Should I use Tor or VPN to download torrents anonymously? It’s a question asked a lot by our readers. Both virtual private networks and the Tor browser allow you to access the web anonymously. But which one is better for anonymous torrenting? In this VPN vs Tor comparison we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of using each method with Bittorrent, uTorrent, or similar P2P apps to download torrents.
VPN vs Tor for Torrenting Anonymously
With time, the Internet is evolving and same is true about web technologies. Gone are those days of static web pages and the need to wait as web page elements keep loading. You can buy 4G LTE devices that enables you access web at blazing fast speed while on the move!
Nowadays, it is also possible to download large sized media files and content over the web even if you do not have a very fast connection. Like millions of other web users, you can use torrent software and P2P services to download HD movies and similar large sized files spanning days without any problem. Torrents became popular after termination of popular file sharing services like Limewire and Napster. However, in order to avoid getting copyright infringement or DMCA notices, you have to carry out your torrent downloading activities anonymously.
Need for Anonymity while Downloading Torrents
Technology comes with its flipside and it is applicable for torrent software as well. Torrenting is not deemed as an illegal act itself, but at times you may land up in a soup, based on factors like the sites you access and content you download. Sometimes torrent users end up in legal problem as they unwittingly end up downloading content that they do not know can be illegal.
You may actually be charged with illegally accessing and downloading copyrighted materials while using Torrent software and consequences can be serious sometimes.
The hiccups associated with torrenting have prompted millions of users of such services to use specific services and software that offer them some privacy online. There are a few options that you can choose from for torrenting while staying invisible online. It is necessary that you think of pros and cons of such measures before picking one. Most privacy conscious torrent users resort to using either VPN services or Tor network.
Torrenting through VPN
Virtual Private Network or VPN, once a favorite among geeks and corporate people, is now being widely used by millions of web users all over the globe. It is a technology that lets you access the web and perform nearly all tasks online while masking your PC’s IP address effectively. Any entity monitoring internet traffic cannot figure out the IP address and they end up with a virtual IP used by the VPN service provider. Keep in mind that some VPN services do support P2P applications while others do not.
VPN also comes with cover of encryption, thus minimizing risk of data loss or theft online. You can use Torrents over VPN services and achieve both targets at the same time- anonymity and huge content download at your convenience.
Torrenting through Tor
Tor network has also emerged as a popular option for web users, including those who prefer torrents for anonymity. What was created for the needs of the US Navy originally has become a preferred service for web users willing to evade censorship or tracking by various entities.
The Tor browser is used by these users, which uses Tor network to browse the web with anonymity. However, it is not the same as VPN. Tor basically re-routes web traffic of its users through various nodes and thus identifying the real IP become tough.
However, Tor wasn’t designed to download files anonymously. You can only use Tor to connect to the tracker of the file you want to download. Peer-to-peer connections are routed outside Tor. Basically, DHT relies on the UDP transport protocol, and Tor can’t handle UDP connections.
VPN vs Tor – Why VPN is Better for Torrenting
While both VPN and Tor offers you anonymity online, it is more prudent to use the former over the latter-if torrenting is what you want. The reasons are listed below:
- Both VPN and Tor help in hiding the real IP address of your computer and make you invisible online but the efficacy is not same. VPN is more effective when you want to evade prying eyes online and want your IP to be untracked under most situations. Tor attracts more attention from government authorities and other Internet watchdogs than VPN. Besides, Tor connects the IP offered by your ISP and tracking a Tor user can be easier at times. If the applications you use online leak your identity, Tor cannot really cover you.
- Most users get impatient while downloading large content, through any service. Tor will be slower for torrenting since it re-routes traffic through several nodes. VPN speeds can vary based on certain factors, but it tends to be faster than Tor in most situations. So, you may prefer VPN than Tor while torrenting heavy media content like HD movies etc.
- When you connect to a VPN server on your Mac, PC, Android, or iOS device, all your Internet traffic will be encrypted. Everything you do online will pass through that VPN server. In terms of online anonymity, there aren’t any better alternatives I can think of.
- Whenever you download a file using P2P apps like uTorrent, your public IP address is added to a torrent swarm. In other words, your public IP address is publicly visible to everybody, including copyright trolls. When you connect to a VPN server, the IP address of the VPN server is added to the torrent swarm and not yours. Nobody can trace which torrents you are downloading.
Helpful Tips for Anonymous Torrenting
You will benefit from using the below listed tips for torrenting while staying anonymous online:
- Using VPN is definitely prudent for using torrents, but you will also have to select the right VPN service or apps. There are dozens of free VPN services but they have several inherent limitations. They come with throttle on bandwidth, data, and other limitations. So, you may check out trial offers of paid VPN services and thereafter choose the one fitting your needs the best. You may also read VPN reviews online in this regard.
- Then there are some VPN services that log user activities. This is something you must bear in mind while using VPN services. However, it is also true that not all VPN providers maintain or keep logs with malicious intention. Sometimes, logging client data helps them in resolving network related issues and also help in devising and implementing new measures to offer better speed.
- Just like the VPN services, you also need to pick the torrent software and service with care. This is important because Internet watchdog authorities keep tab on popular torrent software more than others. However, it would be wrong to just pick a new torrent service randomly. Some, such services come with the threat of adware and embedded tracking software.
- It is also critical how and when you download content using torrent sites. For example, you may have the desire to download and watch the latest Transformers movie or True Detective or much publicized animation movie. However, it makes sense if you wait for a few months and then get it through torrents. This will help you evade censorship online to a large extent.
Best VPNs for Torrenting
If you want an in-depth look at the best VPN services you can use for torrenting, take a look at this review. In short, the VPN service you use to download torrents should offer the following features.
- Secure Data Encryption
- A Kill-Switch feature
- Up to 256-bit AES encryption strength
- Up-to-date VPN protocols
- Apps for all your devices
- A strict No-Logs policy
- Fast VPN servers.
Based on the features listed above, here are the best VPN services for torrenting as of 2017.
VPN vs Tor for Anonymous Torrenting – Summing it all up
In terms of downloading torrents anonymously, the VPN vs Tor comparison is a no-brainer. VPN is faster, easier to use, and most importantly offers a higher level of privacy and security when compared with Tor. So, you will benefit by choosing VPN over Tor for torrenting, eventually. However, you should be careful in selecting both the torrent software and the VPN service provider in terms of trying to gain the most out of either.