Hello and welcome to another VPN review!
And hoo boy is our today’s service… peculiar.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you a review of BTGuard!
Today, you will learn:
- if BTGuard is a good service;
- if it’s safe to use;
- if it’s worth getting in 2019;
- as well as answers to other questions!
Here’s a navigation menu, so feel free to jump to any section of this review:
- BTGuard: Unique Benefits and Features
- Pros and Cons of BTGuard
- BTGuard: Speed and Security Tests
- BTGuard: Benefits and Features Tests
- BTGuard: Frequently Asked Questions
|BTGuard pros||BTGuard cons|
|⊕ Acceptable speeds||⊗ A bit expensive price for a 1- month plan Too few servers|
|⊕ OpenVPN support||⊗ Leaks DNS requests|
|⊕ Has a kill switch||⊗ No app|
|⊕ AES 256-bit encryption||⊗ Doesn’t work with Netflix|
|⊕ Allows torrenting||Expensive|
|⊕ Theoretically unlimited device connections||⊗ Hasn’t been updated in a while|
|⊕ Supports quite a few platforms||⊗ Keeps some logs|
|⊗ No live chat|
|⊗ Canadian jurisdiction|
|⊗ No free trial|
BTGuard claims to keep your torrenting activities private but there are alternatives that do just that but more reliably and for a lower price:
BTGuard: Unique Benefits and Features
BTGuard is like the crazy uncle of the VPN world. And I’m not talking about the cool crazy uncle who allows you to eat unhealthy food and watch ultraviolent action movies, no. This uncle is that creepy weird guy who wants to build a nuclear reactor in his basement or fly to the Moon in his repurposed fridge.
You might ask why that is, and I’ll answer.
BTGuard is an odd case because of how muddy everything about it is. Is it possible to get a refund? I have no idea. That’s what the BTGuard’s payment page says about the matter:
But that’s it. There’s no more information on the provider’s website referring to its refund policy. Given that the website itself isn’t the most active place on the Web, I wouldn’t count on a swift response.
I managed to find some external information about this question, though. On Complaintboards.com, there’s an old user comment about BTGuard, and it paints less than a favorable picture of the service.
It claims that the user’s refund request was not fulfilled and no response at all was given. Worse, the user was also apparently “harassed through [their] email” by the company.
Keep it in mind that this complaint dates back to 2012, so take it with a pinch of salt.
BTGuard was created with the purpose of protecting netizens who use torrents. It has a proxy option that can be set up in your torrent client. It will, therefore, protect only the traffic coming through it. Actually, it isn’t a bad idea since it costs less:
However, if it’s really a proxy, it won’t encrypt your traffic and is generally less safe than a VPN. I wouldn’t recommend going with this option even if you need to protect only your torrent traffic.
Pros and Cons of BTGuard
Despite its very limited server park, this VPN provides more or less satisfying speeds. I will provide the exact details of BTGuard’s speed tests in the relevant chapter later on.
BTGuard provides support for the OpenVPN protocol. It is the best one available right now, so it definitely counts as a plus!
The other protocol supported by BTGuard VPN is PPTP. This one, however, is considered antiquated by today’s standards and can be cracked by surveillance agencies.
Therefore, if you decide to get BTGuard, it’s best to use OpenVPN.
Has a kill switch
A kill switch is supposed to keep your Internet traffic from going outside of a VPN tunnel. Considering that there are many reasons for it to happen (disconnections, location change, etc.), a kill switch is a necessary feature for any VPN app.
Well, we’ll speak about the BTGuard app (or the lack thereof) later on in the review. At any rate, the kill switch has to be downloaded separately in the form of a stand-alone app.
It allows choosing 6 apps that will be blocked from accessing the Internet on disconnection – not as good as what, for instance, NordVPN offers, specifically, blocking all traffic of all apps. But still, it’s better than nothing.
Being a third-party solution, VPN Lifeguard isn’t the best fit. Its downside is that it only works with PPTP:
While it’s possible to set up a kill switch for OpenVPN, it’s pretty technical. It’s a shame that BTGuard doesn’t provide something to take care of it.
AES 256-bit encryption
BTGuard promises its users great security in terms of the encryption method.
That’s great news because 256-bit encryption is simply beyond the scope of the current-day brute force attempts of breaking the code.
The very reason for BTGuard’s existence is the protection of torrent users’ security. It’s mentioned all over the main page on its website:
So obviously, this provider not only allows but encourages torrenting.
Theoretically unlimited device connections
Here’s what BTGuard has to say about the number of simultaneous connections it allows per one subscription:
There’s no hard limit other than the number of devices you possess.
However, users are warned against using the service from several locations at the same time. It’s done to make sure they don’t give their account details to other people.
But from BTGuard’s Terms of Service, we learn that its users are forbidden from sharing their accounts with anyone “outside of [their] immediate family”. So you can give access to the same BTGuard account, for instance, to your husband or daughter without violating the terms.
Since BTGuard supports several mobile operating systems, it’s not impossible that, at some point, two members of your family can access the same account from different locations. Would they violate the terms, then?
It’s hard to tell for sure. As I mentioned before, it’s muddy.
Another good thing about BTGuard is that it accepts payment in Bitcoin besides the usual PayPal and credit card options.
It’s important to note, though, that Bitcoin isn’t completely anonymous. So, as always with security, one should never put their mind at ease.
Supports quite a few platforms
The list of platforms BTGuard is available on is quite impressive:
This VPN service provides support for:
- Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, and 10;
- Linux and Ubuntu;
- macOS and iOS;
- DD-WRT and Tomato-running routers.
I especially like that there are guides for older Windows OS’s such as XP and Vista as well as for routers.
BTGuard has a lot of Pros to boast about. You probably noticed, though, that some of them come with a small drawback.
Now we will see what its Cons are.
Too few servers
What exactly do you imagine when you hear that a VPN provider has too few servers?
Probably, you picture something like a hundred servers in about 20 countries or so. Or maybe, you even frown upon anything less than ExpressVPN’s impressive network.
Well, what you’re about to read next is going to make you reconsider those pictures.
With BTGuard, it starts on a relatively positive note. This is the advertisement you see on its site:
Before you ask, it’s true. From a certain point of view.
Since it says “Canada, Europe and Asia”, it’s natural to assume that BTGuard covers multiple countries on each of the mentioned continents. Except it doesn’t.
That’s what BTGuard’s server network actually looks like:
If there ever was a fisher whose net looked like this, he would’ve died of hunger.
Yep, there are 3 servers in 3 countries.
Or maybe not. Find out in the following chapter!
Leaks DNS requests
Sadly, BTGuard can’t cope with the primary task of a VPN and keep its users’ real IPs hidden.
And let me tell you, it’s one thing when a free VPN leaks user IP addresses. After all, you get what you’re (not) paying for.
But BTGuard doesn’t have even such a flimsy excuse as this one, because it’s a paid service.
Most VPNs today have apps. It makes it easier for customers to set up and use the service.
BTGuard doesn’t believe in providing such leeway. What for some other VPNs is just an option, for BTGuard is the only way to use it.
I’m speaking about OpenVPN config files.
While they aren’t hard to set up, it’s still more troublesome than just pressing a button in the installer. Moreover, this VPN requires users to install other software (OpenVPN GUI) to work.
If you opt into using the PPTP protocol, you have to set it up manually in the Network & Internet Windows menu. Again, not terribly technical, but still inconvenient.
Doesn’t work with Netflix
Not that many VPNs unblock Netflix’s geo-restrictions.
Strictly speaking, BTGuard never makes any promises as to its ability to do that. Still, it’s worth noting that it doesn’t allow its users to unblock Netflix.
For the service that it is, BTGuard VPN is just too pricey.
Its prices are as follows:
- $9.95 per month when subscribing for 1 month;
- $9.32 per month when subscribing for 3 months ($27.95 in total);
- $8.33 per month when subscribing for 6 months ($49.95 in total);
- $7.5 per month when subscribing for 12 months ($89.95 in total).
Those are considerable. Even if the VPN itself was good, such high prices would still have been way too expensive.
And BTGuard is, well, not very good.
All things considered, I’ve seen free VPNs that were comparable to it in terms of performance and security. Not to mention all the paid but cheap virtual private network services available.
Hasn’t been updated in a while
Going to the BTGuard’s website is like stumbling on an abandoned house. You can see that there was some life there once, but now few signs of it remain.
Take a look at this table I made to show when various pages on BTGuard.com were last updated:
|Tutorial: VPN||July 22, 2015|
|Support/News||April 29, 2013|
Though, to be fair, individual tutorial pages show more recent dates in 2017 and even 2018.
Still, the site isn’t the most active place. There are no forums to speak of, and nothing much seems to have happened to BTGuard since 2013 (or prior to that year, for that matter – no news articles exist on the site other than the single one from 2013).
BTGuard’s website also keeps logging you out for no apparent reason with impressive frequency. One second, you may be minding your own business on one page of it, waiting for a response to your ticket. The next second you go to the support tab, and that page won’t load.
That means that you’ve been logged out.
The worst thing about it is that you can only log back in on the site proper, btguard.com, whereas support is conducted on btguard.com/support that doesn’t have the login form. Have fun going back and forth between the two.
Keeps some logs
BTGuard promises that it keeps no logs on its main page:
Note the word “usage”. But does BTGuard keep connection logs?
Maybe the information in question is just account settings and data but it’s impossible to be sure with how unclearly it is conveyed.
At the very least, the real IPs are not kept, so that’s something.
No live chat
I would call BTGuard an average service in terms of customer support.
They have a ticket system, but no live chat. That’s a bit of a shame.
However, it’s not too bad. Honestly, with how little activity there is on the website, I didn’t expect a quick answer. But BTGuard did pleasantly surprise me on that.
It took the support team around three hours to reply, which is pretty good for non-live support.
It’s a bit too generic for my liking and still doesn’t tell me what info this VPN does collect. However, it shares an interesting inside about the possibility of shutting the Canadian server down in the future.
Another downside to BTGuard is that it’s based in Canada. This is the address provided on the site of the service:
And as we know, Canada is one of the Five Eyes countries. It means that surveillance agencies of other member states have a little too much freedom of operation on Canadian soil.
Since BTGuard keeps some logs, such jurisdiction is not good.
No free trial
Despite its rather large prices, BTGuard doesn’t offer a free trial to its users.
The phrasing above makes it sound like there is an unlimited refund period, but the very next question in the FAQ section speaks against it:
BTGuard: Speed and Security Tests
I mentioned earlier in this review that BTGuard’s speeds are not too bad. Now I will show you the exact numbers.
First of all, here’s my Internet speed unaffected by a VPN:
Since there are not so many servers to speak of, I tested all of them with both OpenVPN and PPTP protocols.
The Netherlands server showed the following speed on PPTP:
For a European server, it doesn’t look too good. However, the situation changes as soon as I connect to the same server on OpenVPN:
Strangely, it’s much better despite the fact that OpenVPN has stronger encryption and should be more taxing on my speed. But hey, I’m not complaining.
The next server was in Canada. With PPTP, its speed was quite good for an intercontinental connection:
And here it is with OpenVPN:
And the last server in Singapore. With PPTP:
Not very impressive, but that’s to be expected with the large distance between my real location and Singapore. Let’s see how fast this server is with OpenVPN:
Wait a second… something’s not right!
Now we’ll see how secure BTGuard is. Does it leak its users’ real IPs?
With the Netherlands server, we’re off to a rough start:
It leaks my real DNS. That’s bad news because why would anyone want a VPN that does that?
But maybe it’s just the outdated PPTP protocol. Maybe things will get better with OpenVPN.
I can’t post the original screenshots because of privacy concerns. Still, BTGuard leaks DNS requests like there’s no tomorrow.
It happens consistently, too. This VPN fails to perform its basic task every time.
Canada is no better:
As for Singapore… Well, there’s no server in Singapore.
It brings us to a total of 2 countries.
Let me remind you that this is a paid service. It’s not a project that somebody made in their spare time for fun. It’s a commercial product. And a pricey one at that!
How is it possible? We will never know.
What we do know is that we should stay away from BTGuard.
BTGuard: Benefits and Features Tests
To say something positive about BTGuard, its installation is simple and straightforward, even though it doesn’t have an app.
First, you go to the Tutorial page on its website and pick your platform:
Then you just follow the instructions. They are pretty comprehensive and walk you through every necessary step.
Essentially, all you need to do is download and execute the config files:
Everything else is done automatically and takes just a few seconds:
Then you need to right-click on the OpenVPN icon in the tray:
Then in the dropdown menu you choose the server and click “connect”:
And in the next menu, you enter your login and password and you’re good to go:
Does BTGuard support Netflix?
BTGuard doesn’t have a US server, so I tested if I could watch a Canada-only movie while connected to its Canadian server.
As it turns out, no, I couldn’t.
Moreover, BTGuard also manages to block my access to some websites that aren’t blocked without it, like researchgate.com:
Does BTGuard allow torrenting?
As a service dedicated to safe torrenting, BTGuard has failed the “safe” part miserably.
It does, however, indeed allow torrenting:
However, taking everything else about BTGuard into consideration, you will be probably better off looking at other VPNs that allow P2P.
BTGuard: Frequently Asked Questions
It doesn’t store usage logs such as real IPs of its users.
User Reviews about BTGuard
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