Friday, April 10, 2009


What is BitTorrent?

There's all kinds of ways that major companies and individuals can share their files and media today. Direct HTTP, FTP, IRC, newsgroups, BitTorrent, the Gnutella network, the list goes on... But the one I'm most concerned about is BitTorrent.

BitTorrent is the single most underrated and misunderstood method of filesharing. Usually a typical person has no idea what BitTorrent is, but they know what Limewire is. Well here's something you may not realize. Limewire, eMule, Frostwire, Livewire, they all suck. They're mostly just useful for exchanging single MP3 files, which are always horrible quality, as well as viruses and kiddie porn.

The most popular types of files that people share are music and movies (and porn). If you've ever tried to download a movie on Limewire, it probably took about a day or overnight to finish downloading, depending on the size of the file. Even still, when you go to watch it after the long wait, you may find out it's nothing but a 12-year-old kid standing in front of his 13-inch TV with a handicam on a tripod recording the movie.

Well those days are over my friend. Imagine this. Imagine downloading the entire discography of your favorite band all at once, with a sigle click, ever song in perfect crystal clear quality. Imagine downloading a great movie you've been wanting to see. You can see it in HD quality or download a version that will fit on a CD-R. AND it's finished downloading within 2 hours. Imagine doing this day after day, without ever contracting any kind of virus or malware. That's the magic of BitTorrent.

How does it work?

BitTorrent works like this. One user will create a file, called a .torrent file. The .torrent file is uploaded to a web site and available for download. The .torrent file itself is only around 1 or 2 kb. Another user downloads the .torrent file. His BitTorrent program reads information from the .torrent file and the 2 users PC's connect with each other. One user then begins to upload a video, MP3, or anything he wants to send to the public. More people can download the .torrent and their PCs will connect to everyone else who has downloaded the same .torrent. The file will then be sent to everyone.

Here's a visual representation of how BitTorrent works.

So basically the more people who are downloading a file you want, the faster you will get it. It's common to download a file at speeds up to 1 MB/s (depending on how fast your own Internet connection is).

Why should I use it?

With BitTorrent you have the advantage of downloading hundreds of files at the same time. In Limewire you have to select what you want file by file. But a .torrent file comes packaged with information regarding hundreds of files.

Most importantly, BitTorrent can be a hundred times faster. It's also MUCH more secure. Getting a virus through BitTorrent is extremely rare.

Is it legal?

YES. BitTorrent itself is completely legal. In order to use BitTorrent you must go to a site that offers links to .torrent files. Since .torrent files are only a few kb large, they're completely legal to download because .torrent files are not pirated media themselves. Thus, BitTorrent sites are able to legally operate because they don't offer any illegal content to download.

There's been tons of court cases related to torrenting. It seems to me like the courts can't seem to make up their minds about how they want to handle the legality or torrents. Most lawyers and politicians don't even understand the technology and how it works, so it's hard to determine what the future is going to hold for torrents.

Obviously, though downloading torrents isn't illegal, actually owning pirated media IS illegal under any circumstance; as far as I know, anyway. Some say that it's totally legal because the original uploader is held responsible for pirating. Others say everyone accessing pirated material via torrents is liable.

I won't reccommend that you use BitTorrent for pirating media. What ever you decide to use BittTorrent for is your own business. But anyway...

How do I use BitTorrent?

First, you're going to need a program called a BitTorrent client. By far, the best one available is called uTorrent. Click the link to download the program. It's very lightweight and fast. So if you have a PC made of paper clips and rubber bands you can still use it.

After you've downloaded and installed uTorrent, you need to configure it properly. It can get a bit tricky getting it right. When you open uTorrent for the first time you'll see this screen:

(click image to enlarge)

This is the Speed Guide. You're going to need to select the speed of your connection. Click Run Speed Test and you'll be taken to a site where you can test your download and upload speed. When you find out what it is, select the proper choice from the dropdown menu. uTorrent doesn't care about your download speed; just upload speed.

After you do that you need to forward the port. This is extremely important. If you don't forward your port properly uTorrent will give you very slow speeds. Don't touch that port number. Just click the Test if Port is Forwarded button. If it isn't forwarded, follow the link to find out how. Remember, forwarding the port properly is very important.

Now uTorrent is all set up and ready to go. Now you need to find a BitTorrent site to start downloading files. Here's some:

The Pirate Bay

The Pirate Bay is the largest BitTorrent site out there. So start there. When you find something you want, simply download the .torrent file and run it. uTorrent will pop up and take care of the rest for you.

BitTorrent Tips

If you're seeing slow speeds, just wait for a few minutes. It may take some time for uTorrent to connect to other users. The speed should pick up after awhile. If it's still slow make sure your port is forwarded. If all else fails, the torrent may be dead. If no one is connected to the torrent, there's nowhere to download the file. Or if just a few people are connected, you'll see slow speeds. So try to look for the most active torrents.

While viruses don't appear often, don't let your guard down completely. I use avast! antivirus software. It works great and catches any infected files as soon as they show up on my PC. Also make sure to read user comments on torrent sites before you download. If a file is incomplete or infected usually a user will post a comment about it.

After you download a torrent, if there is a readme file, ALWAYS read it. It could have important information you need to know about what you downloaded.


That about covers it. BitTorrent is slowly but surely becoming the most efficent and pracical way of sharing files. Even gaming companies are using it for distributing patches and games. Blizzard, for example, uses BitTorrent to distribute their high res trailers and a few games. Still, a lot of companies refuse to see the benefits of it. BiTorrent gets a bad rep due to piracy.

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