A Newbie’s Information to BitTorrent

Illustration: GDJ ( (Pixabay)

Out of your geeky roommates who eat up your web connection in any respect hours of the night time to your luddite relations, almost everybody is aware of what BitTorrent is these days. They may not be capable of describe the way it works, and even authorized methods they’ll use it, however they realize it exists. (For those who’re slightly geekier, you most likely additionally know that peer-to-peer networking may even energy processes like like Home windows working system updates, Chromebook updates, and Android app installations.)


Even for those who don’t care about how BitTorrent works (you need to!), there are many ideas we’re comfortable to share about methods to maximize your expertise when downloading and importing information. (On the very least, now we have numerous ideas on which apps you need to use to Bittorrent, and how one can keep protected doing it.)

First, let’s discuss tech—briefly, we promise.

What’s BitTorrent?

BitTorrent is just not a program. It’s a way of downloading information utilizing a distributed peer-to-peer file sharing system. The applications that you just use to obtain information by way of the BitTorrent protocol are referred to as BitTorrent purchasers.


What makes the BitTorrent protocol distinctive is that it distributes the sharing of information throughout all customers who’ve downloaded or are within the course of of downloading a file. As a result of BitTorrent breaks up and distributes information in a whole bunch of small chunks, you don’t even must have downloaded the entire file earlier than you begin sharing. As quickly as you’ve gotten even a chunk of the file, you can begin sharing that piece with different customers. That’s what makes BitTorrent so quick; customers can share chunks of information with each other as quickly as they’ve been downloaded (as an alternative of ready till the whole obtain has been accomplished).

For those who’re nonetheless confused, let’s strive an easier method. As Sampathkumar illustrates over on Medium, it is a simplified model of what it’s wish to obtain a traditional file from an internet site:

Illustration: Sampathkumar

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While you’re downloading one thing from BitTorrent, it seems to be slightly one thing like this:

Illustration: Sampathkumar


The profit? If one system within the huge group of BitTorrenters is sluggish, that’s simply effective—with luck, there will likely be different computer systems that may ship you the chunks of the file you’re on the lookout for at a a lot better speeds. For those who had been simply downloading a file from a single sluggish server, you’d be caught; since BitTorrent makes an attempt to piece the file collectively from (ideally) many individuals directly, you’ll have loads of built-in options—and also you, your self, will assist contribute to others’ requests.

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discover and obtain a file with BitTorrent

Now that you just’ve received a greater concept of the terminology and course of behind BitTorrent, let’s soar proper into utilizing it.


First, it’s worthwhile to obtain a BitTorrent consumer

Screenshot: Transmission


With out a BitTorrent consumer, you possibly can’t partake within the peer-to-peer protocol. There are a lot of BitTorrent purchasers to select from—many. Our favorites embody:

  • qBitTorrent — Home windows/Mac (an open-source, free variant of uTorrent)
  • Deluge— Home windows/Mac (additionally open-source, additionally free, and and helps numerous plugins for customizing its operations)
  • Transmission — primarily for Mac, however an “early preview” Home windows model is out there. (Extremely common consumer, and very straightforward to make use of.)
  • Tixati — Home windows (easy and skinnable!)

To be able to obtain something utilizing a BitTorrent app, you first have to seek out and obtain a .torrent file after which open it together with your BitTorrent consumer. The torrent file doesn’t include your information. As an alternative, it accommodates info which tells your BitTorrent consumer the place it might probably discover friends who’re additionally sharing and downloading the file.


Because the BitTorrent weblog describes it:

“Inside a “.torrent” file is a set of data that helps your BitTorrent consumer discover and obtain information. This info is a bunch of information that features names, sizes, and folder construction. Together with details about information, a ‘.torrent’ file additionally accommodates a listing of trackers.

A tracker may be considered a pc – or group of computer systems – that helps establish the situation of particular information. When a request for content material goes out, say the most recent situation of The FADER 101 Bundle, a tracker helps join the individual in search of it to the situation(s) the place it may be discovered.”


You may additionally use what’s referred to as a “magnet hyperlink” to kick off a BitTorrent obtain. The distinction right here is you aren’t downloading a .torrent file from a server straight; as an alternative, the magnet hyperlink accommodates all the knowledge it’s worthwhile to discover that .torrent file from different BitTorrent friends. It’s a decentralized method that saves you from having to obtain a .torrent file to get began (and likewise helps web sites out by solely requiring them to publish magnet hyperlinks, fairly than internet hosting .torrent information themselves).

Because the BitComent wiki describes:

“[Magnet links] can scale back the load on torrent index web sites and likewise might supply a greater likelihood of holding a torrent alive, as as soon as the .torrent file is on the DHT Community it theoretically doesn’t should be accessible for obtain on an internet site anymore; all you want is only a Magnet Hyperlink. And in case the unique website internet hosting the torrent goes down or doesn’t present it anymore, hyperlinks usually tend to have been propagated on the Web than are .torrent information to be hosted for obtain on alternate websites.”


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The place do you discover torrents?

Screenshot: David Murphy


Right here’s the place we get into an moral grey space. Let’s get actual for a minute: Most individuals use BitTorrent to obtain copyright materials. Irrespective of how a lot we child ourselves that we’re all downloading Linux distributions and screensavers, piracy and BitTorrent go hand-in-hand. (And, sure, we’re very conscious that there are many different locations to obtain unlawful issues: Usenet, file-hosting websites like Mega, et cetera.)

No matter content material you’re on the lookout for, we suggest not going the “Google the title of it plus the phrase ‘BitTorrent’” method except you’re truthfully going for one thing like an everyday Linux distribution. For those who’re attempting to seize the most recent episode of your favourite TV present without cost, you’re going to discover a ton of listings—and a variety of spammy websites seeking to reap the benefits of your curiosity in free content material. You would possibly in the end find yourself BitTorrenting a file that isn’t what you anticipated within the slightest. Or, worse, malware.


It’s not that onerous to seek out nice web sites that record every kind of torrents you is likely to be inquisitive about. It’s additionally not very exhausting to seek out web site that record these varieties of internet sites. No matter your BitTorrent pleasure, I like to recommend you deal with this with care. Persist with suggestions from these already locally, who most likely know much more about what’s authentic (and what isn’t) than you, for those who’re simply taking your first steps on this large, large universe of downloading.

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Downloading the torrent

Screenshot: David Murphy


While you discover a specific merchandise to obtain by way of BitTorrent, you’ll need to examine one statistic: what number of seeders it has, or what number of others have full copies of no matter it’s you need to obtain. Don’t hand over hope if this determine is zero; let your torrent run for a while (a day, every week, no matter), and also you would possibly luck out and get some seeders to hitch the combination. Relying on the age and total recognition of no matter it’s you’re seeking to purchase, you may additionally come up quick. When doubtful, intention for torrents which have numerous seeders.

All you must do to get getting into your BitTorrent consumer is obtain and run a .torrent file or click on on a magnet hyperlink—and if the latter doesn’t work, you possibly can doubtless import it manually after which set your BitTorrent consumer because the default app for dealing with these sorts of hyperlinks going ahead.


Simple sufficient, proper? Nevertheless, there are just a few further components you’ll need to bear in mind as you start your BitTorrent adventures:

  • How a lot bandwidth are you utilizing? Each BitTorrent consumer that’s even half-good ought to include some method to restrict your obtain and add speeds. For those who’re sharing your web reference to others in your hours, otherwise you don’t need your file-sharing to influence your different actions, setting affordable limits is vital. You’ll most likely need to restrict your add pace greater than your obtain pace; whereas this makes you a jerk, sharing-wise, your ISP doubtless helps a lot decrease add speeds than obtain speeds.
    For those who’re paying for “150Mbps web,” for instance, that might truly imply that you just’re capped at a mere 5Mbps for uploads—not 150Mbps. Fill the pipe by tossing bits and items of information to keen BitTorrent purchasers, and there received’t be any room left on your different bandwidth-hungry actions.
  • Do you have to use a VPN? If all the pieces you’re downloading is authorized, you’re effective. For those who’re downloading issues that might doubtlessly piss off the copyright holders, you’re solely asking for a stern letter out of your ISP—or worse—for those who aren’t utilizing a VPN to hide what you’re as much as. Don’t use a free VPN. Pay for an important VPN that may cover no matter it’s you’re doing.
  • How lengthy are you seeding? Whereas it’s noble and nice so that you can keep an important BitTorrent ratio (the quantity you downloaded vs. how a lot you uploaded to others), suppose again to the primary bullet level. For those who’re seeding information on a regular basis, you possibly can be impacting your individual community efficiency. Contemplate whether or not you actually need your BitTorrent consumer to launch once you begin Home windows (and begin robotically seeding something you’ve downloaded).
    In any other case, take into consideration a size of time you’re snug with. And once you’ve hit that time for a torrent you’ve downloaded, delete it out of your BitTorrent consumer. For those who not want no matter it’s you downloaded, don’t neglect delete it out of your exhausting drive, too. (Customizing the place your consumer’s downloads torrents makes it simpler to not neglect this step.)


This story was initially revealed on 8/3/07 and was up to date on 7/11/19 to supply extra thorough and present info.

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