What is Torrent and how do it work?

Torrenting is a tool for free online data exchange. That sounds good, but at the same time, torrenting is also a symbol of piracy and copyright violations.

The term ‘torrenting‘ is mainly used to describe the uploading and downloading of content (usually a movie, music or a book) via a peer-to-peer network.

But how exactly does torrenting work? Is torrenting safe? Is it legal? Let’s answer all these questions – and more – in this article, “What is torrenting?”

What is a torrent?

A torrent, also known as a ‘torrent file’ or ‘tracker’, is a small file that keeps track of where the file you want to download is located on a computer network. That may seem complicated, but it is actually easier than you think.

In fact, a torrent is a file that a so-called ‘torrent client’ uses to let others know, “Hey, I want to download or upload this specific piece of content to and from you.”

You can use a torrent file to share media, such as movies, music, books, etc., with others via a so-called peer-to-peer network (P2P).

What is a torrent client?

A torrent client or torrenting client is software that uses a torrent file to see who on the network has the exact file you want to download. The client fetches data from all computers that contain that file and gradually adds small pieces of the file that you download to your computer. The torrent client also uploads small pieces of the file to other computers. Together you form a P2P network.

In fact, the torrent client is the software that connects downloaders and uploaders of a particular file, using the torrent file to determine exactly which file to share.

What is Peer-to-Peer?

Peer-to-Peer networking, or P2P, is a way for computers or servers to share the workload to complete a particular task, in this case downloading a file. This differs from a usual server model where a user simply downloads a file from a server. In the case of torrenting, computers connect to each other over a P2P network to download (leech) or upload (seed) a particular file.

How does torrenting work?

Torrenting works using a P2P system, as explained above. The first step is to download a torrent file or ‘tracker’.

A torrent client uses that little tracker to see who already has the file you want to download on the network. For example a movie. He then fetches data from the various computers on which that file can be found and gradually adds small packets of data to the file on your computer.

While you are downloading packets from the file, you are also uploading packets of data to other torrent users at the same time. Your computer acts as a kind of mini-server at that moment. In the same sense, the people sharing the file (called ‘seeders’ in torrent lingo) act as mini servers for downloading a file, using the torrent client.

This download process will continue until you have completely downloaded the file or ask the torrent client to stop seeding. To stop uploading, you usually have to manually pause a torrent.

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