Which is is the best torrent client for Mac?

There are lots of different Mac OS X clients for downloading BitTorrents from free torrent download sites, and new torrent client software comes out every year. But what's the best Mac torrent software for you? Which has the best features, and which is easiest to use?

Torrent clients enable you to download torrent files or use torrent magnet links. Each is used to download and share files over the internet; and each Mac BitTorrent client offers something different. A good BitTorrent program should be easy to use, reliable and quickly download files from other computer users.

Large or obscure torrent files can take a long time to download, so a good BitTorrent client for Mac should also be unobtrusive, sitting in the background and quietly pulling down your files while you continue to work.

In this feature, we look at all the Mac torrent clients worth considering, and figure out which is the best torrent client for the average Mac user to depend on.

See also:

Deluge: The best BitTorrent client for Mac

Deluge for Mac

Deluge is a venerable classic, and is one of the oldest BitTorrent clients around. Perhaps because of its age, it's much smaller in stature than other BitTorrent clients and has a small footprint.

It's also completely free from advertising and unwanted plugins, and has a focus on providing features the community needs, such as private downloads, password protection, and scheduling and bandwidth options.

Deluge fell off the map for a while, but has bounced back with a vengeance. Upon rediscovering it we found its interface clean and performance great, and it supports a range of plugins that expand its functionality. The plugins can utilise privacy blocklists (which you shouldn't rely on), labelling, scheduling and notification options. You can monitor folders for files, and add them automatically.

Part of us wondered about giving such an old and limited app our nod for "best Bittorrent client for Mac", but with uTorrent going off the rails and other apps feeling cluttered, this is the one we're using for now. Sometimes you really can't beat the classics.


qBittorrent for Mac: A good all-round BitTorrent app

qBittorrent for Mac

We have a new contender for our "Good All-Rounder" award this year, qBitTorrent. This replaces our former favourite uTorrent (which gets the "Fallen From Grace" award thanks to the inclusion of lots of unwanted installations).

qBittorrent is a relatively obscure program, so there's a good chance you haven't heard of it yet. However, we have swiftly become fans. It's simple to operate, easy on the eyes and perfectly functional. We found it used little background processing and is bereft of adverts and spam.

The interface is a bit clunky compared to Transmission or uTorrent: despite being new, it looks like an app from an old version of OS X.

However, it has a very nice combination of features and ease of use. While other torrent programs are too simple, like Transmission, or quite detailed, like Vuze, qBittorrent strikes the middle ground confidently. It's easy to download single or multiple files, and to choose files from within a single torrent.

qBittorrent for Mac

Transmission review: Best easy-to-use torrent client for Mac

Transmission for Mac

Note: If you use Transmission version 2.90 for Mac, make sure you update to version 2.92, since earlier versions have been found to distribute malware - the first recorded Mac ransomware, in fact. More info on avoiding or removing this malware in our article How to remove malware from a Mac for free. Transmission has more details on its site

When uTorrent went off the rails, we quickly moved over to Transmission. It's always been one of our favourite BitTorrent clients and we're half sad not to give it top billing this time around.

Of all the apps here, Transmission is the most Mac-like, with a gorgeous interface and Apple-like simplicity - not that Apple would ever make a BitTorrent app; it won't even allow them on the App Store.

Transmission is an extremely light BitTorrent client with a good range of features. It needs very little configuration and is designed to be as minimalist as possible, so files just open in a small window displaying a single upload bar. You can get more information on files but this opens is in a separate window.

We think Transmission takes the simplicity thing a little too far, and both qBittorrent and Vuze offer a wider range of features (such as in-app search). But if you very rarely download torrents, but want a torrent client on your Mac, this is a good app to add to Mac OS X.


Vuze: Mac torrent client with the best features

If you're already quite familiar with BitTorrents and are looking for an app that's got more detail to it, then Vuze is a pretty good option.

Vuze was previously known as Azureus and offers far more detail than qBittorrent and Transmission, but still has a good Mac OS X friendly interface (it's reminiscent of older versions of iTunes). You can search for torrents from inside the app.

With Vuze it's easier to pick parts from torrent files, such as a large audio file containing different songs. You can also send files to different target locations. On the whole it offers more functionality than uTorrent or Transmission, but with the loss of some simplicity.


uTorrent Mac review: Good features, but be careful of hidden install files and system changes

uTorrent for Mac

Oh dear: uTorrent was once our favourite torrent client, striking a great balance between the ease of use of Transmission and the functionality of Vuse.

For some reason the makers of uTorrent have decided to include a raft of sneaky installation files in the latest version of uTorrent. Not just a few, either: a couple of installation windows now pop up and install the following extensions:

  • Spigot Toolbar
  • SearchMe in Safari.
  • Amazon, eBay, SearchMe and Savings-Slider in Firefox
  • Amazon, Domain Error Assistant, eBay Shopping Assistant, Searchme, and Savings Slider in Chrome.

If that wasn't enough fun, it also changes your Search engine and Homepage to Yahoo. A change that's about as welcome as a skunk in a spacesuit. It's not really malware, but it's still a wealth of unwanted crud all over your Mac.

It's pretty easy to click Decline, or remove extensions if you know what you're doing. But this is still enough of an annoyance for us to drop uTorrent all the way from the top of the list to the bottom (and the app into our Trash can). It's a shame because before all of that, uTorrent was a cracking little app.


What are torrents?

Torrents are small files that you can download and open in a torrent client. The torrent client then downloads a larger file from the internet using a process known as BitTorrent. BitTorrent enables people to share large files with each other using a peer-to-peer network, which means they share parts of the file with each other, rather than downloading the whole file from a central location (such as iTunes).

You download a small file, called a torrent, and this enables you to connect to other computers with the same file and download parts of it from each other. These parts are then shared until you have the whole of the file, at which point you can continue sharing the file (known as seeding). One person has to seed the whole of the file in the first place for other to share it. BitTorrent is an efficient way to share large files across multiple computers. It has something of a bad reputation because of its association with file-sharing sites like The Pirate Bay, but the technology is often used to share less controversial large files, such as software updates, Linux installation distributions, and open-source or copyright-free programs, movies, music and other large files.

To download a torrent you must download first a torrent client. This accepts the file and logs on to peer-to-peer networks to hunt for other people sharing the file. Once it's found them it will begin downloading the file.

Are torrents legal?

Torrents and BitTorrent technology are, themselves, completely legal. However, many people use torrent technology to download files from popular filesharing sites like The Pirate Bay. Many of the files shared, such as the latest movies or television shows, may be subject to copyright laws, and downloading them is generally subject to copyright law in most countries. Film and music companies have been known to monitor torrent activity and bring court cases against individuals it suspects of copyright infringement.

See also:

What are torrent magnet links?

A magnet link is another way of using BitTorrent to download large files, but you don't even need to download the torrent file. Instead, you click on a magnet link in a website, and your default torrent app will automatically start downloading the whole file using BitTorrent. Magnet links contain a hash code that is unique for each different file. All modern BitTorrent apps also support magnet links.

Other Mac torrent apps to consider

There are several other torrent apps to consider installing on a Mac. Here are some other Mac torrent clients you can take a look at:

Xtorrent: This is a great torrent app, but unlike other apps here it isn't completely free. You have to pay $25 to remove download speed restrictions. With so many free and perfectly functional apps on offer we don't see the point in paying.

Official BitTorrent client for Mac. It's limited compared to Vuze and uTorrent but has a wide range of functionality. We think it's better to go with one of the slicker apps listed above.

BitRocket. This is an open-source BitTorrent app, and while it has a good range of functions it looks very open-source. It's an alternative to other apps but doesn't have any unique features, and the interface is rather scrappy.