Last update: 12.21.2018
More of an ex-stream disappointment than a peer-to-peer hero, BTguard came with high hopes but hasn’t moved with the times, making our BTGuard review recommendation for torrenters: go look elsewhere.
The BT in BTGuard revealingly stands for BitTorrent, so from the outset, we know what we’re dealing with here. It is one of the first Virtual Private Networks created specifically with torrenting in mind. And that’s not a small detail that we’ll discuss in this BTGuard review.
Torrenting is a notorious blind spot for many mainstream VPNs, so if BTGuard delivers, that’s a big deal. Among other things, in our BTGuard VPN review, we’ll try to find out exactly how torrent-friendly this VPN is.
The basic specs seem to measure up. As the BTGuard website explains, the VPN has servers in Europe, Asia and Canada (not the USA, to avoid legal repercussions), it offers the unlimited download speeds that torrenters need, and maxes out on speed with 10-gigabit servers.
All of that sounds great, as long as it can make good on those promises without running into security and technical issues. And that seems like the right place to start. So, is BTGuard safe to use? Our BTGuard review is about to find out.
Is BTGuard safe to use?
Well, if history is any indication, it might not be. Readers may be aware of BTGuard’s troubled history. Originally, it became a superstar VPN thanks to the endorsement of popular torrent client TorrentFreak. After that, users began to encounter issues.
Most worryingly, customers complained that it had been storing and sending unencrypted passwords to users – an incredible breach of best privacy practices that could totally undermine their protection.
Have things changed since then? Possibly, but our BTGuard review guys couldn’t find any evidence that BTGuard has changed its ways entirely. We do applaud the use of OpenVPN for their infrastructure, and we couldn’t find evidence of IP or WebRTC leakage.
However, the kill switch is missing, leaving users open to all kinds of sudden attacks.
Its absence should be a mystery because most leading VPNs include one. Unfortunately, the only place that a company with its website’s footer stuck in 2014 can lead you is nowhere.
BTGuard’s protocols are another worry. OpenVPN provides good security but takes time to set up, so many inexperienced users will employ a BTGuard setup featuring the default PPTP protocol – an outdated standard that we’d like to see phased out.
Logging shouldn’t be a problem, but BTGuard isn’t blemish-free when it comes to data privacy, admitting in the T&Cs that information will be stored for administrative purposes. There’s an opt-in for third-party sharing, but the fact that they share is worrying in itself. After all, they keep no logs, right? So what data are they passing to others? Again, somewhat of a mystery.
We couldn’t recommend BTGuard for its security features.
As for the encryption, even the OpenVPN BTGuard setup has some weaknesses, using an RSA-1028 handshake, which is also out of date. So overall, our BTGuard review concludes that we cannot recommend BTGuard, at least as far as its safety issues are concerned. There are too many cut corners and outdated elements on display. And for the price they’re asking, things should be much more secure.
Speed & Performance
Speed is one of BTGuard’s biggest selling points. Torrenting is all about downloading large files quickly, and no torrent-friendly VPN can afford to slam download speeds in the interest of privacy.
Unfortunately, our testing found that BTGuard can’t deliver on the speed front either.
Sure, people close to the servers in Canada might enjoy impressive speeds, but for users in places like the USA, there will almost always be a huge drop-off in download speeds.
We found discrepancies of 20Mbps or more compared to baseline download speeds, and final speeds felt a little pedestrian when downloading test torrents, no matter which server we used. Maybe it’s because the software is outdated, or we just didn’t have much luck, but speeds like this will frustrate any torrent users.
These drop-offs were detected with both the BTGuard torrenting proxy and the BTGuard VPN, so it wasn’t just related to the torrent client we used. Below are the Speedtest.net results that we’ve got.
BTGuard VPN speed test results from Speedtest.net
We also ran a non-torrent oriented speed test from Europe, with a 250 Mbps base speed.
The Netherlands server gave us a low ping, and a decent 56 Mbps download if we ignore that it’s five times slower than the original speed.
After some problems connecting to the Canada server, we were able to measure this overseas speed. It’s located in Toronto, so West Coast users will probably not be happy about their latency when using BTGuard. Gamers from Europe can forget using BTGuard in the North American servers as the ping was above 100 ms and the download speed dropped to 11 Mbps. The upload managed to maintain the European level with a solid 25 Mbps, though.
Our BTGuard VPN review team didn’t expect much from its Asian servers, and we got just what we expected – not much. Latency has tripled when compared to the Canadian numbers, and the upload speed cratered eight stories down, though to be fair, download speed remained the same.
How to download BTGuard
Even though our recommendation is to avoid making the mistake of downloading BTGuard, you can do so by going to BTGuard.com. Once there, click “Join now” either on the proxy or the full VPN version. The next page will ask you for account details and your preferred pricing plan. One of the few good things about BTGuard is that it requires only a valid email address and some imagination to come up with a username that’s not taken already. Another good thing is the option to pay anonymously with Bitcoin, along with PayPal and all major credit and debit cards.
Once you’re done activating your account, you’ll have to download a suitable VPN client and configure BTGuard on it. This is because BTGuard offers the service but has no dedicated client of its own. BTGuard is compatible with most OpenVPN clients.
How to install BTGuard VPN
When you’re signed in, click on Setup VPN on the right menu. You’ll be taken to a Wiki page with instructions on installing BTGuard VPN for PPTP or OpenVPN protocol. We strongly recommend the latter, as the former is outdated, just as this Wiki page, last modified July 2015.
After that, it’s basically following the step-by-step instructions for your operating system, which are pretty clear-cut.
First, you have to download the free OpenVPN client. There are premium versions offered, but if you’re using BTGuard, it’s not worth spending more, to be honest.
Now, you’ll need to set up a specific configuration for BTGuard. Thankfully, it’s provided as a custom-built auto-config file for OpenVPN, which can be downloaded from the same Wiki page.
When that’s done, if you’re using Windows, fire up the OpenVPN GUI, and you should have a choice of BTGuard servers.
That’s just for Windows 7, 8, and 10 users though. If you’re using platforms like Linux, Android, iOS, or MacOS, you can easily find specialist walkthroughs which should make setting up BTGuard VPN.
How to use it
When you’ve found a BTGuard download and installed the OpenVPN client, that’s the hard part of the work done, and actually working out how to use BTGuard isn’t too difficult.
Just launch OpenVPN GUI and right-click on its system tray icon to choose a server.
There’s no dedicated BTGuard client, so everything has to pass through OpenVPN, which is a good thing, as OpenVPN offers good functionality and is a well-designed open source product.
Our BTGuard review has discovered one thing that may be worth doing before you log off. Which is toggling the “Launch on Windows startup” option. This will load BTGuard automatically when your computer loads, avoiding the risk of human error when you forget to click the icon.
Apps & Extensions
While the use of OpenVPN has some upsides, it’s a sign that BTGuard has seriously under-invested in their own software. You can also see that trace of laziness in their selection of apps and extensions.
In fact, there aren’t any, so if you were hoping for a VPN with a specific Chrome extension, this isn’t that VPN. There isn’t even a smartphone app to help Android or iOS users work around the hassle of setting up OpenVPN. It really is a lightweight solution aimed only at torrenters, and with little to no interest for everyday users.
Is using BTGuard for Netflix a good idea?
Sadly, it’s not.
BTGuard doesn’t deliver the security and speed needed by streaming fans, but more importantly, it doesn’t have the global reach needed to get around geo-blocking measures.
BTGuard only has servers in three countries: Canada, the Netherlands, and Singapore. This means that it’s absolutely useless for working around geographical barriers in France, the UK, and especially the USA, because you don’t get to choose the actual server location.
Our BTGuard VPN review team didn’t have any luck connecting to Netflix libraries, so it looks like BTGuard doesn’t have the ability to fool Netflix’s VPN detection systems in any case. Because of this, we can’t recommend BTGuard for Netflix fans. We advise choosing something from our best VPN for Netflix list.
Is BTGuard and torrenting a match made in heaven?
Surely, torrenting is BTGuard’s biggest strength. After all, this is a VPN with BitTorrent in its name.
Well, the first signs were good. When we signed up as members, logging onto torrent clients was not a problem. We tried BTGuard with our favored client and had no trouble establishing P2P connections. That’s a significant improvement on most VPNs, which steer clear of P2P altogether.
We also used a BTGuard torrent proxy service to shield our IP address, and couldn’t find any signs of leakage.
Moreover, BTGuard provides an additional service which sets it above other VPNs. BTGuard and uTorrent have partnered to offer a 2-in-1 client which mixes its protection and uTorrent’s client. It’s not our preferred client, but we downloaded it and gave the combo a try.
Once we did, we found that the combination worked well, up to a point. Speeds were on a par with BTGuard’s average and setting it up was easy. But the client only provided proxy protection, not a full VPN service. When we turned on the full BTGuard VPN, speeds went down considerably. And we can’t really imagine that serious torrenters are going to settle for just the proxy without the VPN.
Overall, while we appreciated the fusion of a well-known client and a decent VPN service, this isn’t a revolution for those who long have been using VPNs that are great for torrenting. So we can’t recommend it for torrenting in this BTGuard VPN review – especially at the prices they charge, which we’ll come to in a second.
Can you use BTGuard in China?
BTGuard isn’t designed to defeat China’s sophisticated surveillance and censorship apparatus, and it doesn’t have any features that would help embattled web users in repressive countries.
OpenVPN is regularly blocked by Chinese ISPs, and VPN providers have to work hard to find ways to evade official barriers. BTGuard doesn’t invest anything in finding workarounds, leaving its infrastructure up to OpenVPN, so it doesn’t offer much hope for Chinese users.
Our contacts tried using BTGuard in China but had no luck connecting via the Singapore servers, and that included the BTGuard torrenting proxy.
One positive thing we can say in this BTGuard review is that their Knowledge Base is excellent. Since launching, this VPN has developed a core of committed users, and the work they have done has become a handy resource for new users.
However, aside from the documentation available on the BTGuard Knowledge Base, support isn’t impressive. Users need to log into the member’s area before they can submit a ticket, and we didn’t receive any replies to our questions. Others tell a similar story, which doesn’t boost our confidence in BTGuard’s services.
Moreover, they aren’t as transparent as other VPNs, offering no telephone contact details or live chat and no postal address. That’s a huge minus in a sector where trust is essential. We would have liked to talk to a BTGuard representative for feedback with this review, but as far as we can tell, there’s no way to do so. That’s really disappointing, just as the service itself.
Price is another disappointing area for the readers of our BTGuard VPN review. Their VPN service costs $9.95 for one month, or $89.95 for 12 months, while their torrent proxy costs $6.95 for one month and $59.95 for a year.
Both of those prices are way too high. We might be willing to pay half of that for a really good VPN with extensions for major torrent clients and excellent customer support. But what are you getting for such an outrageous price with BTGuard?
It uses OpenVPN, which is an open source, free platform. They haven’t invested a penny in developing their own client, but charge a high rate for access to a handful of underperforming servers.
Those servers would have to be super-fast and ultra-reliable to merit the price, but they aren’t. And there’s no BTGuard free trial either, which would sweeten the pill.
Given all of that, our BTGuard review gives them a big thumbs down on price.
The bottom line of the BTGuard VPN review
Setting out to be the VPN of choice for torrenters, BTGuard has let its own guard down, falling behind the competition and failing to offer anything that today’s VPN users demand.
Torrenters can find P2P-friendly VPNs with much better price points, speed, and security. It’s impossible to recommend BTGuard in today’s competitive market.