Getting Started

Introduction
BitTorrent jargon and language explained
How BitTorrent works
Downloading files
BitTorrent compared
Configuring your Router or Firewall
Some important things to remember

Introduction

Bit torrent by definition is just a file transfer protocol. A BitTorrent client is the application which uses that protocol. You can use BitTorrent to share and download any type of file you want.

The BitTorrent client I use is ĀµTorrent – it has lots of cool features and uses very little resource.

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BitTorrent jargon and language explained

Next you need to understand the language and how it works. Here’s a rough translation:

Seeder = the one(s) with the file
A seeder is uploading, to get a file you need at least 1 seed in the swarm

Leecher = the one(s) without the file (also known as a peer)
A leecher is downloading from a seeder (and most of the time is also uploading to other peers/leechers too)

Tracker = the service that keeps track of who has what and what pieces
There are many trackers out there, some public and some private

Swarm = the group of computers involved with any one particular torrent
The number of computers that the swarm contains is found by adding the number of seeds to the number of peers.

Ratio = the amount you have downloaded compared to the amount you have uploaded. Also referred to as your stats. If you use Bit Torrent you MUST upload/seed as much as you download/leech!

Reseed = asking someone to repost/restart a torrent that has no seeds

Client = the program you use to download torrents

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How BitTorrent works

First of all, imagine I have a book with 100 pages and 10 people want a copy. I give 10 pages to each person, and between them they have the whole book. I can then drop out of the file exchange and leave them to copy bits between themselves until they all have a full copy of the book.

It works the same with files. The file being shared is broken up into smaller pieces. The tracker keeps track of who has what pieces and helps those looking for pieces to get them, while helping those with the pieces share them out to those looking.

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Downloading files

The files you download are .torrent files and they are tiny in size (just a few Kbs). The .torrent just contains information concerning what the file is, how many pieces it has and what tracker it’s going through. When you click on a .torrent file, you then chose to open it with your bit torrent client. You then select your place to save it and your download will begin (hopefully).

In order to get a download – you need seed(ers). Sometimes the tracker might be down, in which case no one knows who else has the file and it doesn’t work.

A download with lots of seeds and only a few peers will generally be quick, if you have lots of peers and no seeds it will generally be slow.

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BitTorrent compared

The main benefit of torrents is their versatility. Because BitTorrent is just a protocol, a way of sharing files, there is no restriction on the type of file you can share. Its popularity also means that you have a wide range of torrents available covering every type of media imaginable.

The big differences with torrents compared to other P2P an file sharing networks are:

  • I don’t have to give the whole file to each person to get it out there – I can give a bit to each person
  • Once I have given a bit out, it’s availability has just increased, because someone else can then also give it out, and so on and so on. the speed of a torrent will generally get better as more and more people want it – unlike SoulSeek or other P2P apps where you just wait longer to get it!!
  • Torrent files themselves aren’t illegal. After all, a torrent is just a tiny little file with no copyrighted content. It’s a bit muddy water here though, as they can facilitate the transfer of copyrighted content.

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Configuring your router or firewall

There are two types of firewall, a software firewall and a hardware firewall, like a network router for example. Both will need to be configured in order for you to use BitTorrent.

Why?

BitTorrent relies on two basic types of connection to share files; those made by other people asking you for something are called Incoming or Local Connections, and when you initiate a connection with someone else, you are making an Outgoing or Remote Connection.

However, a firewall will automatically block an incoming connection in case it is harmful. So in order to be able to accept BitTorrent files from other people, you need to tell your firewall to accept these connections.

How?

Hardware firewalls and routers

Routers have what is called NAT – Network Address Translation. Put simply it means that it will block all incoming connection attempts unless it is told otherwise. This means you need to open some ports. But you also need to do more than that, you also need to forward the ports. This is where the ‘Translation’ bit comes in.

Your router has ‘ownership’ of your (real) WAN* IP address and each PC connected to it is issued with a LAN** IP address instead. You need to tell the router that when traffic comes in on a certain port or port range it should let through and send it to your PC’s LAN IP.

My visual guide showing how I configured my router may help you here.

Static IP

You will also need to set up a static IP address. As mentioned, the router issues each PC connected to it with a LAN IP address. This can change however, for example when you reboot your PC.

Imagine that your pc has the LAN IP of 192.1.11.23. So you forward the BitTorrent ports to 192.1.11.23. Then you reboot your machine and when it comes back on, its LAN IP has changed to 192.1.11.24. Your port forwarding isn’t going to work anymore as the ports aren’t being forwarded to your PC anymore.

This is why you need to set up a Static IP, it gives your PC it’s own permanent LAN IP. It’ll never change, so the port forwarding will work!

How to set up a static IP

Remember to do it on every pc that connects to the network.

*WAN = Wide Area Network – the internet basically

**LAN = Local Area Network – your internal network of PC’s

Portforward.com will help you set up a static IP and configure your router. It covers nearly all of the routers available and also provides step by step instructions for common applications.

Software firewall’s

A software firewall will work one of two ways, it will either imitate a hardware firewall and block all traffic on all ports unless told otherwise; or it will only allow specified applications access to the internet. The Windows XP firewall works on port configurations, and something like Zone Alarm works by granting programs access.

When using something like Zone Alarm, you just need to give your BitTorrent Client (for example Vuze) permission to access the internet. If you do use Azureus, then you will also have to give Java (C:\Program Files\Java\Build Version\Javaw.exe) access. Remember to give any subsequent Java updates access too!

What ports should I use?

The default ports are 6881-6889. But that does not mean to say that you have to or should use them. Some ISP’s throttle bandwidth on these ports, and some trackers have banned them because of that. So choose 10 ports of your own (10 is enough) between 50,000 and 60,000. This is considered to be a safe zone and any 10 ports you choose should not already be in use.

In order to change the ports all you need to do is choose 10 ports. Now open them up in your router or firewall as covered above, and then change the settings in your client to reflect the new ports being used. Each client is different so I can’t really go into detail here.

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Some important things to remember

IN ORDER TO KEEP THE TORRENT ALIVE AND ALLOW OTHERS TO DOWNLOAD YOU MUST CARRY ON SEEDING TO AT LEAST 1:1 RATIO.

  • Once you have the file, it’s no good just closing your client and forgetting about it. In order to allow it to be shared for others you MUST continue to seed. Most trackers keep an eye on your download to upload ratio and those just downloading and running get booted. You will not get far unless you heed this rule.
  • You are not invisible when you are in a swarm. Others, including copyright owners if they so wished, can see your IP when you are downloading or uploading a file.
  • If you use a torrent site which has a forum attached, take the time to say thanks to the poster of the torrent. It only takes a moment.
  • Torrent sites and torrents themselves die. They go up and down quicker than a whores draws. Just the nature of the beast. If no one is seeding, you can’t have it. You can also only have what is on offer.
  • The speed at which you download is determined by things such as the Seed to Peer ratio, the seed(ers) upload bandwidth and of course your available download bandwidth. Try to download torrents that have lots of seeders and few peers in order to get faster speeds.

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