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How to download torrents

Torrents, if you’re pop culture illiterate, are one of the most popular ways to share music, movies, books, and pretty much anything you want on the Internet. Despite the illegal reputation, many torrents are completely legit; you could just as easily download a free-to-share indie documentary as the latest season of Game of Thrones. The ways you would go about seeking either are remarkably similar, so note that we accept no responsibility for what you decide to download. Do not sue us if the feds take you to jail or you’re fined or you get a virus. Also, beware of the fact that most torrent websites have ads for porn on them, which could be inappropriate in certain environments. You have been warned.

Here is some terminology you’ll want to be aware of:

  • A “seed” or “seeder” is someone sharing the file so that it can be downloaded. Basically, the more seeders a file has, the more users your computer can download pieces of the torrent from. More seeds, generally, means a faster download. It should be noted that torrents are not downloaded sequentially, the operation downloads any available pieces that make up an entire file. In other words, don’t stop downloading at 95 percent because you don’t care about the last 5 percent of the movie. It doesn’t work that way.
  • You, or anyone downloading a torrent, is a “leech.” Leeches are also referred to as “peers.” If there are more leechers than seeders, then it could make for a slow download.
  • Websites like Pirate Bay use “magnet links.” With magnet links, you’re going straight to the download location instead of downloading the “torrent,” which is saved separately as a file of information necessary to initiate the download. It’s like sending someone a link to this article rather than saving a file that directs them to the article. This became popular as a loophole to help spare torrent websites from some legal trouble, because now they don’t have files saved on their servers that link to illegal content. 

Step 1: Go to The Pirate Bay, or another website.

The Pirate Bay

The Pirate Bay, as pictured above, is widely considered one of the best torrent sites on the Internet. Just search for what what you’re looking for to get started.

Once you find the torrent you want, check the comments section to make sure that people aren’t saying there’s a problem with the download. People will also post quality scores in the comments section. In these scores, A stands for audio, V stands for visual and the scale goes up to 10. These ratings are often found when you search for movies, because sometimes someone will post a movie they recorded in a theater, which usually makes for subpar quality. Be sure you click the link with the magnet next to it too. Often, there are fake ads designed to look that download links. It’s just better to be safe.

The file’s source will often be found in the file name, which could include “cam,” which means that the video was recorded with a camera, or “DVD rip,” meaning that they ripped a DVD to their computer and uploaded that to a torrent site. Some movies will land on torrent sites while they’re still being shown in theaters, but are not recorded by an amateur camera person. Generally, these were copied off of promotional DVDs sent to movie reviewers who judge award shows or early release foreign versions. There are also little icons like (pirate bay) next to certain users’ names, meaning they’re trusted and very active users. Once you start downloading, check the list of items being downloaded (more on this later) to make sure they’re the right kind of files. There are also some search tips for Pirate Bay, which work on many other torrent sites, you should know:

  • Putting an asterisk, or *, next to your search term will show results with variations of the word you searched.
  • Using parentheses will prioritize whatever is outside of the parenthesis.
  • Make sure you select what kind of file you’re looking for if it’s something that might come in more than one format. For instance, Lord of the Rings can take the form of an e-book, movie, game, or a soundtrack.

Other websites you might want to use to find torrents are: Kickass Torrents, Torrentz, IsoHunt, and Extra Torrent. As great as it is, sometimes The Pirate Bay won’t always have what you’re looking for. In such cases, you might have luck with a different website. Using Google to find what you’re looking for and adding “torrent” next to it will usually solve this problem.

Then there are “private trackers.” Private trackers are websites that you have to be invited to by an existing member, and they often have rules to ensure that you upload as much content as you download. These websites are the safest bet if you’re worried about getting in trouble, but it’s not always easy to get an invite to a private tracker site. PassThePopcorn is one such service.

Step 2: Download a torrent client



Websites like The Pirate Bay are where you’ll find whatever you’re looking for, but you still need a torrent client in order to actually download them. Pictured above is just one example of such a program, which is called µTorrent. Other torrent clients include: qBittorrentMediaGet, and Vuze. When you click a download link on a torrent site, a prompt will pop up asking if you want to launch the download in your torrent client. Once you agree, the torrent client will open a window like the one above and start downloading the file.

Torrent-downloading clients will show how much of your file has downloaded, provide a live reading of how many seeds and leeches a given file has, and show what files are being downloaded from any torrent. If you’re downloading a movie and see that a .exe or .com file is download, you’re probably downloading a virus. In that case, stop the download immediately and delete whatever torrent and associated files that you downloaded. You can also prioritize or cancel certain files from downloading to speed things up. If you really just wanted a couple songs off that album, prioritize them, keep a few at normal priority, and cancel the ones you don’t care about. In trackers like µTorrent you can also raise the bandwidth allocation so that your computer prioritizes downloading the file quickly.

Step 3: Enjoy your file, and seed…


Seeding the files you download is thought of as a considerate act in the torrent world. However, some say that seeding is what will most likely land you in legal hot water. If you’re caught, some corporations will send you a cease and desist letter, or worse. Once again, proceed at your own risk. 

Is this kosher?

Absolutely, as long as you don’t download copyrighted works. Downloading copyright works is stealing, it’s illegal, and the creator is losing money. In this day and age, artists already struggle to make a living off their work. Some acts like Grizzly Bear have been cited as examples of artists that sell records but don’t make a lot of money. Grizzly Bear member Ed Droste makes the case for buying by saying that buying digital albums costs as much as  “a f**king appetizer, [and] a large popcorn at the movie theater, and you’ll have it forever, and they took two years to make it.” Just keep that in mind.

What do you think of our guide to downloading torrents? Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below.