Torrents: AKA How to Get Free Movies, TV, Music and Software Online
Step 0: Make sure you’re secure
Before you proceed to get a BitTorrent program, make sure you have a decent virus checker and firewall in place.
Free programs include AVG Free for antivirus and Zone Alarm or Kerio for firewall.
Step 1: Get a BitTorrent program
I recommend you use uTorrent. If you don’t fancy using uTorrent, Azureus is also good. Go to their website, download it and install it. Follow the onscreen instructions.
Step 2: Find a .torrent File
A .torrent file is the instruction you need to give your program so that it downloads the correct file. You’ll find these on a selection of websites. There are two kinds of .torrent file – public tracker files and private tracker files. Public tracker files are available to anyone who uses them, private ones are restricted, normally to users of a particular website. You will sometimes get private trackers listed on public websites, this is mainly to publicise the private trackers.
Go to isoHunt(the best .torrent search site). Type in whatever you’re looking for in the search box at the top. For this demonstration, I’ll go for “Bad Taste” an early classic zombie splatter film from Peter Jackson. The search returned 36 items, but I’ve only taken a small number to show you (see figure. 1)
Not all .torrents are equal. The main thing to look at is the seed to leecher ratio. On Isohunt, this is abbreviated to S & L. A seed is a complete download of the files associated with that .torrent. If there are zero seeds, most of the time that means that the complete file can’t be downloaded. The websites sometimes get it wrong and there is a seed where there shouldn’t be (and vice versa), but unless you’re really keen on a particular torrent, it’s best to go for one with more seeds.
If you click on the one of the results in Isohunt, a box will come up with more information about the file (see figure. 2)
Here I’ve clicked on the bottom of the three and it’s revealed that this torrent has not only the trailer in addition, but also the making of video. This one also has the higher seed to leecher ratio, so I’ll go for this one. The one above has less stuff, but is bigger – this normally means that the video quality is better.
So, at the top of the box is a link saying “download .torrent”, click on it and either save it onto your computer or open it with uTorrent.
Step 3: Downloading
Open the .torrent file with uTorrent (double clicking the .torrent file should do) and it should start downloading. You’ll see how many seeds, leechers and what speed it’s going at. It will take a little while to get going. Don’t panic!
Almost all internet connections download a lot faster than they upload, but you should always aim to upload as much as you can (preferably as much as you download or more), which means leaving the uTorrent client running after you’ve finished downloading what you want (i.e. being a “seed”.)
For faster downloads, set your upload speed to between half and three quarters of your upload capacity. Once you’ve downloaded what you want and want to help seed, then stick it back up. Also, a lower upload speed should interfere less with any web surfing you’re doing (dude). You can alter upload rates by right clicking the uTorrent icon in the bit by the clock on your windows taskbar. If you’re unsure of your maximum upload rate, stick it on unlimited and see what the upload rate is then.
Step 4: Seeding
As easy as leaving the torrent running after its finished downloading. It’s essential that this happens though, and you have to use your common sense in what to leave to seed and what not to. Obviously if there’s a .torrent that has lots of leechers and you are the only seeder, you should stick with that one as long as you can, at least prioritise it over ones with lots of seeders.
To save space (and hence download times), files are often compressed. Compressed files tend to end in one of the following: .zip .rar .7z There are others, but they are rarely seen.
You can open these with a program like Winrar, which you can get off Isohunt using your newfound knowledge!
File size gives a rough idea of quality. Depending on the program used to encode files the quality can vary a great deal.
Around 700mb = variable quality – generally good.
Around 1.4GB = approximately DVD quality
Around 4.7GB = it is the DVD files
Common File Endings
.avi (by far the most common) .ogm .mkv .mpg .wmv (avoid .wmv these are crap) DVDs you can tell because they consist of two folders “AUDIO_TS” and “VIDEO_TS”.
You may have to download more codecs (a way of packing video files) to watch certain films – if you use something like Realplayer, it should do that automatically. A very common codec is DivX and generally means that the quality is going to be good. Sometimes codecs will be included with a movie.
CAM generally means it was taken with a camera in a movie theatre, and the quality is rubbish, so I personally wouldn’t bother.
Mostly you get this as .mp3 files, but other similar kinds of files are .ogg and .wav. files. Standard (good) quality is 192kbps.
You may also encounter .flac files, which can be burnt to CD and are an exact copy of the CD in question.
Sometimes you will just get the collection of files you need to install the program. Sometimes you get a complete cd or dvd with the game on. This normally will be a “.iso” file, and often in the title of a torrent it will mention if it is an ISO. In this case you may have to look for a serial number for the software you’ve downloaded, though a serial is often included either in the disc image or as a separate text file labelled “serial”. Sometimes more information will be available in a “.nfo” file, which you will have to open with Notepad to read.
You can either burn the .iso file to a CD or DVD with the software that came with your drive, or mount it as a virtual drive. You need a bit of software to do this; Virtual CloneDrive does this and is free. It will create a pretend drive on your computer which you can then load your .iso file into.
Alternatively, it may come with a crack file (which removes copy protection), but generally there will be a .nfo file to consult in this case.
Your Internet Service Provide can get a bit upset by people using torrents as it uses a lot of their bandwidth. However, this will only really affect people that use their downloading a lot. If you’re shopping for an ISP, go for ones that offer unlimited downloading and uploading. A couple of providers I’ve used with no issue are Pipex and Bulldog. Tiscali got upset by my downloading, but it did mean I could opt out of my contract with them, which was good, because Tiscali are shit.
Another thing ISPs do is choke uTorrent by slowing down traffic through one of its “ports”. Go to options>preferences>connection and change the port number to something around 40000. Normally does the trick!
You can potentially get fined and various things, but hardly anyone gets caught, and if they do it’s mainly for music. And generally it’s a slap on the wrist at most.
Intellectual property is theft, but that doesn’t stop the fact that for many artists, royalties are the main way they make a living in modern day capitalism. So if you’re going to download music, bear that in mind – obviously sod Metallica – they’ve got more money than they could ever need, but smaller band’s music is generally not uploaded. One thing that a guy I know does is to send a tenner via PayPal to artists whose music he’s downloaded that he likes. (Which totally shits on the royalties they’d get).
Don’t get scammed
You should be able to do everything in this guide for free. Watch out for people charging you to use their site. A common thing is for people to get the domain name that is very similar to a decent .torrent site, and then try and charge for entry. In the case of private trackers, for the most part they ARE looking for donations, but it’s certainly best to try before you buy.
In the example above, the Bad Taste .torrent is hosted on goem which is a private tracker, so it won’t work unless you become a goem member.
Private trackers are a bit of a pain at first, but once you understand the rationale they start to make sense. The trouble with publicly listed files is that they often end up being overleeched and underseeded, particularly in the case of larger files. Private trackers mean that a decent download to upload ratio can be maintained, and that there are often a lot of seeders – which means very fast downloads are possible.
Some private trackers are “invite only”, but you can sign up directly on many of them. On a private tracker the .torrent file you download will be tailored to you as a member, so the tracker keeps track of how much you upload and download. Most trackers expect your ratio to be 1:1 upload for download, with banning from the tracker being the result of not maintaining a good ratio. A good idea for people starting on a private tracker is to at first download something which has a large number of leechers, that way they can start to build up their ratio. On public trackers, your upload will almost always be fully used up, but in private trackers the difficulty can be in using your full upload capacity to maintain your ratio. Some people advocate capping your download speed, but this can mean that upload speed goes very slowly. The best thing with large torrents is to only get part of them if possible, then allow your ratio to catch up once those parts are downloaded by continuing to seed.
Private trackers are also more like a community – with forums and things like that. If you’re seriously into a particular thing, find a private tracker related to it. I’m into retro games, so for me www.underground-gamer.com is awesome (and as far as private trackers go, it is one of the best). You can also get invites to the more elusive trackers through the forums you’ll find associated with trackers.
Other Forms of Peer To Peer
Torrents are not the only way to download stuff for free. But at present, they are simply the best. Also worth mentioning are Emule on the eDonkey network, and Shareaza on the Gnutella network.
P2P is very easy to use, so there should be nothing stopping you. If you have any problems using this guide, read other uTorrent FAQs (i.e. http://www.uTorrent.com/faq.php), and failing that go onto an appropriate forum (i.e. http://forum.uTorrent.com/) and ask – you’ll be amazed by how many people want to help. I hope this guide empowers you to get all the free stuff you could ever want. Come the revolution all information will be free, until then we have P2P!
What is BitTorrent and Peer to Peer?
Peer to Peer (aka P2P) is the name for using an internet connection’s mostly dormant upload capacity to let other people download data. Putting files online on a website is a relatively expensive business – so P2P saves money. Also, it is a lot easier for a company to take down a website than a network like P2P. (P2P websites are taken down with some regularity).
BitTorrent is the name of the original program that used this particular type of P2P. The basic protocol of P2P has been used to make the variety of different .torrent files that are now available.