BitTorrent is a non-centralized file sharing technology. As opposed to Napster or other Peer-to-peer file sharing services, there is no central server that knows everyone who is sharing files. Instead, for each file that someone wants to share using BitTorrent, a tracker is setup for that individual file that keeps track of everyone who wants to share that file at a point in time. You can then connect to the tracker and start download the file.
BitTorrent is a very optimized file transfer protocol. A file that is going to be shared gets divided up in pieces. When you connect to the BitTorrent network, you will start downloading pieces of that file. As soon as you have downloaded one piece, you can then start sharing that piece with all of the people who are connected to download the same file and don’t have that piece yet. The protocol is always smart in a way that it will make sure that someone downloads pieces that are more rare so that this person can then redistribute that rare piece amongst all of the people who don’t have it yet.
The best client to download Torrent files is called uTorrent and is available on Windows and Mac.
Once you have a client installed, you need to find Torrent files. There are two main sites that offer a large number of torrent files. These are:
- Isohunt: A very large database containing various types of files. Although it is by far the largest database available these days, it is often down or slow which can become annoying.
- Mininova: A smaller torrent database, but much quicker and which also organises files in categories.
As always, there is the issue of legality of downloading digital files. Movies and Music are illegal to download unless you already own a copy of said music on CD. Even then, it’s still a bit of a gray area. However, what is still fairly wide open right now are TV shows. Since anyone can easily record a TV show using a VCR or PVR, downloading a show off the internet is fairly legal. In any case, they have not started prosecuting people for downloading TV shows (yet).