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What are Torrents? A beginner’s guide: Everything you need to know

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  • 6 min read

If you want to watch movies for free and you’re a bit in over your head regarding torrents, peers and whatnot – Welcome! You’ve come to the right place. We’re here to find answers to the questions you’re too embarrassed to ask and too bored to answer on your own. So make yourselves comfortable; we might be here a while.

Disclaimer: Torrenting copyrighted content is illegal. Torrenting itself isn’t, but the ownership of unsanctioned copyrighted material iss

If you’re still here, you’re possibly weighing the pros and cons of learning about torrents. First, let me reassure you by saying that there are plenty of legal torrents that you can access. Besides, you can use VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) and legitimate torrenting services. Alternatively, you could never use torrent files.

We encourage you to decide for yourself after knowing all that you need to know about torrents. Here we go.

Also read: What is Tor Browser? How does it work?

Mechanism of Torrenting

Let’s start with the most obvious question. What exactly is a torrent?

Torrenting is often construed as a complex procedure. People tend to get this impression due to the complicated jargon, not due to any extreme complexity of the process itself.

Surprisingly, a torrent file contains none of the content you need. For example, if you’re trying to torrent music, not even a single second of audio is present in your .torrent file. Instead, a torrent file contains information regarding where you can gain access to the file.

What is P2P (Peer to Peer) file sharing? How does it work?

When opened with a suitable client, the torrent you download for that file allows access to trackers. Someone, somewhere in the world, has the file you need or at least a fraction of it. Trackers enable your system to detect and download from these users.

As the download happens, you begin acting as a source for other people trying to torrent the same file. Even if your download is not yet complete, you will be identified by trackers, and other users can download portions from you.

Also read: What is Ransomware? How to protect yourself against it

Simplifying the Torrent jargon

Client is an app-based service that initiates and manages torrented data. You can control your uploads and downloads from the client interface. Commonly used clients are uTorrent and BitTorrent.

Seeds are users who have the complete file. They act as the source of the download for other users.

Peers are the users who have partially downloaded files. Other users can download from them even though their download hasn’t reached completion.

Leeches download content from others but do not upload (or seed) as much as they download. As a result, leeches can hurt future downloads of a torrent file. However, when their download is partially complete, they automatically begin to act as peers.

Seeding consumes a lot of power and can be turned off by the user. However, it is generally considered good etiquette to seed as much as you leech. In some circles, the term ‘leeches’ refers to those who download content without and leave their client without seeding.

P2P network, or peer-to-peer networkis established when a user simultaneously downloads content and makes theirs accessible to others. Essentially, a P2P network when seeding and leeching are carried out in the same system.

Also read: What is Big Data? Everything you need to know

Benefits of Torrenting

Torrented content does not depend on a single source as direct downloads do. Hence, the issues of geo-compatibility, temporary unavailability, and related issues do not affect you as much. Furthermore, even if one torrent source is inactive, you can rely on others to obtain the file.

Torrents break down the download of an entire file into smaller, manageable downloads. If your device loses internet connectivity or drains its battery during a download, you can pick up from where you started. This is not the case with direct downloads, where you need to start from scratch in case of a system failure.

Torrent downloads are generally a lot faster than traditional downloads.

Risks of Torrenting

As mentioned earlier, most countries prohibit the torrenting of copyrighted content. The IP addresses of those who are seeding or leeching are easily accessible. Some countries even impose hefty fines and jail times on those sporadically caught torrenting.

Your internet service provider (ISP) can monitor your activity. ISPs have easy access to your IP address. Once they establish your identity, they may send you a warning letter, throttle your internet connection, or in rare cases, even take legal action against you.

Throttling is a term which indicates that your ISP is intentionally curbing your internet speed. They often do this to enhance the connectivity of other users.

A beginner's guide to Torrents: Everything you need to know

Copyright trolls are those who track down unprotected torrent users. They may work independently or for larger corporations. They track the user’s IP address and threaten them with legal action. This tactic usually works if the user pirates content because they are technically on the wrong side of the law. Copyright trolls get monetary recompensation or are paid by companies whose data is being pirated.

You can keep your internet activity private by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). VPNs that don’t maintain a record of your data are better suited for torrenting than others.

Furthermore, the server you use needs to be based in a country where you are not legally obliged to provide a log of your internet activity. Finally, make sure that the VPN does not decrease your upload or download rates.

A conviction for torrenting is rare, but if caught, you will face a heavy penalty. Therefore, it is better to protect yourself in every way, should you torrent any file.

Also read: What is ‘five eyes’ surveillance? How does it affect VPN services?

Akshaya R

Akshaya R