Best Free BitTorrent Client

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Introduction

Bittorrent has become one of the major download formats. With good reason too: it's fast, equitable and efficient. For the downloader, bittorrent offers an uncorrupted copy of the original with the option to stop the download at any time and re-start from where the download left off, very useful for those on shaky internet connections.

If you haven't yet installed a Bittorrent client on your PC, you should as there are some great freeware clients available. In Bittorrent, the best clients are free. In fact, if a client costs money, it is most likely a scam. If you are not familiar with bittorrent, then read How To Use Torrents before continuing this article.

All seven bittorrent clients listed here performed excellently on all test torrents and any one of them will meet your needs as a bittorrent client. Rating of the clients was based on their speed and performance, while their features and support facilities were major considerations. A clean installation (without toolbars or ads) was a plus. See also Testing and Ranking at the end of this page.

 

Rated Products

Tixati  

It runs fast and offers a lot of information


Our Rating: 
4.5
License: Free (Private/Educational use)
Stable and efficient with a good variety of options. Developers are active and responsive to user requests. Attractive interface. Good help resources. Clean install.
Help resource, though very good, could use some updates. Does not support web seeds.
Read full review...

qBittorrent   

The most efficient client in terms of RAM and CPU usage


Our Rating: 
4.5
License: Free (Open source)
Low and stable RAM and CPU with all the necessary features. Fastest performance on torrents. Development still seems to be very active and responsive to users. Clean install, no addons etc. Cross platform client.
Support has improved, but could be better. Not that well known and not accepted at many private torrent sites (though the situation is improving).
Read full review...

µTorrent  

A top flight bittorrent program


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free (Ads)
Excellent speeds on torrents, efficient and stable client with a large amount of features packed into a tiny package. Excellent help resources. Streaming capability.
Has had critical security alerts at Secunia. (though none on this version). Recent versions of µTorrent have been in disfavor at many private sites, supposedly for reporting to the tracker issues.
Read full review...

BitTorrent  

A small and efficient bittorrent client with a great deal of features


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free
Same as µTorrent as they are identical bittorrent clients. Excellent speeds on torrents, efficient and stable client with a large amount of features packed into a tiny package. Excellent help resources. Streaming capability.
Same µTorrent except that BitTorrent is not accepted at most private torrent sites. Has had critical security alerts at Secunia (though none on this version). Recent versions of µTorrent have been in disfavor at many private sites, supposedly for reporting to the tracker issues.
Read full review...

Vuze  

A good choice for users utilizing a VPN or proxy


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free
There is a wide variety of options and information within the program and an impressive array of plugins to satisfy any need. Support for VPN and Proxy use is superior. Streaming capability. Cross platform.
Toolbar install and home page change enabled at default on install. Advertisements within free version of Vuze interface (can be avoided by using Classic interface). High RAM use.
Read full review...

Transmission  

A cross-platform basic bittorrent client that runs fast with a simple interface


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free (Open source)
Cross platforms, efficient and stable with excellent speeds, simple interface and clean install.
Missing some advanced features, third-party add-ons available but not officially supported.
Read full review...

Halite  

A small and fast bittorrent client with low RAM usage


Our Rating: 
3.5
License: Free (Open source)
Small, efficient and fast bittorrent client. Lowest RAM use of the suggested clients.
Missing some features. Support is weak. Releases have been sporadic.
Read full review...

Related Products and Links

There are setup guides here at Gizmo's Freeware for each of the suggested free bittorrent clients. Links to the guides are provided in each review.

 

Testing and Ranking

Testing

The testing of the bittorrent clients was conducted in the two weeks before February 8, 2013 and used the latest versions of the clients at that time.

Anyone with knowledge of bittorrent knows that it is nearly impossible to have a testing procedure that is foolproof in measuring small differentials in speed among bittorrent clients. This is due to the fact that your download speed depends on the upload of other active users and there is no control over their actions while testing. However, I have been testing clients for this category for several years and am convinced that the better clients can be separated from the others.

There were 7 rounds of testing to boil down the 17 clients tested to the 7 in the review. Six torrents and three magnet links were used in this part of the testing. I then conducted several tests in two rounds of testing to determine the Top Pick. I did post pdf copies of my notes for each round of testing: Bittorrent Testing 2013 Notes.

All of the clients listed in the review had excellent performance on all of the testing, so all are superior bittorrent clients. The speed performance on the testing was a factor. Even though the speed differences were small, some consistently performed slightly better. Features and support were also factors. CPU and RAM mattered in that a client without many features that had high CPU or RAM use would fall to one with low CPU/RAM use. Toolbars and addons in the installation process were a slight factor.

Testing was performed on Windows 7 64bit.

Ranking

All of these clients have the basic bittorrent features like DHT, PEX, encryption and UPnP. 

All seven of the bittorrent clients listed here performed excellently on all test torrents. Speed and performance was a factor, but features and support facilities were major considerations. A clean installation (without toolbars or ads) was a plus.

Most people just want a client to download torrents, but there are some features that a number of users like to use, such as a built in IP Filter, use of RSS feeds, proxy support, a scheduler and a web interface.

I will make note of those that have installs or other changes to your system that are not necessary for the proper function of the bittorrent client. I strongly suggest that if you choose a bittorrent client that has these unnecessary add ons, to not accept those changes or add ons. I have put up guides to help with the installation of the three clients that have these unnecessary steps in the installation process.

About Me

I am not a technical expert, but I have been using bittorrent since 2003. Before coming to Gizmo's I was the Administrator at a general bittorrent forum site, giving assistance on a variety of clients, and a moderator at the Vuze fora. I still view a number of bittorrent fora and the fora of the various bittorrent clients. This gives me a good idea of what the average user is looking for in a bittorrent client.

 

Editor

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Comments

Hi mada

I don't know if you're still interested in VPNBook but I've finally got round to giving it a try. hopefully I can answer some of your questions. I'm by no means an expert, just someone who's picked up a few things along the way. I'm now getting reasonable speeds, anything up to 400KB/s at times.

Anyway, you no longer need separate certificates - just download one of the VPNBook OpenVPN bundles which includes everything you need, and copy it to OpenVPN's config folder (i'm assuming you've already installed OpenVPN). Right click on OpenVPN's desktop icon, run as administrator, and select one of the four connection options - I find TCP to be more reliable. In the authorisation box type vpnbook then the password below and it should connect.

Also,to ensure your bittorrent client only uses VPNBook you'll need some Comodo Firewall rules like these:
http://www.bolehvpn.net/forum/index.php?topic=5798.0
These are for an older version of Comodo so some of the terms are different but the principle is the same, and obviously for Boleh substitute OpenVPN. You could also use Vuze to do this but in my view it's a dreadful client and little more than resource heavy spyware (the only thing I disagree with mr6n8 over in his brilliant article).

Also check to see if VPNBook is leaking your real ip address by going here: https://www.dnsleaktest.com/

Finally, you say you use qbittorrent. I prefer Tixati which can prevent IPv6 leaks by just using IPv4. Obviously up to you though. Good luck!

I do not have it installed right now as I am testing another, so this is from memory. I can help with the ca.crt. You need to download a certificate from the VPNBook site and put it in the "config" folder of the OpenVPN installed folder. Then, when you right-click on the OpenVPN icon in the system tray, you should see an option to access through that cert. Also, be sure to copy the password and signin name from the VPNBook site to a document on your computer. You will need it when you get access through the certificate. The icon for OpenVPN looks like a network connection icon. If you right-click on it, you should see options for settings, exit etc. So it is possible that icon is what you are seeing as a 2d network connection. If not, you would need to post an image in a forum post on it. There should be no need to set exception in the router. I am not certain on the firewall as I do not know if Comodo has some extra protection, but generally no exception needs to be made in a firewall. As to why the check torrent IP torrent stalls, I am not sure what you mean and I am not sure which one you are using. The torrent is not supposed to actually download. Have you checked the "Trackers" tab to see if it shows an IP? You could try the one at this page and check the trackers tab under "message" as it has worked for me on the clients I tested. http://torguard.net/checkmytorrentipaddress.php For further help, you will need to try our forum as there will be others there who understand this better than I. One of the reasons, I did not put an article up on this is that I do not understand it all that well myself. Steve
great updated article mr6n8
Thanks. I have been seeing your name around here quite a bit. Welcome to the gang. Steve

hi
thanks very much for this comprehensive info on torrents. greatly appreciated.

after reading your articles, I decided to give it a try so i downloaded and installed tixati.

I do have two concerns though that i'll like some clarifications on:

1) is it safe to allow a torrent client to "bore" a hole in your firewall by creating a port for itself? why can't I just allow it through firewall instead?

2) I created a restore point before the install. after checking out the interface, I decided to uninstall till I was ready to use it. I decided to do a system restore instead using the restore point I created. when I clicked to check the programs that will be deleted, to my surprise I did not see tixati showing up. the file I downloaded had a .exe extension at the end so I don't think it's a portable file, am I right? and what went on here?

1. If I understand you correctly, I guess there could be concerns for either method. However, in the 10 years I have been active on bittorrent fora, I have never seen an issue from a bittorrent client having a firewall exception. This is true for either allowing the program through or opening a specific port. For router firewalls, there may be an issue with using UPnP. 2. Yes the Tixati portable has a ZIP extension. I can not tell you why the system restore did not eliminate Tixati as I am not well versed in that area. There are some options to test software and restore back, like Sandboxie, that work better than system restore. Asking about this at our forum will probably get you some better answers. Steve

First, thank you all for this wonderful community.

I just switched from uTorrent to Tixati because of the ads now in uTorrent and because I saw Tixati here at Gizmo's and tried it. So far Tixati is great!

I made comments at CNET about both uTorrent and Tixati and cited Gizmo's as one main reason why I switched.

I do want to point out, just to be helpful, uTorrent is still listed as the top pick on this page:
http://www.techsupportalert.com/best-free-portable-programs.htm#bfp-Bitt...

I found that Tixati is the top pick after clicking the "review" link to this page.

Thanks again and all the best.

Thanks for the comments. I am glad to hear you are happy with Tixati. I will get in touch with the person who maintains that category. So thanks for that too. I did not even know we had that page here. Apparently in went up last month. It maybe that he prefers the uTorrent portable though. Every editor is independent and can make their own decision. uTorrent was the top pick here a few years back. Prior to Tixati, qBittorrent was the top pick for 2 years. Thanks again and enjoy. Steve

Just an update on VPNDirect. The Lite version is only free for 1 month, despite there being no mention of this before selecting and installing. Now the 1 month has expired I am now being told to purchase one of the paid schemes.

Thanks for that. I have not used mine in a while, but checked after seeing your post and got the same. This in spite of their statement at the website: "We are pleased to announce that US server1 is now available for free use anytime, anywhere at your own convenient with no limit of use." Bummer Steve

Absolutely. I was very pleased with it while it lasted but there's too much of this shoddy business practice.

Oh well, the search for a good free VPN continues.

How many of the clients have the ability to have an eMule type plugin like BitComet does? It adds quite a few KB/s to the total download and helps for pulling down those torrents that have lost too many peers or not enough seeders.

I have tested BitComet for years and that ability has never helped it in my testing. This year BitComet failed miserably on the test torrent/magnet for DSL, which had no active trackers. While other clients completed the download in under 2 minutes, BitComet failed to even get started and never downloaded anything. That is why BitComet is not on this years list, while it had been on all the prior lists. To the best of my knowledge, none of these clients has emule or similar type support, but they all perform excellently on torrent/magnets. Steve

Hey mr6n8, thanks a lot for this detailed article, it really helps!
I was thinking of trying a torrent client that you didn't mention here, that's called Torch browser. Do you know it?
I'd be happy to know what you think about it.

I tested Torch and it performed well on the test torrents. The reason it was not suggested is that when torrents were active, it used quite a bit of extra RAM and CPU and it does not have the features of the top clients here. Even if you like Torch as a browser, and I think it has issues there also, the extra RAM and CPU used would make the clients here a better choice. Its CPU use on the torrent I used for testing CPU and RAM, was 2d highest of all the clients tested. It RAM use was 2d highest to Vuze, but Vuze offers many more options and features. Nothing horrible about it. Its speeds were right up there with the ones here on all the test torrents. But I think these beat it out with their combination of features and efficiency. Steve

its good to find tixati finally getting the recognition it deserves. I have been a tixati user since the project started and its simply blowing past all the competition. Its what utorrent should have looked like had it been done right.
The new version is actually digitally signed as well, which will be good news for people who install only allow signed software.

qbittorrent is a worthy second choice behind tixati, although it was previously digitally signed for one of the versions if I remember correctly its no longer digitally signed for the latest version.

Tixati has been a suggested client here for several years. A few years back it was my favorite and was about to become top pick, when someone posted about qBittorrent. qBittorrent took the top spot that year and every year since (until this one). Even though I switched to qBittorrent, I hoped Tixati would perform well to get to the top as I think its interface is appealing to a lot of users and I really like how responsive its developers are to users. Anyhow, I agree that it is an excellent client that does not get enough recognition (and acceptance at private trackers). Steve

utorrent 3.2.3 with below setting:
"net.low.cpu" set to *true
override auto cache set to 1024 for 4gb ram
untick:
-reduce memory usage wen the cache is not needed..
-writeout finished...
-writeout untouched...
-turn off read ...
-remove old block...
-increase automatic...

is better than qbittorent 308 with default setting, In term of cpu usage. when running in the background as tray.

First off, uTorrent is not far from qBittorrent in CPU and is slightly better in RAM use, so those changes are really unnecessary. Secondly, those settings should not be messed with as uTorrent will perform better overall with the defaults in those areas. uTorrent help file on net.low.cpu Enabling this option reduces CPU usage slightly. You may achieve faster speeds with this option disabled. In general, this option is useless for most people unless they have extremely fast connections. The auto cache is the best option for users. It will automatically adjust the cache based upon download speed. The other options have varying effects upon RAM use and disk writes. The effect is negligible and again the defaults are the best overall performance.

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