and access those versions of Netflix.

Smart DNS is quite affordable and much cheaper than a VPN in most cases.

Wrap-Up to Is Popcorn Time Safe?

Popcorn Time is a beautiful piece of software, and represents the cutting edge of BitTorrent technology. As long as the controversies surrounding it do not bother you (perhaps because of where you live), Popcorn Time provides what is arguably the best possible streaming experience available anywhere.

However, it is important to be aware that using Popcorn Time can make it easy for snoops to know what you are streaming. It goes without saying that certain parties are not amused by Popcorn Time making streaming content even easier than using Netflix (which has resulted in a rather colorful history of PT forks being shut down, then resurfacing under different names etc.).

The great news is that using a well-chosen Popcorn Time VPN will protect you from the risks, allowing you to watch content on Popcorn Time without ever having to worry about looking over your digital shoulder.

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matas
 

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