WHAT’S IN THIS REVIEW?
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Predominantly a P2P file sharing service, BTGuard also works as a limited VPN that has no discernible features to speak of.
For example, they don’t have a client app, and there are just three server locations on offer.
There’s absolutely no reason to pick BTGuard over any competent VPN provider, for reasons that we’ll delve into below.
Read on to find out exactly why we’d advise anyone to give BTGuard a miss!
Potentially the most basic VPN provider I’ve ever reviewed, at least BTGuard actually works as advertised. It’ll mask your connection, even if they only have a trio of servers to choose from.
The problem is, BTGuard has been around for a while, and it seems like they haven’t bothered to keep up with the competition. The service is much the same as it was a few years ago, while the asking price is offensive considering what they have to offer.
There’s also the question of who owns the company, which I couldn’t find a good answer to.
All in all, it adds up to a VPN that we’d avoid.
The BT in BTGuard stands for BitTorrent, which goes to show just how long the company has been in operation for.
The service was specifically designed for anonymous filesharing through the BitTorrent network, and it was originally established back in 2008. They’re owned and operated by Netcrawled LLC, which is based out of Canada.
As for Netcrawled LLC, they’re somewhat elusive, with their listed business address given as:
151 Front St W Toronto, ON M5J 2N1
However, the Better Business Bureau attempted to contact them, only to have the mail returned from the given address.
It’s a recurring theme, as they don’t have a blog, an About Us page, or anything describing the company, the ownership, or plans for their future online. Even their Twitter page is neglected, having been inactive since May 2009.
Everything adds up to a lack of transparency, at almost every level imaginable. Who actually owns the company? Who handles users’ personal data? Will they ever add new server locations?
It’s impossible to find out the answers to those questions, and many others.
As a rule of thumb, we’d stick with a more transparent service that provides updates every so often. A provider like Mullvad would be great in this regard. Alternatively, look for a provider that has completed a third-party audit of their software, such as NordVPN.
Pros & Cons
It was difficult to find many positives to mention with the BTGuard service. It struggles to match up to some of the best-known VPN providers, while the various downsides are notable.
Here are the redeemable qualities of BTGuard that make it functional:
- Easy to select a one-month plan, rather than a subscription
- Great for torrenting
- Masks IP address
- Can pay with cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin
- Compatible with a host of devices
Before signing on with BTGuard as your trusted VPN service, consider our list of cons below:
- No money-back guarantee, which is particularly anti-consumer
- Lack of a dedicated client app for any device/OS
- Just three servers in less popular locations such as Canada
- Murky ownership
- Difficult to install for some users
- Can’t be used for streaming
- No trial version
It’s not an exaggeration to say that BTGuard has no extra features, aside from their capability to be used for P2P tasks.
Being pro-P2P is somewhat notable, given the average VPN provider likes to distance themselves from illegal file sharing.
BTGuard doesn’t even have a dedicated app, so it’s not like you’re going to see anything notable from their website or their servers.
After you’ve paid for the service, you’re given a list of the three server locations to connect to, and that’s about it. It took a while to find a Kill Switch with the Tunnelblick client I was forced to use on macOS.
If you were hoping for additional features, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Rather than being a feature that is included with the VPN itself, BTGuard has a Bittorrent Proxy which is available for a slightly lower asking price.
What’s the point, if the VPN can do the same thing? A proxy server connects to all torrent peers on your behalf, without impacting the download speeds like a VPN provider would.
It could be of use if you just want to access Bittorrent anonymously.
- 1 Month: $9.95
- 6 Months: $8.32/mo. ($49.95 annually)
- 12 Months: $7.49/mo. ($89.95 annually)
BTGuard is more expensive than I expected, especially considering the lack of a client app or any recent updates of note.
There are savings to be had with longer deals, as six months is $49.95 (15% off), and a year works out to $89.95 (25% off). The savings are considerable, but it still pales in comparison to any of the true budget providers on the market.
Payment methods include typical options such as PayPal and all major credit card carriers, along with allowing users to pay via Bitcoin.
You can also upgrade your account to include a BitTorrent proxy for $6.95 per month.
There’s no free trial and no money-back guarantee if you’re hoping to see what it has to offer. Testing it out will come with a fee.
Their FAQ bluntly states: ‘We currently do not offer any free trials. If you are unsatisfied with BTGuard you can cancel at anytime.’
It’s unlike any other provider I’ve reviewed recently in that respect, and it’s an anti-consumer practice.
As for simultaneous connections, they say:
“You can use BTGuard on as many computers and in as many locations as you like, however, if you share your account with others and we see multiple locations at a single time, you risk termination.”
That’s exceptionally vague, and could be interpreted as either one connection or unlimited usage within the same location. Our guess is that users only get one connection at a time. If you have multiple devices you want to protect, you’d have to log out each time you switch to a new device.
The BTGuard Terms of Service was difficult to locate until I had begun the sign-up process, and it’s a basic webpage that notes:
“Your personal information will never be exposed to a third party without a court order.’
In terms of the data they log and personal information, BTGuard says:
- Before or at the time of collecting personal information, we will identify the purposes for which information is being collected.
- We will collect and use personal information solely with the objective of fulfilling those purposes specified by us and for other compatible purposes, unless we obtain the consent of the individual concerned or as required by law.
- We will only retain personal information as long as necessary for the fulfillment of those purposes.
- We will collect personal information by lawful and fair means and, where appropriate, with the knowledge or consent of the individual concerned.
- Personal data should be relevant to the purposes for which it is to be used, and, to the extent necessary for those purposes, should be accurate, complete, and up-to-date.
- We will protect personal information by reasonable security safeguards against loss or theft, as well as unauthorized access, disclosure, copying, use or modification.
- We will make readily available to customers information about our policies and practices relating to the management of personal information.
Would I put my faith in a document that is reasonably vague, and that hasn’t been updated for nearly a decade?
Probably not, and there’s no denying that the site could do with being spruced up to meet modern UX standards.
With just three server locations to pick from, I guessed that BTGuard would probably be slower than the typical VPN.
As always, I used speedtest.net to get a read of what the provider has to offer in terms of sheer power.
My baseline download/upload stats are up first, with no VPN connected for parity. Ping was low, the download speed was roughly 320 Mbps, and upload speeds were capped at 34 Mbps. Nothing was out of the ordinary.
To start off with, I connected to their Canada server, as it’s where the company is based. Ping immediately shot up to over 100 ms, while the download speed hovered just above the 50 Mbps mark.
In other words, I was getting around 1/6th of my normal download speeds.
Next up is their Netherlands server, found in Amsterdam. I was hoping for faster speeds as the European server was closer to my current location, but it was even slower.
A download speed that hovered just below the 50 Mbps mark is extremely disappointing, while uploads also took a significant hit.
As they only have three locations, I decided to complete the set. However, I don’t think they actually have servers based in Singapore, at least according to the tests I was running.
The download speed was actually improved at 60 Mbps.
This actually makes sense, as the IP address is apparently found somewhere in the U.K. and the returned IP address is from the Netherlands.
In other words, it doesn’t seem like the server is located where they say it is, or that it even exists at all anymore.
Once again, BTGuard feels like it’s stuck in the past. My connection speeds were capped at a pitiful 60 Mbps, making it almost unusable unless you’re stuck in the ISP wilderness. Our top-rated providers have tested far better.
Server Locations & Network
Well, as they put it:
“BTGuard’s network is globally spaced out over three prime locations. We have multiple 10Gbit lines of capacity and enforce no limitations on connection speeds. We have multi-homed bandwidth to multiple tier one networks to provide you with optimum reroute speeds.”
That’s a flowery way of saying that they only have three locations to offer, but I’m not sure that’s true. They say they are found in:
- The Netherlands
As we’ve noted in the speed section above, however, we could find no evidence that we were connecting to a server found in Asia, with a mixture of UK/Dutch IPs and servers when we attempted to test how quick it was.
A collection of two server locations can hardly be called a network.
It’s extremely small, especially compared to bigger providers like ExpressVPN with server networks that can number into the high thousands and cover hundreds of countries.
Then there’s the fact that popular regions such as the U.S., the U.K., and others in Europe and elsewhere are completely unserved.
You won’t be able to unblock many regional services, and we’ll discuss the lack of streaming capabilities in-depth below.
Streaming & Torrenting
Streaming was always going to be difficult for BTGuard. They lack the server locations that are necessary to unblock the majority of popular services, so there’s no way to access international websites such as U.S. Netflix.
Once again, we’ll reiterate. They have no U.S. servers, so there’s no way to access U.S. content such as HBO or Disney +. The same goes for any region other than Canada, the Netherlands, and (maybe) Singapore.
If you were hoping to use BTGuard to supplement your online entertainment needs, we recommend researching additional VPN services.
Of course, torrenting is allowed, and the company uses the tagline: “Anonymous BitTorrent services.”
It’s one of the few things that it can actually be used for, so they do deserve a couple of bonus points for openly allowing users to share P2P files freely.
However, the same is true for any number of other providers. As long as they keep no user logs, they won’t be able to stop you from downloading whatever you want.
It’s worth noting that the speeds I saw while using BTGuard were inadequate for downloading files at anything other than a snail’s pace. However, personal experiences may vary depending on your location and your VPN setup.
BTGuard’s stance on censorship is hard to judge. They obviously value their own privacy, to the point where it’s difficult to find out anything about the company itself.
So, what do they actually do? It’s hard to say, but it is worth mentioning that they do allow for P2P filesharing, which is a move many other providers publicly avoid.
It’s not enough to earn any major points, as some VPNs will quietly let you get on with the likes of BitTorrent in the background. However, they prefer to cover themselves legally by saying that users should refrain from doing so.
Overall, there are better options if you would prefer a provider that takes a strong anti-censorship stance, such as AirVPN.
Platforms & Devices
You’ll be able to use BTGuard on the following devices:
Router support is available for DD-WRT and Tomato devices.
The lack of a dedicated client app is a drawback, as I was forced to use Tunnelblick to get BTGuard working on my macOS computer.
It wasn’t especially difficult by any means, but I do have some experience in terms of setting up VPN software. The same might not be true for the average user, and it can lead to problems if the instructions aren’t followed properly.
In any case, don’t expect any hand-holding with BTGuard. There’s no browser extension, while it’s not going to be supported on any niche device.
Support is also non-existent, as their site says:
“Support is available for issues regarding account activation and billing. We do not support personal computer problems.”
Once again, it would be great if they funneled some of the users’ money they collect into updating the website, or adding new servers or actual dedicated apps, instead of relying on free software and vague setup guides to get the job done.
It’s a poor result, and we’d look elsewhere if you’d prefer a VPN that is easy to set up and compatible on multiple devices and platforms.
Encryption & Security
Once again, there were issues in terms of encryption, while there’s potential to face further problems due to the complicated nature of the setup process.
BTGuard does support PPTP and OpenVPN, while also offering 256-bit encryption that is an industry standard.
They say that users should:
“Try both PPTP and OpenVPN to see which one gives you the best performance on your network. Depending on your location and ISP, one protocol might not work, make sure to try both.”
I decided to use OpenVPN for the purposes of this review.
There’s nothing special of note about BTGuard in terms of security features or special encryption, which is nothing more than I expected given their hands-off attitude to many facets of the service.
Overall, it’s difficult to recommend BTGuard with the number of holes we found testing its service. If you have a personal draw towards this VPN, feel free to let me know in the comment section below!
Privacy and trust are key for any good VPN provider, and BTGuard offers little of either. It’s not good enough when they’ve been entrusted to look after your personal data. There’s no audit, and little to no information about the company to be found anywhere.
It’s not particularly usable by any means, and they don’t have a dedicated client app for the most popular platforms. Many other VPNs are easy to get started with and make an effort to ensure that their software is accessible for the average user.
The asking price is also a bit insulting, especially considering the numerous freemium VPNs that offer more than BTGuard, even if they are trying to funnel users over to a paid service in the long run. BTGuard doesn’t offer a money-back guarantee, paired with the lack of a free trial.
Lastly, speeds are sloooow. It seems like they have given up on developing the project in some respects. Of course, they’re still willing to rake in as much money as possible from users, and free software such as Tunnelblick is used to pick up the slack.
They’re asking for a lot in exchange for a little with BTGuard, so we’d advise ignoring their VPN unless you really want to use BitTorrent in peace.
It’s better to look elsewhere if you want a quality VPN provider, with BTGuard earning low scores in most categories.