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Getting started with torrenting can be an exciting and interesting adventure, and if it’s your first time, you’ll probably be trying to figure out how to download torrents.
After all, you want to enjoy some great content on your laptop, TV, or other device, and one of the fastest and best ways to do that is by downloading torrents.
However, as you’re probably well aware, it’s a part of the internet that requires some degree of caution, and it’s best that you play it safe in the beginning so that you can be sure you’re downloading with your safety and privacy in mind.
You’re probably well aware of the horror stories of people having their locations discovered (through their IP addresses) and being fined hundreds of thousands of dollars.
However, there’s an easy fix for that— a virtual private network (VPN) —which we’ll go over in a bit more depth below. With that, you can torrent safely and secretly.
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In general, however, when it comes to getting the best advice on how to download torrents, there are three important parts:
- get a reliable torrent client (which allows you to download the complete file)
- find a great, regularly-updated torrent website with lots of options (where you’ll download the torrent file from)
- select and download the torrent file by focusing on a few important factors
With that, you’ll be a torrenting master in no time. So let’s dive into how to download torrents safely and hassle-free in 2021.
#1 Get a reliable torrent client
In order to download any torrent file, you’ll need to download and install a torrent client—essentially, a program on your desktop or mobile that will allow you to download the complete file you’re after.
This can be a movie, book, game, software, music, etc. However, you also need to make sure that you’ve set it up properly the first time so that you won’t have to worry about anything else later on.
Usually these problems include downloading safely and locating your downloaded files.
Choose from the most popular torrent programs
There are many options when it comes to finding a good torrenting client. Luckily, they’re all free.
The most popular include:
We’ve compared two of the most popular torrent clients (BitTorrent vs uTorrent) and concluded that uTorrent is the better option for many important reasons.
However, you can choose any of these torrenting clients listed above and you won’t have problems, since they have similarly easy methods for downloading their programs.
Downloading our pick, uTorrent, is quite easy. You simply head to their website and click on the big button that says “Free Download” (it will automatically download based on what platform you have):
After that, just install the program, but we recommend you skip the bundled software that comes with it.
Usually there are two offers with the option to “Skip” or “Decline” and still installing the program.
In the second offer here, we had to uncheck the pre-checked “Install Opera browser.”
In the last screen, you should leave all options checked.
However, depending on how often you plan on torrenting, you may want to uncheck the “Start uTorrent when Windows starts up.”
If you are torrenting almost constantly, you can leave this checked.
If you plan to do it only rarely, however, we recommend you uncheck it. It’s always better to not start programs automatically when Windows starts up.
How to download torrents safely with a VPN
Now, before you get the part where you’re downloading torrents, you need to cover yourself.
I mentioned it above in the introduction, but it’s important to reiterate here: depending where you are in the world, torrenting can cause you some or a lot of problems.
For example, you can look at the popular case where one Boston University student was fined $675,000 for downloading some music. Then there’s also the case of the alleged founder of Kickass Torrents, Artem Vaulin, who was arrested when investigators saw his IP address.
You see, that’s how a VPN (virtual private network) works: it hides your IP address, allowing you to appear to be coming from an entirely different location.
Setting up a VPN is no hassle, seeing as you’ll just have to sign up for the service, download the program on your device, and connect with the click of a button to any location on the planet (at least, offered by the VPN service).
However, we recommend you connect to a country that’s on the “safe list” for torrenting. The top country is Switzerland, but the other countries on the list include Spain, the Netherlands and Mexico.
Remember, however, that the further the VPN server is that you’re connecting with, the slower your speed will be. Here, I’m connecting to a server in Mexico using NordVPN.
Then, you can start torrenting safely, as long as you’re still using the VPN.
However, if you want extra protection, you can set up what’s known as a Socks5 Proxy by configuring your torrent client. Here are some good instructions on how to do that with NordVPN.
We’ve also looked at the best VPNs for torrenting, and we recommend you take a look at that before deciding on a VPN.
Set a default download location
It’s pretty important that you know where your downloaded files are going to go. Luckily, using uTorrent (or BitTorrent, or any other popular torrent clients) allows you to set your default download location pretty quickly.
First, you’ll need to click on Options and then Preferences.
Then, simply click on Directories and then check the option “Put new downloads in…”. You can choose an already existing folder or create a new folder for your downloads.
And that’s it! You’re now ready to go find your desired torrent files.
#2 Find a dependable torrent website
Now that you’ve got everything set up on your desktop or mobile device, you’ll need to go and find a good website you can trust.
We’ve already gone over the best torrent sites for awesome downloads in 2021, but suffice it to say that the classics (The Pirate Bay, 1337x, etc.) are still very much alive and effective.
However, there are also some great torrent sites if you enjoy a particular niche. For movie and TV torrents, we can recommend:
- Torrent King
For game torrents, for example, we can recommend:
- Download Games Torrents
- FitGirl Repacks
You have a wide selection when it comes to good torrenting sites, but there’s something you should be aware of.
Navigate the site safely
This is a part of the internet that can have a lot of pitfalls or danger areas, especially since it’s mostly about downloading pirated or copyright content.
Therefore, it lives sort of in the shadow, and in the shadow you can meet a lot of viruses or hackers.
For that reason, we recommend you always browse torrent sites with your VPN connected. We also recommend you have Malwarebytes and another antivirus program installed that can keep you safe while you’re browsing online.
That way, you can avoid clicking on ghost links and redirecting to spammy sites that can really harm your computer, steal your sensitive info, etc.
#3 Download your torrent file
Now, one of the most important parts for learning how to download torrents: finding and downloading the torrent files on your selected torrent site.
Usually, there are lots of different versions for a specific file, and it can be confusing deciding which one to choose. We’re going to look at the most important factors you should take into consideration when choosing the best version of your desired file.
We’ll explore all these ideas by using The Pirate Bay (or one of its many proxies).
Seeders, size and quality
For this demonstration, we’re going to be looking for the first episode of season 6 of House of Cards.
For such a popular TV show, we get a good amount of options for downloading episode 1 of House of Cards’ 6th season (here, we searched for “House of Cards S06E01,” which is usually the format for finding specific episodes).
The first two results show the usual options for TV episodes, movies, etc.:
The first one has the most seeders (377), while the second result only has 211 seeders. Remember, seeders (on Pirate Bay written as SE) are the ones that offer up their files to be downloaded by you, and leechers (here, LE) are the ones that are downloading the file at the moment.
Optimally, you’d want to have a high seeder-to-leecher ratio, so that with more seeders, your download will be faster.
But here we notice something else as well: search result 1 has a total file size of 733 MB, but a quality of 720p, while result 2 has a file size of only 212 MB and a quality of (probably) 380p or 480p.
It’s usually recommended that if you’re watching on your laptop, the lower quality (also known as Standard Definition (SD) at 380p or 480p) will work out fine.
But if you’re watching on a bigger screen (or really care about quality), you should go for the HD quality of 720p or even 1080p, although the file sizes will be bigger.
Check the torrent file comments
Another important thing to do, especially on newer movie files or many software files, is to check the comments section.
That way, you can get feedback on the quality of the file, or any problems people had watching the movie, installing the program, etc.
We did a quick search for the movie Venom which at the time only had a CAM-quality file uploaded. Here’s what one torrenter said:
As you can see, this particular file has a 6/10 rating for picture quality, and a 7/10 rating for audio quality. That’s helpful, because if these are too low for your liking (for example, if you’re planning on watching it with other people), then you don’t have to download the file and be disappointed.
However, if you’re just interested in the storyline or simple want to see whether you should bother going to the movies to watch it (a popular behavior for torrenters), then you can download and enjoy.
In the comments section, you’ll often be notified of any virus warnings, which can help you avoid dirty files.
Choose magnet links over torrent files
It’s important here to also decide what kind of file you’ll be downloading. For the most part, in the past people simply downloaded the actual torrent file, which is a small file that contains all the information about the larger file you want to download.
But you can also avoid that by clicking instead on the magnet link, which isn’t a download at all. It’s essentially a link that has all the information your torrent client (like uTorrent) needs to start downloading the larger file.
This is much faster and more convenient for torrenters. Additionally, the Pirate Bay decided to remove all torrent files in 2012 and have been offering only magnet links since then.
Always choose the magnet link when looking to download torrents.
Check the torrent for unnecessary or harmful files
Once you click on the magnet link (or torrent file), you’ll get a popup in your torrent client which will show you the contents of the torrent file.
Our recommendation is that you always check these files carefully to make sure you’re not downloading something potentially dangerous. For the House of Cards episode, we’re only selecting to download the movie file (here it’s the .mkv file) and we’ve unchecked the other files.
This is also a good point to check what format the file is in. If you’re downloading movie torrents and hoping to watch on your TV, you should find out first if your TV can play that type of file.
Checking the contents of your torrent file is also important, since you’ll often find a lot of junk files (or even potentially dangerous files).
Here’s one example for when we clicked on an HD version of the movie Halloween:
We would highly recommend you not download this type of file.
This is because there are too many smaller, unnecessary files contained here. But, most importantly, we don’t really trust any .lnk file, and we’re pretty sure your antivirus will warn you about this file.
Even if it doesn’t go off, you probably should avoid these types of files. Malware that’s posing as a TV series episode is not a new thing. In fact, you can be almost sure that some of the torrents pretending to be, i.e., Game of Thrones S8E1 will be infected. Therefore if you want to be absolutely sure you’re safe, better use a legit streaming service.
For example, watching the last season of Game of Thrones is easy even if you’re in a country where HBO Now or other streaming service doesn’t work. With a VPN, you will be able to switch your IP address and access your long-awaited show.
(Optional) Scan the file for viruses
Now, this is an optional step, but one that you should be doing from time to time (especially if you think the file you’re downloading is a bit sketchy).
Once the file finishes downloading, simply run it through your antivirus program and/or Malwarebytes to check it for any dangerous stuff.
This is important to remember, since there are many torrent files out there that can contain some pretty nasty stuff.
For the most part, hopefully, you’ll see this all-clear message from your antivirus program:
Seed the file for others
After you’ve finished downloading the file, you should make sure that you’re seeding the file for others to download.
This is good for the health of the file and in general for the torrenting community which, at its core, is kept alive by fellow torrenters seeding files.
One common argument against seeding is that it’s one guaranteed way to be “caught” by the corporations or governments watching. However, remember, if you’re torrenting safely (using a VPN), your IP address and true location are hidden.
With that, you’ll be part of a powerful, growing torrenting community that is eager to share content across borders and languages, helping more people to gain knowledge or simply be entertained.
Got any other questions about how to download torrents in 2021? Let us know if we missed anything and we’ll be sure to add it immediately!
Disclaimer: Affiliate links help us produce good content. Learn more.
Jan is a cybersecurity and consumer protection specialist focused on investigations that help readers navigate the complex infosecurity sphere. His research and commentary has been featured in Forbes, ComputerWeekly, PC Mag, TechRadar, ZDNet, The Mirror, Entrepreneur, and many other leading publications around the world.