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The practice of torrenting changes frequently. As lobbyists continue to target torrent-hosting websites in their battle against Internet piracy, well-known search engines such as The Pirate Bay and isoHunt are dropping like flies.
Torrent clients, on the other hand, are usually safe as they tend to avoid file hosting. With that said, many of the best torrent clients from the heyday of filesharing—such as LimeWire and μTorrent—are losing favor or disappearing altogether. Software engineers are always in competition with one another, and their attempts to enhance their clients can either fail to meet new standards or ruin the software altogether.
As such, it’s worth taking inventory of the best torrent software available to users in 2021. This is especially important if you’re still using μTorrent, the age-old favorite which has recently been criticized for spreading malware and allowing data-mining. As such, this article is intended to guide users—especially newbies—toward the safest, most efficient torrenting experience.
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Of course, different clients are built to serve different needs, and some are designed to run on more powerful systems; these are factors we considered during our research in order to provide a broad range of possible options. To do this, we evaluated ten of the best torrent clients in terms of these factors:
- ease of use
- available options
- power consumption
- ad content
One of the difficulties in compiling this list is that not everyone has access to the same broadband package; naturally, this can affect the user experience of less powerful torrent clients. (For candor, our speeds were 33.6 Mb/s for downloads and 6.95 Mb/s for uploads.)
qBittorrent is open-source software, meaning that it can be (and is) built by collaborative volunteers.
As μTorrent continues to alienate its users through excessive ad content and malware issues, qBittorrent has become widely acknowledged as a worthy successor. It has been shaped by diverse software engineers through its open source license, and the result is everything μTorrent used to be: lightweight, smart, and hassle-free.
Installation is quick and easy, and the client does not attempt to trick users into downloading third-party content. We were particularly impressed by the sidebar, which features a comprehensive list of torrenting tools presented in an attractive manner.
Far from being a totally basic torrent client, however, qBittorrent contains a range of advanced features, such as tracker management and super-seeding, which are merely there in case you need them. What’s truly remarkable about this client is that it consumes around 25–30% CPU, which is a relatively light amount for such a powerful piece of software.
qBittorrent is a great all-rounder, and because of its open source license, it’s entirely ad-free; its maintenance depends entirely on donations. We can confidently call this the best torrent client to use in 2021.
Transmission is easily the least obtrusive torrent client out there; it’s designed to run in the background, although it’s tiny enough to forget about when it’s in the foreground.
Although Transmission appears tiny at first, it’s a genuinely robust piece of software. All of the advanced features expected of torrent clients are condensed into a sturdy little torrenting machine. These features keep a low profile but are easily accessible for veteran torrent users who know what to look for.
For beginners, however, it’s remarkably simplistic. It’s designed to appear as any program would—be it Windows or OSX—and presents only the necessary information a casual torrent user will need. Better yet, it’s immediately ready for action following its painless installation process.
Another benefit of its concise appearance is the lack of space for ad content. Transmission merely is, taking up as little CPU (usually around 20%) as it does screen space. As such, it’s one of the best torrent clients for new users, and it is reliable enough to earn praise from more advanced torrent users.
Whereas Transmission covers the basics of torrenting with a compact interface, Deluge is one of the most popular torrent clients among tech-savvy users.
The client appears strange upon installation.
Its design is quite unusual, and although it’s certainly user-friendly if you’re experienced in torrenting, it can seem oddly inaccessible at first. Indeed, this is because Deluge isn’t your regular torrent client; it’s designed to be customized to the user’s satisfaction.
On the official website, there is an enormous list of plug-ins (featured below) that allow the client to be tailored to one’s needs. While the range provided by the developer is remarkable, the sheer mass of these plug-ins can be overwhelming to the casual torrent user. In that case, however, you are free to leave Deluge as it comes.
Some of these plug-ins cover options that are available with the more advanced torrent clients. Therein, however, lies the genius of Deluge: without plug-ins, the client only consumes 22–27% CPU.
Basically, this is an extremely streamlined piece of software that allows the user to customize power management at will, making Deluge the perfect torrent client for the adventurous user.
Vuze is among the more advanced torrent clients and has enjoyed a considerable reputation since the days of LimeWire and μTorrent.
In more recent versions, however, Vuze has been consistently criticized as ‘bloated.’ We’d tend to agree; after testing the software for ourselves, we found the client to be slightly overwhelming. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—there’s obviously a market for more advanced software—but it can certainly seem intimidating to the torrenting newbie.
Indeed, Vuze seems wholly content with seeming difficult. Under ‘Preferences’ the user is able to select their ‘User Proficiency,’ with the choices being ‘Beginner,’ ‘Intermediate,’ and ‘Advanced.’ We can certainly understand that this seems like an option to increase accessibility, but there’s something exclusionary about the presence of a difficulty setting.
Vuze is also available in ‘Pro’ mode, which was originally listed as $29.90 per year. According to the adverts in the free version, the main benefit is the ability to play videos while they download; however, this feature is readily available with many free clients.
The installation process, furthermore, attempts to download third-party software at every turn.
Users who desire a more powerful torrent client may find a lot to love in Vuze, but it’s worth remembering that with such a powerful client comes considerable processing requirements: a single download can consume 40–60% on average. As such, this is a torrent client that should be approached with caution.
For μTorrent users reluctant to make the change, it’s worth considering BitTorrent; it’s developed by the same company behind μTorrent, and as such, features the exact same interface.
BitTorrent is more streamlined that μTorrent, and unfortunately, that means it is somewhat lacking in available options. The benefit, though, is that BitTorrent becomes a relatively inoffensive torrent client as a result. Its advertisements only work half the time, and it tends to consume less than 20% CPU at any one point.
Although it seems underwhelming in some regards, however, BitTorrent outpaces clients such as Vuze and Folx through its media player, which is only available in the paid versions of those clients. The installation process is also quick, simple, and user-friendly, and it does not attempt to trick the user into downloading third-party content.
The upshot, then, is that BitTorrent is another worthwhile torrent client for beginners, even if it isn’t as attractive as some of the other models.
WebTorrent is another no-frills torrent client that comes with a singular advantage: it’s one of the most aesthetically pleasing clients currently in operation.
The only downside with such a design is that those are actually promoted torrents, and the beginner should be careful to avoid downloading them by accident. WebTorrent also falls short in its option availability; indeed, most of the standard options available with torrent clients appear to be absent altogether.
WebTorrent’s main advantage, however, is that it consumes a tiny amount of power; most of the time, it uses less than 10% CPU. Furthermore, although it is technically loaded with adverts, its masterstroke is that it presents the content in a visually pleasing manner.
Although WebTorrent certainly has its disadvantages, then, it’s highly recommendable for the aesthete torrenting newbie; it’s a lightweight client that churns away happily in the background, and it isn’t an eyesore if you want to keep an eye on your download speed.
BitLord is advertised as the ‘easiest torrent downloader,’ which is certainly a tall claim; however, it shares many aspects with the user-friendly qBittorrent, and is certainly among the most distinctive torrent clients available in 2021.
During installation, however, BitLord makes a poor first impression. For a client that consumes a modest 25–30% CPU, the program’s file size is easily the largest of the clients we’ve tested. As such, this makes for a lengthy download period and installation—by modern standards, at least.
Nevertheless, BitLord does hold some small but unique advantages over the competition. The download speeds are listed in the both top and bottom menu bars, which makes it a great deal easier for users to keep an eye on their download speed. There is also a specific search function for Open Subtitles, which can be a lifesaver for fans of foreign-language movies.
The only real downside to BitLord, post-installation, is the ad content; even then, though, the ads themselves are rather minimal on the main download page. Overall, this is an attractive client that comes very close to achieving the quality level of qBittorrent and only missing out by a few small hindrances.
FrostWire is a veteran torrent client that was developed in 2004 as an open source offshoot of the now-defunct LimeWire.
One of our favorite things about FrostWire—as strange as it may seem—is its installation process. Everything is presented in a friendly manner and explained in layman terms, and the program does not attempt to trick the hasty clicker into downloading potentially dangerous third-party content.
Once the client is up and running, it also provides clear guides to downloading your first torrent. As with many other worthwhile torrents listed here, FrostWire features the option to play media content as it’s downloading. Its interface is also attractively designed, and its soft blue color scheme is easy on the eyes.
The only real drawback with FrostWire is that it’s a slightly cumbersome piece of software; downloading a single torrent can cause it to consume as much as 50% CPU. That aside, though, this is one of the best torrent clients for beginners, although those beginners should ensure their systems are running on reasonably powerful processors.
Folx is a lesser-known torrent client, albeit one that has recently garnered acclaim as one of the fastest filesharing managers on the web.
We haven’t been able to confirm the viability of these claims, however, because Folx seemed to be having an ‘off week’ with us—it was actually one of the slowest torrent clients we tested. We were impressed by how efficient this client was in practice, though, as it barely cracked 10% CPU throughout our test downloads.
There are downsides to such efficiency, of course. Even more so than BitTorrent, Folx lacks the majority of the default options available with the best torrent clients. By all accounts, these options are available only if you purchase the ‘Pro’ version of this client, which it asks you to do every five minutes or so.
With the basic version of Folx, it seems the user is able to download torrents and do nothing else. This, of course, might be precisely what some users desire from a torrent client, and other individuals may be able to experience the program’s reported high-speed downloads. If all you require is the bare minimum, try Folx by all means.
Tribler is the most unique torrent client we’re including here, and it is strictly reserved for the most advanced torrent users.
This torrent client uses onion routing, which allows for anonymous file-sharing across the BitTorrent protocol (peer-to-peer network). With onion routing, your network traffic is bounced randomly across global IP addresses, which essentially makes you invisible on the internet as it prevents anyone from being able to track down your identity or location.
Importantly, though, this is not as straightforward as it seems. Onion-routed traffic has to leave the decentralized network eventually, and this is done through exit nodes; these exit nodes then become responsible for all the traffic routed through that network. Older versions of Tribler automatically established the user’s IP as an exit node, which has led to DMCA notices being sent to users for torrents they didn’t even download.
Newer versions of Tribler do not automatically do this, but they still provide the option to do so; never allow your computer to become an exit node. To be safer still, use a VPN, which we’ll cover very shortly.
As such, Tribler is designed for the adventurous torrent user. It’s a heavy client that often consumes around 90% CPU, but it’s quick, attractive, and contains an inbuilt search engine that trumps anything else we’ve tested. Aside from a few missing options, Tribler appears to be one of the most robust torrent clients available today—just make sure you’re using it safely.
Safety while using torrents
As we mentioned at the beginning, torrenting has come under fire in recent years due to the ongoing battle against copyright piracy. Certain territories have have made torrenting illegal altogether, and users can be fined for downloading copyrighted content.
Here are the six countries where this is the case:
- United Kingdom
- United Arab Emirates
As well as this, it is worth remembering that torrenting works on peer-to-peer filesharing, which means that content is transferred between seeders (persons who have the full file) and leechers (persons who are also downloading the file).
As such, these users are technically uploading content—particularly seeders—which leaves users in many territories open to receiving complaints from legal organizations known as copyright trolls.
Because of this, it’s important to use a VPN (virtual private network) while torrenting. Almost like onion routing, a VPN bounces your real IP address to a completely random server, which makes it impossible for anyone to track your activity. This protects you against copyright notices and settlement letters, both of which provide the risk of heavy fines (or even prison sentences).
A common misconception with VPNs is that, by re-routing your IP address, they limit your actual download speeds. This is certainly not the case; our tests were conducted with the use of a VPN, and as we said at the beginning, we were operating on over 33 Mb/s, meaning we could download large torrent files (1–2 GB) in under ten minutes.
Indeed, we’ve conducted our own tests on the best VPNs currently available. Once again, this is an absolute necessity for torrent users as it ensures you remain safe throughout your torrenting experience.
Summary: the best torrent clients
Through our research, we can confidently say that qBittorrent is the greatest all-round torrent client in operation today; for beginners, novices, and experts in torrenting, you can’t go far wrong with this software.
With that said, we’d argue that the best torrent client for absolute beginners is FrostWire, the most user-friendly software we’ve encountered during our test phase.
Frostwire is the overall best torrent client if you’re an absolute beginner, Folx for light users, and Deluge is the best for tech-savvy users.
For users in need of a lightweight, performance-friendly client, we recommend Folx (or WebTorrent, if you’re an aesthete). For the most tech-savvy users, once again, we’d vouch for Deluge any day of the week.
So, which of the best torrent clients listed here today are you using in 2021? Are there any major ones that we’ve missed?
Any ones that we’ve listed that are having problems? Let us know in the comments below!
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Jan is the captain at the helm of VPNpro. He ensures that every crew member is practicing perfect digital hygiene and spreading only accurate pro tips about technology. Besides that, he is a frequent contributor on many renowned publications, such as Forbes, ComputerWeekly, PC Mag, TechRadar, and ZDNet.