You may have heard of Torrents, or at least know that it’s how your friend watches all of his favorite movies. However, do you really know what a torrent is, or how it works? This guide is here to help teach you how torrents work, why they are beneficial, and also how they can be dangerous.
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Beginners Guide to Torrents
What is a Torrent?
Torrents, formally called Bit torrents, are the most popular forms of file sharing, and have become commonly used for sharing such items as music, movies and software. Although many college students know torrents as a way to access free (and illegal) albums by their favorite band, or the entire series of Breaking Bad, they actually have many other beneficial and legal uses. In fact, Facebook and Twitter use torrents internally as a way to distribute large files to multiple computers.
How does it work?
Now you understand why torrents are used, but how they work can get a little more complicated. In the past, if you wanted to download a movie from a website, that website would send you the data from one particular server. This works fine, until many people try downloading this movie at the same time. If multiple computers are trying to download a movie from one server, it could slow down immensely, or even crash the download process altogether. This is where torrents come in.
Torrents are used to share large amounts of data as they are not using a single source server. With a torrent, you are able to join a “swarm” of host to download and upload simultaneously. A torrent contains smaller files of data, along with networks and locations of who else is sharing this data. When downloading a torrent you are not getting the download from one server, but bits and pieces from many different servers. While downloading, you also become a “seeder” which means you are not only downloading the desired data, but sharing the data. It’s this cycle of downloading and “seeding” that makes the torrent process work. Instead of downloading from one source, you download from many sources, and become one yourself, making it much easier to download large files quickly.
How to Download a Torrent
Now that you understand how torrents work, how does someone go about actually downloading a torrent? First you will need a torrent client such as Vuze or uTorrent. A torrent client is software that will implement the Bit Torrent protocol and deal with the process of finding, reading and downloading the proper torrent files.
Once you have downloaded a torrent client software, it is time to find the torrent files you need. This will completely depend on what you are using torrents for, and what you are looking to download. As you may know, downloading certain torrents is illegal, and many sites that provide illegal torrent downloads often face legal repercussions that shut them down. However, here are the top 10 most popular torrent sites of 2015. But, as stated, popular torrent sites like these can change quite frequently.
How to Stay Safe When Downloading Torrents
Downloading torrents obviously has the great benefit of being able to download hard-to-reach large files quickly. However, it also presents many security and safety issues. As previously mentioned, downloading certain torrent files is illegal in many countries. If you are caught downloading an illegal torrent, then you could suffer large legal repercussions.
Aside from illegal torrent downloading, there is also the issue of not fully knowing what these torrent files contain. Unfortunately sometimes files can contain viruses and/or malware. With all of these problems, how can someone stay safe when downloading torrents? Here are a few safety tips:
1. Use a Virtual Private Network
A virtual private network, or VPN, is especially helpful for avoiding legal problems. When downloading a torrent, other users in the swarm who you connect with will know the IP address of your computer. This allows for media companies to determine who is downloading illegal torrents.
This is where a VPN comes in handy. A VPN will create an encryption for any data that is passed through your internet connection. Due to this encryption, no one will be able to trace a torrent download back to you. This is also helpful not only for torrents, but for keeping all of your internet search information and data private. However, not all VPNs are created the same. You will want to find a VPN that works the best for you and your needs.
2. Read the Feedback on Torrents
This one is easy, but necessary. Most torrent sites have a section where people can leave comments. Read through the comments to find out what feedback has been given on the torrent. If you find a handful of negative comments, then stay away. Even if a torrent has no feedback at all, it is a good idea to stay away, and move on to find a torrent with better feedback.
3. Stay up to date on Antivirus and Internet Security Software
While it is important to take precautions to avoid downloading a bad torrent, it is also just as important to make sure you have quality and updated antivirus and security software installed on your computer to be there when you do come across a bad torrent. If you have ever been infected with malware, you know how challenging and frustrating it can be to fix. Take the time to check on your security software, especially before dealing with torrents.
Whether you have used torrents before or not, hopefully you understand a little bit more about how they work, and how they can be beneficial for you. While torrents are currently used for mostly illegal downloads, they are great tool for far more than pirated films. So go out, and start exploring the world of torrents, but just remember to stay safe and mindful.