VPN vs. Proxy for Torrenting

The two most best (and most powerful) tools for keeping your torrent activity a secret are:

  1. Virtual Private Network (VPN)
  2. Torrent Proxy (usually SOCKS5)

But the differences between them aren’t always clear to new users. And frankly, they can do similar things. But they aren’t the same.

Each has it’s own advantages…

But one is vastly superior for most torrent-privacy uses

And this guide will explain why, as well as help you choose the best tool (and service) for the job

 VPNProxy
EncryptionStrong EncryptionNo encryption or weaker encryption
Impacted AppsEncrypts/Routes traffic for your entire deviceRoutes traffic for 1 program or app
Changes your IP addressYes (entire device)Yes (for the program using the proxy)
Setup/Ease of UseStandalone VPN App with extra features. Can be set up manually too. Manual setup only
SpeedSlightly slower than proxy (encryption overhead)Slightly faster
Torrent Client Compatibility100%Some torrent clients ignore proxy settings (route traffic insecurely)

Proxy: an overview

A proxy is like VPN-lite. It’s a simple tool that may get the job done, depending on your needs.

But proxies come with several tradeoffs, especially regarding security and ease of use.

It’s also extremely important to make sure you use the right type of proxy (as p2p clients only support SOCKS5 proxies for peers connections).

Advantages & Disadvantages of using a proxy

Advantages:

  • Will disguise the public IP address shown to torrent peers
  • No encryption overhead (faster speeds)
  • Possible to find free servers (though not recommended)

Disadvantages:

  • Doesn’t encrypt your traffic
  • Some torrent software (like Tixati) may ignore proxy settings
  • Harder to set up and harder to monitor than a VPN
  • Some proxies make it hard to use Magnet Links
  • Need 2 separate proxies to disguise web & torrent traffic

How to use a proxy for torrenting

Unlike a VPN, a proxy server needs to be manually configured in the settings of your preferred torrent client. Most major BitTorrent clients do support proxying of peer connections.

Clients that fully support proxy usage:

  • BitTorrent/uTorrent
  • Vuze (Azureus)
  • Deluge
  • QBittorrent

Clients that don’t:

  • Frostwire
  • Transmission
  • Tixati (flawed implementation)
  • Web-based clients

Setting up the proxy in your torrent client

Once you have a subscription to a reputable SOCKS proxy service, you’ll be given the login information which includes:

  • The server address
  • The port #
  • Your username and password

Then all you need to do is open the settings/options menu of your compatible torrent client and plug in the information. Most torrent-friendly proxy services to offer setup guides in their help documentation….

But we have more detailed setup guides for the 4 most popular clients:

Check out these examples of a SOCKS5 proxy configured in popular torrent clients: BitTorrent (uTorrent) & QBittorrent.

We used NordVPN and Private Internet Access’s proxy servers for the screenshots.


The Best Torrent Proxy Services

Don’t compromise your security by using a logging proxy service, or some free HTTP proxy that doesn’t even hide your IP address.

These are our FAVORITE, Torrent-Friendly proxy services:

And all of them are included with a VPN subscription. It’s basically like a free bonus.

ProviderIncludes VPNTypeServer LocationBest Offer
NordVPNYesSOCKS/HTTPS20+ CountriesTry It
Private Internet Access YesSOCKSNetherlandsTry It
IPVanishYesSOCKSNetherlandsTry It

Every single one of the SOCKS5 proxy providers listed above is:

  • Torrent Friendly
  • Zero-Log
  • P2P-allowed server location
  • Proxy Included with any VPN subscription

But NordVPN is the cheapest (from $2.99/month) and has the most server locations, so they took our #1 ranking.


Using a VPN for Torrents

It’s way easier to secure your torrents using a VPN.

There’s no manual setup required (if you’re on Windows/Mac/iOS/Android).

And it secures your entire internet connection, so your ISP won’t see that you’re browsing torrent sites either!

Advantages & Disadvantages of a VPN

VPN Pros

  • Easy Setup (just install the App)
  • Encrypts all internet activity
  • Strong (unbreakable) encryption
  • Extra features besides VPN tunnel
  • Works 100% with magnet links

VPN Cons

  • A bit slower (because of encryption)

Here’s a more detailed explanation of these pros and cons:

Easy Setup (Pro)

A VPN is way easier to set up than a proxy. There’s no manual configuration required and you don’t have to touch the options or settings in your torrent client.

Simply:

  1. Install the VPN App
  2. Login
  3. Choose a server location
  4. Click ‘Connect’

That’s it. Your entire internet connection (including torrents) is encrypted, and your public IP address will be switched to that of the VPN server. 

Encrypts/Anonymizes Everything (Pro)

When you’re connected to the VPN, all your traffic flows through the VPN server and is encrypted in-transit.

That includes:

  • Torrent downloads
  • Web browsing
  • Gaming
  • Literally anything that uses the internet on your device

A proxy (unlike a VPN) only switches the IP address for a single application, and may not encrypt any traffic whatsoever. 

Strong Encryption

A VPN uses extremely strong encryption, usually 128-bit or 256-bit AES.

This is many orders of magnitude harder to break than the weak in-client encryption offered by uTorrent and Vuze. 

Extra Features (Pro)

In addition to the core features of a VPN (switching your IP and encrypting traffic), many VPN apps have bonus features.

These may include:

  • DNS Leak Protection
  • Kill Switch
  • Malware Protection
  • And more…
Magnet Links (Pro)

Some users have reported trouble starting torrents via Magnet Links when using a SOCKS5 proxy. The workaround is to download the physical .torrent file instead, but some torrent sites no longer offer them.

Fortunately, VPNs have no trouble with magnet links and they work flawlessly.

Slower Speeds (Con)

The incredibly strong encryption used by a VPN has a downside…

It takes up a bit more bandwidth (called encryption overhead) than if you weren’t using encryption.

This can result in a slight reduction in speeds compared to an unencrypted proxy. 

Recommended VPN Providers

Any VPN provider with a high TorrentScore on our list VPNs that allow torrenting would be a good choice.

But there are our favorites VPNs (and they ALL offer torrent proxy service if you want it).

Using a VPN & Proxy Together

You can actually combine these two technologies and harness the advantages of each.

Many of our readers run a VPN while torrenting but also have a SOCKS5 proxy configured inside their torrent software.

This yields a few advantages:

  • Two IP address hops (Device > VPN > Proxy)
  • Browser IP address is different than your Torrent IP
  • Proxy acts as a kill-switch

This video describes how to set everything up in Vuze, but it should work for any torrent software:

Downsides of using Both:

  • You have all the combined weaknesses too
  • Speeds will be slower then either separately
  • Magnet links may cause issues

Tip: If your proxy and VPN are from the same provider, you don’t gain any real privacy advantage. If that’s your #1 goal, consider combing two separate services.


Better for Torrents: Proxy or VPN?

In my (experienced) opinion:

Most people would be better off with a VPN (not a proxy).

The advantages of a VPN are obvious, and the downsides are quite minimal (a slight speed hit).

Why I prefer a VPN:

  • Easier setup
  • 1-click connections
  • No issues with Magnet links
  • Easier to troubleshoot problems
  • More server locations to choose from
  • Stronger encryption (prevents throttling, monitoring by your ISP)

And there’s no price penalty for choosing a VPN. In fact, all the VPN providers we recommended in this article also include a SOCKS5 proxy for the same price.

But don’t forget, you don’t have to pick just ONE…

You can use a proxy in addition to the VPN. That way you get the encryption and 2 IP-address switches. Just make sure to connect to the VPN before you open your torrent client, otherwise you might cause a proxy error.

Questions? Tips/Suggestions? Leave a comment below!

ProviderIncludes VPNTypeServer LocationBest Offer
NordVPNYesSOCKS/HTTPS20+ CountriesTry It
Private Internet Access YesSOCKSNetherlandsTry It
IPVanishYesSOCKSNetherlandsTry It

David Barnes

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.

2 thoughts on “VPN vs. Proxy for Torrenting”

  1. I recently was trying out some new apps from f-droid and installed shadowsocks along with v2ray extension. I didn’t find it very useful as I am using my building wifi and for my phone I connect to a repeater so my phone isn’t constantly reauthenticating/reconnecting with the 4 open mesh routers. So I believe I’m essentially “double natted” . I realized that I can’t ghost my own infrastructure. My repeater has open wrt and preconfigured for open VPN and Wiregaurd which I haven’t put to use yet as it seems useless as I can’t mask the buildings routers.
    Do you think I should utilize open VPN or Wiregaurd on my repeater/router?

    Reply
    • Wireguard is still an unproven protocol and may be hard for an individual to implement correctly. If you’re concerned mostly about security, stick with OpenVPN. If you want to maximize speed, you’ll probably get much better performance with Wireguard.

      Reply

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