How to Download Anonymously With a VPN

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Quick Guide: How to Download Anonymously With a VPN

Using a VPN is the best way to maintain your privacy and online safety while downloading torrents and other files. After all, thanks to the encryption and anonymous IP address a VPN offers, your data traffic is safe, and your actions are hidden.

Whether it’s your internet service provider (ISP), authorities, or malicious hackers, with a good VPN, third parties can no longer spy on you whenever you’re downloading something.

A VPN we recommend for downloading anonymously is NordVPN. It’s a safe, privacy-minded VPN provider with a wide server network, extra security features, and excellent download speeds.

Read the rest of the article below for more information and a step-by-step guide for safe and anonymous downloading. It is important that you consider the legality of the things you download, which is also discussed in the article.

Like a lot of online activities, downloading can get you into trouble — especially if you download torrents. While torrent (P2P) networks are very useful, they can also be infested with malware trying to cripple your device or snare your data. Since piracy laws vary internationally, you might also be doing something illegal when downloading torrents, depending on where you live.

These reasons, among others, are why users have a need for anonymous downloading. The fastest, simplest, and most effective way to get anonymity and security protection is by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). If you’re interested in anonymous downloading with a VPN, we’ll break it down for you below.


Anonymous Downloading with a VPN: Torrents and P2P Networks

As the popularity of torrenting continues to grow, it offers a good example of the need for anonymous downloading.

Here’s how P2P networks and torrents work: users exchange data online, from computer to computer. This is called downloading and uploading content. If you download a file from a torrent site, the torrent program will make sure that this file is sent to you by other users.

These other users already have this file on their computers and can share them with you. In “internet slang” they are the seeders (uploaders), and you are the leecher (downloader).

Here’s the kicker though: based on your IP address, others in the torrent network can identify you. So by simply downloading a file unprotected, you could have exposed your real location.

Why you need to be anonymous when downloading

Bored hackers, for example, have been known to call in swatting attacks after obtaining IP addresses and corresponding addresses. Of course, this information could also be complemented with social media research to run targeted phishing or social engineering campaigns.

Hackers aren’t the only threat. These days, your online activities can also easily be tracked and logged by an internet service provider (ISP), a network manager, the government or other third parties interested in seeing your browsing data and traffic.

If you want to download files safely and anonymously, you’ll need a VPN. A reliable VPN reassigns your IP address and connection to a server in their extensive private network. Top VPN providers also use military-grade, 256-bit AES encryption to secure that connection. Since true VPNs keep no logs of user activity, the downloading session becomes private and well-protected.

Important:  Please keep in mind that downloading illegal files with a VPN is also prohibited and punishable. Use a VPN only to download legal content. You should also check the legality of torrenting in your country before browsing torrent sites. We’ll talk more about this later in the article.


Step-by-Step Guide: How to Download Anonymously with a VPN

VPNs can sound complicated if you’ve never used one before. All this talk of IP addresses and servers can be confusing. But don’t worry! It is very easy to get started. Just follow the six simple steps below to protect yourself with a VPN:

  1. Create an account with a VPN provider known for security, privacy protection, and download speeds, which also supports P2P networks. We can recommend NordVPN as it covers all these bases.
  2. Download the VPN software from the official website of your chosen VPN provider.
  3. Install the VPN by following the onscreen instructions.
  4. Log in to the account you created earlier. You’ll need the username and password you created during registration.
  5. Choose a VPN server. For downloading, we recommend the nearest recommended server. This will ensure optimal speed.
  6. Turn on the VPN and your data traffic is encrypted! You can now download more securely and anonymously.

Infographic showing how to download and install VPN on a device

Bonus tips for increased safety and anonymity when downloading

Getting a high-speed VPN that supports P2P networks, keeps no logs, and has the proper security protocols in the key for anonymous downloading. But if you’re looking for extra shields of security and privacy protection, there are some additional steps you can take, such as:

  1. Use a privacy-focused browser: Browsers can give away a lot of information on you and your device, and all browsers certainly weren’t developed with anonymity and privacy in mind. We’ll give you a hint — Google Chrome did not make our list of the best browsers for your privacy. For downloading, you will want a faster browser though, so setting up FireFox as an anonymous browser is a good option.
  2. Get good antivirus: Even if you successfully download a file in total anonymity, that doesn’t mean it isn’t corrupted with malware. Torrenting networks have long been a hotbed for computer viruses, keyloggers or worms. The best antivirus software will offer protection to catch threats in real-time, as well as root out malware that has already found its way onto your device.
  3. Use anonymous emails: When signing up or registering for your VPN (or other sites and apps for that matter) you can actually do so using private and secure email providers. Some VPNs will even let you pay using Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
  4. Incognito or private mode: Though it’s not enough in itself, incognito and private windows do offer some additional protection by cleaning out your local history, so nothing will be saved on your browser’s history during a session. It’s important to note that if you don’t use a VPN, an internet service provider can still see what happens on a browsing session when using a private or incognito window.
  5. Run an anonymity test: Once you’ve taken the necessary precautions, you can run an anonymity test using our online tool. If you’ve got a good VPN on while using the tool, you’ll see any identifying information about you has been altered.

When is Anonymous Downloading Illegal?

Illegal downloads iconOnline downloading through torrent sites and P2P networks like uTorrent in itself isn’t illegal. But if the content you’re downloading is copyrighted, that is illegal. You’re getting something without paying the creators. So the legality of torrenting depends on what you download off of torrenting sites.

Torrenting websites are the place where you’ll find your trackers, allowing you to torrent the files you want. It’s not a complicated system, but it’s important to know one thing about these sites: they’re the ones targeted by anti-piracy campaigns.

Some torrent sites have a bad reputation with copyright organizations because people use these sites to exchange illegal material. The best-known examples of such sites are KickAss Torrents and The Pirate Bay. On The Pirate Bay people frequently share and download movies, series, and music that are copyrighted. The same happens on many sites that work as alternatives for The Pirate Bay or Torrent9.

Governments are constantly trying to shut these torrent sites down, which results in these sites often changing their server location, and it can also mean that sometimes your favorite torrent site won’t be up. There are many efforts done by ISPs to block or close torrent sites. Yet, there are still several torrent websites that are active and safe.

Torrenting legality by country

In more and more countries copyright organizations are allowed to collect information on the people that are active on torrent sites and streaming services. They monitor the IP addresses of those who illegally download and upload movies, series, books, and music or use illegal streaming services.

With these tracked IP addresses they have even started to fine people in some countries. This is why some downloaders have started to use a VPN to hide their IP address.

Remember, however, that you should always familiarise yourself with any applicable copyright laws before downloading something and act in accordance with these. Check out our breakdown by country to see your government’s take on torrent legality.

Some things that are generally viewed as illegal:

  • Sharing or downloading software, like games, on torrent sites.
  • Downloading or sharing movies or series that are copyrighted.
  • Sharing or downloading music that hasn’t been paid for.

Legality of torrents and P2P programs

Bittorrent logoLike torrenting in general, downloading platforms like BitTorrent and uTorrent are also legal. You can use these for downloading a software patch, a demo game, or a movie trailer. In these cases, it is not illegal because you are not infringing on anyone’s copyright. Again, it only becomes illegal when the content you download is protected by copyright.

It can be difficult to determine whether there is a copyright on a file or not. As a rule of thumb, if you can buy it somewhere it’s probably copyrighted and best avoided.


Best VPNs for Anonymous Downloading

To secure your internet connection for the purpose of safety and privacy, it is wise to use a VPN when you download (or do anything online, for that matter). Sadly, not all VPN providers are compatible with P2P downloading. We’ve rounded up the top three VPN providers that allow for anonymous downloading and provide secure, stable, and fast connections.

Let’s check out the best VPNs for anonymous downloading!

1. NordVPN: Best overall for anonymous downloading

Screenshot of NordVPN website homepage with added logo in the corner

NordVPN has its headquarters in Panama which means they are not legally required to store user logs. So they don’t register any of your actions online. It actually tops our list of the best no-log VPNs.

They offer a secure connection which will provide you with a great level of anonymity online. NordVPN allows you to go online with six people at the same time with just one subscription.

Most importantly, NordVPN is compatible with P2P downloading. They have special servers specifically for torrent downloading. These servers are very fast and you can download files in no time. If you want to give it a run for free, take advantage of NordVPN’s 30-day free trial.

NordVPN
Our pick
Our pick
Deal:
Only $2.98 a month for a two-year subscription with a 30-day money-back guarantee!
From
$2.98
9.3
  • Excellent protection and a large network of servers
  • Nice and pleasing application
  • No logs
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2. Surfshark: Affordable, fast and secure

Screenshot of Surfshark VPN provider website homepage

Surfshark is another great option for downloaders who want to improve their privacy and security without breaking the bank. In fact, Surfshark is one the cheapest, true premium VPNs we’ve been able to find.

However, its low price doesn’t mean Surfshark compromises safety and privacy. In fact, Surfshark is officially registered in the British Virgin Islands, meaning they don’t have to store any user logs.

On top of this, they also offer 256-bit AES encryption, great protocols and offer an excellent balance between speed and safety when it comes to their servers. As such, Surfshark enables you to safely and privately download large torrent files without having to wait endlessly.

Lastly, Surfshark comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, allowing you to try it out for yourself before fully committing to it.

Surfshark
Deal:
Safe and anonymous internet for only $2.21 a month
From
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9.0
  • Very user-friendly and works with Netflix and torrents
  • 30-day money-back guarantee. No questions asked!
  • Cheap with many extra options
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3. CyberGhost: Great user experience

Screenshot of CyberGhost VPN, homepage with logo

CyberGhost is very similar to other inexpensive VPNs, like Surfshark. The thing that sets it apart is its easy-to-use interface, which makes it a great choice for beginners, or anyone that likes a nice user experience.

CyberGhost is headquartered in Romania, and its corporate owner, Kape Technologies, is based in the UK. That might worry some people since the UK is part of the 5 Eyes alliance, but so far CyberGhost has stuck by its strict no-logs policy.

With reliable connections, torrent support, and a sprawling server network, CyberGhost is a good VPN choice if you want anonymous downloading. They push the trial period to the max with a 45-day money-back guarantee, which gives you plenty of time to try it out.

CyberGhost
Deal:
Try CyberGhost for $2.29 per month!
From
$2.29
8.8
  • Very user-friendly
  • High quality for a low price
  • Torrents and Netflix possible
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Can I Use a Free VPN for Torrenting?

Free VPN icon with question markFree VPNs can be enticing for sure because you don’t have to pay anything upfront to stay “safe” while torrenting. But we don’t recommend them for a number of reasons. They’re just not going to get the job done when it comes to anonymous downloading. Here are a few problems:

  1. Logging: Many free VPNs have logs of when you masked your connection, and when you got back on your actual connection. This is a best-case scenario that is still detrimental to your anonymity online. Some free providers could actually log your activity while using the VPN which is anything but anonymous.
  2. Bandwidth: Downloading (especially torrenting) takes up more bandwidth than perhaps any other online activity. Free VPNs get a lot of traffic, and they restrict your bandwidth to make room for other users. This means that it’ll be really hard to download anything since your connection is throttled by the VPN you’re using.
  3. Lack of security: Premium VPNs are not just about hiding your connection. They’re an added layer of overall security too. Free VPNs can lack the encryption and protocols necessary to protect your device and connection. Top VPNs have other security features, such as having an automatic kill switch in case your connection to the VPN is lost.
  4. No torrenting allowed: Finally, the simplest argument against downloading with a free VPN is that many free VPNs simply do not support torrenting at all! Once you’ve gone through the process of downloading and installing a VPN, you may find you can’t do what you got it for in the first place.

So do yourself a favor — if you want to torrent or download anonymously, go with NordVPN, Surfshark, or CyberGhost. In case your torrents don’t download after connecting to a VPN, there are plenty of fixes you can try.


Alternative Download Method: The Tor Network

Tor LogoWould you rather use a different method to download instead of a VPN? For the more technically-oriented user, there are alternative methods to download anonymously. For example, there is the possibility to use the Tor browser. However, this is far from the ideal solution.

Tor is an anonymous internet browser that fragments and encrypts your internet traffic. This makes it unreadable to others. As such, the Tor Browser is a valid alternative to download anonymously.

However, many people will prefer a VPN because the Tor browser (as well as BTguard or a seedbox) is less user-friendly and works much slower than many VPN services. When you download torrents via Tor, the whole Tor network slows down. Tor’s capacity is limited and when many people download torrents, the network gets overloaded. That’s why you probably shouldn’t download torrents with Tor.

Also, the download speeds are often substantially lower. While the Tor network isn’t the best for anonymous downloading (a VPN being a much more suitable option), it is an essential tool for those interested in venturing on the dark web. However, we wouldn’t advise you to download anything from the dark web!


Final Thoughts on Anonymous Downloading

You can use a VPN for anonymous downloading from torrent networks. Thanks to a VPN’s encryption, it’s much more difficult for third parties to spy on you while downloading.

Additionally, those who track IP addresses will not be able to see your personal IP address but will instead see the IP address the VPN provides for you. As such, your data and privacy are much better protected against hackers, spyware and other malicious parties.

We always recommend you only download files legally. But no matter what you do online, a VPN can improve your privacy and anonymity. Don’t forget to use a private browser and strong antivirus while you’re at it.

For more info on torrenting and downloading anonymously, check out these articles:

How to Download Anonymously: Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have a question about anonymous downloading? Then take a look at the questions below. Click on a question to directly see the answer to your question.

With a VPN you can download torrents in a more anonymous and secure way without your IP address being visible. A VPN shields your IP address and encrypts your internet traffic. We’ve put together a step-by-step guide on how to download anonymously with a VPN.

We recommend NordVPN for anonymous downloading. This VPN is very secure, fast, and privacy-focused. With NordVPN you can download files quickly, securely, and anonymously.

We do not recommend the use of free VPNs if you want to download files. Free VPNs are often not secure and keep logs. Moreover, free VPNs get a lot of traffic and they restrict your bandwidth. This makes it difficult to download anything quickly, if at all. We’ve put together a step-by-guide on downloading anonymously that covers this topic.

This depends on the content you download. Online downloading via torrent sites and P2P networks in itself isn’t illegal.  However, some files are copyrighted. Downloading copyrighted content is considered piracy, which is illegal in many countries.

The best VPNs will hide your online activity from things like your ISP, government, or other members of the torrent network. But your downloads (including torrent trackers, and actual files) are still on your computer. Anyone with access to your device can find them.

Tech journalist
Tove has been working for VPNoverview since 2017 as a journalist covering cybersecurity and privacy developments. She has broad experience developing rigorous VPN testing procedures and protocols for our VPN review section and has tested dozens of VPNs over the years.