BTGuard came with high hopes but hasn’t moved with the times.
The BT in BTGuard revealingly stands for BitTorrent, so from the outset, we know what we’re dealing with here. It’s one of the first VPNs created in 2008 specifically with torrenting in mind. Originally, it became a superstar VPN thanks to an endorsement by TorrentFreak.
The company behind it is Netcrawled LLC, based in Canada, a 5 Eyes member country. In our BTGuard VPN review, we’ll try to find out if this VPN is still worth installing.
We first thought about splitting the protocols to give you at least three bullet points:
BTGuard’s security is too low to use this VPN. While the 256-bit encryption is great, BTGuard uses RSA-1028 handshake which is an outdated technology. What’s more, they have no alternative for OpenVPN because PPTP is also no longer recommended. And to put a nail in its coffin, this VPN comes without a kill switch.
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 anything is worrying in itself. After all, they keep no logs, right? So what data are they passing to others? Again, somewhat of a mystery.
Most alarmingly, customers complained that BTGuard has been storing and sending unencrypted passwords to users – an incredible breach of best privacy practices that could totally undermine their protection. Have things improved since then? Possibly, but we couldn’t find any evidence that BTGuard has changed its ways entirely.
We didn’t want to end the security and privacy section on a sour note, but we’ll have to do it nonetheless:
BTGuard does have DNS and IP leaks.
It has failed one IP and two DNS tests, which is one of the worst results in recent memory. BTGuard also doesn’t seem to have any built-in leak protection.
If you’re still willing to take a chance, we’d recommend either disabling IPv6 on your device or WebRTC on your browser to remove at least some of the vulnerabilities.
In short, BTGuard is not safe to use and shouldn’t be used by anyone who cares about privacy.
Speed is the second most important point after security. After all, if your connection becomes slow, streaming, torrenting, or gaming will probably bring you more frustration than joy.
As the BTGuard website explains, the VPN has servers in Europe, Asia, and Canada (not the USA, to avoid legal repercussions). It also offers the unlimited download speeds that torrenters need and maxes out on speed with 10-gigabit servers.
While this may sound OK-ish at first, it turns out that BTGuard has one country for each of the three locations – the Netherlands, Singapore, and… Canada. Now, that’s one of the worst server lists we’ve encountered so far. It’s not clear how many servers there are in total, but, in solidarity with BTGuard’s user-base, we hope there’s more than three.
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 tests indicate that BTGuard offers slow speeds.
We ran a speed test from Europe, with a 302 Mbps base download speed.
Below are the numbers with BTGuard VPN turned on.
We were unable to connect to Singapore’s server – every time we tried we ended up with a Dutch IP address. The numbers above are from our test in 2018. Be advised that the speeds we’ve got in Europe and Canada were about twice as slow as the last year’s.
BTGuard has no native client. Instead, it uses OpenVPN software which can be configured to include all three server locations. Alternatively, a connection using an outdated PPTP protocol can be set up on your device’s OS without extra software.
BTGuard offers instruction on how to set everything up on each major platform, Linux, Ubuntu, Chrome OS, and routers. It’s not as difficult as it may seem, but still, everyone would prefer a decent app.
Even though our recommendation is to avoid making the error of downloading BTGuard, you can learn from your own mistakes 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 registration requires only a valid email address. Another good thing is the option to pay with Bitcoin.
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, which are pretty clear-cut.
When that’s done, if you’re using Windows, fire up the OpenVPN GUI, and you should have a choice of all three BTGuard servers.
OpenVPN is a well-designed open source product but doesn’t offer much when it comes to customization, at least for the novice users. One thing that may be worth doing is toggling the “Launch on Windows startup” option. This way you won’t need to remember to click the system tray icon every time.
BTGuard doesn’t unblock Netflix. Even if it did, you wouldn’t be able to watch the US, the UK, or Japanese libraries. Also, it’s highly unlikely that the speeds would be enough for streaming in HD unless you live nearby one off the three server locations.
For streaming fans, we advise picking something from our best VPN for Netflix list.
We tried BTGuard with our favored P2P client and had no trouble establishing connections.
We also used the BTGuard torrent proxy service to shield our IP address, and couldn’t find any signs of leakage.
BTGuard and uTorrent have partnered to offer a 2-in-1 client which mixes its protection and uTorrent’s client. We found that the 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 imagine serious torrenters settling for the proxy. Therefore we can’t recommend BTGuard for torrenting – especially at the prices they charge.
Those who want a truly P2P-friendly VPN should look at our list of best VPNs for torrenting.
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.
Chinese ISPs regularly block OpenVPN, 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 that doesn’t offer much hope for Chinese users.
We don’t recommend using BTGuard in China or any restricted internet access country. Users should instead choose one of the best VPNs for China.
If you happen to become a BTGuard customer, here are your support options:
One positive thing we can say is that BTGuard’s knowledge base is good. Since its launch, this VPN has developed a core of committed users, and the work they’ve done has become a handy resource for new users.
However, aside from the documentation available on the Knowledge Base, overall 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 already low confidence in BTGuard’s services.
Moreover, they aren’t as transparent as other top-level VPNs, offering no phone number or live chat and no postal address. That’s a huge minus in a sector where trust is essential. We would have liked to get some feedback from BTGuard, but as far as we can tell, there’s no way to do so. That’s disappointing, just as the service itself.
When it comes to pricing, there’s not much to choose from:
All these prices are too damn high. We might be willing to pay half 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 an exorbitant 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. The only positive we find is the anonymous account and Bitcoin payment setup that should protect your friends from learning that you have a fetish for poorly-rated software.
Setting out to be the VPN of choice for torrenters, BTGuard VPN has let its own guard down, falling behind the competition and failing to offer anything that today’s VPN users demand.
Torrenters can find multiple P2P-friendly VPNs with much better price points, speed, and security. It’s impossible to recommend this dis-service in today’s competitive market.
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Jan is a cybersecurity and consumer protection specialist focused on investigations that help readers navigate the complex infosecurity sphere. His research and commentary has been featured in Forbes, ComputerWeekly, PC Mag, TechRadar, ZDNet, The Mirror, Entrepreneur, and many other leading publications around the world.