You have probably heard or referred to some files on the Internet as “Torrent” files or simply Torrents.
Some might think of it as the only means to download copyrighted content and some probably do not know about it.
In this article, we will be giving you some clarity on Torrent files and explain how they work.
What Are Torrents?
The files that are shared using the BitTorrent protocol is simply referred to as Torrents.
In case you didn’t know, the BitTorrent protocol is a communication technique for peer-to-peer file sharing over the Internet. The files are usually scattered around a decentralized network of users from which it is then downloaded.
So, when you download a torrent file, you’re involved in a peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing operation using the BitTorrent protocol.
The main point of P2P systems is to distribute the potentially enormous load of uploads/downloads onto a very large number of computers and Internet connections. If you want to get something, you also have to contribute something.
Now that you know what torrents are – it is important to know why torrent files are used and how they work. You can also check out a relevant video to know more about it:
Why Would You Need Torrents?
You can just download a file anyway – why do you need a torrent file specifically? Is it just because you want to download copyright materials online?
No. It is a common misconception that we’re generally talking about pirated games, movies, or software when discussing torrents, that is totally wrong.
Torrents are popular because it is an efficient decentralized method to share files on the Internet without needing to have a powerful server in order to distribute the files.
For instance, you want to share a file (potentially a large file) that you want hundreds and thousands of users to access/download – in that case, you will need to have a powerful (expensive) server with enough bandwidth that allows you host the file and let users download it as quickly as possible.
However, for torrents to work, you don’t need any of that. Once you create a torrent, you can share with any number of users you want. And, just because it is a peer-to-peer file-sharing technique, the more users connect to the torrent, the more powerful the network becomes (thereby increasing the download speed).
So, if you do not want to spend on a server to let users access a file, it’s better to create a Torrent and distribute it. In this way, you save money and your server bandwidth.
Are Torrents Dangerous?
Not necessarily. If you’re downloading something legit that has been authorized for distribution, you are good to go.
You will find a lot of websites offering a torrent file to download the ISO file of an operating system (Linux distributions). Similarly, you will find plenty of legal use-cases of Torrents.
On the other hand, you might observe a lot of copyrighted materials (pirated games, movies, software, etc.) to be commonly distributed on some Torrent websites. So, in that case, malware, adware, spyware, and similar threats might be a problem associated with them.
Merely downloading a torrent file is not illegal. However, it is important to verify what you’re downloading and whether the website you are accessing hosts legal files or pirated/copyright materials. Fret not, you can simply ask around on social media platforms or active forums if you are not sure about it, but ultimately, it is your responsibility.
The Problem With Torrents
Even though there are more benefits to peer-to-peer sharing using Torrents, there are some issues as well.
If the network of users using the Torrent is very small, the potential download speed will be very slow. So, only if you’re user that a lot of users are going to download it, creating a torrent file isn’t required.
Torrent Files: How to Access & Download Them?
You can choose to download the .TORRENT file or simply click on the magnet URL (which is a crypto hash for that torrent file) to access it on the torrent client and then start downloading it.
Once, you get the right file or the magnet URL, you can easily start downloading the target file. However, you need to know about some of the key terms associated with the torrent files.
Key Terms For Torrents
- Seed / Seeder: This tells you how many users are sharing the complete file in the torrent network.
- Leech / Leecher: These are users who just download the file – but chose not to share (or upload) the file. So, the more leechers you find compared to seeders, the potential for a low download speed increases.
- Peer: It’s someone who’s downloading the file from the network of torrents.
- Tracker: A server that potentially tracks all the other users in the network.
- Swarm: When you find a group of users downloading and sharing a common file, they’re known as a swarm.
For starters, the information we put together for you should come in handy. If you have a trouble understanding, we will also recommend watching the video mentioned above.