What is a Torrent?

By | October 22, 2011
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Mike wants to know what a Torrent is
I have seen files called Torrents and I don’t understand what they are. When I try to download one it tells me I can’t download it with my browsers. What are Torrents. What do I need to download one or do I even want to? Thanks for all the help you’ve given me over the years. I bought you new Ebook 8 last week — FANTASTIC!

Our answer
Thanks very much Mike.

Well, we’re not experts on BitTorrents (or Torrents). But we have used BitTorrents and BitTorrent clients. To be honest, we very seldom use Torrents and we’re not big fans of them. However we’ll try to explain this rather complicated technology in a simple way.

Torrents, typically ending in “.torrent”, are control files for a type of peer-to-peer file sharing called BitTorrent. In simple language, BitTorrent is just another way to download stuff -sometimes illegal stuff.

When you download a file using BitTorrent, the file is actually broken up into chunks that a BitTorrent client program then downloads and puts back together into a complete file. The file pieces may come from dozens or hundreds of different computers – other people using BitTorrent clients. While you’re downloading pieces of a file from other BitTorrent clients, other BitTorrent clients may be downloading these pieces from you. So if you’ve ever used a BitTorrent client don’t be too alarmed when you see that you’re downloading and uploading at the same time. Any files you’ve already downloaded using a BitTorrent client are made available for downloading by other BitTorrent clients. It’s called “File Sharing” for a reason.

BitTorrents have legitimate uses and makes downloading files faster (sometimes) than using a browser. However, to be honest, while there are a few software developers offering their software via BitTorrent, most people use BitTorrents to download pirated software or copyrighted movies for free. Of course both of these are illegal. This is not to say that all BitTorrents are illegal. There are plenty of legal files – even legitimate public-domain movies available as BitTorrents.

Finally, BitTorrents and BitTorrent clients aren’t really made for beginners – they’re geeky and have a steep learning curve. I’ve used BitTorrents and BitTorrent clients, but I’m not a BitTorrent expert. I think most of us could live quite well without them :-)>

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