Torrenting Without a VPN: A Terrible Idea in 2020 & Any Other Year

By Fergus O'SullivanEditor-at-Large
— Last Updated:

We’ve all wanted to watch a movie or TV show or play a game that wasn’t immediately available to us. Maybe you want to watch The Shield but all you have is a Netflix subscription, or you want to play a game that isn’t on Steam. The easiest thing you can do is to torrent whatever you want, but before you do so, you need to know that torrenting without a VPN is a terrible idea.

This is because in most countries (check out our censorship map for which ones, specifically) torrenting has been made illegal, and it will mean fines and maybe even prison when you get caught. Note that we said “when,” not “if.” Detection methods have only improved since the first time some poor soul got hit with a digital cease-and-desist notice about 15 years ago.

The only good way to stay safe while torrenting is by using a virtual private network, an app that will encrypt your internet connection and hide your IP address. There are lots of good reasons to use a VPN, and we recommend everybody use one, but they are absolutely vital when downloading copyrighted material.

We have selected several services for our ranking of the best VPNs for torrenting, but if you’re in a hurry you should just go ahead and check out NordVPN. It’s a great VPN and has several features that make it a must for torrenters. Currently, you can get three years of service for just over $100, making it a steal.

If you’d like to know a bit more about all this before making up your mind about any of it, keep reading. However, we’re going to get a little technical in spots after this, so if terms like “seeders” and “leechers” sound like something from medieval surgery rather than something from the here and now, we have a guide on what torrenting is that you might want to read first.

The Risks of Torrenting Without VPN Protection

Before we go on, we do want to emphasize we’re not prophets of doom trying to sling some snake oil your way. Several members of the Cloudwards team have been hit with DMCA notices (or their equivalent in other countries) when torrenting without protection. For example, your author got slapped with two: one in Taiwan and one in the Netherlands.

In almost all cases, you’ll get off with a warning the first few times, but how many warnings you get depends on the country you’re in. Copyright law is still mostly a national affair and different countries handle these matters differently. 

Ignore the warnings, however, and the fines will start. Again, these vary from country to country, with some setting fixed amounts while others depend on a civil suits being filed.

You read that right: in some places, when you download a torrent you are starting a process that might involve you needing to hire a lawyer. These kinds of strong-arm tactics have become popular in Holland, for example. Read our guide on the best VPN for the Netherlands for the details.

Will I Get Caught Torrenting?

However, the more slick-minded among you will have already remarked that it’s not a crime till you get caught. That’s, of course, true, but rest assured that you will indeed get caught when torrenting. 

That’s because there’s just way too much money in catching people for these copyright watchdogs to not set up surveillance on the best torrent websites and wait for some overconfident rube to walk into their trap.

Though there are ways to circumvent this surveillance, most of them are rather technical or will limit what you can download. That’s why we recommend using a VPN for the overwhelming majority of users. They’re easy to set up and they will cover all your torrenting needs, as well as make streaming a lot more fun.

How to Torrent Safely: Use a VPN

As we mentioned in the introduction, our favorite VPN for torrenting is NordVPN. Other contenders we really like are ExpressVPN and CyberGhost, so check those out for some solid alternatives to NordVPN.

If you do opt for NordVPN, check out our guide to torrenting with NordVPN. However, in all cases the process is pretty much the same: you go to the website of the VPN provider you like and sign up. Any of the best VPN services we recommend will have some kind of money-back guarantee, so you’ve nothing to lose.

Once you’ve signed up and the VPN client is installed on your device, make sure to switch the VPN on. All of this is pointless if you don’t do this, so make sure you do. Once it’s working, surf to your favorite torrent site and find the movie or show that you like.

Click on it, download it using uTorrent or another download client and simply wait. Whatever you do, don’t mess with the VPN while this is going on or you’ll get caught.

Once the file is on your computer, you can either leave the torrent to seed with the VPN on or disengage the VPN if you’ve removed the file. Then, make yourself some popcorn and watch your movie.

How to Torrent With a VPN

  1. Sign up to the VPN of your choice
  2. Make sure to turn it on, then surf to a torrent site
  3. Find the torrent you want and download it
  4. Don’t touch the VPN while the download is ongoing
  5. Sit back and enjoy the show

Final Thoughts

That’s really all there is to it. It’s very simple to download with a VPN, and we honestly can’t understand why there are still people not doing it. The risks of not using a VPN when downloading are well known and messing with copyright agencies is no joke.

We hope you found this short guide useful and that you’ll go with NordVPN as your VPN of choice. Let us know in the comments below if you have any questions or remarks and, as always, thank you for reading.