What Is a Torrent?

A torrent is a file that describes how to download other files. While that might sound confusing at first, it actually makes a lot of sense.

At their core, torrents are a method for transferring files over the internet directly between computers and servers. For example, your friend could make a home video torrent file on their computer and then share the torrent file with you so that you can download the video directly from them, right off of their computer.

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Torrents are comprised of text that tell a program how and where to look for the file in question. You can think of the torrent file as a manual or instruction list that tells someone else how to do something, namely how to download the contents described in the torrent.

If you’re downloading a movie torrent, the file describes where on the internet to find the movie. The same is true for software torrents, music torrents, etc. The instructions in the torrent file are understood by a torrent program/client.

How Torrents Are Made

To make sense of a torrent file, let’s understand how a torrent file is created. How does one make a torrent file so that a torrent client can interpret it correctly?

One way to make a torrent file is with a torrent client. Let’s say you’re planning to share a group of music files. You’d first tell the torrent program everything you want included in the download, so you’d select all the music files you want to share. The program would compile them together and produce a list of instructions for how other people can get those same files.

That list of instructions is what’s contained within a torrent file. When you share the torrent, you’re literally sharing all the details necessary for another torrent client to communicate with your computer and transfer those music files.

Tip: As you can now see, a torrent file isn’t actually the movie, music, document, etc. that’s being shared. A torrent is just a list of directions. This means you can’t extract a file from a torrent; you can only use a torrent through a torrent client to download the files from the other user.

Where to Find Good Torrents

Torrents are typically shared on torrent websites. A quick Google search will show you tons of torrent sites, some free and others available through a payment plan. Many of these sites contain legitimate files but most are also used to spread malware, so it’s important to be extra cautious when downloading torrents.

How to Be Safe When Using Torrents

There are a few things to consider before downloading torrents, but one of the most important items on the agenda is to prepare for the worst: viruses.

Infected torrents are one way malware spreads from computer to computer, and they’re usually pretty unassuming. Someone searches a torrent site for new movies or expensive software, downloads the appealing torrent file, and then opens the resulting file only to end up with an infected computer.

There really aren’t any limits to what a torrent file can carry. Some might be infected with spyware or ransomware, or they might be way less threatening and just include an advertisement.

Regardless of how many times you use torrents or what you download (or think you’re downloading), it’s vital to have an antivirus program running on your computer before searching for the torrent, during the download, and after using the file. You don’t want to take any chances.

How to Open Torrents

To open a torrent, you need access to a torrent client, also called a torrent downloader or torrent program. They all mean the same thing: a tool that downloads torrents.

There are lots of torrent clients out there. Some run on your desktop, others from your phone or even online through your web browser. Some cost and other are totally free. There’s really no shortage of torrent clients.

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