Bit Torrent

BitTorrentWhat is Bit Torrent?  I know what you’re thinking….No, it isn’t like Bit O’ Honey.  Bit Torrent is a protocol that enables fast downloading of large files using minimum Internet bandwidth.  It is free to use and does not include spyware or pop-up advertising.  Bit Torrent is a type of peer-to–peer network which enables users to share files over the Internet.  It is open source, which means that it can be used on any platform.

Unlike other methods, Bit Torrent maximizes transfer speed by gathering pieces of the file you want and downloading these pieces simultaneously from people who already have them.  Let’s look at the traditional method for downloading a file versus using Bit Torrent.


Traditional client-server downloading

 You open a web page and click on a link to download a file to your computer.

  • The web browser software on your computer (the client) tells the server to transfer a copy of the file to your computer.
  • The transfer is handled by a protocol such as FTP (File Transfer Protocol) or HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol).

Peer-to-peer file sharing is different from traditional file downloading.  In peer-to-peer sharing, you use a software program (rather than your Web browser) to locate computers that have the file you want.  Because these are ordinary computers like yours, as opposed to servers they are called peers.  Let’s look at the process.


Peer-to-peer File Sharing

  • You run peer-to-peer file-sharing software program on your computer and send out a request for the file you want to download.
  • To locate the file, the software queries other computers that are connected to the Internet and running the file-sharing software.
  • When the software finds a computer that has the file you want on its hard drive, the download begins.
  • Others using the file-sharing software can obtain files they want from your computer’s hard drive as well.

Some people download files immediately then disconnect without allowing others to obtain files from their system.  This practice is called leeching.  This limits the number of computers the software can search for a request.


Bit Torrent is a protocol that offloads some of the file tracking work to a central server (called a tracker).  Another difference is that it uses a principle called tit-for-tat.  This means that in order to receive files, you have to give them.  This solves the problem of leeching.  With Bit Torrent, the more files you share with others, the faster the file downloads.

Here is how it works:

  • You open a webpage and click on a link for the file you want.
  • Bit Torrent client software communicates with a tracker to find other computers running Bit Torrent that can have the complete file (seed computers) and those with a portion of the file (peers that are usually in the process of downloading the file).
  • The tracker identifies the swarm, (the seeds and peers that are connected together) and have all of or a portion of the file and are in the process of sending and receiving it.
  • The tracker helps the client software trade pieces of the file you want with other computers in the swarm. Your computer receives multiple pieces of the file simultaneously.
  • If you continue to run Bit Torrent client software after your download is complete, others can receive torrent files from your computer; your future download rates improve because you are ranked higher in the it-for-tat system.

By downloading multiple pieces at the same time, the overall speed is greatly improved.  The more computers involved in the swarm, the faster the file transfer occurs because there are more sources of each piece of the file.  For this reason, Bit Torrent is especially useful for large, popular files.

Although large Bit Torrent sites make available torrents to copyrighted data, they do not actually store copyrighted data, so are they not breaking any laws.

There is always a possibility of being infected with a virus by spreading malicious files.  To avoid this, always read what you are downloading, and check the comments if possible.  If you are unsure don’t download.


I hope that you found this information helpful.  Please feel free to forward it to others.  If you would like to learn more about this topic or would like to request a topic, please contact me. If you missed any past newsletters or would like a printed copy, please visit my website at.


Until next time…Happy Computing!!!


About Michael DeFlorio
I have worked is various positions as a system administrator, support technician, as a help desk support, and as an IT consultant in a corporate environment. I currently run a small business where I provide computer services such as hardware configuration, installation, for residential and for medium and small businesses. You can contact me by email or visit my website at


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