The Best Free VPNs for Torrenting

We’ve rounded up the best free VPNs to help you torrent safely.

By
&
Aliza Vigderman
Gabe TurnerChief Editor
Last Updated on May 13, 2021
By Aliza Vigderman & Gabe Turner on May 13, 2021
Surfshark Multihop

Torrenters know that VPNs are essential for security. But with plenty of options out there at all different price points, it’s difficult to make an informed decision. It’s even harder for torrenters looking for protection without paying a penny. Generally speaking, we recommend investing money into a VPN since it’s hard to put a price on safety, and free options often come with significant trade-offs. That said, we know that adding yet another monthly subscription to your credit card bill is hard to swallow. That’s why our experts tested the top free VPNs for torrenting to help you protect yourself without spending a dime.

VPNs Data usage limit with free app
Surfshark No limit
TunnelBear 500 MB per month
Windscribe 10 GB per month
HideMyAss No limit
Our Top Picks

Best Free VPN Service for Torrenting Overall

Surfshark

Editor's Rating
9.2
/10
Surfshark-Logo Header
Editor's Rating
9.2
/10
Surfshark allows users to torrent to their hearts’ content without delays or buffering and no data limits. Surfshark also gets top marks for safety since it’s never been compromised or shared user data.

Best Free VPN for Torrenting on Android

TunnelBear

Editor's Rating
8.8
/10
TunnelBear Logo
Editor's Rating
8.8
/10
This VPN has an entirely free option that includes all features, simply limiting data usage to 500 MB a month.

The Best Free VPN Services for Torrenting

  • Surfshark - Best Free VPN for Torrenting Overall
  • TunnelBear - Best Free VPN for Torrenting on Android
  • Windscribe - Best Free VPN for Torrenting on Windows
  • HMA - Best Free VPN for Torrenting While Traveling

Comparison of the Best VPN Services for Torrenting

System
Surfshark
TunnelBear
Windscribe VPN
HMA VPN
Ranking 2nd 3rd 4th
Ratings 8.8/10
Best on Android
8.7/10
Best on Windows
8.3/10
Best while Traveling
Works on Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and Linux with browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS with browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, routers, and Android TV
Data Usage Limit with Free Plan 500 MB per month 2 GB per month or 10 GB if you log in and confirm your email address None
Connection Speed Limits No speed limit No speed limit No speed limit
Netflix Access No Only in the U.S. and U.K. Yes
Length of Free Trial Unlimited Unlimited 7 days
Premium Subscription Pricing $9.99 monthly or $59.88 yearly $9 monthly or $49 yearly $59.98 yearly or $107.64 for three years
Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes Member Yes Yes Yes
Read Review TunnelBear Review Windscribe VPN Review HMA VPN Review

All You Need to Know About the Best Free VPNs for Torrenting

  • 1. Surfshark - Best Free VPN for Torrenting Overall

    Editor's Rating
    9.2
    /10

    Surfshark isn’t a household name like some of the other VPNs out there, but with 3,200 servers worldwide, it has a lot to offer. Based in the British Virgin Islands, it’s free from the watchful eyes of the Five Eyes,1 Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes surveillance treaties, and it has never experienced a customer data breach. Since Surfshark uses obfuscated servers, your Internet Service Provider will not be able to tell that you are using a VPN, which is essential if you are on a network or in a jurisdiction that doesn’t allow VPNs or torrenting. While it’s only free for 30 days, its pricing options are quite affordable if you’re ready to quit. We’ve laid out Surfshark’s pricing for you here.

    What we like
    • Affordable pricing after trial runs out
    • Works with uTorrent and other torrenting clients
    • RAM-only servers prevent data theft
    • Split tunneling allows user to whitelist specific sites
    What we don’t like
    • Free VPN is limited to 30 days
    • Static IP address
    • Slow speeds on PCs
    • No phone support
    Surfshark Connected to VPN
    Surfshark Connected to VPN

    Data Security

    We were impressed by Surfshark’s overall transparency and commitment to privacy. They do not log any identifying information like IP addresses or web traffic, and their location in the British Virgin Islands prevents any government demands for user data from being required. Surfshark recently migrated to RAM-only servers, which, unlike hard drives, cannot be physically removed without destroying the data instantly.2 These servers can also be wiped remotely in the unlikely event of a breach.

    Support for Multiple P2P Clients

    Unlike some VPNs that limit torrenting to certain clients, Surfshark is broadly compatible with peer-to-peer platforms. This means that torrenters can stick with their preferred approach and maintain plenty of options in the event of policy or technology changes. Torrenters using Macs will also appreciate Surfshark’s low impact on download and upload speeds.

    Split Tunneling

    We prefer to use VPNs that allow split tunneling, meaning that the user can split traffic between the VPN and the existing public or private network. For example, we torrented a file using the VPN while reading our email and checking the news using the public Wi-Fi. Surshark makes split tunneling especially easy with its whitelister feature, which we used to set up a list of websites and apps we trust that can bypass the VPN.

    We prefer to use VPNs that allow split tunneling, meaning that the user can split traffic between the VPN and the existing public or private network. For example, we torrented a file using the VPN while reading our email and checking the news using the public Wi-Fi. Surshark makes split tunneling especially easy with its whitelister feature, which we used to set up a list of websites and apps we trust that can bypass the VPN.

  • 2. TunnelBear - Best Free VPN for Torrenting on Android

    Editor's Rating
    8.8
    /10

    TunnelBear is definitely the cutest VPN we’ve come across, with a whimsical bear theme running through all its apps. Though it caps free usage at 500 MB a month, Tunnelbear’s pricing structure is reasonable. It’s also a plus that it works on all operating systems and that the free version includes all of its premium features. We’re not thrilled that it’s located in Canada and subject to the jurisdiction of Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes, but Tunnelbear logs minimal user data, which reduces our level of concern.

    What we like
    • Dynamic IP addresses
    • Highly-rated apps
    • Kill switch
    • Split tunneling
    What we don’t like
    • Doesn’t work for Netflix
    • Free version caps data at 500 MB per month
    • Based in Canada, in the jurisdiction of Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes
    • No dedicated torrenting servers
    TunnelBear VPN Kill Switch
    TunnelBear VPN Kill Switch

    Dynamic IP Address

    One of the critical functions of a VPN is disguising the user’s IP address to prevent hackers and advertisers from following them around the web. There are a few different ways to do that, but we prefer VPNs that use dynamic IP addresses, meaning that the IP addresses they link to your device change frequently, making it nearly impossible for bad actors to keep up. TunnelBear uses this technique, and in all of our testing, it never revealed our real IP address, which is crucial if you don’t want your torrenting activity to be traced to your computer.

    Strong Encryption Protocols

    A VPN is only as good as its encryption, and TunnelBear certainly met our standards. It uses OpenVPN/IKEv2 on Windows, OpenVPN on macOS and Android, and IPSec/IKEv2 protocols on iOS, all of which the industry considers to be highly secure. Let’s get more into detail about IKEv2. TunnelBear also uses Internet Key Exchange version 2, a protocol that automatically re-establishes your connection with your VPN after you’re disconnected from the Internet (typically, this is referred to as a kill switch). This means that if you lose internet connection, your VPN will automatically shut down your web activities, keeping it from exposure.

    Highly-Rated Android App

    Often, when we’re accessing a public Wi-Fi network, it’s on our phones, so we care a lot about a VPN’s app quality. Android phones, unlike iPhones, allow torrenting, and TunnelBear’s app stood out for its quality when we tested it on our Google Pixel. We had no problems navigating the user interface or connecting to our torrenting client, and we were impressed by the connection speed as we downloaded a large file. Plenty of users clearly agree with us, since the app has a 4.3 rating in the Google Play Store. If you’re looking for a little fun with your security, it’s also worth noting that the app has adorable bear animations.

  • 3. Windscribe - Best Free VPN for Torrenting on Windows

    Editor's Rating
    8.7
    /10
    What we like
    • Supports Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, routers, and NAS devices and offers browser extensions for Chrome, Opera, and Firefox
    • Double-hop encryption
    • Kill switch
    • Split tunneling
    What we don’t like
    • Based in Canada, in the jurisdiction of Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes
    • 10 GB per month data usage limit with free plan
    • Static IP addresses
    • Netflix only works in U.S and U.K
    Windscribe App
    Windscribe App

    Kill Switch

    A VPN is only as good as its connection to the server, and those connections can easily be disrupted in places where a lot of people are on a public Wi-Fi network, like coffee shops. We lost our connection briefly when testing Windscribe while working from a Starbucks, and the kill switch worked as intended. It immediately shut down the internet entirely and closed out all online activity to prevent Internet Service Providers and government agencies from gaining access to sensitive data. A lost VPN connection poses an increased risk of downloading malware,3 so we were glad to see that this important safety feature works well on Windscribe.

    Double Hop Encryption

    When VPNs transmit your activity, your web requests pass through a server before they reach the internet, making it impossible to see any connection between your traffic and your computer. Windscribe takes this a step further with double-hop encryption, meaning that the data passes through two servers before it reaches your destination. That makes it a heck of a lot harder for a hacker or another nefarious actor to follow what you’re doing.

    Strong Performance on Windows

    We’ve ranked Windscribe one of our best VPNs for Windows, making it a great choice for PC-users. In our speed tests, it performed significantly better on our Windows Vivobook than our MacBook, with only a 16 percent decline in upload speeds and a 33 percent increase in latency. Since peer-to-peer file-sharing systems rely on users uploading data, that’s an important test to pass.

  • 4. HMA - Best Free VPN for Torrenting While Traveling

    Editor's Rating
    8.3
    /10

    Don’t let the name fool you. HMA is a serious VPN, and it worked well for torrenting in our tests. While its browser extension isn’t the best out there, the desktop app offers a solid experience, and HMA pricing is very affordable. Though users can only try it out for free for seven days, that trial was plenty of time for us to test out torrenting speeds and to stream Netflix to our hearts’ content. And with servers in over 210 countries, we had no concerns about finding a nearby connection to keep speeds high.

    Pro Tip: If you do choose to invest in a VPN, most services offer significantly better pricing deals if you prepay for a one, two, or three-year subscription.

    What we like
    • Servers in more than 290 locations across over 210 countries
    • Kill switch on Windows, Macs, and Android
    • Dynamic IP addresses
    • 75 percent student discount available for 36-month plans
    What we don’t like
    • Severely slows traffic on Windows
    • Browser extension logs IP addresses and web traffic
    • Subject to Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes
    • Split tunneling only available on Android devices
    HMA Settings Screenshot on Mac
    HMA Settings Screenshot on Mac

    Servers Around the World

    International travel is the perfect time to torrent entertainment—after all, what is there to do on a long flight or in a business hotel besides watch TV and movies? For frequent travelers like us, fast VPN performance abroad is a major plus. With over 1,060 servers in over 210 countries, HMA is a VPN we’ll keep returning to when we travel. And if you’re new to HMA, the seven-day free trial might be the perfect length for a trip.

    Dynamic IP Addresses

    For many VPNs, dynamic IP addresses mean a new IP address at log-in. For those of us who want to be really careful, though, it’s possible to set HMA to deliver a new IP address every 10 minutes. We tested that option out and felt safe knowing that it should be more than enough to shake off any Internet Service Providers or government agencies trying to track our torrenting activity (which was perfectly legal, by the way).

    Good for Android Users

    Some of HMA’s features, like the kill switch and split tunneling, aren’t available on all device types. But all of the VPN’s best features are available for the Android app, making it a great VPN for Android. This is particularly relevant to torrenters, since torrenting is only possible on Android devices, not iOS. And with a 4.2 rating in the Google Play Store, it’s clear that most users are satisfied with the app. We fell into that camp, too. When we tested it out on our Google Pixel, we had no problem connecting to a nearby server and streamed an episode of Ozark without any annoying buffering.

Ranking VPNs: Our Methodology

While looking for the best free VPNs for torrenting, we started with the options that actually allow it—there are plenty that don’t. We also checked into what the free versions did and didn’t include. For example, we looked at data or speed limits, servers available to the free version, and whether or not the free version of a VPN can access Netflix.

We crossed a few VPNs off of our list that claim to allow torrenting but that shut down user speeds if they see a large amount of data passing back and forth. Once we’d identified the VPNs that openly allow and support torrenting, we narrowed things down by looking at the VPNs’ impact on speed and privacy policies. Rest assured that the free VPNs we selected are the best of the best.

Security

The whole point of a VPN is to provide security, and it’s especially important when torrenting. Often, choosing a free VPN means making a few tradeoffs with data privacy, so we took extra care to check out the premium options and compare features. We start by checking that each VPN solution uses either OpenVPN or AES-256 encryption, the two safest encryption methods out there. But that’s just a baseline.

We also test every VPN for DNS leaks, which expose the sites a user is visiting, and WebRTC leaks, which expose the device’s IP address. We looked for Domain Name Server (DNS) leaks using DNSLeakTest.com, where we could see what DNS address was visible as we browsed and check it against our own. We tested for WebRTC leaks using ExpressVPN’s tool, which allowed us to check that the IP addresses pinged out there on the web didn’t match up with our device’s true IP address. Again, that information is best to protect while torrenting.

Did You Know: AES-256 is often referred to as “military-grade encryption.” That’s because it’s the only publicly available cipher that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has approved for encrypting top-secret information.4

Company policies are important to security, too, so we also took a hard look at each company’s privacy policy, jurisdiction, and history of breaches to identify any shortcomings. We only want to see VPN providers keep the basic account information that is necessary to process payments and provide the service. Storage of any information like IP addresses or websites visited throws up an immediate red flag.

One of the dangers of stored personal data is that it could be handed over to a government, so it’s essential to understand the laws that apply to each VPN company. In particular, we checked to see whether each company was headquartered in a country that was part of the Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes security alliances. If a company is based outside of the member countries, it can’t be forced to hand over customer data to the governments that make up these alliances. We also check to make sure the country where the company is headquartered doesn’t have problematic data policies.

What’s Included with a Free Option

Free VPNs are often designed to entice a user to pay for a premium VPN, and that means some features tend to end up behind a paywall. Most free VPNs:

  • Limit data usage, measured daily or monthly
  • Limit speeds or prioritize the connection speed of paying customers
  • Limit access to streaming services

The best way to avoid these limitations is to make use of a VPN free trial, which generally provides access to premium features in order to convince users to subscribe.

Speed

As a rule, VPNs will always slow down internet speeds to a degree. However, even minor differences in those lags can mean the difference between successfully torrenting that classic movie you can’t find anywhere and watching a spinning wheel for hours. We test VPN download speeds, upload speeds, and ping (latency) using SpeedTest.net. We also calculate the percent difference in speed with and without using the VPN. We use both a Mac and a PC during every test because software differences can cause significant speed variability while running a VPN. We also checked to see if using the free version of a VPN resulted in throttled speeds. Generally speaking, any slowdowns of more than 40 percent are a bad sign.

Performance

Let’s face it—we’re less likely to stick with using a VPN if it impacts our computer’s performance too much. That’s why we assess ease of use, the frequency of technical difficulties like disconnections, and impacts on processes like torrenting or streaming. VPNs get points in their favor in our book if they effectively use split tunneling, which means that we can use both the VPN and a public network at the same time.

Apps

When do you most often access public Wi-Fi? If you’re like us, it’s when you’re out and about using your phone. To us, that means that a solid VPN mobile app is absolutely essential. We test both the Android VPN apps and iOS VPN apps for every product and check out their ratings in the app stores. Often,VPN apps have less features than the desktop versions, so we check to see whether features like kill switches and split tunneling are available on different devices.

Best Free VPNs for Torrenting FAQs

  • Why do I need a VPN for torrenting?

    You need a VPN for torrenting to protect information about what files you download and upload and what sites you visit from your Internet Service Provider and government agencies. As a form of peer-to-peer file sharing, torrenting involves uploading and downloading pieces of files and sharing them with strangers around the globe, so it’s inherently risky. Plus, torrenting can fall into a bit of a legal gray area. We don’t recommend illegal activity, of course, but with different rules and laws governing torrenting around the world, the lines can get murky. Additionally, many Internet Service Providers throttle users who are torrenting because of the high bandwidth usage. Since VPNs keep the ISP from seeing when users are torrenting, they help users avoid that bottleneck.

  • Will a VPN always protect me while torrenting?

    Whether or not a VPN will always protect you depends on a number of factors, and it’s one of the main reasons we do all of this research and testing. A VPN won’t protect you if the company is logging excess information, like the sites you visit or files you download, or sharing information with governments. The latter is a concern for companies headquartered within the Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes surveillance alliance jurisdictions. It’s also important to remember that a VPN connection can be lost. That’s why we strongly favor VPNs that offer kill switches, which shut down all activity if that happens. Otherwise, if the connection fails, your web traffic and files can be exposed. The encryption method a VPN uses is also important. We favor AES-256 bit encryption. If a VPN has all of these features, it can protect you while torrenting.

  • Will a VPN make my internet too slow for torrenting?

    Your VPN may slow down your internet, but the VPNs we have listed will not make your internet too slow for torrenting. In fact, using a VPN can save you a lot of frustration, since many ISPs throttle speeds for users who they can see using torrenting protocols. Since a VPN will obfuscate what the user is doing online, that problem is taken off the table.

  • Should I pay for a VPN for torrenting?

    As we’ve laid out, there are several free VPN options available for torrenting, and they’re a great place to start. However, these options each come with their own limitations. One of the most significant is speed and bandwidth. We haven’t found any free options that don’t cap data usage after a trial, and some VPNs give premium customers preferential treatment when it comes to speed. For frequent torrenters, those factors can pose real problems over time. That’s why we recommend testing out those options and then upgrading to a paid version. Even the best VPNs cost just a few dollars a month with long-term plans. We think that’s a small price to pay to protect your privacy while maintaining your ability to torrent.

Citations
  1. WhatIs.com. (2021). Five Eyes Alliance.
    whatis.techtarget.com/definition/Five-Eyes-Alliance

  2. Surfshark. (2020). Surfshark upgraded its infrastructure to 100% RAM-only servers.
    surfshark.com/blog/surfshark-upgraded-to-ram-only-servers

  3. FTC. (2021). P2P File-Sharing Risks
    consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0016-p2p-file-sharing-risks

  4. ATP. (2019). Secure your data with AES-256 encryption.
    atpinc.com/blog/what-is-aes-256-encryption