Torrenting is one of the most popular ways to download large amounts of data. In fact, an average of 27 million P2P users downloaded and shared files on peer-to-peer networks in 2017.
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Despite its popularity, there are a number of misconceptions around torrenting—namely, that it’s illegal in all forms. Additionally, if you’re not well-versed on how to safely torrent, it can be easy to accidentally commit intellectual property theft.
To help you understand more about torrenting, TheBestVPN created the beginner’s guide to safe torrenting. Check it out below to learn more about how you can safely torrent, including the basics of how torrenting works and advantages and disadvantages of downloading torrents. Or, skip to the infographic below for an overview safe torrenting.
What is Torrenting?
Torrenting is a method of P2P file sharing. Torrenting involves downloading small amounts of data from many sources at once. There are a number of advantages to torrenting, namely that it’s free to use, and provides easy access to a large amount of files. Additionally, torrenting provides a streamlined way to download large files that would typically use up bandwidth and cost speed.
While torrenting is a great way to legally distribute large data, share media files, or download big files, it can also be used for illegal means. Namely, torrenting is often used to pirate copyrighted content, such as movies and music. Torrenting illegal files can come with a price — not only does doing so open your device up to viruses and malware, you can also face penalties from your internet service provider or law enforcement.
How Does Torrenting Work?
In traditional, centralized downloading, users download data directly from the centralized data of a web page. This creates a single point of failure: if the connection is lost, the download fails. This can slow the amount of time it takes to download a file, depending on the file size.
With torrenting, there isn’t a centralized server. “Peers,” as any user involved in P2P file sharing is know, download data simultaneously between each other. This means that in torrenting, there’s no central point of failure: if one connection is lost, peers can continue downloading from the remaining connections. Additionally, because peers are able to upload and download parts of a torrent at the same time, the process happens much faster.
What are the Advantages of Torrenting?
Torrenting comes with a number of advantages, chiefly that it’s free and easy to use. Additionally, thanks to popular torrent sites, it’s easy to find the torrent you’re looking for. The lack of a single point of failure and the increased download speeds also makes it optimal for downloading large files.
Legal uses of torrenting include:
- File syncing
- Distributing large files of your own media, like music you’ve created
- Distributing large chunks of data or data sets
- Downloading authorized games, movies, video, or other media
- Downloading authorized updates for sites or games
What are the Disadvantages of Torrenting?
One of the major advantages of torrenting is that the process makes your device vulnerable to malware. Because you can’t see the files before downloading them, you’re open to viruses or other malware that could be implanted in the file.
Additionally, as peers must know each other’s IP addresses in order to send or receive data, torrenting leaves your IP address exposed.
Downloading copyrighted files — illegal torrenting — can also lead to legal ramifications from both your ISP and law enforcement authorities. While the consequences of illegal torrenting vary depending on where you are, the countries with the strictest laws concerning illegal torrenting include:
- The United States
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
How to Torrent Safely
Torrenting is a great method of downloading files when done safely. There are a number of steps you can take to ensure that you’re safe while torrenting. We’ve included a few basic rules below — check out the infographic below for the full list.
- Only download legal torrents. This is the most basic rule of safe torrenting. Only download material that isn’t copyrighted, or that is authorized for public sharing. Doing so will ensure that you don’t end up in trouble with your ISP — or worse.
- Be selective with the torrents you download. Carefully selecting the torrents you download will greatly reduce your chances of choosing in infected file. To begin, check the comments before you download a file. Often, if a file has been infected with malware, commenters will note this on the forum. Additionally, choose a torrent with a lot of seeders—peers who are uploading and downloading torrents simultaneously. If there is a large number of people interacting with a torrent, it’s less likely to be malicious.
- Use a VPN. A virtual private network, or VPN, is a great way to keep yourself safe while downloading torrents. VPNs route your traffic through a tunnel that encrypts your data. Additionally, when you connect to a remote VPN server, your IP address is changed from your actual location to the location of the remote server. This both allows you to get around geo-blocks — helpful if you live in a region that restricts torrent websites — and hides your IP address from your internet service provider. In the event that you misunderstand a copyright clause, your identity will be hidden, safeguarding you from legal consequences.
Torrenting is a great way to download large amount of data. However, it’s important that you’re selective with the torrents you download and to take precautions to ensure that you’re keeping your device safe from malware and yourself safe from legal ramifications. Check out our full infographic below to learn how to safely torrent.
Infographic source: The Best VPN