BitTorrent Guide and FAQ

This a article will give you a very brief overview of BitTorrent and how to get started downloading files, movies, software using BitTorrent files (.torrent).

  • BitTorrent is the name of a protocol designed for transferring large files using a peer to peer architecture.
  • Usually the name of a BitTorrent file ends with .torrent, like an MS Word file ends with .doc.
  • BitTorrent files are usually called “Torrent files” for short.
  • Torrent files carry information about where to find the particular file you’re trying to download.
  • Before you can download a file, movie or software you must first download the Torrent file that contains information about the file of interest.
  • To find a Torrent file use one of these sites to search for what you want to download.  Then download the Torrent file to your computer.
  • Open the Torrent file using a BitTorrent Client.  A BitTorrent Client is an application that opens Torrent files and downloads the files of interest.   For the Mac my favorite client is Transmission.  See previous post called Best BitTorrent Client for Mac – Transmission.

Here are some BitTorrent terms that you may run into when reading other sites.

  • Peers – People who are currently downloading files which in turn shares the file with others.
  • Leeches – Similar to Peers but leeches are people who download files but do not share the files they are downloading.  The spirit of BitTorrent is to give a little, take a little.  Don’t be a leech and just take.
  • Seed or seeder – A person/computer with a complete copy of a BitTorrent file (At least one seed computer is necessary for a BitTorrent download to complete.)
  • Swarm – A group of computers simultaneously sending (uploading) or receiving (downloading) the a particular file. For example, if you start a BitTorrent client and it tells you that you’re connected to 10 peers and 3 seeds, then the swarm consists of you and those 13 other people.
  • .torrent – A file that contains information about the file you want to download.  It knows where the file you want to find the actual file you want to download.
  • Tracker – A server that manages the BitTorrent file-transfer process. When you open a torrent, your machine contacts the tracker and asks for a list of peers to contact.

To learn more about BitTorrent here are some great sites: