Being the Internet-savvy people I know most of you are, I’m sure you have heard of torrents before. Torrents are a way of sharing files over the Internet on peer-to-peer connections.

How do Torrents work?

In early 2001 a man by the name of Bram Cohen started writing code for a new and effective way of transporting digital information from one place to another in a distributed manner. The result of this was the BitTorrent protocol. In essence, it is a way of efficiently breaking up a block of information into small chunks that can be easily moved over moderate speed networks. It included all sorts of cool things to make sure the integrity of the data was left intact and you could stop and resume transfers without the fear of having to start over or cause corruption to what had already been downloaded.

The major feature of BitTorrent (at least in its most well-known application of downloading movies and series) is that it is completely distributed. Files are not stored on a single mainframe database. Each and every torrent you ever download from the Internet actually lives on or comes from another person’s hard drive. They are sharing that file. This means there is no single point of failure and the health of your download relies solely on the fact that the content you want is being shared by others.

It is not uncommon to find the latest series being shared by over 30 000 people at one time. This means that although it takes some time to gather speed in your download, you can rest assured there will be plenty of people around to keep that file shared for the duration of your download.

Torrent Jargon

Seeders are people who either originally create a torrent to share and have uploaded their torrent file for others to download or someone who has finished downloading a file but continues sharing with others.

Leechers are people who are currently downloading a file. While this is a harsh label for someone just downloading a file, a true leecher is someone who downloads a torrent without sharing any of the files back to others.

A torrent client is the software you need to actually turn a torrent file into an a download. It implements the  bittorrent protocol and handles all transactions from other clients. There are many clients out there for all operating systems. The most popular ones are uTorrent, BitTorrent, and Transmission.

A torrent file is what an original seeder will create using their torrent client to share a file from their machine. Think of it as a key to that specific file. Anyone with the key can get the file.  Simply open the torrent file with your client and the client should handle everything for you.

Torrent Websites

There are many websites, both private communities and public sites, that provide torrent files. Most public sites are relatively safe to use. The quality and variety of content can vary greatly from site to site especially public ones.

The issue with private torrent sites is that it can be difficult to become a member. You usually need an invite from a current member or for some of the even more exclusive sites will only hold registration a few times a year or less.

If you are lucky enough you could get a registration on some of the great local site Bitfarm. It is well controlled with forums and a chatbox and the community is tight-knit.

Important: Legal Torrents

While torrenting is a great way to share information across the web, it’s important to note that many torrenting sites share content to which they do not own the rights. Just like you can’t give away your neighbours’ furniture, it is illegal to share any content that is owned by someone else. That said, there is a lot of open-source content available on these free movie and free music sites. These are not strictly speaking torrent sites, but should you download anything here it would be perfectly legitimate for you to upload them as torrents to share with others, as they are open source (freely available to all).