The Best Alternatives to Transmission on the Mac

Transmission was long considered one of the best BitTorrent clients for Mac, but it’s recently seen back-to-back compromises of its servers. If you’re worried about Transmission’s security, here are some other great options.

In March 2016, Transmission’s servers were compromised, and the official Mac version of Transmission contained ransomware. The project cleaned things up. In August 2016, Transmission’s servers were again compromised and the official Mac version of Transmission once again included a different type of malware. That’s two major compromises in five months, which is shocking, and highly unusual. It suggests there’s something seriously wrong with the Transmission project’s security. As a result, we recommend staying away from Transmission entirely until the project cleans its act up.

So what should you use instead? We’re glad you asked.

Deluge: a Feature-Packed, Open-Source, Junk-Free BitTorrent Client

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Deluge is our favorite Bittorrent client for macOS. It’s powerful, lightweight, and it’s been around a long time. And, as an open-source application, you won’t find any junkware bundled along with it, as you would with uTorrent.

It’s full of the essential features you’d want in a BitTorrent client, including BitTorrent protocol features like encryption, DHT for distributed per discovery without a tracker, local peer discovery, peer exchange, and per-torrent speed limits. However, it doesn’t burst at the seams with bloat.

Instead, Deluge offers a plug-in system, so you can add the extra features you want, without dealing with the ones you don’t. It also offers a client-server architecture, so you could run the Deluge server on another system entirely and connect to it using the Deluge application on your Mac. But by default, it just runs as a normal graphical application on your system.

This application is a bit more complex than Transmission, as most Bittorrent clients are. You’ll also have to bypass Gatekeeper to run it, as the developers haven’t bothered signing it. But overall, this is the Bittorrent client we recommend on macOS.

qBitTorrent: an Open-Source uTorrent That’s Just a Little Ugly

RELATED: The Best Alternatives to uTorrent on Windows

qBittorrent aims to be a “free software alternative to uTorrent”. It’s our Bittorrent client of choice for Windows PCs because it’s the closest thing to a junkware-free version of uTorrent you’re going to find.

We still recommend it on the Mac, but moved it down to our #2 spot, since qBittorrent’s interface is pretty darn ugly. It looks like something that would belong on a much older version of macOS. Deluge, while still not an application designed with OS X in mind, looks significantly sleeker.

qBittorrent is still a very powerful, feature-packed Bittorrent client though. It doesn’t have a plug-in system like Deluge, but instead packs in all the best advanced features–like downloading torrents from RSS feeds–so you can get right to torrenting. It’s still a solid option if you like advanced features and don’t mind how it looks.

But let’s be honest: Deluge and qBittorrent are both great Bittorrent clients and are both fairly similar. That’s why it makes sense to choose Deluge on a Mac, where Deluge just looks much nicer than qBittorrent does.

As with Deluge, you’ll have to bypass Gatekeeper to open qBittorrent. The developers haven’t bothered signing it.

uTorrent: a Crapware and Ad-Filled Client, Just Like on Windows

You might be tempted to check out uTorrent, which has a lot of name recognition.

uTorrent built its reputation by providing a lightweight, junk-free BitTorrent client. But uTorrent has been owned by BitTorrent, Inc since 2006, and they’ve spent years incorporating advertisements, browser toolbars, junkware, and even BitCoin miners into uTorrent to make money.

And yes, sadly, even the Mac version of uTorrent contains bundled crapware, just like it does on Windows. It’s not just advertisements and pleas to upgrade to a paid version–it tries to install an unwanted browser toolbar when you install uTorrent on your system.

For that reason–and because Deluge and even qBittorrent are so good–we recommend you stay away from uTorrent on macOS.

Transmission: a Great Minimal Client Overcome by Security Issues

Oh, Transmission. Forever the most popular, widely recommended BitTorrent client on Mac, Transmission has stumbled recently. As we noted above, Transmission has had some serious security issues lately, so while we don’t recommend it right now, we’re still giving it a mention here for the sake of completeness.

Security concerns aside, Transmission is a solid BitTorrent client. It’s rather different from most BitTorrent clients and focuses on providing a more minimal, streamlined interface. If you’re looking for the most possible features, you may want to go with Deluge or qBittorrent. If you want a simple experience–with a lot of powerful features still hidden behind a few clicks–Transmission is a good option.

Transmission uses its own libTransmission backend. Like Deluge, Transmission can run as a daemon on another system. You could then use the Transmission interface on your Mac to manage the Transmission service running on another computer.

You could try to stick with an older version of Transmission, but where would you download it from? The project’s own servers, which don’t seem all that safe? Even if you already have Transmission on your system, updating it would download it from those same servers. That’s why we recommend avoiding Transmission, at least for a while. Let the project figure things out first.

And, to tell the truth, even if Transmission was safe, Deluge would still be the most feature-filled choice.


There are other Bittorrent clients for Mac, but we think these are the top ones. Aside from uTorrent–which we don’t recommend you use, anyway–they’re all open-source applications. Community-driven development has kept these projects focused on helping their users and not cramming the applications full of junk to make some quick money.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Twitter.