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Guide to Torrents

Updated on February 16, 2011

What are torrents? A guide...

So you've heard the word 'Torrents' being bandied about, but what are they? I've decided to write a layman's guide to Torrents, a simple view on how they work, and what they are all about. Read on!

So what ARE torrents?

Torrents are actually short for 'bittorrents'. It is currently the most popular way for people to share files with each other (which is known as 'peer-to-peer', or P2P). Torrent networking was designed by a Mr Bram Cohen and debuted in 2001.

How do torrents work?

Essentially, torrents work by downloading small bits of the same file from multiple other users who are uploading (sharing) that complete file. These users who are sharing are actually uploading small bits of that file to multiple downloaders.

Several ingredients are needed to make a torrent work:-

  • A torrent program (such as uTorrent)
  • A torrent Search Engine (such as Isohunt or PirateBay)
  • A .torrent file (downloadable from a torrent search website)

If you have a torrent program installed on your computerĀ and a website to find and download .torrent files, then you can start using torrents straight away! There is much more you can learn to improve your torrent experience, such as port forwarding and how tracking servers work, but I will not be covering that in my layman's article.

Why are torrents so popular?

The beauty of this type of network, is that you can easily achieve amazing download speeds (up to your maximum line speed in fact) if there are many people sharing that complete file. The reason for this is that you are not just downloading from one source (and therefore limited to the the upload capacity OF that source) but from multiple sources. It is teamwork at it's best!

You actually need a torrent program (a popular one is uTorrent), but these programs have no user fees and torrent networks rarely have any fees attached to them either.

Speed and lack of any fees would be the two primary reasons that this type of sharing network is so popular.

Public or Private?

Torrent websites (sites that provide links to .torrent files) are an abundant resource on the Internet. There are numerous large and famous public torrent sites such as IsoHunt or PirateBay. However there are also lots of more exclusive and private (invitation only) torrent websites, such as, or

The problem with the large public trackers is basically greed. There is no incentive to 'share' the file that you have obtained. People will download the file and then delete the torrent so they are no longer uploading it.

Private torrent sites deal with this problem by enforcing a share ratio, which means if you do not share files then you do not stay a member of the site.

Keeping a share ratio may be more annoying or difficult then using a public tracker, BUT this is offset by the fact that on a private tracker you will normally get maximum speeds (as many people will want to share to increase their ratio) and constant access to a large amount of content through thousands of ACTIVE .torrent files. Public tracker torrents will often die out very quickly.

So there we have it...

I hope you have found my layman's article 'Guide to Torrents' useful, feel free to leave me comments on your own experience using torrents or any additions you feel I should make to this article.


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    • the50marathons17 profile image

      Michael 6 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Good information!