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BitTorrent not working with VPN software is a tale as old as… well, BitTorrent, really.

Regardless of your virtual private network of choice, there’s a decent chance you’ll have issues using it with a rerouted connection, which is essentially what a VPN is.

Boasting tens of millions of users across the globe, BitTorrent remains one of today’s most popular peer-to-peer sharing clients. As such, it’s also not without its fair share of problems associated with VPNs – the most common of which we’re dissecting today.

Why BitTorrent isn’t working with your VPN

BitTorrent is far from the only client for P2P sharing that tends to have trouble working in synergy with VPNs. As in the case of popular programs like uTorrent, that tends to be by design.

While there’s nothing illegal about using a VPN or a proxy to protect your online identity and add another layer of security to your browsing history, the law in many corners of the world also allows ISPs to discriminate against certain traffic such as peer-to-peer sharing. Add that to the list of arguments in favor of strong net neutrality protections whose lack even affected the coronavirus panic in the U.S.

Assuming your VPN provider is at least trying to provide you with uncensored Internet access, what remains is a long list of technical issues that can spruce up when pairing torrenting with end-to-end encryption and IP obfuscation. These can vary to great degrees, so even focusing on one specific P2P client like BitTorrent is a complex endeavor.

Most common VPN fixes for BitTorrent

Your very first step in troubleshooting VPN issues with BitTorrent should be checking whether your client works in the first place. In other words, disable your VPN software and try using BitTorrent over a regular Internet connection. On an occasion, usually when using the desktop version of BitTorrent, your firewall or antivirus software may outright block the program without much fanfare.

With that out of the way, you also need to make sure your BitTorrent is properly set up for handling VPN connections. Navigate to Preferences, click the Connection item, and type in the server details sent by your VPN provider on the following screen, categorized as Proxy Server.

Note that there are some limitations to what kind of VPNs you can use with BitTorrent and P2P software in general. More specifically: only the SOCKS5 protocol supports UDP proxying and ordinary proxies usually don’t play ball with any torrenting software. If you’re not sure what any of that means, it’s always a good idea to contact your prospective VPN provider and directly inquire about whether it allows P2P traffic and BitTorrent protocols in particular before committing to a subscription.

Usually, it’s a good sign if a VPN provider has dedicated pages meant to help you set up its software for torrenting; doubly so if those materials explicitly mention BitTorrent.

Note that some VPNs are objectively better for torrenting than others, whereas a number of them block or cripple all P2P traffic and definitely aren’t an option any avid BitTorrent user would want to rely on.

One specific technical problem VPN users often encounter with BitTorrent is getting stuck in the “connecting to peers” phase of file sharing. Assuming you’re not dealing with a dead (i.e. peerless) download, navigate to the Advanced Preferences of your BitTorrent client and see whether the vpn.dark_mode node is enabled. Uncheck it if it is as it’s been confirmed this experimental option is causing issues to VPN solutions.

If you often find BitTorrent pausing your downloads or seeded files on its own when operating over a rerouted connection, by far the most common explanation is that the dynamic nature of your obfuscated IP is confusing the software. Assuming your VPN does not have specific instructions for avoiding that issue, your best bet is activating a dedicated IP address or finding a provider that allows you to do so.

Keep in mind, you may have to switch VPNs

There are many reports of disappointed BitTorrent users finding out they can’t participate in anonymized P2P sharing because their VPN doesn’t allow torrenting. If you find yourself in such a scenario, you shouldn’t think twice about switching providers because, luckily, plenty of them don’t suck.

One final thing to keep in mind is that it’s usually a futile endeavor to expect BitTorrent’s reps to solve your highly specific issues related to VPNs, particularly so with the Android version that’s somewhat limited in functionality compared to its older brother.

Editor’s Note

BitTorrent not working with a VPN” was written by Dominik Bosnjak, a long-time VPN-user-turned-advocate who spends more time scrutinizing VPN Providers on a daily basis than he’d like to admit. When he isn’t writing VPN Guides and covering general Tech News, he’s probably spending time with his dog, video games, or both. Fun fact: the Shih Tzu in question is the only remaining creature in Dominik’s life who hasn’t told him they’re sick of him talking about Best VPN practices and government-sponsored erosion of digital privacy which made using the Internet less convenient over the years. He occasionally dabbles in video editing, Wall Street memes, and demonstrating a remarkable lack of guitar-playing ability.

If you want more tidbit-sized rants about any of those things, you can find him on Twitter @dddominikk.

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