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Getting Started with Torrents

This is an absolute beginner’s guide to getting started with bit torrent downloads and file sharing. Advanced users will likely not learn anything new here.
Disclaimer: downloading movies and music is in fact stealing so proceed at your own discretion. There are several things I will cover in this tutorial. First, setting up your bit torrent client. This is a little program that will do the actual downloading. Next I will explain where you can find the torrents and how you can spot the right ones.

Set up a bit torrent client

For Windows I recommend uTorrent [www.utorrent.com] and for Mac OSX you could go for something like Transmission [www.transmissionbt.com]. Browse to either one of those and download the latest version and install it onto your computer. Your bit torrent client will not do anything on its own; you have to add torrent files to get it to start working first.

Acquiring torrent files

Torrent files are like keys to tell your bit torrent client what to start downloading. You can get them anywhere from the Internet, but I recommend using the website BTJunkie [btjunkie.org]. On the home page you’ll see recent and popular torrents. You can pick from here or you can search for something specific. Your friends could also email you torrent files, but be sure you trust them before you start the download. There is always the danger of downloading something that will mess up your computer.

Finding the right torrents

If you’ve just done a search for a specific movie, you’ll see many results, depending on how popular that movie is on the inter-webs. From the list of results we can start filtering out the good from the bad. Some key parts we look for when downloading a movie are:
  • Category is indeed video
  • The size of the file is around 700MB (typically, can be a lot more for higher qualities)
  • In the name, you want things like DVDRIP, NOT DVDSCR, R5, or CAM
  • Check if the year is the actual year of release, and the language is what you’re looking for.
  • Positive comments, and lots of them indicated by little green icon with a high number in it.
  • Good amount of Seeds and Leeches. You don’t have to worry about it too much unless it’s as low as 2 or 0 for instance.

Now we’ve identified the torrents in the list we are willing to inspect further and dismissed many others. The next step is to open the individual pages for each torrent. There we can read the comments and verify the file type inside the torrent. I like to open them in new tabs so it’s easier to return if I’m not happy.

Once on the page, scroll down and have a read through the comments. As with most commenting on the Internet (looking at you, YouTube and Yahoo Answers) most comments are spammy and worthless, but you can get the general idea of the collective mind. Pick out a few cases of A/10 V/10. This is a common way of saying that the Audio and Video are both 10 out of 10. Remember, these comments are not for discussing personal taste in a specific movie or music, but for verifying that the file you’ll end up getting from this download is what it claims to be.

The important last step is to scroll way down to the bottom of the page where it will list the file contents of the torrent. Some come with a bunch of help files and credits and others are only a single file. What we’re doing here is simply verifying that it is indeed a video by checking the file type. With music you can do the same thing. You can check all the tracks in the album to see if the ones you are looking for are also included. Here’s a little helper:
  • For movies you want to check for a file ending with .avi
  • Music files are usually in .mp3 format, one for each track
  • Avoid .tar, .zip, .exe (can be malicious)

Once you’re happy, scroll back to the top of the page and click DOWNLOAD TORRENT and make sure that it ends up in the bit torrent client you set up earlier. Now it should start downloading. Whenever you have some part of the files, it will also start uploading, because that’s how this file sharing concept works.

I hope this has been helpful in getting you started. If you have tips or tricks for filtering out the right torrents or you know of better websites and software, please share in the comments below.

For further reading, check out BitTorrent for Beginners on Howtogeek.

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Comment by Ralph van den Berg

Posted on 23 April, 2010
Demonoid http://www.demonoid.com/ is very good for finding torrents but it's a bit restrictive in terms of membership.

Comment by Ralph van den Berg

Posted on 26 April, 2010
Important: on BtJunkie you'll see "sponsored results" at the top of your results pages. Skip over them, because they are worthless at best. Very likely you'll be downloading malicious crap if you're dumb enough to try. They fail ALL of the scrutinizing steps I've presented above.

Comment by Antonius L. Zubeck

Posted on 4 May, 2010
I usually go with ISOhunt or something. There used to be this really cool site called Pizza Torrent that searched all the other popular torrent sites but I think they went bust. One trick that I like to share is using google to find the torrents simply by adding "filetype:torrent" to your search terms!

Comment by Ralph van den Berg

Posted on 11 May, 2010
I took this very relevant quote from lifehacker: "Despite common misconceptions to the contrary, BitTorrent can be and often is used to share files legally and isn't just used for piracy."

Comment by Ralph van den Berg

Posted on 22 February, 2012
Very sad news, but btjunkie has shut down. Now don't panic! You can still get your torrents from various other places. One in particular I like to point out (the one I'm using now) is the Pirate Bay. It's one of the original torrent sites: http://piratebay.se

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