Last update: 08.21.2018
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 to recommend the torrenters go looking elsewhere.
The “BT” in BTGuard revealingly stands for “Bit Torrent”, so from the outset, we know what we’re dealing with here. BTGuard is one of the first Virtual Private Networks created specifically with torrenting in mind. And that’s not a small detail.
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 review, we will 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 a good 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 guide, 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 started to encounter issues.
Most worryingly, customers complained that it had been storing and sending unencrypted passwords to users.
Most worryingly, customers complained that it had been storing and sending unencrypted passwords to users – an amazing breach of best privacy practices that could totally undermine their protection.
The kill switch is missing, leaving users open to all kinds of sudden attacks.
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 is a mystery because many leading VPNs include one as a matter of course.
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takes time to set up, so many inexperienced users will employ a BTGuard setup featuring the default PPTP protocol – an outdated standard that we’d like to see phased out.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, a bit of a mystery.
We couldn’t recommend the security aspects of BTGuard.
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 the security aspects of BTGuard. There are too many cut corners and outdated elements on display. And for the price people pay, things should be much more secure.
Speed & Performance
One of the biggest selling points of BTGuard is speed. 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.
Unfortunately, testing for this BTGuard review 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 free VPN, so it wasn’t just related to the torrent client we used.
How to download BTGuard
If you do want to find a BTGuard download, getting hold of either the VPN client or the torrent proxy is very easy.
Firstly, you’ll need to head to the website and choose to join the correct option. You won’t be able to download until you’ve joined and paid. No personal information is needed, only an email address (which doesn’t have to include any personally identifiable information).
Payment methods include PayPal and all major credit and debit cards. However, you can anonymize the process pretty well by paying in Bitcoin if you prefer.
When that’s done, you’ll have to download a suitable VPN client. BTGuard is compatible with most OpenVPN clients.
How to install it
Before you can set up BTGuard, you’ll need to install an OpenVPN client. Just choose the right platform and download from the OpenVPN site – it’s all open source and free, so there’s no need to pay extra.
When the client has downloaded, launch the installer. Now you’ll need to set up a specific configuration for BTGuard. Thankfully, it has provided a custom-built config file for OpenVPN, which can be downloaded from their 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 are using platforms like Linux, Android, iOS, or MacOS, you can find specialist walkthroughs which should make setting up BTGuard VPN easy.
How to use it
When you’ve found a BTGuard download and installed the OpenVPN client, that’s the hard work done, and actually working out how to use BTGuard isn’t too hard.
Just click on the OpenVPN icon whenever you load up your system and choose a server. There’s no dedicated BTGuard client, so everything has to pass through OpenVPN, which is a good thing, as OpenVPN is full of 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. That 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 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 it. 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 interest everyday users.
Is using BTGuard for Netflix a good idea?
Sadly not. BTGuard doesn’t deliver the security and speed needed by streaming fans, but more importantly, it doesn’t have the global reach.
Sadly 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, Holland, and Singapore. This means that it’s absolutely useless for working around geographical barriers in France, the UK or the USA.
Our BTGuard review team did try to connect to Dutch Netflix but didn’t have any luck, 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. Use something like ExpressVPN, NordVPN, or TorGuard instead.
Are BTGuard and Torrenting a match made in heaven?
Surely this is BTGuard’s biggest strength. After all, this is a VPN with “Bit Torrent” in its name.
We also used a BTGuard torrent proxy service to shield our IP address, and couldn’t find any signs of leakage.
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.
When 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 torrenters. So we can’t recommend it for torrenting in this BTGuard 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 the sophisticated surveillance and censorship practiced by the Peoples Republic of China, and it doesn’t have any features which 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 big minus in a sector where trust is important. 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.
Price is another disappointing area for the readers of our BTGuard review. Their VPN service costs over $10 for one month, or $91 for 12 months, while their torrent proxy costs just over $7 for one month and $65 for a year.
Both of those prices are much, much too high. We might be willing to pay half of that for a really good VPN with extensions for major torrent clients and excellent support. But what are you getting for such a high 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, this BTGuard review gives them a big thumbs down on price.
Bottom line of the BTGuard review
Setting out to be the VPN of choice for torrenters, BTGuard has let its 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, and it’s hard to recommend BTGuard in today’s competitive market.