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How to Download with Bittorrents

Part 4) The Step-By-Step Download Process

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Question: What exactly are the Bittorrent download steps?

Answer, Part 1: Copyright warning. Unless you live in Canada, you must understand that copyright laws are commonly violated by P2P sharing. If you download/upload a song, movie, or TV show, you do risk a civil lawsuit. Canadians are somewhat protected from these lawsuits because of a Canadian court ruling, but not residents of the USA or most parts of Europe and Asia. This lawsuit risk is a reality, and you must accept this risk if you choose to download P2P files. Click here for more details on this copyright controversy.

Answer, Part 2: The torrent download process goes likes this:
 
  1. You use special torrent search engines to find .torrent text files around the Net. A .torrent text file functions as a special pointer to locate a specific file and the swarm of people currently sharing that file. These .torrent files vary from 15kb to 150kb file size, and are published by serious Torrent sharers around the world.
  2. You download the desired .torrent file to your drive (this takes about 5 seconds per .torrent file at cable modem speeds).
  3. You open the .torrent file into your torrent software. Usually, this is as simple as a a double-click on the .torrent file icon, and the client software auto-launches. In other cases, this software will even open the torrent file for you.
  4. The torrent client software will now talk to a tracker server for 2 to 10 minutes, while it scours the Internet for people to swarm with. Specifically, the client and tracker server will search for other users who have the same exact .torrent file as you.
  5. As the tracker locates torrent users to swarm with, each user will be automatically labeled as either a “leech/peer” or as a “seed” (users who have only part of the target file, versus users who have the complete target file). As you might guess, the more seeds you connect to, the faster your download will be. Commonly, 10 peers/leeches and 3 seeders is a good swarm for downloading a single song/movie.
  6. The client software then begins the transfer. As the name “sharing” implies, every transfer will happen in both directions, “down” and “up” (leech and share).
    *SPEED EXPECTATION: Cable and DSL modem users can expect an average of 25 megabytes per hour, sometimes slower if the swarm is small with less than 2 seeders. On a good day with a big swarm, however, you can download a 5MB song within 3 minutes, and a 900MB movie within 60 minutes.
  7. Once the transfer is complete, leave your torrent client software running for at least two hours. This is called "seeding" or "good karma", where you share your complete files to other users.
    Suggestion: do your downloads just before you go to sleep at night. This way, you will seed your complete files, you will increase your upload/download ratio, and you will have complete downloaded files by the time you wake up!
  8. Movie and music plug-ins: you will likely need to install media players and updated codec converters to play your downloads:
  9. Enjoy your movies and songs!
  10. Fair warning: you will want a second hard drive once you start serious torrent downloading. Songs and movies require large disk space, and an average P2P user commonly has 20 to 40 GB of media files at any one time. A second 500GB hard drive is common for serious P2P users, and the recent low prices on hard drives make it a good investment.
     
Other resources you will need for Bittorrent downloading:
 
  1. Here is a list of good torrent search engines.
  2. Here is a list of good torrent software for PC and Mac.
  3. Here is the original torrent client software (no GUI, just console).
  4. Bittorrent Frequently Asked Questions.
  5. Meet Bram Cohen, the torrent creator.


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