If you’ve been using the Internet for any length of time, you’ve probably run into some reference to either torrents or BitTorrent. After all, torrents are rapidly becoming the preferred method to distribute software and media, and for good reason. But what exactly is BitTorrent and how do you use torrents?
What is BitTorrent?
To get a basic understanding of BitTorrent, it’s important to start with a (short) background of what BitTorrent is and what it isn’t. Most importantly, BitTorrent isn’t a specific program. BitTorrent is a method that allows distribution or sharing of files by many individual PCs rather than by a central server. So, instead of downloading a movie trailer or game demo directly from the company’s website, you might get a piece of the file from another individual in California, a piece from a user in England and the last piece from a user in Germany. At the same time, other BitTorrent users might be getting a piece of the file from you. And that concept of individuals receiving pieces of a file from each other rather than a centralized network is what sets BitTorrent apart from other file sharing services.
What do I Need to Use BitTorrent?
BitTorrent doesn’t require a lot of installation or extra software, just the essentials – a BitTorrent client and a torrent file. The most challenging of the two is probably going to be choosing the best client for your needs. To make the choice a little easier, we’ll look at a few of the most popular clients and touch on their strengths and weaknesses:
Azareus: This is one of the top three BitTorrent clients, and for good reason. Azareus is packed with a wide array of features and options – and if the standard features aren’t enough, Azareus supports plug-ins to add extra features. The biggest drawback to Azareus is the demand it places on a PC’s resources, so multitasking can sometimes be sluggish.
BitTorrent: Not to be confused with the BitTorrent protocol or torrents, BitTorrent is the official client developed by the people behind the BitTorrent protocol. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that BitTorrent’s biggest advantage is that it’s always the first to actually make use of new features as they’re added to the BitTorrent protocol. As for drawbacks, you won’t see the advanced control options or customization provided by clients like Azareus and uTorrent.
uTorrent: Along with Azareus, uTorrent’s one of the most popular BitTorrent clients. uTorrent’s biggest advantage is its sheer speed and compactness, compared to other clients. While uTorrent doesn’t have the extra plug-ins and graphical looks of Azareus, it does offer a lot of control over how you want to download torrents.
How do I Use BitTorrent?
Now that you have a BitTorrent client, actually using torrent files is pretty straightforward. After you’ve found a torrent you’d like to download, just download the file like you would any other file. Once the file has finished downloading – which should be almost instantaneously, torrent files are small – , you can either double-click on the torrent file to launch your BitTorrent client, or launch your client and choose to “open” the torrent file you downloaded from your client’s file menu. After the client’s opened the file, it’s just a matter of waiting for your download to complete.