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BitTorrent is one of the most efficient ways of sharing files via the internet. The underlying technology distributes fragments of data with a cluster of users, which removes the need to host files on a physical server and many of the costs and limitations of doing so.
If you’ve just switched to a Mac, you might no longer be able to use your old favorite Windows BitTorrent client. You might be new to torrents altogether, or simply looking for a rock solid client with the right number of bells and whistles.
The good news is that you don’t need to pay for the privilege. Here are our favorite free torrent clients for the Mac platform.
No Paid Clients
There are a good number of BitTorrent clients out there now that charge an entry fee. These are different to the ad-supported free versions, of which there are a few in the list below, though some go as far as offering demo versions that impose pesky limitations.
Some will restrict your download speed, or limit the number of concurrent downloads you can have. We’re great proponents of supporting your favorite apps by buying software, but when it comes to BitTorrent we’ve yet to see enough to justify opening your wallet.
That’s why we’ll only be taking a look at completely free, open source, and “free” products that come with a premium option in this article. You won’t find any of these on the Mac App Store since Apple doesn’t take kindly to the practice of file sharing.
Benefits: A simple native Mac client that looks the part, with excellent performance and a good set of features to boot.
I’ve always loved Transmission, and it’s the client I’m still using on an almost daily basis. Unfortunately, Transmission’s reputation took a hit in 2016 when malware was discovered bundled in the installer. This was Mac’s first example of ransomware, a result of an unpatched security hole in the installer software used by the Transmission team.
Fortunately, there’s been no major drama with Transmission for a while, which is reassuring since it’s probably the best Mac torrent client out there. Many users favor it for its raw simplicity — a single list view for torrents, with a few controls and filtering options up top.
There’s a rock-solid web interface which makes adding torrents and magnet links from a web browser super easy, even on your smartphone. You can limit how much bandwidth your torrent downloads swallow up, with a simple scheduler for enforcing a speed limit during set times.
There’s also blocklist management for avoiding bad peers, a decent level of customization, and you’ll even see your current upload and download speeds in the Mac dock (a nice touch). It’s not the most feature-loaded client on this list, but if you don’t need plugins and finite scheduler control it’s your best choice.
Benefits: A wealth of plugins allow you to expand Deluge’s functionality way beyond that of a regular torrent client.
If Transmission doesn’t do everything you want it to, I’d recommend looking at Deluge next. It lacks the sleek and simple interface, and it’s not written natively for the Mac since it’s also available for Windows and Linux. However, it does include support for plugins, which really opens up what you can achieve with a torrent client.
Deluge has been around for a while, and you can tell from a quick glance at the interface. The icons are very Windows XP, and the three-pane UI looks almost like a version of Outlook from the early 2000s. But despite this, performance remains fairly good (though be aware that adding more plugins will likely slow things down).
Features can be bolted on using the plugin system, with a good number included when you first install. You can set up a schedule for managing bandwidth, enable the web UI to add torrents from other computers, and subscribe to a blocklist to better guard your privacy.
Head to the Deluge plugins list to find all manner of tools for batch renaming or moving files, alternative schedulers, bandwidth managers that stop Deluge from choking your connection, and RSS torrent management for automatic downloading.
Benefits: A long-running, simple, and open source client that forgoes the plugins but gets the job done.
Just like Deluge, qBittorent is an open source project based on the libtorrent library. qBittorent lacks the plugins found in Deluge, but I prefer it for its general look and feel. Performance is as expected from a cross-platform client, and it includes a few nice touches like a right-click context menu for adding torrents and changing settings from the Mac dock.
The client makes the list since it’s still actively maintained, with Windows and Mac binaries readily available (alongside some unusual alternatives, like Haiku and IBM’s OS/2). As far as torrent clients go, it does the job though it lacks the polish of a client like Transmission.
The feature set is fairly bold, with a web UI included, folder monitoring for new .torrent files, actions for completed transfers, speed limits, and a fairly limited but functional scheduler. There’s also the addition of a lock button, which allows you to lock the client with a password — handy if you’re downloading files on a shared computer.
qBittorrent is a nice compromise between the simplicity of Transmission and the raw power of Deluge. If you don’t mind the interface, it’s a solid choice.
Benefits: The only “official” BitTorrent client, while uTorrent might be the most recognizable name in file sharing.
BitTorrent Inc. is the company behind the only “official” client, and it’s come a long way since the old “one download at a time” dialogue box that changed the way files are distributed on the internet. The company has since bought uTorrent, and seemingly merged the two products together.
I downloaded both the official client and the latest version of uTorrent for Mac, and beyond the application icons and version numbers, I couldn’t find a single difference between the two. They both use the same interface, and presumably the same underlying technology.
I can only find “pro upgrade” options for the official BitTorrent client, with the website citing a $20 upgrade to remove the non-intrusive adverts, and add virus scanning and streaming support for downloads in progress. I don’t recommend you upgrade though since the adverts are barely noticeable and the other features aren’t worth the money.
It can’t be ignored that both of these clients are solid, with web UI support, feeds in the sidebar, a comprehensive scheduler with bandwidth management, and actions that kick in when your transfers complete. It’s a matter of personal taste, and it might not be the best client, but it’s far from the worst.
Benefits: Stream movies and other media before they’re finished downloading.
And now for something a little bit different. WebTorrent is the first BitTorrent client that works in the browser, while WebTorrent Desktop is a desktop version that brings torrent streaming to Windows, Mac, and Linux. That means you can watch movies and TV, or listen to audio books and music while the torrent download is still taking place.
There are a few caveats with this approach. An abundance of seeds is vital so that the client can prioritize the right torrent fragments (so the beginning of the video or audio files download first). That means only well-seeded torrents will be viable, but fortunately, there’s an abundance of free downloads through websites like The Internet Archive.
In addition to streaming the content, WebTorrent Desktop also saves the file to your Downloads folder. You can choose to play the files within the client, or use an external app like VLC. That’s about as deep as WebTorrent gets in terms of customization, which is why it might not make an ideal everyday client.
However, it’s a handy app to have around, and it’s completely free and open source. It even comes loaded with a few recommended films you can stream right away, like Sintel and Big Buck Bunny.
What About the Rest?
There are many more torrent clients out there, but you can give them a miss for the most part. The biggest omission on this list is probably Vuze, a free client with a $30 upgrade that adds CD burning and a few other bells and whistles. While Vuze works fine as a client, it’s somewhat bloated and doesn’t add any particularly notable features.
Worse still, it’s written in Java and so has a tendency to be pretty sluggish. It might be worth a shot if you’re still not satisfied after trying all of the above, though.
Which torrent client do you use on your Mac? Let us know in the comments below!