Although torrenting is not as popular today as it once used to be (thanks to the arrival of Netflix and other media streaming services), it is still undisputedly one of the easiest and most reliable file sharing methods, especially when it comes to sharing large files. Now, I know there are many misconceptions about torrenting out there, which is why I’ve decided to write this article about it. So, what is torrenting, and how it works? Let’s find out.
What is Torrenting?
It was back in 2001 when Torrenting first debuted (thanks to Bram Cohen). Although a groundbreaking technology, it did not become instantly popular with computer users (and unpopular with anti-piracy government agencies) and took some time to took off as at that time, the Internet was still slow, and cloud-based technologies were intended for enterprise consumers only.
I hope you liked that small piece of trivia now. Let’s get down to the main point. ‘Torrent’ and ‘BitTorrent’ are two of the most often used torrenting terms; I’m sure you’ve heard them; let’s take a look at the differences between the two.
The term “torrent” refers to files shared through a decentralized, P2P sharing network. P2P file sharing allows for files to be exchanged among users without uploading them to a server. The term may also refer to a tiny file that contains metadata about the files you want to download. With a size of a few kilobytes, it doesn’t actually contain any data – for instance, a movie you want to download – it only contains information where that movie is located.
BitTorrent, on the other hand, is a P2P communication protocol that powers torrents. This isn’t a file type but instead a protocol that breaks down large files into pieces and connects those pieces into large files on your computer.
How does Torrenting Work?
As you should know by now, torrenting doesn’t depend on a centralized server for storing files; instead, it works in a decentralized manner. Every member in the file-sharing network is either actively downloading or uploading files, meaning that torrent users are dependent on each other. It will be easier for you to understand how torrenting works if you are familiar with the following terms:
- Peers: If you are either actively downloading or uploading files, then you are a peer. To put it simply, this term refers to every member in a file-sharing (P2P) network.
- Seeders: Once you fully download a file, then you start seeding it, which means that you allow other users to take bits of data from your computer. So, if you have fully downloaded a file on your device, then you are a seeder.
- Leechers: If you are downloading a file, then you are a Leecher. To put it simply, you are taking bits of data from seeders to complete your download.
- Indexers: This term refers to those websites that act as repositories of torrents, where you can browse all sorts of torrents and get the one that you need.
- Trackers: Bridges between peers are referred to as trackers. To put it simply, these are URLs and servers that aid in the file-sharing process by routing small data pieces between seeders and leechers.
- BitTorrent Clients: qBittorrent, Transmission, Deluge, uTorrent, and so forth are all BitTorrent clients. These reads all the information in the .torrent file and connects users to exchange data. If you want to download and use torrents, you must have a BitTorrent client installed on your system.
Is It Illegal to Download Torrent Files?
A short answer to this question would be no. You can share files via torrent sites; the act is not illegal in itself. So, when does it becomes illegal? Well, when someone uploads or downloads copyrighted material through a torrent client or website. I don’t think this explanation can be made anymore simpler.
What Do You Need To Get Started?
As mentioned above, if you want to download and use torrents, you must have a BitTorrent client installed on your system. Also mentioned above is that there are several BitTorrent clients out there; they all function in the same way, so subtleties are what sets them apart. Moreover, this sort of software usually comes free of charge, so you wouldn’t have to worry about spending some dough.
Once you’ve downloaded and installed a BitTorrent client on your system, the next thing you need is a torrent file, which (as mentioned above) will be used by the BitTorrent client to download files. You will find a plethora of torrent sites on the internet from which you can download torrent files; these torrent sites can be broadly divided into two categories; legal and illegal. I hope you will stay on the safe side of the law. Therefore, make sure only to visit the legal torrent repositories to download torrent files.
So, that’s it, that’s all you need to get started.
What are the Good Uses of Torrents?
As mentioned above, torrent sites can be broadly divided into two categories; legal and illegal. It’s the later ones that act as a hub for digital pirates and infringers. While the former can be useful for syncing large chunks of files and sharing content you own the rights to. Let me give you some interesting info, Facebook and Twitter use a similar protocol to upload large files to their server to conserve bandwidth. Moreover, torrents are also used by some government agencies to share large files with the public that could otherwise put a strain on their servers.
Are Torrent Files Safe to Download?
Well, that depends, you know, if you know where they’re from, those torrents are relatively safe. Besides, threat actors attempting to change a torrent file’s metadata would effectively corrupt the file itself, rendering it useless.
But, don’t let that put you at ease, as malware-ridden torrent files are prevalent, too. Such torrent files are often linked to pirated copies of episodes of popular TV shows. You should also need to watch out for .exe or .bat as these are commonly associated with scripts that install malware into computers.
Should You Use a VPN for Torrenting?
I will end this article by answering this fascinating question. VPNs, short for virtual private networks, hides your IP address from sites that want to track you. People also use them to conceal their entire online activities from their Internet service provider (ISP). You can use a VPN to conceal your identity while downloading files from a torrent site; this will help you stay safe from cyber attackers.
However, you should know that ISPs track VPN traffic though, so keep your torrent use legal. There are also some countries where VPN use is illegal, so make sure your country is not on a list where VPNs are banned.
Moreover, VPNs come with their own set of issues. As mentioned above, VPN will help you to hide your Web tracks from your ISP, but now it will be accessible to your VPN provider. Who can then (if he wants to) sell it to 3rd parties. So to be on the safer side, you should go for a paid VPN. There is still no guarantee that the paid VPN will not log your data, but at least it’s a little safer than the free ones.
Thank you for reading!