While many people are turning to streaming sites or modified Kodi setups to access media content, BitTorrent remains popular. Indeed, the P2P protocol offers a number of distinct advantages over streaming services:
- It can be used to download all sorts of content – not just videos
- You get to keep the files on your local drive
- It is possible to download video content at a much higher quality than is usually available (or feasible) via streaming.
One downside is that a little patience is required. Another is that due to the peer-to-peer nature of BitTorrent, it is very easy for copyright holders to track your real IP address – which is an issue because as with Kodi, torrenting copyrighted material is illegal.
- Open source
- Fully featured
- Built-in video player
- RSS subscription
- Built in search with multiple engines.
- Can’t think of any
This lightweight BitTorrent client is all open source goodness. It offers nowhere near as many features as the likes of Vuze, but then most people have no need for a feature list as long as their arm.
qBitTorrent does, however, offer torrent prioritization, torrent querying, selective content download, torrent creation, remote access, and RSS subscription. You can search for torrents from within the client, and the built-in media player is handy.
This lean and mean BitTorrent client is 100 percent free, and is available for Windows, Mac OSX/MacOS, and Linux.
Try out our top BitTorrent client. It’s completely free!
- Open source
- Tons of features
- Available natively on many obscure OSs
- Not much
Transmission started life as a Mac and Linux-only BitTorrent client, where it built up a formidable reputation. Windows users can now also get in on the act. Although a very capable BitTorrent client, the main draw of Transmission is its beautiful user interface, complete with Growl notifications for Mac users.
But it’s not all about looking pretty. Transmission features webseed support, BitTorrent protocol encryption, watch directories, tracker editing, global and per-torrent speed limits, and more. It also supports optional add-ons that can expand its feature-set. These include RSS subscription tools and an XMBC/Kodi plugin.
Transmission is 100 percent free and is available for Windows, Mac OSX/MacOS, Linux (many distros), FreeBSD, Gentoo, and more.
- Ridiculously fully featured
- Can bind downloads to VPN
- Lots of plugins available to increase functionality
- Built in video player
- RSS subscriptions
- Great Android apps
- Somewhat bulky and resource-heavy
- Tries to install crapware
- Only partially open source
- Interface could be prettier and more intuitive
Once called Azureus, back in the day this venerable software competed with uTorrent for the title of world’s most popular BitTorrent client. It now creaks a little under the weight of its myriad of features, and is the polar opposite of lightweight clients such as qBitTorrent.
But, hey. A shedload of features, even if most users are unlikely to ever need them, is not a bad thing. These include a variety of statistics and visualizations, file conversion for different devices (with drag and drop functionality), content discovery through automated subscriptions, an integrated media player, remote management, and much more.
There is really almost nothing Torrent-related that Vuze can’t do. Its killer feature, however, is the ability to bind the client to a VPN adapter. This prevents Vuze from sharing torrents unless a VPN is up and running. It therefore acts as a form of torrent-only kill switch. This is a very handy feature, and Vuze is the only BitTorrent client to offer it.
In other words, Vuze is, in many ways, a power user’s dream. On the downside, though, Vuze is resource-heavy, is rather ugly, and its clunky interface is showing its age. This situation is not helped by the inclusion of ads in the free version, or by the fact that you need to be careful during installation if you do not want to also install a load of crapware.
Although Vuze is primarily free, a premium version is also available for a somewhat eye watering €28.90 EUR per year. A Vuze Plus subscription removes the ads and provides built-in anti-virus scanning, a DVD burner, and play now support (which is, admittedly, pretty funky).
This also brings us to the point that, despite its open source roots, Vuze is now closed source proprietary software.
Unlike the desktop client, the excellent Android app is lightweight and ad-free. A pro version is now available via in-app purchase (about $4), but I have been unable to determine what features this adds (and am too skinflint to shell out the money necessary to find out!).
Vuze Remote is a handy app for Android that allows you remote control your desktop torrent downloads.
Vuze is available for Windows, Mac OSX/MacOS, Linux, and Android.
- Instant streaming of high quality BitTorrent content!
- Open source
- Very smart interface
- Built-in VPN (not free)
- Chromecast support (maybe)
- Available on just about every platform
- Only for video content
I am aware that inclusion of Popcorn Time in this list may be a little controversial. It is such a polished and game-changing piece of software, however, that I feel it has earned its place here.
Popcorn Time (PT) is an open source app. It uses BitTorrent technology to stream high quality video content to all major platforms. It is notable for having a very slick and intuitive interface, and for providing access to a huge library of up-to-date content.
Although primarily a streaming platform, content can also be downloaded locally. Various versions (forks) of Popcorn Time are available, but I strongly advise only using one of the three forks recommended in 5 Best VPNs for Popcorn Time.
Specific features vary a little depending on which fork you use, but steaming to your TV via Chromecast, Airplay and DLNA is pretty standard.
- Open source
- Lots of features
- Expandable via plugins (incl. RSS)
- Less fully featured than some other clients
Like qBitTorrent, Deluge is a fairly conventional but lightweight and open source BitTorrent client. Its feature list is not huge, but should be more than enough to satisfy most users. Features include remote web management and support for magnet links.
Functionality can be further extended with a range of both in-house and third-party Plugins. Highlights include plugins for RSS support, Growl notifications, streaming while downloading, and more.
Deluge is completely FOSS, with no ads or crapware.
Deluge is available for Windows, OSX, Linux (various distros), and FreeBSD.
Best BitTorrent Client: Considerations
How do I use a BitTorrent client?
One reason for the popularity of online streaming services (including via use of Kodi boxes) is the perception that torrenting is a geeky pastime that requires technical know-how. In reality, however, torrenting is very easy.
- Download and install a BitTorrent client from the list above.
- (Optional but strongly recommended) Ensure you have a VPN running. This will bypass censorship of torrent sites, hide your IP from others you fileshare with, and hide your downloads from your ISP. Check out 5 Best VPNs for Torrenting for a list of recommended services.
- Visit a BitTorrent website. These websites host links to torrent files. You can browse for content that interests you, or search for something specific. Many websites include user-reviews of torrents, which can help you pick good ones.
- When you have found the content you want, simply click on the torrent link or magnet link. The torrent will open in your BitTorrent client and begin downloading.
- When the download is 100% completed, enjoy! Some BitTorrent clients have media-players built-in, but VLC will play pretty much any media file you can throw at it.
BitTorrent is a decentralized file-sharing platform. In order for it to work, users share files with other users. This happens while you download a file, but it is considered good form to leave your BitTorrent client open after you have finished downloading a file in order to benefit other users.
This is known as seeding, and it is considered good netiquette to seed to a ratio of at least 1:1 (i.e. upload for other users the same amount of data as you download.) Most BitTorrent clients will display the seed ratio of downloaded files.
You don’t, to be honest, ever need to know much more about torrenting than the information provided above. If you ever wish to explore the subject further, however, this glossary makes a good introduction to the jargon used.
Movie torrents, in particular, have a great deal of jargon associated with them. In order to make informed decisions about the content you plan to download, it is useful to familiarize yourself with it.
One thing to watch out for on public torrent sites is sponsored links. These are often prominently displayed, and are often deliberately designed to confuse. They typically point to either commercial direct download sites or Usenet services. Look for a link that specifically says “Torrent” or “Magnet Link.”
uTorrent (and its almost identical sibling the official BitTorrent client) remains the most popular BitTorrent client in the world. It is therefore reasonable to ask why I have not included it in this 5 Best list.
uTorrent is closed source and supports itself with ads. These ads can be turned off if you delve deep enough into the software’s settings, but this is still very irritating. It is my personal view (and hey, this list is a personal choice), this means that uTorrent has all the disadvantages of Vuze, but not as many useful features.
So if you want a slightly clunky closed-source ad-supported BitTorrent client, but one that compensates for this by offering a wealth of features, then use Vuze. Other opinions are available.
Best VPNs for Torrent Clients
It is vital to use a VPN while downloading if you don’t want to end up in trouble with copyright holders. Please check out 5 Best VPNs for Torrenting for an in-depth discussion on this subject.
BitTorrent VPN free?
The first thing to note is that free VPNs for torrenting are not a thing. Running a VPN service costs time and money, and if you are not paying for the service with money then you are probably paying in some other way (such as your privacy or bandwidth).
Some decent free VPN services do exist, but these are usually severely limited in some way. They exist mainly to encourage you to upgrade to a premium service. Dealing with copyright complaints and DMCA notices etc., however, is a major hassle, and almost* no VPN service permits it using a free account. It’s just not worth it for them!
Best BitTorrent Clients: Conclusion
P2P downloaders are spoiled for choice when it comes to great BitTorrent clients. There are, indeed, many more such available than are listed here. In my view these are the best, but if you beg to differ, please let me know by leaving a comment below!