What is bit torrenting: everything you need to know

Jan Youngren
Jan Youngren | Chief Editor
Last updated: August 28, 2020
What is bit torrenting
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In the current age of extensive data transfer and data sharing, torrenting is becoming a more and more popular way of downloading files for millions of internet users. It is important to stay educated in this area and at least figure out if this way of file transferring works for you or not.

Whether you want to find out some new things about torrenting or you just want to understand what is bit torrenting in general, this blog post will be helpful to extend your knowledge and credibility in this subject.

In this blog post, we will answer the following questions that are crucial for understanding and potentially using torrents:

  • What is bit torrenting?
  • How does bit torrenting work?
  • How to use bit torrents?

While covering these questions, we will discuss the legality and safety of torrenting, explain the main benefits and downsides of this download method and provide a step-by-step guide to start using torrents yourself.

Also in the list, you’ll find our five best VPN providers for torrenting:

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  4. P2P VPN with malware protection
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What is bit torrenting?

Bittorrent is a type of communication protocol that enables direct peer-to-peer file transfer, which means two or more computers can pass information between each other without a need for a central server to connect them.

Bit torrenting is simply the process of utilizing the mentioned protocol to download different kinds of files from the internet. Historically, the most popular files that are shared and downloaded using torrents are movies and other types of multimedia files, video games and different kinds of software.

In simple words, the whole torrenting process can be described in the following way. Instead of downloading a file from one internet server, it is instead downloaded in parts from one or multiple other computers of torrent users. People who are downloading files in a torrent client are referred to as leechers and those who already have the mentioned file and share it with others are considered seeders.

Seeding is an important aspect of a strong torrenting community
Image source.

Torrenting allows to download parts of one big file from multiple different sources simultaneously and then compile it together. This allows to drastically improve download speed, which is especially valuable for large files, which are the most popular torrent targets.

Is bit torrenting legal?

Throughout the years torrenting was often associated with pirating and illegal downloading, and many users decide not to associate themselves with it. To remove some of the confusion away, it is important to note that using the bittorrent protocol is not in any way illegal or prohibited in itself.

However, potential issues may occur when users decide to download copyrighted materials that don’t belong to them using bit torrents.

The limitations and repercussions for torrenting copyrighted content differ from country to country, while most of them still remain in the grey legal area. It is often left for the internet user to determine whether or not to download a given file using bit torrents as there is a minimum to none tools and mechanisms that prohibit it.

But putting aside the question of legal matter, a lot of web users worry more about the privacy and safety aspects of torrenting, which we will cover next.

Is bit torrenting safe?

Since bit torrenting is a peer-to-peer data transferring method, people often wonder whether getting involved in a torrent network is safe for themselves and their personal devices.

It is valuable to know that downloading files through torrents may risk revealing your IP address to the people who are downloading the same content as you. This gives hackers or people with malicious intentions an opportunity to get access to your system and cause potential harm.

Additionally, because the files you are downloading come from other computers, you can’t be completely sure that there is no malware or harmful files that come together with the download. Often these files can be invisible to the system and affect its performance directly.

Luckily, there are actions you can take to minimize potential harm that comes with torrenting.

Apart from having an installed antivirus on your device, it is very important to download all torrents through a virtual private network (VPN).

Using a VPN will allow you not only to hide your IP address from the web, but also to remain complete anonymity if necessary. Adding this extra layer of protection is vital for each torrenting session and should be considered obligatory for anyone who values their personal safety and security on the internet.

How bit torrenting works

Like we mentioned before, torrenting involves using a peer-to-peer connection protocol that enables downloading from multiple different devices simultaneously. In order to join a torrent network, every user has to use a client that is able to process files with a .torrent extension. These .torrent files hold important information regarding the server, which tracks all computers that are involved in uploading and downloading the file you are interested in.

Once you run the .torrent file in your torrent client, it exchanges access details like IP addresses with all devices in the network so they can connect with each other. After this, you can start downloading separate small pieces of files from different computers. Upon downloading all the required parts, the files are compiled back together on your device.

How the BitTorrent network works
Image source.

Then, you can help other people to download the same files by sharing them from your device or remove the files from the torrent client which will remove you from the network for the same files.

Advantages and disadvantages of bit torrenting

Like any other download method out there, torrenting has its own benefits and drawbacks. The most prominent points that advocate for the use of torrents as your downloading tool include:

Advantage 1: a decentralized download source

Unlike traditional downloads from a main server, torrent downloads allow not only to increase download speed thanks to multiple sources, but also to upload individual servers, decreasing the chance of crashes.

Advantage 2: it’s free

Differently from certain other download methods, it is possible to install a torrent client and start downloading files completely free of charge.

Advantage 3: you can save your progress

Thanks to the peer-to-peer model, torrent downloads can be paused or resumed at any time with all the download progress always saved. A very useful benefit when it comes to power outages.

On the flip side, there are also some disadvantages of torrenting that may hinder your downloading experience:

Disadvantage 1: dependence on other users

Since there is no central server that hosts all the files, it is impossible to download them if no users are sharing the files from their devices.

Disadvantage 2: privacy issues

Being a part of a torrent network makes your IP address visible, so it is possible to track and locate your download history.

Disadvantage 3: potentially harmful files

Unfortunately, a peer-to-peer connection model always leaves room for malware or virus files that can be transferred to your device from a different contaminated computer.

General recommendations to mitigate some of these threats are downloading from reputable and trusted torrent websites, having an up-to-date antivirus on your device, and most importantly to torrent only using a safe and secure VPN.

How to speed up torrenting

When downloading the necessary files to your computer, everyone always prioritizes download speed, especially when it comes to large downloads. Luckily, there are some things you can do to improve torrenting speed and it involves more than buying a more expensive internet package from your provider.

The first and most important thing you can do to ensure the highest possible download speed is checking the number of seeders on each of your downloads. If there are no people sharing the content you are interested in, you won’t be able to receive the files at all.

Alternatively, the more people seeding the files – the higher your download will be, so make sure you select torrents with the maximum number of seeders every time.

What is bit torrenting - seeders

Another helpful thing you can do to boost your download speed is to make sure you are downloading only one torrent at a time. Temporarily stopping all torrent downloads except one helps to allocate all your internet bandwidth to downloading that specific torrent.

A similar result can be achieved after prioritizing one specific torrent download in the client so it knows what files should use your downloading resources first.

Set torrent priority to high to improve download speeds

Some other tips to improve your torrent download speed include using cable internet connection instead of wifi, closing additional background programs that can use internet bandwidth, downloading at periods of low user activity, and using a secure VPN when torrenting.

How to use bit torrents

For new torrent users and those who use torrents on very rare occasions, we put up together a step-by-step guide on how to start torrenting yourself. It will not only help you answer the question of what is bit torrenting, but give you a clear understanding of the whole torrenting process from start to finish.

Downloading a torrent client

In order to start downloading files in a torrent network, every user should have an installed torrent client.

The torrent client is a type of software that allows to gather and exchange information about users in the torrent network and allow connections and data transfer between them. It’s important to use and install a trusted and secure torrent client, so we recommend choosing between the most popular ones.

BitTorrent was the first client, created specifically to use the bittorrent protocol. The client has evolved and improved a lot since its release in 2001 and now runs on most operating systems supporting a total of 66 languages. You can download the client from the official website and choose between different versions of the client, which are all compared in a handy table.

BitTorrent paid plans vs free

uTorrent is another widely used torrent client thanks to its small size, great user interface, and high download speed. You can also download this torrent client directly from the developer’s website where you can choose between a free basic version and a paid pro version.

uTorrent is known to be fast, reliable, and light on system resources, which made it one of the most popular clients out there.

uTorrent downloading options

Other popular torrent clients include Vuze, Deluge, Tribler, and qBittorrent among others. Even though the interfaces of these clients look completely different, they all have roughly the same functionality.

In order to find one that suits you the most, just try them out one by one until you find the best option.

After you download a torrent client of your choice, simply install it like you would install other software. Select your installation path, agree to the license agreement and privacy policy and launch your client.

Using a VPN

Before you start searching torrent websites for the files you are interested in, we recommend our readers to take an extra security precaution and use a VPN. As we mentioned before, using a VPN helps you to keep anonymity in the torrent network and minimize hacking risks.

There are many companies who provide quality VPN services for torrenting and peer-to-peer networks.

NordVPN, ExpressVPN, Perfect Privacy, PrivateVPN, and IPVanish are some of the VPN tools that have good reputation and credibility. Each of these services have an installation and user guide located on their website, but all of them have to be installed on your device and used under an account created in the VPN.

Downloading Files With Torrent Client

After security and anonymity questions are taken care of, you can start your torrent downloads. To begin with, you need to find a torrent website, also known as a torrent tracker and locate the files you want to download.

A lot of torrent trackers are currently being taken down due to a large number of copyright protected materials hosted on them, so a good strategy would be Googling the file you need to download along with “torrent download”.

Before downloading any files from a website, found in this way, make sure it is safe and secure. Signs that indicate this can be an HTTPS connection protocol instead of HTTP, a user guideline policy, and a lot of tracker activity (plenty new files, a lot of comments, large number of seeders/leechers).

The next step is to download the actual .torrent extension file from a tracker of your choice. Any installed torrent client should automatically be the default application for opening .torrent files. So once you open the downloaded file, it should give you information about the files you are downloading and offer to select a save location for the files.

uTorrent set download location

Once you approve the download, it should appear in the list of all torrent downloads with the according status. You can monitor the progress of each download and change priorities for downloads if necessary.

Monitor download progress in torrent client

When each download reaches 100%, all the individual file pieces shared by other network users will compile together into individual files on your device and become functional.

As soon as this happens, you can either delete the torrent file from the list in your client or keep it to continue sharing file pieces to those users who haven’t completed the download yet.


We hope we managed to provide a clear explanation to the question “what is bit torrenting?” and more people understand the specifics of torrenting.

Like any other communication protocol or download method, bit torrenting has its own advantages and limitations. Just remember to torrent responsively and securely with a VPN to minimize potential risks and ensure a safe and pleasant torrenting experience.

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  1. sugarwork

    Yeah you can use torrenting for fully legal files. I do for my business because it’s nice and decentralized and stable. I suggest it if you can pull it off with a VPN.

    I wouldn’t suggest downloading like movies and music and things though. You can get in real trouble for that.

  2. Gunlar H

    Thanks for the article, it’s really complete and thorough. I actually never really knew if it was fully legal or illegal to pirate stuff. I once heard a story of someone pirating music albums before buying them, and she was still charged for pirating.

    1. skeletonwarriors

      Yeah you can definitely still get charged for that. What with music on things like spotify existing for free, too, it seems a little bit pointless to torrent for that purpose. Torrenting is really good at getting old versions of things, though – in the era of patch culture, that’s a big deal.

  3. Fern

    I’d always thought that torrenting had to be pirating and couldn’t be fully legal. Thanks for clearing up the misunderstanding and clarifying exactly how torrenting works!

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