Next year, BitTorrent will turn 20 years old. Streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime have made torrenting not as popular as it used to be. But millions of people still use the p2p file transfer service daily. Torrenting was once so popular that it accounted for 3.35% of the total internet bandwidth in the world.
Torrenting is still a great way to share files, but you may be making some common mistakes that put your security or performance at risk. Here are the top 7 things you need to be aware of:
1. Misunderstanding How Catalogs Work
It’s easy enough to think that you’re downloading files from The Pirate Bay or whatever catalog you use to find torrents. That is how you download just about everything else on the internet. But that’s not how torrenting works.
The Pirate Bay, 1337x, and other sites are only catalogs. Think of them like phone books. They connect you with users who have the files available to share. In some cases, you may not even download a tracker from them directly anymore, but through a mirror.
Trackers are what connects to other users with the files you want. That’s why these sites still exist even today because they’re not doing anything illegal.
2. Not Checking the File Format & Size
Like any community, there are rotten eggs in the torrenting world. By downloading the wrong file, you can infect your computer with a virus or another form of malware. The easiest way to verify if a download is safe or not is by checking what type of file it is.
If you’re looking for a movie, it should be .avi or .mpg while audio files should be .mp3 or .aac. The big one to watch out for is .exe and other application files. It is a good sign of potential malware. Another big clue is file size. Unless it’s lossless quality, a .mp3 file shouldn’t be 150 MB.
If you do choose to download apps through torrenting, you do so at your own risk. Spend time vetting the seeders and platform to confirm it’s legit.
3. Choosing Torrents Without Enough Seeds & Peers
This is Torrenting 101, but it bears repeating. Seeds are the number of users who have the file available to share. Peers are those downloading the files. The higher the number of seeds, the quicker your download will be. The higher the number of peers, even with large amounts of seeders, the longer it will take.
Once you’re finished downloading, give something back and allow other users to seed until you have at least a 1:1 ration on the file.
4. Exposing Your IP Address
As already mentioned, there are bad people in the torrenting world who exploit other users. And it’s not only them you have to look out for. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) may also block torrenting or throttle your bandwidth when doing it.
You can hide your IP address from the bad guys and also get around ISP restrictions by using a VPN. Be sure to use a VPN that doesn’t restrict torrenting, for example, NordVPN (coupon here). Then you get the highest speeds with the most robust layers of protection, ensuring you can always torrent like a boss.
5. Not Using Bandwidth Allocation
Thanks to Fiber-optic internet connections, it’s now possible to torrent massive files quickly. That is if they have enough seeders.
But you might not need a file right away. Maybe you still need to continue working or streaming content while you torrent.
You can customize how much bandwidth your torrenting client and even specific torrents use. For instance, if you want to have some low-key background downloads, you set it to a low setting like 10 Kbps. If you want to get your ratios higher, then turn uploads to unlimited. But don’t forget to change your settings back to normal when you’re done.
6. Getting Too Greedy
You don’t need to download every movie produced in the last ten years. And you especially don’t need to do it in a few days. Even with a VPN, you may flag the attention of your ISP when you excessively torrent. Most will only give you a warning the first time, but you could eventually face legal action.
7. Not Taking Screenshots of Seed Ratios
In the old days, you could Google the torrent trackers you were looking for. While online catalogs still do a good job pointing you in the right direction, they’re nowhere near as good as they used to be. Nowadays, you often need to get invites to find the files you’re after.
It is the heart of the torrenting community that keeps this file-sharing going. These users may be skeptical and often need proof that you’re also a good member of the community. One of the best ways to do this is by providing screenshots and tracker invite emails. It shows that you do your part to keep the torrent alive and healthy.
The Bottom Line
Torrenting is an easy and effective way of sharing large files. Stop torrenting like an amateur and start using these strategies now.