Tech Stuff

How to Use BitTorrent (a simple guide)

I have had many people ask me how to use this 'BitTorrent' technology they've been hearing about. It can be rather complicated, and there are many deep articles on the web. However, I prefer to give them a 30 second explanation, and most people are quite happy with that.

First: A Quick Explanation

Simply put, BitTorrent is an extremely efficient means of file sharing. Instead of having central servers (e.g. Kazaa, LimeWire) storing information about each file and their location, that information is stored in .torrent files. You simply need to find a .torrent for the file you're looking for, and you can then download it piece by piece from many different locations at once. Another advantage is that you don't need the entire file to be able to share, other people can get from you the little pieces of the file as you get them.

Three Simple Steps

Essentially there are only three easy things you need to do to begin using BitTorrent.

1. Download A Client

You need a program that can read .torrent files and download/upload the files. I recommend µTorrent, it's free, lightweight, and very easy to use.

2. Torrent Search Engine

You need to use a website called a 'tracker' to search through the '.torrent' files that are available for download. I recommend Torrentz, as it indexes about ten other trackers, and contains listings for over 1 million .torrent files.

3. Download the Torrent File

Once your search reveals an available .torrent file, simply download it and open it with your client (µTorrent). The client will ask you where you want to save the files, and in record time you'll have your download!


So that was the three-step basic approach to using BitTorrent. However, once you become comfortable with the basics, you'll want to remember a few tips for better downloading.

1. Seeds and peers
Seeds are people (well, computers really) that have the entire file you're looking for. Peers have at least some of the file. Naturally, if you look for .torrent files with more seeds and peers, you'll be able to download faster, because you can draw on more sources at once.

2. Rar files
Many .torrents will download the files as one big .rar file, or several smaller sequential .rar files. To extract these, use a free program call 7zip.

On many tracker sites, they allow people to make comments on the .torrent files. Be sure to read the comments, as they will sometimes tell you if the quality of the file is good, if a password is required, or if perhaps it's a fake file.

4. Movie size
If you're looking to download DivX movies (legally free documentaries of course), then you'll want decent picture and sound quality. Look for files that are around 700MB in size. Anything less is poor quality. Anything more is better quality, but you won't be able to burn it onto one CD.

Feel free to share your BitTorrent tips here as well!


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