At this point i'll simply say, what you choose to torrent is your own business, if you want to walk the path of illegal torrents (pirated movies or music for example) that's entirely your decision and i can't be held accountable for it. There are many free and legal torrents and this guide serves to help people get started torrenting. When i first started torrenting i remember that i had no idea what i was doing, which seems strange to me now as i see torrenting as simply as it is. I will be using uTorrent for the purpose of this guide.
Step 1 - Find a suitable Torrenting client
There are many free torrenting clients out there on the interwebz but these are the widely used ones:
uTorrent - uTorrent is lightweight, easy to use, but also has advanced features for those in the know. I recommend it. Windows only.
BitTorrent - Another lightweight client, useful for beginners. Compatible with Windows, Linux and Mac O/S'.
Azureus - I don't recommend Azureus as it's Java based and one of the heavyweight clients, though some still use it. Compatible with Windows, Linux and Mac O/S'.
BitComet - BitComet is one of the more advanced clients with a great many network and other settings. Windows only.
Transmission - A lightweight, open-source Mac torrent client.
To my knowledge, nobody i've spoken to has gone back to their previous client after using uTorrent. It's lightweight with a great GUI and just the right amount of advanced settings.
Step 2 - Set up your Torrenting Client
When setting up your client you will need to specify your internet connection speed, usually from a drop-down box listing something like 512K / 1MB / 5MB / Broadband / T1 type connection speeds. This allows the client to set your upload and download speeds for you. More advanced users can specify their upload and download speeds as they wish, changing how many downloads or uploads they want active at any one time as they see fit. In the screenshot below you will see i haven't got a connection speed specified as i have my own settings. In the upload limit setting you will see it says 0kB/s, this doesn't mean i am a 'leecher' (a user who downloads torrents but leaves their upload speed so low that they upload virtually nothing, which harms the whole torrenting community), it means that i have allowed unlimited bandwidth for uploading my files to other users. It is important to understand the difference between a seeder and a leecher. You want to be the former of the two, because the more you upload, the better your 'ratio' (which is calculated by the amount you upload to the amount you download) and the faster speeds you get when torrenting. It's a simple rule and if you leave your machine on overnight like me, not a problem.
Your torrenting client should work 'out of the box' as soon as you install it and add a torrent (which i will get to next), if it doesn't the most likely cause (if you're behind a router) is you either need to forward the port on your router that your torrent client is using to download torrents, or you are experiencing problems because of your router's NAT settings.
Port-forwarding and Static IP's
Port-Forwarding essentially opens up a port that uTorrent needs to be able to download the torrent properly. To forward the port however you may need to set up a Static IP address for your computer. This may all sound daunting or complicated but simply refer to uTorrent's own Port Forwarding / Static IP guide as well as the excellent site PortForward which lists simple tutorials on how to set up your router based on make and models. PortForward.com lists hundreds if not thousands of routers and i'd be surprised if yours isn't on that list, it also covers setting up Static IP Address' and if you follow the instructions to the letter, the guides are thorough and reliable.
Step 3 - Find A Torrent
Torrenting websites are a dime a dozen, but be wary which ones you use as many are horribly unregulated and contain trojans, viruses, malware and most of the time the site themselves are full of phishing software and invasive advertisements.
I recommend Mininova.com, ThePiratebay.org, TorrentReactor.net, IsoHunt and Torrentz.
I will use Mininova for example;
I go to Mininova.com..
Assuming i want the '30 Rare But Easy Magic Tricks' torrent in the eBooks sections, i can either click the small green button next to it's title to directly download it or i can click the title itself to go to a page with a description of the torrent, the files in the torrent with their sizes and comments by other torrenters.
From this page i simply click 'Download This Torrent' and a window will appear allowing me to download the torrent file to whichever location i choose, or directly open the file into uTorrent which will add it to my list of torrents and, as per my customised settings, start the torrent immediately. Take note: This file is not the torrent, do not try and open it with a media player or such like. The file you just downloaded contains the tracking information for downloading the actual eBook, it tells the client where to get the bits and pieces from.
Once the torrent is loaded into uTorrent and you start it, uTorrent will seek out seeders with the pieces of the file that you need and you will start to receive them. As you receive these pieces, and assuming you are allowing uploads, you will start uploading the pieces you've got to others without them and so on and so forth. The file, be it movie, discography, ebook or program will be downloaded to whichever folder you specify.
From here you need only leave your torrenting client running in the background or overnight and huge files can be downloaded with ease.
Step 4 - Additional Trackers (Optional - Advantageous)
So you've added a torrent to uTorrent and it's downloading, but it's just not going very fast..what do you do?
First thing i do when adding torrents to my client is to prioritise them in numbered order and then apply a higher bandwidth rating depending on if i really want a file or i want it fast, but if i don't really mind if i get it in a week i can leave it on a low bandwidth rating.
If this is done and you still aren't getting anywhere fast, you can try adding trackers from other websites than the one you originally sourced the torrent from. In uTorrent this is actually incredibly easy, there is one main point you have to bear in mind - are the hash codes identical? (I'll get to that soon)
The first thing you do to add a tracker is go to a new torrenting website, say you got the original torrent from Mininova.com..then try TorrentReactor.net or IsoHunt. I'm going to use the antivirus application AVG as an example here. You go to IsoHunt and you search for an AVG torrent with the exact same name as the torrent currently running in your client, which was first added from Mininova. You then click on this torrent in IsoHunt and under 'Summary' you will see a list of trackers straight away. This is where the hash codes come in. The following is a screenshot of my uTorrent client, with a file selected, and at the bottom right of the window the hash code is displayed.
Does that hash code match the one i find for AVG on Isohunt, located at the bottom of the summary page in small grey lettering?
No, it doesn't. So this torrent and its trackers aren't suitable. The aim is to find torrents identical in size and name as your original file on different sites from which you can add new trackers, and as such new seeders to get more bits of the whole file from. There is often a simpler way however.
Ah my old friend, you didn't think i'd manage to get through a tutorial without missing you out?
I speak of course of Google. If you go to google with the hash code of the torrent currently running in your client, copied identically letter for letter, it should chuck up numerous results from myriads of various torrenting sites, not all of which i've listed as there are rather a lot. From there you can go to each website and add the trackers to your currently running torrent, speeding it up. I will get to how to add them next, but just before that i'll say don't automatically click every button under the sun on any old torrenting site, i listed the ones i listed because i know them, i trust them and there are communities of trusted uploaders that support them, lesser known torrenting sites can harbor all kinds of nasties and viruses.
Finally, to add the tracker(s) from these new websites, you can do one of two things, you can copy and paste the tracker URL's straight from the websites into your currently running torrent's 'properties' or 'advanced' window (right click the torrent for the properties window usually) and into the trackers list, then right click the torrent and click 'Update Tracker' to force it to find all the new seeders. The second way to do it, with uTorrent at least, is when you've gone to these new websites and found identical torrents, you simply click 'Download Torrent' and open it in uTorrent. The great thing about uTorrent is it automatically detects when a torrent you're adding is the same as one you have currently running, and as such it will merge the lists of trackers together. Job done.
Step 5 - Open The Torrent
Most of the time you will download something with an easily recognisable format like MP3 or DIVX that play in music and video players respectively. However, if you download something in an .iso format, you will need a program that will 'mount the .iso image', meaning it takes the .iso file and fools your computer into thinking you have an extra CD/DVD drive and that whatever you downloaded is on a disc inside that drive. This does not harm your computer, it simply allows you to access the contents of your torrent.
For .iso images, the program i recommend is Daemon Tools, a program that does just the above, allowing you to create up to 4 phantom optical drives at a time and mount torrent images on them. Daemon Tools also has tools for circumventing various security measures. Use at your own discretion but Daemon Tools is a widely used and recommended .iso mounting program.
Other torrent files like the .rar torrents i mentioned earlier, and this usually applies to movies, will download to your specified location as say 30 seperate folders, each containing a bit of the whole movie. To construct the whole movie you will need a program like Winrar that 'unzips' or uncompresses all the files into one whole file. Once this is done (and you've checked the new whole movie works) you can delete the 30 seperate folders if you're not seeding them to save disk space as they are just a clone of the main movie in lots of pieces.
As above, this is a torrent i downloaded and i would click on the first 'sph' with the stacked book WinRar icon, which would open up that file in WinRar which links to the rest of the files. This churns out the folder at the top with the whole movie in. Don't worry, you don't have to sit there unzipping all those files.
Scams and Fake Torrents
There are thousands of fake torrents out there filled to the brim with trojans and other nasties. The following are a few tips to keep you secure and the malicious files off your system;
- Check the size of the file, if it's a movie file they tend to be around the 700MB mark. If it's not, look closer. Investigate what the files are called, if the uploader is trusted and peruse the comments about the file for other's findings.
- If it's too good to be true, it usually is. If you choose to download tv shows illegally and you find a torrent of the show you want that is released a fortnight before that episode airs, it is 9 times out of 10 a fake. Again, check comments and be wary.
- If downloading something in .rar format, scrutinise the torrent for anything strange. Not all .rars are fake or scam but .rars can be password protected and/or fakes.
- NEVER download a program that has been linked to by a text document in the torrent you downloaded. Example; you download a tv show that says 'Thankyou for downloading this torrent by TVxPiratez!, simply go to http://www.piratez.com and download our media player to watch it' - These are always scams or viruses.
- Torrents with thousands of seeders are generally safe as word gets around and people realise the torrent is the real deal.
Torrenting Terms & Phrases
Seeder - A torrent user who both downloads and allows uploads of a file so that others can take the pieces of that file to complete their own download. The user has finished downloading the complete file. The good guys with fast speeds and high ratios.
Leecher - A torrent user who downloads a file but doesn't allow others to upload pieces of that file from him, keeping what he gets for himself. The bad guys with horrible ratios and worse speeds than seeders.
Tracker - Trackers are internet based services that aid the communication between torrenting clients. The file you download from a torrent website holds tracker information, when you load it into uTorrent, uTorrent takes it and uses it to find the list of seeds and leechers to connect to.
Private Tracker - Private Trackers are like trackers as mentioned above except that to use a privately tracked torrent, you must register at a certain website. This isn't always a scam or fraudulent in any way but be on your guard. Often these sites require invitation as they are fairly exclusive, offering higher bandwidth.
Hope this guide helps you. As always open to additions or suggestions.