Private Internet Access (PIA) has consistently been one of the best VPNs for torrenting, and is frequently recommended on forums, reddit and review sites.
But is a lot has changed in the past few years, most notably that PIA was acquired by Kape technologies (owners of Cyberghost).
So is Private Internet Access a good choice for torrenting in 2022? And how can I use Private Internet Access for safer torrenting?
TLDR; Yes, PIA is one of our favorite torrent-friendly VPNs. It’s also one of the most affordable, making it a compelling option compared to pricy competitors like ExpressVPN.
In addition to analyzing the pros and cons of using Private Internet Access for torrents, we’ll look at the optimal PIA settings for better security and faster speeds while using BitTorrent.
- Why use PIA for Torrents
- VPN Only (Easiest Method)
- Proxy Only
- VPN + Proxy
- Other important considerations
Is Private Internet Access VPN good for Torrents?
Is Private Internet Access a safe, reliable VPN for anonymous torrenting? Let’s look at the data:
Does Private Internet Access allow torrents?
Yes, Private Internet Access allows torrenting on their network and they do not block or throttle torrent traffic.
However, like many VPNs, they have chosen not to explicitly state this in their advertising material. They used to, as recently as January, 2022, but a landmark verdict against competitor Torguard has made other torrent-friendly VPNs skittish.
Does PIA Keep Logs?
One of the most important criteria when choosing a VPN provider is the logging policy. This is even more important if you plan to be using it for BitTorrent, as most torrent users are identified by their IP address.
Why logs matter: If your VPN provider keeps logs, they can be subpoenaed and provide a direct link between your public VPN IP address and your real IP (assigned by your internet provider). No logs, no link. Got it?
So what’s Private Internet Access’s logging policy?
Here’s the language direct from their website:
They go on to clarify what this means, notably that they do not log IP addresses or bandwidth, both of which could be used to identify specific users, even on shared IP addresses.
In VPN lingo, this tells us that:
- Private Internet Access doesn’t keep activity logs
- Private Internet Access doesn’t keep connection logs (metadata)
PIA was one of the first companies to position itself as a zero-log provider. They practically invented the category, and they’ve stayed true to that promise for over a decade.
To a newcomer, one VPN can look just as good as another, and virtually all of them claim to be the ‘best’, ‘fastest’ and ‘most anonymous.’ But the truth is many VPNs are hiding behind marketing buzzwords like ‘logless’ that don’t accurately reflect their logging policy.
For example, PureVPN (which claimed to be a no-logs VPN provider) was recently outed as less-than-truthful. And because of the lack of transparency of most VPN providers (you can’t see their code or servers) you just have to trust that they take your privacy seriously.
How secure is PIA VPN?
In terms of security, PIA is very comparable to other top VPN services. They follow industry best-practices regarding encryption strength, ciphers, and VPN protocols.
Most users will opt to use PIA’s OpenVPN protocol (which is the default in their desktop and mobile apps).
The encryption strength is fully adjustable, but you’re able to select up to 256-bit AES encryption, which is a NIST-approved standard considered secure enough for high-security government usage.
Private Internet Access’s VPN app includes an internet kill-switch, which is a recommended security feature that is quite useful for p2p safety.
When enabled, the kill-switch will instantly cut internet traffic to your device if the VPN disconnects in order to prevent IP leaks (you don’t want torrent peers to see your actual IP address).
In addition to a valid zero-log policy, PIA is known specifically for their support of p2p/torrents and filesharing uses.
Every subscription includes several features that are perfect for torrenting and torrent privacy.
- Port Forwarding: The VPN software for PC and Android allows port forwarding, which is extremely useful for getting the best speeds while torrenting. This is especially true if you’re behind a restrictive network like at school.
- SOCKS5 Proxy: Most torrent clients (Vuze, uTorrent, Deluge, QBittorrent) have the ability to use a proxy connection for anonymity purposes. PIA subscriptions include access to their high-speed Netherlands proxy server. This can be used separately from the VPN or as an added layer of protection.
- Wireguard: This brand new VPN protocol offers faster download speeds and better performance on mobile devices or slow internet connections.
- ShadowSOCKS: Get through vpn-blocking firewalls and torrent almost anywhere.
How to use PIA’s VPN for Torrents
The most popular (and easiest) option is to simply use the Private Internet Access VPN software to enhance your torrent privacy. This method has several advantages:
- Easy: no manual setup in your torrent software
- Encryption: Strong, adjustable encryption strength
- Kill Switch: Prevent torrent IP leaks if the VPN disconnects
- Wireguard: Faster speeds & better performance
- Port Forwarding
The main advantage of using the VPN (compared to the SOCKS proxy) is the added encryption, which prevents your ISP from monitoring your torrent downloads.
Install the VPN Client
- If you haven’t already, purchase a PIA Subscription.
- Download and install the app for your device (Windows, Mac, iOS, Android)
- Launch the app (it may start minimized in the system tray)
Recommended Settings for Torrenting
Don’t stress too much about getting the perfect pia settings for torrenting, the defaults are plenty secure. However we have tested multiple configurations, and this is my preferred setup for the optimal blend of performance and security.
To access the settings menu, first launch the client on your device. Then click the 3-dots icon in the top right corner and choose settings.
Now we can configure the perfect torrent settings, one at a time.
1. Protocol & Encryption settings
The VPN protocol you choose determines which encryption options are available to you and has a significant impact on VPN speeds.
PIA’s app supports two protocols:
- OpenVPN (TCP or UDP)
Wireguard is a newer protocol that is lighter and than OpenVPN. It our speed tests, Wireguard offers faster torrenting speeds than OpenVPN while still providing secure encryption. For most users, this will be the best protocol choice, especially if you’re using mobile data (lower encryption overhead).
To enable it, from the settings menu go to Protocols > Wireguard.
Alternatively, you can use OpenVPN which has been the industry standard for a while now. It won’t be quite as fast as Wireguard, and could be blocked by firewalls if you’re on a public wifi network.
Recommended OpenVPN encryption settings:
- Protocol – OpenVPN
- Transport – UDP (much faster than TCP)
- Encryption – AES-128 GCM
2. Enable the VPN Kill-Switch
The main goal of using a VPN to torrent is to make sure peers and trackers can’t see your real IP address. But if the VPN disconnects by accident, your computer will usually reconnect through ISP’s normal internet connection.
This is where a kill-switch comes in handy. It prevents your device from leaking your real IP address or unencrypted data.
A ‘Kill-Switch’ will shut down all internet connectivity if the VPN fails until you either reconnect to the VPN or reset your network adapter.
You’ll find the Kill-switch settings under the Privacy tab of the app’s settings.
There are two options available:
- Kill-switch – Disable internet access when the VPN connection drops (only while the VPN is active)
- Advanced kill-switch – Prevent traffic from routing outside the VPN at all times (never access the internet without a VPN).
In general, the standard kill switch is the best option for most users. If you’re extremely careful about privacy or have a dedicated computer for torrenting, then the advanced option makes more sense.
3. Split Tunneling (optional).
PIA’s software includes a feature called split-tunnel (available on Windows and Android). This lets you route specific applications through the VPN, while allowing others to use your normal internet connection.
For example, you might route only your torrent client (e.g. uTorrent) and possibly a web browser through the VPN.
How to set it up:
- Go to settings > split tunnel
- Check enable for the split-tunnel checkbox
- Choose the applications to route through the VPN
4. Choose the right server location
PIA’s server network includes more than 80 countries, and torrent traffic is technically allowed on all of them. However, in our testing, it seems they may be rerouting torrent traffic to specific servers behind the scenes.
For faster torrenting speeds, you should simply choose the nearest VPN server, and let PIA handle the rest.
5. Verify the VPN is working
It’s important to make sure the IP address shown to peers in your torrent software is the VPN’s and not your real one. The best way to do this is with an IP tracking torrent.
Learn how: How to check your public IP address while torrenting
How to use the SOCKS Proxy for Torrents
Every PIA subscription includes unlimited bandwidth on their Netherlands-based SOCKS5 proxy service. What you may not know, is nearly all desktop torrent clients (and a Flud’s android client) have SOCKS proxy support for anonymizing torrents.
Like a VPN, the proxy will hide your true IP address from torrent peers. On the downside, there’s no encryption so your ISP could throttle or monitor your torrent activity.
Pros/Cons of the proxy instead of the VPN
- Faster (no encryption)
- No IP leaks on disconnect
- Torrent IP different than browser IP address
- No encryption means some ISP’s will block/throttle downloads
- Reduces # of available peers
- Some torrent clients ignore proxy settings selectively
For a more complete discussion of these and other tradeoffs, make sure to read our full guide: Proxy vs. VPN vs. Blocklists (for torrents)
Private Internet Access proxy setup
These steps can be found in even more detail in our PIA proxy guide.
1. Get your Proxy login/password
For security reasons, PIA uses a different login/password for the proxy server (different than your VPN account). To get the login info, you need to log into your account panel on their website and ‘generate’ a SOCKS login.
How to get your proxy credentials:
- Log into your PIA account panel
- Click the Downloads tab
- Scroll to the bottom and look for the SOCKS section
- Copy your username & password (or generate a new one)
2. Configure your torrent client
You’ll need to make sure you’re using one of the popular torrent clients that fully supports SOCKS proxy peer connections. The list includes:
You can find complete setup instructions for ALL these torrent clients in our torrent proxy guide, but below we’ll do the setup with uTorrent because uTorrent/BitTorrent is still the world’s most popular option.
Step #1 – Go to Menu > Options > Preferences > Connection
And locate the proxy settings on that page.
Step #2 – Configure the proxy settings
- Type: SOCKS5
- Proxy Address: proxy-nl.privateinternetaccess.com
- Port: 1080
- Authentication: Yes
- Username/Password: Generated in previous step
- Use proxy for hostname lookup and peer connections: Yes
Step #3 – Configure proxy privacy settings
It’s very important to make sure you enable the privacy features so your proxy doesn’t leak identifying information. We also don’t want the torrent client to ignore the proxy tunnel altogether. Recommended settings for uTorrent/Bittorrent are:
- Disable local DNS lookups: Optional
- Disable features that leak identifying information: Yes
- Disable connections unsupported by proxy: Yes
4. Test your proxy connection
Make sure your proxy connects and doesn’t generate an error. You can try a linux test torrent to make sure everything is working properly.
If you can’t find any torrent peers on a well-seeded torrent, you may have an ISP that blocks port 1080. In that case, you’ll have to use the VPN method instead.
Finally, you’ll want to check your torrent IP address using a tracking torrent like this one.
Any of these methods should work great for downloading torrents using PIA. Most users will find the VPN-only method the easiest and most efficient, and it avoids many of the troubleshooting issues that can pop up with the proxy option.
Just make sure to enable the kill-switch if you’ll be torrenting frequently.
And if you don’t want to have to worry about turning your VPN on everytime you download torrents, think about getting a VPN router. I run a VPN on my home network 24/7 using the dual-router setup option, and it works great!
If you run into issues, feel free to leave a comment below. You can also checkout some of our other PIA-related guides for troubleshooting tips:
- Using PIA’s SOCKS Proxy
- Proxy vs VPN (for torrenting)
- How to use uTorrent like a Pro
- qBittorrent Privacy Guide
12 thoughts on “How to use Private Internet Access VPN for Torrenting”
I followed instructions for #1. uTorrent is endlessly “connecting to peers… “. How can I fix it?
Option #1 (VPN) shouldn’t reduce your number of peers at all. Make sure you’re using a torrent-friendly location like Netherlands or Switzerland. Also, turn of encryption in utorrent, vuze or whichever client you use for torrent downloads.
Great suggestion about implementing a tunnel inside a tunnel, nesting the socks5 proxy in the encrypted VPN tunnel.
Since the proxy is not as secure to dpi as a strong OpenVPN tunnel in PIA, what are your thoughts on the OpenVPN server location? I first connect to NL via OpenVPN, then fire-up the NL proxy in utorrent. So, interested parties will see the NL proxy IP in the peer swarm, but will they be able to link it to the exit ip and then the gateway ip in Netherlands as well? Because i am thinking if i use a different country like Switzerland, then they can see the proxy traffic connecting to a Swiss IP and then coming to me, maybe. BUT, if the proxy IP is connecting to another Netlerland IP itself, its being routed internally, so they cant really follow the proxy traffic back to me, can they?
You should be fine using two IP’s in the same country as long as it’s a different C-block 192.168.CCC.DDD.
So 192.168.100.1 & 192.168.101.1 are fine, but using 100.1 & 100.2 might not be useful for privacy.
I had been using PIA along with qBitTorrent for about 6 months without any issue. However the last month or so the torrent will no longer download. When the programme is initially launched a connection is made and download commences, but withing a few seconds the speed drops and drops until the download stalls. It is like someone realises a torrent is being downloaded, and cuts the connection. I have followed all of the steps above and have reached out to PIA but I am no further forward. Any advice?
My only advice would be to try a different server location (country). I haven’t heard of any change in their torrent policy, but it’s a good practice to use torrent-friendly locations like The Netherlands or Switzerland.
I followed the entire process of setting vpn and proxy together, I already had PIA and now utorrent now will not download, stays in “finding peers” status and the progress lines are red. Encryption is off and I tripled checked what was changed in utorrent per your video. ( fyi I did notice in your video you said change proxy port to 1080 but your screen has 8080). I did try both ports but neither one works. There is no connection status icon in lower right window of utorrent. Please help.
PIA’s proxy port is definitely 1080. You went through the step of generating a proxy username/password in your account panel? Some ISP’s do block port 1080, or it could potentially be an antivirus/firewall.
If you can’t get the proxy to work, you can just use the VPN with a kill-switch.
I use BitTorrentPro 7.10.5 through PIA. I also run everything through Sandboxie for added protection from malware, etc. I configured the proxy port in BitTorrent’s settings using the username / password combo generated in my PIA account panel. Trying to download a tv show but it’s stuck on “Connecting to peers 0.0%”.
I’m afraid being a newbie has me cursed… I’ve made so many changes now in the BitTorrent’s advanced settings, (proxy setup, ip-binding for net-bind and net-outgoing so it matches my VPN IP from the Netherlands, etc) that I don’t know where my problem lies. Once you pros lambast me, I sure could use some guidance.
A couple things to try:
First, if you’re using the VPN, just disable the proxy. For whatever reason, SOCKS proxies seem to have issues loading magnet links sometimes. I think you’ll find if you load the magnet with the proxy off and then turn the proxy back on the file will download just fine.
Second, you can’t use the IP-bind feature with the proxy. It only works if you’re just using the VPN. This could be the reason for the error as well.
Are these settings for PIA VPN still good today? no need for a settings update to go along with a PIA update?
The settings are still good. Optionally, you can use the Wireguard protocol instead of OpenVPN which may give you even faster speeds.