How to Use BitTorrent (uTorrent) BitTorrent is a popular file-sharing medium for users. In this guide, we will show you the basics of using uTorrent. BitTorrent can be considered a network, but in practice, it is actually a series of small networks. Traditional file-sharing networks have users connect to one large network and search through it to find the files you are looking for. BitTorrent, on the other hand, generates a network for each individual torrent. These small networks are called “swarms”. There are generally two types of users in each swarm: seeders and peers/leechers. Seeders are users sharing everything in the torrent. Peers (or leechers) are users in the swarm that have part of the file (whether still downloading or actively only sharing parts of the whole torrent). In many instances, these swarms are governed by a web application called a “tracker”. Generally speaking, a tracker helps maintain the swarms. Some clients utilize what is known as DHT which can help peers find other peers and seeders in the event a tracker goes down. There are two kinds of trackers that one should be aware of though: public and private trackers. Public trackers can be accessed by anyone with a compatible torrent client. Private trackers are basically like gated communities and typically requires membership to an associated website. DHT is also disabled amongst most (if not, all) of these trackers, so if the tracker goes down, there typically isn’t a backup mechanism in place. Private trackers also usually operate under strict rules. The most famous of these rules is maintaining a general share ratio. This means that you have to upload a certain percentage of what you download. If a user downloads 10MB of data and uploads 10MB of data (whether it’s with a single torrent or across a series of torrents associated with that tracker), then the user will have a share ratio of 1.00. However, if a user downloads 10MB of data and uploads only 5MB of data, the user will only have a share ratio of 0.50. Naturally, if a user downloads 10MB of data and uploads 20MB of data, the user will have a ratio of 2.00. If a user falls below the designated share ratio standard, that user can risk being restricted or banned from the tracker and/or website. These rules generally vary from private site to private site (i.e. acceptable share ratios). Also worth noting is that most users can only gain access to some private trackers with invites from members only. Some sites do offer limited registration times, so if a site does offer this, it may be worth simply waiting for registration to open. On a final note in this brief primer is the fact that not all torrents are retrieved via torrent files. Some torrents can be obtained via magnet links instead. While basic information about the swarm may require a little more time to gather, this is sometimes seen as an alternate method of torrenting as there is less reliance on trackers and downloading an actual file involved. Downloading and Installing the Latest Version To get the latest version of this software, you can go over to the official uTorrent website, click on the Free Download button on the website and get the free version (Note: free version has ads). The Interface and Configuration In this screenshot, you can learn a lot. On the right side, there are two areas. The top area, in this case, shows what files are completed and seeding. A red progress bar indicates the tracker could not be reached. Green means that the tracker is fine and could be connected to. On the lower part of the right hand side shows torrent details. This includes how much was uploaded and downloaded on a particular torrent, how long you’ve been connected to a swarm, etc. You can also switch between tabs in this section to get other bits of information about the torrent in question. On the left hand side, you’ll note that I have clicked on “Options” and then have highlighted “preferences”. By clicking on preferences, you’ll be able to configure uTorrent to suit whatever needs you have. Port Forwarding Sometimes, you won’t even need to forward ports for this client. However, if you find that you need to do this, you can go to “Connection” and find the port text box I’ve highlighted above. Using this window, you can select a random port or type in what you want to use for a port (make sure you aren’t using this port for a different application). After this, you can use this guide if you are using windows 7 to create a static IP address. When you are done configuring your ports with uTorrent, you can click on “Apply” and “OK” after.) Managing Your Bandwidth If you find that uTorrent is slowing your web browsing speed down, you can customize how much bandwidth uTorrent uses. Simply click on “Bandwidth” and use the options in this window to customize how much bandwidth uTorrent uses while you are torrenting. Getting and Downloading Torrents So, you’ll need to find a torrent website or a torrent search engine. Everything is web based from here, but when you do find a website and want to download a torrent, simply click on the torrent URL. When your browser asks you what application to use in opening the torrent file (or magnet URL), simply select uTorrent and this client will take care of the rest. You can view your currently downloading torrents by clicking on “Downloading”. You’ll see what pieces are downloaded and what pieces are available in the progress bars in the lower right hand corner of the screen. Again, you can view other details by browsing through the different tabs along the top of the lower right hand section of the window. FAQ Is BitTorrent safe? If by up to date, you mean free of viruses, then as with everything else related to the Internet, the answer is no. When browsing around the web for torrents, keep an eye on comment sections of a particular torrent you intend on downloading and use your best judgement. Also, keep an up to date virus scanner and scan every file you download even if it is an MP3. You are downloading from unknown third parties here. If by safe, you mean free from DMCA related complaints, then the answer is simply no. There are practices you can use to mitigate the possibility (i.e. not downloading certain files), but there is no such thing as 100% safe (even in private BitTorrent sites even though private site enthusiasts might not want to admit to such). Ideally, use BitTorrent to download legal content such as free to share licenses (i.e. GNU or Creative Commons), content authorized by the creators, or public domain content. Is it true that BitTorrent can wear out hard drives? Generally speaking, BitTorrent has a high rate of read/write on your hard drive. As a result, the life expectancy of a hard drive can be reduced. So, if you use BitTorrent a lot on your personal computer, you may find that the first part on your computer that wears out is your hard drive. So, you should back-up your data regularly on things like external hard drives and/or thumb drives. An additional possibility us using a seed box. A seed box is a third party server that can handle BitTorrent usage. As a result, you won’t wear out your own hard drive. The downside to this is the fact that you are generally required to pay money for one. How do I stop seeding a Torrent? You should seed for as long as possible to ensure that other people can get the file as well. However, if you need to leave a particular swarm, simply click on the torrent you are seeding, then click on the square stop button on the toolbar along the top (hovering over it will say “stop torrent”). That torrent will then read “completed” instead of “seeding”. I have a specific bandwidth cap. Can I control the exact amount of transferred bandwidth uTorrent uses? Yes. Under Options and preferences, click on “Transfer Cap”. In this window, you can control how much total bandwidth uTorrent uses. Remember to click “Apply” and “OK” when you are done. I can only upload and download at certain times of the day. Can I schedule uTorrent to transfer data at certain times? Yes. Under “Options” and “Preferences”, click on “Scheduler”. Tick the “Enable scheduler” and configure the graph to what preferences you need/want. I’ve joined a private site and the latest uTorrent client is not on their white list. Where can I get an older version of uTorrent to ensure compliance with these rules? This is common amongst private sites as many of these sites like to vet torrent applications before allowing users to use them. One common website people find older versions is OldApps. You can download an older version of uTorrent here. What are the other rules for [insert private BitTorrent site here]? Generally speaking, these rules are linked to using highlighted links somewhere on the main website (i.e. bold faced and in red). A good practice is to browse through the rules on any particular site before even downloading a single torrent. Different private sites have different rulesets, but a general rule of thumb is to maintain a good share ratio (I haven’t seen a private site that required a ratio of more than 1.0 and usually, it’s a little less then that) and use whitelisted clients. Also, read whatever rules that are set in stone before commenting on anything if you need to comment on something. Another general rule of thumb is that many private sites have a forum, a chatroom, and a private staff messaging/ticket system of some sort. So, for in-depth problems, you can reach out to the community and/or staff in this way. These methods should be used when reading the rules wasn’t enough to answer your particular question on a particular site. Also, if you intend on using a seed box, some sites may require you to contact them first. Seed boxes will use an alternate IP address and can cause problems if you aren’t given a green light to use one. I can’t maintain a good share ratio. Can I just cheat to get a good ratio on private sites? Ratio cheating is a highly frowned upon practice amongst a vast majority (if not, all) private BitTorrent sites. Generally speaking, if you are caught cheating, you’ll get banned. As a general rule, it’s not a matter of “if you get caught”, but “when you get caught” because it’s only a matter of time before your suspicious activity will get caught. Simply put, don’t do this if you have any intention on staying with the tracker. I found an error in your guide. How can I contact you? Do so in the comment section below! I am open to thoughts or suggestions. Just bear in mind that this is supposed to be a beginners guide and not a comprehensive guide on using every aspect of uTorrent. So, questions a new user may ask right when they start using BitTorrent for the first time should be covered.