BTGuard is owned and operated by Netcrawled LLC, which is based out of Canada.
They report their server network consists of only three servers located in three countries.
BTGuard makes one thing perfectly clear from the get-go. They are a torrenting VPN. The “BT” in BTGuard actually stands for BitTorrent. So most of their customer focus goes there.
But that’s not all that this product does. It’s a full VPN which protects all of your internet activity.
Is BTGuard truly a safe way to not only torrent but anonymously experience the web, too?
Find out how they fared in this BTGuard VPN review.
BTGuard VPN Overview
|USABILITY:||Easy and simple to use|
|LOG FILES:||Grey Area|
|LOCATIONS:||3 countries, 3 servers|
|NETFLIX:||Blocks Netflix USA|
|ENCRYPTION/PROTOCOL:||256-Bit AES; OpenVPN, PPTP|
There are a few things to like about this VPN.
They help mask your public IP, relocating your signal to a server in another country.
They will tunnel your internet connection using state-of-the-art OpenVPN protocol while protecting it with AES 256-bit encryption.
They’re first and foremost a torrenting VPN. Also cool.
And finally, the installation process was smooth and led to a seamless hands-on test.
Let’s dive in deeper.
1. Strong Encryption and Protocols
The safety of a VPN comes down to a few factors:
- VPN Protocols
- IP Leaks
When it comes to encryption, BTGuard is using the best of the best. The 256-bit AES encryption they have is top of the line. To put it in perspective, this is the same encryption used by the FBI and CIA.
No known supercomputers have come remotely close to cracking it. So your information is pretty much impenetrable.
BTGuard also gives you the option to choose between OpenVPN tunneling protocol and PPTP when tunneling your Internet signal.
OpenVPN is state of the art. It is the industry standard for VPN protocols.
However, some older computers or systems have a hard time with OpenVPN. And it has some issues functioning on iOS platforms. That’s why it’s nice that BTGuard offers a second option.
PPTP, though, is an outdated and obsolete tunneling protocol. That means you should avoid it if possible. Especially if security is a concern.
2. Torrenting is Allowed and Encouraged
BTGuard was built for torrenting.
It’s mentioned all over their website.
Torrenting is the process of downloading large files at fast speeds by connecting with the computers of other users.
However, there’s a safety concern in there.
Because you’re also allowing complete strangers to access your computer. That’s why you almost always want to double-up on security when torrenting.
Unfortunately, not all VPNs play nice.
Many ban torrenting outright. Or, they banish it to only a few overcrowded, backwater servers.
BTGuard not only embraces it but also encourages it on every server they have.
(Which, technically speaking, aren’t a lot. We’ll save that for the Cons section below, though.)
3. Easy to Install and Simple to Use
Our hands-on test with this product went well. Installation was a breeze.
Sometimes, OpenVPN installations can be a bit chaotic. You have to download both the OpenVPN software and the config files for the product you’re using unless they have a ready-made app.
This usually involves a lot of extracting and copying. But BTGuard made the process super simple.
Once the config file was downloaded, I only had to click on it once. The system automatically extracted the files and copied them into OpenVPN’s configuration folder for me.
Seriously, my grandmother could have done this.
When ready to move on, I right clicked on the OpenVPN icon and was pleased to see that they offer an option that automatically connects you to their fastest server. I chose that and was off to the races.
My web browsing experience was smooth and efficient. I was able to seamlessly stream a YouTube video.
Unfortunately, both Netflix and Hulu blocked my access. We’ll touch on that, too, below.
However, overall, this VPN software was a joy to use for the most part.
Unlimited torrenting is awesome. IP leaks and activity logging are not.
BTGuard also takes a hatchet to Internet speeds and is limited in terms of servers and device support.
Their customer service is great in theory. Non-existent in execution.
Let’s peel back the curtains and show you all the ugly stuff.
1. Some Logging of Personal Info
Logging defeats the purpose of a VPN.
Anonymous web browsing is only private when there is no record of who you are and what you’re doing.
That’s where we find all the metaphorical bodies buried. We’ve discovered at least 26 VPNs already, who “don’t log,” actually do.
Like most VPNs, BTGuard claims on their official website (https://btguard.com/) that “no records of usage” are stored.
That might be enough for some. But we know better.
While they do confirm that they’re not retaining your IP address or usage information, they are holding onto some of your personal data.
The fact that I don’t know what information they’re keeping is somewhat troubling. Is it just my email address? My credit card number? My name? Address? Phone number? Bank records? Browsing history? Files downloaded?
As stated on their knowledgebase page, BTGuard also keeps track of the amount of bandwidth that you use.
Torrenting, alone, often sucks down a ton of resources. Plus, the fact that they can (and will) give your information over to government entities is concerning (considering the reason why most people use torrenting in the first place).
2. Canadian Jurisdiction (5 Eyes Alliance)
Netcrawled LLC is Canadian. This puts BTGuard squarely under the jurisdiction of the 5 Eyes surveillance alliance.
This was originally a World War II espionage agreement signed between Canada, The United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and The United States, promising that all information gathered by each nation will be shared with the others.
Since then, they’ve expanded to include another nine nations to bring their total up to 14.
So, if for some reason the Canadian government wanted your info, BTGuard would be required by law to hand it over. That data could and would then be shared with the other four founding countries. Then another nine by the end of it.
3. IP Leaks Detected
IP leaks are exactly what they sound like.
They’re errors that uncover your personal IP address, exposing your true location and personal info before the eyes of your ISP.
DNS and WebRTC leaks are the most common. They are the kiss of death for a VPN.
DNS leaks happen when the VPN tunnel is completely bypassed, and your personal IP is communicated. WebRTC leaks happen when APIs unravel the work of your VPN.
We put all of the VPNs that we review through a thorough six-part testing process.
And we’re glad we did with BTGuard.
Because while they passed the first five out of six tests, leaks were detected on the sixth.
- https://ipleak.net/ – Passed
- https://www.perfect-privacy.com/check-ip – Passed
- https://ipx.ac/run – Passed
- https://browserleaks.com/webrtc – Passed
- https://www.perfect-privacy.com/dns-leaktest/ – Failed
- https://dnsleak.com – Passed
Because DNS leaks were found, we have no choice but to call the safety of BTGuard into question.
As you can see from the image above, we should be using NL IP, but it’s also showing EE (Estonia) which is our true physical location. Not so anonymous, huh?
We also run their installation files through VirusTotal.com.
One of the tests came back with a possible Trojan virus…
Take this with a grain of salt as the VirusTotal isn’t that accurate. If you see more than 2 or 3 virus listing, you should be concerned, though.
4. Slows Internet Speed by up to 85%
Speed is always a big question when it comes to VPNs. Sacrificing a little bit of speed for added security is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s usually well worth it.
When speed reduction starts to take away from performance, however, there’s an issue.
Every VPN we review receives the same test. We connect to servers in the EU and U.S. and measure their speed loss.
In this case, BTGuard does not have a server in the US. So we substituted one in their home in Canada, instead.
Things didn’t start off well.
The EU test saw huge losses in download and upload speed.
EU Speed Test
- Ping: 34 ms
- Download: 14.37 Mbps (85% Slower Than 97 Mbps Benchmark)
- Upload: 20.17 Mbps (79% Slower Than 53 Mbps Benchmark)
The Canadian Test fared a bit better. But overall, speeds still fell out of acceptable loss ranges.
CA Speed Test
- Ping: 133 ms
- Download: 10.85 Mbps (79% Slower Than 97 Mbps Benchmark)
- Upload: 16.27 Mbps (69% Slower Than 53 Mbps Benchmark)
Out of the 78 VPNs we have reviewed, we rank BTGuard at number 68 in terms of speed.
5. Does Not Work With Netflix
VPNs and Netflix were a match made in heaven until just a few years ago.
Then Netflix got all angry. Or, in reality, their licensing partners did.
Ever since, the content-streaming giant began to strike back against VPNs, unleashing one of the world’s most sophisticated VPN detection programs in the process.
While some VPNs can still work with Netflix, most have a hard time connecting.
BTGuard is one of them.
We tested all three of BTGuard’s servers and none of them worked with Netflix.
You can pretty much assume other streaming platforms, like Hulu, will also give you problems.
6. Limited Device Support
BTGuard is only usable on a desktop computer. There is no mobile functionality and it does not support routers, smart devices, or game consoles.
The only silver lining is that it does support a number of operating systems, including Windows, Mac, and Linux.
And they do allow unlimited connections, which is great. Many VPNs limit the number of connections you can have at one time.
But the fact that it doesn’t work on pretty much any other device is frustrating.
And as a security measure to prevent abuse, if they see your account logged on from multiple different locations, they may terminate it for breach of terms.
I get that this is to prevent one person from buying the service and sharing it with 10 friends. But doesn’t it also kinda defeat the purpose of connecting with multiple devices?
While many modern VPNs feature a built-in kill switch, BTGuard doesn’t.
This is a safeguard that will terminate your connection if a leak jeopardizes your anonymity. Which, as we’ve seen, would come in handy on their leaky service.
7. Small Server Park
I can’t help thinking that this product would be so much better with a larger server park.
They have only three servers. These servers are located in Canada, the Netherlands, and Singapore.
The problem with only three servers is twofold:
- If they’re located too far away from your physical location, performance speeds will suffer.
- And if all of their customers are fighting over the same overcrowded servers, performance speeds will again suffer.
So there’s a pretty logical reason we saw terrible speeds across the board.
8. Customer Support Did Not Work
BTGuard does not offer a chatbot or a contact form.
Rather, there is a ticket submission system where you can make an inquiry and have it addressed right there on the site.
Sounds helpful, right?
You’d think so… but that wasn’t the case in our experience.
I selected VPN Support and decided to submit a question. I was impressed because as I was typing, the system isolated keywords and tried to offer me knowledge base posts that would address my concerns.
I wrote out my questions and hit send, ready to clock how long it took to receive a response.
I was met with this red screen of doom. I tried another three times to submit the same ticket, and each time I was met with this error message.
Thinking that maybe it was a temporary issue, I tried again repeatedly over the following two days. Each time I was met with the same message.
So while this was a great idea in concept, it fails miserably in execution. Outside of a few FAQ type articles in the knowledge base, BTGuard has no customer service to speak of.
BTGuard Cost, Plans, & Payment Methods
BTGuard plan features are exactly the same.
The only difference in their tiered pricing is based on the level of commitment you’re willing to make. The full year will get you 25% off, otherwise, the monthly one will set you back $9.95 per month.
That’s some steep pricing for a VPN with only three servers.
It’s nowhere near competitive with most of the major players in the market. Yet, it’s priced at or near the very top of the market.
On the plus side, they do accept Bitcoin, along with standard credit, debit, and PayPal.
Do I Recommend BTGuard?
Unfortunately, we do not.
Any logging makes us uneasy when it comes to a VPN. So right off the bat, we were skeptical.
Their server park is laughably small. And the lack of device options limits them even more.
I admit: I’m selfish. I want a wealth of options from a modern VPN. Especially when paying top dollar.
If you’re just looking to torrent, maybe this is the VPN for you. Their website only focuses on torrenting, so the remaining features of a VPN sometimes feel like an extra bonus.
But the customer service debacle was the last straw for me. I can’t abide not being able to access help when I need it.
BTGuard only comes in at number 65 out of the 78 VPNs we’ve reviewed.