Torrenting comes into the minds as a controversial issue and often associated with piracy.
However, downloading content using BitTorrent protocol is not all black & white.
In this torrent guide, you can read in-depth about the using world’s most famous P2P file sharing technology. We’ll cover how to torrent, answer the big question: ‘Is torrenting illegal?’, and much more.
Torrenting 101 is about the magic around torrenting.
What is Torrenting?
Torrenting is the act of downloading files online, using a Torrent client and the BitTorrent protocol.
The magic behind the BitTorrent protocol is at the core of downloading. You are downloading the original file from the source and the other users as well. The operating principle makes the overall process smooth, fast, extremely efficient, and safe when using a VPN.
What is a Torrent?
A torrent is a file, which contains metadata about the content you are about to download. This can be any movie, song, game, or application or document. You download the path to reach the full file by using your client.
In short, a torrent file is created by a central BitTorrent-enabled host server, which embeds the URL of trackers. These are needed to download the data and the list of peers seeding the pieces of the original file.
What’s in a Torrent Metadata?
A Torrent file contains the following metadata about the data to be download from the P2P distributed network.
- announce – Lists at least one tracker URL
- info name – Suggested the name of the file or directory
- info piece – Files are split into fixed-size parts, and this defines the number of bytes of each piece
- info pieces – A hash list
- info length – The length of the file
- info files path – A list of strings of subdirectory names and file names
- info files length – The current file size in bytes
What is Happening in the Background?
The BitTorrent client tries to set up a connection to the tracker to receive a list of peers that are currently downloading pieces of the file.
Peers can be users who are downloading the files or the seeders who already have downloaded the complete data, and are now making it available to all downloaders. The download speed usually improves with the popularity of a torrent.
How Does Torrenting Work?
Torrents work is in a decentralized manner. Every user downloads and uploads torrent files, making the whole process more efficient.
In the first step, the original file is transmitted from the seed to each client only once. In the next step, the data is transferred piece by piece between different clients.
When downloading finishes, the roles are changed.
The downloader turns into the position of uploader helping other downloaders by increasing the availability ratio by storing the file on the computer.
A peer is any user that is participating in file sharing in a peer-to-peer (P2P) network.
A swarm is a selection of peers that are sharing (downloading & uploading) the same torrent.
A seeder is a downloader and simultaneously an uploader of a torrent.
Leechers only download and disabled the upload of a torrent. Many trackers ban users who disable uploading. Looking from an ethical standpoint, it is a good practice to upload the same amount that you downloaded.
Indexers are websites that amass torrents and provide information about torrents. They work as the forum where you can find, share, download, or request for torrent files.
They are the servers directing data packets between peers and trying to find other peers in the network.
A torrent client is a software that allows you to download torrents. They are made for managing torrent files, handling all the download and upload, connecting to peers, and providing you statistics about the torrent.
The torrent file tells your torrent client the names of the files being shared, a URL for the tracker. Your Torrent client creates a hash code, which is a unique code, one for each torrent—same as an ISBN or catalog number. A magnet link is mostly a hyperlink containing the hash code for that torrent.
How to Torrent
To taste the feeling of downloading by using a BitTorrent client, there are a few preparations that you should take.
Download the BitTorrent Client
Finding a companion for sailing in the data stream is no longer a difficult task. However, there are a few factors that should be considered. Such as:
- VPN compatibility to preserve your anonymity while downloading
- vulnerability: because no one wants to be exploited by hackers
- the compatibility of add-ons to extend the user experience of your torrent client
All in all, we recommend using qBitTorrent as your default client. If you would like to know why we think qBitTorrent is the mostly recommended client, check out our showdown of the best BitTorrent clients.
You can download qBitTorrent from its official page, for all major platforms or click here.
Install the Torrent Client
Installing the program is just as simple as with any other software. The setup doesn’t require you take any additional steps, or do anything out of the ordinary. Some antivirus and malware software can flag torrent clients as virus’. If this does happen just make sure you ignore the warning.
Search and Find the Content
Now that you have downloaded your torrent client, it’s time to find a torrent to download.
About Torrent Sites
Torrent sites work as indexer pages that compile a list of torrents and info and also functions as a community where users can discuss. You can share, download, or request files in these sites. We recommend you to use the world’s most popular torrent site: The Pirate Bay.
If you are interested in other torrenting sites, check out our list of the best torrent sites here.
How To Select the Torrent
Most of the sites have a search bar to help you find the torrent you need. After you’ve typed the name of the content hit the enter and the magic happens. The base of the ranking can be the number of peers or leechers or the date of uploading. To start downloading click on the download sign, or the magnet link.
As we mentioned above, magnet links try to open your previously installed client, if you save a .torrent file you have to do this manually.
Download the Torrent
Before You Start
Your torrent client gives you a few options to configure your downloading, like adding a category or changing the destination folder or adding a speed limit and you can see the details of the package. Next, hit the OK button. While downloading you can monitor the number of peers, seeds, your download speed, and the estimated time of finishing.
After You’ve Finished
There is no exact answer to how long should you store the files you’ve downloaded. It’s simply an ethical belief to store for as long as you downloaded. We recommend 48 hours as a courtesy to help others.
Seeding starts automatically, so it’s not necessary to do anything in order to start this.
How To Choose Your Torrent Client
Choosing the best torrent client seems pretty straightforward, but many factors should be taken into consideration. Here is a quick rundown of the different torrent clients available, and you can find an in-depth comparison in our torrent clients post.
qBitTorrent has nearly everything most torrenters will need. It has open source code made for customization, smooth and lightweight skin, and a lot of other useful features.
Features include: BitTorrent protocol encryption, torrent prioritization, torrent querying, selective content download, torrent creation, remote access, and RSS subscription. You can search for torrents from within the client, and the built-in media player helps when you would like to check your downloaded media.
Transmission started life as a Mac and Linux-only BitTorrent client, where it began to collect users. Windows users are now able to get in on the act.
Transmission provides a beautiful user interface and webseed support with the benefit of BitTorrent protocol encryption, directory watcher, tracker editor, global and per-torrent speed limits, and more. It also supports many optional add-ons that boost the user experience.
These include RSS subscription tools and a Kodi plugin.
Vuze is the descendant of the original BitTorrent clients. As time has passed, Vuze was able to constantly improve and change, for the benefit of the user.
There are plenty of other BitTorrent clients out there, but from our testing and experience, qBittorent is the best.
Is Torrenting Illegal
Torrenting is not illegal! Despite what many people have to say, torrenting is entirely legal and one of the best methods to share large files with large audiences. However, there are some caveats to watch out for.
The Torrent peer-to-peer protocol (BitTorrent) is an entirely legal file-sharing technology. By the same token, it’s important to understand the difference between the legality of the technology itself and the way of using it.
The legality of your torrents totally depends on many factors like your locations and the copyrights referred to the file. Laws and copyright policies differ in each country, so before you start downloading anything via Torrent, you should check out your country’s statement about it. Torrenting should be a personal decision.
Torrenting carries risks like downloading infected files or any punishment from authorities. However, there are steps you can take to increase the safety of torrenting, which we discuss in detail below.
BitTorrent is a legal technology for transferring information. If you choose to download torrent files that are owned by someone else and protected by copyright, you are doing something illegal.
You can read more about what and how laws apply to you and your torrenting, in our in-depth torrent legality article.
The Best Legal Torrent Sites
If you’re about to choose to download free movies and games or documents from torrent websites without hindering anyone’s copyright, there are many legal places around to help you out
Unfortunately, most popular torrent websites don’t provide the opportunity to download legally shared content (or at least don’t provide any data on it).
But with a little persistence, you can find websites letting you download freely without any upcoming legal restriction.
What are Legal Torrents?
Legal torrents are legitimate contents having the free license without copyright issues that permits distribution.
How to Find Legal Torrents
There are numerous sites online that only index legal torrent files. Most of the legal torrents are either file where the copyright has expired or files that were released with a license that allows free and open distribution.
Public Domain Torrents
Public Domain Torrents hosts lots of classic movies and B-Movies which you can download for free. It’s easy to choose the best film to watch by selecting categories or using the search bar. Many movies hosted here are difficult to find elsewhere.
Internet Archive has an extensive collection of films, series, texts, audio, etc. for you to enjoy. Although Internet Archive has another outstanding service as well called Wayback Machine. It let’s you check captured screenshots of websites.
Vuze StudioHD Network
The Vuze StudioHD Network hosts video content divided into many categories like comedy shows, TV series, music videos, news, TED Talks, etc. Vuze’s client gives you access to a large library where you can search for legal torrents.
Other excellent legal torrent sites
Best Torrent Sites of 2018
2016 was the year in torrenting when significant changes happened: the world’s most famous torrent database, KickassTorrents, was shut down by the authorities. Another distressed moment was when Torrentz, a torrent search engine giant, unexpectedly closed its doors.
These unexpected happenings left two big holes in the torrent community. In 2017, another big player of the game, ExtraTorrent also joined the list of torrent sites that have permanently shut their doors.
Here are some great alternatives to attempt to fill out space in the hearts.
The Pirate Bay
The Pirate Bay is currently the most popular torrent index in the world. A simple interface with a vast selection of torrents and minimal adverts boosts The Pirate Bay’s popularity. If there ever was an alternative or successor to KickassTorrents, TPB is it!
RarBG is hosted initially in Bulgaria with hopping around to evade authorities. It started off as a BitTorrent tracker in 2008 and has risen to provide torrent files and magnet links to over 300,000 users a day.
The website stands out for being easy to understand for newbie’s, while a considerable community also regularly posts feedback on torrents. By the way, some countries have banned RarBG, including Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Portugal, and India.
However, using a VPN service will make you able to access RarBG wherever you are!
YTS.ag is entirely the best BitTorrent tracker for film lovers. Slightly different from TPB and RarBG, with heavy specialization in movies. YTS.ag has a pretty smooth interface, which is perhaps my favorite on this list. There is also an impressive collection of movies in high-def 720p, 1080p, and even 3D.
If you wish to find out more about the best torrent sites, we suggest you check the best torrent sites of 2018.
Torrent Monitoring: IP-logging
Have you ever worried about being tracked? In the world peer-to-peer file-sharing, it could happen, but there are useful precautions that could protect you from being snooped on.
We could categorize snoops into three groups:
Your Internet Provider
More and more Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are getting aware of subscribers are downloading torrents, and even what specific files you download. It’s equally important to say many ISP’s make an effort to block upstream torrent speeds, to prevent seeding and excessive bandwidth usage.
Nonprofit organizations and research institutions -like schools -monitor torrent swarms for only research purposes. The purpose is data collection from generalized data traffic due to creating patterns for building new algorithms. Although this group usually doesn’t seem like an immediate security threat, your IP address may still end up in their database associated with file downloads.
Profit-oriented Monitoring Agencies
This group of companies is the most active and may pose the highest security risk to torrent users. There was an estimation that torrenters can be logged into a database by their IP address after 60 seconds that their download started. These databases can be sold for a profit to interested parties or used for even more unfriendly purposes.
Check My Torrent IP
Your IP address works like a fingerprint in the digital society; it can tell your past activities. Three different services allow you to check your torrent IP. Two of these are run by VPN providers while one is entirely independent. In our IP checker list, we examine the benefits of checking your IP.
To check your IP’s torrent history, two sites can tell give you detailed information about your past activities.
ScanEye is a Global Torrent Monitor, it automatically detects your IP address and then checks it against a database of torrent file-sharing activities. Although be aware if it says clear, it doesn’t mean that you haven’t been downloading anything. The reason can be the lack of monitoring your file-sharing activity.
IKnowWhatYouDownload similar to ScanEye, it has a massive database of IP addresses caught downloading torrents. They monitor 700,000,000 peers daily.
How to Download Torrents Safely?
Use VPN – Best VPN for Torrenting
Using a VPN is necessary if you would like to protect your privacy and want to stay safe and secure while torrenting. A VPN provides perfect privacy by hiding you from your ISP and hiding your real identity from other filesharers in the swarm.
A VPN works like a shield between your computer and your ISP servers. Your ISP won’t see your real IP address, that’s the reason why most VPN servers run in various locations of the world.
We took into consideration many factors to find out the best VPN for torrenting, and the absolute winner was Buffered.
Buffered is the best VPN for torrenting. It’s located in Gibraltar and 46+ countries worldwide and keeps no logs. It is frequently rated in the fastest VPNs that we test, so their speeds are above average and have a firewall based kill switch, which is the best method for protecting dropped VPN connections. Buffered has a unique benefit that no other VPN providers have, it can discover sweet ports on public WiFis.
To check out other great VPNs for torrenting and find the best that fits your expectations, just click the link.
We use encryption every day, though we don’t realize it. Encryption prevents third parties from reading your transferred data and helps you keep your safety.
The sensitive data like your passwords, credit card numbers and addresses are protected with encryption. If you are using a public WiFi someone can potentially read your data stream without encryption. In some cases, your ISP can monitor your activity and get permission to your internet history.
Years ago a nearly global Internet report was made in bandwidth Service Providers pointing out that BitTorrent is in 1st ranked position in upstreaming ahead of major companies like Netflix and YouTube.
If your ISP doesn’t support using P2P services due the vast of data streaming, it can throttle down the ups’ and downs’ speed.
Encrypting your Torrent has the fantastic benefit of privacy
The best option to encrypt your downloads is using VPN, but if you would like to encrypt only your torrent files, you can do it by using the built-in encryption.
Three types of encryption modes:
- Encryption disabled – We don’t advise to use torrent in this mode.
- Optional encryption – Will use encryption with peers that have it enabled, but also connect to unencrypted peers.
- Forced Encryption – Only connect to encryption-enabled peers.
You can hide your IP by using a proxy; it only protects your IP for your peers in the torrent client, but your web browser IP won’t be different. Encryption grants you to, nobody, even your ISP won’t be able to see what you’re doing. You’ll be able to use BitTorrent as you want to.
Slower and insecure downloads
Using proxies or tunnels can slow down your connection and encryption can make it slower. Many people can sacrifice the performance hit to have better-secured BitTorrent connection. Clients built-in encryption has a key strength of between 60-80 bits, which is quite weak compared to AES which is the standard for most of the VPNs.
Torrent blocking and encrypted ‘headers’
Each torrent client has its own encryption technology. Most importantly, some of them only encrypt the ‘headers’ of the data packets, not the contents. The torrent encryption made for helping torrent traffic survive DPI inspection and torrent-blocking firewalls. Sandvine, an ISP firewall builder company reportedly identify and block most BitTorrent traffic despite protocol encryption.
Overall, the best encryption is by using VPN services which let you download faster than using a Proxy server, and with maximized security level.
A seedbox is a remote server you can use for torrenting. Since they are in high-bandwidth data centers, they are faster and more secure.
Seedbox’s speeds range from 100Mbps (8MB/s) to 10Gbps (1250MB/s). Persons with access to a seedbox can download torrents significantly faster anonymously. Seedboxes often have other features included like VPN, secure remote desktop, automation tools and more.
Unfortunately, seedbox’s do cost money, but if you torrent a lot, then they are worth it.
Generally, the biggest advantage of using seedboxes is the quicker speed of downloads or uploads than a standard peer computer.
History of File Sharing – Where Did Torrenting Come From?
So how did torrenting come about? Here is a short history of filesharing, to show you where it all came from.
1969 – ARPANET
This type of network model was created by the co-work of the UCLA, UC Santa Barbara and the University of Utah.
The system threated computers equally.
1979 – Usenet
American students developed a UNIX-protocols-standing on the system. Usenet was a distributed computer interfacing system.The reason for setting up Usnet was providing everyone a service to receive, store and forward the same news. This gave birth to terms such as “FAQ” and “spam”.
1999 – Napster
The client-server model bloomed throughout the 80s and 90s. Most of the file transfers happened over the landline telephone, with FTP and USENET.
At the end of the 90s, Shawn Fanning developed Napster to let users download MP3 files by installing a free program to search around local disks.
2000 – Gnutella
Gnutella was a new way of file sharing by allowing users to find each other and connect remotely. It was established in 2000, and became the first decentralized P2P file sharing network, which is still active today.
LimeWire, for example, was one among many Gnutella clients.
2000 – Freenet
Freenet brought an enormous improvement in users anonymity due to its effort to be the dedicated platform of censorship-resistant communication.
It made users capable of storing encrypted particles of files.
2001 – BitTorrent
The BitTorrent protocol created by Bram Cohen who let peers communicate directly over a TCP port, but relied on central trackers to record the location/availability of files and to coordinate users. Uniquely, the design allowed for new networks to be created.
Torrenting 101 – A Recap of What is Torrenting
All things considered, torrenting is not just about the importance of anonymity while downloading the trending episodes of your favorite sitcom.
Nothing is worse than falling behind, so if you’re interested in the actual trends and needs more info about the most advanced privacy technologies check our feed.