How to Torrent Safely with Surfshark

Surfshark is a secure VPN for torrenting. All its servers support P2P traffic, with reasonable torrent speeds and high AES-256 encryption. The VPN’s kill switch, Double VPN, and privacy-focused logging policy shields your P2P activity from your ISP, and allows anonymous torrenting using qBittorrent, BitTorrent, uTorrent, and Vuze.

What Are Torrents & How Do They Work?

Tim Fisher has more than 30 years’ of professional technology experience. He’s been writing about tech for more than two decades and serves as the SVP and General Manager of Lifewire.

Updated on June 8, 2023

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Torrents are a method of distributing files over the internet. They operate over the BitTorrent protocol to facilitate what’s called peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing.

There are a number of benefits torrent-based file sharing has over traditional file sharing. Expensive server equipment isn’t necessary to send files to many people at once, and low-bandwidth (slow) networks can just as easily download large sets of data.

The most common way to use torrents is through a special file that uses the .TORRENT file extension. Within the file are directions for how to share specific data with other people.

Person thinking about a Western movie while looking at torrent files on their computer

Torrents Can Be Dangerous

Before we learn more about how torrents work, it’s very important to understand that they also pose a greater risk over other forms of file sharing.

Torrents aren’t inherently dangerous to use or create, but it’s important to remember that unless you can trust the source, it’s far too easy to accidentally download files that weren’t uploaded with the proper legal permission or even download files infected with malware.

If you’re interested in using torrents to share your own files or to download large files from other people, stay safe with an antivirus program and only download torrents from users you trust.

One piece of advice that will save you a headache down the road is to watch the downloaded file name closely. If you get something called movie.mp4.exe, it’s most definitely not a movie, but instead an EXE file (which in this case is likely malicious).

This is a common trick, where the person sharing the file wants you to think you’re getting a regular file, an MP4 video in this example. Just remember that the last letters/numbers following the final period is the real file extension. This will clue you in to the real file format.

How Torrents Are Unique

Torrents are like other forms of downloading to your computer. However, the way in which you get the files isn’t as straightforward, and sharing your own data is much easier.

Here’s an example of how traditional file sharing works over the HTTP protocol:

  1. Visit a web page in your browser.
  2. Click a download link to start the download process.
  3. Save the file to your computer.

The file you downloaded was on a server, probably a high-end one with lots of disk space and other system resources, designed to serve thousands or millions of people at once. The file exists on that one server only, and anyone with access to it can download it.

Torrents work a bit differently. While your web browser connects to websites using the HTTP protocol, torrents use BitTorrent, so a program that can communicate over BitTorrent is needed instead:

  1. Open a torrent program.
  2. Import the TORRENT file to start the download process.
  3. Save the file to your computer.

In this scenario, the data you’re downloading through the torrent might exist on hundreds of servers at once, but these servers are almost always a standard personal computer in a home, just like yours. Advanced hardware isn’t required, and anyone can become a participant in this type of file exchange. In fact, anyone who downloads even a portion of the file can now operate as their own torrent server.

If you’re interested in sharing files from your computer over the internet, the traditional way to do it is by uploading the data to a central location (any file-sharing method suffices), after which the recipients can download it. With torrents, sharing is similar to saving, like described above: instead of downloading a torrent someone else made that has directions for saving their files, you share a torrent you create so that the recipients have the necessary directions to download from you.

How Torrents Work

This all might sound a little confusing, but the idea is actually pretty simple. Torrents, as you read above, rely on a peer-to-peer network. This just means that the torrent data, whatever it might be, can be accessed from more than one server at once. Anyone downloading the torrent gets it in bits and pieces from the other servers.

For example, imagine if I created a torrent to share a program I made. I enable the torrent and share the file online. Dozens of people are downloading it, and you’re one of them. Your torrent program will pick and choose which server to take the file from depending on who is currently sharing it and which servers have the part of the file that you currently need.

In a traditional file sharing setup that uses a file server, sharing a 200 MB program to 1,000 people would quickly exhaust all my upload bandwidth, especially if they all requested the file at once. Torrents eliminate this problem by letting clients scrape just a little bit of the data from me, a little bit from another user, and so on until they’ve downloaded the whole file.

Once more than one person has the entire file downloaded, the original sharer can stop distributing it without it affecting anyone else. The file will remain available for any other users of that torrent because of the decentralized, P2P foundation of BitTorrent.

How Torrents Are Distributed

Once a torrent has been made, the creator can share one of two things: the .TORRENT file or a hash of the torrent, often called a magnet link.

A magnet link is a simple way to identify the torrent on the BitTorrent network without having to deal with a TORRENT file. Like a fingerprint, it’s unique to that specific torrent, so although the link is just a string of characters, it’s just as good as having the file.

Magnet links and TORRENT files are often listed on torrent indexes, which are sites built specifically for sharing torrents. You can also share torrent information over email, text, etc.

Since magnet links and TORRENT files are just the instructions for a BitTorrent client to understand how to get the data, sharing them is quick and easy.

A torrent file isn’t super useful unless it’s used with a client program. Here’s an example of a torrent open in a text editor—you can see just how pointless viewing the torrent in this way is.

Screenshot of the text behind an Ubuntu torrent file

Common Torrent Terms

Here are some helpful terms to know when dealing with torrents:

  • Seed: To seed a torrent is to share it. A torrent’s seed count is the number of people sharing the full file. A count of zero means nobody can download the entire file.
  • Peer: A peer is someone downloading the file from a seeder, but who doesn’t yet have the full file.
  • Leech: Leechers download more than they upload. A leecher might instead upload nothing at all after the full file has been downloaded.
  • Swarm: A group of people downloading and sharing the same torrent.
  • Tracker: A server that tracks all the connected users and helps them find each other.
  • Client: The program or web service used by a torrent file or magnet link to understand how to download or upload files.

How do I download torrents without my ISP knowing?

Using torrents is a legal and efficient way of sharing large files. While ISPs won’t stop you from using torrents, they may throttle BitTorrent traffic at times, which will slow your download speeds. If you don’t want your ISP to know you’re downloading torrents, you’ll need to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which protects your privacy.

How do I download torrents with a VPN?

For downloading torrents safely with a VPN, look for a VPN for P2P support, a “zero logging” policy (no session data is monitored or stored), a “kill switch” that drops your internet connection immediately if the VPN connection is lost, and fast speeds. Once you’ve selected a VPN provider, download and install the software, taking care to use the most secure settings available. Then, choose a torrent-friendly server with safe, legal content, connect to your VPN, and establish a secure connection.

How do I stream torrents?

When you stream a torrent, for example, a movie file, you’ll be able to watch the movie without waiting for the entire file to download. To do this, you’ll need a dedicated torrent-streaming site or tool. Some examples include WebTorrent Desktop,, and Seedr. Before you stream any torrent, however, make sure the content is free and legal to access, such as a movie that’s in the public domain.

How do I make torrents faster?

There are a few things you can do to make downloading torrent files faster. First, check how many “seeders” there are for the torrent file. Seeders are people who keep sharing the torrent after they’ve downloaded it. The more seeders, the faster your torrent downloads will be. You can also try avoiding Wi-Fi in favor of a wired internet connection, downloading files one by one, bypassing your firewall, or upgrading to a higher-speed internet plan.

How to Torrent Safely with Surfshark

Simon Migliano is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He’s tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times and more.

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Our Verdict

Surfshark is a secure VPN for torrenting. All its servers support P2P traffic, with reasonable torrent speeds and high AES-256 encryption. The VPN’s kill switch, Double VPN, and privacy-focused logging policy shields your P2P activity from your ISP, and allows anonymous torrenting using qBittorrent, BitTorrent, uTorrent, and Vuze.

using Surfshark for torrenting

DISCLAIMER: While sharing files is perfectly legal, torrenting copyrighted material is not. If you want to avoid legal troubles, avoid illegal torrent sites and do not download an illegal torrent.

A secure VPN is essential to protect your identity when you are torrenting files.

The best VPNs mask your IP address and encrypt your traffic so that your ISP, and other users in the peer-to-peer (P2P) network, cannot record your activity or trace your downloads to target you with malware or copyright claims.

Sadly, not every VPN service supports P2P traffic, and many services simply do not offer the level of security necessary for safe and anonymous torrenting.

Surfshark claims to be “a torrent-friendly VPN that has everything you need”. We put this claim to the test by analyzing its average torrenting bitrate, logging policy, encryption standards, and server network, and comparing the VPN to 55 other VPN services.

We found that Surfshark is a safe and secure choice for torrenting. It supports torrenting across all its servers and works effectively with a wide range of torrent clients including uTorrent, BitTorrent, and qBittorrent.

Surfshark effectively masks your real IP address and can safely be used with the top torrent sites.

However, Surfshark is not the best VPN for P2P activity. Its speeds could be faster, and it doesn’t support port forwarding.

A Torrenting Alternative to Surfshark: Surfshark is a good VPN for torrenting, but it’s not the very best. It’s worth trialing ExpressVPN, one of our top-rated torrent VPNs, for 30 days risk-free.

In this guide, we cover all aspects of torrenting with Surfshark, including the VPN’s strengths and weaknesses.

Here’s a brief video showing you how we downloaded torrents using Surfshark:

Surfshark’s Torrenting Performance At a Glance

Average Bitrate Number of Servers P2P-Optimized Servers Logging Policy Port Forwarding Jurisdiction
8.7MiB/s 3,200+ Undisclosed No Identifying Data No Netherlands (EU Member)