The SOCKS5 proxy protocol is the most versatile and useful of all proxies. It’s a ‘low-level’ proxy, which means it can carry virtually any type of data packet, protocol, or data type. It doesn’t restrict users to a specific protocol (like HTTP traffic for HTTPS proxies).
In general terms, a SOCKS5 proxy is used to route a specific program/application through a 3rd-party proxy server, to change its public IP address. This is usually done for the purposes of anonymity or to access a service from multiple IP addresses/devices at once.
The two most popular uses for SOCKS5 proxies among our visitors are:
- Hide your IP address while p2p/torrent filesharing (faster than VPN)
- To change your browser IP address for privacy or to get around location-blocking
This article will cover all aspects of SOCKS5 proxies.
Sections (feel free to skip ahead):
- Free vs. Paid SOCKS proxy service
- How to get pro-grade SOCKS5 proxy service free (included with a VPN subscription)
- The best pro-grade SOCKS5 providers (sold separately)
- The difference between HTTP and SOCKS proxy protocols
- Proxy Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
SOCKS5 Proxy service: Free vs. Paid
There are dozens of ‘Free Proxy’ lists on the internet, and if you’ve found this article I bet you’ve already tried some of them and come away disappointed. The reality is, most ‘Free’ proxies (especially SOCKS5 proxy servers) are slow and unreliable, and often virtually unusable.
In over an hour of testing various free SOCKS5 proxies, I was unable to find a single one that would connect long enough to download a linux torrent. Nevermind the painfully slow speeds when I did manage to connect.
If you’ve managed to find yourself a reliable, free SOCKS5 proxy server, then by all means continue using it. Of course if you’re that lucky, you probably also have a pet unicorn.
|Paid SOCKS5 Proxy||Free SOCKS5 Proxy|
|Connection reliability/stability||Nearly 100% reliability. Disconnects are very rare.||Low reliability. Less than 15% connection rate in our testing.|
|Speed||Excellent speeds, usually 10Mbps+||Slow. Think KB/s (instead of MBps)|
|Logs||Many pro-grade SOCKS5 proxies keep ZERO connection logs||Almost always keeps logs (bad for torrents/p2p)|
|Privacy/Security||Active network security. They don't monitor/log your usage activity.||Security may be non-existent. Proxy server may be vulnerable to hackers (or be a honeypot)|
Fortunately, you can get a high-quality SOCKS5 proxy service and enhance your online security & privacy, by subscribing to a VPN service that includes SOCKS5 proxy access at no additional charge (often for less $$ than the cost of a standalone SOCKS5 service).
VPN Providers that Include SOCKS5 Proxy for FREE
Don’t misunderstand me, the VPN subscription isn’t free. But some VPNs include SOCKS5 proxy service, some don’t. If you’re going to pay for a SOCKS5 proxy anyway, you might as well get the VPN too! You might even pay less and get more.
Benefits of a VPN vs. Proxy
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) has all the IP-changing benefits of a proxy, with the added benefit of military-strength encryption, to make your internet traffic unreadable (even by your Internet Provider). It can also encrypt/anonymize your entire internet connection (a proxy only works with 1 program/application at a time). Most VPN subscriptions also come with easy-to-use software that adds tons of other features.
Check out our VPN reviews section if you want to get a better idea of how the VPN software works and what kind of features/speed you’ll be getting. All the competition among VPN companies lately has cause them all to raise their game. The features they offer nowadays are impressive.
And of course, with all of these providers, you can use the SOCKS5 proxy and VPN simultaneously (the proxy will run inside the VPN tunnel), for even greater flexibility and anonymity.
Private Internet Access ($3.33/month+ Zero-Log SOCKS5)
Private Internet Access is a true ‘Zero-Logs’ VPN provider (meaning they do not log or monitor your VPN activity or connection history). And every PIA subscription also includes unlimited bandwidth access to their Netherlands-based SOCKS5 proxy server. This proxy is ideal for torrents, and works perfectly with uTorrent, Vuze, QBittorrent, Deluge, and more…
PIA allows you to connect 5 devices simultaneously from a single account (though I doubt you’ll ever need more than 3). They have servers in 20 countries and custom VPN software for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android.
Best of all, they’re one of the cheapest, high-quality VPN providers in the world (one-year subscriptions cost only $3.33/month).
How to use PIA’s SOCKS5 Proxy
We built a step-by-step guide showing you exactly how to generate your proxy login/password for PIA’s proxy (requires an active VPN subscription).
The non-logging proxy server is fast, stable, and ideal for anonymizing your torrent downloads. Check out our SOCKS5 torrent section later in the article.
NordVPN ($5.75/month + Zero-Log SOCKS5 proxy)
NordVPN may be slightly more expensive than PIA, but their proxy features are way more impressive. Not only is NordVPN a true non-logging VPN service, but you also get access to SOCKS5 and HTTPS proxies in more than 25 different countries (PIA only has 1 proxy location). See their full server list here.
Better still, NordVPN includes an industry-leading 6 simultaneous connections so you can protect all your devices (or even share the account with family & friends).
NordVPN is based in Panama (known for it’s strict privacy laws) so it may be one of the few VPNs that is free from Spy-Agency meddling
They also have some of the best software we’ve found, and they’ve created multiple dedicated server types depending on your VPN usage, including:
- Streaming (Access Netflix, Hulu, iPlayer from anywhere)
- Anti-DDOS (Gaming, hack protection)
- Torrent Optimized (5 country locations)
- Double VPN (Multi-hop connection with double encryption)
NordVPN recently raised their pricing to $8/month ($5.75 with an annual subscription) but they still have their 30-day refund guarantee, which lets you try their service risk-free for a full month and get a refund if you aren’t 100% satisfied.
SOCKS5 Proxy Services (Sold Separately)
To get the most bang-for-your buck, we recommend you choose one of the all-inclusive VPN+Proxy services mentioned above.
But if you want a separate SOCKS5 proxy (for added privacy by purchasing proxy + VPN service from different providers) here are your best options:
Torguard is a zero-log VPN and anonymous SOCKS5 proxy service (each sold separately). They’re based in the USA (a country that doesn’t require VPNs to retain logs).
Torguard is a torrent-optimized proxy service, and they are very popular among p2p/torrent users.
The two main reasons to choose Torguard’s anonymous proxy service are:
- They have fast, dedicated, p2p-friendly SOCKS servers (5 locations)
- Automatic proxy-installer app for uTorrent, Vuze, Deluge (no manual setup required).
Prices start around $4/month, and we’ve found their tech support to be knowledgeable and reasonably efficient. Torguard has a 7-day 100% refund policy on all plans. For more details (and speedtests) read our complete Torguard review.
BTGuard, like Torguard, is a non-logging proxy service designed specifically for torrent users. They have p2p friendly servers in multiple countries, and speeds are solid. BTGuard also has an extension that adds optional encryption to your SOCKS proxy tunnel, which allows you to have some of the benefits of a VPN without using one.
Overall we like Torguard’s service a bit better (especially their tech service) but BTGuard does have one major advantage. They provide their own preconfigured version of major torrent clients (uTorrent & Deluge) which already have the optimal BTGuard proxy settings installed. This is a nice perk for non-technical users.
SOCKS5 vs. HTTP vs. HTTPS Proxies
SOCKS, HTTP, and HTTPS are the most common proxy protocols, and you will find all three listed on so-called ‘Free’ proxy lists.
SOCKS and HTTP proxies (and their encrypted HTTPS version) are designed for completely different purposes, and some uses are much better suited for one or the other.
HTTP and HTTPS Proxy
HTTP stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol, which is the default protocol for websites and web pages. HTTPS (‘S’ meaning ‘Secure’) is the encrypted version of the HTTP protocol. You’ll often see HTTPS://www.website.com in the URL bar of your web browser when you visit e-commerce or banking/financial websites.
Both HTTP and HTTPS proxies are specifically designed to transport web browser and webpage traffic. If you attempt to use them for any other purpose (Skype, Video, Torrents, etc) there can be major problems, including:
- Dropped/undelivered packets
- Data routed outside proxy tunnel (major security/privacy issue)
- Rewriting of data ‘Headers’ causing routing or program errors.
SOCKS5 (SOCKS version 5)
The SOCKS5 protocol is the most versatile of all proxy protocols. It does not prefer one type of traffic or another, and can carry any type of data, program, or protocol.
It is natively supported by many popular applications, including: Skype, Torrent Clients, Web-scraping software, Email clients, and more…
If you’re using any type of application/software other than a web browser, the SOCKS5 protocol is the ideal choice. It can transmit any type of traffic (including HTTP) and has fewer security flaws and is less likely to transmit packets outside the proxy tunnel without your knowledge.
Some VPN providers (like VyprVPN) even let you connect to their servers through a SOCKS proxy for added privacy, or to get around a firewall.
Here are some of the most popular questions we get proxy types, usage, etc. Feel free to add any additional questions in the comments section below.
What is a Proxy?
A proxy is a method of routing a specific type of data/traffic through a remote proxy server. This is usually for purposes of anonymity or to get around firewalls. The proxy server acts as an intermediary and uses a different IP address than your primary connection.
What’s the difference between HTTP, HTTPs, and SOCKS proxies
HTTP proxies are for web and html traffic too/from a browser. HTTPS adds encryption to the HTTP protocol. A SOCKS proxy is an all-purpose proxy that can carry any protocol or data type.
Is a proxy encrypted?
It depends on the type of proxy and server settings. HTTPS proxies are always encrypted, but only for HTTP traffic. Most proxies do not use encryption. When they do it is typically weak encryption (at least compared to a VPN).
Are all proxies ‘anonymous’?
No. Some proxies are ‘transparent’ which means the destination server actually sees your true IP address instead of the proxy server’s IP. Other non-transparent proxies still keep some logs or monitor server traffic, so they aren’t completely anonymous.
If you want a fully anonymous proxy, we recommend you choose one of the providers featured in this article, several of which are true ‘Zero-Log’ proxy services.