Torrent files are part of a P2P (peer to peer) trading system that make transferring files from one person to another on the Internet very easy, quick, and effective.
It is important to note that torrent sharing is different from other types of P2P services, most notably Kazaa. For instance, with Kazaa, the user searches for other Kazaa users with the P2P application to see what files they are sharing. With torrent sites, the user goes to an index website that has torrent files (sometimes referred to as archives), which are files that contain the information required for a torrent client to find, manage, and download the requested file. The file has a .torrent file extension, and the basic information it contains includes the name of the file(s) that can be downloaded, the date of creation and a list of trackers (see below for more information on trackers). Every torrent file has a unique information hash, which means that no file (or set of files) will have the exact same information hash.
Torrents allow downloading a single file in many different pieces each residing on one user’s computer or a server connected to the internet. To finish the download the torrent client puts these pieces together into a complete file.
What are torrent files used for?
Because they store information about other files or sets of files, torrents are used to download these other files or sets of files. Although torrents can be used to download any type of file, the most popular uses of torrents are for downloading music or video files.
Important Terms to Know When Downloading Torrent Files
It is important to be aware of the terminology used when downloading torrent files:
Torrent Client – A client is the actual P2P sharing program and it is usually an application that is downloaded and installed on the computer to be used for sharing and downloading files. Two popular P2P clients are Azureus and UTorrent (more on these clients below). A torrent client allows users to retrieve the content that is found in torrents. The torrent simply tells the torrent client how big the file is, how many files there are, and where to download the file from.
Torrent Host – A torrent host is a website that hosts thousands or even millions of different torrents. Torrent hosts do not host the actual files that torrents represent. They simply allow users to upload, download, and search for torrents based on keywords, just like any other search engine.
Tracker – A tracker is a central server that manages file sharing among its many users. Most clients have built-in trackers. There are also specific tracking programs such as BNBT and CBTT. When the torrent file is opened by the torrent software client, the client connects to the tracker that is associated with the torrent. The tracker is responsible for managing the torrent files and tracking statistics associated with the files.
Seeder – A seed is a user who has already downloaded the entire torrent in question. Because seeds are able to upload any part of the file, torrent files download faster when the torrent client can connect to more seeds. If there are no seeders it can’t be downloaded.
Leecher – A leecher is a person that downloads a file(s) from other computers, but does not share (seed) any files of his or her own. Leeching is considered bad etiquette on P2P clients.
Swarm – A swarm is when two or more computers are simultaneously downloading and sharing the same file. Most clients allow a computer to download a file and then upload to others the parts that have already been downloaded.
Peers – A peer is a user who has downloaded part of the torrent in question but is currently still downloading. Because peers are still downloading, they are also uploading at the same time. This makes it good to connect to more peers because the file will download faster. Unfortunately, some users set their upload bandwidth low in order to maximize their download bandwidth and peers are less likely to have a specific piece of a torrent file because they have not finished downloading it themselves.
Hashlink – A hashlink is what identifies a specific torrent. Hashlinks allow users to find specific torrents no matter which torrent host they are located on. Hashlinks give the user the ability to learn more about the torrent such as user comments, seeds and peers, and user ratings. To use a hashlink, a user simply has to copy and paste it into a search engine and review the other sites that are hosting the file.
.torrent – a torrent is a file that is downloaded from an index website and sometimes referred to as an archive. It is a very small file, usually less than 25bits, that is necessary for the client to start and manage the file transfer process so that files can be downloaded.
How to Download a Torrent File
It is actually very easy to download a torrent file and it usually takes less than 15 minutes to get started.
First, download and install a torrent client. Remember the torrent client is considered the command center for P2P file sharing. Users can choose many different types of torrent sharing clients. However, two highly recommended clients are UTorrent and Azureus.
Once the torrent client is downloaded and installed, search for files to download. Users can usually visit many index websites such as Pirate Bay and Torrent Spy. Most torrent clients have a list of the best index web sites. Now, just search for the file to be downloaded. Some of these sites offer advanced searches such as the ability to search for a video file, music file, application file, or all of the above. It is usually extremely easy to locate the torrent file to be downloaded.
Once a specific file is searched for, the index website should return a list of available torrent files. Look to see which torrent files have the most seeders, this usually gives the fastest download times and highest quality files. Once the torrent file to be downloaded is found, click the download link and save it on the computer. These files are usually very small (less than 25kbits).
Now that the torrent file or archive is on the computer, double click this file and the torrent client should automatically open up. At this time, the tracker program will come online as well and will start to manage and download the file. While each client and tracker program is different, users should be able to see how many people are downloading the file, seeding and sharing, or leeching. The user should also see the downloading progress and the amount of time remaining until the file is completely downloaded.
Top P2P Torrent Clients
While there are more than a dozen P2P torrent clients available, two of the top rated P2P torrent clients are UTorrent and Azureus. Here is some more information.
UTorrent is actually torrent and means micro torrent. It is a freeware Bit Torrent client that works great on Windows computers. Bit Torrent’s major feature is that the entire program is only 173 Kb. This program was developed to require the least amount of computer resources and give as much functionality as possible. Although UTorrent is extremely small it has many features including Unicode support, protocol encryption, peer exchange with other UTorrent users and Azureus users (this feature goes above and beyond normal P2P, similar to chat), configurable bandwidth settings, Customizable user interface, initial seeding, and the availability of this application in 38 languages.
Azureus is another P2P Torrent Client. It is based on Java, a programming language and supports many different anonymous protocols such as I2P and Tor. It is also a free software client and it works on many different platforms including Windows, Mac, Linux, and UNIX.
One of Azureus’ key features is that it allows multiple download files from a GUI interface. It also has plenty configurable settings and useful statistics. Another great feature is that Azureus gives the ability to determine maximum upload and download speeds. Users can also view or hear files that are currently downloading, but not yet complete. This makes it easy to check the file’s quality before downloading it.
Azureus has its own tracker program so users can easily share files without uploading them to centralized sites. Azureus is considered one of the top Bit Torrent clients and has a wealth of features that are designed and integrated into the client very well. However, all these features may drain certain computer resources, so make sure Azureus is used with a fast and powerful computer.
Advantages of Bit Torrent Clients
Bit Torrent Clients are usually the fastest, most affordable, and most convenient way to share files among many users. Most Bit Torrent P2P users can find plenty files and download them with ease. With the explosion of broadband, users can easily find and download files of any size, from mp3s to large multi gigabyte video files.
Disadvantages of Bit Torrent Clients
It is important to note that Bit Torrent has a few disadvantages. One main disadvantage is that many of these applications use a tremendous amount of computer resources, allowing the computer to do little else when downloading files. Another common disadvantage is that sometimes Bit Torrent clients include adware or spyware. However, most do not so be sure to download the client from the official website and read the EULA (end user licensing agreement) to make sure there are no adware or spyware included.
What is a DHT Torrent
A DHT (Distributed Hash Table) torrent is one that uses the DHT model for peer-to-peer or P2P networking. A peer-to-peer network is one that allows users to share files by breaking each file into many small pieces, allowing a single user to download pieces of the same file from many different users at the same time. A DHT torrent works in the same way as other types of torrents in the P2P industry, but contains information that allows the user to hide files that he/she downloaded.
How DHT Torrents Work
A DHT torrent, like other types of torrents, contains data for a specific file, regardless of whether that file is an image, video, audio clip, document, or program. That data not only makes up the file itself, but is also responsible for telling a BitTorrent or P2P software what the file is, which users are sharing that file, how the pieces are divided among the available users, and how many pieces of a file have already been downloaded. Likewise, the torrent is responsible for comparing the final copy of the file to those of other users in order to ensure that the file has been downloaded properly. However, a DHT torrent differs from other types of torrents because it also contains data that identifies a particular torrent with a signature known as a “hash identifier.” A user can use a hash identifier to locate a specific torrent file on the Internet, regardless of the file name.
DHT torrents are used primarily to prevent a user’s P2P activities from being tracked by Intellectual Property Owners, who are the agencies responsible for tracking and prosecuting P2P users for copyright infringement. Most modern P2P clients use DHT torrents to mask the user from torrent trackers. DHT torrents allow users to download and upload files via a P2P network without identifying themselves or appearing in demographic statistics, such as seed ratios.
DHT torrents are advantageous because they allow a file to be located and shared via a file’s unique hash identifier rather than its file name. Because of this, P2P networks do not need to locate the actual clients that are supporting the file, allowing the user to remain anonymous.
The Legality of Bit Torrents
It is important to note that using a Bit Torrent client is perfectly legal, however downloading certain files that include copyrighted material may not be legal in certain regions. It is important to make sure the files are legal before downloading them. Bit Torrent use is not anonymous and can be traced back to the computer. For instance, an IP address can be traced back to a computer when downloading a file in certain cases.
Due to copyright laws, the MPAA and RIAA have gone after people who download copyrighted material through torrents, college students being the group most heavily targeted.