If you're already here, you probably know what a BitTorrent client is. For the uninitiated, it's a file sharing protocol that allows people to distribute data through the web. It's been around since the early 2000s and uses swarms of users to spread the content between themselves.
This method, avoids the need for a centralised server, which is one of the reasons that previous peer-to-peer filesharing services like Napstar ended up failing.
The most common way that you may have come across it is in downloading movies, music and other files. There are extensive amounts of legal content available to download through these means, but BitTorrent clients are also commonly used to access pirated material.
There are many different BitTorrent clients out there, but we will just be analysing a few of the top ones to make it easier for you to find which is right for you.
This article will look at qBitTorrent, Transmission, Vuze, Popcorn Time and Deluge, showing off the pros and cons of each. It will also look at any legal or technical issues associated with using BitTorrent clients, as well as give a practical guide on how to use the clients to download files.
Torrenting & the Law
Torrent clients are kind of like guns. By themselves, they are neither good nor bad, they are just tools. It all depends on the people using them and how they get used. There are lifetimes worth of completely legal content that you can download using torrent clients.
This includes public domain books and movies, open source software, some archival content and much more. Despite all of this great stuff that is available completely free and legally, many people choose to use the BitTorrent protocol to download copyrighted material such as Game of Thrones or The Revenant.
Essentially, torrenting is just an efficient way for users to share data. Whether that data is legal or not is completely up to the individual. In many countries, the heyday for torrenting illegal content is over, as governments begin to pass laws to track and potentially prosecute those who download copyrighted content.
If you would still like to download copyrighted files, the best way that you can protect your privacy and security is with a good Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN essentially provides an encrypted tunnel for your data, so that your ISP and the government can't see what you are doing. If you are looking for a VPN, we recommend ExpressVPN.
How do I use BitTorrent to Download Files?
Don't worry, it's not as difficult or technical as you might think. The first step is to choose the BitTorrent client that is right for you. Have a look at the list below to give yourself an idea.
Step two is to get a VPN and make sure that it is up and running. A properly functioning VPN will give you the privacy and security that you need to download without fear of getting caught.
The next step is to go to a torrent website. Your choices are either public websites, such as The Pirate Bay and Kickass Torrents, or private site like Pass The Popcorn or What.cd. The public sites are simpler to use, however the private sites are often seen as safer.
Once you are on a torrent website, search for whatever it is that you would like to download. If it is available, click on the magnet link or the torrent link.
The final step is to allow the torrent link or magnet link to open up in your torrent client. Follow the prompts to let the file begin its download. When the download finishes, it's ready to use.
The Best BitTorrent Clients Summary
Now that the boring stuff is done, let's get to the countdown. We know that you have been waiting with bated breath, so here it is our quick selection. Scroll down further for more details.
#1 and Editor's Choice: qBittorrent
One of the best things that qBittorrent has going for it is that it is open source. It combines the functionality and ease of use of more popular torrent clients like Vuze, but without any ads or bloatware. While it may not have quite as many features as some competitors, it comes with more than enough for the vast majority of users.
Qbittorrent offers selective content download, torrent creation, remote access, RSS subscription, torrent prioritisation, torrent querying, built-in search and its own media player. Mac OSX, Windows and Linux users can all use qBittorrent as their client.
Transmission is an excellent torrent client that isn't too far behind qBittorrent. It features a stunning interface, is open source, free and lightweight. Transmission offers tracker editing, global and per-torrent speed limits, webspeed support, BitTorrent protocol encryption and the option of add-ons such as an XMBC plugin or RSS tools.
It has long been popular with Linux and Mac users, but Transmission is also available on Windows, Gentoo, FreeBSD and more.
Vuze has tumbled a bit down the rankings over the years. It used to be the most popular BitTorrent client, but changes have made many users flock to other platforms. One big problem with Vuze is that it is full of ads and the only way to remove them is to pay €28.90 each year for Vuze Plus.
Vuze is comparatively resource heavy and it tries to install a lot of bloatware onto your computer. Some of this includes features that users might find useful, but many will find the bulk of it unnecessary. If you think you would use an integrated media player, remote management, statistics, visualisations, file conversion across devices, content discovery through automated descriptions and more, maybe it is worth checking out Vuze.
One great feature that Vuze has is that it can be bound to your VPN. This means that it will only download when your computer is connected to the internet through your VPN, so you don't have to worry about having a kill switch. Vuze has versions for Windows, Mac OSX, Android and Linux.
#4: Popcorn Time
If you only want a torrent client for watching videos, Popcorn Time could be the one for you. It one-ups the competition, by allowing its users to stream videos. It's kind of like a free Netflix rival that offers an excellent interface for watching TV shows and films.
Popcorn Time gets its content through different torrent sites, which has made it difficult for the authorities to take it down. It is an open source app that also downloads the file while you are streaming it, so you can watch it again and again. Popcorn Time is available on Windows, Mac OSX, Linux, iOS and Android.
Deluge is a great choice if you want something simple, lightweight and open source. It skips out on ads and bloatware, which will keep many users happy. It might not have all of the extras that some of the major clients have, but it provides all of the features that most users will need.
Some of these include remote web management, support for magnet links and a range of available plugins such as RSS support. Deluge is available on Windows, Linux, OSX and FreeBSD.