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What is Torrenting? What You Should Know When Using Torrents

Torrenting may sound like an Olympic sport involving barreling down a hill, but it’s quite the opposite. In this article, we’ll delve into what torrenting is, share essential tips for using this popular peer-to-peer (P2P) technology effectively, and suggest a couple of VPN options for downloading torrents, ensuring safe, anonymous downloads.

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What is Torrenting?

Torrenting is a widely used file-sharing protocol based on peer-to-peer (P2P) technology. It enables vast numbers of users to connect and share content without depending on a single source for downloads. While there are safe torrenting sites, using a VPN for torrenting is strongly recommended. P2P technology has its share of bad actors, and we’ll explore the importance of VPNs shortly.

Torrenting Basics

Before you embark on your torrenting journey, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with some key terms:

  • Indexers: Websites that collect torrent files and serve as search engines for content. 
  • If you’ve ever used The Pirate Bay, Extratorrent, or RarBG, you’ve used an indexer. Some sites are public and open to use by anyone who lands on the page, while others are private and require an invite.
  • Trackers: Servers that bridge connections between torrent users. 
  • Torrent Clients: Software used to connect to torrent trackers and assemble files on your computer. qBittorrent, Deluge, Transmission, and uTorrent are a few popular clients.
  • Seeders: Users actively uploading a file to the torrent network, facilitating downloads.
  • Leechers: Users download a file without uploading it, which is generally frowned upon.
  • Ratio: The relationship between your uploading (seeding) and downloading (leeching) score, should be greater than 1.0.
  • Magnet Link: Identifies files and sources, allowing your torrent client to start downloading immediately.

What is a Torrent?

Torrent Files, often just called “torrents”, are tiny files that point to trackers, which are external sites that maintain a database of links. These links point to other users whose computers host a requested file. By downloading a torrent you’re connecting directly to dozens or even thousands of other users, grabbing tiny pieces of the file which your torrenting software (e.g., a torrent client like Deluge) assembles on your computer.

History of Torrenting

Torrenting has evolved significantly over the years. It traces its roots back to the 1970s when computer developers needed a way to transfer content between devices. Early sharing protocols involved host-client relationships. However, the limitations of single-server downloads led to the rise of peer-to-peer file-sharing (P2P) networks, notably exemplified by Napster in 1999. The BitTorrent protocol, introduced later, streamlined P2P sharing, leading to the torrenting we know today.

Why Use a VPN for Torrenting?

VPN, short for Virtual Private Network, plays a crucial role in torrenting. VPNs encrypt the data leaving your computer, rendering it invisible to prying eyes. Additionally, they mask your true location by providing you with a virtual IP address. This is particularly important for torrenting since the protocol exposes your IP and location to other users.

Using a VPN while torrenting is as simple as running another piece of software. However, selecting the right VPN for the job can be challenging, given the multitude of options available.

Top VPN for Torrenting: NordVPN

NordVPN is our top recommendation for safe torrenting. With a vast network of 5400 servers across 60 countries, it offers an average speed of 20 Mbps, ensuring fast downloads. NordVPN allows you to connect up to 6 devices simultaneously and offers 24/7 live support for any assistance you might need. Your privacy is guaranteed with a strict no-logs policy and encrypted connections. Plus, they back their service with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

How to Use Torrents

The technology may sound complicated, but in practice it’s surprisingly easy to use torrents. It won’t be as straightforward as clicking to download a file, and it can be challenging to find good-quality content, especially if you’re looking for movies or TV shows. But with a little patience and the right resources, torrenting will open up a new world of downloads for you to browse and enjoy.

  1. Download a torrent client such as Deluge (Windows, Mac, Linux). There are some torrent clients for iOS and Android, but it’s best to stick with PC whenever possible.
  2. Search for a torrent to download. Use an indexer or tracker to find your favorite content.
  3. Download the torrent file or click the provided magnet link.
  4. If your torrent client doesn’t automatically start, open it and add the torrent manually.
  5. Wait for the torrent to initiate and start downloading from peers.
  6. When the download reaches 100% you can open the file and enjoy your content.
  7. Leave the torrent client running with your download actively uploading so you can seed to other users.
  8. Remove the torrent from your client when you’re done downloading. This is an important safety step, because sometimes you may want to shut your VPN off for whatever reason, and you don’t want to forget that you’re actively uploading data into the torrent network. Alternatively, if you want to keep seeding, just make sure that your torrent client is never open when your VPN is off.

Torrenting Depends on Users, Not Servers

When you get a file from a website or hosting service, chances are you’re downloading the content from a single computer. This host-client relationship is pretty straightforward, but the downsides include things like limited bandwidth, slow speeds, and even censorship. After all, if a file only exists in one place, all the host has to do is remove it and no one can use it.

Torrenting neatly sidesteps the problems of availability and slow speeds. You don’t download files from one source, you download it from dozens. Each user who downloads is then turned into an uploader (seeder), which in turn provides more sources for other users to download from. The more people who use BitTorrent, the stronger it becomes. It’s just one of the many reasons torrenting has gotten so popular in recent years.

When torrenting, always keep in mind that you’re part of a community. Seed as much as you can, keep a good ratio, and help your fellow torrenters participate in file sharing.

Is Torrenting Legal? Is it Safe?

Any technology is going to come with a few hurdles to overcome, and BitTorrent is no exception. As soon as torrenting became popular, people started using it to share pirated content, especially high-definition movies and TV shows. This soured the public perception of torrenting as a tool for breaking the law, which is a little unfair. BitTorrent has countless legal uses, everything from distributing your own files without a server to effortlessly sharing content with your school or work group. Torrenting itself is perfectly legal, but like any tool, you can abuse it in illegal ways.

The distinction that has kept torrenting alive is the fact that torrent sites do not host any content. You’re downloading from other users, not from trackers or indexers, which puts most of the community in a legally gray area. As is the case with downloading any file from the internet, there’s always a chance you’ll run into a virus or malware. Depending on the torrent indexer you’re using, this may be more common than you think. Files can also be mislabeled intentionally or accidentally, which means you should always be a little cautious when grabbing torrents from the internet, just in case.

Staying Safe while Torrenting

While torrenting and torrent sites are generally safe, there are some dangers to look out for. Viruses, malware, data theft, and other issues can arise if you’re not careful. Follow the tips below to secure your computer and keep yourself out of harm’s way.

  • Always use a VPN – VPNs are important for everyday privacy and security, but they’re absolutely essential for downloading torrents. Connecting to peers means showing your IP address to the world, which simply isn’t safe in the modern digital age. You should always use a VPN for P2P file sharing. Always. Check out our guide on the best VPNs for torrenting for more info.
  • Use anti-virus software – Anti-virus software is a front line defense against harmful files. Keep your scanner active whenever you search for, download, or run torrents.
  • Don’t download illegal content – Downloading pirated movies, software, and TV shows will put you in harm’s way. If you stick to legitimate content, you’re much less likely to get into trouble.
  • Choose public trackers carefully – Where you get your torrents from makes a huge difference. Popular torrent trackers can be a gamble but might be generally safer than odd underground ones, though this isn’t always the case. 
  • Use private trackers – Registration requirements help keep private trackers safe from troublemakers. If you can gain access to a few good private trackers, stick to them for life.

In Summary

Torrenting is a powerful and valuable technology for sharing and downloading content. However, it carries significant responsibilities that must not be overlooked. Always ensure you are using it legally, respecting copyright laws, and prioritizing your online security. By following the best practices outlined in this article and employing the right tools such as a reliable VPN and a trusted torrent client, you can safely and efficiently navigate the world of torrenting while mitigating potential risks.

It’s essential to approach torrenting responsibly, making sure your actions remain within the bounds of the law. Remember that technology evolves, and the torrenting landscape may change over time. Stay informed, use trusted tools, and enjoy the vast world of content that torrenting has to offer.

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