How Does Torrenting Work?

Torrents are a method of distributing files over the internet. The term refers to a file shared through a decentralized, peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing network. This file sharing allows users to exchange files without uploading to a server. The most common way to use torrents is through a special file that uses the .TORRENT file extension. Within the file are directions for how to share specific data with other people.

How Does it Work?

Torrenting doesn’t depend on a centralized server for storing files. Instead, bits of data from individual large files are saved in participating computers (peers) in a network (swarm) to facilitate the file-sharing process. A P2P communication protocol like BitTorrent breaks down the files into pieces and moves them from uploaders (seeders) to downloaders (leechers) via a torrent client (a separate program that reads all the information in the .torrent file and connects users to exchange data).

When you’re ‘torrenting’ a file, it pretty much means that you are transferring a file over the BitTorrent network which uses Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file sharing. A P2P network in the simplest explanation means a network that is created when two or more computers are connected to share resources without going through a separate server computer. Think of this as an ad-hoc network but a lot more complex.

When you download a torrent, the data is fetched in small bits and pieces that are a couple of megabytes in size. You initially connected to the original uploader who has all the data stored on their system. But as the number of users increases, one user ends up downloading tiny pieces from multiple users (called seeders) who now have data stored on their machine.

After your torrent client gets all the pieces, it then merges and them and verifies the integrity of the data. The end result is the files present on your storage and this is how torrent works.

Once you’re done downloading a torrent or even halfway, you can also become a seeder and let others fetch pieces from your machine. BitTorrent is all about sharing. Of course, it will consume your monthly data cap. This was a brief overview of how torrent works and dumps gigantic amounts of data onto your device.

Common Torrent Terms

Here are some helpful terms to know if you plan on using torrents:

  • Seed: To seed a torrent is to share it. A torrent’s seed count is the number of people sharing the full file. Zero seeds mean nobody can download the entire file.
  • Peer: A peer is someone downloading the file from a seeder but who doesn’t yet have the full file.
  • Leech: Leechers download more than they upload. A leecher might instead upload nothing at all after the full file has been downloaded.
  • Swarm: A group of people downloading and sharing the same torrent.
  • Tracker: A server that tracks all the connected users and helps them find each other.
  • Client: The program or web service used by a torrent file or magnet link to understand how to download or upload files.\


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