Look up the word torrent in a standard dictionary and it will tell you that it is a very fast-moving stream of water. A torrential rain falls from the sky hard and fast. A swollen, flooded stream rushes violently down a mountain in a torrent. If a dam collapses, then it sends a torrent of water downstream. You get the picture. Now apply this imagery to streams of data, and you’ll understand why many people have turned to torrenting to download and share files across the internet.
Any torrent definition will tell you that torrenting is a file-sharing technology, but there’s a lot more to learn about the subject. At the heart of torrenting technology is the BitTorrent protocol. Bram Cohen designed the protocol in April 2001 and implemented it in the summer of 2002. BitTorrent uses TCP ports 6881-6889 for traffic and TCP port 6969 for the tracker port. Torrent files have the extension .torrent, and they have their own particular file structure. Torrenting is peer-to-peer in nature, but it does use a central server that tracks and manages the various connections. When done properly, torrenting is an effective way to share and distribute files across the internet.
Advantages of Using Torrent Sites
I’m not advocating for torrenting here. You can do what you want. The fact is, you can find just about anything on a torrent website. You can download torrents of music or software. There are documents and movie torrents. You name it. But anyone who chooses to download files using BitTorrent technology should do so with great caution. I’ll address that a bit more later.
If you’re willing to undertake the due diligence to protect your file-sharing activities, there are plenty of good reasons to start torrenting. First, using BitTorrent results in a much faster download of files. Speed is everything, and torrenting creates a flood of data that’s much more efficient than standard downloading.
Second, you’re not dependent on a single server to get your data. In the torrenting universe, it’s not about servers and clients. It’s all about peers collaborating by sharing files back and forth freely. If one torrenting source is not available, there will be plenty more to choose from.
Third, unlike normal downloads, you can pause and resume a torrent. It’s much easier to manage the download process using BitTorrent. Whereas a standard download might fail if it’s only partially completed, your incomplete torrent download will be waiting for you the next time you start torrenting.
And fourth, you can use torrenting to download many files at once. It’s easy to start and stop multiple torrents at will.
How to Torrent
Like anything else, it’s easy if you know how. Just think of it like any other project. If you’re going to work on your car, for instance, you need to get your tools in place. For any job, you’ll need wrenches, screwdrivers, and any special tools to get the work done.
To get started torrenting, you should get your tools in place. Of course, you’ll need your computer and an internet connection. As a minimum, you’ll need a BitTorrent client. You’d be wise to use a VPN to secure your data traffic and you’d better make sure that you have a good antivirus program.
Once you have all that installed, you’re ready to start torrenting. You can get special instructions for whichever torrenting program you decide to use. Here are a few of the more popular ones:
Is Torrenting Legal?
It’s rather telling that the most popular torrenting website these days is called The Pirate Bay. Years ago, a music file-sharing site called Napster was established as a peer-to-peer file-sharing program focused on music. The original Napster had to shut down in 2001 because of so many copyright infringement lawsuits.
According to TorrentFreak website, in 2014 the High Court in the United Kingdom blocked 32 torrenting sites that it considered “pirate” websites. These include Demonoid, Watchseries, IPTorrents, TorrentDay, IceFilms, and Rarbg. Needless to say, torrenting is frowned upon by many governing bodies around the world.
But is torrenting legal? That depends on which country you live in and how you use your torrenting software. No matter where you live, if you torrent copyrighted material, you are breaking the law. Period. I highly recommend against it.
But if you are using torrenting for fast distribution or download of openly shared data, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. For instance, if you want to get the latest version of Ubuntu, there’s no quicker way to get it than to use torrenting software. The software is free, and copyright is not an issue. So go for it.
But Is Torrenting Safe?
Now, there’s the rub. That wonderful Ubuntu package you are torrenting — do you really know where it’s coming from? Do you really know that what you’re getting is an actual Ubuntu software distribution rather than a whole mess of malware?
One way to verify that a torrent file is what its filename claims is to use an MD5 checksum. We won’t get into the details here, but you can usually get one from the software creator. It’s a sure way to validate that the software are you are torrenting is authentic.
There are risks to torrenting. Make sure your anti-virus software is up-to-date. Use a torrenting website that you’re familiar with and that you know you can trust. And be careful out there. There are bad guys on the loose — especially on the internet.
Everybody wants to be famous, but anonymity is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s really nobody else’s business what you do on the internet. VPN can give you that anonymity. So you may as well use a VPN when you’re torrenting. Of course, you wouldn’t want to do anything your mother — or the government — wouldn’t approve of. Other than that, torrent away!