What is Torrent & How it Works

By December 8, 2019 July 17th, 2022 No Comments
What is Torrent & How it Works

Torrenting regained its earlier popularity, largely thanks to the annoying exclusivity deals streaming services started introducing. But what is torrent?

In this short guide, we’ll help you understand the answer to that very question!

What Does “Torrenting” Mean?

The simplest explanation we can give is that torrenting is a type of file-sharing technology relying on a peer-to-peer (P2P) network of users.

You can think of it almost like cloud technology (such as Dropbox), but that’s still not entirely correct.

With cloud services, you’re accessing a limited portion of a shared server. However, with torrenting, you’re basically using the computer servers of everyone else on the network.

It’s essentially a sort of technological symbiotic relationship used to share file downloads.

When you connect to the torrent network, you’re able to download a file directly from the original source, but also parts of the file from other users.

This makes it easier to complete the download, as each peer on the network acts as a sort of mini-server.

If you ever tried downloading big files before, you’ll know all about network load – when your connection speed and quality drops because the server is under too much pressure.

By spreading the responsibility through the P2P network users, torrenting can significantly reduce that risk.

Torrent Vocabulary

As is the case with almost all forms of technology, the world of torrent has its own vocabulary.

Knowing what these terms mean will help you better understand how torrents work.

Here’s a quick-reference glossary for you.

Where possible, we supplemented each entry with a link to a more in-depth definition and/or other useful resources.

  • Client – the client is a desktop app that handles all your torrenting activity, including the initiation and managing of all uploads and downloads. BitTorrent is the most common.
  • Indexers – these are the specialized websites that act like a search engine for torrents. Some of the Best Torrent Sites include Pirate Bay, RARBG, and 1337x, but there are also a few private indexers that require an invitation to join (like PassThePopcorn).
  • Leechers – peers on the torrent network who download files through the indexer, but prevent their own computer server from contributing (either totally or once they finished their own download session).
  • Peers – as already mentioned in the previous section, “peers” are the users on a P2P or torrent network. They fall into 2 general definitions, leechers (above) and seeders (below).
  • Seeders – peers on the torrent network who download files through the indexer and simultaneously upload the file fragments for other peers to download. The more seeders, the faster the download speeds for everyone.
  • Swarms – the group of peers seeding and leeching a download file is called a swarm.
  • Trackers – finally, trackers are the indexer servers that act as bridges between users, directing file packets and helping peers to find the downloads they’re looking for.

Torrenting Safely With a VPN

While torrents have many useful applications, there’s also an inherent danger involved in connecting to other users’ computers.

Take every precaution possible to protect yourself by using a program like Bitdefender Internet Security for anti-malware and learning How to Spot Fake Torrent File Downloads.

And just as importantly, use one of the Best Torrenting VPNs. Here’s a quick reference list:

So how do you know whether a VPN service is suitable for torrenting?

There are literally hundreds of VPN providers, so you need to narrow it down properly.

If you’re going to deviate from the above suggestions, the first thing you need to look for is whether the VPN is torrent-friendly.

Very, very importantly, it also needs to have a strict no-logs policy, 256-bit encryption, an automatic kill switch, and DNS leak protection.

Not only is this to protect your privacy online in general, but also because torrenting is a legal gray area.

You can read our follow-up article Is Torrenting Illegal? to discover all the ins and outs. In brief, torrent does have legal applications, but its more common use falls under copyright infringement.

A few more things you want to see in a torrent-friendly VPN include high connection speeds, unlimited bandwidth, the OpenVPN protocol, and 24/7 live chat customer support.

Finally, you generally want a huge server network too. This helps avoid network overload, which can become a huge issue while torrenting.

Ideally, opt for a VPN with 1,500 to 2,000+ servers, especially if some (or all) of them are optimized specifically for P2P.

Interested in learning more about torrenting? We also have a guide on How to Open Torrent Files!

Mandee Rose

Mandee Rose

Mandee Rose is the editor and lead writer & researcher at TheVPNShop. A technical writer and blogger with 6+ years of experience in the cybersecurity sector. During her college years, she chased the dual-major of Cyber Security and Journalism while simultaneously offering freelance services online. As a result, Mandee was able to combine both of her passions by writing for companies like LatestHackingNews, BestVPN, Tactical Engine, Hoxhunt, AI Jobs (Medium Blog), and more. Today, she continues sharing her technical knowledge via investigative writing on topics like VPNs, programming, data breaches, artificial intelligence, and other infosec concepts.