Unless you’ve been living in an internet cafe for a few years, you’ve probably heard someone talk about torrenting. Maybe they’re discussing torrenting the latest Ubuntu distribution or are making a torrent of their favorite music. But what is torrenting exactly?
Torrenting is filesharing. Not necessarily the big, scary, illegal kind that the FBI warned you about. It’s merely a means of sharing files.
In this article, we’re going to answer all of the questions you have about torrents but are too scared to ask.
Ready to get informed, and potentially start torrenting yourself? Then read on!
What is Torrenting?
A torrent could be referring to a couple of things in this context.
A torrent file is a tiny file, usually just a few kilobytes in size, that lets you download other, much larger files. This little file contains metadata, which a program called the BitTorrent client can read. From this data, the client knows how to download the larger files.
How Does Torrenting Work?
Downloading a torrent is a little different from downloading from your browser. When you download from the browser, your file is already in one piece. When you download files using BitTorrent, the files are divided into smaller pieces called packets.
These packets are sent to your computer from other people using the same torrent. These can be seeders, who have already downloaded the whole file and are now distributing it, or leechers, who are still downloading it.
By using this distribution method, the torrent doesn’t rely on any central server. The torrent is, by definition, decentralized. This means that it’s hard for anyone to take the torrent down, provided there is a demand.
How Do I Download Torrents?
To download a torrent, you’ll first need a client. We’d recommend µTorrent or qBittorrent for beginner users. They’re lightweight and very simple to use. When you’ve got that installed, you’ll need to go to a torrent site. What’s a torrenting site? These are sites that index torrent files.
Just search for what you want to download, and there will likely be a torrent for it. Then it’s just a matter of downloading the torrent file or clicking on a magnet link. This will load up your torrent client, and allow you to choose which files you want to download and where on your computer you’d like to save them.
Which torrent sites should you use? You’ve likely heard of The Pirate Bay, as they’re one of the most famous torrent sites in the world. However, their website often has problems, so it’s best to look at Pirate Bay alternatives.
Are Torrents Legal?
Torrent files are legal, as is filesharing. However, if you torrent copyrighted material like music or movies, you could get into trouble, depending on your country’s laws.
There are plenty of legal torrents around, however. Torrents often distribute open-source software like Ubuntu and LibreOffice. The Internet Archive also maintains an index of public domain films and music that is available to torrent.
Is Torrenting Safe?
Torrenting is safe if you’re careful. By a torrent’s definition, it is uploaded by another individual. If they want to include malware in the download, it’s possible. The best way to ensure that a torrent is safe is to scan any saved files with your antivirus. On The Pirate Bay, you can also see if the uploader is trusted. If they have a purple or green skull and crossbones next to their name, they’re a trusted source.
When in doubt, check the torrent’s comments. If someone has uploaded malware, likely, another user will already have to let you know.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of torrenting, it’s time to give you some more advanced tips.
Consider Using a VPN
Depending on what files you download, you may want to use a VPN.
If you’ve not heard of a VPN (Virtual Private Network) before, they’re mostly a tunnel that disguises your internet traffic. They can hide your location and what files you’ve downloaded.
Depending on your country, you may need to use one to access torrent sites at all. We’d recommend using a VPN that uses high-level encryption and doesn’t store logs of your activity. The best VPNs for torrenting are NordVPN, TorGuard, and ExpressVPN.
Join Private Trackers
When you’ve got some knowledge and experience under your belt, consider joining a private tracker. These sites keep exhaustive archives of all kinds of media and are selective about who joins. A good example would be the now-defunct music tracker What.cd.
If you join these sites, you will gain access to far higher quality media than you’d find on most torrent sites. If you’re prepared to seed content and create torrents of your own, joining a private tracker is the best solution. As they’re picky about who joins, they’re also far more secure. You’re far less likely to get any DMCA notice if using a private tracker.
Invest in a Seedbox
If you’re torrenting a lot of content, consider using a seedbox. These are dedicated remote computers that grab files for you, which you can then download directly. They usually boast fast download speeds and can also seed permanently, getting you an excellent leech: seed ratio. You will need to pay to rent a seedbox, but they’re usually quite inexpensive.
Whatever you’re hoping to download, there will likely be a torrent for it. Once you get over the complex terminology and learn how to use the clients, the whole world is at your fingertips. We hope we’ve answered your question of “what is torrenting” and encouraged you to get started!
Remember to stay safe, use a VPN, scan your downloads, and always read the comments. Do you want to learn how to do even more with Windows? Then browse the Windows category of our blog, and get ready to become a power user!