I have met people that are interested in using bit torrent for file sharing purposes but find that people do not really understand it or how to use it. Even though once could probably google the topic and find many how tos I felt that I would try and write a simple blog on it.
Bittorrent is a file sharing system that allows people from all over the world to share and share alike. I am not going to get in to the techincal details of how it works, but I will try to make sure everyone gets the gist of it. First off let me note that using bittorrent or other file sharing services that involve the distribution of copyrighted materials can be illegal. There is also a good liklihood that if you are using bittorrent a good bit you will encounter malicious software such as trojans, viruses, adware, and spyware. Any use of these services upon reading this post is done at your own risk. However if one is careful and using the proper programs for protection, you should be relatively safe.
NEEDS: In order to use bittorrent you will need a bit torrent client (3rd party software.) there are many different choices. Azureus/Vuze, Bitcomet, Utorrent, and bittorrent are just a few that are available for windows based pcs. There are also programs for mac and linux such as transmission (I have heard of this one, I do not know how it stacks up against others.) Obviously you will need a computer and an active internet connection as well. If you did not know that before reading this sentence please leave this page now. You should not be using this service.
ABOUT: Torrent files are not the actual content you are seeking but rather a file that triggers the download of the what you are looking for. You will download these files and open them,or just open them. They are not neccessary to keep once the download has begun. When you are downloading a torrent file you should be able to find info about the file, some from the website and some from the program. The content that you are downloading may have multiple files in a directory, and you do not neccessarily want to download all of it, for example you may be downloading a Pink Floyd discography, but you already have the Dark Side of the Moon. You can deselect the DarkSide of the Moon and not download because you do not need it/already have it. You also want to keep in mind the strength of the torrent.
Torrents have 3 classifications of users, Seeders, Peers, and Leechers. Seeders are people that are uploading the content, Peers are people who are silmutaneously downloading the content and uploading the parts of the content they already have, Leechers are just downloading. Proper torrent ettiquette is to continue uploading while downloading and after completed so that all can enjoy. Some websites that you have to sign up for membership on have share ratios that you must maintain in order to use their services. As a beginner this is not as important to you, but remember the cardinal rule (or at least my cardinal rule to torrent beginners) upload twice as much as you downloaded. If your torrent program is capable of showing you the share ratio, shoot for a 2. If you reach a 2 that means you have uploaded everything you downloaded twice (it is great if you go higher.) Keep in mind when deciding which torrent you are going to download the seed, peer, and leech count. The higher the seed the faster the download. The higher the leech the slower.
HOW: Getting started you want yo go to a torrent website. There are a plethora of torrent sites out there but 2 of my favorites are isohunt and the pirate bay. Search for whatever you are looking for, be it music, video, ebooks, programs, or pictures, etc. Once you have found search results, choose the file that you want. When deciding look at the number of users. Also, if the website has a comment section take a look through them. You can save yourself some time and headaches by reading and finding out that that it is not working correctly or that it has malware attached. Just keep in mind that these could be lies. Download the content that you desire and open it in your torrent client. Now watch the process.
If this is a large file it may take a while. Do not be afraid to leave it running after you go to bed. this is what I usually do.
OTHER: You should be using firewalls and other security software. You can get in trouble using this illegally protect yourself. I am not condoning illegal use of torrents. You can also find torrent toolbars that will allow you to search from a toolbar in your browser, such as torrent finder's toolbar for firefox. I highly reccomend it.
I am not going to cover uploading a new torrent at this time or go in to more detail about share ratios, but it is importantthat everyone who partakes gives back for the health of the torrent community. I hope to write something in more detail at another time.
If anyone has any comments they would like to make about particular websites or clients in regards to torrents, I encourage you to post them here. This is far from comprehensive and was written to help beginners get started.