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Tutorial: Downloading with torrents

In this tutorial you will learn how to download with torrents. You might think: Binaries4all is all about Usenet, why a tutorial on torrents? The reason for this is that we see more and more company's that create for example open-source software making their product not just available on their website, but also as a torrent. Why do they do that and how can you download with torrents? We'll explain it all in this tutorial.

How do torrents work?

Imagine that a company develops an operating system, such as Windows, Mac OS or Ubuntu. Ubuntu is a free operating system based on Linux. Every six months they release a new version which many people want to try out as soon as possible. They go to the Ubuntu-website and download the cd. This puts a heavy load on the servers hosting the Ubuntu-website, especially since Ubuntu has millions of users world-wide!

To make sure the servers don't give way under the load, the creators of Ubuntu advise to download the cd using BitTorrent instead of directly from their website.

Torrents work as follows: the seeder(s) of a torrent (for example the creators of Ubuntu) have the file that is to be shared (in this case the Ubuntu cd) on their computer or server. The BitTorrent software of the seeder creates a torrent-file (very small file) that the seeder can put up on a website. It also splits up the file in many small parts. Downloaders open the torrent in their own BitTorrent program. Imagine that there are 100 parts and there are 100 people (leechers) downloading the torrent. The seeder's software will send every leecher a different part of the file, so combined they'll have the whole file. If every leecher would share his or her part with the other leechers, they can all retrieve the complete file without the seeder having to send it to every leecher individually. This make a big difference in terms of data traffic and processing power for the seeder. In theory the seeder could even shut down his computer or server once every part has been downloaded once, because the leechers could exchange the parts amongst each other afterwards. However, in reality it doesn't work that way, for example because of leechers who shut down their computer without uploading a specific part to someone else first.

To the next chapter: Part 2