What is Torrenting? Everything you need to know

Last Updated: May 4, 2023By
Illustration of a torrent file

Torrenting is the process of downloading files (software, music, games, TV shows) from other users on the internet. These downloads are usually illegal because they violate copyright laws. However, there are ways to torrent safely- for example, using a VPN protects your online privacy and helps you avoid getting caught or fined by law enforcement.

What Is a Torrent File?

A .torrent file is a type of metadata that contains information about files and folders to be shared, and client software uses it to connect to the network and discover peers who are sharing portions of those files.

This file is created by a torrent client, which uses the BitTorrent protocol. When someone clicks on the .torrent file, the client software will start downloading these files from other people who have pieces of them stored on their computers or hard drives.

When two or more people upload the same file, it is known as a peer. All these peers that share the same torrent are called a swarm.

Moreover, a single peer can download multiple files from different users and upload them to other users simultaneously. If you are downloading a file, then the person who is uploading that piece to you will be considered your peer.

How Torrenting Works

Torrenting works in a decentralized way, i.e., there is no central server that facilitates the sharing of files between peers in the swarm.

Instead, every peer has equal capabilities to interact with other users and share pieces of content; hence it becomes possible for everyone to take responsibility for distributing data packets equally among all participating users.

This protocol ensures faster download speeds as there are multiple sources for the file being downloaded.

Use VPN for Torrenting

Illustration of how VPN works

VPN, or Virtual Private Network, secures your online privacy and protects you from copyright infringement notice. It gives users anonymity so that no outsiders can know what sites they visit or files they download.

VPN also prevents the ISP (Internet Service Provider) from seeing torrenting activity, which helps in avoiding revealing personal information such as IP addresses to third parties. With a secure connection between your computer and a VPN server, your ISP will not be able to see the content of files passing through.

Choosing Between Free or Paid Services

Paid VPN is the way to go if you want maximum security and anonymity. Free VPNs are not safe, as they do not encrypt your data or protect it from other third parties. They may sell the information about what sites you visit to advertisers for marketing purposes.

Paid VPN providers have servers all over the world, which allows you to connect to geographic locations. So, download anonymously and stay safe by using a paid VPN service provider. Today, there are hundreds of companies providing premium services at affordable prices, such as Private Internet Access and Torguard VPN.

How to use VPN for torrenting

  1. Sign up with a VPN provider
  2. Download and install VPN software on your computer
  3. Connect to a VPN server
  4. Browse anonymously and download torrents safely

How to download a torrent file?

Downloading bar almost finished near a black cursor

There is a simple process that allows you to download and upload torrent files to the network. Here are the steps involved in this process:

1. Select and Download a Torrent Client

Downloading and uploading depends on a working torrent client. There are hundreds of clients, free and paid, available on the internet. Select the one that suits best for you and your device.

You have to be careful while choosing as some torrent clients might contain adware that causes serious issues to the system. Instead of using a random website to download the client, use its official website.

If you want to stay on the safer side, choose the open-source one. qBittorrent is the most popular torrent client.

2. Install a Tracker Site

After installing a torrent client, you have to download a tracker that contains millions of torrent files. A tracker only stores these torrent files and does not host any content on the server. 

It keeps track of available peers and offers them to you when you request a file. Trackers also speed up downloading by creating a better communication path between clients and peers. 

You can find two types of trackers sites on the internet. These are: 

  • Public Tracker Sites: These trackers are accessible to every user. They do not require you to register or ask for an invitation when you visit. 
  • Private Tracker Sites: It contains specialized torrent websites that are not open to everyone. You have to register yourself to gain access to these websites. 

Private tracker sites are comparatively safer than public ones. You have to either pay or get invited to these sites and also seed torrents after every download.

3. Search Content for Download

Once you are inside a tracker site, search for the content you need. After you press enter, the site will show you the available files related to your content. Oftentimes, the search results will return hundreds of files you can download. 

Choose the file that has more seeders as it will boost the torrent’s downloading speed. Check all the file details and make sure it contains the content you requested.

4. Download the Content

Once you find the most suitable as well as compatible file for your system, start downloading it. If you want to download more than one file, follow the same procedure. However, it may lower down the downloading speed of each torrent added to the client.

Seeds and Leechers

The downloading speed of your torrent depends on the number of seeds and leechers on the file. 

Seeds contain the links to download those files that other users have already downloaded. After you download, they leave the links for other users who want the same files. Seeds help you increase the download speed. However, sometimes it causes the uploading speed to go down. 

Leechers refer to those files that use the uploaded data for downloading but do not return anything like seeds. Leechers that leave the link open for others to download files from them automatically become seeders.  

The ideal ratio between leechers to seeders is 1:1, as it maintains the accurate balance between uploading and downloading speeds. 

More leechers than seeders would lead to slower downloading speed and higher uploading speed. On the other hand, fewer leechers and more seeders will increase the download speed but decrease the upload.

Advantages of Torrenting

Illustration of file transfer between two folder

Torrenting is a useful method for downloading movies, TV shows, games, and other software. Here are some benefits of using torrents:

Decentralized Process

Torrents use a peer-to-peer, decentralized process, which means that whatever files you download are not from a central server. If one source is inactive, you can choose from hundreds of different sources to continue and complete the download. 

With other methods, you will not be able to complete the download if the main servers are down.

No interruptions

If your computer shuts off or the internet disconnects, the download will automatically pause. Once you are back online, you can resume it and won’t have to start it again.

Faster Downloads

Torrents can help users with slow internet speeds or low connectivity to download files faster than any other method. The traditional downloading process would either pause or slow down the speed.

Easy to use

Locating files, including movies, games, TV shows, and software, is easier when you use a torrent tracker. The sites have a search button where you can enter the name or keyword related to the file. It will provide you with plenty of files to download.

Disadvantages of Torrenting

Torrents, like everything, come with disadvantages too. Here are the problems you might encounter while downloading a torrent file:

No seeds mean no downloads

Sometimes, a user needs content that is old or unpopular. In this case, a torrent tracker site will either provide no files or a few files with low seeds. Some might not even have a single seed. Any file with zero seeders means you cannot download them through the torrent client.

Low speed

Torrents with fewer seeds have significantly lower uploading and downloading speed. The situation can get worse if you don’t have a reliable internet connection.

Final Verdict

Torrents are a great way to download content quickly. They also offer some advantages over other methods such as decentralization, no interruptions, and faster downloads. However, if the torrent has no seeds, it will be impossible to download.

FAQs about Torrenting

Is torrenting illegal?

Millions of people around the world use torrents to share files, but downloading copyrighted material is illegal. Copyright infringement means that you are breaching copyright law by using or distributing someone else’s work without permission.

If you upload a file containing another person’s intellectual property (for example, music) onto a torrenting site, you are infringing copyright. If you download files with copyrighted content on your computer or mobile device, this is also against the law.

Which programs can I use for torrenting?

There are many different programs that you can use for torrenting, but some of the most popular ones include Qbittorent and deluge.