From time to time, I may link to files associated with posts which are available via BitTorrent (magnet links). Without getting overly technical, BitTorrent is a technology which allows files to be shared without the use of something like a web server; computers or devices share the files directly among each other using a “seed file” or “metadata file” (with a filename ending in “.torrent”) which contains the file names, file sizes, and enough information about the files to ensure that the correct data has been transferred (specifically, a checksum for each piece and information on how big each piece should be).
I recommend these BitTorrent programs (clients) specifically, in approximate order of preference:
- Multi-platform (Unix-like and GNU variants, Windows, MacOS X): qBittorrent (available on most distributions as a package/port)
- Windows: PicoTorrent (simple but lightweight and easy to use)
- Multi-platform (Unix-like and GNU variants, Windows, MacOS X): Transmission
- Multi-platform (Unix-like and GNU variants, Windows, MacOS X): Deluge
- Android: LibreTorrent (no project website known; available on both F-Droid and the Play Store)
There do exist many others which I have not tested and thus can’t recommend. You are of course free to use something different, particularly if you have one you like already.
There now exist official binaries for Transmission on Windows. While they are usable, there are a few quirks versus the same program on Unix-like systems. I give PicoTorrent the nod for ease of use on Windows in addition to being free software.
Do not use Transmission 2.90 for MacOS X due to malware. Earlier or later versions should be fine.
As some torrents may be shared trackerless, DHT (Distributed Hash Table) should be turned on, and I recommend also enabling PEX (Peer Exchange). Every recommended program above has settings for each of these. If yours doesn’t, it’s likely very old.
Contrary to what some might tell you, use of the BitTorrent protocol and other peer-to-peer technology is not unlawful (in the United States at least) in and of itself. Any BitTorrent link from this blog will be to files which are legal to download and share at least within the United States of America. However, it is quite possible and quite easy to share files via BitTorrent unlawfully (particularly with regard to copyright law), and if it’s against the law, it’s probably also against the terms of service/acceptable use policy of your provider of internet access (as most terms/policies prohibit activity which is against the law). Many BitTorrent clients display a legal notice upon their first run advising you that what you download and share is your responsibility. Please take that to heart.
Note that some particularly strict providers of internet access may not allow the use of BitTorrent at all. It is usually ill-advised to use BitTorrent from public wireless internet access points, even if it is not specifically blocked (as it quite often is).