If you want to maximize your torrent speed and number of available peers, it’s important to properly setup port forwarding on your home network.
But what is port forwarding, why does it matter for BitTorrent, and how can you set it all up?
This guide has you covered. Feel free to skip ahead using the jump links below:
What is Port Forwarding?
Port forwarding (or port mapping) allows devices on an external network (e.g. BitTorrent) to communicate with devices on an internal network (your home wifi).
Port forwarding ensures that packets will be directed to the correct device (and port) when traversing NAT on your network.
Without proper port mapping, your router won’t know which device traffic on that port should be sent to. As a result, packets may get blocked or returned at the firewall level.
Why is Port Forwarding Necessary for Torrents?
According to the BitTorrent protocol specifications, there are two types nodes:
An active node is one that has at least one port open (forwarded) and publicly accessible for torrent traffic. When port forwarding is properly configured, you can connect to both active and passive peers (maximum availability).
However, without a publicly accessible port, you are limited to outbound connections (initiated by your client) and can only connect to active peers. Other passive peers will not be available.
It’s even worse for some ISPs
At first glance, losing a few peers doesn’t sound so bad (especially since the majority of peers are active nodes).
But if you’re one of the millions of torrenters using an Internet Service Provider that blocks outbound BitTorrent connections (for legal reasons) then you’re basically screwed.
Without the ability to accept inbound connections, your number of available peers (and download speed) with drop to basically zero.
Key Takeaway: If you don’t want painfully slow torrent downloads, you need to configure port forwarding on your network.
How to setup Port Forwarding for BitTorrent
There are 3 ways to setup port forwarding (or eliminate the need for it).
The method you choose will likely be a straightforward choice depending on the type of router you have, whether you’re using multiple routers, and whether you use a VPN while torrenting.
1. Use a VPN (easiest method)
The absolute simplest method (and the one we recommend) is to use a VPN for all your torrent activity.
A VPN doesn’t change your router’s configuration at all, instead it eliminates the need for port forwarding altogether.
That’s because the VPN server automatically forwards your ‘listen port’ through their own NAT and directly to your device (bypassing your router).
And that’s not even the main benefit of using a VPN, it’s just an added perk. The real advantage comes from the privacy of keeping your real IP address out of public (or private) torrent swarms. Add the built-in unbreakable 256-bit encryption and you’ve dramatically upgraded your torrent security with a single tool.
2. Use UPnP (automatic method)
The second-best method is to let your router automatically configure the port-mapping using Universal Plug and Play.
UPnP is built into most routers manufactured in that last 10 years or so. But there is an important caveat to be aware of.
UPnP Vulnerability (devices manufactured 2013 and earlier)
In January of 2013, researchers discovered a significant vulnerability (VU#357851) in the way UPnP was implemented. This flaw allowed attackers to see the internal port mapping on vulnerable devices, and even discover the internal IP address on that network.
However you shouldn’t worry about this bug too much. Mainstream routers manufactured after mid-2013 shipped with an updated version of UPnP that wasn’t exploitable.
However if you have an even older router, make sure you’re running a firmware version from 2014 or later.
1. Enable UPnP in your Torrent Client
First you want to enable UPnP in the connection settings of your torrent client. Often this is the only step requires as many routers enable it by default.
Every major torrent client has this option, including uTorrent/BitTorrent, Vuze, BiglyBT, Deluge, etc.
2. Enable UPnP in your router (if required)
Once you’ve turned on Plug ‘n Play in your torrent client, restart the software and it should start working immediately. If the client still shows connection issues (non-green connection status) you may need additional configuration on your router.
The exact process varies by manufacturer, but these are the basic steps:
- Enter the IP address of your router in the browser (e.g. 192.168.1.1 for many models)
- Login using the credentials you set (or assigned defaults)
- Enable the UPnP setting
UPnP Instructions by manufacturer:
3. Manual Port Forwarding (last resort)
If UPnP isn’t working (or you’re concerned about the security risk) you can forward bitTorrent ports Manually. Here’s how to do it:
- Find the internal IP address of your device
- Choose the ports to forward
- Add the rules to your router settings
Step 1: Find the IP address of your device
We need the local (internal) IP address of the device you’re torrenting on.
- Open the command prompt
- Type ‘ipconfig’ and hit enter
- Look for the name of your current internet connection (e.g. wifi)
- Record your IPv4 address
On Apple devices, you’ll find this information under your connection settings (where you choose Wifi networks). Look for the IPv4 address:
Step 2: Set your Listen Port
In your torrent client, go to the connection settings and look for a setting named “listen port” or “port”.
As you can see, mine is set to 41297.
Important: If your client has a setting to ‘randomize’ this port every time the client starts, make sure to disable this option. You want it to remain static.
Step 3: Set forwarding rules on your router
Every modern rotuer will have a setting where you can manually add port-forwarding rules.
Each router manufacturer has a different firmware, so consult the manual for your specific device (it’ll be online if you haven’t saved it).
Our forwarding rule will have 3 simple components:
- port number to forward (listen port)
- IP address to forward to (IPv4 address from step 1)
- Protocols to forward (TCP and UDP)
Simply enter the values from the previous steps, and choose to forward both UDP and TCP packets and you should be good to go.
Step 4: Troubleshooting
If it’s still not working, there a few things to try.
Forward the default ports also: Many torrent clients use ports 6881-6889 by default, so you can forward these to your device also
Make a firewall exception: Make sure your torrent client is allowed through your device firewall (e.g. Windows Firewall or 3rd-party software like Avast, Zonealarm).
Set a Static IP Address: Some routers will re-assign a new IP address to a device each time it reconnects. We want our internal IP to remain the same so port forwarding rules continue to work. Here’s how to do it on Windows and Mac.