Torrents

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Torrents are a way of downloading files through a peer-to-peer interface. I'll share here what you need to get started using torrents and some places to find torrent files for what you need.[1]

What is a Torrent

A torrent is a file used by a program to connect you to other users in order to download a file from them (and them from you.)

From Wikipedia:

Simply, a torrent is data about a target file, though it contains no information about the content of the file. The only data that the torrent holds is information about the location of different pieces of the target file. Torrents work by dividing the target file into small information chunks, found on an unlimited number of different hosts. Through this method, torrents are able to download large files quickly.[2]


A quick note on terminology: When you are downloading a file using a torrent, you are said to be 'Leeching'. When you are uploading a completed file to others through a torrent, you are 'Seeding'.

How to Use a Torrent File

To use a torrent file, you need a torrent client. My favorite is uTorrent, which is full of features and yet very simple to use if you only need the basics. After downloading and installing uTorrent you simply use it to open the .torrent files you get, which will start you connecting to other users and downloading the file(s) you want.

Sources for Torrent Files

Torrent files are found on websites called torrent trackers. There are probably thousands of torrent trackers out there, and many are focused on a single type of file (e.g. games, books, movies, etc.) For my general needs, I use a site which searches many of the most popular trackers for me:

The following directions will be specific to Torrentz, but you can likely figure out how to do the same on other sites.

Determining Good Torrents

Almost any given search at Torrentz will return dozens of files. Here are the methods I use to determine which to grab:

  1. Read the torrent name
      • Make sure that the name is actually what you are looking for
  2. Pick torrents near the top of the list
      • Torrents are ordered by the number of peers they have. The more peers, the faster it will download.
      • The number of peers are on the far right. Green are seeders, blue are leechers. (The more green, the better.)
      • If the torrents near the top of the list only have a few (say, 20 or less) peers, they probably aren't worth trying to download.

Downloading the Torrent You've Selected

After you use the above step to select a good torrent go ahead and click on it's name in the list. This will bring up a list of trackers where the file was found. Clicking the name of any of these sites will take you to the page for the torrent, at which point you just have to find the 'download torrent' button.

While any of the sites listed will work, I have a few I like best. These usually have the least amount of ads, pop-ups, and other annoyances:

  1. Torrent Hound - to download the torrent, just scroll down a little and click the big 'Download .torrent' button.
      • This one has a nice little graph showing you how many peers there are (the larger the green portion, the faster the download will go.)

Clicking download should usually pop-up the uTorrent 'new torrent' dialog for you to select a location for the download. After that just click 'OK' and you're on your way! Remember that the .torrent file only points to where your data is, it doesn't actually contain any data itself. You can now watch the progress of the download in uTorrent.

After You've Completed Your Download

After the file has completed (shows 100% in uTorrent), it won't just stop like a normal download. In order for torrents to work, someone has to have the data other people want to download. You are now that someone, known as a 'Seeder'. Until you tell it to stop, you will continue to upload parts of the file to other peers who haven't completed the download yet. This can be viewed two different ways:

Seeding is Good

Torrents function entirely on peer-to-peer downloads. This means that in order to work properly and efficiently people should try to seed every file they complete for some period of time. In 'hardcore' torrent circles, Leechers are heavily frowned upon...with 'Leechers' in this sense being people who don't seed after downloading.

  • Common courtesy is to maintain a 1:1 ratio, meaning you should upload the same amount that you download.
  • For rarer torrents, where it may take a long time to get a 1:1 ratio, I'd recommend at least 14 days of seeding to give others a chance.
  • If you value the ability to find things through torrents, you should pay it forward and seed at least a 1:1 ratio.

Seeding is Bad

While it's good for the torrenting community when you seed, it can cause issues for yourself.

  • Seeding torrents uses up your bandwidth and can slow down your connection (just like downloading can.) If you are on a limited bandwidth connection this can be a big issue.
    • Torrenting in general on a slower connection with roommates involved can (and has) cause arguments about hogging bandwidth.
  • Seeding illegally gotten content opens yourself up to detection by authorities.
    • Easily avoided by avoiding copyrighted content.
    • Also note that you can be detected while leeching as well as seeding.
  • Seeding requires you to leave the file where you downloaded it, with the original download name.
    • Moving the file requires you to make a copy, and take up more hard drive space.
    • Only an issue if you want to move or rename the file.

Advanced Information

I'll detail any tips and tricks I've found - mostly related to uTorrent - here.

Security

  • PIA - a cheap and popular proxy service.

Increasing Ratio

References

  1. You will be able to find copyrighted items downloadable through torrents. This isn't legal 99% of the time so you should avoid them.
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torrent_file