Slow Torrents? Here’s the fix.

Do you struggle with slow torrent downloads, even though you have decent (or fast) internet speeds when browsing or streaming?

Our guide will show teach you why your torrents our slow, and how to make your torrents download faster, permanently.

Important Note: While some common speed problems can be fixed by tweaking settings in your torrent client, if you’re being throttled (one of the most common causes of slow torrents) then you’ll need a VPN. There’s no way around it.

Of course, you should already be using a VPN while torrenting (to protect your privacy). We recommend NordVPN or Private Internet Access.

What causes slow torrents?

Slow torrent downloads are commonly caused by a few factors.

Some are under your control (router issues, port forwarding, and misconfigured settings in your torrent client (uTorrent, QBittorrent etc).

Other causes, like blocking or throttling by your ISP aren’t easily fixed by tweaking settings. You’ll need a more powerful tool to restore your speeds.

Possible reasons why your torrents are downloading slowly

  • Port forwarding issues on your router
  • Bandwidth caps in your torrent client settings
  • ‘bandwidth management’ is turned on (uTorrent only)
  • Poorly seeded torrents
  • Firewall is blocking peer connections
  • Encryption settings are reducing peers
  • Calculating download speed wrong (very common. We’ll explain.)
  • Your ISP is blocking/throttling BitTorrent data (most common)

Torrent Throttling is often the culprit

Torrents and file-sharing use massive amounts of bandwidth. Bandwidth costs money. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that many Internet Providers (ISPs) will do almost anything to limit your torrent speeds.

Sandvine (who designed Comcast’s torrent throttling hardware) publishes periodic reports showing global bandwidth usage statistics. File-sharing has consistently been one of the biggest bandwidth hogs, especially for upstream bandwidth.

  1. In North America (2010) – 53.3% of all upstream traffic was file-sharing related.
  2. In Europe (2015) – This report found 39.95% of upstream bandwidth was for torrents/file-sharing.

This has caused ISP’s to take steps to reduce the amount of bandwidth torrents use on their networks. This is done in two ways:

Blocking
Some ISP’s completely block essential torrent ports (like 6881-6889), making it virtually impossible for their users to seed torrents (upload). Still others prefer to block access to torrent sites themselves (like isohunt and thepiratebay). This practice is common in places like the United Kingdom, Australia, and Russia.

Throttling
Throttling (also known as ‘bandwidth-shaping’) is a technique of filtering certain types of data on a network, and deliberately limiting the speeds (bandwidth) they can access. This is commonly used on high-bandwidth data streams, such as:

  1. Torrents
  2. Skype
  3. Netflix
  4. Youtube

If you ever wondered by your youtube videos are constantly buffering or running in low resolution even though your connection is 10mpbs or faster, the answer is simple. You’re being throttled.

Fortunately there is a simple solution that completely blocks your ISP’s ability to throttle you.  

It’s called a VPN, and it’s affordable and easy to use. Even better, it can usually fix slowness caused by in-client protocol encryption or port forwarding issues as well (which is a pain to setup manually on your router).

The easy way to make your torrents faster

A significant percentage of torrent users will see a speed boost after signing up for a fast VPN service.

That’s because a VPN can usually:

Is that something you’d be interested in?

Oh, and a VPN will make your downloads more private too, helping you hide your IP address from torrent peers. It can even prevent your ISP from seeing WTF you’re downloading in the first place.

IPVanish software (connected to Netherlands server)
IPVanish’s VPN software connected to a Netherlands (p2p-friendly) server location

How a VPN can fix Slow Torrents

The benefits of a VPN go way beyond privacy. Many issues that cause slow torrents can be instantly fixed when you use a fast VPN provider. Here’s how:

Slow torrents caused by: Throttling
In order to throttle your torrent traffic, your Internet Provider has to be able to:

  1. Read your data stream and see that you’re downloading torrents
  2. Separate your torrent traffic and slow it down without affecting other download speeds

When you use a VPN, your ISP can’t do either of these things. This is because an VPN encrypts all data transferred to/from your computer over the internet, making it impossible for someone in the middle (like your internet provider) to read your traffic.

When you use a VPN, your ISP can’t see that you’re torrenting. If they can’t see it, they can’t throttle it.

Blocked Torrents
Some Internet Providers try to block torrent traffic altogether. Comcast, for example, reportedly tried to block all upstream (seeding) torrent bandwidth

Every torrent data packet sent to/from your computer, has a small ‘Header’. This is like a sign that identifies the type of data (torrent traffic) and where it’s being routed to (port#, ip address, etc). This header is essential, it allows data to get routed to the correct destination, and the correct software program that is looking for that time of incoming data (your torrent client).

These headers also make it very easy for your internet provider to filter and block torrent data packets, while allowing the rest of your data to go through unblocked.

When you use a VPN, the encryption prevents your ISP from reading these headers, making it impossible to block torrents without blocking everything.

Port Forwarding
If your torrents are REALLY slow, like under 500kb/s, there’s a good change that port forwarding is the issue. If you don’t manually forward the ports that your torrent software uses (in your router settings) your router has no idea where to send the incoming data packets. This causes your torrent speed to drop bigtime. 

Port forwarding is a big pain, and you have to reconfigure it everytime your router assigns a new internal ip address to your computer (Argh).

Fortuantely, a VPN eliminates the need for port forwarding altogether.

Most routers have a feature called ‘VPN Passthrough’ which allows a VPN connection to be go straight through the router without any interference.

The VPN connection is like a tunnel, and since all the torrent data is inside this tunnel, and the tunnel gets routed straight to your computer, there’s no slowdown whatsoever. Pretty sweet!

Recommended VPN Services

So you’re ready to join the ranks of battle-hardened torrent veterans and get yourself a VPN. But you don’t want just any VPN.

You want one that keeps zero logfiles, and is quite fast (can handle 50Mbps+ downloads).

I recommend either of these 2 excellent services:

For more info about each of these companies, read our guide to the fastest VPNs for torrenting.

Otherwise, feel free to skip ahead to the ‘Manual Troubleshooting Steps’ if you like doing things the hard way.

HOW TO FIX SLOW TORRENTS MANUALLY

Ok, so you don’t like doing things the easy way. That’s cool. Let’s try and fix your slow torrents by troubleshooting the issues one at a time.

It’s important to note, that if your ISP is throttling/blocking your torrent traffic, a VPN (or encrypted proxy) may be the only solution. For the rest of the issues, we can deal with them ourselves.

Make sure you're calculating speeds correcly

How to measure Torrent Speed Correctly

It’s a little known fact that most torrent clients report speeds differently than web-based speed tests

In fact, they’re usually off by a factor of 8. 

That’s because torrent clients like uTorrent report speed as Mega Bytes per second, whereas speedtests like speedtest.net report Mega bits. 

Since 1 Byte = 8 Bits, then 1 Megabyte per second is equivalent to 8 Megabits/s

uTorrent Download Speed (in MegaBytes per second)
uTorrent shows download/upload speed in Megabytes per second

If you have a 200 Mbps internet connection, and you saw the 23.4 MB/s speeds reported by uTorrent…you might be disappointed.

But in reality, 23.4 MB/s = 187.2 Megabits per second (multiply by 8)

That’s over 90% of your maximum speed (quite good).

Bandwidth Settings in your torrent client

Check your bandwidth & queue limits in your torrent client

Check your download speed: Most torrent clients allow you to set a maximum download/upload speed per active torrent. You’ll either want to set these to ‘0’ (unlimited) or a really high number.

Too many Torrents: Try limiting the number of active torrents and queue the rest. Anything over 6-8 active torrents is overkill and will hurt overall speeds (and tax your processor and hard drive).

Turn off uTP Bandwidth Limiting (uTorrent only): In Preferences > Bandwidth, make sure to uncheck the box that says ‘Apply rate limit to uTP connections.’ This artificially limits your speeds. 

Bandwidth settings in uTorrent
uTorrent Bandwidth Settings (Menu > Options > Preferences > Bandwidth).
Fix Port Forwarding & Connection Issues

Connection Status & Incoming Connections

Most torrent client have an indicator of your connection health (which can alert you to port forwarding or throttling issues). The indicator is usually in the bottom right corner of the software.

Utorrent displays a little alert triangle with an exclamation if there are issues.

Vuze displays torrent health as a color-coded smiley. Green  HealthOk.gif is good, yellow No remote.gif shows issues, red is bad. 

If you don’t have a healthy connection status, here are some tips:

  1. Turn on uPnP: Universal Plug n Play can usually fix most port-forwarding issues for torrent downloads, without having to screw around with your router firmware (a pain). It does need to be enabled both in your torrent client (shown below) as well as your router settings.
  2. Whitelist in your Firewall: If you’re using Windows Firewall (on by default) you should manually add an exception for your torrent client. uTorrent can do this automatically (shown below). If using a 3rd-party firewall software (like an Antivirus) you will have to do this manually. 

Remember, a VPN can fix most port forwarding problems, even if your router doesn’t support uPnP. If you really want to draw doing it manually, you can follow the guides from PortForward.com

uTorrent connection settings (UPNP)
Turn on UPnP & Add firewall support in Options > Preferences > Connection (uTorrent)
Encryption Settings that limit peers

Is Encryption causing slow torrents?

Most torrent clients have built-in encryption. This lite-weight obfuscation (not unbreakable like a VPN) is designed to fool simple throttling algorithms. That’s it. 

But the downside of forcing encrypted connections in your torrent client is that non-encrypted peers can’t connect. This limits your peer availability and thus your speeds. 

Note: A VPN doesn’t limit your peer availability because it encrypts your connection whether the peers support encryption or not. 

So what’s the fix?

Switch from forced encryption to optional encryption, which won’t limit your peer selection. 

Summary & Action Steps

This article tackled all the most common causes of slow torrents. If you’ve literally tried them all and nothing worked, try a different torrent client. Plug your computer directly into your modem and see if that makes a difference.

And serious, just get a torrent-friendly VPN if you don’t have one yet. You’ll thank me later.

How to improve your torrent speeds (recap)

  1. Calculate download speeds correctly
  2. Fix port forwarding issues (or turn on uPnP)
  3. Make sure your firewall isn’t blocking torrents
  4. Make sure your torrent client isn’t limiting bandwidth
  5. Adjust your encryption settings
  6. Don’t download too many torrents at once
  7. Try a different torrent client
  8. Upgrade your internet (or use Ethernet instead of Wifi)
  9. Get a VPN.

Make sure to leave any questions in the comments below and let us know how these tips worked out for you!

David started torrenting before it was cool. He enjoys hiking, strategy games and eats watermelon year round. He still rocks his Napster t-shirt once a month.

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