uTorrent Bundles Bloatware on an “Epic Scale”

µTorrent (often spelled uTorrent) is one of the most popular BitTorrent clients in the world. Available on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android, uTorrent was designed to be a lightweight torrenting client that would rival more resource-intensive programs like Vuze and BitComet.

However, over the years, it seems like uTorrent has drifted away from its original mission. The program has been criticised for having too many annoying advertisements and for bundling third-party bloatware. Just recently, uTorrent users noticed that the latest software update installed a program called “Epic Scale” that uses a computer’s spare CPU cycles to mine cryptocurrency.

uTorrent and Epic Scale Under Deluge of Criticism

Epic Scale claims to “advance research science by providing affordable high-performance computation”. Specifically, the software uses spare processor cycles for physics simulations, weather predictions, Litecoin mining for charities, and more. All this sounds nice, but most users don’t like unwanted software bundled in with the applications they’re trying to use, especially after Lenovo’s Superfish scandal.

Many uTorrent users claimed that Epic Scale was silently installed. However, as a representative from BitTorrent, the company that owns uTorrent, told The Next Web,

“We have reviewed the issue closely and can confirm there is no silent install happening. We are continuing to look at the issue. But this is most likely these users accepted the offer during install. Our engineering team has just confirmed that it is impossible for partner software to be installed without user permission.”

Epic Scale also issued a statement echoing that of BitTorrent:

“We believe strongly in opt-in distribution and we are deeply disappointed to hear about users having problems uninstalling Epic Scale because our mission is help [sic] people. We’ve posted uninstall instructions on our site here and have confirmed with BitTorrent that our offer is always offered on a 100% opt-in basis.”

The Next Web was able to confirm that an opt-out screen did appear during installation, though many users have reported the opposite, stating that such a screen never appeared.

Epic Scale Opt-Out Screen During uTorrent Installation
Epic Scale Opt-Out Screen During uTorrent Installation

It’s possible that many users simply did not notice the opt-out screen since people often breeze through software installations clicking the “next” button (how many people actually read the terms and conditions?). This puts the blame on both users for not reading the installation details and uTorrent for its deceptive design.

Alternatives to uTorrent

Regardless of who’s really at fault, many users have decided to switch to an alternative torrent client. Deluge is a popular choice for Windows, Mac, and Linux users. Deluge is free, open-source, and doesn’t sneak in ads or bloatware. qBittorrent is another popular cross-platform choice. The UI looks similar to that of uTorrent, and the project “aims to provide a Free Software alternative to uTorrent”. Finally, Transmission is another great option. Transmission is incredibly lightweight and features a super minimal interface. However, Transmission is only available on OS X and Linux.

Image from The Next Web. Featured image from Shutterstock.

I've always been interested in the latest stuff in science and technology, and I'm currently a freshman undergraduate electrical engineering student at the University of Texas at Austin.