What are torrents and torrent files?

Files with the .torrent extensions contain data that allows downloading larger files with the help of BitTorrent protocol. Unlike HTTP or HTTPS, this protocol requires a torrent client to work. This client will be doing the actual downloading of the linked file(s). Today we will talk a bit about BitTorrent, explain how it works, and answer a few frequently asked questions on this topic.

What are Torrent files and how does the BitTorrent protocol work?

The BitTorrent protocol was created for downloading files without worrying about bandwidth. Thanks to the structure of the protocol, the downloading process can be stopped and resume at any time. With the resume support, you will continue downloading the file from the previous point. All downloading progress will be saved, but it depends on your BitTorrent client – some of them (usually old ones) cannot resume stopped downloading, and you have to start over again.  

To download files on your hard drive BitTorrent employs multiple servers. They are called peers, and there is no need for a server to control them as they are interlinked between each other directly. When you start downloading something, you become a member of a BitTorrent network. It means that while you are downloading, you are also uploading (or “seeding”) the information you already have already downloaded from the torrent. Whom are you seeding for? For other clients that are looking for the same data to download. When you get your file and leave the torrent client active and do not delete the torrent from the program menu, other clients will have access to the file you have downloaded. This way you act as a “seed” for other. Note: no one can access your private information via torrent when you are “seeding” – other only have access to the files specified by the .torrent you opened with your BitTorrent client.

The basic idea of the BitTorrent protocol – use good old “give-and-take” formula that allows sharing large files on the Web. Computers with the original files or its parts are called peers. After downloading a .torrent file and adding it to your client, you get the information about the encryption method used, whereabouts of the files, main link, and similar data. When you initiate the download procedure, the BitTorrent client starts looking for parts of the original file(s) on other computers it has access to (thanks to the torrent). When you are (or someone else) downloading the same file as others, you are also uploading at the same time to other computers. This method allows downloading files faster. 

There is also a download-upload ratio, which should be ideally 1:1 according to the creator of the protocol. It means that one should upload the information equal to the data downloaded. In other words, give back as much as you took from others. It is not necessary, of course, but recommended. You can check your ratio in the BitTorrent client you are using – look for columns “downloaded” and “uploaded (seed).”

The biggest benefit of the system is that is based on active users, which download and upload files. Hence the network grows with each new computer joined. The more computers involved in the process, the less bandwidth is used. If there was only one server for downloading certain files and everybody would be trying to get access to it, all would lose as the server would just crash.

Is It Illegal to use BitTorrent?

The answer is twofold: yes and no. It depends on how you are using your BitTorrent client and what are you trying to download. Some websites do have legitimate content on their servers that can be downloaded for free without breaking any copyright laws. It also depends on the country and their views and policies in the Internet regulation field. In most countries, you cannot download pirated content such as movies, TV shows, games, etc., and we also advise against it because it is punishable by law. Remember that responsibility is completely on your shoulders and owners of the content hosting websites. The difference between them and you – they are much harder to track down in the labyrinth of computers.

Is BitTorrent Safe to Use?

As long as you are using well-known popular torrent sites for downloading files, it is safe as they value their reputation and double-check all hosted files. But there are tons of questionable websites as well, which are not so safe. It is a common practice among cybercriminals to spread dangerous malware via torrent sites that don’t check what they are hosting or just have free access to creating and spreading new downloads. Furthermore, you can get into a situation when you are downloading something from an infected machine, and viruses can be in the folder or hidden in executable files. Thus your PC gets infected as well. We recommend you to scan all .torrent files you are downloading and also check the final folder with an antivirus/antimalware tools when the procedure is complete. This way you can always be sure that everything is ok.    

How to download Torrent files?

You can download any .torrent file in a few clicks – this is how simple this process is. Then you need to process it. If you already have a BitTorrent client, it is most likely set to open .torrent files by default upon downloading. If it is not the case, then you need to process the downloaded .torrent file manually. Open the folder with the .torrent file, double-click it, and select the program you want to open it with (your BitTorrent client). The downloading process of the file you need will start immediately after registering that torrent in the program. Keep in mind, that in order to download there must be active seeds – if there are none, you need to wait or look for another .torrent.