Torrenting was a very popular activity before reliable online streaming services became a thing. And it’s become even more popular now that those streaming services are using geo-location blocks and introducing exclusive content deals!
If you’ve never used torrents before and you’re considering starting, you should know it’s easier than it seems. But it’s also shrouded in complex legal questions.
Don’t worry – because we’ll teach you everything you need to know about torrenting before you get started!
What Is Torrenting?
Torrenting is a type of file-sharing method that uses a peer-to-peer (P2P) user network.
Instead of downloading content from a single source (like you would with cloud sharing), you connect to the computer servers of other users on the same network.
This makes it easier to download big files.
With cloud sharing or any other single-source download, there’s always a risk your connection to the host gets interrupted. If the same thing happens while torrenting, you’re still connected to multiple other sources, so the download continues.
This is perhaps an overly simple way of looking at what torrenting is. After all, there are a lot of moving parts you’ll need to understand to make sure you don’t get overwhelmed!
The Legal Issues
No matter what anyone tells you when it comes to torrenting and the law, there are a lot of messy gray areas.
Torrenting itself is perfectly legal. Some gaming companies use torrenting to help their customers download game files (including patch updates) more easily. Torrenting is also an accessible, effective way to share documents with your colleagues and clients, especially when the files are too big for cloud sharing.
However, that doesn’t mean all torrent activity is legal.
Using torrents to download copyright content like movies and series (the most common use of torrents) is illegal. After all, it’s copyright infringement.
In between these two examples is a massive legal gray area where illegal torrenting is disguised as legal torrenting. The authorities often take a sweeping approach by considering all torrenting illegal.
This is why you should always download torrents using a tool that keeps your identity anonymous, even when using the file-sharing method 100% legally to distribute your own files.
The best way to download torrents anonymously is to use a reliable torrenting VPN. You can compare the best torrenting VPNs here.
One of the easiest ways to become overwhelmed is by encountering lingo you aren’t familiar with. And that means one of the keys to understanding torrenting is to know its niche vocabulary!
To help you with that, here are the most common torrenting terms you’ll come across:
- Client – the software or app you use to manage all of your torrenting activities. They help you connect to the torrent index trackers, download torrent files, and assemble them on your computer.
- Indexer – a specialized website that collects torrent files and acts as a search engine for torrents to find those files. Also known as a torrent site. Many indexers are public and can be easily accessed by anyone. However, there are also private indexers, which require an invitation to join (or, in some cases, fill out an application).
- Trackers – a part of the indexer software that acts as a bridge between torrents on the network. It directs file packets and orchestrates the upload/download exchange between seeders and leechers.
- Peers – the correct term for torrents when they’re connected to an indexer network. This is the reason that torrenting can also be described as a Peer-to-Peer (P2P) network or exchange. Peers are generally separated into two groups called seeders and leechers.
- Swarm – the collective term for a group of peers, especially one that is actively seeding (uploading) and leeching (downloading) a torrent file.
- Seeders – peers on the torrent network who are actively uploading a file (or files) to the indexer. It’s considered good etiquette to keep torrent files in your client so that you can continue to seed while connected to the network. That way, you give as well as receive. The more seeders contributing file fragments, the faster other peers can download that file.
- Leechers – peers on the network who download torrent files but actively prevent their client from seeding in return. This is generally considered bad torrenting etiquette, particularly if you consistently leech without seeding. However, it can also generally describe a peer who is actively downloading torrents, regardless of whether they’re also seeding (uploading).
- Ratio – the relationship between the amount of seeding and leeching you do as a torrent or. You should aim to have a ratio as close to 1.0 as possible (or greater), which shows that you seed at least as much as you leech.
- Magnet Link – identify torrent files and sources. Clicking on a magnet link allows your client to immediately start downloading the file.
You shouldn’t feel the need to memorize everything at once, of course. But developing some familiarity with the lingo will help you in the long run.
How to Use Torrents
As mentioned earlier, torrenting is very easy once you understand the basics.
While it can sometimes be difficult to find good quality torrent files, there are essentially only 8 things you need to do to torrent:
- Install a reliable client. Some of the most popular include Deluge, Transmission, and BitTorrent.
- Connect to the P2P/torrent network by opening an indexer. Pirate Bay is perhaps the best-known torrent site.
- Search for the content you want to download and click on the magnet link.
- Make sure your client is started and managing the download. If not, you’ll need to manually open it and add the torrent there.
- Your client should now initiate the download.
- Open the torrent file once the download is complete to enjoy the content.
- If you want to make sure your ratio doesn’t drop, keep your client open and actively seed any content you have there.
- Make sure your torrent client is closed when you don’t want to be connected to the network and seeding content. This is especially important if you’re disconnecting from your VPN (Virtual Private Network). Alternatively, simply remove the torrent files from your client.
How to Open Torrent Files
It’s worth giving extra attention to this step, as it’s the one that tends to confuse most new torrents.
This is partly because there are 2 different types of torrent files: .torrent files and the actual torrent download files. The second kind can also confuse new torrents because they sometimes use file extensions you might not be familiar with.
Torrent files with the .torrent file extension are a sort of metadata URL file. You’ll need to use your torrent client to open these files. Your client will use the .torrent file to find the content and initiate the download.
Video content will commonly be downloaded with the .mp4 or .mkv file extension. Most media players can open these types of files, but if you’d rather be safe than sorry, VLC Player is a reliable option.
Game and other software files will be saved as an EXE or ISO file. All you need to do is double-click on the file to open your computer’s installation manager.
It’s also very common for torrent files to download as a ZIP archive. ZIP files are compressed versions that take up less space and are easier to upload and download. You can easily extract the files using your Operating System’s built-in software.
You should always be aware of the fact public indexers are not monitored for quality or safety. It’s very easy for hackers to upload malware. Always use a reliable anti-virus tool to check links and files!
In this blog post, you’ve learned all the basics of torrenting: what it is, how to do it, and how to open the torrent files. You’ve also seen there’s a huge gray area when it comes to torrenting and the law, which is why you should always use something like a VPN to protect your identity.
So now it’s your turn! Do you have any pearls of torrenting wisdom? Share them with us in the comments below or contribute an original blog post on the topic!
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